Friday, November 30, 2007

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ode to the dead on both sides

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

General Eppa Hunton: Another forgotten Civil War general

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

44 Years Ago Today: November 22, 1963

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Immortal Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Right with Lee

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Future Presidents during the Civil War

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

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The greatest soldier in American history worshipped the Confederacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Former Presidents during the Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Great Lincoln quote

I just started Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I found a Lincoln quote that Shenk used in his book that I think is cool. In 1859 Lincoln wrote:

"The inclination to exchange thoughs with one another is probably an original impulse of our nature. If I be in pain I wish to let you know it, and to ask your sympath and assistance; and my pleasureable emotions also, I wish to communicate to, and share with you."

That's Lincoln's take on human emotion. I'll leave that one for my readers to ponder tonight.

Sources and Links:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Eight Full Confederate Generals

During the short history of the Confederate States Army there were only seven full generals. Here is a list of them.

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston
P.G.T. Beauregard
Joseph E. Johnston
Robert E. Lee
John Bell Hood
Braxton Bragg
Kirby Smith

Thomas J. Jackson and James Longstreet were not full generals even though the average Civil War buff will tell you that. The Confederate Congress and Jefferson Davis only appoved eight full general commissions during the course of the war. Cooper never took the field, Johnston was killed in 1862, Beauregard/Johnston had checkered histories as field officers, Hood was a failure, Smith bitched a lot but did nothing. Only Lee was successful. Braxton Bragg, like Johnston and Beauregard struggled as a field commander.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The man who bested R E Lee

In the NFL during the 1970's the Raiders and the Steelers fought for supremacy in the AFC. Their rivalry was a true contest because the teams were evenly matched and they were the best of the best in football. John Madden once said that a rivalry is only good when both teams were good. The same thing can be said about people who are rivals.You already know that this blog is about RE Lee and that name automatically sends images to your head. You think of the white beard, the gray uniform and the engraved sword around his waist.

With that in your brain I put forth the name of Lee's lifetime rival...Charles Mason.Both men were fellow cadets at West Point and fought each other with pens and their abilities rather than with swords. Charles Mason was a New Yorker and Lee was a Virginian so that in itself was a rivalry during the 19th Century. Both men were equal in abilities in all subject areas at West Point but when the graduation came for both men in 1829 Mason was #1 in his class and Lee was #2. How did this happen? How was the great R.E. Lee bested by a Mason? These are the questions that I will try to answer for you in today's blog entry.I have been reading Pryor's book Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through his Private Letters for a while now. In the book Pryor describes the situation between Mason and Lee at West Point but I have been exposed to it before. Like the Steelers versus the Raiders in the 1970's you have to look at the final result of their battles to see who bested who. So to make this long story short lets go inside the numbers.According to West Point records, Pryor and other Lee biographers Charles Mason received 1,995 1/2 out of a possible 2,000 marks in his four years at West Point. Robert Edward Lee earned 1,966 1/2. Mason beat Lee by 29 marks which is pretty good but the close score tells us that both men were very close in intelligence, organization and leadership. Mason's only flaws were in French and drawing because he lost 4 1/2 marks in both subjects. However, scoring as high as Mason did in all the subjects is remarkable and I would argue that he was the best West Point cadet ever. Lee and Mason were tied in Tactics, Artillery and Conduct but Mason surpassed Lee in every other subject.

Lee is famous because he didn't earn a single demerit at West Point meaning that he broke no rules at the Academy. Mason even bested Lee in this area because he didn't earn a single demerit. So who won? The obvious answer is that Charles Mason outperformed Robert E. Lee OVERALL.I will put forth an argument that their rivalry didn't end with their graduation in 1829 but continued throughout their lives. (If I compared this situation to football, Mason has a 7-0 lead over R.E. Lee. I am having so much fun with this blog!) Two years after graduating Mason chose to leave the military and become a patent lawyer. Mason also worked in politics and remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. He did serve as a copperhead, was opposed to the war itself and he did not support Abraham Lincoln's presidency.In terms of history the average person doesn't know of Charles Mason and if they do they only know that he beat Lee at West Point. I guess Lee ended up beating Mason in that regard because he is ranked as one of the greatest generals in history. Therefore who was better off in the end when you compare their fame? The obvious answer is that Robert E. Lee outperformed Charles Mason OVERALL.Rivalries always include jealousy and this one is not exception. Three years of war made Lee into the legendary "Gray Fox" and his former rival took note of this ability. "General Lee is winning great renown as a great captain, some of the English writers place him next to Napoleon and Wellington. I once excelled him and might have been his equal yet perhaps if I had remained in the army as he did. I sometimes regard his fame as a reproach to myself." Mason is obviously jealous of Robert E. Lee's fame and ability. Maybe he felt that his superiority at West Point wasn't as dominate as he thought? But it is easy to conclude that Mason not only knew that Lee surpassed him in historical fame but that he Mason felt that he would be forgotten to history.

Again I raise the you know who Charles Mason was prior to this blog? If you did do you know of any of his other accomplishments? Most likely you don't and neither did I until I read about it more and searched for more information.Perhaps Mason saw the writing on the wall and he realized that he had barely beaten an man who would hold a higher historical podium than himself. But when I examined the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman I found Lee's four year scores. Freeman used West Point records to reveal Lees grades in all areas. Just because Mason beat Lee that doesn't mean that Lee didn't put up a good fight. After all this was the ultimate rivalry at West Point.Out of 300 possible points in Math R.E. Lee earned 286. 98 1/2 out of 100 in French, Natural Philosophy 295 out of 300, 97 out of 100 in drawing, 293 out of 300 in engineering, 99 out of 100 in chemistry, 199 out of 200 in Geography, Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy, 200 out of 200 in Tactics, 100 out of 100 in Artillery and 300 out of 300 in Conduct. Lee was no slouch and Mason should've had more pride than that because he beat out one of the greatest students in the history of the academy. However, he knew that history would always rank Lee ahead of himself. This fact must have really frustrated the old man until his dying day. Lee was loved and received a high public burial and was worshipped in books and papers from 1870-1882.

One imagines old man Mason reading these with great disdain. Furthermore I wonder how Mason would feel if he knew that the dodge charger in the Dukes of Hazzard was named after General Lee.Besides jealousy another component of a great rivalry is hatred. I found nothing to indicated that Mason hated Lee but if you reread that quote a possibility of that emotion is masked within those words. I guess we may never know if Mason despised Lee but I will keep my eye out for further evidence and post it if possible. I am not downplaying Mason's achievements in life because he had a civil career of some eminence. It is believed that Mason was perhaps the most effective Commissioner in the nineteenth century. As a judge in Iowa territory in he did some great things which were precursors to the Dred Scott decision of the 1850's. He also did some minor things but when you look at them they are as amazing as some of Lee's battlefield victories that he was so jealous of. For a time Mason served as director of the Smithsonian Institution and of the Naval Observatory. Also, he instituted the system which later became the United States Weather Bureau and we know how important that is today!Charles Mason did beat Robert E. Lee in one other thing besides West Point. Lee died in 1870 but Mason outlived his former rival by twelve years when he passed in 1882.

So ended the greatest rivalry in West Points cherished history. (Back to the football theme, Mason outliving Lee and beating him at West Point gave him two touchdowns but I would give Lee three touchdowns for his fame alone. Final Score: Lee 21 Mason 14. I guess the two old men had one more close matchup!)Before I close I wanted to tell you about the men who placed third and fourth in Mason/Lee's class at West Point. William Harford ranked number 3, Joseph A. Smith ranked 4 and James Barnes was fifth. To round out the lives of the top three, William Harford served in various army posts until 1833 after teaching Mathematics at West Point. After leaving the armed forces he took a job as Chief Engineer in New Orleans of the Lake Pontchartrain Canal. He died at his post on January 19, 1836. Ironically, the date of his death is Robert E. Lee's birthday the man who beat him for second place in the West Point class of 1829.

Sources and more information:*.html

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown, and Robert E. Lee. Reading the Man A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Lettters. New York: Viking, 2007.

The class of 1829 can be viewed here from the offical West Point records:

More info. on Lee, Mason and Harford are here: