Monday, December 31, 2007

A Civil War Vet celebrates his wedding Anniv

Happy New Year!

Yesterday. Rutherford B. Hayes (future President of the U.S.A.) would have celebrated his wedding anniversary. Besides that useless fact I have nothing else to blog for 2007. Heres to another great year and I hope that a social studies teaching job is right around the corner!!

I do not live very far from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Here is the web link for those who are interested.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Richard McMurry's book continued

I am still going through Richard McMurry's book Two Great Rebel Armies. Chapter three had some interesting additions to Chapter two. McMurry points out that Union generals in the eastern theatre sucked until General George G. Meade was put in command of the Army of the Potomac. I think we can all say that Burnside, Hooker, McDowell and John Pope were some of the worst generals to ever command an army. I think that this factor is overplayed in some circles who do not want to give R.E. Lee and his army proper credit but nevertheless they did make things a bit easier for the Virgina theatre. In the west the Army of Tennessee combination of A.S. Johnston, J.E. Johnston, Braxton Bragg, L. Polk and others pale in comparision to Union generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Thomas. So McMurry's point carries some weight and I don't disagree with him but Lee's army still deserves the credit.

His second and third points make Chapter three very interesting. First off he states that southerners in the east had more confidence than the Yankees in the east. He points out that soldiers from Wisconson and Ohio fought harder than their eastern counterparts because they came from farms, were used to failure and had a different defination of manhood. He also states that the Union armies in the west were mostly made up of men from the western states of the Union and this made them an unstoppable fighting force. I am not arguing against this but I do have to state that he fails to point out the fact that the Confederates from western Confederate states tended to be the same way as their western Northern counterparts. Therefore their ability to fight was the same if not as strong as the Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Tennessee. Again, another great point by McMurry but he fails to bring this point to light. Therefore, I do not feel that this was a major reason for Sourthern failure in the Western Theater.

The final point of Chapter three is simple and direct. Henry Helleck who a high ranking Union general saw the west as the most important theater of the war. Both he and General Winfield Scott felt agreed that the capture of the Mississippi and Confederate railroad depots in this region would end the war. I have to agree with McMurry's assessment of this point. I do have to say that the North still promoted Richmond and Lee's army as the main problem in the war. I will also say that Northern victories in the west kept Northern morale high as Lee's army defeated McCellen, Pope and other inept Union generals. He goes on to say that the Army of the Potomac in 1864 was used as a standoff action as the rest of the Union armed forces tampled all over the Confederacy. To further his point, McMurry uses Bruce Catton's own words to justify this agument. Catton wrote "The unhappy Army of the Potomac, which was to do the worst of the fighting, suffer the heaviest casualties, was not, in the end, actually required to do anything more than hold the line in front of Washington." In a sense this is true but I still have to repeat myself and say that the North wanted Richmond more than any other rebel city. I'm not saying that the Virginia theatre was more important but I am saying that it was AS important as the west. As long as Lee's army was in the field the rebels had a chance.

So far Richard McMurry's book is excellent. I'll keep posting more interesting information as I read it. Thanks for reading "Throwing Down the Gauntlet". Just thirteen more blogs to post and I reach 100 blogs! A special thanks goes out to all my loyal readers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Army of Tennessee in McMurry's Two Great Rebel Armies book

I have previously written about the Lost Cause & a comparison between the two major Confederate armies. (The Army of Northern Virginia & The Army of Tennessee) In these blogs I discussed how the war and its literature is totally focused on the Virginia campaigns. Currently I am reading Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard M. McMurry. Written in 1989 the book compares the two armies and points out the issues that helped cause the Confederate defeat in the west. A few of McMurry's quotes stick out in my mind as I am writing this blog.

The Army of Northern Virginia held distinct advantages over the Army of Tennessee. Sure we as Civil War buffs focus on generals and how each army was treated by the Confederate government. But could the discrepancy go deeper than that? I think McMurry answers this question in Two Great Rebel Armies.

The Disadvantagous that the Army of Tennessee had in comparison to the Army of Northern Virginia:

1. Politics-->everyones favorite word. The Army of Tennessee had to deal with the sessecunist indecision of Kentucky and Missouri. Both of these states gave the Army of Tennessee valuable soldiers but the army would have recieved more men if these states seceeded. We know that they didn't secede but the lack of these states on the Confederate side severly hampered the man power of the Army of Tennesee. Morever, because Kentucky and Missouri didn't join the Confederacy the locations of the Confederate defenses were placed in areas that were not as formitable. This was done by the Confederate government because they sought to honor the neutrality of both states. This gave Northern forces a distinct advantage in the west.

2. Geography-->The Army of Northern Virginia defended an area that was roughly 160 miles long. They had the advantage of rivers that had to be forded and Lee could shift his defenses to these areas and force combat on the Army of the Potomac. Therefore, it was easy for Lee to check northern advances and we see this time and time again within the Eastern Theatre. Meanwhile, the Army of Tennessee had to defend the area between the Application Mountains in Virginia and the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas/Missouri. This area forced the rebels to defend a 600 mile wide area. When you take into account that the Army of Tennessee possessed less manpower than their Virginia counterparts it shouldn't surprise anyone that Lee was more successful than the Army of Tennessee. I also failed to mention that the rivers that the Army of Tennessee had to defended benefitted the attackers and impaired the defenders. This didn't help as the armies of Grant and Sherman beat the Confederates senseless.

3. History-->East Tennessee and Northern Alabama had strong Union ties and many of the counties in this region were anti-Confederate. Lees Virginians rarely if ever had to dal with Pro-Uniionist sentiment in the Old Dominian. The Army of Tennessee had to deal with it in Northern Alabama, East Tennessee and so forth. This hampered Confederate movements and could have had an impact on the Army of Tennessees morale.

4. Economics-->During the war the state of Virginia held the only factory capable of producing locomotives. This useless fact shows us that the other Confederate states were at a disadvantage. Nearly 40% of the southern rail lines were located in the eastern states. Also, 19.8% of southern railroads were located within Virginias borders. In the eastern Confederacy there was one mile of railroad for every 40.8 square miles of land. The west had one mile of railroad for every 146 square miles of land. Moreover, everyone knows that the rebels were vastly outnumbered in terms of soldiers and those able to fight. However, if we look closely at the southern fighting force one clearly sees that Virginia held yet another advantage over its Confederate sister states. The states of Virginia and the Carolinas (where most of the Army of Northern Virginia was drawn) held 37% of southern military age men. The eastern states, particular Virginia held a distinct advantage in manufacturing. Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina held 10,304 manufacturing establishments in 1860. The Western states held 8,252 manufacturing facilities. Roughly 33% of southern manufacturing occured in Virginia. This was yet another advantage to R.E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Furthermore, Virginia had more white inhabitants, more slaves and more men of military age than any other state in the Confederacy. These men swelled the ranks of the the Army of Northern Virginia. In the end one can conclude that the state of Virginia was more developed and thus became more important than any other southern state.

These four things do not exorniate the Confederate government or the Confederate military its western failures. However, one could not control them in 1860 and they had an impact on Southern successes and failures during the war. I guess one can conclude that the Confederate army of Tennessee started the war off with one leg already broken. Politics, geography, economics and history of the region were prexisting factors favored the Army of Northern Virginia the Army of Tennessee. With these things in mind we can easily see that the Army of Tennessee was set up for failure. One feels sorry for the men who gave their lives in a battle that they might have already lose. Too bad...oh too bad!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Andrew Johnson and the death of Lincoln

The death of Lincoln has always fascinated me. Over the years many conspiracy theories have developed concerning the death of Lincoln. Despite these theories there still seem to be more questions than answers. Was Booth a tool in a larger conspiracy? Was Booth solely responsible for Lincoln's murder? Was the Confederate government involved? Did Jefferson Davis know about the plot to abduct/kill Lincoln? These questions always seem to find a way to suck me in. I still wonder which theory I believe in more. Nearly twenty years of studying materials haven't brought me any closer but today I want to discuss one of these theories.

Theory "#1": Was Vice-President Andrew Johnson involved in Lincoln's murder?

Anybody who has read a book on the Lincoln assassination knows that John Wilkes Booth left his calling card at Andrew Johnsons hotel. The card was really simple "Don't wish to disturb you Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth."

Was Johnson involved? Mary Todd Lincoln certainly thought so and she took the time to explain her feelings in a 1866 letter. " Johnson, had cognizance of my husband's death - Why, was that card of Booth's, found in his box, some acquaintance certainly existed - I have been deeply impressed, with the harrowing thought, that he, had an understanding with the conspirators & they knew their man." For the rest of her life Mary Lincoln firmly believed that Johnson had played a role in her husbands murder.

Since 1865 several authors have pointed out the fact that the two might have been acquainted. Hamilton Howard in Civil War Echoes (1907) made a claim that Booth and Johnson shared mistresses while the actor was touring in Union occupied Tennessee. John Rhodehamel who edited "Right or Wrong, God Judge Me" The Writings of John Wilkes Booth states on page 146 that the two met in Nashville, Tennessee in 1864. (I did a book review of Rhodehamel's book in a previous blog) These things don't mean that Johnson was a murderer but they do point out that the two were associated. It should be no surprise that Booth left his calling card at Johnsons hotel room. I feel that Booth was trying to implicate Johnson in the assassination. Booth did a great job implicating the members of his conspiracy and he tried to finger other people as well. This still doesn't mean that Johnson was involved and it remains just another conspiracy theory.

Congress did investigate the theory and found no evidence linking Andrew Johnson to Lincolns murder. Since no direct evidence exists that links Johnson to the Lincoln Assassination one can go either way with this.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas and an interesting link

Not much of a blog today but here goes. First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Happy Holidays!

Here is an interesting link that I found and it is very interesting because it is related to Arkansas history. Like Florida the state isn't remembered as a Confederate state but it was part of the Confederacy. The webpage has tons of information on Arkansas and its role in the Civil War. This site would be a great find for anyone interested in history too because it divides Arkansas history into time periods. The Civil War and Reconstruction is one. World War II is another. Check it out and enjoy.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas from Robert E. Lee

The holiday of Christmas was very important to Robert E. Lee. Army life took him away for months at a time and the holiday season became the time that the entire Lee famile got together at Arlington. However, a few times Lee was unable to attend Christmas festivities and he would write home to discuss his unhappiness. It is via these letters that Robert E. Lee becomes a human. The joy of family, friends and plum pudding are discussed openly. Yes, the Lee children believed in Santa Claus and were delighted to open their gifts on Christmas morning. These emotional letters take Lee from the "Marble Man" to a man of flesh and blood who loved his family and had a deep passion for the Christmas season. Here is just a few of these fascinating letters.

To his young sons, Rooney and Custis. It is Christmas 1846 and Lee is writing from the Mexican War battlefront:

“I hope good Santa Claus will fill by Rob's stockings tonight that Mildred's, Agnes's, and Annals may break down with good things. I do not know what he may have for you and Mary, but if he only leaves for you one half of what I wish, you will want for nothing. I have frequently thought if I had one of you on each side of me riding on ponies, such as I could get you, I would be comparatively happy.”

The same year (1846) to his wife Mary, Lee writes:

“We have had many happy Christmas' together, and this is the first time that we have been entirely separated at this holy time since our marriage, and though I have been absent on two or three other occasions on the day itself, yet have not been far distant and always arrived during the holy days. We have therefore nothing to complain of and I hope it has not interfered with your happiness, surrounded as you are by father, Mother, children and dear friends. I therefore trust you are well and happy and that this is the last time I shall be absent from you during my life. May God preserve and bless you till then and forever after is my constant prayer.”

1851, Lee to his son Custis who was enrolled at West Point:

“We came on Wednesday morning. It was a bitter cold day, and we were kept waiting an hour in the depot at Baltimore for the cars, which were detained by the snow and ice on the rails. We found your grandfather at the Washington depot, Daniel and the old carriage and horses, and young Daniel on the colt Mildred. Your mother, grandfather, Mary Eliza, the little people and the baggage, I thought load enough for the carriage, so Rooney and I took our feet in our hands and walked over . . . .The snow impeded the carriage as well as us, and we reached here shortly after it. The children were delighted at getting back, and passed the evening in devising pleasure for the morrow. They were in upon us before day on Christmas morning, to overhaul their stockings. Mildred thinks she drew the prize in the shape of a beautiful new doll; Angelina's infirmities were so great that she was left in Baltimore and this new treasure was entirely unexpected. The cakes, candies, books, etc., were overlooked in the caresses bestowed upon her, and she was scarcely out of her arms all day. Rooney got among his gifts a nice pair of boots, which he particularly wanted, and the girls, I hope, were equally pleased with their presents, books, and trinkets.

Your mother, Mary, Rooney, and I went into church, and Rooney... skated back along the canal (Rooney having taken his skates along for the purpose,) and we filled his place in the carriage with Miss Sarah Stuart, one of M.'s comrades, Minny Uoyd was detained at home to assist her mother at dinner but your Aunt Maria Fitzhugh brought her and Miss Lucretia Fitzhugh out the next day, and Wallace Stiles and his brother arriving at the same time, we had quite a table-full...

I need not describe to you our amusements, you have witnessed them so often; nor the turkey, cold ham, plum pudding, mince-pies, etc. at dinner. I hope you will enjoy them again, or some equally as good...”

This 1856 letter from Texas (where Lee was stationed at that time) mirrors the 1846 letters from Mexico. Lee writes:

“The time is approaching when I trust many of you will be assembled around the family hearth at dear Arlington, to celebrate another Christmas. Though absent, my heart will be in the midst of you, and I shall enjoy in imagination and memory, all that is going on. May nothing occur to mar or cloud the family fireside, and may each be able to look back with pride and pleasure at their deeds of the past year and with confidence and hope to that in prospect. I can do nothing but hope and pray for you.”

“I have been recalling dearest Mary the many happy Christmases we have had together, and the pleasure I have enjoyed with you, your dear parents and the children around me. I ought not therefore to repine at an occasional separation from you, but be grateful for what I have had, and be prepared to keep this solitary and alone My prayers and thoughts will be with you and all will receive my fervent salutations. I hope nothing will be omitted that I could have done, to make each one happy.”

Christmas 1860. The Civil War is fast approaching and despite the ill health of his wife, Colonel Lee found time to write to Arlington:

“Although you anticipated a quiet Christmas, I hope it was a happy one to you all, and that you were filled with gratitude for the many blessings that surrounded you. Although distant, my heart and thoughts were ever present with you and my prayers were offered for Heavens choicest benefits for you all.... Here we are far removed and get the essence of all disunion movements from the New Orleans papers.... I am particularly anxious that 'Virginia should keep right, and inauguration of the Constitution, so I would wish that she might be able to maintain it and save the union.'”

Wow now that is powerful stuff. I wish all my readers Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Honoring Ashby. General Turner Ashby

Thomas J. Jackson was not known to just hand out laurels. However, during his famed Valley Campaign of 1862 he paid homage to the fallen “Black Knight of the Confederacy.” Brigadier General Turner Ashby was Jacksons cavalry commander for most of the battles. Ashby was killed in a rear guard action on Chestnut Ridge near Harrisonburg, Virginia, on June 6, 1862, on the eve of the climatic battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic. In the skirmish with Federal troops, Ashby was attempting to buy time for General Richard Ewell to set up his defenses. As the Federals slammed into his men causing confusion and death, Ashby’s horse was shot out from under him. Undaunted, Ashby drew his pistol and shouted “Charge men, For God’s sake charge!” and proceeded to lead the cavalry charge on foot. After a few short steps, he was hit in the chest with a musket ball and died instantly. His death rallied his men and it bought extra time for Ewell to build up his defenses. General Ashby was just thirty-three years old. The skirmish cost the Confederates 17 killed, 50 wounded and 3 missing. However, the action was successful and set the stage for the Union defeat in the Shenandoah Valley. .” After the war a somewhat biased series of books entitled The Confederate Military History wrote of Ashby “He was the idol of his men and the beloved of every one who had the honor of knowing him intimately.”

In his battle report General Jackson paid the ultimate homage to his fallen compatriot. Ashby had served Jackson faithfully and had been instrumental to the Confederate successes in the valley. “An official report is not an appropriate place for more than a passing notice of the distinguished dead, but the close relation which General Ashby bore to my command for most of the previous twelve month, will justify me in saying that as a partisan officer I never knew his superior; his daring was proverbial; his powers of endurance almost incredible; his tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy.”

Moreover, General John Imboden who served with both Jackson and Ashby wrote “About 10 o'clock at night I received a note from Jackson, written in pencil on the blank margin of a newspaper, directing me to report with my command at Port Republic before daybreak. On the same slip, and as a postscript, he wrote, "Poor Ashby is dead. He fell gloriously.... I know you will join with me in mourning the loss of our friend, one of the noblest men and soldiers in the Confederate army." I carried that slip of paper till it was literally worn to tatters.” From the report and this letter it is easy to see that Jackson had a lot of respect for his cavalry chief.

Jackson’s Valley Report is here:

Three short but sweet biographies of Turner Ashby is here:

Photos of the General are here:

Imboden’s Article is here:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

You've heard of the Texas Rangers right? You know that Civil War generals tended to disagree with one another during and after the guns fell silent. The death of Brig. Gen. John A. Wharton (CSA) at the hands of Colonel George W. Baylor (CSA) was a small footnote in April 1865. To set the stage our story occurs in Texas as Confederacy began to dissolve into history.The war itself was coming to an end and those who supported the Confederacy knew it. Wharton and Baylor were such men and both had served the south since the onset of hostilties. During the botched Red River Campaign Baylor blamed Wharton for needlessly sacrificing some of his men. There is some evidence to support that Wharton made some questionable decisions but that is an issue for another time. However both are caverly officers and both are involved in the 8th Texas Caverly.Once Wharton found out about Baylors attitude towards him he declined Baylors requests for leave while granting furloughs to others. Wharton made it known to everybody that he resented Baylor's criticism and I am sure had some good 19th Century "choice" words to say about Baylor. On April 6, 1865 Wharton traveled to Houston, Texas to report to General Magruder and Baylor met up with Wharton's party there. Wharton decided to place an officer that was Baylors junior in command and Baylor was not happy about it. The two met at railroad tracks and Wharton asked Baylor where his command was. Some historians state that Wharton might have asked the question in a sarcastic manner which might have placed more gasoline on Baylor's fire. Colonel Baylor told Wharton that his command was in another town and that he was in Houston on offical business. An heated argument began between the two men and the issue was pushed even further when an excited Wharton called Baylor a "damned liar." Baylor struck and Wharton but missed and he was subsquently ordered to Wharton's headquarters to await punishment. Baylor responded that he would go to Magruder instead and Wharton told him to do so, but under arrest.After arriving at Magruder's headquarters, Baylor broke down in tears and Magruder took the young man upstairs to compose himself in another room. Magruder left Baylor for a bit and went back downstairs. Wharton and another officer, expecting to find Magruder, then entered the same room and found the colonel sitting on a bed, still crying. Another argument ensued and this time General Wharton lost his cool. As he apprached Baylor with clenched fists his accompying officer stepped between the two men. Wharton managed to throw a punch but missed and it was at that time that Baylor drew his pistol. The accompying officer, named Harrison grabbed at Baylors pistol but in doing so he exposed Wharton's left side. Baylor fired and the bullet struck Wharton just below his ribs. Wharton died within moments and was buried on April 9 in Hempstead.Baylor was never tried for his crime by Confederate authorities. After the southern collapse he was finally brought to trial in 1868 but was aquitted by a jury made up of Texans. The feud was a matter of honor and it still amazes historians that Colonel Baylor never served a prison sentence. Wharton remains one of the least known Confederate cavalry generals and I will talk more about him in a future blog. Stay tuned and the left is rest to history.Sources and infomation is located at:"Testimony Before the Jury of Inquest on the Body of Gen. Wharton, Tri-Weekly Telegraph April 10, 1865.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

General Bragg. Was he better than we think?

The casual Civil War buff might think poorly of Confederate General Braxton Bragg. His men hated him, the generals who served with him thought of him as a failure. After the war many of these men wrote accounts that historians have mined for decades. From here the legend of Bragg as one of the worst generals in history developed. A perfect article written by a fellow Civil War buff paints a different picture of Bragg. Click on the following link and let me know what you think.

Now that you've read that article I think that the author has made a decent case. I've talked about R.E. Lee and how his reputation was enhanced by postwar writings. Meanwhile, Jame Longstreet's reputation was run through the mud and utterly discredited. Perhaps Bragg's reputation was ruined by those writers who had the loudest voices. Those voices painted him as the Count Dracula of Confederate Generals. He was too strict, he didn't develop good feelings from the common solider and his fellow generals hated him. This article does a great job by asking a question that I never thought of before. Maybe Bragg wasn't as bad as we think he was.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

U.S. Grant the actor

I have been reading some of my old Civil War books and currently I am reading Lee and His Generals: In War and Memory by Gary Gallagher. The book contains an article discussing the life of Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder. Magruder's personality made him a well known figure in the antebellum army and he loved to stage plays for his fellow soldiers as they endured the rigors of army life. While stationed in Texas with General Zachary Taylor's army in 1845-1846, he set up a theatre and staged several plays. A performance of Othello, was staged by Magruder and he enlisted his fellow soldiers to serve as characters in the play. U.S. Grant was cast as Desdemona because his original choice, James Longstreet was too tall. Grant did not fill Desdemona's shoes any better than "Old Pete" and Magruder was forced to hire an actress for the role. I just thought this was an interesting tidbit for Civil War buffs. I love this stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Old Pete" and "Unconditional Surrender" reunite

James Longstreet and U.S. Grant were friends prior to the Civil War. The two had become acquainted during their West Point days and they had served together at the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. Both were serving in the Fourth Infantry and while there “Old Pete” Longstreet introduced Grant to his fourth cousin, Julia Grant, and the couple eventually married. Grant had Longstreet serve as a member of his wedding party and these things illustrate the friendship that they shared. The two grew so close before and after the Civil War that when Longstreet heard of Grant’s death he said He was the truest as well as the bravest man that ever lived." The two served together during the Mexican War and

When the NY Times interviewed Longstreet in 1885 he spoke openly of his relationship with U.S. Grant. "Ever since 1839, I have been on terms of the closest intimacy with Grant.” West Point could be an intimidating place and the large, robust Longstreet took the frail Grant under his wing. One of his greatest memories was introducing the game of Brag to Grant and watching him struggle as a player. “We instructed Grant in the mysteries of the game, but he made a poor player” Longstreet said. After the surrender at Appomattox Grant walked up to Longstreet and recalled the old days. In many ways if reflected both of their attitudes towards a reconciliation between North and South. “Pete, let us have another game of brag, to recall the days that were so pleasant.”

Both men shared a unique relationship that very few people know about. The loss of General Longstreet due to his wounding at the Wilderness cost General R.E. Lee the one lieutenant who had insight into Grant’s character. It was said that he told several people in the Confederate high command “That man Grant will fight us every day, and every hour, until the end of this War.” He was right.

Internet Links to consider

NY Times Article interviewing Longstreet after Grants death

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lincoln's Ghost by Vachel Lindsay

Recently I found the following poem. Written in the early 1900's the poem discusses Lincoln's ghost haunting his hometown of Springfeld, Ill.

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight

In Springfield, Illinois

By Vachel Lindsay

IT is portentous, and a thing of state

That here at midnight, in our little town,

A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,

Near the old court-house pacing up and down.

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards

He lingers where his children used to play;

Or through the market, on the well-worn stones

He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,

A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl

Make him the quaint great figure that men love,

The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.

He is among us:—as in times before!

And we who toss and lie awake for long

Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.

Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?

Too many peasants fight, they know not why,

Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.

He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.

He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now

The bitterness, the folly, and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn

Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free:

The league of sober folk, the Workers’ Earth

Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp, and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,

That all his hours of travail here for men

Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace

That he may sleep upon his hill again?

More infomation on Lincoln's ghost can be found here:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862

During his Confederate military career Private Sam Watkins would fight at; Franklin, Nashville, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga, Stones River and the battles for Atlanta. Somehow, Mr. Watkins would survive these horrible battles and he would immortalize them in his postwar memoirs. With that experience in mind Watkins would write the following about the lesser known Battle of Perryville.

"Such obstinate fighting I never had seen before or since," wrote Confederate Private Sam Watkins on the Battle of Perryville. "The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces… Our men were dead and dying right in the very midst of this grand havoc of battle."

On October 8, 1862, Watkins along with 18,000 Confederate troops clashed with just over 20,000 Union solders on the hills outside Perryville, Kentucky. Nearly 7,500 men were killed or wounded in the largest battle to ever take place on Kentucky soil. Why are many historians calling Perryville the “high water mark of the Confederacy in the Western Theatre? Today, my Forgotten Battles of the Civil War Series will explore the neglected Battle of Perryville, the facts surrounding it and its overall implications for both sides.

In mid-July 1862 Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith met in Chattanooga Tennessee to discuss strategy. Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s victories at Fort Donelson and Shiloh had lowered southern morale and effectively placed the momentum on the northern side. Both Smith and Bragg wisely concluded that to regain momentum and lost territory something drastic and aggressive had to be done.

They decided on a “two-pronged” invasion of Kentucky and their strategy sought to achieve two important goals. First, Kentucky was a border state that sent an equal number of troops to both sides during the war. Bragg and Smith hoped that invading the Bluegrass State would muster more troops to the dwindling western Confederate armies. Secondly, an invasion would draw Union forces out of Kentucky and a rebel victory would give control of the Western Theatre back to the men in butternut. They agreed to move north to Knoxville, Tennessee and begin their invasion on August 14.

Both Bragg and Smith couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to their plans. After splitting up into their “two-pronged” invasion both generals achieved some successes. Bragg captured a Union garrison at Munfordville and Smith defeated Union forces in a small contest known as the Battle of Richmond. Within a few weeks the Confederates had captured the cities of Lexington and Frankfurt. Moreover, troops under Bragg controlled the vital railroads that linked the important Kentuckian cities to one another. Things were looking really good for the rebels because they were controlling most of Kentucky and were threatening to conquer the entire state. Also, Confederate forced under Henry Heth had pushed some 35 miles south of Cincinnati causing fear to spread throughout that Ohioan city.

These successes didn’t go unnoticed by the Northern side. Union General Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Army of the Ohio, moved his 20,000 troops from Nashville to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Buell wisely asserted that he needed to defeat Bragg first in order to regain control of the railroad and he ordered an advance to Munfordville.

The men on both sides were equally put off by the draught that occurred within the area. The first casualties on both sides resulted from the want of water. A Union colonel wrote “we passed two men lying on the roadside having died from sunstroke.” Even the mighty Chaplin River was running dry and the heat was unbearable for the men as they lumbered towards the Perryville area. In fact the battle itself began as a contest over water. Everyone remembers Gettysburg as a clash over shoes and this battle would begin under similar circumstances.

On October 7, Arkansas troops moved west of town to secure the water in the area. At the same time a Union reconnaissance expedition reported that water was available west of town. Buell ordered troops under Brig. Gen. Phillip Sheridan to the area to control this valuable resource for the Federals. Also, the heights overlooking the area (known as Peter’s Hill) were also sought by the men in blue. Around 3:00 a.m. on October 8 Sheridan’s forces clashed with the Arkansas troops. The Battle of Perryville had begun.

Braxton Bragg unwisely believed that the Union forces that opposed him were smaller than his own. He felt that most of Federal forces had concentrated near Frankfort and he felt that a quick victory was achievable at Perryville. Sensing the momentum on his side Bragg ordered his 16,000 men to attack the 22,000 Union soldiers on his front. At 2:00 p.m. on October 9, Confederate forces under Major General Ben Cheatham crossed the dry Chaplin River and attacked Maj. Gen. Alexander McCook’s forces who had taken up a strong defensive position on a bluff. The rebels took heavy casualties but managed to force McCook’s men back by rolling the Union flank.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Confederate army struck the Union center and right flanks respectively. The troops attacking the Union center were under the command of Thomas Jones and John C. Brown. Rebel general Simon Buckner was in command of the Confederates who attacked the Union right flank. The men under McCook were also forced back from these areas and it looked like a major Confederate victory was at hand. Forcing the Northerners back took its toll on the attackers. One Union soldier later commented that the numerous dead bodies showed that the rebels had been “severely punished” for their assault.

Fierce fighting continued when Federal forces reformed their battle lines to stop the Confederate advance. With their forces finally out in the open the Northern army began to take horrendous casualties. The 22nd Indiana infantry lost nearly 70% of its force as the men in blue began to fight for their survival. Some of the most forgotten and yet some of the fiercest hand to hand combat of the war occurred as the Union forces attempted to make their stand along several roads outside Perryville. The Federals managed to force the Confederates back in some places and General Sheridan even led a charge that saved the Army of the Ohio from destruction. At nightfall the bloodshed ceased ending nearly five hours of intense fighting. General McCook admitted that his force “was badly whipped.” During the night Bragg realized that the force opposite him was larger than he had originally thought. Moreover, his side had suffered terribly and he quickly ordered a retreat.

As Braggs men retreated that evening the men in gray could only claim a hollow victory. Tactically they had won the Battle of Perryville by easily whipping McCooks force. However, the strategic victory belonged to the Northern side because Bragg was forced out of Kentucky as a result of this battle. With the invasion ended, Southeners could find little refuge in tactical victories. Sam Watkins would later write that both sides claimed victory at Perryville but in reality both sides were thoroughly whipped.

The Battle of Perryville had further ramifications than strategic or tactical victories. The casualties on both sides amounted to nearly 7,500 men (US 4,211; CS 3,196). Like most Civil War battlefields the victors were confronted with a scene of death and destruction. One Federal commented on the battlefield “It was a horrible sight, for four mile the fields are strewn with the dead of both parties.” As surgeons and burial details tended to the wounded and dead respectively the stench of death continued in the city of Perryville. In fact, the last recorded death as a result of the battle occurred on March 23, 1863. That date was nearly nine months after the battle.

Many historians called the Battle of Perryville the “high water mark of the Confederacy in the West.” The invasion would be the first and last time that a Confederate army would enter Kentucky. With the area secured, the North was able to use it as a jump off point to eventually secure Tennessee which in itself would serve as a jump off point to capture Atlanta. Ironically Bragg and Smith had planned their invasion in Chattanooga and that city would be the same place that Sherman would begin his Atlanta Campaign.

Today the battlefield is home to one of the most famous and best Civil War reenactments. More information can be found at the following webpages.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

New Lincoln book claims that Abe had a disease

Dr. John Sotos is self-publishing a book entitled The Physical Lincoln. Using eyewitness accounts, photographs and family history the author states that Abe had a rare disorder that would have taken his life even if he wasn't murdered. The disease is called MEN2B. The authors website is located here:
The syndrome is a form of cancer which is officially referred to as multiple endocrine neoplasia IIB. Check it out because this new infomation is very interesting. Lincolns body cannot be exhumed because of the way it was finally buried. However, there is enough of Lincoln's DNA available to conduct a test. For example, fragments of his brain are in the National Archives and some bloodstained items from April 14-15 1865 are also available. It would be fascinating if this could be proven. What will the impact on history be? That question is difficult to answer. Only time will tell but I will keep looking at this situation and post more in a future blog. You can also buy the book (when it becomes available) on the website.
Check out this part of the website for photos and other infomation:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review #6 Lee and His General in War and Memory

When you go to a local bookstore or library you are overwhelmed by the number of Civil War books. With so many books it is impossible to read them all. If you have a deeply rooted interest in the Civil War it is likely that you have read the basics. You know the facts and the basic plotline of the war and you can go deeper into the things that interest you. Is it Lincoln? Is it Lee or Grant? Is it the common solider? A specific campaign or battle? Is it…..well you get the idea. I cannot even calculate the number of Civil War books that I’ve read. It numbers in the thousands. But what are the best books that I’ve ever read? This new series will discuss and review these.
Lee and His Generals in War and Memory by Gary W. Gallagher is one of the best books that I’ve ever read. I am a bit biased because I enjoy Gallaghers writing and I have profound interest in the Lost Cause. This collection of twelve essays, Gallagher examines Robert E. Lee, his principal subordinates, the treatment they have received in Confederate military history and the continuing influence of the Lost Cause on Civil War literature. The historical image of Lee and his generals were shaped by a large degree by the writings of ex-Confederates. These reminiscences were utilized by Civil War historians of later generations and are still used to interpret the conflict. Lost Cause leaders portrayed Lee as a perfect Christian warrior and Thomas J. Jackson as his peerless lieutenant. Their failings were the result of incompetent performances by other generals. Sound familiar? It should because Lost Cause mythology is taught in our schools and you probably have read books by Bruce Catton and Douglas Freeman who are just two people who have perpuated the myths.
The book is divided into four parts and I will briefly discuss them here. Part I offers four essays of Lee and they explore is decisions during Sharpsburg, Gettysburg and the Overland Campaigns. Another essay discusses Lee’s generalship in light of Thomas Connolly and Alan T. Nolans “anti-Lee” books. Gallagher attests that Lee’s generalship was suited for the Confederate people and even though it was bloody it extended the life of the Confederacy beyond the realm of possibility. “More than once he brought them to the verge of independence, in the process creating a record of military accomplishment amid difficult circumstances.” Part II has five essays the scrutinize several of Lee’s subordinates. Included amongst these essays are James Longstreet, Richard Ewell, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early, Stonewall Jackson and John Magruder. Margruder is one of the best because it explores the career of the virtually unknown generals whose exploits go unnoticed by the casual Civil War buff. The Jackson article is equally interesting because it seeks to answer if Jackson’s reputation as a general is justified by his performance. All five of these pieces not only consider how Lost Cause literature built up or destroyed reputations but also illuminate the ways that post-Civil War authors have written of these men.
Part III is wonderful because it takes Lost Cause authorship a step further. Rather than devote essays entirely to the impact of the Lost Cause on post-Civil War authors like Douglas Freeman, Gallagher take it in a different direction. He exposes the writings of Jubal Early and LeSale Corbell Pickett and how they influenced the Lost Cause myth. The Early article explores his undying love for the Southern cause and how he extolled that on Lee and Jackson. The Ms. Pickett article exposes her as a person who succeeded in making her husband the perfect Lost Cause warrior and overstated his role in the conflict. This work was actually counterproductive because historians are still struggling to understand Pickett as a man and as a general. This confusion is due to Ms. Pickett’s writings and possible forgeries of her husbands letters.
The final section contains two essays devoted to Civil War media and how it is influenced by the Lost Cause. The best article of the two would be of interest to those who have sat through Ken Burns 1990 Civil War documentary. Few realize that it too was heavily influenced by the Lost Cause and Gallagher alludes to the fact that this influence may have been motivated by the entertainment aspect rather than the historical record. Burns sought to entertain his viewers rather than provide an good record of the war. Virtually unexplored are the roles played by citizens, blacks, slaves and women. Burns devotes some time to these subjects and instead focuses on the Virginia theater. The other article deals with battlefield preservation and how neo-Confederates seek out battlefields in order to pay homage to Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. How should Americans view the war? These are interesting questions and I think anybody would enjoy these two articles because they make you think about your own viewpoint of the war.
Some reviews might say that these articles are “above” the casual Civil War leader but I don’t believe that is true. The average layman and the Civil War buff will thoroughly enjoy these essays and on your next trip to the library or bookstore you have to get a copy. It will attract anybody interested in General Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia and the establishment of popular images of the Confederate military. With the thousands of Civil War texts on hand this one will undoubtedly make you a better historian.

Gallagher, Gary W. Lee and His Generals in War and Memory. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ode to the dead on both sides

In 1990 I remember Shelby Foote saying the final lines to Ken Burns Civil War series. He was recounting a Civil War inscription located on a tombstone in St. Louis, Missouri. Here are the words.

Many years after the Civil War, Sergeant Berry Benson, a South Carolina veteran from McGowan's brigade, Army of Northern Virginia, who had enlisted at age 18, three months before Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served through Appomattox, made an interesting statement. He said that when he got around to composing his reminiscences, he found that reliving the war in words made him wish he could relive it in fact, and he came to believe that he and his fellow soldiers, gray and blue, might one day be able to to do just that; if not here on earth, then afterwards in Valhalla. "Who knows, " he asked, "but it may be given to us, after this life, to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning roll call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle? Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while the cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the batrtle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say: Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?" (from The Civil War: a Narrative: Volume III. Red River to Appomattox by Shelby Foote. New York: Vintage Books, 1986. p. 1048).

Pvt. Berry Benson, 1st South Carolina Rifles Regiment; Berry Benson’s Reminiscences of the Civil War, S.W. Benson, editor, 1962

Everytime I hear that I get goosebumps and I wonder are the rebs and the yanks are duking it out in heaven. Wow this is powerful stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

General Eppa Hunton: Another forgotten Civil War general

To some people Confederate General Eppa Hunton is just a footnote but he isn't on this blog! Hunton is one of the most important people in American History because he decided a presidential election. More on that later.
Eppa Hunton was born in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Va. on September 22, 1822. After his education at New Baltimore Academy ended, Hunton worked as a school teacher and as a lawyer. His rise to fame really began in 1843 when he was officially admitted to the bar. This allowed him to build his reputation; He was a very passionate man who wasn't good at public speaking. Hunton was able to overcome this by showing his emotions during any speech he gave. A contemporary said that Hunton "had none of the arts of the orator, except that of earnestness and candor, and a view of strong common sense in all that he said."
Just like other lawyers in the 19th Century this passion drove him to politics and as the Civil War loomed Hunton became a direct participant. He was a fierce secessionist and he showed his loyalty by joining the Virginia Militia and he immersed himself in state politics. As a slaveowner he began to worry about the political aims of the abolitionists. In 1861, he was elected to the Virginia Secession Convention as an “Immediate Secession Candidate”. The state had mixed feelings about leaving the Union but Hunton continually urged his fellow Virginias to vote for secession. Eager to fight, Hunton resigned his commission after Virginia succeeded and applied for a commission in the Confederate army. His reputation and hard work paid off by his immediate election as Colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment. He would remain tied to this regiment for the rest of the war.
After the regiment officially organized at Leesburg it moved to and joined with rebel forces at Manassas, Virginia. On July 21, 1861 it helped end the Union assault on Henry House Hill. This decisive stand turned the tide of the battle and gave the Confederates their first major victory of the war. General P.G.T. Beauregard gave Hunton his highest praise of the war by noting in his report that Colonel Hunton “attracted by notice by their (his) soldierly ability, as with their (his) gallant commands, they restored the fortunes of the day at a time when the enemy by a last desperate onset with heavy odds had driven our forces from fiercely-contested ground around the Henry and Robinson Houses.” The Union army was subsequently routed.
Exactly three months later the Eighth Virginia and its colonel were a key part of another Southern victory. The Battle of Balls Bluff was the largest battle to take place in Loudoun County, Virginia. After the battle of First Manassas, Union General George McClellan was placed in command of the Northern army and he spent several months rebuilding its confidence. By mid-October politicians in Washington urged McClellan to attack the rebels. The ever-cautiaus McClellan, seeking to silence his critics, sent some men to capture Leesburg, Virginia. Part of this force was under the command of General Charles S. Stone. Hunton helped to check Stone’s advance and once again the Union army was routed before a Confederate army.
February 28, 1862 was an important day in the life of Eppa Hunton because both he and his famed regiment were placed within George Pickett’s Brigade. He served faithfully during McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. One of Hunton’s greatest moments came during the Battle of Gaines Mill when the 8th Virginia helped to break the Union lines after a fierce attack. It was during this contest that General Pickett was wounded and Eppa Hunton assumed command of the division. He served very well and ordered a key attack during the Battle of Glendale that helped defeat McClellan’s forces. Furthermore, he did another admirably job during the Second Battle of Manassas in August of 1862. As General Lee planned to invade the North he placed Brigade General Richard Garnett in command of the regiment despite Hunton’s good performances. General Lee wanted a person with more experience in command of Pickett’s old brigade. Meanwhile, Pickett was promoted and the 8th Virginia remained as part of Garnett’s brigade, Pickett’s division, James Longstreet Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.
Throughout his life, Hunton was plagued by illness but led his men into the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. Lee’s army was defeated but Hunton noted the bravery of his men within his battle report. “It gives me great pleasure to speak in terms of high commendation of the conduct of the regiment on these two occasions. It met my fullest approbation all, officers and men, behaved very handsomely.”
On July 3, 1863 Hunton and his men participated in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. A foot injury forced him to lead his regiment on horseback and this made him an easy target for Union troops. General Garnett was killed in the attack and Colonel Hunton didn’t come out of the battle unscathed. His horse was killed during the attack and he suffered a severe leg wound. Hunton avoided capture and was able to make his way back to Richmond during the Confederate retreat.
On August 9, 1863, Colonel Hunton became a brigadier general and was given command of Garnett’s brigade. This promotion must have been a source of pride for Hunton who had led his regiment decisively in a dozen battles despite reoccurring ill-health. As brigade commander, he continued to lead with discinction during the battles of Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. On March 30, 1865 Hunton led one of Lee’s final attacks and one of his final victories. After a fierce struggle, Huntons men broke the Union lines during that Battle of White Oak Road. Hunton exposed himself to enemy fire and a exploding shell even bent his sword. Confederate Surgeon Mason Elizey decribed the scene: “Just then the brigade came in flushed with victory, and marching in proud array, that other grand man and war-seasoned soldier, Gen. Eppa Hunton riding at their head, the general's coat was ripped across the breast and shoulder by a fragment of shell and the scabbard of his sword bent nearly double by a minnie ball; the joy of battle lighting his noble countenance.”
The victory was short lived because on April 1, 1865 Hunton and the rest of the rebel army was defeated at the Battle of Five Forks. The brigade fought faithfully despite overwhelming odds and Hunton was again remembered for his “noble countenance” under fire. The brigade served as one of Lee’s rear guard during the Army of Northern Virginias desperate retreat. The brigade was overwhelmed on April 6, 1865, at Saylor’s Creek. Eppa was captured and spent several months as a prisoner at Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor. He was paroled in July 1865. Before he surrendered, Hunton threw away his sword so he wouldn’t have to surrender it to his captors.
After the war he resumed his law practice as if there had never been a Confederacy. The former secessionist served four terms as a member of the House of Representatives from 1873 through 1881. It was during this time that Hunton became involved in one of the most famous presidential elections. Hunton was the only southern member of the electoral commission that decided the disputed president election of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden. Also, he fought hard for his fellow Southerners who attempted to rebuild the south after the war. The remainder of his political career was served in the U.S. Senate from 1891 through 1895. His appointment by the General Assembly was meant to fill the position vacated by Senator John Barour who had died in 1891.
In 1895 Hunton retired to private life but remained involved in political affairs in Virginia. He remained a “vigorous” old man until his death in 1908. In his obituary the NY Times reported that in his final days General Hunton was both blind and deaf. He was loved by his men and the politicians that he served with. General Hunton lived a full life in devotion to his native state and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. His autobiography was edited and published posthumously by his family.
A speech given by Rep. Hunton in 1875 is here:

Hunton, Eppa. The Autobiography of Eppa Hunton. Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1933

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Did Lincoln and/or Lee sleep with hookers???

I mentioned that I just finished Reading the Man which is a book about Robert E. Lee. Currently, I am back on my Lincoln kick and I have finally obtained a copy of Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. They are excellent texts and I could not put Reading the Man down and the same is true for Lincoln's Melancholy.Both books raise an interesting question that is UNPROVEN but the probability for it is very high. Did Lincoln and or Lee sleep with prostitutes? In the 1800's it was common for a career army officer and a traveling lawyer to engaged in sexual liaisons with prostitutes. Both men could have practiced this habit.Lee spent most of his career in army outposts where many of his fellow officers got sex from prostitutes. Lincoln traveling on the law circuit for most of his career as a lawyer where prostitution was common. Lincoln lived with Joshua Speed for several years and in Lincoln's Melancholy it states that Speed's affection for prostitutes was well known. This means that we can directly place Lincoln with prostitutes but that doesn't mean that he did anything with them. The sickest thing is to think that Speed and Lincoln shared the same bed, which was a common thing back then when beds were scarce but how many times did the sheets get washed? What a sick thought. The sex lives of our heroes is sometimes a mystery. Not that we want to know the details but wouldn't the respect for your hero have the possibility of changing if you knew a bit more? Sleeping with hookers shows a lack of character and respect but in the 1800's it was common and an accepted practice. We must avoid making our Civil War heroes into perfect molds of granite or bronze. I mean they are human after all with desires, lusts, hatreds, jealousies to go along with the good things that make them heroes. Did Lee and or Lincoln sleep with prostitutes? It is likely but we may never know the answer. The documents that could point to that might be lost, destroyed or in some archive somewhere. "Honest" Abraham and "Bobby" Lee were men with the same lusts and desires that men of all ages share. If the opportunity was there they MAY have taken it or they MIGHT have avoided it. As to the rest it is forever a part of history.
As for the official word I haven't found anything that directly ties either man to hookers. The option was there and anything is possible. Lee and Lincoln have been painted as perfection and this would be an ultimate blemish on their reputation. Moreover, the men who made them perfect could have hidden any liaisons from the historical record.
By the way I picked the Natalie Portman photo because it was the only one I could find of a person that looked like a prostitute. Its all I could get.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

44 Years Ago Today: November 22, 1963

This blog is devoted to the Civil War but every once and a while I will talk about something else. On Nov. 19 I mentioned that the Gettysburg Address was given. Forty-four years ago today President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas. The old Texas School Book Depository from which assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fired on Kennedy's motorcade now contains a museum, cataloging the events of that day and documenting Kennedy's place in American history.

It's called the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. An estimated 5 million visitors from around the world have visited the museum since it opened on President's Day in 1989. It's open for tours every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving. Nov. 22, 1963, was a Friday. Americans everywhere were riveted on the news coming out of Dallas about the death of their president and stayed united through days of national mourning.

There are so many webpages that are dedicated to Kennedy's death. Here is an interesting one that I found.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gettysburg Address and a new Lincoln at Gettysburg picture!!???

Look at the picture. Could it be Lincoln at Gettysburg. A new pic!!! People are researching this now. Please see the link at the end of this blog to find out more! My fiancee says its eerie. What do you think? Is it Lincoln?

Todays blog needs no introduction. It is November 19, 2007 and it is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. I know you've heard or read the words a million times but I will post them here and make them part of this blog.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here is the article, a man in Hanover, Pa thinks he found a new picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg. Check it out.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Arkansas Post, Jan. 9-11 1863

In 1682, Henri de Tonti established a small trading post in the Quapaw village of Osotuoy. He called his establishment “Postede Arkansea” and it would become the first semi-permanent French settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley. The area, later renamed Arkansas Post became a thriving port bustling with activity. In 1819 it became the capital of the Arkansas Territory.

After the Civil War broke out in 1861 the Confederate troops under General Thomas J. Churchill completed an earthen fortification known as Fort Hindman. This region was important to the rebels for several distinct reasons. First, the area dominated the Arkansas River and protected the capital of Little Rock from attack. Secondly, from Fort Hindman, at Arkansas Post, Confederates could disrupt Union shipping on the Mississippi River.

By the middle of 1862, Union forces commanded most of the Mississippi River. However, the Confederate strong holds on Vicksburg and Fort Hindman still held. Maj. Gen. John McClernand undertook a combined force movement on Arkansas Post to capture it. During the evening of January 9, 1863 Federal forces landed near Arkansas Post and began moving towards Fort Hindman. McClernand commanded a 32,000 man force known as the Army of the Mississippi. Union troops quickly overran the Rebel trenches and the men in butternut fled to the protection of the fort.

Rear Adm. David Porter moved his fleet to support McClernands men by bombarding Fort Hindman. The Confederates put up a good fight but were overwhelmed from the Union ironclads shelling the forts weak defenses. Some of Porter’s fleet sailed past the fort and cut off any retreat as General William T. Sherman’s ground troops attacked the fort head on. This combined effort sealed the fate of the forts defenders and the Confederates were forced to surrender on January 11, 1863.

The Union causalities (1,047 total) were very high but the overall results of the Battle of Arkansas Post were immediate. The success of Northern troops on January 9-11 eliminated one more impediment to Union shipping on the Mississippi and it gave them control of the Arkansas River. McClernand wanted to push up river and take Little Rock but General Ulysses S. Grant overruled him and the victors were ordered to join the Union advance on Vicksburg, Mississippi. For the Confederacy it was one of many Confederate setbacks in 1863 that would eventually lead to its downfall. Moreover, the South lost another 5,500 men killed; wounded or captured which was a sign of things to come in July at Vicksburg.

This battle is part of my Forgotten Battles of the Civil War series. Too often as history and Civil War buffs we forget about some of the small battles that had big consequences. This series is dedicated to those battles and shedding some light on incidents that had enormous results. I hope that you are enjoying these contests and if there is anything that I can do to improve them then please email me or leave a comment.

Want to visit Arkansas Post? More information can be found at the following websites & publications:

Bearss, Edwin C. “The Battle of the Post of Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 18 (Autumn 1959): 237–279.
Kiper, Richard L. “John Alexander McClernard and the Arkansas Post Campaign.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 56 (Spring 1997): 56–79.
Surovic, Arthur F. “Union Assault on Arkansas Post.” Military History 12 (March 1996): 34–40.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 17. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1890–1901, pp. 698–796.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Immortal Lincoln

Usually when I post a book cover I am going to write another book review. This will not occur today because I want to focus on some awesome quotes about and by Lincoln that appear in Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I promise to post a review of this book as soon as I can but I did finish the book and it is highly recommended. Before I move to the quotes I wanted to add that all future book reviews will have a five star system installed. I will rate each book as part of my recommendation and review. Shenk does a great job using quotes about Lincoln and quotes written by Lincoln. I am a quote guy because I love the way that quotes make you think. Also, I love looking at how these quotes relate to my life and past experiences. There were so many sides to the man and qualities that he shared with all of us.

"Every man is proud of what he does well, and no man is proud of what he does well." A. Lincoln

"How hard, oh, how hard it is to die and leave one's country no better than if one had never lived for it." A. Lincoln

"You know I am never sanguine, the most trying thing in all of this war is that the people are too sanguine; they expect too much at once." A. Lincoln

"I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me." A. Lincoln, 1862.

This is great stuff that stood out to me as I read Lincoln's Melancholy.

Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Lincoln's Melancholy How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2005.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Right with Lee

I've studied Lee and Lincoln my whole life but fully understanding their character can be difficult. Here is an article entitled Getting Right with Robert E. Lee that I remember reading a few years back. This is an easy blog but I think my readers my enjoy this paper on R.E. Lee. It was written by Stephen Sears who is one of the best Civil War authors. Originally published in 1991 in American Heritage Magazine this article is a must read for any Civil War buff!!!!! And best of all its free!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Future Presidents during the Civil War

In a previous blog I discussed the retired Presidents and their lives during the Civil War. Today I want to go through the lives of Presidents who were alive during the conflict but didn't hear the sounds of battle.
Chester A. Arthur would eventually become our 21st President but he had to get there first. Arthur was a man known for having powerful friends in high places. From these friends he sought political positions within the well known spoils system. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he became the state's assistant quartermaster general, with responsibility for supplying barracks, food, and equipment for the New York militia. On July 27, 1862, three weeks after President Lincoln's call for 300,000 more men, Arthur was advanced to the state quartermaster generalship. When Democrat Horatio Seymour took over the New York governorship in 1863 Arthur left the office but served as an advisor for the rest of the war. He also hired a substitute to fill in for him after he was drafted to serve in the Union army. Paying a sub was easy for Arthur since he was a lawyer and came from an influential family. After working as a lawyer and as head of the customs house Arthur was elected Vice-President behind James Garfield. Garfield was only in power for a few months when he was murdered by Charles J. Guiteau. Arthur took office and for the first time in his life he avoided using the spoils system. As President he did a decent job and signed the Civil Services act which forever eliminated the spoils system. He hoped for reelection in 1884 but James G. Blaine beat him for the Republican nomination. Mr. Blaine would later lost to Grover Cleveland in the election of 1884. A year and a half later on Nov. 18, 1886 he died in New York City of Bright's disease.
Grover Cleveland had two things in common with Chester A. Arthur. They were both presidents and they both avoided the Federal draft by hiring substitutes to serve in their place. During the Civil War Cleveland was in Buffalo, New York as a lawyer and later as assistant district attorney for Erie County. He would serve in this position for the rest of the conflict. After serving as Sheriff of Erie County he was became mayor of Buffalo in 1881. A few years later he was elected a Governor of New York. In history he is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. (1885-1889, 1983-1897) After leaving the White House, Cleveland lived in retirement in Princeton, New Jersey. He died in 1908.
Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858. Being a member of a wealthy family didn't help Theodore from avoiding illness as a child and his desire for a strenuous life. As a child he claims to have watched Abraham Lincolns funeral procession pass his grandfathers home. With him are his younger brother Elliott and a friend named Edith Kermit Carow. He went on to live an eventful life as a hunter, soldier and politician. As out 25th President he broke up business monopolies and won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War. He also became one only former President to have an assassination attempt made against him. After overcoming so much in life Roosevelt was on his last legs in 1919. At the time of his death: "No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way."William Howard Taft, the man who would succeed Roosevelt as President was born in 1857. Like Roosevelt he was just a child during the war and according to history he didn't enjoy the notoriety of doing anything interesting like watching Lincoln's funeral procession. The son of a distinguished judge, he graduated from Yale, and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law. After serving as Sec. of War and as President he became the only chief executive to serve on the Supreme Court. President Harding made him Chief Justice of the United States, a position he held until just before his death in 1930. Taft later claimed that he never remembered being President. Because of his youth at the time I guess he didn't remember the Civil War either.
Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina. It is interesting to note that Wilson was the only future President to live within Confederate territory during the war. His father was a supporter of the Confederate cause and the family endured William T. Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. Wilson himself great up to be a Confederate sympathizer and stated that the South had “absolutely nothing to apologize for." Moreover, the South had preserved its self-respect by leaving the Union and fighting in the Civil War. Wilsons love for the South continued in his 1893 book entitled Division and Reunion, 1829-1889. In the book, Wilson supports the idea of slaving by claiming that is was a successful labor system even though it was morally wrong. Moreover, he wrote that Lincoln was an "admirable figure" but that succession was legal in every respect even though history had written that it was wrong. After serving as a professor of political science, Wilson became president of Princeton in 1902. In 1913 he was elected out 28th President and served until his two terms ended in 1921. His push for the League of Nations alienated him amongst the American population and he left office a broken man. Exhausted, he suffered a stroke and nearly died. Tenderly nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, he lived until 1924. So closes this section on my Presidents During the Civil War Series.
This is the second portion of three and my next blog will focus on the men who served the Union army as soldiers and later became President of the United States.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The greatest soldier in American history worshipped the Confederacy

General George S. Patton had been hailed by some as the greatest soldier in American military history. He helped put down the Nazi regime and was a great leader who got the most out of his men. But growing up Patton had an interesting hertiage that was directly linked to the Confederacy and its leadership. George S. Patton was born in San Gabriel, California in 1885 because his family had migrated west after the Civil War to avoid reconstruction. Patton's father was a friend of Confederate raider John S. Mosby and had served within J.E.B. Stuarts command during the conflict. As a boy the younger Patton heard his fathers stories of Confederate glory and the Lost Cause.Patton's love for the Lost Cause was futhered by several facts and circumstances in his life outside of his father.

First his great-uncle had served the Army of Northern Virginia faithfully and died from wounds recieved during Pickett's Charge. At the time he was commanding the 7th Virginia infantry and while attacking Cemetary Ridge part of his jaw had been ripped away by an artillery shell fragment. He died in a field hospital eighteen days later.His grandfather, George Smith Patton had been killed during the Second Battle of Winchester in 1864 after fighting for the Confederacy in many of its battles within the Virginia theatre. Another relative named Hugh Mercer was a confederate general whose grandfather had served under Washington during the American Revolution.While growing up the younger Patton's grandmother had paintings of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee hanging together in the den. Legend tells us that Patton grew up praying to he potroits because he thought that they were God the Father and God the Son. In later years George Patton would have a son and does it surprise you that the child was named George? George Patton IV as he became known, served the U.S. faithfully during three american wars and became a major general like his father. After serving in World War II the fourth George Patton served in Korea and Vietnan. Patton retired from active duty in 1980 and retired to a horse farm in Virginia. He died in 2004, aged 80.

Before I close this blog here are the four George Pattons and a brief description of what they did.

George Patton I-->confederate colonel who was killed in 1864. Buried in Lexington near Stonewall Jackson and R.E. Lee.

George Patton II->confederate officer and father of the famous World War II general. Also buried in Lexington near Lee and Jackson.

George Patton III>the famous general of World War II and also served in World War I. Buried in Europe.

George Patton IV>son of the famous World War II general who served in the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Former Presidents during the Civil War

Five previous presidents were alive during the Civil War. The were Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. What were they doing during the Civil War? This will be the subject of todays blog.

Martin Van Buren was our eighth President and at the time of our Civil War he was the oldest surviving President. Van Buren had powerful anti-slavery views and after his term ended in 1841 he sought the Presidential chair in 1848 and was defeated. He strongly supported Abraham Lincoln but did not live to see Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation take effect. Van Buren died on July 24, 1862 at the age of 79. President Martin Van Buren does not usually receive high marks from historians but he have a quote that we need to remember with the upcoming election in 2008 and the current failures of President Bush. Van Buren said "All communities are apt to look to government for too much."

Unlike Martin Van Buran former President John Tyler was a native southerner. He also was a big-time supporter of states rights and many of his polices as President might have helped cause the Civil War. After his term ended in 1845 Tyler lived a relatively quiet life until the Civil War began. In 1861 he helped lead a compromise movement but his plans failed. He then turned to support his native Virginia and became a member of the Confederate House of Representatives. He even voted for Virginia to secede from the Union. However, week and feeble Tyler didn't serve the Confederacy for very long. The former President died at his post on January 18, 1862. Tyler is a forgotten President but he had many "firsts" as the nations executive that need to be mentioned here. He had more children (15) than any other U.S. President. He was the first President to have lose a veto to Congress. He was the great-grand uncle of future President Harry Truman. He was the first President to become President without being elected to the office. Finally he was a part of the most memorable Presidential election phrase in history, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too".

Our 13th President was Millard Fillmore who like Lincoln was a member of the Whig party. After his Presidency ended in 1853 Fillmore left the Whigs and became a member of Know Nothing Party. In 1856 his attempt at a Presidential election failed and Fillmore was sent into retirement. During the Civil War he opposed almost of President Lincoln's policies. Fillmore lived in Buffalo, New York during the war and was extremely active in civic affairs. In fact, Milliard Fillmore hospital (in Buffalo) was founded by Fillmore and is named in his honor. In his later years he became the president of the historical society in Buffalo and chancellor of the University of Buffalo. After Lincoln's death Fillmore supported Andrew Johnsons reconstruction policies. He passed away on March 8, 1874 and is buried in Buffalo. Like Tyler, Fillmore was one of many Presidents who is blamed for the coming of the Civil War. Like me he was a native of Buffalo and should be remembered as a strong Union supporter and a crafty lawyer. Perhaps he spoke for himself and the other Presidents before and after him who are forgotten by the general public when he said "It is a national disgrace that our Presidents, after having occupied the highest position in the country, should be cast adrift, and, perhaps, be compelled to keep a corner grocery for subsistence."

President Franklin Pierce was our 14th President and held the office during the most crucial time period before the onset of the Civil War. Pierce is generally ranked among the least-effective chief executives despite his good looks and charm. His secertary of war, Jefferson Davis was the the future and only President of the Confederacy. Despite being a native to New Hampshire, Pierce supported many pro-slavery legislations throughout his political life. He believed that the Constitution supported states rights issues and slavery itself. Like Fillmore he was deeply opposed to Lincoln and his administration. He was greatly disliked in the North for his displeasure with the Union cause. Calling the war a failure because he felt that it was a "butchery of white men" for the sake of "inflicting" freedom on the black race who didn't want it, Pierce was widely hated for his beliefs. His last public speech voiced his displeasure with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in those areas still controlled by the Confederacy. This speech was his greatest error because he gave it just after the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg with Northern morale had reached an all-time high. Afterwards his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne never spoke to him again, his wife died one year later causing Pierce to live alone for the remainder of his life. After recovering from alcoholism he died October 8, 1869. President Grant called for a national day of mourning in honor of Franklin Pierce.

James Buchanan is remembered as our 15th President and as the man who failed to keep the Union together during his Presidency. Also, there are rumors that he might be the only known homosexual president but this issue is still clouded in mystery. After leaving office his parting words to Congress were to amend the Constitution on the subject of slavery before it caused a national conflict. During the war he supported Lincoln's policies and administration while living in retirement in Lancaster, PA. He even published a book defending his actions during his administration. A fierce Unionist who predicted that the Confederacy would fail Buchanan wrote the following to his son in 1861. The Confederate States have deliberately commenced the civil war, & God knows where it may end. They were repeatedly warned by my administration that an assault on Fort Sumter would be Civil War & they would be responsible for the consequences. Boy was he right. Buchanan died on June 1, 1868.