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: