Friday, April 29, 2016

Harriett Tubman Replaces Andrew Jackson

Harriett Tubman

In the introduction for "a roundtable discussion on women, people of color, and the country's newest currency," the writer contrasted Andrew Jackson with Harriett Tubman.

Jackson was a slaveholder who infamously sent thousands of Cherokee Indians to their death along the Trail of Tears. Tubman was a slave who escaped and served as a spy for the Union during the Civil War, freeing other slaves using the Underground Railroad. The enslaver has been replaced by the slave, and the United States currency library just got one tick less male. 

Alexander Hamilton
Jackson was a late substitute for Alexander Hamilton, who may or may not have been saved by the Broadway musical bearing his name. Replacing Hamilton with Tubman would have been ironic because Hamilton was one of the few men on US currency who owned no slaves and hated slavery.

If being a slaveholder would have gotten you kicked off paper money, we would be replacing many of the nation's founding fathers. Consider those patriots honored on American currency.

Andrew Jackson
George Washington, who graces the one-dollar bill, was a slave owner as was Thomas Jefferson, on the two-dollar bill, and Andrew Jackson on the twenty. On the higher denominations, Ulysses S. Grant, on the fifty, and Benjamin Franklin on the one-hundred dollar bill also owned slaves. Adding to Franklin's suitability was the fact that his newspaper ran advertisements for slave sales. James Madison, whose face once graced the discontinued $5,000 bill, owned slaves. Woodrow Wilson, who supported eugenics, was slated to appear on never issued $100,000 bill. That leaves William McKinley on the $500 and Grover Cleveland on the discontinued $1,000 bill as two other non-slave owning presidents.

Abraham Lincoln did not own slaves and eventually championed freedom and equal rights for African Americans. However, he also supported the idea that Freedmen should be retuned to new colonies in Africa.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
There are so many women deserving of the honor attached to being placed on the currency. The list featured on is impressive. I would like to have seen two sets of currency printed with women and men sharing the spotlight. I would have chosen suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Candy Stanton to replace Andrew Jackson. How about a foursome of the first ladies of Civil Rights, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks, on the hundred? On second thought, perhaps Tubman was the best choice for her work in Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Greatest General in the Civil War

Gen. U. S. Grant
Students of the Civil War argue about which general was the "best" or "greatest." Some people select U. S. Grant because he commanded the winning army. If you are south of the Mason-Dixon line, you probably choose Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson. After those three, the candidates include William T. Sherman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early, James Longstreet, George Gordon Meade, or George Henry Thomas.

I thought about the sports quote, which says that the coach is so good that he can take his opponent's team and beat his old team. So I thought about applying this to generals. Could U. S. Grant have won with Lee's troops and vice versa?

Gen. R. E. Lee
If the north won with Grant, the north would have been victorious with Lee. Lee was smarter than Grant and perhaps more daring. Lee would have pursued a bold strategy to end the war as he tried to do with the Confederate forces. Remember that Lee was the US military's first choice to lead the Union Army.

If Grant switched places with Lee, he would have also suffered the same fate. Which leads us to consider whether any general could have won the war for the south (see Lost Cause)? It seems doubtful that any general could have won a prolonged war for the south. If the Confederate forces would have attacked and captured Washington in April 1861, the south could have won the war. The longer the conflict lasted, the stronger the north became and the weaker the south grew. A prolonged guerrilla war might have turned the tide for the Confederacy, but few commanders had a taste for that strategy. Such a campaign would need some hope of success and a well-organized resistance. The one man who could have conducted such a campaign, Nathan Bedford Forrest, declined the opportunity. He realized that his men were exhausted from four years of war and needed to return to their homes and families.

Gen. W. T. Sherman
Could any general have won the war for the north with its manpower and economic superiority? We have ample evidence that other generals could not win the war. Lincoln's selection of generals proved this true. Lincoln found a general who was willing to fight and suffer setbacks. Grant realized that the only way to defeat the south was to annihilate its armies. He did this with great effect. Sherman could have done the same thing as he demonstrated with his total war tactics. The partnership of Grant and Sherman won the war. Could Lee and Jackson have achieved the same results? It seems a good possibility.

Gen. T. J. Jackson 
What about a trio of leaders? The south had their big three in Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. The north never had a big three --- perhaps Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan or Grant, Sherman, and C. F. Smith.

My choices are:

  • For best general - Robert E. Lee over U. S. Grant 
  • For best leadership pair - Lee and Jackson in a close contest over Grant and Sherman 
  • For best trio - Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet over Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, but a tie with Grant, Sherman, and C. F. Smith 

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith

During the publication of Teacher of Civil War Generals - Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant, limitations in the size of the manuscript forced me to reduce or eliminate the amount of personal information. Most of this material was in letters from General Smith to his daughter, Miss Fanny M. Smith. This correspondence occurred from December 1855 to March 1860 when General Smith served with the Tenth Infantry Regiment in the Minnesota Territory and led an expedition to the Red River of the North and in the Utah Territory as an officer in Mormon Expedition. The communication includes unblemished observations about Charles's experiences and fatherly advice to Fanny, which provide an intimate view of antebellum life in a military family. The letters are annotated with footnotes to explain terms, describe locations, and provide brief biographies of people referred to in Charles' correspondence. This work continues after General Smith's death with information on Smith's children and grandchildren.

Sample Letter

Fort Snelling, Min. [Minnesota]
Feb. [February] 10, 1857
My dear daughter,
Altho' I mailed a note to your Aunt Annie yesterday yet I am so pleased at seeing your little letters of the 18th and 26th. Jany. [January] (on the same sheet) this morning − just now indeed − that I at once acknowledge its receipt. It had been more than two months since I had heard from you before, so you may judge how glad I was.
I am glad to find you are getting on so well in French and Music. Do you talk French at all yet? You must do so all you can. And could not you write me a little letter in French? Try it.
You say you don't like to write. Few young persons   do, because they think they have nothing to say, but if they would only just rattle on with a pen in their fingers as they can generally with their tongue that is all that is necessary. Write as you would talk.
You ask me how I passed my X-mas? Just as I pass all other days, very quietly, it was no gala day with us. But I am glad you all enjoyed yourselves.
Soon after writing your last letter you must have recd [received] the package with the moccasins; Mr. Bryan was to send it by express from N. Y., where I know he arrived on the 16th or 17th of Jany. [January].
And so you had something of a snow storm [sic] & cold weather. But you ought to be here to know what cold is. My breath froze on my mustache this morning the moment I put my face out of the door − the thermometer being -37°. You don't know exactly how cold that is but the mercurial thermometer can only mark two more degrees when the mercury freezes. We have a good many cases of frost bitten fingers &c. among the soldiers who will not take care of themselves. And there is one case among others in the hospital where the Doctor with difficulty saved the man's legs; the poor wretch being drunk took no care of himself after he was bitten by the frost. As it is he will lose all the toes of both feet & one heel & several fingers from each hand. So much for whiskey.
I am in usual good health. Love to dear grandmother & to all.
Yr. [Your] affec. [affectionate] father.
Charles F. Smith
Miss Fanny M. Smith
Annapolis, Md

 Places in Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith

Camp Floyd
Fort Bridger
Fort Leavenworth

Fort Laramie

Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith may be ordered from Amazon. 

The Tilghman House and Civil War Museum

My wife and I had the pleasure of touring The Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum in Paducah, KY. It is a hidden treasure in the city that was the scene of the most difficult time of Major General Charles F. Smith's military career. The museum devotes most of its attention to its former occupant General Tilghman and General Nathan B. Forrest's raid on the Union supply depot and fort.

The museum is filled with many items from the Civil War era. The emphasis is on the three generals who had an impact on Paducah.

General Lloyd Tilghman

Gen. Tilghman Statue
Tilghman was commissioned colonel of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry on July 5, 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War. He was promoted to brigadier general in the Confederate States Army on October 18. When General Albert Sidney Johnston was looking for an officer to create defensive positions on the vulnerable Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, he was unaware of Tilghman's presence in his department and another officer was selected. However, the Richmond government pointed out Tilghman's engineering background and he was finally chosen for the task. The original sites for Forts Henry and Donelson were selected by another general,Daniel S. Donelson, but Tilghman was then placed in command and ordered to construct them. The geographic placement of Fort Henry was extremely poor, sited on a floodplain of the Tennessee River, but Tilghman did not object to its location until it was too late. (Afterward, he wrote bitterly in his report that Fort Henry was in a "wretched military position ... The history of military engineering records no parallel to this case.") He also was desultory in managing its needed construction and that of the small Fort Heiman, located on the Kentucky bank of the Tennessee, and quarreled with the engineers assigned to the task. He did manage to do a more creditable job on the construction of Fort Donelson, which was sited on dry ground, commanding the river.
General Lloyd Tilghman
On February 6, 1862, an army under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attacked Fort Henry and Tilghman was forced to surrender. (This was not his first encounter with Grant. Tilghman was in Paducah when Grant captured that city the previous September.) Prior to doing so, he led the vast majority of his garrison troops on the 12-mile road to Fort Donelson, and then returned to surrender with a handful of artillerymen who were left defending the fort. The biggest factor in the defeat of Fort Henry was not the naval artillery or Grant's infantry; it was the rising flood waters of the Tennessee, which flooded the powder magazines and forced a number of the guns out of action. (If Grant's attack had been delayed by two days, the battle would have never occurred because the fort was by then entirely underwater.) Tilghman was imprisoned as a prisoner of war at Fort Warren in Boston and was not released until August 15, when he was exchanged for Union general John F. Reynolds. Tilghman is remembered as brave and gallant in surrendering with his men

Mrs. Augusta Tilghman
Returning to the field in the fall of 1862, Tilghman became a brigade commander in Mansfield Lovell's division of Earl Van Dorn's Army of the West, following the second Battle of Corinth. In the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863, he was hit in the chest by a shell fragment and killed in the Battle of Champion Hill. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx,New York City.

The Battle of Paducah

The Battle of Paducah was fought on March 25, 1864, during the Civil War. A Confederate cavalry force led by Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a successful raid on Paducah, Kentucky on the Ohio River.
Gen. Nathan Bedford
In March 1864, Forrest set out from Columbus, Mississippi, for raiding in West Tennessee and Kentucky, with a force of just under 3,000 men. His object was to recruit soldiers, re-equip his men with supplies, and disrupt Union Army activities. He reached Paducah on March 25 and quickly occupied the town. The Union garrison of 650 men under Col. Stephen G. Hicks withdrew to Fort Anderson, in the town's west end. The fort was supported by two Union gunboats on the Ohio River, and Hicks began shelling the area with his artillery.
Forrest tried to bluff Hicks into surrendering, warning him, "... if I have to storm your works, you may expect no quarter." Knowing the fort could not be easily taken, Hicks rejected the demand.

Model of Fort Anderson
With the Union garrison holed up in their fort, Forrest's men began loading any Union Army supplies they could use into wagons and destroyed the rest. They rounded up all the army horses and mules they could find. A portion of Forrest's men from Kentucky decided to attack Fort Anderson on their own, much to his irritation. This attack constituted the Battle of Paducah. It was repulsed, causing the Confederates heavy and needless casualties. In reporting on the raid, many newspapers stated that Forrest missed more than a hundred fine horses hidden by the Yankees. As a result, Forrest sent Colonel Abraham Buford back to Paducah in mid-April and he captured these horses.

Casualties during the Paducah raid totaled 90 Union soldiers and 50 Confederates, most of them during the attack on the fort. The raid was counted as a victory for the Confederates because they had fewer casualties and gained some supplies, but they achieved little beyond destroying Union supplies and capturing needed cavalry mounts. They did not take the fort or alter control of the region. The raid put the Union Army on notice that Forrest and other Confederates raiders could still strike deep into Union-held territory.

U. S. Grant and the Jews

Grant Expelled the Jews
Newspaper Account
A portion of the museum is dedicated to Gen. Grant's treatment of the Jewish population in Paducah. On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, US forces required thirty Jewish families to leave their long-established homes. Grant was trying to break up a black market in cotton, in which he suspected Jewish traders were involved. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, sent a telegram complaining about the situation to Pres.Lincoln and met with him; together with similar actions by other Jewish businessmen and loud complaints by Congress, he succeeded in seeing the order revoked within a few weeks.

Collections at the Museum

Baxter Baxter
Ass't Manager

Many thanks to our host Mr. Bill Baxter, Manager of the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum, for a delightful and informative tour.