Sunday, June 22, 2008

Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Picacho Pass, Aug. 15, 1862

The Civil War was fought in over 10,000 places and it is nearly impossible for someone to remember every battle. The Battle of Picacho Pass in New Mexico Territory is one of the forgotten battles of the Civil War. Today my goal is to eductate my readers on this small battle.

In the spring of 1861 the Confederates claimed that the New Mexico Territory was theirs and support for the rebels by the small population supported their claim. The Federal government was anxious to prevent the claim and halt the spread of Confederate support. On August 15, 1862 a Union patrol commanded by Lieutenant James Barrett of the 1st California Cavalry, were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Pass area. They were searching for Confederates who were reported to be in the area. Barrett's offical orders were to find these rebels but not engage them until Union reinforcements arrived. Initally, Barrett and his men were met with success and they quickly rounded up three Confederate soldiers as prisoners. However, the Union troops failed to see that seven other Confederates were in the area and the men in butternut opened fire on the men in blue.

Union Lieutenant James Barrett waved his men forward against the remaining Confederate cavalry troopers, who laid down heavy fire, killing and wounding four more Union soldiers, including the impetuous young lieutenant. After withdrawing and regrouping, the Union cavalry continued trading shots with the Confederates until late afternoon, when they withdrew and slowly returned to the main body to the north.

The Confederates were commanded by Sherrod Hunter and the rebel success at Picacho Pass did not change the strategic realities of the situation. Hunters men retreated to Texas as the Northern ranks swelled in the area. The battle was itself a skirmish and pales in comparision to the battles at Vicksburg, Stones River, Shiloh, Gettysburg and Fredricksburg. In total just 26 men took part in the combat but it did mark the farthest west clash of arms in the Civil War, and the only site in the State of Arizona. The casualties of the fight, Lieutenant Barrett, Company A, 1st California Cavalry, shot in the neck, breaking his neck and dying instantly, Private George Johnson, Company A, 1st California, shot in the region of the heart, died within a few minutes, were killed on the site (referred to as the Battle Site) and their bodies were lying where they fell. Private William S. Leonard, (in Reports spelled Denerd) , Company D, 1st California Cavalry was mortally wounded, shot in the back, the ball passing upwards and exited his mouth. He died early the next morning. The wounded of Lieutenant Barrett's Detachment were as follows, Private William C. Tobin, Company D, 1st California Cavalry, was shot in the forehead, but the brasses of his hat deflected the bullet and left an ugly but not fatal wound, Corporal James Botsford, Co,pany A, wounded, and Private Peter Glenn, Company, were shot in the arm and shoulder, but either wounds were fatal. Reports does state which man was shot in the arm or the shoulder.

For modern photos of the battlefield and a good description go here

The offical park webpage is here:

Even more information and battle description are located here:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interesting Gettysburg reference

Civil War reference is a wonderful web page and I found an interesting page and it lists all the officers that were killed during the battles at Gettysburg. Here is the list.


Lewis Addison Armistead Mortally Wounded
William Barksdale Mortally Wounded
Elon J. Farnsworth Killed in Action
Richard B. Garnett Killed in Action
William Dorsey Pender Mortally Wounded
John F. Reynolds Killed in Action
Paul J. Semmes Mortally Wounded
Strong Vincent Mortally Wounded
Stephen H. Weed Killed in Action

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Confederate Hero meets his end 144 years ago today

Today in Civil War history:

While inspecting his lines, Leonidas Polk is killed at Pine Mountain by an artillery blast ordered by William Tecumseh Sherman. Polk was scouting enemy positions with his staff when he was killed in action by a Federal 3" Hotchkiss shell at Pine Mountain. Although his record as a field commander was poor, Polk was immensely popular with his troops, and his death was deeply mourned in the Army of Tennessee

More information about Polk can be found at

One this date in 1863....145 years ago, Nathaniel Banks orders a ground assault against Port Hudson but fails to breach the walls.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another Death

I cannot say that I am perfect but when I learned of the deaths of Shelby Foote and Brian Pohanka I was deeply saddened. I watched these men on Civil War shows and read their books and they helped me understand the Civil War, its battles and the men who fought it. If one askes me about the Lincoln Assassination I would point to historian James Hall as the expert. If you watch any documentary about the Lincoln Assassination or pick up a book about it then James Hall is somehow involved either as a citation or he is directly involved. In 2007, James Hall died at the age of 94.

Here is the infomation about his death:

By Washington Post | March 6, 2007

WASHINGTON -- James Hall, one of the most authoritative scholars on the Abraham Lincoln assassination, died Feb. 26 of aspiration pneumonia at his home in McLean, Va. He was 94.

Mr. Hall, with William A. Tidwell and David Winfred Gaddy, wrote "Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln," a 1988 book that detailed Confederate plans to kidnap and assassinate the president. The Washington Post's review of the book said its outline of Confederate intelligence activities and clandestine secret service operations was "by far the best such account in print."

Although he earned his living as director of the wage and hour division of government contracts in the Labor Department, Mr. Hall devoted his spare time and the years after retiring in 1972 to research the Lincoln assassination.

Mr. Hall helped train guides at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Md., and 30 years ago helped the museum set up its popular tours of the route that John Wilkes Booth took after shooting Lincoln. The museum named its research center for Mr. Hall.

In 2001, Mr. Hall was the keynote speaker at the National Park Service's Lincoln symposium at Ford's Theatre. He was still researching the subject at almost age 90.

Called the specialist's specialist on the Lincoln assassination, he knew more about it "than anyone who ever lived, except those personally involved in it," Ford's Theatre historian William Hanchett once said

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth...again

Recently I cam across John Wilkes Booth: Fact and Fiction of Lincoln's Assassination & The Hidden Lincoln: From the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon. The Booth book is extremly rare and I am really looking forward to reading it. It was published in 1929 and is still the definitive biography of JW Booth. Author Francis Wilson even addresses the idea that Booth escaped from the barn and lived out a life under a few assumed names. The biggest disappointment is that Wilson provides no footnotes, endnotes or citations for this work. Back in the day historical authors were not required to do this but with the limited amount of Booth information available to him, it will be easy to track down his sources. I am sure that Asia Clarke Booth's biography of her brother was a key source.

The William Herndon book is cited in nearly every biography that has ever been written about Abraham Lincoln. Herndon was a close friend who despises Mary Lincoln and did a great job of painting Lincoln as the greatest president that our country has ever seen. I don't disagree with him on this but the book itself really provides a lot of insight about Lincoln's character and virtues. It is made up of letters that Herndon wrote to people about Lincoln from 1865-the late 1890's. One of the more intesting things that I have found in the book was the poem that Lincoln wrote about his childhood. It is interesting to note that it was in the possession of Robert Lincoln and his wife for several years and was not revealed to the general public until long after Booth's bullet rang out in Fords Theatre.

I cannot wait to dive into these books this summer!

More posts are on the way. I am sorry that I have been so distracted lately.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lewis Paine's strange journey

It seems like forever since I posted last and I want to say that I am very sorry for not putting up posts recently. I have been very busy and I have been working over 60hours a week so I get very tired. I recently read another Edward Steer's Jr. book called The Escape and Capture of John Wilkes Booth. I just cannot seem to beat the Lincoln Assassination kick that I am on.

After Lewis Paine was hanged for taking part in the Lincoln Assassination and attempting to murder William H. Seward, his remains had some unique movements. In 1993 Betty Ownsebey wrote a biography of Paine and after reading that book I saw that there was more to Paine then meets the eye. Originally, Powell's body was buried in Georgetown but was later moved to another cemetery in Washington D.C. In 1871 his family made the long journey from Paine's home state of Florida to reclaim his body. They were buried on the family farm until 1879. Eventually, Powell's body was dug up and buried next to his mothers corpse in Geneva, Florida. It was at this point that someone opened his casket and noticed that the body was headless. Apparently the undertake had removed his head and it became part of the Army Medical Museum which was ironically housed in Ford's Theatre. Later research revealed that the skull was given to the Smithsonian Anthropology in 1898 and there it remained until it was rediscovered in 1992. When Smithsonian workers uncovered the skull they noticed a small piece of paper which was with the skull that read "cranium of Payne hung (sic) in Washington, D.C. in 1865 for the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William H. Seward."

After nearly 100 years the skull was given to Paine's descendants in Florida. Lewis Paine's body was dug up once again and the skull was buried with the body. Author Michael Kaufman, who later wrote American Brutus, helped lower the coffin into the grave.