07/29/15

Our Visit to Grant’s Headquarters and City Point

On a recent trip my wife and I visited Malvern Hill, Grant’s Headquarters and the Petersburg National Battlefield. Today we’ll take a look at the headquarters of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, (now Hopewell) Virginia.

General Grant was to spend 9 1/2 months there from mid-June 1864 until early April 1865. City Point was located eight miles behind the Union lines. Grant issued orders and coordinated the movement of all of the Union armies throughout the United States.

City Point was the main receiving port for supplies and replacements. Overnight it went from a small town to one of the busiest ports in the world. On any given day 40 steamers, 75 sailing ships and over 100 barges delivered supplies for the Union army.

Goods were unloaded at a half mile long wharf that was constructed by African-American laborers under the supervision Army engineers.Warehouses were built along the waterfront that were used to stockpile vast amounts of supplies.

On an average day, the Union Army had thirty days of food stockpiled and twenty days of forage. This translated to 900,000 meals and 12,000 tons of hay and oats for nearly 120,000 soldiers and 65,000 horses and mules.

Union Army built a rail yard, warehouses, stables and quartermaster buildings. They extended the existing short railroad so that it was 22 miles and added it to the United States Railroad system.

Initial railroad operations began along 9 miles of the Petersburg and City Point Railroad’s line. As the Union Army steadily extended its siege lines to the south and west, the construction corps followed in the Army’s wake extending rail service from City Point to positions behind the new Union left flank. Eventually the rail line added 21 additional miles of track which partially encircled Petersburg from the east to the southwest.

Click to enlarge.

NPS Map of City Point

The land that the headquarters was built on was owned by Dr. Richard Eppes. The 2,300 acre plantation and the house was over 100 years old. Dr. Eppes had a total of 130 slaves at the start of the war. This made him one of the richest men in the South. Dr. Eppes initially served in the Confederate cavalry but spent most of the war as a contract surgeon in Petersburg.

The Eppes’ eventually fled their estate when it became too dangerous to live there. Mrs. Eppes and their children moved to Philadelphia where she had come from. Dr. Eppes moved into Petersburg. After the war ended they all returned to their home and rebuilt their estate. By then all of the slaves had left.

The Eppes home, Appomattox Plantation, still is on the site. It was used by Grant’s quartermaster and other staff members while Grant lived in a cabin built by his men. That too still exists. The main house can be toured. The tour starts with a video and continues through the lower floor.

 

 

07/27/15

Our Visit to Malvern Hill

Recently, my wife and I spent a day visiting a number of sites on the eastern side of Richmond and Petersburg. We began our touring at the Glendale/Frayser’s Farm and Malvern Hill Visitor’s Center.

The visitor’s center is on the Glendale battlefield and is staffed with a single ranger who styled himself as the ‘Lone Ranger’. The facility has a number of well-done exhibits that explain the ammunition and weapons of the early war.

I had told him that my great great grandfather had served in the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry and had fought at Malvern Hill. While we went through the exhibits he looked up the unit and told us where they were positioned at the start of the battle.

Malvern Hill is not what you would expect. On the Union right it’s just a gradual slope. But it’s just enough to have slowed down the Confederate attackers and allow the Union soldiers to lay down devastating rife and artillery fire. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.

Battle of Malvern Hill map

My great great grandfather’s unit were located behind and to the right of the Nathaniel West house as I faced it. In front of the are two immense trees. I wondered if they were there in 1862 but I found an old photograph which shows them before they became gigantic.

The 61st along with the rest of Caldwell’s brigade moved forward into the fight. Ultimately, the Army of the Potomac won this last of the Seven Days Battles. However, General George McClellan lost his nerve and withdrew his troops to Harrison’s Landing.

According to New York State records the 61st NY lost a total of  227 men, killed wounded, missing, from the time that they landed on the Peninsula. At Malvern Hill they had a total of 13 dead. They must have lost a number of men to sickness because the regiment that left New York with 1,000 men were only able to muster 100 men at Antietam.

The first picture is a contemporary photograph of the original Nathaniel West House. If you click on it you can start a slide show and see all 12 images in a larger size. Please be patient, it’s not the fastest slideshow. You can also click on the map to expand it.

The cemetery is Glendale National Cemetery. Some 2,000 Union soldiers are buried there. The Union forces were facing North and the Confederates advanced over open fields in the face of furious rifle and cannon fire.

 

07/23/15

Our Visit to Pamplin Historical Park

Last Friday, my wife and I visited Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg, Virginia. The part was established by the Pamplin family on the site of the Boisseau family, direct ancestors of the Pamplins.

The park originally opened in 1994. At the time the site encompassed 103 acres. Today, Pamplin Historical Park has grown to 424 acres. Within the site there are two museums, a number of reconstructed period buildings and the site of the Breakthrough by the Vermont Brigade on April 2, 1865. The Breakthrough led to the withdrawal of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from their fortifications around Petersburg and Richmond west where Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

The Museum of the Civil War Soldier is located in the beautiful main building. Perhaps 750,000 soldiers died from wounds or disease in the four years of war. More than one million were wounded. If the United states were to sustain the same proportion of casualties today the numbers would be around 17,500,00. Almost all soldiers were volunteers. I am the proud great great grandson of two such men: Michael Patrick Murphy of the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry and Asa H. Dykeman of the 46th New York State Militia.

The museum uses a unique way of educating its visitors. You pick a soldier and are given a compact CD player that has the descriptions of what you are viewing. I certain points personal stories of your soldier are given in the first-person. The museum gives the visitor a thorough view of how the Civil War soldier experienced their military life.

I don’t think that modern Americans can understand what these men went through while serving their country whether it was the North or the South.This museum gives you a flavor.

The park has a recreation of the Boisseaus’ Tudor Hall Plantation. It includes their home which during the siege was the headquarters of Brigadier General Samuel McGowan‘s 1,400-man brigade. He commanded a brigade in A.P. Hill‘s famous “Light Division” and was wounded several times. Ezra Warner‘s book, Generals in Gray, claims that “McGowan’s career and reputation were not excelled by any other brigade commander in the Army of Northern Virginia.” Prior to the Civil War, McGowan practiced law and served in state politics. He also served in the Mexican-American War with the Palmetto Rifles. He was commended for his gallantry near Mexico City and rose to the rank of staff captain.

The various rooms of the house reflect the occupancy of General McGowan and his staff. The Boisseaus moved into Petersburg during the siege. When they returned their land had been devastated. Fences and outbuildings had been torn down. The wood was used for fires and winter quarters. Fortifications had been constructed by both sides complete with moats, pointed wood stakes and cheval de frise. During the Civil War, the Confederates used this type barrier more often than the Union forces. A reconstruction of the fortifications is on the grounds.

The present-day plantation consists of the main house, detached kitchen building and a variety of barns and other outbuildings. Live goats and chickens are raised on the plantation. There are well-maintained walking trails with audio stops along the way. The second museum is the Battlefield Center that primarily focuses on the events that led to the April 2, 1865 Breakthrough. There is a military encampment with several reenactors. Finally, there are extensive walking trails for the athletic. They wend their way through the original Confederate earthworks.

Pamplin Historical Park represents the very finest Civil War experience for the visitor. It is well worth a visit if you’re in the Richmond-Petersburg area.

Here are some images of various sites within the park.

 

07/16/15

The Great Compromiser Henry Clay

Young Henry ClayIn order to understand the history of the United States from the Missouri Compromise until the firing on Fort Sumter we must understand two legislators, Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, who were instrumental in the legislation of that period. Today, we’ll look at the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay of Kentucky.

Clay represented Kentucky in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the U.S. Congress. He served three different terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives and was also Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. He lost his campaigns for president in 1824, 1832 and 1844.

Clay was a very dominant figure in both the First and Second Party systems. As a leading war hawk in 1812, he favored war with Britain and played a significant role in leading the nation to war in the War of 1812. In 1824 he ran for president and lost, but maneuvered House voting in favor of John Quincy Adams, who made him secretary of state as the Jacksonians denounced what they considered a “corrupt bargain.” He ran and lost again in 1832 and 1844 as the candidate of the Whig Party, which he founded and dominated.

As part of the “Great Triumvirate” or “Immortal Trio,” along with his colleagues Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, he was instrumental in formulating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. He was viewed as the primary representative of Western interests in this group, and was given the names “Henry of the West” and “The Western Star.”[2] A plantation owner, Clay held slaves during his lifetime but freed them in his will.

In the summer of 1811 Clay was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected as its Speaker on the first day of the first session. This extraordinary event was the only time other than the first Congress that a member was elected on his first day. During the fourteen years following his first election, he was re-elected five times to the House and to the speakership.

Clay would make the Speakership as the second most powerful position in the U.S. government. He immediately appointed members of the War Hawk faction (of which he was the “guiding spirit”) to all the important committees, effectively giving him control of the House. This was a singular achievement for a 34-year-old House freshman. During his early House service, Clay strongly opposed the creation of a National Bank, in part because of his personal ownership in several small banks in his hometown of Lexington. Later he changed his position and, when he was seeking the presidency, gave strong support for the Second Bank of the United States.

Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun helped to pass the Tariff of 1816 as part of the national economic plan Clay called “The American System,” rooted in Alexander Hamilton’s American School. It was designed to allow the fledgling American manufacturing sector, largely centered on the eastern seaboard, to compete with British manufacturing through the creation of tariffs.

After the conclusion of the War of 1812, British factories were overwhelming American ports with inexpensive goods. To persuade voters in the western states to support the tariff, Clay advocated federal government support for internal improvements to infrastructure, principally roads and canals. These internal improvements would be financed by the tariff and by sale of the public lands, prices for which would be kept high to generate revenue. Finally, a national bank would stabilize the currency and serve as the nexus of a truly national financial system.

In the early 1820’s Clay fostered the Missouri Compromise when a dispute erupted over the extension of slavery in Missouri Territory. Clay helped settle this dispute by gaining Congressional approval for a plan called the “Missouri Compromise“. It brought in Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state (thus maintaining the balance in the Senate, which had included 11 free and 11 slave states), and it forbade slavery north of 36° 30′ (the northern boundary of Arkansas and the latitude line) except in Missouri.

Clay was named Secretary of State by John Quincy Adams in March 1825. Many of his political opponents saw this appointment as a “corrupt bargain” after Clay was eliminated from the House voting because he came in fourth. Clay supported Adams because he felt would be both more sympathetic to Clay’s political views and more likely to appoint Clay to a cabinet position, which he did.

Clay had been elected by the Kentucky state legislature as their U.S. Senator in 1831. He had been in the Senate twice before for two very short terms in 1806 and again in 1810. He would serve in the Senate this time from 1831 until 1842 and then again from 1849 until 1852. He died ion office in 1852.

After the passage of the Tariff of 1828, dubbed the “tariff of abominations” which raised tariffs considerably in an attempt to protect fledgling factories built under previous tariff legislation, South Carolina declared its right to nullify federal tariff legislation and stopped assessing the tariff on imports. It threatened to secede from the Union if the Federal government tried to enforce the tariff laws. Furious, President Jackson threatened to lead an army to South Carolina and hang any man who refused to obey the law.

In 1833, Clay helped to broker a deal in Congress to lower the tariff gradually. This measure helped to preserve the supremacy of the Federal government over the states, but the crisis was Older Henry Clayindicative of the developing conflict between the northern and southern United States over economics and slavery.

In the early 1830’s Clay was part of the politicians that formed the Whig Party, primarily to oppose Andrew Jackson and the Democrats. hey opposed the “tyranny” of Jackson, as their ancestors had opposed the tyranny of King George III. Clay strongly opposed Jackson’s refusal to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, and advocated passage of a resolution to censure Jackson for his actions. In 1832 Clay ran against Jackson for the Presidency but was crushed by a margin of 55% to 37%.

He ran again in 1840 and lost to James K. Polk, the Democratic candidate. Polk won by 170 to 105 electoral votes, carrying 15 of the 26 states. Polk’s populist stances on territorial expansion figured prominently—particularly his opinion on US control over the entire Oregon Country and his support for the annexation of Texas. Clay opposed annexing Texas on the grounds that it would once again bring the issue of slavery to the forefront of the nation’s political dialog and would draw the ire of Mexico, from which Texas had declared its independence in 1836.

Clay’s warnings about Texas proved to be accurate. The US annexation of Texas led to the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) (in which his namesake son died). The North and South came to increased tensions during Polk’s Presidency over the extension of slavery into Texas and beyond.

After losing the Whig nomination in 1848 to Zachary Taylor Clay retired to his estate. He had been out of the Senate for 7 years when he was reelected one more time. During his term, the controversy over the expansion of slavery in new lands had reemerged with the addition of the lands ceded to the United States by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. David Wilmot, a Northern congressman, had proposed preventing the extension of slavery into any of the new territory in a proposal referred to as the “Wilmot Proviso“.

On January 29, 1850, Clay proposed a series of resolutions, which he considered to reconcile Northern and Southern interests, what would widely be called the Compromise of 1850. Clay originally intended the resolutions to be voted on separately, but at the urging of southerners he agreed to the creation of a Committee of Thirteen to consider the measures. The committee was formed on April 17. On May 8, as chair of the committee, Clay presented an omnibus bill linking all of the resolutions. The resolutions included:

  • Admission of California as a free state, ending the balance of free and slave states in the senate.
  • Organization of the Utah and New Mexico territories without any slavery provisions, giving the right to determine whether to allow slavery to the territorial populations.
  • Prohibition of the slave trade, not the ownership of slaves, in the District of Columbia.
  • A more stringent Fugitive Slave Act.
  • Establishment of boundaries for the state of Texas in exchange for federal payment of Texas’s ten million dollar debt.
  • A declaration by Congress that it did not have the authority to interfere with the interstate slave trade.

The Omnibus bill, despite Clay’s efforts, failed in a crucial vote on July 31 with the majority of his Whig Party opposed. He announced on the Senate floor the next day that he intended to persevere and pass each individual part of the bill. Clay was physically exhausted; the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him began to take its toll. Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island. Stephen A. Douglas separated the bills and guided them through the Senate.

Clay was given much of the credit for the Compromise’s success. It quieted the controversy between Northerners and Southerners over the expansion of slavery, and delayed secession and civil war for another decade. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi, who had suggested the creation of the Committee of Thirteen, later said, “Had there been one such man in the Congress of the United States as Henry Clay in 1860–’61 there would, I feel sure, have been no civil war.”

Clay continued to serve both the Union he loved and his home state of Kentucky. On June 29, 1852, he died of tuberculosis in Washington, D.C., at the age of 75. Clay was the first person to lie in state in the United States Capitol.

07/14/15

How the Constitution inflamed the problem of slavery

The Three Fifths CompromiseThe Southern politicians and their supporters just didn’t wake up in December of 1860 and decide to secede from the Union. The road that led them to separation from the rest of the country was long and tortured.

At its beginning was the Three-Fifths Compromise that was reached between delegates from southern states and the northern states during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. The compromise was proposed by delegates James Wilson and Roger Sherman. Interestingly enough both men were from northern states. Wilson was from Pennsylvania, Sherman from Connecticut.

The debate was about how slaves were to be counted to determine the number of seats southern states held. The southern states originally wanted all of the slave to be counted in the South’s population while the North wanted only free inhabitants to be counted. Thus the compromise that counted slaves as three-fifths of free people.

The compromise inflated the number of House representatives from the South. The compromise, is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The effect was to give the southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored (but fewer than if counts of slaves and free persons had been lumped together), allowing the slaveholder interests to largely dominate the government of the United States until 1865. The Tree-Fifths Compromise set the new country on the road to twisted and tortured road to devastating war.

What did this Constitutional imbalance mean to the country? Of the first fifteen presidents eight were Southerners including five from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two presidents were from Massachusetts, the Adams father and son. Two were from New York and one each were from New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The power of the Presidency cannot be underestimated in terms of its political patronage.

With their firm control of the House the bloc of Southern representatives were able to bargain for bill that were advantageous to their region. And the advantage remained right up until the firing on Fort Sumter. As new states were admitted to the Union they were paired: one slave state with one free state.

The first major legislation that codified the slave state-free state split was the Missouri Compromise. The bill was passed by Congress in 1820 and signed by President James Monroe. The bill regulated slavery in the territories of the Louisiana Purchase as they became states. Essentially, the bill prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north (the southern boundary of Missouri), except within the limits of the proposed state of Missouri.

 

Initially, Maine was admitted to the Union as a free state in March 1820 while Missouri was admitted as a slave state during the 1820-1821 session of Congress. Not everyone was pleased with the Missouri Compromise. In an April 22 letter to John Holmes, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the division of the country created by the Compromise Line would eventually lead to the destruction of the Union:

…but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.

Following the admission of Maine and Missouri no states were admitted until 1836. The Missouri Compromise lasted until 1854 when it was effectively repealed by Stephen A. Douglas‘s Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854. In the intervening 34 years the Southern representatives continue to exercise political power based on the Three-Fifths Compromise.

 

07/8/15

The Confederate flag: That was then, This is now

Confederate envelope 1With all of the brouhaha over the Confederate flag people are fighting the Civil War over 150 years later. That was then, this is now. The war is over, the Union won and stands today a little worn but we’re still free, all of us. There are those who would like nothing better than to split the country apart. And if we keep hurting ourselves with self-inflicted wounds they might succeed yet. But not without a fight.

As a Yankee living in Virginia I see the love that Southerners, native-born and those of us who are adopted, have for the Commonwealth. And why not? Virginia is a beautiful state, from the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachian Mountains. In between we have beautiful rivers, rich farmland, gleaming cities and yet more mountains.

Let’s take the subject of the Confederate flag. First of all, it’s the battle flag of the Army of the Potomac not the flag of the Confederacy. Actually, the Confederate States couldn’t settle on a flag. They had three different flags plus variants in the four short years of their existence. Plus the states all had their own flags some with a Confederate flag canton, some without.

I must tell you that on Saturday’s 4th of July Parade in Scottsvile there were American flags in abundance but there were also several Confederate flags, especially with the reenacators. There were plenty of cheers for both flag. Northerners need to understand that we here South of the Mason-Dixon line love our country as much as they do.

After the news of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 8, 1865 President Lincoln came out on the balcony of the White House to listen to the military band play patriotic songs. When asked if he had a choice that he would like to hear the President asked for Dixie. “It has always been my favorite song.” Both Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were native Kentuckians.

For your listening pleasure here is Dixie:

The current usage of the Confederate ‘Stars and Bars’ is simply a show of Southern heritage and pride at being a Southerner. I doubt that many of those waving the Confederate flag see it as a symbol of white supremacy or slavery. In fact, I doubt like many Americans they don’t understand that the flag once stood for slavery.

Here’s the flag that the rest of the country should look out for:

When the Bonnie Blue Flag is hoisted it will mean the end of the United States. So Americans should understand ‘that was then, this is now’.

07/3/15

The War over the Confederate Flag

Chamberlain at AppomattoxOnce again the forces of the left and other apologists for them have assailed the Confederate flag. With their philosophy of never let a crisis go to waste, they have used the deaths of nine Americans in church by a hate-filled individual to attack a symbol of Southern pride.

As a Yankee living in the Old Dominion I understand that white Southerners need to hold onto their symbol of four hard years of war. I also understand that flying the flag at state capital grounds and other official sites is offensive to black Southerners. This land belongs equally to both groups. And allow me to say that in my experience the Confederate flag is not used to stick it in the face of black Southerners.

There are vanity license plates with the Confederate flag throughout the South. Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia called for the removal of the Confederate flag from all state license plates. He also called for the reclaiming of those in circulation. It only requires the state’s Attorney General to petition the court that originally allowed it. The plate’s emblem is actually the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who won a court case allowing it. A recent Supreme Court case ruling in a Texas case allows states to remove the emblem.

The issue is front-and-center in southern states right now. North Carolina’s governor said Tuesday he’ll ask the state legislature to remove the emblem from plates there, as did Tennessee’s. Georgia’s governor initially re-affirmed support for his state’s plates Tuesday, but said later in the day he’d support a redesign, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In addition, most Southern states have removed the Confederate flag on official grounds. They have placed them in museums and other non-official sites.

But some on the left have gone way too far. This is still the United States and the last time I looked the First Amendment was still in force. Forcing retailers to stop selling Confederate flag items it flat out ridiculous. When sites like Ebay and Amazon remove items that have the Confederate flag, well, that’s bridge too far for me. The height of this new prohibition is the cancellation of the Dukes of Hazzard reruns because their car, the General Lee, has the Confederate flag on the roof!

NASCAR has actually asked their fans to stop flying the Confederate flag. It’s a strange request from an organization that was founded in the South and whose membership is mostly from that region. Yet, with all of the shouting according to a recent CNN/ORC by a margin of 57% to 33% people saw the flag as a symbol of Southern pride rather than racism.

Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree. In the South, the racial divide is even broader. While 75% of Southern whites describe the flag as a symbol of pride and 18% call it a symbol of racism, those figures are almost exactly reversed among Southern African-Americans, with just 11% seeing it as a sign of pride and 75% viewing it as a symbol of racism.

A majority favors removing the Confederate flag from government property that isn’t part of a museum: 55% support that while 43% are opposed. And half support private companies choosing not to sell or manufacture items featuring the Confederate flag: 50% are in favor, 47% opposed.

But most oppose other efforts, including redesigning state flags that feature Confederate emblems or symbols to remove references to the Confederacy (57% oppose that), renaming streets and highways named after Confederate leaders (68% oppose that) and removing tributes to those who fought for the Confederacy from public places (71% oppose that).

Among African-Americans, however, most favor removing flags from government property (73%), private companies stopping the sale or manufacture of products featuring the flag (65%) and redesigning state flags that feature Confederate references to remove them (59%).

Let’s get serious now. The Confederate flag that we see today was actually the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Other units used different flags while the Confederacy had at least three different flags each with several variants during its brief four-year life. Some states used their state flags and added the ‘Stars and Bars’. Some of those state flags are still in use today.

In order to understand Southerners love of the Confederate flag allow me to quote Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who was the officer designated by General Grant to accept the surrender of the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. General Chamberlain was wounded six times in the service of the Union. The officer commanding the Confederate infantry, General John Brown Gordon of Georgia was wounded seven times in the service of the Confederacy. The text is from General Chamberlain’s book The Passing of the Armies. It is well-worth reading.

Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time, taking down their little shelter-tents and folding them carefully as precious things, then slowly forming ranks as for unwelcome duty. And now they move. The dusky swarms forge forward into gray columns of march. On they come, with the old swinging route step and swaying battle- flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign — the great field of white with canton of star-strewn cross of blue on a field of red, the regimental battle-flags with the same escutcheon following on, crowded so thick, by thinning out of men, that the whole column seemed crowned with red. At the right of our line our little group mounted beneath our flags, the red Maltese cross on a field of white, erewhile so bravely borne through many a field more crimson than itself, its mystic meaning now ruling all.

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; — was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?

Instructions had been given ; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry” — the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual, — honor answering honor.

On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum ; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead! As each successive division masks our own, it halts, the men face inward towards us across the road, twelve feet away; then carefully “dress” their line, each captain taking pains for the good appearance of his company, worn and half starved as they were. The field and staff take their positions in the intervals of regiments; generals in rear of their commands. They fix bayonets, stack arms; then, hesitatingly, remove cartridge-boxes and lay them down. Lastly, — reluctantly, with agony of expression, — they tenderly fold their flags, battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart -holding colors, and lay them down; some frenziedly rushing from the ranks, kneeling over them, clinging to them, pressing them to their lips with burning tears. And only the Flag of the Union greets the sky !

 

General Chamberlain had the opportunity to speak to several Confederate generals at the surrender:

There was opportunity for converse with several Confederate generals. Their bearing was, of course, serious, their spirits sad. What various misgivings mingled in their mood we could not but conjecture. Levying war against the United States was serious business. But one certain impression was received from them all; they were ready to accept for themselves and for the Confederacy any fate our Government should dictate. Lincoln’s magnanimity, as Grant’s thoughtfulness, had already impressed them much. They spoke like brave men who mean to stand upon their honor and accept the situation.

” General,” says one of them at the head of his corps, “this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at this day’s business. ” “You astonish us, ” says another of equally high rank, “by your honorable and generous conduct. I fear we should not have done the same by you had the case been reversed. ” “I will go home, ‘ ‘ says a gallant officer from North Carolina, “and tell Joe Johnston we can’t fight such men as you. I will advise him to surrender.” “I went into that cause” says yet another of well-known name, “and I meant it. We had our choice of weapons and of ground, and we have lost. Now that is my flag (pointing to the flag of the Union), and I will prove myself as worthy as any of you. “

The War is over and has been for 150 years. What is taking place now will only ignite it again.

 

 

 

07/1/15

Visiting the Battlefields of Central Virginia

Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Wilderness and Fredericksburg. We also visited Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania earlier in the spring. These four battles were among the bloodiest of the Civil War. In the four battles over 108,000 men were killed, wounded, captured or missing. A huge amount of blood was shed in a small area. Today you see all four battlefields in one day. It’s just a short ride from the Wilderness to Fredericksburg, or from Chancellorsville to Spotsylvania.

Fortunately, these four battlefields are well-preserved from too much urban and suburban sprawl. The National Park Service and organizations like the Civil War Trust have seen to that. When Walmart announced plans to build a SuperStore right next to the Wilderness battlefield the public outcry was deafening. The company conceded when the saw the witness list. The first witness was Professor Emeritus James I. Robertson of Virginia Tech. Every major historian was on the list and personages like Robert Duvall, a direct descendant of General Robert E. Lee through his mother. Walmart threw in the towel before the trial even started.

Here are some images of the sights at the battlefields.

The Stone Wall at Fredericksburg (unfortunately, this section is a recreation). We’re on the Confederate side of the wall near the Spot where Brig. Gen. Thomas Cobb CSA, the commander of Cobb’s Legion was killed. he was mortally wounded in the thigh by a Union artillery shell that burst inside the Stephens house near the Sunken Road on Marye’s Heights. He bled to death from damage to the femoral artery on December 13, 1862. There is a small memorial to him on the other side of the wall.

The Stone Wall at Fredericksburg

The Wilderness hasn’t changed much since the battle. It is still dense woods but most of the landmarks are gone, replaced by signage. There is a small exhibit staffed by a NPS ranger with plenty of maps and brochures.

Wilderness Map at exhibit

 

Then I have a number of pictures that will give you a representative view of the battlefields and exhibits.

In addition to the sights on the battlefields both the visitor’s centers at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville have excellent museum complete with movies and interactive battlefield maps. The rangers in residence are knowledgeable and love to discuss their areas of expertise.

 

06/25/15

Totaling the Damage to the Confederacy

Broad Street Charleston South Carolina

The Union Army’s hard war visited massive destruction on the Southern states. Much of the war had been fought on its territory. Many of its cities had been burned or destroyed. Many of its railroads had been torn up. Many of the fields only had weeds growing in them.

There was no American money anywhere in the South. The people only had worthless Confederate money. The Southern banks could not loan out any money because they didn’t have any. To make matters worse, the price of cotton fell drastically on the world market. Before the war, most of the world cotton supply was grown in the South. During the last year of the war, the slaves stopped growing cotton, so England began looking for places in its colonies where it could grow cotton.

The British planted very much cotton in their colonies, especially in Egypt and India. As a result, there was too much cotton on the world market. The price of cotton fell. Everybody in the South became poor. The economy of the South was in ruins. During the next eighty years, the world market price for cotton remained low. The South had nothing but cotton, so the South remained poor until World War II.

By the end of the American Civil War the Southern railroad system was all but destroyed. Where there was once 9,500 miles of track very little of it remained undamaged. Locomotives and rail cars were either captured or destroyed by the Union Army.

The Southern rail system began to deteriorate from the very beginning of the war. Most Southerners were more interested in agrarian pursuits and many of the skilled workers that were needed to maintain and run the railroads were from the North.

The skilled railroad men began to return to the North once the war began. Those who remained were overwhelmed by the maintenance and construction that was necessary during wartime.

The Southern railroads were not a system per se but a series of unconnected lines that ran from ports to inland destinations. They were seen as transportation of primarily cotton to ports for export to the North and Europe. This lack of inter-railway connections caused many railroads to become useless once the Union blockade was in place. A look at the map shows how the various rail lines were disconnected.

Another deficiency of the Southern railroads was a a break of gauge. Much of the Confederate rail network was in the broad gauge format. However, much of North Carolina and Virginia had standard gauge lines. Southern railroads west of the Mississippi were isolated, disconnected, and differed widely in gauge.

Most of the Southern locomotives had been imported from England. When the Union blockade began the steady strangling of Southern trade spare parts became hard to come by. Tracks and locomotives began to wear out. By 1863 a quarter of the South’s locomotives needed repairs and the speed of train travel in the South had dropped to only 10 miles an hour (from 25 miles an hour in 1861).

Replacement track and crossties became a problem. The South had very few steel miles that made track. The railroads resorted to tearing up track and crossties on less important lines as replacements on their key lines. The line from Nashville to Chattanooga had 1,200 broken rails in 1862 alone.

Most Southern locomotives used wood as fuel. As the Confederate army took more and more men into its service the rail lines were hard pressed to provide wood for their trains. Crews sometimes found it necessary to stop their trains and chop their own wood.

Accidents also wrecked a lot of equipment. Because telegraph communication was sporadic at best, railroad crews were often unaware of broken rails and Ruins of Atlanta's rolling mills destroyed by retreating Confederatescollapsed bridges. Cattle on the tracks caused accidents, sparks from the locomotives’ woodfires burned cars, and boilers exploded.

In the last year before the end of the war, the Confederate railroad system was always on the verge of collapse. The impressment policy of quartermasters ran the rails ragged. Feeder lines would be scrapped for replacement steel for trunk lines, and the continual use of rolling stock wore them down faster than they could be replaced.

Finally, the Union armies became quite proficient at destroying the Southern railroads. A Union Army division could destroy miles of track in a single day. Even though the Confederates repaired the track when they could the constant destruction gradually destroyed the effectiveness of the lines. In areas where the Union Army advanced the Confederates applied a scorched-earth policy by destroying their own lines and equipment.

The Union Army targeted the main rail junctions of the South in order to destroy the effectiveness of the railroads. Rail junctions in cities like Nashville, Chattanooga, Corinth and Atlanta were either captured or destroyed.

Union troops would often have to rebuild an entire line from scratch for it to be usable. Due to the vagaries of the war, some lines would be rebuilt 6 or 7 times by differing sides, especially in states like Virginia, where fighting was most intense.

In certain areas like the Shenandoah Valley there was organized destruction of farms, government buildings and warehouses, in addition to the railroads. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan reported that he destroyed 1,400 barns. He also reported the destruction of countless other farm structures, seventy mills, several factories, three iron furnaces, warehouses and railroad buildings, and hundreds of thousands of bushels of wheat, oats and corn, and crops standing in the fields. In Rockingham County alone over 10,000 head of livestock were driven off. And that was in the Valley alone.

On his way to Appomattox his Cavalry Corps destroyed everything of value to the Confederate government its paths. They destroyed the Virginia Central Railroad, mills, farms, the Kanawha Canal on the James River (although they weren’t that successful because it was built with concrete) and tobacco warehouses.

Many of the South’s largest cities, and much of its human and material resources, were destroyed during the Civil War by the Union armies. Much of the livestock and farming supplies of the South were also destroyed. The South transformed from a prosperous minority of landholders to a tenant agriculture system or sharecropping. Many of the recently freed slaves could only find jobs in unskilled and service industries.

The Confederacy in 1861 had 297 towns and cities with a combined population of 835,000; of these, 162 locations with 681,000 total residents were at one point occupied by Union forces. Eleven were destroyed or severely damaged by war action, including Atlanta, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. These eleven contained 115,900 people in the 1860 census, or 14% of the urban South. The number of people who lived in the destroyed towns represented just over 1% of the Confederacy’s combined urban and rural populations. In addition, 45 courthouses were burned (out of 830), destroying the documentation for the legal relationships in the affected communities.

The South’s farms were not highly mechanized, but the value of farm implements and machinery in the 1860 Census was $81 million and was reduced by 40% by 1870. The South’s farms were not highly mechanized, but the value of farm implements and machinery in the 1860 Census was $81 million and was reduced by 40% by 1870.

The most devastating statistic was that one in four white Southern men of military age was killed during the war. Over a fourth of Southern white men of military age—meaning the backbone of the South’s white workforce—died during the war, leaving countless families destitute. Per capita income for white southerners declined from $125 in 1857 to a low of $80 in 1879. By the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the South was locked into a system of poverty. How much of this failure was caused by the war and by previous reliance on agriculture remains the subject of debate among economists and historians.

 

06/24/15

The Union Raiders: George Stoneman

General George StonemanGeneral George Stoneman was an unusual cavalryman. At 6 feet 4 inches he towered over most of his subordinates.By comparison he was a full foot taller than his fellow cavalry commander, General Philip Sheridan. He also suffered from chronic hemorrhoids, a condition that relegated him to a desk job after the Battle of Chancellorsville.

George Stoneman graduated from West Point in 1946 where his roommate was the future Confederate general Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. He served the years before the war in a variety of positions across the West in the Cavalry. By 1861 he held the rank of captain.

Returning east, he served as a major of the 1st U.S. Cavalry and then adjutant to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan in western Virginia. As the cavalry was being organized in the Army of the Potomac, he commanded the Cavalry Reserve and then the Cavalry Division, with the title Chief of Cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general on August 13, 1861. He did not relate well to McClellan, who did not understand the proper use of cavalry in warfare, relegating it to assignment in small units to infantry brigades. This organization fared poorly in the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles of 1862, where the centralized Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart seriously outperformed their Union counterparts.

From the end of the Peninsula Campaign to the aftermath of the disaster at Fredericksburg, Stoneman served as an infantry corps commander. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862. Following Fredericksburg, a new commanding general took over the Army of the Potomac: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Hooker had a better understanding of the strategic value of a centralized Cavalry Corps and he named Stoneman to lead it. The centralized corps could undertake long raids into enemy territory, destroying supplies, and gathering intelligence about the enemy forces. They were not subject to the commanders of small infantry units.

Hooker’s plan for the cavalry at Chancellorsville was daring. Hooker assigned Stoneman a key role in which his Cavalry Corps would raid deeply into Robert E. Lee’s rear areas and destroy vital railroad lines and supplies, distracting Lee from Hooker’s main assaults. However, Stoneman was a disappointment in this strategic role. The Cavalry Corps got off to a good start in May 1863, but quickly bogged down after crossing the Rapidan River.

During the entire battle, Stoneman accomplished little and Hooker considered him one of the principal reasons for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville. Hooker needed a scapegoat to blame for the defeat and Stoneman was relieved of command to deflect criticism from him. He was moved into a desk job in Washington as Chief of the U.S. Cavalry Bureau.

By 1864 Stoneman had grown tired of the desk job and asked for an active duty assignment. Stoneman was given the command of the Cavalry Corps of what would be known as the Army of the Ohio. Stoneman and his aide Major Myles Keogh were captured outside of Macon, Georgia but were exchanged after almost three months in captivity.

In December 1864, he led a raid from East Tennessee into southwestern Virginia. Stoneman, soon after arriving at Knoxville, made up his mind to capture the Salt Works, and on the 11th inst. had concentrated three brigades. Both sides were not at all evenly matched with Stoneman having 4,500 troopers and his Confederate adversaries 2,800. The expedition resulted in the Battle of Marion and the Second Battle of Saltville against a Confederate force under the command of John C. Breckinridge and accomplished the destruction of the saltworks at Saltville, Virginia

His revised orders from Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, commander of the Army of the Cumberland, were to ‘dismantle the country to obstruct Lee’s retreat’ by destroying parts of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad, the North Carolina Railroad, and the Danville-Greensboro line. Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Union commander, believed that Stoneman’s raid, in conjunction with a simultaneous raid by Northern cavalry in Alabama, would ‘leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon.’

With a force of 6,000 cavalrymen Stoneman was opposed by Confederate home guardsmen scattered about in various places such as Watauga County, where Major Harvey Bingham had two companies, or Ashe County where a Captain Price commanded a small company. The area had been placed under the direction of General P.G.T. Beauregard, but the regular troops in his command were described as ‘insufficient to stop [Stoneman].’ Stoneman took advantage of this by dividing his force several times to cover more ground.

Stoneman’s men took Salem, Martinsville, and other towns, destroyed Moratock Iron Furnace (a Confederate foundry), struck at Boone on March 28, then divided his force again and sent part into Virginia on April 2. It returned to North Carolina a week later. On April 12, the Federals occupied Salisbury and burned the already abandoned prison, as well as public buildings, industrial structures, and supply depots. Stoneman moved west the next day, dividing his command again in the face of limited resistance.

Other than a fight at Swannanoa Gap, Stoneman and his cavalrymen encountered only bushwhackers and isolated groups of Confederate soldiers. Stoneman’s forces approached Asheville on April 23, negotiated a truce, and rode through the streets on April 26, while Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnson surrendered to Union Gen. William T. Sherman near Durham. In recognition of his service, he was brevetted major general in the regular army.