Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blood and Daring by John Boyko

Blood and Daring describes the complex relationships between Britain, the British colonies in North America, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America during and following the Civil War.

The account written by Canadian historian John Boyko presents the chronicle of events from 1850 to 1872 with a decidedly anti-American perspective. Not that Americans at that time did not deserve resentment from their northern neighbors. The un-American attitude was fueled by the territorial ambitions of the United States.  Land-greedy politicians wanted to extend Manifest Destiny northward to the Arctic Circle.  Government officials led by Secretary of State William Seward threatened to add Canada to the Union by peaceful or military means. 

Boyko's narrative is told from the perspective of escaped slave John Anderson, Secretary of State William Seward, Union nurse Sara Emma Edmonds, Confederate agent Jacob Thompson, publisher George Brown, and politician-statesman John A. Macdonald. It is a rich and well-written chronicle of events during the Civil War that are largely unknown to both Canadian and American audiences.  The threat of American annexation and the desire of British authorities to lessen their responsibilities in North America combined to foster the environment for the creation of the Canadian Confederation.

In the chapter on "John Anderson and the Railroad to Freedom and War," Boyko tells the story of the trial of escaped slave Anderson and the efforts by his former owners to return him to captivity. Although Southerners tried to dissuade slaves from taking the Underground Railroad to Canada, many blacks made their way to freedom and prosperity. To the demands by Southern governors that slaves be returned to their owners, Canadian officials replied that "slavery is not recognized in the law of Canada."

William Seward
The section on "William Seward and the Power of Divided Loyalties" describes the Secretary of State as "Lincoln's most valuable asset in dealing with Britain, Europe, and Canada." Seward complained to British and Canadian authorities about selling armaments to the Confederacy.  He was outraged by the British designation of the Confederate States as a "belligerent" which opened the path for the Confederacy to obtain loans from foreign governments and get supplies from neutral ports. The Union defeat at Bull Run was greeted with cheers by the members of the Canadian government and silence by the opposition.  The wave of ill feelings in response to American designs on Canada produced the anti-American election of 1861. 

Stories from the 40,000 Canadians who illegally fought in the Civil War are revealed in "Sarah Emma Edmonds: Donning the Blue and Gray." Edmonds case is interesting as she concealed the fact that she was from New Brunswick and, perhaps more significantly, that she had enlisted as a man. Canadians served in both the Union and Confederate armies due in some measure to the obligations they felt in living and working in the United States.  Between 1850 and 1860, 102,000 Canadians and Maritimers had crossed the border to find work. Joining the military migration were deserters heading north and south.  The presence of Union prisons in Illinois and Ohio spurred plots by Confederate agents in Canada to free the men and attack northern cities.  One of the most interesting developments was the use of crimping by Union and Rebel agents to encourage and help someone enter military service.  Unfortunately, these recruiting methods looked more like impressment and many Canadians were forced into service against their will.

Canada also served as a base for terrorist acts by Confederate agents who plotted and carried out attacks on Union cities and officials. This network of conspirators was led by Jacob Thompson and other "Confederates in the Attic."  Canada and Britain supplied arms to the Confederacy to derail the American threat of annexation and invasion.  After the war, many Confederates found sanctuary among Canada's Rebel ex-patriots.  Boyko describes the raid on St. Albans, Vermont and plots to burn Chicago and New York City. Perhaps most destructive of US-Canadian relations was the Lincoln assassination.  Atlantic Magazine reported that "the assassination plot was formed in Canada, as some of the vilest miscreants of the Secession side have been allowed to live in that country" and "the Canadian error was in allowing the scum of the Secession to abuse the 'right of hospitality' through the pursuit of hostile action against us from the territory of a neutral."

John Macdonald
Boyko turns to the political scene in Canada as unlikely political bedfellows George Brown and JohnToronto Globe. Brown used the Globe newspaper to publish articles and editorials that attacked the institution of slavery in the South. In response to the Fugitive Slave Law passed in the United States in 1850, Brown helped found the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada. This society was established to end the practice of slavery in North America, and individual members aided former American slaves reach Canada via the Underground Railroad. Macdonald "exploited America's troubles to promote the idea of a stronger, larger Canadian union that could include the Maritime colonies." Macdonald traveled to London to obtain the Crown's blessing on Confederation. Another interesting story concerns the Fenian movement in Canada and America.  The ill-conceived strategy called for seizing Canada and exchanging the territory with Britain for Ireland. The author presents a strong argument that the Civil War was the "essential factor in shaping Canada's birth as a unified country."
 

A. Macdonald work to form the Canadian Confederation. George Brown was the owner-editor of the

The book could use Cast of Characters and Time Line sections to help readers navigate the overlapping time lines in the various chapters and different players.

John Boyko is the author of four previous books, including the critically acclaimed Bennett: The Rebel Who Challenged and Changed a Nation and Last Steps to Freedom: The Evolution of Canadian Racism. He is a teacher and administrator at Lakefield College School, and an op-ed contributor to newspapers across Canada. The author lives in Lakefield, Ontario.

We rate Blood and Daring
 



    

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Battle of Honey Springs Reenactment

On November 9th we attended the re-enactment of the Battle of Honey Springs in Checotah, OK.  Thankfully, for reenactors and spectators the event was moved from the July 17, 1863 anniversary date to a delightful fall day. 

The objectives of the battle were control of the Indian Territory and the Union-controlled Fort Gibson.  Fort Gibson was located where the Texas Road crossed the Arkansas River.  The army that controlled the fort commanded the territory north of the Canadian River. 

In July 1863 Confederate forces under General Douglas H. Cooper assembled at the small supply depot along the Texas Road called Honey Springs.  When Union General James G. Blunt learned that Rebel troops had gathered at the depot, he led his men out of the fort toward to the depot thirty miles to the southwest.  The Confederate forces were composed of 6,000 men from the Texas Brigade (20th and 29th Texas Cavalries and 5th Texas Partisan Rangers) under Colonel Bass and the Indian Brigade (1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles, 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles, 1st Choctaw-Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, and the 1st and 2nd Creek).   The Federal forces contained 3,000 men from the 1st Brigade (Colonel William R. Judson) and 2nd Brigade (Colonel William A. Phillips). The Union forces included the First Kansas Colored Troops. 

The numerical advantage held by the Confederate troops was more than neutralized by more Union artillery (twelve vs. four pieces) and inadequate arms and ammunition by about a third of the Rebel Indian force.



 
At ten o'clock on the morning of July 17 the two armies met at Elk Creek.  Cooper had placed his Confederate forces in a line almost a mile and a half long among the trees of the creek bed.  Alerted by fire from advance pickets, Blunt's Union troops along a ridge about a quarter mile away began firing down on the Rebel skirmishers. 



For the next two hours, the troops fought in hand-to-hand combat along the creek bed.  Neither side gained an advantage until the First Kansas advanced in an attempt to capture the Confederate artillery. 


While the US Colored Troops were exchanging fire with Texas cavalrymen, part of a Federal Indian regiment wandered into the crossfire.  When their Union officer yelled at them to get back, the Confederate commander of the Texas units thought it was an order for a general retreat.  Hoping to surprise the Union line, he ordered a charge.


 
The Texans charged the Union line.  When they were only twenty five yards away, the First Kansas fired at point-blank range.  The effects were devastating and created a large gap in the center of the Confederate line.  Cooper was unable to close the gap and was forced to order a retreat across a small bridge over Elk Creek.




The battle became a running fight as the Federals drove the Rebel troops a mile and a half south to the edge of the Honey Springs depot.




Confederate casualties included 134 killed and wounded and 47 capture.  Union losses were 17 killed and 60 wounded. 





(Source: Honey Springs Battlefield)

Please see Honey Springs, OK 150th Reenactment for more pictures of the re-enactment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Chain of Thunder - Jeff Shaara

The Siege of Vicksburg
Jeff Shaara continues his Civil War trilogy that began with A Blaze of Glory with the next installment, A Chain of Thunder. The novel describes General U. S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign that concluded with the surrender of  the "Gibraltar of the West" on July 4, 1863.

The Vicksburg Campaign and siege are described by Shaara through the eyes of four main characters: Major General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General William T. Sherman, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, Union Private Fritz Bauer, and nineteen year-old, Vicksburg resident Miss Lucy Spence. These perspectives limit our view of the events leading to and during the siege. I would have liked to have seen the siege through the eyes of a Confederate soldier manning the line.

The historic novel is a suitable bookend to the elder Sharra's compelling drama The Killer Angels.  Unfortunately, Jeff Shaara has less dramatic material to utilize. The 47-day siege can hardly compare to the excitement of Little Round Top or Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.  Shaara is forced to deal with the hardships faced by Confederate officers and Vicksburg citizens and the failed Union assaults on the Rebel works.  He does a fine job in translating historical accounts into compelling fiction.

Mr. Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of A Blaze of Glory, The Final Storm, No Less Than Victory, The Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers.  His novels, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, The Killer Angels.
 
We give A Chain of Thunder

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross

Starting October 22, PBS will televise a six-part series titled "The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross." The six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to the present — when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.

The six-part series was developed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University.  Please see the series video at Series Preview to learn more.

  • Episode One: The Black Atlantic (1500 – 1800)
  • Episode Two: The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860)
  • Episode Three: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896)
  • Episode Four: Making a Way Out of No Way (1897 – 1940)
  • Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968)
  • Episode Six: A More Perfect Union (1968 – 2013)
Episodes Two and Three should be of particular interest to students of the American Civil War. 

Episode Two - The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically after the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery grew, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. The episode examines how Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics.

Episode Three - Into the Fire examines the the Civil War and Reconstruction.  From the beginning, African Americans were agents of their own liberation — forcing the Union to confront the issue of slavery by fleeing the plantations, and taking up arms to serve with honor in the United States Colored Troops. After Emancipation, African Americans sought to realize the promise of freedom — rebuilding families shattered by slavery; demanding economic, political and civil rights; even winning elected office.  However, an intransigent South mounted a swift and vicious campaign of terror to restore white supremacy and roll back African-American rights.

I hope you will examine this exciting new series that seeks to educate all Americans about the role of African Americans in the American Experience.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stonewall Jackson - "Coca-Cola Spokesman"

Who would think that Coke could enlist the help of Southern icon Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in this advertisement from 1943.


"That Extra Something"

 
The copy reads:  1863 "Stonewall Jackson taught us what the pause that refreshes really means."

A new idea joined the army in "the sixties."  It was the rest pause ... with refreshment.  Here's what a Coca-Colar advertisement said about it in 1931: -

"Stonewall Jackson always got there first.  On the march he gave his men rations of sugar and at intervals required them to lie down for a short rest.  Thus he marched troops farther and faster than any other in the field.  Since his day all marching troops have been given a short rest period out of every hour."

I found this ad in an antique store in northeastern Georgia and "it called my name."

Have any of you found other Civil War generals selling things?  Please send them in so I can add them to the collection. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Civil War Tour of Washington DC

Sometimes timing is everything.  About a week before, Congress decided to shutdown the government, I toured many of the nation's capital's Civil War sites. Surprisingly, there are no organized tours of the historic places of the war.  Hopefully, our elected officials will stop behaving like spoiled brats and learn to play together. 

With the help of my own research and suggestions by Ms. Carol Bessette, I assembled three days of adventures.  The following list and comments should help you prepare your own self-guided tour.  Many of the sites are best visited by car while others should be accessed via the DC Metro system.

Historic Houses and Residences

Abraham Lincoln's Summer Cottage
  • Clara Barton Home - Drive to the home of the founder of the American Red Cross and battlefield nurse.  The guided tour of her residence is great for adults and children.
  • Frederick Douglas Home - Another site to drive to.  Douglas lived here after the war.  Short film highlights his life.  The beautiful hill-top residence in Arlington overlooks the capital.
  • Robert E. Lee Home - You can reach the home at Arlington National Cemetery by car or the Metro.  Interesting site overlooking Washington.  See the room where Lee wrote his resignation from the Union Army.
  • Abraham Lincoln's Summer Cottage - Take the time to drive to this site at the Soldiers' Home.  Starkly furnished home is viewed during excellent narrated tour of house.  See how you "measure up" to full size statue of Lincoln and his horse and climb the staircase Lincoln used to the room where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The Willard Hotel - This historic hotel was home to many dignitaries during the Civil War including Lincoln and Grant.  The hotel was a den of newspaper reporters, Union officers, Congressmen, and Southern spies.  There is a small hallway-museum. Visit using the Metro.
Downtown Washington (Only visit using the Metro.  Driving in downtown DC is a nightmare - gridlock and no place to park)

U. S. Grant
  • Ford's Theater - Site of Lincoln's assassination.  Also home across the street where Lincoln died.  You can take a John Booth tour of sites along his escape path.
  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History - Museum features Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibit and Martin Luther King's National Mall speech 50th Anniversary exhibit.  There are Civil Rights tours of Washington.
  • Frieze Around National Building Museum - Building was used after the war to pay military pensions.  Outside walls are decorated with military reliefs.
  • Statues -  The city is a not-too-subtle tribute to the Union generals of the Civil War.  General Sherman stands near the White House and General Grant guards the Capital. There are many others as well.  We managed to snap pictures of Generals Hancock and Meade.
  • African American Civil War Museum and Statue - We were not able to see these because of parking problems.  Take the Metro to visit them.
  • Lincoln Park - Emancipation Statue - not visited
  • Naval Museum - Navy Yard - Traffic and tightened security prohibited visit.  I understand that they have a good exhibit on the brown-water navy. Visit using the Metro.
Defenses of Washington (See these sites by car)

Fort Stevens
  • Fort Stevens - Reconstruction of part of fort.
  • Fort C. F. Smith - Parts of fort named after Maj. Gen. Smith are maintained.
  • Fort Ward - Museum and reconstructed fortifications.
  • Fort Washington - Only defense protecting DC at start of war.  I was not able to visit this fort.
Others

  • Lincoln Memorial - See via Metro.
  • Arlington National Cemetery - See via Metro.
  • Alexandria, VA - Occupied city during the war and site of Col. Ellsworth shooting. See by car.
Over the next several month's, I will be preparing blogs on these locations.  Hopefully, our over-paid legislators will be able to put the government back to work and allow visitors at these historic sites. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lincoln Freed the Slaves and Other Myths

Rev. King in Washington
As the nation celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, it seems appropriate to return to the roots of Black Americans' escape from bondage.  There are many myths associated with the battle to end slavery and obtain equal rights, and I thought that this might be a good time to address some of them.

Myth 1: Lincoln Was an Abolitionist

Not really.  He only wanted to end slavery in the states seeking admission to the Union.  He was opposed to actions that would end the practice in Southern states already in the Union. Later, Lincoln became convinced that slavery should be abolished.  However, he was still uncertain about the rights of freed blacks.

Myth 2: The Emancipation Proclamation Freed the Slaves

The proclamation only freed slaves in those parts of the country that were in rebellion.  Slavery still existed in border states such as Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.  The proclamation was not Lincoln's idea, but developed from the emancipation of slaves in Missouri by Gen. Fremont.  Lincoln forced Fremont to rescind the edict.  The arguments made by abolitionists and the black community help form Lincoln's decision.

Myth 3:  The 13th Amendment Abolished Slavery

Approval of 13th Amendment
The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. However, Southern culture remained deeply racist, and those blacks who remained faced a dangerous situation. J. J. Gries reported to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction: “There is a kind of innate feeling, a lingering hope among many in the South that slavery will be regalvanized in some shape or other. They tried by their laws to make a worse slavery than there was before, for the freedman has not the protection which the master from interest gave him before.”  In 1935, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote:
Slavery was not abolished even after the Thirteenth Amendment. There were four million freedmen and most of them on the same plantation, doing the same work that they did before emancipation, except as their work had been interrupted and changed by the upheaval of war. Moreover, they were getting about the same wages and apparently were going to be subject to slave codes modified only in name. There were among them thousands of fugitives in the camps of the soldiers or on the streets of the cities, homeless, sick, and impoverished. They had been freed practically with no land nor money, and, save in exceptional cases, without legal status, and without protection.
Myth 4: Section 1 of the 14th Amendment Guarantees Equal Treatment Under the Law

Section 1 states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

In the decades following the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court overturned laws barring blacks from juries (Strauder v. West Virginia, 1880) or discriminating against Chinese Americans in the regulation of laundry businesses (Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 1886), as violations of the Equal Protection Clause. However, in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court held that the states could impose segregation so long as they provided similar facilities—the formation of the "separate but equal" doctrine.  The Court went even further in restricting the Equal Protection Clause in Berea College v. Kentucky (1908), holding that the states could force private actors to discriminate by prohibiting colleges from having both black and white students. By the early 20th century, the Equal Protection Clause had been eclipsed to the point that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. dismissed it as "the usual last resort of constitutional arguments."

Myth 5: Section 1 of the 15th Amendment Guarantees the Right of Citizens to Vote

Celebration of 15th Amendment
Section 1 provides, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

From 1890 to 1910, poll taxes and literacy tests were instituted across the South, effectively disenfranchising the great majority of blacks. White-only primary elections also served to reduce the influence of blacks in the political system. Along with increasing legal obstacles, blacks were excluded from the political system by threats of violent reprisals by whites in the form of lynch mobs and terrorist attacks by racists groups.

Myth 6: The Black Codes were Only Enacted in Southern States

Black Laws and restrictions on free Blacks residing in states were enacted throughout the country
Marriage between blacks and whites was outlawed in both Northern (Ohio, Rhode Island, and California for example).  Blacks were prohibited from living in certain communities. Chicago adopted racially restrictive housing covenants beginning in 1927.  Public schools were segregated. Black children prohibited from attending Pittsburgh schools.

Myth 7: The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments Provide Rights to Black Americans

These amendments codify the rights for all Americans.  While written to provide rights to freed slaves, application of these rights have been used to provide equal protection for all citizens. 

When Rev. King made his historic speech, he said he had a " dream deeply rooted in the American dream." He reminded the nation of its Declaration of Independence when he said "one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

King presented this dream in the context of the ongoing struggle for Civil Rights for Black Americans.  However, his plea for his children could be made as well by all parents.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The World's Largest Prison: The Story of Camp Lawton

Sketch of Camp Lawton
Robert Sneden Illustration
(Courtesy of Georgia Southern University)
When Camp Lawton opened in October 1864 it was described as "the world's largest prison." While it might have been the biggest, it had one of the shortest life spans of any Civil War prison.  The prison was only operational for six weeks before it was evacuated as Gen. Sherman's forces marched to the sea. 

Camp Lawton's brief history is excellently presented in John K. Derden's The Story of Camp Lawton. He describes how the prison served as headquarters for the Confederate military prison system, witnessed hundreds of deaths, staged a mock election for president, participated in an exchange of sick prisoners, recruited Union POWs for the Confederate military, and withstood escape attempts.

Mr. Derden has drawn on material in the National Archives other repositories, and libraries to produce both a history of the camp and its rediscovery through archeological investigations.  Derden's scholarship is evident throughout the book from his detailed footnote to his analysis of the camp death toll. 

The life of Union POWs is revealed through diaries and the few letters home.  Adding to the book are 28 illustrations and maps depicting prison life at the camp and an extensive bibliography.

Derden discusses the problems that Brig. Gen. John Winder had in managing the Confederate prison system in the last stages of the war.  The author also presents the problems of  Civil War camps and compares conditions at Lawton and Sumter.  He follows the post-war lives of several POWs and guards as they dealt with the trauma and blame.

John Derden was born into a military family and led a peripatetic childhood living in France, Germany, Oklahoma, Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky.  He returned to his native Georgia for college and earned his BSE, MA, and PhD at the University of Georgia and AA at Reinhart University. He was a professor of history for 31 years at East Georgia State College.

This book would make a fine addition to any collection of Civil War prison literature. 

We rate The Story of Camp Lawton


Readers interested in learning more about Camp Lawton and the excellent efforts of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgia Southern University should visit their Camp Lawton website.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Did McClellan Launch Halleck's Attacks on Grant

As I was doing research for my biography of Maj. Gen. C. F. Smith, I came upon some correspondence in the Official Records (Series 1 - Volume 7) between Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck and Maj. Gen. G. B. McClellan which shed some new light, for me, on Halleck's attacks on Maj. Gen. Grant in February and March 1862.

Maj. Gen. McClellan
On February 21, Gen. McClellan telegraphed Gen. Halleck complaining about his lack of communication.  McClellan said: "You do not report either often or fully enough.  Unless you keep me fully advised, you must not expect me to abandon my own plans for yours."

Halleck had to blame someone and there were several good candidates. First, he blamed the officers of this department for being "negligent or ignorant of their duties in this respect." Then, Halleck blamed his predecessor Maj. Gen. Frémont. He charged the officers with becoming "negligent under the Frémont régime of all law, regulations, and orders." Then, he asked for more time to bring about this reformation because he was "doing everything in my [his] power to effect it."

Maj. Gen. Halleck
General Halleck then turned his attention to his unsuspecting subordinate and accused Grant of a shopping list of grievances. At the same instant, Halleck was advocating Grant for promotion, he was also trying to get Gen. Ethan Hitchcock to take Grant's place and praising Maj. Gen. David Hunter for his contributions in capturing Fort Donelson.  Halleck was also pushing to be named commander in the West. Unfortunately, Hitchcock refused to take Grant's place and President Lincoln declined to endorse Halleck's reorganization.

Bruce Catton in Grant Moves South (Chapter Ten p. 198), summed up the situation perfectly.

General Halleck probably meant nothing in particular by his sudden attack on Grant.  He himself had been chided by McClellan for failure to keep Washington informed about troop numbers and dispositions, and a major general who is reprimanded is quite likely to do two things almost automatically - to pass the reprimand along to an underling, and to show that whatever fault existed was not his own. Grant was ideally situated to take both reprimand and blame, and Halleck gave them to him - his attitude sharpened, possibly by his recent disappoints.


Halleck's desire to blame Grant for all of the problems in the West continued until his superiors in Washington brought him to the East to replace McClellan.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Death and the Civil War

I am often puzzled by my interest in the American Civil War. It is after all a war and there are few positive things that we can say about the deaths of 750,000 people.  We continue to search for meaning and validation among the ruins of our national tragedy.  This week, I watched "Death and the Civil War" which is based on This Republic of Suffering written by Drew Gilpin Faust.  The two-hour video relates the manner in which death was dealt with by the nation and serves as another reminder of the horrors of this war.


Vicksburg National Cemetery
The war, which killed 2.5% of the population, permanently changed the character of the republic, the culture of the government, and the psyche of the American people. The war devastated the cherished concept of dying at home surrounded by friends and family.  The conflict made it nearly impossible to follow the "common Christian notions of the "proper" way to die and be buried."  The armies of both sides began the war by leaving the responsibility of carrying for the dead to their families.
The Battle of First Bull Run (First Manassas) changed all that. The numbers of dead and wounded strained a system that was unprepared to deal with casualties. 

"Death and the Civil War" shows how foolish both sides were in entering what they thought would be a three-month conflict.  The Nation and the military were shocked by the numbers which grew throughout the conflict.  In 1864, the casualties were greater than the combination of other war years.

The video treats the governments of both sides rather gently on their treatment of the common soldier.  In fact, the actions of Union and Confederate officials shows a callous indifference to the well-being of these men and their families.  The crimes go far beyond the care of the dead.  They began the day the soldiers enlisted.  Poor sanitation, incompetent officers, lack of pay, bad food, and absence of weapons greeted the men.  Shocked civilians led the efforts to remedy these conditions.

With such little concern for the living, it is not surprising that both sides were "woefully unprepared for the monumental work of burying and accounting for the dead."  Before the war, "America had no national cemeteries; no provisions for identifying or burying the dead, notifying the next of kin, or providing aid to the suffering families of dead veterans; no federal relief organizations; no effective ambulance corps; no adequate federal hospitals." The enemy dead were buried in mass graves or left to rot on the battlefield.  This was in stark contrast with accepted traditions and forced grieving families to deal with their loss and the desecration of loved one's body.

Likewise, the governments failed to provide information on the dead. There were no "dog tags" to identify the bodies and nearly half of those killed were never identified.  The grieving families would never find out what happened to sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. The war that killed their loved ones continued to haunt their families.

After the war ended in  April 1865, the "work of death had only just begun." Tens of thousands of soldiers were still unburied and their bones littered battlefields, many were buried in mass graves, some were buried near where they died with simple markers and notes describing the site, some enemy graves had been desecrated by hateful civilians, and hundreds of thousands remained unidentified.

Drew Gilpin Faust said: "After the Civil War, the United States thought constantly about the dead, this constituency that was no longer there, and yet was so powerful in the influence it has on our nation, because the nation had to live up to the sacrifice that these individuals represented."


African American Soldier's
Grave at Vicksburg 
Congress passed legislation to establish and protect national cemeteries in February 1867. The $4 million program would re-inter the bodies of only the Union Soldiers in 74 national cemeteries. As they were treated in the Union Army, the 30,000 African American soldiers were buried in separate areas designated "colored." White southerners channeled their deep feelings of grief, loss, rage and doubt into reclaiming the bodies of hundreds of thousands of their dead loved ones. The refusal of the victorious North to attend to the vanquished southern dead was another aspect of Reconstruction that left hateful feelings for future generations.

Decoration Day rituals to honor the Civil War by placing seasonal flowers on graves sites began  around the country. In the spring of 1868, General John Logan, officially designated May 30 "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country." But in the South, which had begun Decoration Day programs before the federal holiday, states celebrated on various days from Jackson's death to Jeff Davis' birthday. Many southern states continue to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on a different date from the nationwide holiday, reflecting persistent sectional differences among both the living and the dead.

The Americans who survived the Civil War lived the rest of their lives with grief and loss. Some continued to search for information about their missing loved ones. Others were never able to resume life after the cruel deaths of sons, husbands, or dear friends and lived in perpetual mourning. They struggled, as we do today, to find meaning and validation to the deaths.

Perhaps my interest in the American Civil War is to search for such validation.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Prarie Boys Go to War

The Prairie Boys Go to War is the story of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry during the Civil War.  Author Rhonda M. Kohl has prepared a thoroughly researched study of this unit from southern Illinois.  The story follows the exploits of this unit from August 1861 to October 1865. 

Fifth Illinois Marker
at Vicksburg
The Fifth was organized at Camp Butler in November 1861 and was assigned to Gen. Curtis' Army at Helena. They were involved in campaigns at Helena, Vicksburg, Jackson, and Meridian. The book provides details of the battles aided by well-illustrated maps.  Kohl provides a detailed description of the difficulties at camps in Arkansas and Mississippi where the men faced flood waters, mosquitoes, poor sanitation, and disease.  

Over its four years of service, the Fifth Illinois constantly battled internal friction as well as the enemy.  Kohl highlights the political friction between the Republican party officers and their Northern Democratic soldiers.  She shows how the appointment of officers in these state units had little to do with ability and more with political affiliation.  These internal struggles led to poor leadership, low morale, disciplinary problems, and rampant alcoholism. 

Unlike some unit histories, Kohl is not afraid to reveal the unit's bad qualities as well good.  The unit was equally adept in battle as in scavenging for food.  The Fifth gained a reputation for drunken behavior, stealing, and vengeance warfare. 

The author has drawn on muster rolls, regimental and company correspondence, service and hospital records, family records, pension files, diaries, and letters to document the regiment's history in the Western Theater. 

My only reservation about the book was the lack of an appendix with the roster of the unit.  This information is available on the Southern Illinois University Press site.

Rhonda M. Kohl is a historian and writer in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  She earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology at Temple University and a master's in American history at Southern Illinois University.  Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Illinois State Historical Society, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Civil War History, and Illinois Historical Journal.  Ms. Kohl plans two additional books on the fifth on the post-war life of the soldiers and a study of  the wives and families at home.

We rate this book


 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Ghosts of Douglas the Camel

In the summer of 1863 the brave men of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, Company A, were part of the forces manning the earthwork fortifications surrounding the city of Vicksburg. By their side was a most peculiar sight - their faithful mascot, "Douglas the Camel," which gave this unit its nickname as the ‘Camel Regiment.’

Doug Baum and Friends
This summer,visitors to Vicksburg National Military Park were able to see two of Douglas' descendants thanks to US. Camel Corps re-enactor Doug Baum.  Mr. Baum brought his two camels, Douglas and Ibrahim to the park.

The "Camel Regiment" story begins on April 26, 1843, when Captain George H. Crosman encouraged the U.S. Department of War to use camels for transportation. His report was ignored until 1847-48 when his suggestion and comments by of Major Henry C. Wayne got the attention of Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. When Davis became Secretary of War in 1853 he proposed using camels to operate in the arid and desert regions of the West.

Davis wanted to improve Army transportation in the southwestern US.  In his annual report for 1854, Davis wrote, "I again invite attention to the advantages to be anticipated from the use of camels and dromedaries for military and other purposes..." On March 3, 1855, the US Congress appropriated $30,000 for the project.
 
Major Wayne was assigned to obtain the camels. On June 4, 1855, Wayne departed New York City on board the USS Supply, under the command of then-Lieutenant David Dixon Porter. After arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, Wayne and Porter began purchasing camels at places like Goletta, Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. They acquired thirty-three animals and hired five camel drivers.


Allen and Douglas
During the early summer of 1856, the Army loaded the camels and they were driven to Camp Verde via Victoria and San Antonio. Reports from initial tests were largely positive. The camels proved to be exceedingly strong, and were able to move quickly across terrain which horses found difficult. Their legendary ability to go without water proved valuable on an 1857 survey mission led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale. He rode a camel from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River and his team used 25 camels on the trip. The survey team took the camels into California, where they were stationed at the Benicia Arsenal.

Ibrahim Relaxing - Note Pads on Feet
During a 1859 survey of the Trans-Pecos region to find a shorter route to Fort Davis, the Army used the camels again. Under the command of Lt. Edward Hartz and Lt. William Echols, the team surveyed much of the Big Bend area. In 1860, Echols headed another survey team through the Trans-Pecos that employed the Camel Corps

With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Camel Corps was mostly forgotten. Handlers had had difficulty with their camels spooking the horses and mules. Beale offered to keep the Army's camels on his property, but Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rejected the offer. Many of the camels were sold to private owners; others escaped into the desert throughout the West and British Columbia.

Douglas
Although the details are unknown, Douglas somehow made his way to Mississippi. He was initially given to Colonel W. H. Moore by 1st Lt. William Hargrove. Besides being a mascot, Moore assigned Douglas to the regimental band, carrying instruments and knapsacks.

Though the men tried to treat Old Douglas like a horse, the camel was known to break free of any tether, and was eventually allowed to graze freely. Despite not being tied up, he never wandered far from the men. The Infantry’s horses feared Old Douglas, and he is recorded to have spooked one horse into starting a stampede, which reportedly injured many, and possibly killed one or two horses.

Old Douglas Marker
Old Douglas’s first active service was with Gen. Price in the Iuka campaign. He also participated in the 1862 Battle of Corinth. He remained with the regiment until the Siege of Vicksburg, where he was killed by Union sharpshooters. Enraged at his murder, the men swore to avenge him. Col. Bevier enlisted six of his best snipers, and successfully shot the culprit. Of Douglas’s murderer, Bevier reportedly said, “I refused to hear his name, and was rejoiced to learn that he had been severely wounded.” According to legend, after Douglas was shot, his remains were carved up and eaten, with some of his bones made into souvenirs by Federal soldiers.

Now thanks to Mr. Baum, visitors could see what it must have been like to see a camel on the battlefield.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Civil War: Sanctity or Shame?

In Sunday June 30, 2013 Points section of the Dallas Morning News, Civil War historian and author Tony Horwitz. asks "if this bloody conflict was necessary." Horwitz questions whether we should "consecrate a war that killed and maimed more than one million Americans" or should we condemn the war as unjustified by its "appalling costs." Please see Mr. Horwitz's article in the Atlantic titled 150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War.

Two points that are often ignored in analyses such as Horwitz's are the prevailing public attitude about the war and the real causes of the conflict.  At the onset of the war, both the Union and Confederate governments and civilians thought that it would be over in three months.  Volunteers flocked to the armies on both sides to get into the action before their friends had dispatched of the enemy.  The public on both sides were convinced that their men were the superior of the enemy and that, as in all wars, God was on their side.  It only took one battle to convince both sides that this conflict would be a brutal, deadly affair. 

The causes of the war are complex but none of them have anything to do with achieving equality of the races.  The South wanted to protect its economic institution that abolition would destroy.  The men who began the war were landowners whose wealth was tied up in agriculture revenue and the value of the slaves who monetized that land.  Perhaps no comment epitomizes this more than "It's a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." 


Freedmen Voting in New
Orleans in 1867
The war certainly achieved mixed results. The North may have won the war, but the South certainly won the peace.  Emancipation did not produce equality, but rather a new set of private and government restrictions that continued de-facto slavery.  Horwitz cites the writing of Dave Goldfield who said "that white supremacy was so entrenched, North and South, that war and Reconstruction could never deliver true racial justice to freed slaves, who soon became subject to economic peonage, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and rampant lynching."

Horwitz then detours his commentary into a discussion of how close the South came to winning the war.  These discussions may serve as wonderful subjects for Civil War Roundtables and forums, but fail to address the primary question of justifying the war.  Numerous battles could have gone the other way, if only this or that did not happen. 

Dead at Gettysburg
The enormity of the death toll, recently revised to 750,000 by J. David Hacker, could not have been imagined by either side after the surrender of Fort Sumter.  Saying that emancipation justified the bloodshed is wrong because other means soon replaced slavery.  Of course, slavery still exists today around the world and even in the United States where a  several outlets in national franchise were found to have enslaved its "employees."  The persistence of slavery as an institution indicates that it would not have faded away in the future.

The real importance and justification of the Civil War is that our country cannot be dismantled by factions that do not like the election of a president or the passage of laws they oppose.  There are policies and procedures that allow changes in elected officials and enaction of new laws. The war was also fought to allow the peaceful expression different opinions on how the country should be run.

Perhaps a bigger question is why we celebrate this national genocide of our young men.  Civil War activities are bigger than those for the Revolutionary War and the nearly forgotten War of 1812. All of which took place on American soil.  Some of the remembrances have their roots in "The Lost Cause." Do we celebrate to honor the bravery and honor of those who fought for their beliefs?  Maybe the reason is more pernicious.  Perhaps these events are a peaceful continuation of a war that really never ended, but has merely taken a new shape?   

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Year of Glory by Monte Akers

General JEB Stuart
Year of Glory written by Monte Akers describes a year in the life of JEB Stuart and his cavalry.  From June 1862 to June 1863 General Stuart enjoyed unprecedented success as he literally rode circles around the Union armies.  Stuart's time of glory corresponds with the pinnacle of the Confederacy.

Akers takes the reader through the day-to-day events of that year when Stuart's reputation was forged by events on and off of the battlefield.  This diary methodology has its pluses and minuses.  At times it seems that Stuart's moments of combat are squeezed into a busy social life of music, dancing, and women.  The approach treats the more critical aspects of his life with nearly the same detail accorded to parties.  What emerges from this format is an interesting portrait of Stuart that reveals both his triumphs and tragedies.

We follow Stuart's band of brave cavalrymen through his first ride around McClellan (June 1-15, 1862), The Seven Days Campaign (June 15-July 3, 1864), Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, the second ride around McClellan (September 28-October 12,1862), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Brandy Station.  The story of these campaigns is told through personal letters, anecdotes, and recollections from his staff. 

Southern Troopers Song
Aker's Stuart is a fearless man who fought hard and lived with equal zest. To some his battlefield accomplishments were diminished by flamboyance in "riding magnificent horses, dressing outlandishly, and participating in balls and parties." However, his accomplishments certainly exceed these criticisms.

The reader has an intimate view of Stuart's relationship with Stonewall Jackson and the pleasure they found in each other's company. The exploration of Stuart's "unusually positive personality - always upbeat, charming and humorous" helps bring the famous cavalryman to life. 

There are troubling aspects of Stuart's life.  Although he was considered to be very loyal to his wife, he seemed to enjoy his time engaged in harmless flirtations with other women exchanging kisses for locks of his hair.  At times, his attitude towards his wife seems condescending.  He is also especially remote concerning the death of his daughter.  Excusing himself from visiting her before her death, attending her funeral, and consoling his wife.  He demonstrates a similar remoteness in dealing with the deaths of Pelham and Jackson. Perhaps this avoidance was his way to deal with death including his own. Maybe he was hiding from his own fear of dying behind his joviality and laughter. Such introspections are the grist of psychologists.

One of the interesting parts of Aker's book is the lack of praise from Gen. Robert E. Lee. Perhaps the most disappointing was Lee's decision not to put Stuart in permanent command of Gen. Jackson's Second Corp. Offsetting this was the commendations that Stuart received from Jackson and others. 

I would have liked to see more details on his major battlefield triumphs, but Year of Glory does highlight many of the smaller engagements.  While the book lacks a bibliography, Akers makes up for the absence with chapter notes.  

Monte Akers is the author of several books including Tales for the Telling: Six Short Stories of the American Civil War. Mr. Akers lives near Austin, Texas where he is an attorney, song lyricist, historian, and collector of Civil War artifacts.

We rate Year of Glory
 
 





Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"An Unjustifiable Departure from My Orders"

Major General C. F. Smith
In November 1861, Brigadier General C. F. Smith issued General Orders No. 32 condemning the behavior of troops under  Brigadier General E. A. Paine during the march from Milburn to Paducah, KY.










The imputations are of the most discreditable, most disgraceful character to them as soldiers or citizens — that in returning, several regiments (the Ninth and Twelfth Illinois excepted) straggled home in parties without the semblance of military array — mere armed mob; and that the property of citizens was wantonly destroyed, and in some instances robbery by violence committed. Such conduct implies a discipline that he can scarcely credit, and he calls upon the brigade and other commanders to use their utmost endeavors to remedy such a state of things.
Today, we have another, more despicable case, of such disgraceful character in the sexual assaults on women in the military.   A Pentagon report says that reported sexual assaults rose to more than 3,374 in 2012.  But this is only a small fraction of the 26,000 estimated number of assaults.  These perpetrators have, in Smith's words, behaved in the "most discreditable, most disgraceful character as soldiers or citizens."

As Smith recognized in 1861, the fault lies with the commanding officers.  Senior military officers have overturned sexual assault convictions.  In other cases, the incidents have been swept under the rug to protect the unit, academy, and/or service.  Visions of the outrageous behavior of a general officer dramatized in The General's Daughter come to mind. The actions of these military personnel dishonor all who serve.

As occurred during the Civil War in regard to military tactics in face of changing technology, the military establishment must be dragged into the 21st century.  Women should be accorded a place of equal respect as they serve this country.  The male-dominated, archaic value system in the military must be overhauled.  Smith wanted to bring up charges against Paine.  Court-martial proceedings against some high ranking officers might gain the attention of the military. 

Congressional actions are focusing on removing the chain of command from deciding whether and how to proceed with the cases.  The military brass objects to this. They have had time to clean their respective houses, but have metaphorically sweep the dirt under the rug.  Something needs to be done, and based on past failures the military has invited intervention by outsiders.

This "conduct unbecoming" points to another serious problem which Smith also notes as "a discipline that he can scarcely credit." The lack of discipline and respect for codes of behavior is cause for concern. This lack of discipline and control can lead to events such as the murder of 25 Afghan citizens.

Secretary of Defense Hagel
"This scourge must be stamped out," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the graduating cadets and newly-minted second lieutenants during his commencement address at the US Military Academy at West Point. "We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens," Secretary Hagel said. "We cannot fail the Army or America. We cannot fail each other and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead."

A day earlier, President Obama had the same message for Navy ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants graduating at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

I hope that the Congress will take strong measures to remove this stain on the honor of the brave men and women who defend this country.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Military Honors


The New York Times Sunday Review: The Opinion Pages contained a thought provoking piece by Jamie Malanowski titled "Misplaced Honor."  Mr. Malanowski  wrote that after the Civil War the "recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South." He continues by noting "Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy." This led to actions to "whitewash the actions of the rebels." "The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals."

He discusses the military installations in the South and the generals that the bases were named after.
He points out that these bases are "named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers." Mr. Malanowski says that it is time to rename these bases for men whose names are not linked to rebellion, slavery, and racism.

The New York Times opinion page article says that there are 10 US bases "named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers." The following is a list of 11 posts that I assembled:
  1. Fort Rucker - Alabama - Edmund Rucker - Confederate "General" Honorary title - Industrialist
  2. Fort Gordon - Georgia - John Brown Gordon - Confederate Major General and State Governor
  3. Fort Benning - Georgia - Henry L. Benning - Confederate Brigadier General
  4. Camp Beauregard - Louisiana - P. G. T. Beauregard - Confederate General
  5. Fort Polk - Louisiana - Leonidas Polk - Confederate General and Episcopal Bishop
  6. Fort Bragg - North Carolina - Braxton Bragg - Confederate General
  7. Fort Hood - Texas - John Bell Hood - Confederate General
  8. Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation - Virginia - William N. Pendleton - Confederate Brigadier General 
  9. Fort A. P. Hill - Virginia - A. P. Hill - Confederate Lieutenant General
  10. Fort Lee - Virginia - Robert E. Lee - Confederate General
  11. Fort Pickett - Virginia - George Pickett - Confederate General 
Fort Jackson in South Carolina is named after Andrew Jackson and Camp Davis in North Carolina is named for Major General Richmond P. Davis (1866-1937).

There are also a number of Civil War generals whose names graced military posts that are now closed.  On the Union side, there is Fort McClellan, Camp Stoneman, Fort Ord, Fort Winfield Scott, Fort McPherson, Camp Grant, Fort Sheridan, Camp Sherman, and Fort Meade. Some installations named after Confederate officers have also been closed such as Camp Maxey and Camp Wheeler.  Actually, more bases named after Confederate generals seemed to have survived than Union generals.  I found Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, Fort Custer in Michigan, and Camp Sherman in Ohio.

This issue is a subset of a greater question: "Should we accord Confederate soldiers the same honors that are bestowed upon soldiers who fought to defend the Union and end the rebellion?"  This issue is part historic and part political. These bases are located in the South and serve to honor local heroes. The names also serve as reminders of the conflict and warnings for future generations. The names were undoubtedly part of the very pork barrel legislation that brought the bases to the South in the first place. However, these forts may also be tributes to the "Lost Cause" belief that arose after the war.

Those who want to retain the names of Southern leaders on bases, parks, and public buildings usually state the historical connection.  Those that argue for name changes base their desire on removing any honors for those who supported, what Malanowski terms, "a racist slavocracy."

General William Worth
In most cases the attachment to the person whose name appears on the post is hardly remembered.  I doubt that many people know who Fort Worth is named after much less the details of General William Worth's life.  As I wrote this I wondered how Dallas got its name.  According to the Texas State Historical Association, the origin of the name is unknown.  It might have been George Mifflin Dallas, vice president of the United States, 1845–49; his brother, Commodore Alexander J. Dallas, United States Navy; and Joseph Dallas, who settled near the new town in 1843.  Will the origins of the names of military posts suffer the same fate or will they be replaced by a new state hero?

Another question that Malanowski raises is whether the honor is even appropriate.  He cites the dubious credentials of Braxton Bragg, Leonidas Polk, John Hood, and George Pickett.  If southern leaders wanted to honor their great generals, why not nominate Thomas Jackson, James Longstreet,  J.E.B. Stuart, or either of the Johnstons?

General Lewis Armistead
Some attribute the names to healing the nation's wounds and remembering that all of the men were Americans.  I doubt that any Southerner thought of himself as either an American or Confederate.  A scene in the movie, Gettysburg, really defines the men's allegiance.  On the onset of Pickett's Charge, another technically incorrect label, Brigadier General Lewis Amistead urges the men forward by calling on their pride as Virginians.

There is no answer for the decisions made in selecting the names of these posts.  We cannot impose today's values and attitudes on choices made decades ago.  Time and new heroes will alter the names and the connection to man honored will fade into memory.



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pfc. Sid Phillips - A Determined 1942 Confederate

Allen and Dr. Phillips
We are sometimes fortunate to meet a real American hero.  My wife and I had that privilege on Saturday morning May 18, 2013 near Mobile, AL. We spent several hours with Dr. Sid Phillips and his delightful sister, Katherine Singer, at his antique shop.  Dr. Phillips may be better known as Pfc. Phillips of the First Marine Regiment, First Marine Division and lifelong friend of Eugene Sledge.  Sid and Eugene were two of the principle characters in HBO's miniseries, The Pacific.  Dr. Phillips signed a copy of his book, You'll Be Sor-ree, about his experiences fighting the Japanese in World War II.

I was respectful of his experiences and refrained from dredging up memories of the horrors of the Pacific Theater.  I mentioned that I was interested in the Civil War, and we began a wonderful conversation about the war and Dr. Phillips' interest in history.  Dr. Phillips left briefly and returned with several page of photographs of himself and Pfc. W. O. Brown.  He titled the collection "Two Determined 1942 Confederates." Phillips and Brown were stationed at what is now Camp Lejeune and used "two thumbs for transportation" to visit Civil War sites at Bentonville and Fort Fisher. On the beach at Fort Fisher, the soldiers found minie balls, flat pewter buttons, and round balls.  The 17-year olds took turns taking pictures of each other next to battlefield markers and earthworks. Dr. Phillips told how he and Eugene used to visit the Spanish Fort battlefield, north of Mobile, to hunt for relics. The battlefield is gone, but Phillips' boyhood memories are undisturbed.

This introduction led to stories about their childhood.  My favorite, among the many told, was Katherine's recollection of sitting on a porch surrounded by men. She said the men would spit into a spittoon every time they said "Yankee." Mrs. Singer said it was not until she was an adult, that she realized that you didn't spit every time you said "Yankee." 

Dr. Phillips Signing his Book
I must admit to being an awestruck kid the entire time of our visit and in a daze that lasted well into the afternoon.  Visions from the Tom Hanks drama crept into my mind, and I marveled at Dr. Phillips' war heroics and post-war triumphs.  Driven by his wartime experiences, he decided  to become a doctor, worked his way through medical school supported by his wife, and became a successful physician.  

I consider myself  extremely fortunate to have met a real hero, and I wished others could have shared my experience.  My thought quickly faded, when I realized that we all have the opportunity to meet heroes this Memorial Day weekend.  Take time to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

Dr. Phillips signed the book "To Allen an American patriot. 2nd Timothy 1:7. Pfc. Sid Phillips." The verse he quoted reads: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." I'm not sure I deserve the honor, but I know that Pfc. Sid Phillips does.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Men, Metals, and Minerals

An interesting post in Daily Writing Tips, one of my favorite blogs, presented a list of "10 Metals and Minerals for Metaphors." The list "sometimes inspire[s] associations with human characteristics or with circumstances." This suggested that I might develop a list of Civil War leaders who might demonstrate these characteristics.

"Brassy" Stuart
"Golden" Jackson














  1. Adamant - Perhaps no officer comes to mind as "insistent" or "unyielding" except U. S. Grant.  Longstreet described him as a bull dog. 
  2. Brassy - The candidates exhibiting "bold, clamorous,or unruly behavior" are Nathan B. Forrest,  JEB Stuart, and George A. Custer.
  3. Bronze - This can refer to a person's complexion or in reference to a "physically imposing" man. I would classify these men as officers who "look and act the part." Certainly, this term would be appropriate for Robert E. Lee.  
  4. Flinty - The term meaning "stern, unyielding" could refer to any number of the West Point Regular officers.  I nominate C. F. Smith and Gordon Mead for this metaphor.
  5. Golden - This word is used to describe someone who is "excellent, popular, or otherwise remarkable."  How about Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson?  JEB Stuart might be a runner up.
  6. Iron - This element has been used to describe strength, robustness, relentlessness, and firmness.  U. S. Grant and William Sherman might demonstrate this characteristic.
  7. Leaden - This term is associated with "heaviness," lack of mobility, and inflexibility.  The top choice, not surprisingly, is George B. McClellan. On the Confederate side you might name Joseph Johnston.
  8. Ossified - The trait of being set in their ways could be applied to a cadre of officers in both armies.
  9. Silver - As in eloquent persuasion, "silver tongued," or distinguished, "silver haired."  In the distinguished category we have Robert E. Lee and his West Point classmate, Joseph Johnston. As for silver-tongued, perhaps "Prince John" Magruder would be my choice.  Alternatively, we could add the multitude of officers from both the North and South who charmed the ladies and convinced citizens that it was better to give than receive. 
  10. 
  11. Steely - The adjective refers to strength and hardness as so ably demonstrated by "Stonewall" Jackson at First Bull Run, George Thomas at Chickamauga,  John B. Gordon at Antietam, and Patrick Cleburne in many battles. 
Please feel free to nominate your own favorites to the list.