Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Ulysses S. Grant Home in Galena, Illinois

The Ulysses S. Grant Home in GalenaIllinois is the former home of Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War general and later 18th President of the United States. The home was designed by William Dennison and constructed in 1859 - 1860. The home was given to Grant by residents of Galena in 1865 as thanks for his war service, and has been maintained as a memorial to Grant since 1904.

U. S. Grant Home
U. S. Grant Home
Located on Bouthillier Street, the U.S. Grant Home State Historic Site is owned by the state of Illinois and managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a historic house museum with rooms furnished to represent a mid-1860s appearance. Many of the furnishings belonged to the Grant family. Tours are given by interpreters dressed in period costumes. Information is given about Grant's activities during the Civil War up through his presidency. An adjacent building houses exhibits about Grant and the history of the home.
The Grant Home was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966, upon that program's inception. The Grant House also lies within the Galena Historic District, designated in 1969. The district has more than 1,000 contributing properties.

Julia Grant Statue
Julia Grant Statue
Julia Grant Statue

Julia Grant Timeline
A statue of First Lady Julia Grant was placed on the grounds of the Grant Home and dedicated in 2006.

The docents gave a very nice tour of the house.

Grant, Lincoln

U. S. Grant

Grant's Cigars

Dinning Room
Julia Grant

Table Setting in Dinning Room

Frederick Grant's Room
Frederick Grant Timeline

Frederick Grant as a West Point Cadet

Nellie Grant's Room
Nellie Grant's Room

Nellie Grant Timeline

Nellie Grant's Room
Jesse Grant's Room

Jesse Grant Timeline

Grant House Kitchen
Grant House Kitchen

Friday, May 12, 2017

Grim Reunion at the Battle of Gettysburg

Sadly, the Civil War was the scene of many tragic reunions on the battlefield. This meeting took place shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg. In this case, there was no last minute exchange between the father and son. The reunion occurred in a Confederate field hospital where a grieving father viewed his son's dead body.

Sam Wilkeson, Jr.
The story begins in Buffalo, New York. Samuel Wilkeson Jr. was a member of one of the city's leading families and the son of a former mayor. Samuel was an attorney before he became a newspaperman. Sam's son, Bayard Wilkeson, was a Union soldier. Sam Wilkeson came from an abolitionist family and hated slavery and he understood the carnage of war. However, Bayard was had a passion for serving the Union. Sam said that his son had "the war devil in him."
While working for the New York Tribune in 1862, Sam reported on the Battle of Seven Pines in Virginia. After the battle, Wilkeson searched the battlefield for the body of his nephew, John Wilkes Wilkeson. Wilkeson was one of eighteen enlisted men and three officers of the 100th Infantry Regiment from Buffalo, New York killed in the fighting on May 31 and June 1, 1862. The discovery of John's body added to the trauma Sam had already experienced reporting on the war. His exposure to the horrors of war reached new heights in 1863.
In 1863, The New York Times assigned Sam to cover the developing battle around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Wilkeson reached the battlefield on July 2 and covered the events over the next two days. Sam knew his son's unit was engaged somewhere on the battlefield, but he did not know where. Not only was Bayard Wilkeson on the battlefield; he was in to the most dangerous spot on the field in day one.
The first day of the battle proceeded in three phases as Union and Confederate troops arrived at the battlefield. In the morning, two brigades of Confederate Major General Henry Heth's division of Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill's Third Corps were delayed by dismounted Union cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. John Buford. As infantry reinforcements arrived under Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds of the Union I Corps, the Confederate assaults down the Chambersburg Pike were repulsed. However, General Reynolds was killed in the action.
By early afternoon, the Union XI Corps, commanded by Major General Oliver Otis Howard, had arrived, and the Union position was in a semicircle from west to north of the town. The Confederate Second Corps under Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell began a massive assault from the north, with Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes's division attacking from Oak Hill and Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division attacking across the open fields north of town. The Union lines generally held under extremely heavy pressure, although the salient at Barlow's Knoll was overrun.
The third phase of the battle came as Rodes renewed his assault from the north and Heth returned with his entire division from the west, accompanied by the division of Maj. Gen. W. Dorsey Pender. Heavy fighting in Herbst's Woods near the Lutheran Theological Seminary and on Oak Ridge finally caused the Union line to collapse. Some of the Federals conducted a fighting withdrawal through the town, suffering heavy casualties and losing many prisoners; others simply retreated. They took up good defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and waited for additional attacks.

Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson
Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson commanded Battery G of the Fourth United States Artillery Battery in Major General Oliver Howard's XI Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg. According to Brigadier General Henry Hunt, the Union Army's Chief of Artillery, "About 11 a.m. Wilkeson's battery (G, Fourth United States, four 12-pounders) came up, and reported to General Barlow, who posted it close to the enemy's line of infantry, with which it immediately became engaged, sustaining at the same time the fire of two of his batteries."
The G battery's Second Lieutenant, C. F. Merkle, described the action. "I was assigned to a position by First Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson with my section about 1 mile or three-quarters northwest of the poor-house. I engaged one battery of the enemy for a few moments with solid shot, and then directed my attention to the rebel infantry as they were advancing in mass upon us. I used shell and spherical case shot at first, and, as the line of the enemy came closer, and I ran out of shot, shell, and case shot, I used canister; the enemy was then within canister range."
 Around 2:00 p.m. that the afternoon, Confederate Brigadier General John B. Gordon's men surged over Barlow Knoll and forced the Union's XI Corps to retreat back through the town.

"When the Confederates routed the Union infantry, the cannoneers were forced to withdraw." General Hunt said, "In the commencement of this unequal contest, Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson (Fourth U. S. Artillery), commanding the battery, a young officer of great gallantry, fell, mortally wounded, and was carried from the field."

Wilkeson was mortally wounded defending the Knoll when a cannonball nearly severed his leg. He was carried to a nearby almshouse, where, according to battlefield lore, he amputated the leg with a pocket knife [sic]. In his final act, he gave his last canteen of water to a dying comrade.

Sam Wilkeson soon learned about the death of his young son. His account for the Times included the following passages: 
The ground about me is covered thick with rebel dead, mingled with our own. Thousands of prisoners have been sent to the rear, and yet the conflict still continues.... It is near sunset.... The final results of the action I hope to be able to give you at a later hour.
Who can write the history of a battle whose eyes are immovably fastened upon a central figure of transcendingly [sic] absorbing interest -- the dead body of an oldest born, crushed by a shell in a position where a battery should never have been sent, and abandoned to death in a building where surgeons dared not to stay?...
My pen is heavy. Oh, you dead, who at Gettysburgh [sic] have baptised [sic] with your blood the second birth of Freedom in America, how you are to be envied! I rise from a grave whose wet clay I have passionately kissed, and I look up and see Christ spanning this battle-field with his feet and reaching fraternal and lovingly up to heaven. His right hand opens the gates of Paradise -- with his left he beckons to these mutilated, bloody, swollen forms.  - July 3 & 4, 1863, The New York Times
Father and son are reunited in death in graves in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

Bayard Wilkeson Grave

Bayard Wilkeson Grave

Sam Wilkeson, Jr. Grave

Read more about it

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jackson Could Not Have Prevented the Civil War

President Andrew Jackson
I could not help but be amused at President Trump's comments on the Civil War. It seems that if Andrew Jackson were alive he would have prevented America's bloodiest war. President Trump also said that Jackson was angry about the war. I am not sure how Jackson could be angry about a war that began about 16 years after he died.
According to Wikipedia, "As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the 'common man' against a 'corrupt aristocracy' and to preserve the Union." I wonder how he would have gotten along with the elitists in today's Republican Party.
Jackson was a friend of the common man. He wanted "to purge the government of corruption of previous administrations." Jackson initiated presidential investigations into "all executive Cabinet offices and departments." During Jackson's tenure in office, large amounts of public money were put in the hands of public officials. He believed federal appointees should be hired on merit and withdrew many candidates he believed were lax in handling government funds. Jackson asked Congress to reform embezzlement laws, reduce fraudulent applications for federal pensions, revenue laws to prevent evasion of custom duties, and enact laws to improve government accounting. These measures are in stark contrast with the actions of the current administration to remove government oversight.
Jackson also advocated term limits.
Upon assuming the presidency in 1829 Jackson enforced the Tenure of Office Act, passed earlier into law by President James Monroe in 1820, that limited appointed office tenure and authorized the president to remove and appoint political party associates. Jackson believed that a rotation in office was actually a democratic reform preventing father-to-son succession of office and made civil service responsible to the popular will. Jackson declared that rotation of appointments in political office was "a leading principle in the republican creed."
Jackson noted, "In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another."[106] Jackson believed that rotating political appointments would prevent the development of a corrupt bureaucracy." Think how this would go over in Washington.
Some of his activities provide an indication of how he might have responded to the events leading up to the Civil War.
Nullification Crisis
In 1828, Congress approved the "Tariff of Abominations," which set import tariffs at a historically high rate. Southern planters, who sold their cotton on the world market, strongly opposed this tariff, which they believed favored northern industrial interests. The issue came to a head in the Nullification Crisis when South Carolina threatened to secede from the union. Jackson's response seems very similar to Abraham Lincoln's actions. As a Southern planter, Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, however he also supported a strong union with "effective powers for the central government." Jackson's attitudes were revealed in an incident was at the April 13, 1830, Jefferson Day dinner. During the after-dinner toasts, Robert Hayne began by toasting to "The Union of the States, and the Sovereignty of the States." Jackson then rose, and in a booming voice added "Our federal Union: It must be preserved!" This was clearly Lincoln's goal in calling for troops to put down the "rebellion" of Southern states.
In stark contrast to President Trump's Electoral College victory, Jackson repeatedly called for the abolition of the Electoral College by constitutional amendment in his annual messages to Congress. In his third annual message to Congress, he expressed the view "I have heretofore recommended amendments of the Federal Constitution giving the election of President and Vice-President to the people and limiting the service of the former to a single term. So important do I consider these changes in our fundamental law that I can not [sic], in accordance with my sense of duty, omit to press them upon the consideration of a new Congress."
Some of Jackson's actions as President clearly supported the South.
The Trail of Tears
Jackson might have been a champion of the "common man," but the man he spoke for was a "white common man." He was a slave-owner who defended the institution. Jackson's relocation of Cherokee Indian tribes from Georgia to the Oklahoma Territory resulted in the "Trail of Tears," in which 4,000 Native Americans died. On May 26, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which Jackson signed into law. The Act authorized the President to negotiate treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands farther west, outside of existing US state borders. The passage of the act was especially popular in the South where population growth and the discovery of gold on Cherokee land had increased pressure on tribal lands.
When Andrew Jackson bought The Hermitage in 1804, he owned nine enslaved African Americans. Just 25 years later that number had swelled to over 100 through purchase and reproduction. At the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned approximately 150 people who lived and worked on the property.
During the summer of 1835, Northern abolitionists began sending anti-slavery tracts through the US Postal system into the South. Pro-slavery Southerners demanded that the postal service ban distribution of the materials, which were deemed "incendiary." Jackson wanted sectional peace, and desired to placate Southerners while resisting demands from abolitionists. He supported the solution of Postmaster General Amos Kendall, which gave Southern postmasters discretionary powers to either send or detain the anti-slavery tracts."
One trait Trump seems to share with Jackson is his temperament. Jackson's quick temper was notorious. Some historians believe that Jackson was often in control of his rage, and used it and his fearsome reputation as the means to get what he wanted in his public and private affairs. His opponents were terrified of his temper: They compared him to "a volcano, and only the most intrepid or recklessly curious cared to see it erupt. ...His close associates all had stories of his blood-curling oaths, his summoning of the Almighty to loose His wrath upon some miscreant, typically followed by his own vow to hang the villain or blow him to perdition. Given his record—in duels, brawls, mutiny trials, and summary hearings—listeners had to take his vows seriously."

I hope that President Trump will learn more about our history before he makes statements that tarnish his image.