Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Franklin County Soldiers Memorial Hall

I was "wandering around" the Library of Congress digital collections when I happened to discover a group of unique stained glass windows in a Grand Army of the Republic hall in Hampton, Franklin County, Iowa.

Franklin County Soldiers
Memorial Hall
Nearly twenty years after the Civil War, the people of Franklin County, Iowa decided to  build a memorial honoring the Union war heroes. They wanted to recognize the 169 men from the county who fought in the war and especially the 44 soldiers who died in the conflict.

The Iowa General Assembly voted to allow each county to levy a tax, not to exceed $3,000, for a memorial or a building. The people of Franklin County chose a building. The City of Hampton provided the site and, with the addition of private contributions, the county completed the Franklin County Soldiers Memorial Hall in 1890.

The building is a unique, octagon-shaped structure in the Gothic Revival style. It contains ten marble tablets with the names of Franklin County Civil War soldiers engraved on them. The seven (six  shown here) arched, stained glass windows each have a different motif, incorporating Civil War themes relating to weaponry and the soldiers' gear that were used in the war. The Union Soldier on Guard statue atop of the building is made of white zinc and it was purchased for $170 from the Graves Registration Bureau in Washington, DC.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Philadelphia National Cemetery and Camp William Penn

Philadelphia National Cemetery
The Philadelphia National Cemetery was established in 1862. Initially, the cemetery was made of graves from ten different Philadelphia area cemeteries. In the late 1880s, the national cemetery was consolidated and reestablished in a single location to provide a dignified burial place for the Union soldiers who died in the Philadelphia area. Today, the national cemetery contains the remains of more than 12,000 veterans from the Civil War and later conflicts, along with spouses and dependents. The cemetery is located about twenty-two miles north of downtown Philadelphia.

Union soldiers who died in one of the many Philadelphia-area hospitals were interred in soldiers’ lots in ten different cemeteries throughout the city. These grave sites were collectively known as the Philadelphia National Cemetery. In 1881, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs recommended the establishment of a single national cemetery in Philadelphia. Meigs feared that the opening of new streets through the city’s cemeteries would disturb the graves of the Union dead. Under special authority from Congress, the military acquired 13.3 acres in 1885 to re-establish the Philadelphia National Cemetery at a single location. Shortly after the purchase of the property, remains were removed from the various soldiers’ lots and reinterred in the new site. 

View of Exterior Wall
The layout of the Philadelphia National Cemetery is different from the other national cemeteries constructed following the Civil War. Instead of a formal regimented site, the Philadelphia National Cemetery design is suggestive of a natural park environment. The cemetery's roads curve around the property and highlight the natural groupings of trees. A low finely cut and dressed stone wall topped by wrought-iron fencing built around 1885 surrounds the cemetery. 

In 1940, the cemetery’s old, narrow main gate was replaced by a wider one for vehicular traffic. Four-foot-wide pedestrian gates are located on either side the vehicular gate. The materials and design of the gate maintain the design of the perimeter wall with finely cut and dressed stone piers and wrought-iron fencing. The only two buildings on the cemetery property are a utility/storage/restroom facility built in 1936 and a rostrum or stage constructed in 1939. The rostrum features a semi-circular stone base with Doric columns that support a flat roof. 

The cemetery contains several commemorative monuments. The largest, standing twenty-feet tall, is a three-sided, intricately detailed, marble pedestal surmounted by an eagle that commemorates the lives of 169 soldiers of the Mexican-American War. In 1911, the US government erected the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the cemetery’s Confederate section. The granite block monument commemorates the 184 Confederates whose unidentified remains were reinterred in the cemetery. Nearby, a flat stone memorial is dedicated to the 224 Confederate soldiers who died in the Philadelphia area during the Civil War. Another memorial marker honors the American patriots of the Battle of Germantown in 1777. In 1928, the citizens of Germantown erected the granite boulder with bronze plaque describing the Revolutionary War battle that occurred near the national cemetery. 

National Cemetery Marker
Three illustrated historical markers are located in the national cemetery. Now efforts are underway to erect a fourth marker to honor the more than 1,000 black Civil War soldiers and sailors buried there and "to inform the public of their existence and their great sacrifice." Most of these soldiers died at Camp William Penn, which was located about one mile from the national cemetery. 

Camp William Penn Marker
Camp William Penn was the first training camp dedicated to African Americans who enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. Some 11,000 free blacks and escaped slaves were trained at William Penn including 8,612 from Pennsylvania. 

The camp was built on land owned by Union League member Edward M. Davis, the son-in-law of abolitionist Lucretia Mott. The thirteen acres where tents were stationed prior to the construction of the facility’s wood buildings were adjacent to Mott’s “roadside” estate, which was a major stop on the Underground Railroad. As the black regiments drilled with target practice, hand-to-hand combat and parading, they sometimes saluted Mott as she watched from her porch. 

Camp William Penn
Churches and women’s groups in the Philadelphia African American community brought supplies to the soldiers at Camp William Penn. David Bustill Bowser, a black artist who painted Abraham Lincoln and John Brown, designed the colorful regimental flags. The flags often depicted the soldiers in combat and in gleaming uniforms, sometimes protecting America’s “Lady Liberty.” The Ladies Sanitary Commission of the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church and other women’s groups provided food, cloth, medical supplies, clothing, and toiletries for the soldiers. The groups also raised funds by holding fairs and bazaars and they nursed sick and injured soldiers. They coordinated transportation for weekend visits to Camp William Penn where the soldiers could be seen parading, often in full military dress, to the drums and horns of bands. 

Flag Raising at Camp William Penn
The Union League, an exclusive club of white men formed to support Lincoln and the Union, donated up to $100,000 to establish Camp William Penn. The Supervisory Committee to Recruit Officers for Negro Troops, which included many members of the Union League of Philadelphia, established the Free Military School for the Applicants for the Command of Colored Troops in Philadelphia. The officers recruited to command the US Colored Troop (USCT) regiments were white and were screened to determine their fitness to train black soldiers. The Third Regiment USCT was the first regiment trained at Camp William Penn in the summer of 1863. 

Frederick Douglass spoke to the Third about their importance in the Civil War as some of America’s first black federal soldiers: 

The fortunes of the whole race for generations to come are bound up in the success or failure of the 3rd Regiment of colored troops from the North. You are a spectacle for men and angels. You are in a manner to answer the question: can the black man be a soldier? That we can now make soldiers of these men, there can be no doubt! 

The Third was not allowed to parade through Philadelphia upon departing camp for fear of racial animosity spurred by the spectacle of blacks in uniform carrying weapons, would go on to participate in the siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina. 

Today, only a few remnants of the camp still exist, including its restored front gates. Neighborhood groups are planning a museum and other tributes to the camp’s legacy.

Both of these efforts are well-worth supporting.

Many thanks to Edward McLaughlin who provided copies of documents and images.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Union General Gouverneur Warren by Donald R. Jermann

The Battle of Five Forks
Union General Gouverneur Warren describes Union General Warren's fall from grace at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia. Shortly before the end of the Civil War, General Phil Sheridan relieved Warren from command. General Warren spent the next fifteen years requesting a board of inquiry, which he hoped would vindicate his conduct.

Three-fourths of Jermann's book is dedicated to testimony given in the Court of Inquiry. Warren died before the Court concluded that Sheridan was justified in removing Warren.

The first part of Union General Gouverneur Warren is devoted to an examination of events leading to the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia and the actions of Warren's Fifth Army Corps in the engagement.

General Gouverneur Warren
At the heart of Sheridan's displeasure and his reason for removing Warren was the late arrival of Warren's troops. Whether he was justified in this action is the key question Warren sought to address in the Court of Inquiry. Another related, but critical, issue is whether Warren was competent to command an army corps. General U. S. Grant's assessment was that after Warren received a an order he would consider "how the balance of the army should be engaged so as to properly cooperate with him." When Warren decided to execute an order, "he would go in with one division, holding the others in reserve until he superintend their movements in person." In Grant's view Warren could "accomplish anything that could be done with a small command."

Jermann cites two deficiencies that Warren had as a leader.
Warren was far smarter than average, knew it, and acted accordingly. Consequently, when receiving an order, he tended to believe that he had a better assessment of the situation, and modified it. When executing an order, he tended to believe that he could do it better than his subordinates and hence was reluctant to delegate authority.
Grant's evaluation suggests that Warren was a victim of Peter Principle in that he was promoted beyond his capability. However, this conclusion is rooted in Warren's inability to delegate authority.

General Phil Sheridan
In my opinion, Warren demonstrated the behavior of a "typical engineer." Being afflicted with the same career choice and traits, I believe that Warren was more a victim of these handicaps than the size of his command. He probably micromanaged all of his commands.

Captain Jermann's military career enhances the value of his examination of Warren's performance at Five Forks. This is worthy addition to his other books: Civil War Orders Gone Awry and Fitz-John Porter, Scapegoat of Second Manassas. Captain Donald R. Jermann served more than thirty-two years on active duty in the Navy covering World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He also served as a senior executive in the Department of Defense and lives in Laurel, Maryland.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Recognizing the Roots of Racism

In the December 4, 2106 The Dallas Morning News, Chris Vognar reviewed two books that explore the "resurgence of white nationalism." Vognar says that the "white supremacy" ideology has been an integral part of our country since its foundation.  The two books profiled are: Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped From the Beginning and Carol Anderson's White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. The authors write that the white rage stems from "racist policies and self-preservation of the ruling class" (Kendi) and "the trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement" (Anderson).

The ideas expressed by the authors help explain the resurgence of white supremacy that coincided with the election of Barrack Obama. Anderson writes that the election of a black president "was a catalyst for a level of voter suppression activities that had not been seen so clearly in decades." Her comments echo those expressed in Ari Berman's Give Us the Ballot, White Rage.  Berman examines efforts to suppress black voting.

These books help explain the rise in "white nationalism" and "white supremacy" and should be read by all Americans who want to gain a better understanding of their roots. As Vognar concludes, "Recognizing the roots makes it easier to identify - and to stand on the right side of history.

I present these books to emphasize that the issues that gave rise to the American Civil War are still present and that their prominence today is part of an "historic continuum" that "ebbs and flows." Only by understanding the history of racism in America can we hope to overcome its threat to our nation.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The New Secession Movement

In 1860-1861, Southern States left the Union to form a separate Confederation of states. The Civil War Trust analyzed "Articles of Secession" to identify the reasons behind their state's decision to leave the Union. In addition to these articles,Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina issued "Declarations of Causes" to further explain their decision to secede. The Civil War Trust prepared pie charts showing "how many words were devoted to the issues raised in each state's Declaration as a percentage of the whole." The two common themes were slavery and states' rights with percentages ranging from 57 to 76%.   Some feel that these issues are one in the same, that is the right that the state wanted to exercise was the right to maintain slavery. Other's feel that states' rights was more far reaching and dealt with the separation of powers between states and the Federal government. Or, put another way, the Federal government usurping powers that the Constitution had left to the states.

At its most fundamental level, states' rights can be viewed as a battle between the individual and the government. The question becomes how intrusive/controlling the government is in an individuals life. A corollary to this issue is whether the government represents the will of an individual or individuals.  That was also an issue raised by Southern states long before the Civil War. They felt that they were under-represented in the Federal government.

This battle persists today and will continue to be waged in the future.  On the state level, Texas secession movements have now been joined by efforts in California. The issue in both cases is that the Federal government does not  reflect the values, interests, and priorities of the state. 

The California campaign argues that the state "suffers under federal over regulation, that the state contributes more federal tax than it receives in federal funding, that the state feels isolated from political power in Washington, DC and that there is a wide gap between the political and cultural differences of California and the rest of the country." 

A Texas petition stated that secession would "protect the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government" and defend Texans from "blatant abuses to their rights." It may seem odd, that two states that are on the opposite sides of political thought are proposing similar, perhaps identical, states' rights arguments.

If states feel that the the Federal government does not reflect their ideas and beliefs, what about individuals? This isolation and un-empowerment gives rise to what I have called the New Secession Movement. The movement reflects the frustration of the American people with the government and other institutions in failing to understand their pain and address their needs. The frustration produced the anger that one of the presidential candidates fueled with his rhetoric. Frustration gave way to looking for scapegoats. Those that felt powerless to complain or refused to blame others, simply dropped out. Around 55% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election. This means that 45% of Americans did not bother to vote --- they seceded from the election process. 

Some decided not to vote because their state was controlled by citizens who supported one party and they felt their vote would not count because of the electoral college. This is a legitimate reason not to vote in a national election which disenfranchises voters. Some did not vote because they disliked both candidates. Some abstained because they felt that government is controlled by special interest groups and their voice will not be heard. Ultimately, the reasons are not as important as the decision to set up individual "Free State of (insert your name)," pay as little tax as possible, watch the way the political winds are blowing, do not waste time trying to change the government, and head for Canada if things get really bad. I do not advocate this approach!

The political parties, which present themselves as an avenue to effect change spend their time asking for donations. They want our money and not our ideas. I conducted an experiment in the 2008 election when I offered my "expertise" on oil and gas issues. The only responses were requests for money. It appears that the more money you contribute, the more interest the politicians have in your ideas. 

Whether we become an official oligarchy or maintain our status as subjects of the Political Action Committees remains to be seen. The hope for popular vote presidential elections and Congressional term limits seems pure fantasy. 

For those who have decided to enter into political seclusion, they may awake like some modern day Rip Winkle to discover a country more like the British aristocracy of the 18th Century. Whether you opt for secession or join with others to make your voice heard, the choice is yours. As you make your decision, please ask yourself "Do we get the government we want or the government we deserve?"   

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Paducah and the Civil War

Paducah and the Civil War by John Cashon describes life in the strategic town of Paducah, Kentucky during the Civil War. The book certainly meets the author's mission to "highlight the role of Paducah, Kentucky, in the Western Theater of Operations." Readers who like their Civil War history served with a large helping of the "Rebel Yell" will like Cashon's perspective on Paducah.

Cashon presents events in Kentucky prior to the war in the chapter on "Calls to Secede." He describes the community's emotions in the face of a potential Union invasion. In the time between Lincoln's election and Grant's occupation, the major concern of the citizens was the interruption/interference with river commerce. In contrast to the rest of Kentucky, the area around Paducah favored secession.  The author notes that the June 12, 1861 action of Union troops taking down a Confederate flag in Columbus might have tipped the scale in Paducah's fragile neutrality.

Fort Anderson
The author provides background to the Union invasion of Kentucky. The Kentucky legislature was pro-Union while Governor Magoffin supported secession. Cashon points out that Confederate leaders believed that Union General William Nelson violated the state's neutrality when he established Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County. On September 2 and 3, Confederate troops occupied Columbus. Grant seized Paducah on September 6 and began the war-long control of the city. General Charles F. Smith was placed in command of Paducah and built earthworks around the city to defend against a rumored Confederate attack. He centered the defenses on the Fort Anderson that was built around the Marine Hospital. Cashon does a good job of reporting the the citizen's reactions.

Major General C. F. Smith
Cashon's chapter on "Early Occupation" describes Smith's command of Paducah. Smith reprimands  General E. A. Paine after his command's return from their demonstration in connection with the Battle of Belmont. Smith's troubles continued with events involving flying a Confederate flag at the former residence of General Lloyd Tilghman. Regrettably, the author did not supplement this chapter with information from General Smith's new biography, Teacher of Civil War Generals - Major General Charles F. Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant.

My favorite part of Paducah and the Civil War is the chapter on General Grant's ill advised General Orders No. 11. In the order, Grant basically expelled all the Jews in the military district of western Kentucky, western Tennessee, and Mississippi. The order condemned all Jews for "orchestrating an illegal trade of Southern cotton." A delegation of prominent Jewish citizens from Paducah appealed to Lincoln, who quickly had the order rescinded. Grant's edict cast yet another aspersion on his character.

General Nathan B. Forrest
Perhaps the highlight of Cashon's book is his description of General Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack on Paducah. The author carefully traces the story during the March 1864 assault. He describes the events at Hospitals 1 and 2 in fine detail including the treatment of the nurses and seizure of supplies. The balance of the chapter deals with military actions against Fort Anderson. Unlike other Union forts that succumbed to Forrest's "charms," Colonel S. G. Hicks "respectfully" declined "surrendering as you may require." The battle ensued with guns from the Union forts and gunboats shelling buildings around Fort Anderson. The city's residents suffered greatly and many escaped across the Tennessee River to Illinois. Forrest paid a high price for the attack including the death of Colonel Thompson and perhaps 300 killed and 1,000 to 1,200 wounded.

General E. A. Paine
Cashon's narrative concludes a chapter on guerrilla warfare and General Eleazer Paine's "reign of terror." Emboldened by Forrest's attacks, guerilla warfare increased. Neither side seemed safe and the occurrences seemed more the part of common robbers than strategic attacks. The author directs our attention to the activities of General Eleazar Paine. Paine was placed in command at the urging of the Union League of America in Paducah. They wanted Paine because of his harsh treatment of secessionists. Paine unleashed a vicious campaign on the citizens that appeared to be more akin to ransom and profiteering than restoring order. Fortunately, he was brought up on charges and replaced by General Solomon Meredith.

Unfortunately, Cashon's epilogue does not provide answers to many questions. Did the Jewish merchants return to Paducah? How did the city rebuild? What was the impact of Freedman's Bureau? How were the city's politics affected by war and reconstruction? Perhaps, Cashon will answer these questions in a volume about Paducah during Reconstruction.  A current city map showing places mentioned in the book would have been a worthy addition.

John Cashon has deep roots in Kentucky and the Confederacy. His second-great grandfather fought with Forrest. John attended Paducah Tilghman high school and received his bachelor's degree in history from Murray State University.


Monday, October 17, 2016

The Confederate Dirty War by Jane Singer

In The Confederate Dirty War, author Jane Singer reveals the history of Confederate efforts to terrorize, demoralize, and defeat the North by "unconventional means." The methods described in Singer's narrative include arson, chemical and biological warfare, and land and water mines. Singer describes how "bands of mobile operatives" and "a variety of nefarious characters" planned to carry out attacks on Northern soldiers and civilians.

Judah Benjamin
Singer begins her history by describing the conditions that led Confederate authorities to employ these "dirty" measures. She attributes the reaction to two Union actions: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren's ill-fated raid to kill "the Rebel leader Davis and his traitorous crew." In response, Confederate President Jeff Davis empowered his Secretary of State Judah Benjamin with one million dollars to fund efforts to destroy the North. 

Francis Lieber

The author explains the background of the Lieber Code of April 24, 1863, also known as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field. President Abraham Lincoln signed General Order No. 100, or the Lieber Instructions, to provide instructions for how Union soldiers should conduct themselves in wartime. Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seldon called the code "a confused , unsorted, and undiscriminating compilation" that allowed military commanders to act justly or barbarously.

The opening chapters provide an excellent foundation to examine the various actions of the Confederacy. In chapter three, we learn about the Sons of Liberty's effort to release Confederate prisoners, create civil unrest, sabotage military and civilian targets, and assassinate public figures. Singer details the role that Felix G. Stidger played in exposing these plots and capturing the leaders. 

Singer explains the failed plot to burn New York City on November 25, 1864 using Greek Fire. The "Rebel incendiaries" set fires in numerous hotels and would have been more successful if they had opened windows to provide oxygen for their arson. 
Dr. Luke P. Blackburn
The author describes the role of Confederate spy rings headquartered in Canada in organizing chemical and biological attacks on Northern cities. We learn about Dr. Luke P. Blackburn plan to send clothing infected with small pox and yellow fever to Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington. The formula for Greek fire was supposedly improved Richard S. McCulloh. Although President Davis approved McCulloh's weapon, it was never used.

Next to the assassination of President Lincoln, the boldest plot may have been the planned bombing of the White House. Thomas F. Harney and accomplices planned to detonate a bomb when Lincoln and his cabinet met on April 10, 1865. The bomb was to have planted under the joist of the first floor which would caused the first and second floors to collapse and the ultimate demolition of the building. 

Singer concludes her narrative by revealing what happened to the Confederate conspirators after the war. 

This is a well-written documentation of the nefarious plots and the men that planned them. 

Jane Singer is an independent Civil War scholar. Her articles have been featured in the Washington Post Magazine and the Washington Times. Her research has been cited in the Chicago Sun Times. She is a consulting historian with Engel Brothers Media in New York City. She lives in Venice, California.

The Confederate Dirty War is published by McFarland Publishers. Please see The Confederate Dirty War for more information and to purchase book.

Friday, September 23, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African
American History and Culture
After 101 years of effort, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will open this Saturday (September 24, 2016).  In 1915, a group of African American veterans of the Civil War proposed a museum and memorial in Washington. Efforts to establish the museum floundered over the years stalled by the depression. Congress refused to support ideas during the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, in 2003, President George W. Bush appointed a commission to study the museum. The study, appropriately titled "The Time Has Come," resulted in Congress passing a law that authorized the museum.

"If you're interested in American notions of freedom, then regardless of who you are, this is your story too." --- Lonnie G. Bunch III 

Slave Manacles
A visit to the museum begins with the "Slavery and Freedom" gallery. The exhibit "is designed to attack the senses and draw out emotion: The ceilings are low, the rooms are dark and oppressive, and the walls are covered with quotes from the slaves and the enslaved, whose voices have been reproduced and are broadcast through the exhibits." The exhibit presents items that bring slavery to life: slave manacles used on a child, a slave auction block, a whip used to punish slaves, and ballast blocks and pulley from a Portuguese slave ship.

Please visit the museum web site to learn more.


  1. "Up Close and Personal with a painful past," The Dallas Morning News, September 23, 2016, 3A.
  2. "Black in America," Smithsonian, September 2016.
  3. National Museum of African American History and Culture
  4. Collection Search on Slavery
  5. Collection Search on Military

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Slavery at American Universities

Slave Trader's Business
Atlanta in 1864
Georgetown University made headlines recently when university officials  pledged  "to apologize for its role in the slave trade and offered to give admissions preference to the descendants of those sold for the benefit of the school, one of the most aggressive responses to date among the universities trying to make amends for the horrors of slavery."  The apology is due to the 1838 sale of slaves owned by the university for a price of $115,000. Many of the slaves ended up in Louisiana, “where they labored under dreadful conditions on cotton and sugar plantations.” 

Georgetown joins a growing number of prominent colleges and universities that are examining their connections to slavery in America from Colonial times through the Civil War. The panel’s report explores the relationship between Maryland Jesuits, slavery and the college. The Jesuits established plantations and began using slave labor on them about 1700. Those plantations became an enduring source of financial support for Georgetown, the nation’s first Catholic college. The report notes that through the Civil War “the mood at the college was pro-slavery and ultimately pro-Confederacy.” 

Slaves waiting for sale i
n Richmond about 1853
Preliminary research suggests that there were more slaves on Georgetown’s campus than previously thought, probably about 1 in every 10 people on campus in the early 19th century. Some were brought by students. Some were rented from slave owners.
Mulledy and McSherry organized the sale of 272 slaves to Louisiana businessmen while the former was college president and the latter held the title of superior of the Maryland Province of the Jesuits. The slaves were taken to various plantations in Louisiana. Many were then sold and resold.
The sale was controversial at the time. Jesuit authorities in Rome were initially inclined to support emancipation, the report said, and they imposed several conditions on any sale, including a mandate that slave families should not be divided. That condition and others were not honored.
The relationship between American universities and slavery is explored in Mark Auslander's web site slavery-and-universities. Auslander's site provides an extensive list of resources.
What I found rather amazing/disappointing is the involvement of northern colleges in slavery. Auslander reports information on the following institutions:
  • Amherst (Massachusetts)
  • Brown (Rhode Island)
  • Dartmouth (New Hampshire)
  • Harvard(Massachusetts)
  • Oberlin (Ohio)
  • Yale (Connecticut)
You might want to visit:


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

System of Military Academies - Alden Partridge

Captain Alden Partridge probably did more than any other individual to promote military education in civilian institutions in the United States prior to the Civil War.

Alden Partridge was born on February 12, 1785 and raised on a family farm in Norwich, Vermont. He was the studious and devout son of Revolutionary War soldier Samuel Partridge, Jr. Alden grew into a tall and hardy young man who worked on his father's farm and hiked the Green and White Mountains in his spare time. Alden attended the local district schools and entered Dartmouth College in 1802.

US Military Academy

Alden Partridge in 1817
Partridge left Dartmouth when he gained admission to the US Military Academy on December 14, 1805. He graduated less than a year later on October 30, 1806. In its early days, the post was both the academy for training prospective officers and the headquarters of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Academy superintendent was the Army Chief of Engineers. The Army commissioned him as a first lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and assigned him to the Academy. Partridge served at West Point from 1806 to 1811 and from 1812 to 1817. He was an assistant professor of mathematics from 1806 until June 5, 1811 when he left to fight in the War of 1812. The Army promoted him to captain of the Corps of Cadets on July 23, 1810. He returned to West Point after active service and taught as the principal assistant professor of mathematics from April 29, 1812 to April 13, 1813. The Army promoted Partridge to professor of mathematics on April 13, 1813, and he held this post until made professor of engineering on September 1, 1813. He was professor of engineering from September 1, 1813 to December 31, 1816. From January 3, 1815 to November 25, 1816 and from January 13, 1817 to July 28, 1817, Partridge directed the Academy during the Superintendent's absence.

Partridge set an example for physical fitness during his administration and often led the cadet corps on summer marches in New York and neighboring states. Captain Partridge was never profane or intemperate. As superintendent, he required cadets to attend church services, and occasionally he prepared and delivered the sermon on Sundays. Unfortunately, he developed a reputation among academy faculty as a martinet. He micromanaged subordinates and occasionally demonstrated preference toward favorite cadets.

The "Long Gray Line" tradition at West Point originated during Partridge's tenure when he had gray uniforms made in New York City in 1814 because of a shortage of blue cloth. In 1816, when the War Department decided to select a new Cadet uniform, the department chose gray because the cheaper uniforms better suited "the finance of the Cadets than one of blue."

Unfortunately, his administration as superintendent was lax and unsatisfactory. To correct this problem, the Army selected Major Sylvanus Thayer to become the new Superintendent. Captain Partridge was shocked at his removal and refused to relinquish the command. In response, the Army tried him by court martial on charges of neglect of duty and insubordination. In November 1817, the court martial sentenced him to be cashiered. President James Monroe intervened and reduced the punishment. Captain Partridge resigned from the Army in April 1818.

In the summer of 1818, New York City hired Partridge to drill and instruct a volunteer infantry company. During this assignment, he presented a series of lectures on military science, fortifications, and military education. Partridge advocated a new program of regional military instruction and began a lifelong campaign to champion regional military schools in opposition to the sole national military academy. Partridge argued that the national academies produced a professional officer class. This created a "new military elite," which conflicted with the country's great generals, such as George Washington and Andrew Jackson. Partridge proposed dividing the nation into state-based military departments. These departments would be composed of local citizen soldiers organized into militias with officers appointed by the state military officials. The state units would gather on a regular basis for instruction and drill, similar to the Minutemen of the American Revolution. He also suggested establishing military colleges for officer instruction in each department.

In 1819, Partridge served as chief of the surveying expedition to establish boundaries between the United States and Canada as required under the Fifth Article of the Treaty of Ghent. He mapped the natural watersheds of the Saint Lawrence River and Hudson River. However, he remained interested in his plans for a military college. He resigned from the expedition in 1820 and retired to Norwich, Vermont.

Norwich University

Alden Partridge
with Cadets
In 1819, Partridge founded the "American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy" in Norwich. The Academy, now known as Norwich University, became the nation's oldest private military college and the "Birthplace of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC)". In its first four years, 480 students representing 21 of the 24 states attended the new academy. The success of Partridge's program attracted the attention of Middletown, Connecticut. Middletown obtained a financial subscription of local residents as an inducement to relocate his academy. Partridge moved the school to Middletown, and the academy attracted nearly 1,200 students in three years. However, the school's stay in Connecticut was brief and it had relocated to Norwich by 1829.

The Partridge Curriculum

Partridge's program incorporated the study of liberal arts, agriculture, modern languages, and engineering in addition to the sciences and various military subjects. Field exercises and drills, using cannon and muskets borrowed from the federal and state governments, supplemented classroom instruction. The drills added an element of realism to the college’s program of well-rounded military education.

Partridge advocated physical education as an essential part of school curriculum. As part of that program, he often led his classes on hiking expeditions in the many local mountains of New England. On climb of Vermont's Green Mountains in 1822, Partridge led 27 pack-laden cadets on a four-day, 150-mile hike from Norwich to Manchester.

Partridge believed that "a large standing army was a menace to the country." In its place, he thought the nation should train a large 'citizen soldiery' in the art of war." This was the first purely technical and military school for the training of citizen soldiers in the world. The Academy had an initial enrollment of one hundred cadets. The school developed a reputation for having an excellent academic program as part of a tough, disciplined military environment. Partridge "was one of the few military engineers who by virtue of his remarkable mathematical ability, long service at West Point, and practical field work was competent to train engineers and in laying a foundation for engineering work of his students he gave a course in mathematics equal, if not superior, to that offered by any other institution in America." It was thought by some that Partridge's views on military defense were years ahead of his time.

Partridge originated a novel system of education, which combined civilian and military studies in order to produce enlightened and useful citizen-soldiers. He advocated a liberal education, which prepares students for the responsibilities of peace and war. Partridge thought that education must prepare youth “to discharge, in the best possible manner, the duties they owe to themselves, to their fellow-men, and to their country.”
The US Constitution guided Partridge's educational plan. The defense of the nation is vested in the great mass of citizens who form “an impregnable bunker around the Constitution and liberties of the country.” At the very least, the militia needed to be trained in the elements of military science and tactics. "Hence arises the necessity - of an extended system of military education and of a general diffusion of military knowledge." Partridge was emphatic in pointing out that he was not recommending a system of education for youth that was “purely military.” The military was to be only an "appendage" to civil education.

Partridge believed traditional “liberal education” was too restrictive and not liberal enough. He thought the standard curriculum was not practical enough nor designed to prepare youth for the duties of an American citizen. He said the existing educational system failed to provide adequate attention to the operations of government and the important sources of national wealth - ”agriculture, commerce, and manufacturers.”
Partridge sought to transform the traditional curriculum by making it more practical, scientific, and liberal. He expanded the classical curriculum to include modern languages, history, political economy, and engineering. Partridge’s institution was the first in the United States to offer instruction in civil engineering. Partridge also played a pioneering role in physical education and was one of the first educators to offer instruction in agriculture. He was also in the vanguard of academicians who adopted field training as a regular and important extension of theory learned in the classroom.

Partridge was a pioneer in using field trips as an integral part of the process of education. Field excursions provided excellent opportunities to combine exercise, recreation, and improvement. Arduous hikes, according to Partridge’s design for education, were physically challenging and promoted self-reliance. Students involved in excursions became accustomed to “fatigue and privation.” Furthermore, they learned “to take care of themselves,” a process Partridge considered essential to the proper development and education of youth.

These excursions supplemented classroom instruction with "practical and everyday knowledge of the world, which can never be derived from books." Field Trips provided valuable educational experiences in areas such as botany, mineralogy, surveying, engineering, military science, and history. Students visited and examined factories, navy yards, arsenals, railroads, bridges, canals, and historic sites. Partridge concluded that his students derived "more real advantage" and improvement from excursions than from any other activities.

Other Colleges

Historians consider Partridge to be the founder of the system of military academies of elementary and secondary grade. He founded six other military institutions during his quest to reform the United States military:

  • Virginia Literary, Scientific and Military Academy at Portsmouth, Virginia (1839–1846)
  • Pennsylvania Literary, Scientific and Military Academy at Bristol, Pennsylvania (1842–1845)
  • Pennsylvania Military Institute at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1845–1848)
  • Wilmington Literary, Scientific and Military Academy at Wilmington, Delaware (1846–1848)
  • The Scientific and Military Collegiate Institute at Reading, Pennsylvania (1850–1854)
  • Gymnasium and Military Institute at Pembroke, New Hampshire (1850–1853)
  • The National Scientific and Military Academy at Brandywine Springs, Delaware (1853).

Former Norwich graduates administered these schools.

In the 1830s, he helped create support for creating the Virginia Military Institute. Partridge sent letters to members of the Virginia General Assembly and editors of Virginia newspapers.

As part of his vision to create military departments, Partridge worked to revitalize and reform state militias. The militias became inactive during the long period of peace following the War of 1812. Partridge and Norwich University faculty members who served in the militia, assisted Franklin Pierce, a militia officer in New Hampshire, and and Frederic Williams Hopkins of the Vermont militia to increase recruiting and improve training and readiness.

Personal Life

Partridge married Ann Swasey in 1837, and the couple had two sons. He was an avid hiker and "noted pedestrian." He climbed Mount Monadnock and Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire. In 1818, he walked seventy-six miles from Norwich and climbed Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield. It rained the entire journey. One friend joined him in his ascent of Mansfield, but he hiked the rest of the expedition accompanied only by his "inseparable companions," his knapsack and barometer.

Partridge served as Vermont's Surveyor General from 1822 to 1823. Vermont voters elected him to the legislature as a Democrat in 1833, 1834, 1837, and 1839. He ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives five times between 1834 and 1840. He lost each of those contests to Anti-Masonic and Whig Party candidate Horace Everett.

Partridge died in Norwich on January 17, 1854. His family buried him at Fairview Cemetery in Norwich. His widow survived him by forty-eight years.

He received an honorary master's degree from Dartmouth in 1812. The University of Vermont awarded him an honorary master's degree in 1821. However, he declined the University's offer to become its president.


Partridge published articles in newspapers and books about his many travels, mathematical and scientific subjects, and his opposition to the US Military Academy at West Point. The following is a partial list of his writings.
  • "Observations Relative to the Calculation of the Altitude of Mountains, etc, by the Use of the Barometer" (1812)
  • "Method of Determining the Initial Velocity of Projectiles" (1812)
  • "Account of Some Experiments on Fire of Artillery and Infantry at the Military Academy in 1810 and 1814"
  • "Newton's Binomial Theorem" (1814)
  • "Meteorological Tables" (1810–1814)
  • "A General Plan for the Establishment of Military Academies" (1815)
  • "Reports of the National Academy" (1814–1817)
  • "Lectures on National Defense" (1821–1827)
  • "Discourse on education" 1826. The art of epistolary composition, or Models of letters, billets, bills of exchange ... with preliminary instructions and notes : to which are added, a collection of fables ... for pupils learning the French language; a series of letters between a cadet and his father, describing the system pursued at the American, literary, scientific and military academy at Middletown, Connecticut.
  • "The Military Academy, at West Point, unmasked: or, corruption and military despotism exposed," under the pseudonym Americanus

  1. Cullum Register, Vol. I, 69-70.

Friday, August 19, 2016

General John G. Barnard - Distinguished Officer of the Corps of Engineers

General John G. Barnard
General John G. Barnard was born on May 19, 1815 in Sheffield, Massachusetts among the picturesque Berkshire Hills. John was part of a large and gifted family. His brother, Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was a longtime educator, president of Columbia University, and namesake of Barnard College. John, Frederick, and other members of their family suffered from a hereditary form of deafness, which worsened with age. In early life, when stationed in New Orleans, Barnard married Jane Elizabeth Brand, of Maryland, with whom he had four children. In 1860, he married Anna E. Hall of Harford County, Maryland, with whom he had three children.

He performed every species of Engineer work; was noted as one of the most accomplished mathematicians of his country; became an erudite author of many valuable volumes; was a soldier ever ready to use his brilliant talents for the nation's welfare; and his high moral worth equaled his intellectual capacity. Many of his accomplishments were hidden from the world because of an inherited deafness, which limited his conversations. However, this infirmity may have turned his mind from externals to the inward development of his higher faculties. He was always a student, and such was his love for scientific investigation that it was jocosely said he read Laplace's "Mécanique Céleste" every morning to get up an appetite for his breakfast.

John received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point in July 1829. He was an excellent student and demonstrated remarkable mathematical talents. Superintendent Colonel Thayer said that John was the ablest Cadet that left the institution during the Thayer's sixteen years at the Academy. Barnard graduated second in a class of forty-three cadets in 1833. As one of the top Cadets, he joined Army Corps of Engineers and began a forty-eight-year career in that branch.

Second Lieutenant Barnard's first assignment was as an assistant to Colonel Joseph G. Totten in constructing Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island from 1833 to 1834. Totten was the foremost American military engineer of his day and served as Chief Engineer of the Army for much of Barnard's career. There two officers formed a close friendship as evidenced by Barnard's extensive eulogy of Totten in 1866.

Barnard helped construct coastal defenses at Fort Columbus/Fort Jay, Fort Hamilton, and Fort Wadsworth in New York City; New Orleans; Pensacola; Mobile; Fort Livingston, Fort Jackson, and Fort St. Philip, Louisiana; and on the Pacific Coast at San Francisco.

In the Mexican-American War, he directed construction of defenses at the captured Mexican port of Tampico, which protected the city and secured its role as a vital supply line for American forces advancing on Mexico City. He surveyed battlefields for Winfield Scott to assist in infantry and artillery placement. After the conquest of California, he served as Chief Engineer for the Exploration and Survey of the projected Tehuantepec Railroad in Mexico, in 1850–1851 to examine a possible route to the newly acquired Pacific possessions.

From May 31, 1855 through September 8, 1856, Barnard was Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. Following his brief tenure, he returned to work on coastal defenses, especially in the New York and New Jersey area. During a leave of absence, he studied construction projects in Europe.

Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, US Army commander General Winfield Scott assigned Barnard to the Department of Washington. This Army unit was in charge of defending the capital. On April 28, 1861, Colonel Joseph K. Mansfield, the department commander, attached Barnard to his headquarters as chief engineer.

When the Union Army moved into Northern Virginia on May 24, 1861, Barnard directed building of fortifications on the Arlington hills. He also accompanied the Army to Manassas in July 1861 and was present at the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Between June 1861 and September 1861, Barnard also served on the US Navy's Blockade Strategy Board. When Major General George B. McClellan assumed command of the Military Division of the Potomac and subsequently command of the Army and Department of the Potomac, Barnard became chief engineer of the Military District of Washington. He implemented McClellan ideas for the defenses around Washington. Barnard planned, designed, and directed construction of the network of forts that protected the capital.

Historic Map of Defenses of Washington
In Barnard's A Report on the Defenses of Washington, published after the Civil War, he commented on the complexity and ever-changing nature of the project.  From a few isolated works covering bridges or protecting several important points, Barnard developed a connected system of fortifications at intervals of 800 to 1,000 yards. He placed enclosed field-forts to defend every prominent point and located batteries for field guns to sweep important approaches and depressions unseen from the forts. General Barnard connected the forts and batteries by rifle-trenches or more appropriately lines of infantry parapets. The parapets had room for two ranks of men and allowed for covered communication along the line. Barnard had new roads built to supplement existing roads so troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point on the immense periphery to another, or under cover, from point to point along the line. When finally completed, the defenses consisted of sixty-eight enclosed forts and batteries around a defensive perimeter of about fourteen miles. The fortifications had emplacements for 1,120 guns of which 807 guns and 98 mortars were mounted. There were also 93 unarmed batteries with places for 401 guns. Twenty miles of infantry trenches connected the emplacements. The entire circuit of the line was thirty-three miles, excluding the Chain Bridge works and the stretch across the Potomac from Fort Greble to Fort Lyon. Thirty-two miles of military roads, besides the existing roads and avenues of the District of Columbia, provided the means of communication from the interior to the periphery, and from point to point. These works helped save Washington after the Bull Run defeat. They provided temporary shelter to the shattered national forces in Virginia after the disasters of the campaign of 1862. They helped defend the capital a third time when General Early's troops attacked the city.

On September 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Barnard Brigadier General of US Volunteers and the U.S. Senate confirmed the promotion on March 24, 1862. Barnard was Engineer for the Army of the Potomac between August 20, 1861 and August 16, 1862. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign and directed the siege works at Yorktown, Virginia of offensive and defensive works on the Chickahominy River. On the march to Harrison's Landing on the James River, he reconnoitered and selected positions for the Battle of Gaines Mill, the passage of White Oak Swamp and the Battle of Malvern Hill. After he finished with his assignment in that campaign, he returned to his work on the defenses of Washington as chief engineer of the Department of Washington. In addition to this task, he had special assignments such as devising the defenses of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Following the death of Brigadier General Joseph Totten on April 22, 1864, President Lincoln nominated Barnard to be the next chief of the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, Barnard immediately asked the president to withdraw the nomination.

Barnard was an Engineer in the XXII Corps, Department of Washington, between February 2, 1863 and May 25, 1864. Between May 25, 1864 and June 5, 1864, he was Chief Engineer for the Army of the Potomac. He was on the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant in the Overland Campaign between June 5, 1864 and July 4, 1864. On July 4, 1864, President Lincoln nominated and the Senate confirmed to award General Barnard the honorary rank of brevet major general, US Volunteers, to rank from July 4, 1864 for "Meritorious and Distinguished Services during the Rebellion."

The Army appointed General Barnard Chief Engineer of the armies in the field and assigned him to General Grant's staff. He held this position from the Siege of Petersburg, including the capture of Fort Harrison, the Battle of Hatcher's Run, and the final assault on Petersburg, until the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865.

General Barnard served in the honor guard for President Lincoln's funeral in April 1865.

The Army mustered Barnard out of the US Volunteers on January 15, 1866. On April 10, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Barnard and the Senate confirmed the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general, USA, (Regular Army) to rank from March 13, 1865 for "Gallant and Meritorious Service in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under Gen. R. E. Lee." On July 17, 1866, President Johnson nominated and the Senate confirmed to award Barnard the honorary grade of brevet major general, USA, to rank from March 13, 1865 "for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion." The military promoted Barnard to colonel in the Regular Army on December 28, 1865, and he remained in the Army Corps of Engineers until January 1881.

After the war, the Army appointed Barnard president of the permanent Board of Engineers for Fortifications and River and Harbor Improvements. He held this position until his retirement. Barnard successfully recast the approach to coastal defenses, which was required because of the obsolescence of wooden ships and muzzle loading guns. He also advocated the successful use of parallel jetties to improve the mouth of the Mississippi River. He was a prominent member of the United States Lighthouse Board from February 20, 1870 until his retirement.

In addition to his assigned duties, Barnard contributed greatly to scientific literature during his lifetime.
Barnard was the author of numerous scientific and engineering reports:
  • "Phenomena of the Gyroscope, analytically examined" - 1858
  • "Dangers and Defenses of New York" - 1859
  • "Notes on Seacoast Defense" - 1861
  • "'The C. S. A. and the Battle of Bull Run" - 1862
  • With General W. F. Barry, "Reports of the Engineer and Artillery Operations of the Army of the Potomac, from its organization to the close of the Peninsular Campaign" - 1863
  • "Eulogy on the late Bvt. Maj.-General Joseph G. Totten, late Chief Engineer, U. S. Army" - 1866
  • "Report on the Defenses of Washington" (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 20)
  • With Gen. H. G. Wright and Col. P. S. Michie, "Report on the Fabrication of Iron for Defensive Purposes " (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 21, and Supplement)
  • "Report on the North Sea Canal of Holland," (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 22)
  • Papers on the Precession of the Equinoxes, the Pendulum, and the Internal Structure of the Earth (Smithsonian Contributions, Nos. 240 and 310) 

      Besides, the above the works, he wrote numerous scientific pamphlets and elaborate professional reports. He published over seventy articles in Johnson's "Universal New Cyclopedia" that illustrated Barnard's mental strength, his versatility of talents, and his prodigious powers of production. The studies include treatises on Bridge-building and Harbor, Breakwater, Jetty, and Lighthouse construction; complex mathematical dissertations on Calculus, Aeronautics, Imaginaries, Gyroscope, and the Theory of Tides; and valuable histories of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lighthouse Board, and the battle of Bull Run.

Barnard was an original member of the Aztec Club of 1847 as well as the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

In 1838, Alabama University conferred upon him the degree of A. M., and in 1864, Yale College awarded him an LL. D. He was a working member of several learned associations. Barnard, along with several other senior officers of the Army Corps of Engineers, was one of the fifty original founders of the National Academy of Sciences.

General Barnard retired from the Army on January 2, 1881 and died in Detroit, Michigan on May 14, 1882. He is interred in Sheffield, Massachusetts.

The announcement of his death by the Chief of Engineers concludes with the following epitaph:

A service of nearly fifty years in the Corps of Engineers has been closed by the death of one of the most prominent of its members.
Of greatly varied intellectual capacity, of a very high order of scientific attainments, considerate and cautious, ripe in experience, sound in judgment, General Barnard has executed the important duties with which he has been charged, during his long and useful life, with conscientious care and regard for the public interests, and with an enthusiastic devotion to his profession. His corps, the army, and the country are his debtors.
Modest and retiring in disposition, considerate and courteous, warm in his sympathies and affections, our deceased associate will be missed as few are missed, and his name, which will be held as one of the foremost names of the Corps of Engineers, will be cherished with peculiar love and affection by his brother officers.

John G. Barnard, Cullum Register, 530-535.
John G. Barnard,
Defenses of Washington, National Park Service,