Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book Review: Generals at Rest

I'm not going to review the entire book but I highly recommend this text to anyone interested in Confederate generals. During the way 425 men held the post of Brig. General or better within the Confederacy and Richard & James Owen visited the gravesites of each one. The text includes pictures of every general and every gravesite. Short biographies are included but the most interesting thing about this book is the location of each officer. The only disappointing thing about the book is that every picture of the gravesites is black and white. It would have been better to use color but it does provide an good match with the generals pictures which are B & W.

Did you know that Confederate generals are buried in Mexico, New York City, Connecticut and California? Yes it is true. Major General CAmille Armand Jules Marie is the only Confederate general buried in Germany! Generals are also buried in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well. So get this book from your library or purchase a copy from It is amazing and I highly recommend it. I am sorry that this blog is so short but I will write a longer blog later.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Confederate General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham: A forgotten Civil War General

On September 4, 1886 Confederate General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham died. The old general had served during the entire war within the army that was known as the Army of Tennessee. Cheatham rose from brigade to corps commander during the conflict and proved himself a capable commanding officer.Originally a farmer, Cheatham served with distinction during the Mexican War as colonel of the 3rd Tennessee. As the Civil War drew near he was a senior officer in the Tennessee state milita before its eventual merger with Confederate forces. After fighting at Belmont faithfully he led a division at Shiloh where he was wounded. After recovering he was promoted to major general and served in many of the remaining Army of Tennessee campaigns.Cheatham led bravely at the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, the Tullahoma Campaign and the fierce fighing at Chickamauga. At all of these places his division was well led and fought the Union armies hard. When General William J. Hardee left the army Cheatham took command of the corps after he led with distinction during the Atlanta Campaign. It is claimed that his troops inflicted more casualites on Sherman's attacking forces than any other Confederate unit that served during the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain. But the biggest test of Cheathams service record was during at Spring Hill, Tennessee during Hood's invasion of the state.Despite his battle performances controversy tended to follow Ben Cheatham everywhere.

He clashed with his superior officers including General Braxton Bragg with whom he fought repeadily. Historians debate feriously about Cheatham's actions near Spring Hill on November 29, 1864. Hood ordered Cheatham to head his invading coloumns but his corps failed to attack the Federals at Spring Hill or block all the escape routes. The Union army was able to slip away during the night and marched unimpeded northward where they entrenched near a town called Franklin. John Bell Hood had a short fuse to begin with and the Union escape enraged him. The two men met the following day and a verbal argument ensued which lasted until Hoods death in 1878. Hood continued to allow Cheatham to be the lead coloumn and at Franklin Cheatham's corps bore the brunt of the fighting. The unit suffered appalling casualties and Cheatham never forgave Hood for the disgrace of attacking an unattainable Union position. General Bragg even entered the fray accusing Cheatham of losing the Confederate initiative at Spring Hill. General Cheatham responded in kind and those two also had another war of words.Two weeks later Hood's army was severly defeated at Nashville and Cheatham retreated with the rest of the army. He would continue to serve with that Army of Tennessee and surrender with General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina on April 26, 1865.After the war Cheatham farmed in Coffee County, lost an 1872 congressional race, and served as superintendent of the state prison system. He was postmaster of Nashville at the time of his death on September 4, 1886. He was a interesting character and his record was solid despite conflicts with other army officers.

Suggested Reading(s): Losson, Christopher, Tennessee's Forgotten Warriors: Frank Cheatham and his Confederate Division (1990).Connelly, Thomas Lawrence. Army of the Heartland; The Army of Tennessee, 1861-1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967. Connelly, Thomas Lawrence. Autumn of Glory; The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971. Horn, Stanley Fitzgerald. The Army of Tennessee. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953. Horn, Stanley Fitzgerald. The Army of Tennessee. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953. Hood, John Bell. Advance and Retreat Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Honest Abe" on education

How important is it to a society to give everyone an equal education? Abe Lincoln knew the importance of an education because he was a self-made man who didn't attend school for very long but was able to overcome things because he educated himself. In a day and age where urban kids lack the tools that they need to compete with private and suburban schools makes Lincoln's ideas even more provocating. As a teacher, Lincoln's thoughts on education are important to me because he is one of my heroes.

In 1832 Lincoln wrote:

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system
respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important which we as a
people can be engaged in."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Confederate Generals born in Maine????

For the next blog or so I would like to update my readers on Civil War facts that they might not be aware of. There were two Confederate generals who were born in Maine but went on the serve the Confederacy. The first guy I would like to mention is Brigader General Danville Leadbetter who was born in 1811 in Leeds, Maine. Ironically, Leadbetter died in Clifton, Canada which was later renamed Niagara Falls, Canada. I grew up just 8 miles from Niagara Falls, New York not far from Leadbetter's final home.
Leadbetter went to West Point and graduated in 1836. AFter serving the United States army for 21 years he resigned and became an enginner for the state of Alabama. When the SOuth seceded in 1861 Leadbetter's expertise as a enginner was called upon by the Confederate army. I have been unable to located more infomation about his reasoning for serving the Confederacy and any other facts other than the basic stuff. According to Civil War notes Leadbetter told Longstreet to attack the Union fortications at Knoxville which ended in a Confederate defeat. Also, he constructed the rebel fortifications on Missionary Ridge that also resulted in a rebel defeat. He did serve in a few battles but his role as a battle commander are unknown to me.
I felt that Leadbetter would make a great addition to my blog and I hope you do too. I started off by saying that I wanted this blog to be a bit different and I am sorry to say that I drifted away from that a bit. Until next time America!
Sources: (for Leadbetter's photo)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Emancipation Proclaimation was issued today

Following the pre-emptive victory at Antietam President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclaimation, freeing slaves in states or portions of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863. Few people realize that Lincoln didn't free the slaves with this document. Rather, the slaves that still were in areas controlled by the South were free. Many looked at this as Lincoln opting out of taking a stand on slavery. Oh well, I am off again, stay tuned for more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Battle of Antietam Anniv. Blog

The battle was over by 5:30 p.m. Losses for the day were heavy on both sides. The Union had 12,401 casualties with 2,108 dead. Confederate casualties were 10,318 with 1,546 dead. This represented 25% of the Federal force and 31% of the Confederate. More Americans died on September 17, 1862, than on any other day in the nation's military history, including World War II's D-Day and the terrorist assaults of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 18, Lee's army prepared to defend against a Federal assault that never came. After an improvised truce for both sides to recover and exchange their wounded, Lee's forces began withdrawing across the Potomac that evening to return to Virginia.President Lincoln was disappointed in McClellan's performance. He believed that McClellan's cautious and poorly coordinated actions in the field had forced the battle to a draw rather than a crippling Confederate defeat.
Historian Stephen Sears agrees.[46]" In making his battle against great odds to
save the Republic, General McClellan had committed barely 50,000 infantry and
artillerymen to the contest. A third of his army did not fire a shot. Even at
that, his men repeatedly drove the Army of Northern Virginia to the brink of
disaster, feats of valor entirely lost on a commander thinking of little beyond
staving off his own defeat." Stephen W. Sears, Landscape Turned Red

Monday, September 17, 2007

8th New York Heavy Artillery

I am originally from Youngstown, New York and one of my new interests is researching regiments from that area. Don't worry I am still researching the 4th Alabama Infantry but money has cut into my research a bit and I am unable to push the process forward until October comes. However, I wanted to write about the 8th New York Heavy Artillery and their experiences during the Civil War.If you google "Youngstown, New York" you will find that it is located in the far, northwest corner of Niagara County. The city of Niagara Falls is located within the same county. The 8th New York had been recruited in this same area in 1862. The men came from the counties of Genessee, Niagara and Orleans. Originally christened the 129th Regiment of Infantry, the unit was renumbered as the 8th Heavy Artillery after several months of garrison duty in Baltimore, Maryland. The 8th had been in the war for two years but had never heard a shot fired in anger. The combat soldiers referred to these regiments as "band box soldiers" because they lived behind the comforts of fortifications that the weakened southern armies would never attempt to assualt.Unlike the combat regiments who saw their numbers dwindle the 8th had twelve companies of 150 men each.

This fact caused animosity between the fighting regiments of the Army of the Potomac and the garrison regiments who hadn't had the joy of hearing a bullet whirl past their heads. As the Army of the Potomac saw their numbers decline on such battlefields as Antietam, Gettysburg and Fredricksburg the 8th was among those who enjoyed the safety of their forts.The 8th not only lived in an environment that was free from musket fire but was also an area of comfort. Most had permanent barracks, their own bakeries and hospitals, some even had machine shops, libraries and livestock herds that provided fresh meat for the men. In many ways the combat soldier lived like a trailer park family and the heavies lived like Paris Hilton. Many of the men wanted to fight and their letters home reflect a sense of duty and desire to battle the Confederacy. One member of the 8th wrote home "It is exceedingly trying to be kept here far from the scene of glorious strife. Every man in this regiment would greet with vociferous cheers an order to move to the front."When U.S. Grant began his spring campaign of 1864 the "play time" ended for many of the green, garrison regiments. He increased the armies numbers by taking the "heavies" out of the forts in Washington and put them in the field. Grant knew that the weakened Confederate armies would pose little threat to the fortified cities of Baltimore and Washington. Among these regiments that was removed from paradise was the 8th New York and the green regiment would prove themselves on the battlefields of Virginia.

By May 1864 the regiment had joined the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac as infantry. Many of the men were very eager to taste combat and prove themselves as equals to the battle-tested veterans of Grant's army. The men sang as they marched in splendid uniforms that were unstained from gunpowder and blood. One member of the 8th wrote "we were the proudest regiment to every reach the front." The men they were joining forces with were not as joyous and they had some surprises for their new comrades.One these new regiments marched into camp many combat soldiers would say "What division is that?" Others offered nothing but insults and cat calls to the heavies as their new shoes stepped on the blood stained soil of Virginia. In many cases the new regiments were shown wounded men and even a mangled corpse as part of their initiation into the the horrors of war.The 8th was commanded by Colonel Peter Porter and Grant quickly threw his new regiments into the chaos of combat hasten their experience levels. On May 19th at Spotsylvania the regiment was part of the attack force that assaulted the fortified Confederate front. One of the first to fall was John Furner who was shot thru the head and died instantly. A captured Confederate claimed that he shot at Colonel Porter three times but missed. The regiment performed well in its first battle but the pride of the 8th would be severely tested in the next big battle at Cold Harbor. During the battle the Army of the Potomac threw itself against the battle stiffened rebels and it suffered horrendous causalities.

On June 3rd, in the span of just twenty minutes the 8th NY lost over two hundred men. The men showed incredible bravery by attacking a position that many of them knew was impossible to take. As the men sprang from their entrenchments and marched at the double quick the Confederates opened fire sending volley after volley into the Union ranks. The results were appalling and the men began to stagger back from the sheets of southern musketry. The 8th got withing fifty feet of the enemy before Colonel Porter was struck four times and fell dead between the lines. Also killed was Capt. H. H. Sheldon a resident of Niagara Falls. With their Colonel dead on the field the 8th New York fell back to the protection of their earthworks and as they swept back to safety many of the men tripped over their comrades who lay dead or dying. In his battle report Major General John Gibbon praised the men of the 8th stating "The gallant Colonel Porter, Eighth New York Heavy Artillery, fell only a few yards from the enemy's works, surrounded by the dead of his regiment, which, although new to the work, fought like veterans."The men felt a special attachment to Colonel Porter who once referred to his men as "the sons of friends and neighbors." This devotion would become the catalist for one of the greatest rescue attempts in American history. Sergeant LeRoy Williams risked life and limb to retrieve Colonel Porter's body during the night. The Oswego, New York native would receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery just thirty four years after the battle. In a series of frontal assaults, the Federals were slaughtered, sustaining approximately 7,000 casualties.At Cold Harbor the 8th New York suffered more than any other regiment on the field. Seven officers and one-hundred seventeen men were killed in action. Nearly 505 men fell before the Confederate guns that day and when it was all said and done 361 men would never rise again. Only the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery regiment would surpass the loss of the 8th within the time span that these green regiments first took the field.

After Cold Harbor, the 8th endured the 10 month siege of Petersburg. After following Lee to Appomattox the war ended for the 8th New York but not before they had placed themselves amongst the best fighting units that the Army of the Potomac ever had. Officially the loss within the ranks of the 8th as staggering. Eleven officers and 199 men were killed in combat during its short service to the Union. Another nine officers and 145 men died as a result of their wounds and 136 men would die of disease. In total, 24 officers, 646 enlisted men of the 8th died as a result of their service.

They are a regiment that is ignored and forgotten by some but they are forever remarkable. A poem written by a member of the 8th named W. H. C. Hosmer best illustrates how gallant and chivalrous these men were. Originally written for Colonel Porter who would no doubt agree with me that these words were meant for the entire regiment:
"Mourn for Niagara's gallant son, Brave Porter who hath died;A crowning victory
was won,And he his country's pride;In triumph over death the grave,Fell first,
and foremost of the brave."

The 8th has some excellent sources and webpages. Here are some that you can look at and I used many of them as I wrote this blog.

New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.

Sgt. Williams Medal of Honor bio can be found at:

Roster and more info are here:

Western NY GenWeb projects are here:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, December 29, 1862

The Vicksburg Campaign is one of the most important moments in military history.

The daring, luck and ability of U.S. Grant to take the city is unparelled in American military history. The sega took place during the months of May-July 1863 but its roots began several months eariler in December. On December 26, 1862, three Union divisions, under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, disembarked at Johnson's Plantation on the Yazoo River to approach the Vicksburg defenses from the northeast.Shermans's men could not have found a harsher place to begin this campaign. The area with which they would march was formidable both artifically and naturally. Thick forests and swampland covered the region and the seeminly impregnable Confederate defenses lay several miles beyond. After skirmishing with rebel forced on December 26-28 Sherman's men prepared for their assualt against the Confederate lines. A narrow front made an assult difficult but Sherman was un impressed by that issue and ordered a massive cannonade to weaken the rebels on December 29.

Sherman had reason to feel confident because his forces numbered 32,000 men versus just 15,000 Confederates under Stephen D. Lee.By 12 p.m. the Union guns ceased firing and Sherman ordered his men forward. At first the men in blue made headway and pushed Lee's troops out of their earthworks. However, Sherman's men were unable to force the rebels out of their main trenches and his brigades retreated. Lee ordered a counterassualt and captures over 300 Union prisoners. Sherman ordered another attack that was stymied and December 29th ended with both sides in their original positions. For four days the two sides sat without combat and on New Years Day the Federals withdrew. The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou was the start of the Vicksburg Campaign and within six months the city would fall to General Grant.

Moreover, this battle was one of the few rays of light for the Confederate forces who met nothing but defeat in the Western Theatre. After years of reflection many Confederate vetreans would feel that the battle deserved a high place in Confederate Military History alongside 1st Mannassas and 2nd Bull Run. The "other" General Lee was made a hero and would eventually lead an army corps in the Army of Tennessee. In later years Sherman would again attack formidable Confederate forces at Kenneesaw Mountain in 1864. The results at Chickasaw Bayou were very similar. Lee's men sustained just 207 total casualities. Meanwhile, William T. Sherman's forces lost 1,176 total casualities.

Final Result: Confederate victory


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today in Civil War History

Just a quick blog about an unusual event in the Civil War. This event offically began on September 13, 1862 after the Army of Northern Virginia began its invasion of Maryland. Lee's army had pushed the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond during the Seven Day's Campaign of June-July 1862. The following month the Confederates easily defeated General John Pope's army at Second Manassas. Flush with victory, Lee believed that one more win against the Union army would give the Confederacy the foreign help that they needed to win. However, to protect his supply line and flanks Lee had to capture Harpers Ferry.

The town of Harpers Ferry had been a supply depot and a place of importance because of John Browns Raid in 1859. Lee dispatched Stonewall Jackson and his men to sieze the town and the heights that surrounded it. General Jackson's men occupied the stregigic heights after the Union forces under Colonel Dixon Miles abondoned them without a fight. By September 15th, Jackson had his cannon trained on the Union garrision and he ordered the bombardment to begin.

Federal forces surrendered on the same day after Colonel Miles realized that Jacksons forces would overrun the garrision easily. The siege of Harpers Ferry gave the Confederacy 12,520 prisoners, 73 artillery pieces and a great deal of supplies. It was a great success but before the Confederates could enjoy the fruits of their victory a message reached General Jackson. The Army of the Potomac had arrived just outside Lee's defensive position near a small creek called Antietam. Jackson left men under General A.P. Hill to mop up any work that existed after the sucessful siege and quickly marched to join Lee. On September 17, 1862 the Battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg began. It would be the bloodiest day in the history of the war that almost crushed the Army of Northern Virginia forever. This is due to Lee's stregigic boldness in the fact of a superior enemy but Harpers Ferry had to be take in order to protect his army. Lee's invasion of Maryland could be deemed a failure except for the siege of the small town where the war truely began.
Rickard, J (16 May 2007), Siege of Harper’s Ferry, 13-15 September 1862 ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Confederates buried at Arlington

Few who visit Arlington National Cemetery know of a spectalur monument to the enemies of the Union. Yes, the Confederacy has a monument in their honor at the place where so many American heroes are buried. The memorial is located in Section 16 of the cemetary and is a great part of the tour. When I visited Arlington in 1986 I was unaware of such a memorial and it has only recently come to me attention.Arlington National Cemetery rests on the grounds that Mary Custis Lee inherited from her father and was the home of both her and Robert E. Lee. The North started to bury their dead at Arlington in 1864 after the Federal government aquired the land because the Lee's failed to pay back taxes.

As of 2006, more than 320,000 people are buried at Lee's former estate. Ironically, the first soldier buried at Arlington was a Confederate prisoner of war! The overwhelming number of military deaths in 1864 caused many Confederates to be buried at Arlington not far from their former enemies. After the war the family members of these troops were not permitted to visit the graves of their loved ones or to decorate them. By 1900 the ill feeling that followed the war had died away as the reunited country fought Spain and the government opened to doors of Arlington to the former Confederates. By the end of June Congress authorized that a section of Arlington National Cemetery be set aside for the burial of Confederate dead. Southern dead was transferred from cemeteries around Washington and buried in a special section of Arlington National Cemetery. It was hoped that a Confederate memorial would finalize the peace between both North and South.Around 482 soldiers from the south are buried at this famed resting place. Among the persons buried there are 46 officers, 351 enlisted men, 58 wives, 15 southern civilians, and 12 unknowns. This pretty much represents the fighting force of the Confederacy on the battlefield and the homefront. They are buried in concentric circles and their graves are marked with headstones that are distinct for their pointed tops. Some resentment never dies and legend has it that the pointed tops were created so "the yankees can't sit on them".
Southern leadership led by the United Daughters of the Confederacy petitioned to erect a major monument to the Confederate dead. On March 4, 1906 Secretary of War William Howard Taft signed the necessary documents to allow the construction of a Confederate monmument at Arlington. The memorial was placed in the center of the concentric circle with the rebel gravestones stretching in every direction. The Confederate Monument was unveiled before a large crowd of northerners and southerners on June 4, 1914, which was the 104th birthday of Jefferson Davis. President Woodrow Wilson addressed the huge gathering and veterans of both the Union and Confederacy placed wreaths on the graves of their former foes. This symbolizes the feelings of reconciliation between the North and South, the memorial's central theme. Also, Bennett H. Young (1843-1919) who was a Confederate officer who led forces in the St Albans raid was present at the dedication.
The monument was sculpted by Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran who is now buried at the base of his marvelous piece of craftsmenship. Moses resembles me a lot and I find that really fascinating. Exekiel's creation is 32 feet high with the statue of a woman at the top that symbolizes the south. Her head is crowned with olive leaves, her left hand extends a laurel wreath toward the South, acknowledging the sacrifice of her fallen sons. Her right hand holds a pruning hook resting on a plow stock. These symbols bring to life the biblical passage inscribed at her feet: "And they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks." The plinth on which she stands is embossed with four cinerary urns symbolizing the four years of the Civil War. A frieze of 14 inclined shields represents all 13 states of the Confederacy including Maryland which supported the Southern cause. Other pictures on the monument show the woman (the south) being held up by Minerva, Goddess of War and Wisdom. Also, the good that came out of the war is also depicted. A soldier kissing his baby as she is held by a mammy, a young officer standing alone, a former slave following his former master and a young lady binding the sword and sash of her soldier.The inscription on the memorial reads:Not for fame or reward,Not for place or for rank,Not lured by ambition,Or goaded by necessity,But in SimpleObedience to DutyAs they understood it,These men suffered all,Sacrificed all,Dared all--and died. Later three final Confederates were brought to the cemetary and are buried at the base of the monument with Ezekiel. They are Lt. Harry C. Marmaduke who served in the Confederate Navy, Capt. John M. Hickey of the Second Missouri Infantry and Brig. Gen. Marcus J. Wright who commanded brigades at Shiloh and Chickamauga. The Confederate Memorial at Arlington is open for the public to visit today. I urge you to take a peek at it if you are in the area or planning a trip to Washington D.C. because it was a token of peace and respect between two sections of the country that still don't see eye to eye on many things. Perhaps it can help everyone heal and foster good feelings for years to come.

Sources and further infomation:

Peters, James Edward. Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. Woodbine House, 1986.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

"That Old Man...."

It is a well known fact that Robert E. Lee and George Pickett had a checkered history. The most obvious connection between the two men was the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. On the third and final day of the battle Lee sent Pickett's Division across a mile of open field to engage the enemy. General Pickett watched in horror as nearly half of his division was utterly destroyed. Pickett was a man with a lot of personal pride and Gettysburg became the beginning of the end for his career and his health. He never forgave Lee but the relationship between the two would continue its downfall.In 1865 as the thinning ranks of Lee's army was barely holding its own around Petersburg, Lee knew that he had to get his army out of there.

A critical crossroads called Five Forks was the key to Lee's escape if Grant was able to push him out of the besieged city. In command of the Confederate defenses at Five Forks was General George Pickett. Lee ordered that Five Forks be held "at all hazzards." Pickett left his headquarters on April 1, 1865 to attend a shad (fish) bake at a neighboring generals tent. This was the sameday that Grant ordered an attack at Five Forks. The Federals easily defeated their enemy and Pickett's troops were routed. Lee was so angered by Picketts behaviour that he ordered his removal from command. Due to the chaos along the retreat Lee's order wasn't carried out. As the Confederates fled Petersburg Lee spotted Pickett riding his horse alongside his men. "Is that man still with the army" he asked his aide. This was a severe rebuke from Lee who was reported to have "always" referred to his fellow officers by name or rank. If Pickett ever heard of Lee's words is unknown but if he did they would have severed their relationship for good.Lets fast forward to 1870 as Robert E. Lee health was slowly fading. He decided to take a trip south during the spring months to restore his failing health with one of his daughters.

After leaving Lexington his first stop was the former Confederate capital at Richmond. Colonel John S. Mosby heard of Lee's arrival and showed up to pay his respects to his former chief. "Both of us were thinking about the war" Mosby later wrote "neither of us referred to it."After a great visit with General Lee, Mosby left and as he walked away from the hotel he encountered General Pickett. The former leader of the most famous charge in American history had fallen on hard times and ended up in the insurance business. How ironic is that? Mosby convinced Pickett to pay his respects to his former commander because according to Mosby, Lee looked "pale and haggard." Basically, Mosby was telling Pickett to see Lee because he didn't look healthy and he could die.Pickett hestitated but eventually both he and Mosby went to visit Robert E. Lee. Their meeting was cold and uncomfortable for all three of them. Both were civil towards one another but Mosby stated that Lee's glacial manner was matched by Pickett's icy demenor.

After a few minutes Mosby broke up the reunion by rising to his feet and leaving with George Pickett. The parting between the two men was brief. Their exact words to one another went unrecorded but what was said afterwards by Pickett was written for prosterity by John Mosby."The old man had my division slaughtered" said Pickett. Obviously these words by Pickett show that he remained bitter over the destruction of his division at Gettysburg. Mosby needed a good reply and he told George Pickett "Well, it made you immortal." Perhaps Mosby was trying to help the old division commander by letting him know that history will forever remember that grand old charge. Author William Fulkner later wrote that every southern boy dreams of it be two o'clock and being a participant of Pickett's Charge. I doubt if George Pickett could see how famous both he and his men are today that he would be happy. It must have been a painful heartache for the old general to bear and there are some things that time never heals.Pickett died in 1875, Lee died in October of 1870 and Mosby survived them both by dying in May 1916. Besides the fact that Pickett's Charge is such a force in popular media concerning the war and tourism at Gettysburg the old general has other forms of imortality. Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia is named in his honor. In Richmond, where Pickett is buried, his former soldiers errected a monument alongside his gravesite that was originally meant to be place on the Gettysburg battlefield. Moreover, history and popular culture have painted Pickett as a tragic hero which is no doubt enhanced by actor Stephen Lang's protrayal of him in the film Gettysburg (1993).


Clark, Champ, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, Time-Life Books, 1985.

Flood, Charles Bracelen. Lee--the Last Years. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

John Sedgwick: A Forgotten Union Hero

Union General John Sedgwick was born in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut on Sept 13, 1813. He was well educated and graduated from West Point in 1837 and ranked 24th in his class. He served faithfully in the Seminole Indian War in Florida and served with distinction in the war with Mexico. He along with future Confederate Generals James Longsreet and George Pickett helped defeat the Mexicans at the Battle of Chapultepec.Before the Civil War started he was promoted twice to replace Robert E. Lee. The second promotion came when Lee resigned from the U.S. Army.

Sedgwick rose from the rank of Lt. Colonel to lead a corps during the Civil War and he was among the small number of men from either side to do so. On July 4, 1862 he was awarded the rank of major general becoming one of the few men in American military history to rise so fast and so far. His command was the Union Sixth Corps and it was a position that he would maintain until his untimely death. In September of 1862 he was wounded three times during the Battle of Antietam and missed three weeks of the war to recover from these wounds. Until his death this would be the only war time that John Sedgewick would miss.After serving in the heavy fighting at Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville. During the Second Battle of Fredricksburg, Sedgwick led the forces that pushed the Confederates off of Mayre's Heights. After Hooker was whipped by Lee at Chancellorsville, President Lincoln offered the command of the Army of the Potomac to General Sedgwick. Both he and fellow corps commander John F. Reynolds refused to take command and opted to remain in command of their corps. Another corps commander named George Meade took the offer and the rest is history. Sedgwick furthered his legend by his timely arrival at Gettysburg during the wars bloodiest battle. His corps was held in reserve but his troops were in position to prevent any penetration by the Army of Northern Virginia.After the Gettysburg campaign, Sedgwick's Corps marched with a new commander named U.S. Grant.

After leading his men during the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864 his corps marched south to engage the Confederates at Spotsylvania Court House. While he placed his men into position a Confederate sharpshooter shot him dead. Just moments before Sedgwick was warned by his troops to take cover but he stated that "they couldn't hit a elephant at his distance". Well John must have grown a trunk because the rebel bullet wounded him just under his left eye. He died within minutes. The general was buried in his home town.The love that Sedgwicks men had for him was evident at Spotsylvania when many of them wept when they learned of his death. After the war several momuments and memorials were created in his honor including one at West Point. Also, Sedgwick is honored with statues at Spotsylvania near where he fell and on the battleground at Gettysburg. Today, General John Sedgwick remains virtually unknown to the average American.

He served in three wars and postive things always seemed to surround him. He was loved and respected by the troops under his command and his superior officers. So why don't more people know about John Sedgwich? Perhaps it is because he was a guy who just got the job done, didn't flaunt himself and since he didn't outlive the war he didn't make himself larger than life within his writings. Without a doubt, General Sedgwick deserves to be remembered as a great general and a great man. Its a shame that he isn't as revered as Sherman, Lee, Grant and Jackson.

Further Reading:

Winslow, Richard Elliott. General John Sedgwick, the Story of a Union Corps Commander. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1982.

Sedgwick, John, George William Curtis, and Gary W. Gallagher. Correspondence of John Sedgwick, Major-General. Army of the Potomac series, v. 24. Baltimore, MD: Butternut and Blue, 1999.

Connecticut, and Dwight C. Kilbourn. Dedication of the Equestrian Statue of Major-General John Sedgwick. Hartford: Pub. by the state, 1913.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: the Battle of Pilots Knob September 27-28 1864

Missouri ranks third in in-state Civil War clashes. Only Virginia and Tennessee had more battle within its borders and in September 1864 one of the forgotten battles of the war occurred at Pilot Knob, Missouri. The area is located in the peaceful Arcadia Valley of southeast Missouri but its beauty was disrupted by one of the wars bloodiest battles. In just 20 minutes nearly 1,000 men lay dead or wounded at the foot of Pilot Knob Mountain.The summer of 1864 had not gone well for the Confederacy. By the end of the season the nations most powerful army was entrenched and enduring a siege at Petersburg, Virginia. Union General William T. Sherman had begun to beat back Confederate forces as he made his way towards Atlanta. The armies west of the Mississippi river were commanded by General Edmund Kirby Smith who kept a tight reign on his regiments and some say he acted like a dictator over the region. Smith's lack of resolve allowed Union forces to concentrate in Georgia and Virginia.
As Confederate manpower dwindled, President Jefferson Davis ordered some of Smith's regiments east to help defend Petersburg and Atlanta. Fearful of losing men, General Smith wrote Davis that he was planning a major offensive and would need to retain his regiments. Major General Sterling Price, a former governor of Missouri, to lead Smith's western campaign. No Confederate general began a mission with such a ragged force because most of the rebel troops were clothed in tattered rags and many went without shoes. Soldiers carried an endless variety and caliber of muskets which made ammunition supply in the field nearly impossible. Some soldiers even assumed this offensive without field arms of any kind.

As September 19, 1864 dawned, Prices was ready. A 12,000 man mounted army of misfits and regulars crossed the Arkansas border into Missouri. Meanwhile, on the Union side nothing could get any worse.In St. Louis the commander of the Department of Missouri was General William Rosecrans who had led Union forces during its defeat at Chickamuaga in 1863. This setback caused President Lincoln to remove Rosecrans from command and like John Pope before him, Rosecrans was sent west. General Rosecrans after receiving reports that Price was moving towards him called for reinforcements. His efforts weren't enough and by late September he commanded just 6,000 men. A Confederate advantage of 2-1 was the only thing that stood between Price and the occupation of the greatest American city west of the Mississippi at that time. Rosecrans and his men entrenched themselves at Pilot Knob and waited for the Confederates to attack.Many of Price's officers urged him to ignore the Union garrison and move on to St. Louis. The capture of such a prized city would renew hope within the Confederacy and bring much needed supplies to the army. Price ignored the suggestion but did send part of his force to rip up a railroad connection. The rest of the men would attack the Federal force at Pilot Knob.

The Union defenses was headed by 1,000 men under General Thomas Ewing. The earthworks that his forces defended was known as Fort Davidson. The fort was surrounded on three sides by commanding hills which dominated the valley floor. Enemy forces would have no choice but to cross hundreds of yards in the open to reach the fort. This would expose them to artillery and infantry file which would easily break up their formations. The forts one vulnerability was to any artillery which could be placed on the encircling hills. Ewing sent out untested troops which skirmished with Confederate forces in a fierce rainstorm on September 26. By the morning of the 27th, Ewings troops retreated to the safety of the fort but did some damage by inflicting nearly 200 causalities on the Confederates.General Price looked over the situation with a keen eye and determined that artillery placed on the hilltops would easily pound the Union garrison into submission. Price ordered Colonel Lauchlan Maclean to the forth to ask for a Union surrender. Ewing and Maclean were personal enemies and the Union general easily rejected the opportunity to surrender. Perhaps, Maclean let his personal hatred of Ewing get the best of time because he quickly urged Price to order a frontal assault. Placing cannon on the mountain tops was no easy task and General Price abandoned the easier course and prepared his assault.An hour of quiet over the battlefield was disturbed by the Confederates trampling brush with their feet as their battle lines formed. Ewing ordered his cannon to load canister and made sure every available rifemen was placed in position to receive Price's attack. The best marksmen were chosen to fire while others loaded muskets so that a continuous fire could hit the gray wave that would soon arrive.Confederate artillery pounded the fort around two o'clock and after a short barrage the rebels began to move towards Fort Davidson. Ewing ordered his cannon to fire and soon thick clouds of smoke blanketed the attacking columns hundreds of feet high. When Price's men came withing 500 yards the Union infantry was ordered to fire. As spent rifles were passed down and loaded ones handed up, the 300 rifles along the top of the walls fired as if they were machine guns during World War I. The heavy fire caused many Confederates to fall to the ground clutching bloody wounds.Still the gray line pressed on and when they got within 200 yards, the southern brigades fired their first volley and broke into a running charge. Many Union gunners and rifemen could only see the charging legs under the thick haze of smoke. As the the men defending Fort Davidson continued their unrelenting fire the Confederates fell back. It is estimated that the rebels got within 30 yards of the forts walls before having to abandon their position. The hot lead was too much for Sterling Price's brigades and many of his retreating forces tripped over their fallen comrades.They Confederates were rallied by several officers who spurred them forward again as devastating fire from Fort Harrison continued to rain upon them. Some rebels even made it to the base of the forts walls but some were destroyed or disabled by Union gunners who lit artillery fuses and dropped them into the Confederate hordes below. This was too much for the soldiers to bear and the rebels quickly retreated across the open fields now littered with their dead. As the smoke slowly lifted, the incredible carnage became known to both sides. Nearly 500 yards of open ground was covered with wounded and dead men. The Battle of Pilot Knob had only lasted a few minutes but the results were bloody. After the attack, Price was unable to gain control of his men and his entire command was scattered and confused. Meanwhile, General Ewing realized that he shouldn't press his luck and during the night he withdrew from Fort Harrison. The last squad of Union infantry blew up the ammunition depot which caused an enormous explosion. Many Confederates felt that the Yankees had blown themselves up but they were dismayed to find the fort empty when the sun finally rose. Price knew that his command had suffered too much and taking St. Louis was impossible. The National Parks Service website reports 1,684 total casualties (US 184; CS 1,500). Perhaps the biggest result of the Battle of Pilot Knob was another Confederate drawback. By the end of the year Lee's army was dwindling, Atlanta was in Union hands and Sherman's March to the Sea was about to begin. This battle goes virtually unnoticed by many Civil War historians and buffs. This fact saddens me because it is a battle that I just recently discovered myself and I think it is really intriguing.
Mackey, T. J. 1974. Escape from Fort Davidson. Civil War Times Illustrated. 13, no. 1: 30-31.
Suderow, Bryce A. Thunder in Arcadia Valley: Price's Defeat, September 27, 1864. Cape Girardeau, Mo. (530 N. Pacific, Cape Girardeau 63701): Center for Regional History and Cultural Heritage, Southeast Missouri State University, 1986

Monday, September 3, 2007

Lincoln and Lee: Forever Linked in Histroy

President Abraham Lincoln and General Robert E. Lee are forever linked in our minds because they were the major players on each side during the Civil War. Their last names begin with the same letter but the similarities don't stop there. After dying their contemporaries painted them as the idealistic vision of perfection. These colleagues claimed that Lee and Lincoln had few vices and were the greatest leaders in their respective fields. The truth behind these claims is not the purpose of this blog because they share something that few people discuss and many are unaware of.
Despite the wealth of R.E. Lee and Abe Lincoln books out there today neither man wrote personal memoirs. All historians have to go by are the letters, reports and documents written by these men. Yes, it is better than nothing but lets not forget that their contemporaries wrote their first biographies. Lee and Lincoln have been unable to speak on many of their actions and they may remain silent forever.
If Lee's heart had held up and/or Booth's bullet had misses Lincoln's head than we might have the memoirs of these great men. Why did Lee order Pickett's Charge? How impressions did Lincoln get from his cabinet when he announced the Emancipation Proclamation? These and a million other questions go unanswered unless a lost document shows up in some dusty archive somewhere.
What does the lack of personal memoirs cause? For one thing, it causes many historical questions to go unanswered because we cannot view the events through their own eyes. Moreover, historians of Grant and Sherman can read the words of those men and make historical judgement based on the facts written. In many ways we cannot do this with Lincoln and Lee. Many of the facts behind their actions come from their documents and letters. As historians we have to make due with what we have and many libraries hold thousands of these valuable items. It is a shame that Lee's postwar descriptions of his campaigns and Lincolns post-administration view of his presidency go unanswered. Unfortunately these moments are lost forever to history. However, if anyone asked me the two historical books that I would like to read the most it would be the Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln and the Memoirs of Robert E. Lee. Great stuff.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Meade versus Lee...again

In a previous blog I mentioned R.E. Lee's comment to General Meade at Appomattox. After the Confederate surrender Lee went back to Richmond to take care of his sick wife. The Lee's lived in a modest house but were constantly interrupted by well-wishers, former soldiers, friends and curious on-lookers.

The reasoning behind many of the visitations were former Confederates seeking Lee's advice on taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. This oath would grant former Confederates amnesty from Federal prosecution as traitors. Also, it restored U.S. citizenship to the rebel politicians/soldiers who participated in the Confederacy. Many southerners felt that the oath was stupid and didn't want to take it because it trampled upon their reasoning for revolting. The Federals needed a man who was admired by almost everyone in the south and many looked to Lee to be this person. If the great commander swore allegiance to the Union than the former confederates would do the same.

Therefore, both sides saw Lee as the mythical leader of the Confederacy long before the Lost Cause institution made Lee perfect. One such man was General George G. Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac and the victor of Gettysburg. The Union general called on his former opponent and friend in Richmond as his army made its way back to Washington. Meade, dressed in his officers uniform knocked on Lee's door and was admitted inside. Both men were friends prior to the war and Meade may have been acting under Grant's orders to urge Lee to take the oath.

Meade asked Lee to sign the necessary documents and swear allegiance to the Union. Such a scenario would be an advantage to Lee because it would reestablish his civil status and set and example for all confederates to follow. "Bobby" Lee told Meade that he was waiting to see if the Federal Government would treat the South harshly. Based on this comment one would assume that Lee was willing to lead another revolution if the Union victors mistreated Southerners.

General Meade's response was that the oath and signature were not asking for much and such an action would guarantee civil rights and amnesty from Federal prosecution. Lees belief was that the surrender of Appomattox freed him and his former soldiers from trial and taking an oath was ambiguous. After seeing that any further argument against the former commander of the Army of Northern Virginia would be a waste of time Meade departed. The two friends never saw each other again.

It can be assumed that Meade, if under orders or not, reported this to U.S. Grant. Eventually, Lee would take the oath, do his duty and face heat from many former Confederates. Lee's example worked as many former Confederates followed their hero and their former commander one last time by completing their own oath processes. Many former Confederates enjoyed their renewed civil status and many were elected governors and as prominent civil leaders. As for Lee the future of his civil status wasn't so bright.

General Lee's oath documents like all the others had to have a Presidential signature in order to be official. The gray-haired commanders materials never reached President Johnson's desk and were misplaced by someone in the war department. He never received his U.S. citizenship during his lifetime and died as the the head of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia in 1870. In 1970 the documents were reported to have been discovered within the National Archives. President Gerald Ford signed the papers in 1975 and Lee's citizenship was restored 105 years after his death. "I believe it to be the duty" he wrote "of everyone to reunited in the restoration of the country."


Flood, Charles Bracelen. Lee--the Last Years. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.