Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Their Last Time Together - US Army in the Mormon Expedition

Over one hundred West Point trained officers served in the Utah Expedition. (1) Nearly all of them fought in the Civil War. The training and experience they gained during the expedition was critical in developing young officers who received commissions following the Mexican War. Like the Mexican War, the Utah Expedition provided valuable operational experience to the newly minted second lieutenants.

Fifty-seven officers served in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th Infantry Regiments. Twenty-four were in cavalry or dragoon units 1st and 2nd Cavalry and 1st and 2nd Dragoons. Seventeen were officers in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Artillery.

Lt. Col. C. F. Smith
10th Infantry Regiment
"Smith and the other officers conducted theoretical and practical military instruction as regularly as permitted by bad weather, the absence of men assigned to guard and outpost duty, and the delegation of soldiers to carry fuel four or five miles." (2) 

I have been playing the schoolmaster for some time past in hearing the offs [officers] of the regt [regiment] recite in Infantry Tactics − to me a great bore. But our Colonel, altho' recognizing the subject, has not all the confidence in the world in his ability to play the part of an instructor, & thus the duty devolves upon me. (3)
At the start of the Civil War, the former comrades decided to continue in the Union Army or return to their native or adopted states and obtain commissions in the Confederate Army. Seventy percent of officers served in the Union Army and thirty percent joined the "rebellion." Almost forty percent of the men became general officers. (4)  However, seventy percent of the future Confederate officers became generals.

The following men were among the most well know commanders: Randolph Marcy, Daniel Ruggles, Richard Garnett, Charles F. Smith, J. H. Hill, E. R. S. Canby, Henry Heth, F. Gardner, J. E. B. Stuart, Henry Sibley, John Buford, Phillip St. George Cooke, John Pegram, John Sedgwick, John Reynolds, and Albert Sydney Johnston.

Albert S. Johnston
Edward R. S. Canby

Bernard E. Bee
Henry H. Silbley

Henry Heth
John Reynolds

John Buford
J. E. B. Stuart

John Sedgwick

John Pegram

(1) Statistics are from the George Cullum,Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. from its Establishment in 1802 to 1890 with the Early History of the United States Military Academy, Vols. I & II. (2) Allen H. Mesch, Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith 130.
(3)Smith, C. F. Letter to Miss Fanny M. Smith, February 27, 1858, C. F. Smith Papers.
(4) This number excludes promotions received on March 13, 1865 as part omnibus bill.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Free State of Jones

The map of the Union, Confederate, and Border states was wrong. Within the fully colored blue and red states that indicated Union or Confederate allegiances, were pockets of independent citizens whose loyalties were placed elsewhere. In Mississippi, a poor white farmer named Newton Knight led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War.

Newton Knight
In the spring of 1864, a group of men, who called themselves the Knight Company, overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the Unite States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The March 2016 issue of Smithsonian Magazine presents the story of Newton Knight in an article "The Raging Rebellion of Jones County." 
Free State of Jones
Newton is either considered as a hero or outlaw depending on your political inclinations. He was "a primitive Baptist who didn't drink, didn't cuss, doted on children, and could reload and fire a double-barreled-muzzle-loading shot gun faster than anyone else around." Evidence suggests that he was "against secession, against slavery, and pro-Union."  
Like the predominantly German-American counties in my home state of Texas, Jones County voted against secession. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Newton, like many who opposed secession, joined the Confederate Army. Perhaps he did so for the excitement of the grand adventure. However,  after the Confederate defeat at Corinth, Mississippi in October 1862, Knight and many of his neighbors deserted. Their departure was caused by poor rations; incompetent leaders; exemption of wealthy slave-owners; confiscation of livestock, food and cloth; and the horrors of war.
Confederate authorities rounded up about one hundred deserters. In response to their capture, deserters from four counties organized themselves into a company called the Jones County Scouts and elected Knight as their captain.  In spite of efforts to subdue them and put down the rebellion, a core of hardened fighters survived and continued to wage war on the Confederacy.

In May 2016, the story gets the Hollywood treatment with the release of the Free State of Jones starring Mathew McConaughey as Newton Knight. 

(See Smithsonian Magazine "The Raging Rebellion of Jones County")

The Free State of Jones is available at