Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lincoln and the War's End by John C. Waugh

Lincoln and the War's End presents a concise description of the final months of the American Civil War.  Author John C. Waugh begins his narrative on November 8, 1864 after Lincoln's victory in the presidential election.  The book is another addition to the Concise Lincoln Library collection published by Southern Illinois University Press.
Sherman's "March to the Sea"
Following the defeat of Hood's Army of Tennessee in Georgia, General Sherman begins his "March to the Sea." Leaving the "blackened ruins and lonesome chimneys" of Atlanta, Sherman's forces advance toward Savannah with plans to "make all Georgia howl."  In the meantime, Hood leads the Confederate forces to disaster in battles at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville. 

While waiting for news from Sherman, president Lincoln sends his State of the Union address to Congress. Lincoln presents ideas for "moulding society for the durability of the Union" based on the progress of loyal state governments established in captured Confederate states. He reaffirmed his commitment and the nation's strength to put down the rebellion.

Grant and Family at City Point
Sherman reaches Savannah and presents the city as a Christmas gift to Lincoln.  In mid-January 1865, Union forces capture Fort Fisher in North Carolina and close the South's only remaining Atlantic port at Wilmington.  The New York Herald reports that Union generals were "pressing the rebellion to its last shifts."

Waugh describes how Lincoln and the Republicans deliver the "deathblow to slavery" with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment on the last day of January 1865.  Lincoln celebrates its passage and calls it "a great moral victory" and a "King's cure for all the evils." 

With the "Confederacy on the ropes," the author discusses the failed peace negotiations at Hampton Roads.

The book continues with Lincoln's speeches following his inauguration on March 4. The president concluded with, his now famous, "With Malice toward none..." quote.
Lee Surrenders
Waugh traces the final days of the Confederacy with Lee's defeat at Fort Stedman, retreat from Petersburg, and burning of Richmond.  He describes Lincoln's visit to the Rebel capital and the Grant's pursuit of Lee's gallant forces to the surrender at Appomattox. We also learn about Sherman's path across South Carolina and Johnston's eventual surrender.

Lincoln and the War's End concludes with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln preparing to leave for Ford's Theater.  That part of the saga is left to Edward Steers' Lincoln's Assassination.

The timing of this book is perfect as the nation begins remembering the events that ended the Civil War.  Waugh has included numerous notes and several maps and illustrations.  The book is well written and will be appreciated by those just learning about the Civil War as well as readers that are more knowledgeable.

John C. Waugh is a former reporter and bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor.  He is the author of eleven other books on the Civil War era.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Unexpected Victory at Sabine Pass

About 6:00 am on the morning of September 8, 1863, a Union flotilla of four gunboats and seventeen troop transports commanded by General William B. Franklin steamed into Sabine Pass and up the Sabine River. The attack was part of a Union strategy to invade the Louisiana-Texas coast and interrupt rail connections between the two states.

Model of Fort Griffin
Franklin's plan was to stay on board the transports for as long as possible, reduce Fort Griffin, and land troops to begin the occupation of Texas. The Davis Guards, or Company F of the First Texas Heavy Artillery Regiment, commanded by Captain Frederick Oldham, defended the coast, and on the day of the attack Lieutenant Dick Dowling had the duty at Sabine Pass. As the gunboats approached Fort Griffin, they came under accurate fire from six cannons. The defenders had previously sighted their guns on the narrow channel in the pass, so when the Union vessels started through the pass they fired away when the ships entered their line of fire. They disabled the USS Sachem and the USS Clifton and the disabled ships blocked the pass and prevented the rest of the flotilla from advancing up the river. "Dowling and his forty two Irish Patriots" forced the Union flotilla to retire and captured the Clifton and about 200 prisoners.

Monument to Dowling
and his Irish Patriots
in Sabine Pass
President Davis was so pleased with the victory, especially by his namesake unit, that he called it the Confederacy's Thermopylae. Early in 1864, the Confederate Congress passed a resolution which included, among other complimentary language, the declaration that "this defense ... constitutes, in the opinion of Congress, one of the most brilliant and heroic achievements in the history of this war." At the suggestion of Jefferson Davis himself, the soldiers also received silver medals with green ribbons that had "D.G." (for Davis Guards) engraved on one side and "Sabine Pass, Sept. 8, 1863" on the other.

Lt. Dick Dowling
The battle is preserved at the Sabine Pass Battlefield where history buffs mingle with the fisherman who line the railings over the Sabine River. The park has several panels that describe the battle and a model of Fort Griffin. Dick Dowling is immortalized with a fine statue in his and the guard's honor.

Please see The Battle of Sabine Pass, TX II for more photographs.