Unionism in Alabama

1st Alabama Cavalry Recruiting PosterUnionism in Alabama is an issue that over the years since the end of the Civil War has become lost in the controversy of Jim Crow laws and politicians such as George Corley Wallace. Yet, Unionism was a widespread phenomenon in this Deep South State. During the Civil War and afterwards it was a very real fact.

Unionism came in many forms in Alabama. It is believed that no more than 15% of the adult male population were unconditional Unionists who stayed loyal to the Union from the very start of the war until its conclusion. They were most non-slaveholding farmers who lived in the northern third of the state. A few Unionists also lived in the piney woods and coastal plain further south. They resisted both secession and the Confederacy.

They were not different than their neighbors who supported secession. Their reasons for staying loyal to the Union are quite diverse. Some believed that secession was illegal. Others saw the very act of secession as a stain on their honor and their ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. Some were influenced by leading figures in their areas. Finally, some felt that secession would lead to a military and political disaster.

The rise of Unionism in Alabama began with the 1860 Presidential election. The Alabama legislature had passed a bill that called for the calling of a convention to discuss secession if the Republican candidate won the national vote. This vote took place 9 months before the general election.

The candidate of choice in Alabama was Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, the sitting Vice President. Some 80% of eligible voters cast ballots in the election with Breckinridge receiving 54% of the vote. John Bell, the Constitutional Union candidate who was supported by a number of Alabamians hostile to secession, received 31% of the vote. Douglas, the candidate most associated with a strongly Unionist position, polled slightly more than 15%. Republican Abraham Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in Alabama.

As promised the legislature called a convention to discuss secession. Of the candidates elected to the convention, 53 were secessionists and 47 were cooperationists, a term that refers to the delegates’ desire to secede only in “cooperation” with other southern states. Of this latter group, perhaps one-third were Unionists who were opposed to secession in any form. These were all from the norther third of the state.

These delegates convened in Montgomery on January 7, 1861, and debated secession for four days. On January 11, 1861, the convention passed Alabama’s Ordinance of Secession by a vote of 61 to 39. Many of those who voted against the ordinance, however, ultimately did support secession, and four immediately reversed themselves and signed with the majority.

Unionists were in for a difficult time after secession. The were subject to public ridicule, intimation and ostracizing. After Confederate conscription began in April 1862, however, things became more difficult. Individuals who resisted the draft, for whatever reason, were subject to arrest and imprisonment. Their families were harassed or threatened with with violence or exile by conscript cavalry.

The hill counties south of the Tennessee River were notoriously Unionist, populated with yeoman farmers with no interest to preserve slavery. In the counties along the Tennessee River, however, yeoman farmers mixed with large slaveholders in the river bottoms and fertile plains that were ideal for cotton planting. Unionists and secessionists in northern Alabama were neighbors, business partners and kin. Geography and custom tied the region economically to Tennessee to the north.

Rather than siding with the fire-breathers of the Black Belt, farther to the south, northern Alabamians had initially tried to walk a tightrope, hoping to coordinate action with other seceding states rather than recklessly secede alone. The famed fire-breather William Lowndes Yancey threateningly referred to these cooperationist northern Alabamians as “enemies of the State.”

The situation in north Alabama became easier for the Unionists when the Union Army invaded in 1862. Many Unionists fled behind Union lines for protection or to work for the army as soldiers, spies, or laborers.

The most well-known unit from the state was the First Alabama Cavalry, U.S.A., organized in late 1862 by Brig. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, stationed at Corinth, Mississippi. The regiment served mostly in northern Alabama, western Tennessee, and northeastern Mississippi. The regiment was selected by Major General William T. Sherman to be his escort as he began his march to the sea.

Other Unionists joined units from Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Those who remained at home, both within Union-occupied territory and behind Confederate lines, also actively assisted Union forces as spies and guides. 

Those who stayed home collaborated with local African Americans (most often their own slaves) to aid and abet the Union Army or pro-Union men in their neighborhoods. Moreover, African Americans from Alabama also crossed the Union lines to serve as laborers and soldiers, and after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863, many were inducted into United States Colored Troops regiments. Almost 5,000 African Americans, or 6 percent of Alabama’s black male population between the ages of 18 and 45, volunteered in the Union ranks.

As was the case throughout the South, by the midpoint of the war Alabama’s original Unionists were increasingly joined in their dissent by deserters from the Confederate Army, mostly men whose families were struggling at home without their labor. They were disillusioned by the realities of warfare, angered by the inequities of service under laws exempting slaveowners and selected professionals.

These Alabamians generally wanted the war to end more than they desired Union victory, though some did cross lines and join the Union army rather than desert and avoid service altogether. A small peace movement also emerged at this time among men who had originally opposed secession but later supported the state.

During the war northern Alabama was a constant battleground with the occupation of the area from mid-1862 until the end of the war. Close to 3,000 white men from northern Alabama served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Bands of Union men fought their way out of the hill counties to sign up. Soldiers conscripted into the Confederate Army from northern Alabama also deserted in large numbers, estimated as high as 10,000 from a total force of about 90,000.

On May 2, 1862, Athens, a north Alabama town, was seized by Union forces under the command of Col. John Basil Turchin, a Russian émigré. After occupying the town, Turchin assembled his men and told them: “I shut my eyes for two hours. I see nothing.” Businesses were hit first. Anything of value that could be carried away was looted and anything that could not be was simply destroyed. After rampaging through stores the soldiers plundered private homes. The townspeople estimated the damage to be fifty-five thousand dollars. The resulting pillage and plunder came to be known as the Rape of Athens.

But this was only half the story – pro-Confederate sentiment abounded, and bushwhacker attacks grew, and were met with escalating reprisals. Union General Ormsby Mitchel found it difficult enough to maintain order in his widely spread command, and the guerrilla attacks exacerbated a volatile situation.

Mitchel begged for more troops, particularly cavalry. He wired to Washington that “armed citizens fire into the trains, cut the telegraph wires, attack the guards of bridges, cut off and destroy my couriers, while guerrilla bands of cavalry attack whenever there is the slightest chance of success.” No reinforcements were forthcoming.

Jeremiah Clemens depicted northern Alabama in his 1865 novel Tobias Wilson: “Neighbor was arrayed against neighbor, and to the evils of open violence were added private assassinations and midnight burnings. No man knew whom to trust, and gloomy suspicions even of his friends settled upon every man’s heart.”

The devastation in northern Alabama both to lives and property would take tears to repair. The tumultuous process of reconstruction began in a region still divided by war.







Florida: The Forgotten State of the Confederacy

Florida in the Civil WarFlorida is sometimes forgotten by Civil War historians because its role in the war was more as a supplier of goods rather than soldiers to the Confederacy. With its small total population of 154,494 Florida only sent 15,000 into the fight.

Instead Governor John Milton stressed the importance of Florida as a supplier of goods, rather than personnel. Florida was a large provider of food (particularly beef cattle) and salt for the Confederate Army.

Florida’s cattle ranges provided much-needed beef to the south’s main armies, particularly during the latter stages of the war. The peninsula’s 13000 mile coastline also proved invaluable for the production of salt, made by boiling sea water in large kettles or evaporating it in man-made tidal pools.

Florida’s long 8,436-mile coastline and 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways proved a haven for blockade runners and a daunting task for patrols by Federal warships. But its location, scant industry and small population made the state strategically unimportant.

Overall, the state raised some 15,000 troops for the Confederacy, which were organized into twelve regiments of infantry and two of cavalry, as well as several artillery batteries and supporting units. Since neither army aggressively sought control of Florida, many of Florida’s troops were sent to serve in Virginia in the Army of Northern Virginia under Brig. Gen. Edward A. Perry and Col. David Lang. The “Florida Brigade” fought in many of Robert E. Lee‘s campaigns, and twice charged Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg, including supporting Pickett’s Charge.

By the summer of 1862 Florida had raised, equipped, and sent out of state the 1st through 8th regiments of infantry, the 1st Florida Calvary Regiment, and various smaller commands. The only forces remaining in the state were a variety of independent companies, several infantry battalions, and the newly-organized 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment.

Over the next year and a half, these units fended off a series of minor raids along the coast, as well as the temporary Union reoccupations of Jacksonville in the fall of 1862 and the spring of 1863. At St. Johns bluff in September of 1862 Confederate forces experienced a humiliating reverse when a strong position of the St. Johns River near Jacksonville was abandoned to a Union naval and land force without a fight.

Early in the war the Union Navy set up a blockade around the entire state. Union forces eventually seized and occupied major ports such as Cedar KeyJacksonvilleKey West, and Pensacola. In March 1862 Commodore Samuel DuPont led a force of 28 ships that captured Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. They used the fort as the base of Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War and allowed them to control the adjacent Florida and Georgia coasts.

In early 1862, the Confederate government withdrew General Braxton Bragg‘s small army from Pensacola following successive Confederate defeats in Tennessee at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry and the fall of New Orleans. They were  sent them to the Western Theater for the remainder of the war. The only Confederate forces remaining in Florida at that time were a variety of independent companies, several infantry battalions, and the 2nd Florida Cavalry

The largest battle of the war in Florida took place on February 20, 1864 at Olustee in Baker County on the Florida-Georgia border. Brigadier General Truman Seymour, in command of the expedition, landed troops at Jacksonville, in an area already seized by the Union in March 1862.

Seymour’s forces then made several raids into northeast and north-central Florida. During these raids he met little resistance, seized several Confederate camps, captured small bands of troops and artillery pieces and liberated slaves. However, Seymour was under orders from Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore not to advance deep into the state.

Despite his orders Seymour moved across northern Florida with the intention of capturing Tallahassee, the capital. Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan who was reinforced by Georgian troops met the Union force at Olustee. Seymour assumed that he was facing Florida militia and committed his troops piecemeal. The Union forces attacked but were savagely repulsed by withering barrages of rifle and cannon fire.

Seymour was forced to order a retreat after suffering about 34% casualties to his 5,500-man force: 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing. Confederate losses to their 5,000-man force were lower: 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing. The Union defeat caused Northern authorities to question the necessity of further Union involvement in the militarily insignificant state of Florida.

As the war in Florida went on, Unionists began to come forward to fight against their neighbors. Floridians who supported the Union sometimes were forced to leave their homes and flee as refugees to coastal towns in Florida that were occupied by federal troops. 

Virtually all Unionists that left their home lost much of the belongings. Many had their home destroyed, usually robbed and set on fire by their Secessionist and Rebel enemy. When the Unionists left their home, many packed what they could into wagons while others basically escaped with their lives.

In December 1863, the 2nd Florida Calvary (Union) was formed at Cedar Key and Key West. They served in southern Florida and the Keys until the end of the war. Initially, the Florida Unionists formed a company-size unit named the Florida Rangers who mounted raids against Confederate positions along the Gulf Coast and against Confederate cattle operations. This unit later became the 1st Florida Cavalry which was formally was organized at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola in December of 1863 and served in northern Florida for the balance of the war.

The Confederates responded by organizing local citizens, herdsmen and cowmen into the “1st Battalion Florida Special Cavalry” known as the “Cow Cavalry.” The 1st and 2nd Cavalry (Union) regiments were the only units formally recognized by the Union government.





Mississippi and the Free State of Jones

The state of Mississippi was one of the deepest of the Deep South States. It had the second highest percentage of slaves as a percent of population at 55%. Only South Carolina’s was higher at 57%. It had the highest percent of families owning slaves at 49%. Yet, with all of their devotion to the “peculiar institution” of slavery, Mississippi was the location of one of several unique occurrences in the Civil War period, a county that seceded from its parent state.

The Free State of Jones County is a tale of secession from the Confederate state of Mississippi. It is a somewhat controversial episode in the American Civil War whose effects still linger in modern times. Here is a story that it almost too strange to be true but it is.

Newton KnightThe main characters in this drama are Newton Knight, Jasper Collins and Rachel, Knight’s grandfather’s slave.

Newton Knight was born near the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi in 1837. Knight’s family had lived in Jones County since the end of the War of 1812 when his grandfather had been awarded land grants for his military service. The land in Jones County was covered with virgin longleaf pine forests. Wolves and panthers still frequented the area.

Knight married Serena Turner in 1858. The couple moved to the edge of Jasper County and began to farm corn and sweet potatoes. They also raised chickens and hogs. Knight worked the land himself. According to his son, Newton Knight never drank or smoked. He was a Primitive Baptist.

In November 1860 Mississippi’s slave-owning planters joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union. The yeoman farmers and cattle herders of Jones County had little use for the institution of slavery. Jones County had the lowest percentage of slaves of any county in Mississippi at 12%. The voters of Jones County had elected a representative, J.D. Powell, to Mississippi’s Secession Convention with instructions to vote no on secession. However, their representative was browbeaten into voting for secession. When the citizens heard about his vote they hung him in effigy. He stayed away from the area for some time.

In April 1861 war fever raged throughout the state. Anyone who opposed secession and the Confederacy were painted as cowards and traitors. Knight reluctantly enlisted in the Confederate army in the early fall of 1861. After several months he was furloughed to go home for a family matter. His father, Albert, was dying and Knight remained in Jones County until he reenlisted on May 13, 1862. He joined his friends and neighbors in Company F of the Seventh Battalion, Mississippi Infantry in Jasper County.

Mississippi had passed the “Twenty-Negro” law that allowed any planter who owned 20 slaves an exemption from serving in the army. His best friend Jasper Collins saying that “This law … makes it a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” deserted and made his way home to Jones County.

In early November 1862 Newton Knight went Absent Without Leave near Abbeville, Mississippi and made his way home on a 200-mile journey toJones County area map Jones County. Along the way he had to avoid Confederate patrollers who were searching the countryside for deserters.

Conditions on the home front were abysmal with the men off to war and women and children trying to run the farms. Many of the farms had crop failure due to a lack of labor. People were struggling to feed themselves and their families. Meanwhile, Confederate authorities took anything that they wanted for the war effort: food, livestock, horses and cloth.

Confederate Colonel William N. Brown said that the corrupt Confederate tax officials had “done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee army.” A planter in neighboring Smith County warned Governor John J. Pettus in November 1862,

If something is not done by the legislature to open the corn cribs that are now closed against the widow and the orphan, and soldier’s families, who are destitute, I know that we are undone. Men cannot be expected to fight for the Government that permits their wives and children to starve.

Knight was arrested when he refused to return to the army. There are stories that say he was tortured and everything that he owned was destroyed. After the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863 many of the Jones County men returned home to find their wives and children destitute and starving.

Rachel KnightKnight organized a company of about 125 men from Jones, Jasper, Covington and Smith counties to protect their families and neighbors from the Confederate authorities. They became known as the Knight Company after they elected Newton Knight their captain. They would disappear into the swamps when larger Confederate forces appeared. Newton Knight’s good friend and First Lieutenant Jasper Collins was his biggest supporter. They were aided and assisted by the people of the area, both white and black. Another major supporter was the slave woman, Rachel who had been owned by Knight’s grandfather.

By early 1864 Confederate authorities in Richmond had become aware of the Knight Company. Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk informed President Jefferson Davis that Jones County was in “open rebellion” and the combatants were “… proclaiming themselves ‘Southern Yankees,’ and resolved to resist by force of arms all efforts to capture them.” There were rumors that they were flying the United States flag.

The Natchez Courier reported in its July 12, 1864, edition that Jones County had seceded from the Confederacy. Union General Sherman wrote that he had received “a declaration of independence” from a group of local citizens who opposed the Confederacy. The Free State of Jones had been born.

In April 1864 Confederate authorities detailed Colonel Robert Lowery of Smith County to root out and destroy the Knight Company. Using packs of bloodhounds he hunted down the men and captured many of them. Ten men were hanged and their bodies were left hanging as a warning to the other members of the Knight Company. A number of men were returned to the Confederate army. But they never captured Newton Knight who managed to hide out in the swamps until the end of the war.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. At the end of the war the state was occupied by Federal troops whose main role was to protect the rights of the former slaves. From 1867 to 1876 Mississippi was under the control of radical Republicans. Over 200 former slaves were elected to local, state and federal offices. Pushback came from the Democrat Party and vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1872 Newton Knight was appointed deputy U.S. Marshall for Mississippi at great personal danger to himself. In the statewide elections of 1875 the supporters of the former Confederacy and white supremacy used intimidation and vote fraud to sweep back into office. Republican Governor Adelbert Ames for Federal troops to quell the violence but President Grant turned down the request. Ames formed his own state militia. One of his appointees was Newt Knight who was made colonel of the First Infantry Regiment of Jasper County.

But the tide had already turned against Republican rule in Mississippi, and Governor Ames was forced to resign. He lamented that blacks “are to be returned to a condition of serfdom — an era of second slavery.” Blacks could not vote freely in Mississippi again for nearly 100 years.

Newton Knight returned to his farm in Jasper County and brought Rachel with him. Eventually, Serena left him and he married Rachel who bore him several children. His marriage was considered a scandal but he seemed not to care, saying “There’s [sic] a lots of ways I’d ruther [sic] die than be scared to death.”

Newton Knight died on February 16, 1922 at the age of 85. Even in death he was defiant being buried next to his wife Rachel despite a state law forbidding the practice. Newt and Rachel’s descendents still reside in the Jones county area.

Newton Knight and the members of the Knight Company in the Free State of Jones never formally wrote a document of secession from Mississippi, at least none that was ever found. Yet, they always insisted that they were members of the Union Army and on several occasions sent members to meet with Union generals to ask for formal recognition. Knight petitioned the Federal government for years for an army pension but it was never granted.

To this day the police cars in Ellisville, Mississippi still bear the nickname “The Free State of Jones”.

Dissent in the South was not just confined to the Free State of Jones. In Winston County, Alabama a similar series of events occurred. The citizens there proclaimed the Free State of Winston and actually helped to form the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment. There were Unionists in North Carolina and other Southern states. Here’s an article about the Unionists in North Carolina. Just as there were pro-slavery elements in the border states and in the North their opposite numbers resided in the South.

If you would like to read more about this interesting part of the Civil War check out Victoria Bynum’s book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil WarThere is also a book by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the ConfederacyFinally, there is Rudy H. Leverett’s book The Legend of the Free State of Jones.



Missouri: The Civil War Inside

Missouri in the civil warThe state of Missouri and the border areas of Kansas were among the most hotly contended in the war. Pro- and anti-slavery groups had been fighting for supremacy starting in 1854. In fact, conflict over the Missouri Territory had begun in 1820 with the passage of the Missouri Compromise primarily for the regulation of slavery in the western territories.

While attempts at conciliation seemed to be prevalent in the Eastern Theater, events in the Trans-Mississippi Theater took a different tack. Missouri and her neighbors to the north and the south were the scenes of violent activity against the civilian populations.

The Missouri-Kansas border war of the 1850′s set the tone for this bloody activity. Free Soil Jayhawkers and pro-slavery Border Ruffians repeatedly clashed in a bloody proxy war that presaged the Civil War. John Brown and his sons were militant Jayhawkers who eventually took their campaign to the East and Harper’s Ferry.

Missouri was a Border slave state and had been a key state in the North-South seesaw battle before the war. At the onset of the war Missouri was deeply divided. The Missouri legislature called for a special convention to vote on secession. The convention voted decisively to remain with the Union but Pro-Southern Governor Claiborne F. Jackson had other ideas. He mobilized several hundred members of the state militia who had gathered in a camp in St. Louis for training.

Union General Nathaniel Lyon struck first, encircling the camp and forcing the state troops to surrender. Lyon directed his soldiers, largely non-English-speaking German immigrants, to march the prisoners through the streets, and they opened fire on the largely hostile crowds of civilians who gathered around them. Soldiers killed unarmed prisoners as well as men, women and children of St. Louis in the incident that became known as the “St. Louis Massacre“.

These events heightened Confederate support within the state yet Missouri never left the Union and 75% of Missourians who wore a uniform served in the Union Army or the Unionist State Militia. Despite this the Union Army treated Missouri as if it was enemy territory.

This attitude was due primarily to Nathaniel Lyon and Francis P. Blair Jr. Their uncompromising attitude almost immediately ignited a guerrilla war that was to last throughout the entire war.

After the St. Louis Massacre, Lyon declared war against Jackson and his pro-Southern Missouri State Guard. He chased them as far as Wilson’s Creek where he was killed in a fight where his forces were outnumbered 2-to-1. But by then he had been instrumental in keeping Missouri in the Union.

By then the die was cast. Missouri would be the scene of many bloody confrontations that were devoid of any semblance of gallantry or fairness. The pro-Southern Missourians formed companies of bushwackers that attacked Union troops at every opportunity and then disappeared into the general population.

Unable to strike back at their tormentors, Union authorities decided to make the civilian population pay for their attacks. Lyon gave orders that were similar to other Union commanders. He condemned pillaging and urged his men to respect private property. But when it came to active secessionists he was extremely harsh.

In the central Missouri district nicknamed “Little Dixie” Brig. Gen. John Pope appointed committees of public safety. At least two members were prominent secessionists. If the attacks did not stop, Pope said, “…I desire that you will give them plainly to understand that unless peace is preserved, their property will be immediately levied upon, and their contribution collected at once in any kind of property at hand.” Other Union commanders used the same techniques to tamp down support for the secessionists.

Though regular Confederate troops staged some large-scale raids into Missouri, the fighting in the state for the next three years consisted chiefly of guerrilla warfare. “Citizen soldiers” or insurgents such as Colonel William QuantrillFrank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers, and William T. Anderson made use of quick, small-unit tactics.

Meanwhile , Small remnants of the Missouri Guard remained in the state and fought isolated battles throughout the war. Price soon came under the command and control of the Confederates. In March 1862, any hopes for a new offensive in Missouri were dimmed in the Battle of Pea Ridge just south of the border in Arkansas. The Missouri State Guard was to stay largely intact as a unit through the war and was to suffer heavy casualties in Mississippi in the Battle of Iuka and Second Battle of Corinth.

Pioneered by the Missouri Partisan Rangers, such insurgencies also arose in portions of the Confederacy occupied by the Union during the Civil War. Recently historians have assessed the James brothers’ outlaw years as continuing guerrilla warfare after the official war was over.

In 1863 following the Lawrence Massacre in Kansas, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. accused farmers in rural Missouri of either instigating the attack or supporting it. He issued General Order No. 11 which forced the evacuation of all residents of rural areas of the four counties (Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon) south of the Missouri River on the Kansas border to leave their property, which was then burned.

The order applied to farmers regardless of loyalty, although those who could prove their loyalty to the Union could stay in designated towns and those who could not were exiled entirely. Most of the soldiers who carried out the order were Kansas volunteers, who regarded all Missourians as “rebels” to be punished, even though many residents of the four counties named in Ewing’s orders were pro-Union or neutralist in sentiment.

Animals and farm property were stolen or destroyed; houses, barns and outbuildings were burned to the ground. Some civilians were even summarily executed, a few as old as seventy years of age. Ewing’s four counties became a devastated “no man’s land,” with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble showing where homes and thriving communities had once stood, earning the sobriquet “The Burnt District.” There are very few remaining antebellum homes in this area due to the Order.

Ironically, Ewing’s order had the opposite military effect from what he intended: instead of eliminating the guerrillas, it gave them immediate and unlimited access to supplies. The Bushwhackers were able to help themselves to abandoned chickens, hogs and cattle, left behind when their owners were forced to flee. Smokehouses were sometimes found to contain hams and bacon, while barns often held feed for horses.

With the Confederacy clearly losing the war in 1864, Sterling Price reassembled his Missouri Guard and launched a last gasp offensive to take Missouri. However, Price was unable to repeat his 1861 victorious campaigns in the state. Striking in the southeastern portion of the state, Price moved north, and attempted to capture Fort Davidson but failed.

Next, Price sought to attack St. Louis but found it too heavily fortified and thus broke west in a parallel course with the Missouri River. This took him through the (relatively) friendly country of the “Boonslick”, which had provided a large percentage of the Missouri volunteers who had joined the CSA. Ironically, although Price had issued orders against pillage, many of the pro-Confederate civilians in this area (which would be known as “Little Dixie” after the war) suffered from looting and depredations at the hands of Price’s men.

The Federals attempted to retard Price’s advance through both minor and substantial skirmishing such as at Glasgow and Lexington. Price made his way to the extreme western portion of the state, taking part in a series of bitter battles at the Little Blue, Independence, and Byram’s Ford. His Missouri campaign culminated in the battle of Westport in which over 30,000 troops fought, leading to the defeat of the Southern army. The Missourians retreated through Kansas and Indian Territory into Arkansas, where they stayed for the remainder of the war.



Scientists begin restoring Confederate submarine, H.L. Hunley

Here’s a post from Associated Press with a report on how scientists are removing encrusted debris and rust from the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.

Confederate Submarine_Cham640.jpg

August 12, 2014: Conservator Lisa Nasanen uses a hose to wet down the hull of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, S.C. After the submarine sat in a chemical bath for more than three months to help loosen the encrustation, scientists on Tuesday began the laborious job of removing the built-up sediment by hand. The work is expected to take between eight months and a year and scientists hope that when the hull is revealed, it will provide the final clues as to why the hand-cranked sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship, sank off South Carolina in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

Scientists using small air-powered chisels and dental tools have begun the laborious job of removing the encrusted sand, sediment and rust from the hull of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship.

It will take about a year of painstaking work to reveal the hull of the hand-cranked sub for the first time in 150 years.

The hull may provide final clues as to why the Hunley sank off South Carolina in February 1864 after sending the Union blockade ship USS Housatonic to the bottom.

“We will probably be closer” to knowing why, said Stephanie Crette, the director of the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, of Clemson University’s Restoration Institute in North Charleston, a few miles from where the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Damage to the hull of the 40-foot sub might explain the sinking.

“We will have a better understanding of how it was built and what happened to it,” said Nestor Gonzalez-Pereyra, the center’s associate director.

The sub and its crew of eight set off a powder charge at the end of a spar sinking the Housatonic as the Confederacy tried to break a Union blockade of Charleston late in the war. The Hunley also sank.

The sub was discovered in 1995 and raised and brought to the lab in 2000. Later the silt-filled interior was excavated and the remains of the crewmen removed. They were buried in 2004 in Charleston in what has been called the last Confederate funeral.

Last year, scientists announced it appears the charge that sank the Housatonic was attached to a 16-foot spar at the front of the Hunley. They speculated that could mean the crew was knocked unconscious and the sub damaged by the shock wave from the explosion.

At the time the Hunley was raised, historians thought it was farther away from the Housatonic and speculated the crew ran out of air before they could crank back to the coast.

Since early May, the Hunley has been bathed in a solution of sodium hydroxide to loosen the encrustation coating the hull and interior. Now conservationists will work by hand on the sub for six hours a day, three days a week. They will work, sometimes in the cramped interior of the sub, wearing goggles, boots and gloves. When not working, the 76,000-gallon tank in which the Hunley sits will be refilled.

Plans call for the Hunley to eventually be displayed in a $40 million museum not far from the lab. The Hunley Commission agreed to establish a museum authority to oversee construction.

If you’d like to read more about the Hunley click here. There is fairly accurate reproduction of the H.L. Hunley in front of the Charleston Museum, America’s first museum.

If you would like to know more about the H.L. Hunley, here are some additional resources:

Friends of the Hunley, Charleston, South Carolina

The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy by Tom Chaffin

Secrets Of A Civil War Submarine: Solving The Mysteries Of The H. L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker


Virginia Divided and Occupied

Virginia in 1860The Commonwealth of Virginia was the Southern state that saw the majority of the fighting in the Eastern Theater. Many of its citizens and their property were subjected to the constant ebbs and flows of various armies. As an example the Shenandoah Valley was burned from end to end over the four years of the war.

What we’ll be looking at in this post is how Virginia came to be divided and then partially occupied by Union forces. It is not the purview of this post to discuss the numerous major battles on the soil of the Old Dominion. Those can be found at other places on this blog and would require a book-length presentation to do them justice. Rather we’ll first look at the creation of West Virginia and then the Union occupation of northern and eastern Virginia.

Virginia in 1860 was the most populous of the Southern states. With almost half a million enslaved people, it had the highest number of residents living in slavery. Virginia also had probably the most varied geography, the most diversified economy, and the third-largest land area of any slave state.

Not only was Virginia a Mid-Atlantic state but because of its long Ohio River border it was also a Mid-Western state. Virginia bordered on five slave states: Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, and two free states: Pennsylvania and Ohio. Thus, it would be a key state in any conflict between North and South.

By 1860 Virginia’s economy was different than the other Southern states. Industrialization was growing across the state. The once-vibrant plantation economy was no longer as widespread. Many slaves were either being sold south for use on cotton, rice or tobacco plantations or rented to industrial enterprises.

As the calls for secession increased there was no way to gauge the sentiment of Virginia citizens if a Republican presidential candidate who was opposed to slavery won the election in November that year. The mood in the mountains of western Virginia was primarily anti-secession while other parts of the state were ambivalent.

John Brown’s Raid on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in October 1859 inflamed public opinion in the state. Many Southern slave owners feared that other abolitionists would also incite an insurrection of enslaved people and spread violence and bloodshed throughout the South. Those in Virginia were no exception. 

The Presidential election of 1860 would set the stage for the secession and division of Virginia. Four candidates took part. Two were Democrats: Stephen Douglas of Illinois and John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. John Bell who ran under the banner of the Constitutional Union Party was from Tennessee. Finally, Abraham Lincoln was the nominee of the new Republican Party.

In Virginia, the presidential election of 1860 was the closest in history. Constitutional Union candidate John Bell very narrowly won the state’s fifteen electoral votes, in addition to those of Kentucky and Tennessee. He received 74,701 votes, as reported in the Richmond Daily Enquirer of December 24, 1860; John C. Breckinridge received 74,379; Stephen A. Douglas received 16,292; and Abraham Lincoln received 1,929. 

As a measure of the division throughout the country Lincoln was not even on the ballot in nine southern states. South Carolina had no popular vote nor did they cast any electoral votes.

On December 18, 1860, Senator John Jordan Crittenden, of Kentucky, introduced compromise proposals that he hoped would be agreeable to enough Northern and Southern leaders that the crisis could be ended peacefully and the Union preserved. The Senate tabled Crittenden’s proposals late in December 1860, and the House of Representatives never took a final vote on any of the elements of Crittenden’s plan.

Two days after Crittenden introduced his compromise South Carolina seceded from the Union. Within weeks six other states followed them out of the Union On January 19, 1861, the General Assembly of Virginia issued a call for a national peace conference to meet in Washington to seek a compromise to end the crisis. Their efforts were for naught for like the Crittenden proposals, the Peace Conference’s proposals were unacceptable to many leaders in both sections.

In mid-January 1861, the General Assembly of Virginia ordered an election of delegates to a convention to consider the question of secession. The Assembly asked voters to decide whether the convention, if it chose to secede, had to submit its decision to the voters for ratification or rejection in a popular referendum.

The convention that met in Richmond from February 13 through May 1, 1861, is known in Virginia’s history as the Secession Convention, but for its first two months it was a Union convention. Unlike state conventions in the lower South that met and speedily voted to secede, the Virginia convention remained in session for two and a half months and kept Virginia in the Union until mid-April 1861.

At the same time, the delegates attempted to enlist the other upper South slave states that also remained in the Union in finding a compromise that would allow the states that had seceded to return and restore the Union. The electorate voted to hold a popular referendum on the issue if the convention decided that Virginia should secede from the Union. Overall, about two-thirds of Virginia’s voters favored requiring the referendum, suggesting the relative weakness of secession sentiment in the state at that time.

The pro-secession editor of an Abingdon Democratic newspaper wrote, “the immediate secession candidates have been badly whipped—in fact, have been almost annihilated,—and the gentlemen representing the ‘wait-a-bit‘ ticket triumphantly elected.”

On April 4, 1861, when the question faced by the delegates was whether secession was wise or desirable, 63 delegates from west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where there were very few slaves, voted to remain a part of the United States while only 15 delegates voted for secession.

In the counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the vote was almost equally divided, with 30 delegates voting for secession and 27 voting against it. Most of the opponents of secession in this region resided in north-central Virginia and in and around the cities of Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, where slavery was relatively less important than elsewhere.

The stage was set for the division of the state. Following the firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for troops the convention met again and voted 88 to 55 to submit an ordinance of secession to the voters for ratification or rejection in a May referendum.

The Ordinance of Secession that the convention adopted on April 17, 1861, and that voters in the state ratified in a referendum conducted on May 23, 1861, repealed Virginia’s 1788 ratification of the Constitution of the United States and also repealed all of the General Assembly’s votes to ratify amendments to the Constitution.

The western Unionists returned home and called for a convention to meet in Wheeling in order to consider their next moves. They met during the summer of 1861 and voted to separate from Virginia. In August 1861, a third convention in Wheeling issued the call for election of a constitutional convention to create a new state consisting of western and northwestern counties of old Virginia. Initially called Kanawha and later called West Virginia, it was admitted to the Union as a free state in June 1863.

Over the next two years pieces of Virginia were captured and occupied by various Union armies. Fortress Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula always remained under the authority of the Federal government. Across from Fortress Monroe was the city of Norfolk and the Gosport Shipyard.

Almost immediately after Virginia seceded it was captured by Confederate forces. But President Lincoln realizing the importance of the naval base directed its recapture by Union troops. For the rest of the war Norfolk and the surrounding area was occupied and under martial law.

The war in the Shenandoah Valley was a constant ebb and flow of battle from north to south. As an example, the town of Winchester in the northern Valley was a strategic prize for both sides. Sitting just south of the Potomac River, Winchester lay on the only route between the east and western United States with direct connections to Washington, D.C. Passing through or nearby Winchester are major transportation and communications routes.

There were three major battles at Winchester in addition to its use as a Confederate base of operations for five major campaigns. It is claimed that Winchester changed hands as many as 72 times during the course of the war, and 13 times in one day. Battles raged all along Main Street at different points in the war. 

With barely 100 miles separating the two capital cities, Northern Virginia found itself in the center of much of the conflict. The Union army occupied large swathes of northern Virginia continually throughout the war. The city of Alexandria across the Potomac from Washington was occupied throughout the war. The Union Army used it as a base of operations to occupy a number of counties in the area.

Many of the early battles that were fought in the state were fought across the northern tier of counties stretching from Prince William County to Fairfax. In addition, much of the partisan activities carried out by both sides took place in this area.

Eventually, Union troops subdued the are and a hard border was established along the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers with the Union Army holding everything to the north. A number of significant battles were fought to the south of this line, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. In fact, it could be said that the inevitable defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia began in this area.








Brandy Station battle site is being restored

Brandy StationHere’s a post by Clint Schemmer of The Free Lance-Star on http://news.fredericksburg.com/ about how the Brandy Station battle site is being restored.  

History lovers, rejoice.

On Saturday, the Civil War Trust began restoring the most important scene of America’s largest cavalry battle, Fleetwood Hill near the village of Brandy Station in Culpeper County.

Spotsylvania County contractor J.K Wolfrey is removing a garage and brick ranch house—one of two modern dwellings—on the 56-acre property, said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the national nonprofit trust.

The strategic crest is where Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart made his headquarters before mounted Union troopers’ surprise attack on June 9, 1863. Charges and countercharges swept across Fleetwood Hill all that day as fighting swirled around the rail depot’s crossroads.

The battle is nationally important for opening Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign, and proving that the Union cavalry had become a fair match for Stuart’s renowned men.

“We are pleased that work has begun to restore Fleetwood Hill to its wartime appearance,” Campi said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “Our goal is to have a ribbon cutting to open interpretive trails next spring.”

Culpeper businessman Tony Troilo sold the land—centerpiece of the expansive Brandy Station battlefield—to the trust a year ago this month, and lived there until earlier this summer.

The trust will take down the tract’s modern structures: a large house atop the hill, a smaller ranch house, a detached garage, two in-ground pools and a pool house. Where possible, it worked closely with Troilo and others to re-use parts of the buildings, Campi said. For instance, a metal barn was removed for use by the local 4–H club.

Wolfrey will backfill the basements and pools and grade their sites to confirm with topography and, aided by old photos, match the hilltop’s historic contours.

The contractor, who has worked on trust sites on the Cedar Mountain, Wilderness and Petersburg battlefields, will remove most of the houses’ asphalt and concrete driveways. Ornamental landscaping will also go, though some trees will stay.

The trust will keep a paved area for visitor parking, and won’t touch a historic well.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a conservation easement on the property, approved the trust’s demolition plan.

The wartime landscape restoration is among the trust’s most ambitious 0f such projects, Campi said.

The site will be closed to the public during the demolition, which could take up to three months, depending on weather and other factors.

This spring, favorable conditions allowed a contractor to finish similar work at a postwar farmstead on the Fredericksburg area’s Slaughter Pen Farm battlefield well ahead of schedule.

Once the Fleetwood Hill project is finished, the trust will announce its plans for public access to the nationally significant historic site, Campi said.

It has begun developing a multi-stop interpretive walking trail to augment the trust’s educational spots elsewhere on the battlefield.

Longer term, more trees will be planted on Fleetwood so the crest better how it looked during the Civil War.

Other parts of the property will be farmed under a five-year agricultural lease.

In late 2012, the Civil War Trust announced it had a chance to buy the site. It succeeded last August after a $3.6 million fundraising campaign that drew private gifts and matching grants from the federal Civil War Land Acquisition Grant Program, administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, and Virginia’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Its partners included the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and the Brandy Station Foundation.

Beyond the purchase price, major donors gave money to help restore the hilltop’s wartime landscape.

You can read more about the Battle of Brandy Station here.


The Divided States of the South

Tennessee Union SoldierThe people of the Southern Confederacy were for the most part loyal to their secessionist government but there were significant Unionist minorities in each and every state. As the Union Army reoccupied portions of southern states the Unionist supporters made themselves evident both by joining the Union Army and participating in the civilian governments. These people are also referred to as Southern Loyalists, Union Loyalists, and Lincoln Loyalists.

From the very start of the Secession Crisis in 1860 most southern states had significant minorities of Unionists who were for the most part non-slaveholders. In fact, only about 26% of Southern families throughout the South owned slaves. The highest percentages, ranging from 34% to 49%, were in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.

Many Southern families had from one to four slaves while the number of those who held 100+ slaves numbered a mere 2,265. Most people were either yeoman farmers with few or no slaves or were engaged in trades or were merchants. For them slavery was not a part of their lives. Most of the pro-Union South came from this group.

A little known fact is that the Union Army raised regiments of both white and African-Americans in every state of the Southern Confederacy. Most of these units were second-rate due to a lack of training and experience but they did free more experienced units for combat.

The term Southern Unionist, and its variations, incorporate a spectrum of beliefs and actions. Some, such as Texas governor Sam Houston, were vocal in their support of Southern interests, but believed that those interests could best be maintained by remaining in the Union as it existed.

Some Unionists opposed secession, but afterwards either actively served and fought with the Confederate armies, or supported the Confederacy in other ways. Others refused to fight, went North or stayed North to enlist in the Union Armies, or fought informally as partisans in the South. Some remained in the South and tried to stay neutral. 

Many southern soldiers remained loyal when their states seceded; 40% of Virginian officers in the United States military, for example, stayed with the Union. During the war, many Southern Unionists went North and joined the Union armies.

Others joined when Union armies entered their hometowns in Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere. Over 100,000 Southern Unionists served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and every Southern state, except South Carolina, raised at least a battalion of white soldiers. South Carolina did raise five regiments of African-Americans.

A study of Southern Unionists in Alabama who continued to support the Union during the war found that they were typically “old fashioned” or “Jackson” conservative Democrats, or former Whigs, who viewed the federal government as worthy of defending because it had provided economic and political security.

They saw secession as dangerous, illegitimate, and contrary to the intentions of the Founding Fathers, and believed that the Confederacy could not improve on the United States government.

The desire for security was a motivation for Unionist slaveholders, who feared that secession would cause a conflict that would result in the loss of their slaves; however, some stated that they would rather give up slavery than dissolve the union.

The Southern ideals of honor, family, and duty were as important to Unionists as to their pro-secession neighbors. They believed, however, that rebelling against the United States, which many of their ancestors had fought for in 1776 and 1812, was the unmanly and dishonorable act.

Southern Unionists were extensively used as anti-guerrilla forces and as occupation troops in areas of the Confederacy occupied by the UnionUlysses S. Grant noted “We had many regiments of brave and loyal men who volunteered under great difficulty from the twelve million belonging to the South.”

Over the next several weeks we’ll be taking a look at the divided states of the South and the impact this had on the war.


Partisan Warfare in Tennessee

John Hunt Morgan's RaidersTennessee was extremely divided over slavery and secession. This became quite apparent during the secession crisis of early 1861 when it became clear that the secession of Tennessee from the Union might be a problem for the pro-secession faction led by Governor Isham G. Harris.

Governor Harris was determined to take Tennessee out of the Union and called on the state legislature to pass a bill for a convention to vote on the question of secession. He was opposed by a number of prominent East Tennessee politicians, including Senator Andrew Johnson (later Vice President and President) and newspaper editor William G. Brownlow. In Unionist East Tennessee eighty-one percent of the vote was against the convention proposal; statewide it was rejected 68,282 to 59,449.

However, the governor was not to be denied and he continued to push for secession. After the firing on Fort Sumter he called for another vote to take place on June 8. The East Tennesseans met in Knoxville on May 30 in a convention of their own to discuss their options. Twenty-six counties (469 delegates) were represented.

Although seventy percent of East Tennesseans voted against secession on June 8, the section as a whole represented only forty percent of the state’s total ballots; when the final tally was made the secession ordinance had been carried by a majority of 108,399 to 47,233.

The East Tennesseans met once again in Knoxville and drew up a petition asking the governor to allow them to withdraw from Confederate Tennessee. It was summarily rejected by Governor Harris at first tried to avoid an outright confrontation with the East Tennessee Unionists. His main concern was the the vital East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, which united Virginia with the lower South and ran through the Unionist region of the state.

Meanwhile, First District Congressman Thomas R. Nelson called for “military companies to be raised in every county.” William Brownlow would later claim that as early as July 1861 there were ten thousand East Tennesseans under arms, ready to defend the Union.

There were growing signs of outright opposition to the Confederate government. In June 1861 the Scott County Court met in special session and drew up its own secession ordinance. It proclaimed itself the “Free and Independent State of Scott” and sent the document to Nashville. The court admitted that it had no legal basis to secede from Tennessee, but countered that the state did not have the right to secede from the Union. A similar incident occurred in Washington County, where the residents of the Fifth Civil District “seceded” and established “Bricker’s Republic.” 

Tennessee joined the Confederacy on July 22nd and soon after Union men began to slip through the mountain passes north into Kentucky where they enlisted in the Union Army. One Confederate cavalry officer reported from the Upper Cumberland:

“There can be no doubt that large parties, numbering from twenty to a hundred, are everyday passing through- the narrow and unfrequented gaps of the mountains into Kentucky to join the army. My courier just in from Jamestown says that 170 men from Roane County passed through there the night before . . .”

In his memoirs, Secretary of State Cordell Hull (who was born in that part of Fentress County which would later become Pickett County) wrote:

I remember old soldiers telling me that everybody of military capability was expected to go to war. It really did not make so much difference which side he fought. He had the privilege of selecting his own side, but he could not lie around the community, shirking and dodging. He had to go out and fight.

Many of the Unionist politicians and leaders were able to escape to safety but Congressman Thomas Nelson was captured seeking to slip through Cumberland Gap and Third District Congressman G. W. Bridges was apprehended just north of Jamestown.

By the winter of 1862 five regiments of infantry had been organized at Camp Dick Robinson. By the end of the war thirty-one regiments (comprised of 31,092 men) had been organized from the state of Tennessee and mustered into the Federal army. Thirteen of these were “all-Tennessean” outfits.

Most of the military units composed of men from the Cumberland Plateau Region were generally regarded as second-rate troops because of a lack of discipline and were utilized mainly as garrison soldiers in South Central Kentucky or around the Cumberland Gap area, although some of the cavalry regiments were quite active and effective. Many infantry units saw a great deal of service in the latter part of the war both with Champ FergusonGenerals Ambrose Burnside and William T. Sherman. 

Although there were no major battles between regular troops fought on the Cumberland Plateau, an exceedingly active form of guerrilla warfare was carried on by irregular partisan bands during 1862-63. As early as January 1862 the Confederacy had authorized these organizations, justifying them as “citizens of the Confederacy who had taken up arms to defend their homes and families,” and by mid-September eight states had added such units to their military forces.

The Federal government, however, refused to endorse them because of their tendency to become bands of mounted outlaws who accomplished nothing other than to terrorize innocent civilians. This was particularly true on the Cumberland Plateau, which became the battleground of the two most famous — or infamous guerrilla outfits, that of Confederate Champ Ferguson and Unionist “Tinker” Dave Beatty.

There were several other bands of these men —mounted on horses, they ranged through the mountains sniping at each other but rarely fighting stand-up engagements —but none which gained the reputation which was acquired by these two men. Local history still relates many stories about the exploits of Ferguson and Beatty and their war in the Cumberlands.

Champ Ferguson was a native Kentuckian who was born in Clinton County on the Tennessee border on November 29, 1821. In the 1850′s, Ferguson moved with his wife and family to the Calfkiller River Valley in White County, Tennessee. Ferguson had a nasty reputation for violence even before the war. In 1858, he led a group of men who tied Sheriff James Read of Fentress County, Tennessee to a tree. Ferguson then rode his horse around the tree, hacking at Read repeatedly with a sword until he was dead.

Early in the war, Ferguson organized a guerrilla company and began attacking any civilians he believed supported the Union. His men did cooperate with Confederate military units led by Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler when they were in the area, and some evidence indicates that Morgan commissioned him as a captain of partisan rangers.

Nevertheless, Ferguson’s men were seldom subject to military discipline and often violated the normal rules of warfare. There are stories of Ferguson’s alleged sadism, including tales that he on occasion would decapitate his prisoners and roll their heads down hillsides and was willing to kill elderly and bedridden men. He was once arrested by the Confederate authorities and charged with murdering a government official and was imprisoned for two months in Wytheville, Virginia, but it could not be proven and he was finally released.

At the war’s end, Ferguson disbanded his men and returned home to his farm. As soon as the Union troops knew he was back, they arrested him and took him to Nashville, where he was tried for 53 murders. Ferguson’s trial attracted national attention and soon became a major media event. One of Ferguson’s main adversaries on the Union side, “Tinker Dave” Beaty testified against him.

Ferguson acknowledged his band had killed many of the victims named and said he had killed over 100 men himself. Nevertheless, he insisted it was only part of his duty as a soldier. The number of wounded men and prisoners his guerrillas killed after the Battle of Saltville is a matter of dispute.

The victims were members of the all-black 5th United States Colored Cavalry and their white officers. Ferguson and his men were charged with murdering the wounded in their hospital beds, and only the arrival of Thomas’ Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders had prevented their complete slaughter. As soon as he learned that regular Confederates had arrived, Ferguson had led his men away.

On October 10, 1865, Champ was found guilty and sentenced to hang. An unrepentant Rebel to the end he made this statement to the court: 

I am yet and will die a Rebel … I killed a good many men, of course, but I never killed a man who I did not know was seeking my life. … I had always heard that the Federals would not take me prisoner, but would shoot me down wherever they found me. That is what made me kill more than I otherwise would have done. I repeat that I die a Rebel out and out, and my last request is that my body be removed to White County, Tennessee, and be buried in good Rebel soil.

He was hanged on October 20, 1865, and was one of only two men to be tried, convicted and executed for war crimes during the Civil War (the other being Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia). His body was buried in the France Cemetery on Highway 84 north of Sparta, White County, Tennessee.

Tinker Dave Beaty“Tinker Dave” Beaty was a somewhat reluctant partisan. “Tinker Dave” was born in Poplar Cove in 1823 and lived there until his death in 1883. At the start of the war he was content to stay at home with his family. Beaty was visited by several Confederates early in 1862 who warned him that he either had to take sides or leave the area. Instead he chose to form his own unit, Beaty’s Independent Scouts.

It was apparently never mustered into the regular U.S. Service, but Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside authorized it to act as scouts, and operate in the regions of Overton and Fentress Counties in combating Confederate guerrillas. Captain Beaty stated his men never drew any pay, but were supplied with arms and ammunition by the Federal authorities.

Various records and testimony by contemporary witnesses claim that Beaty’s unit had anywhere from 23 to 100 men during its years of service to the Union cause. His men were all mounted. He had no camp, no wagons, tents, or camp equipage, but stayed were he could best conceal his men.

Being so well acquainted with the county, knowing every road and path, it was almost impossible to catch him. If he was seriously menaced, he retired to the mountains. At all times, Beaty had out scouts and pickets; he never permitted himself to be surprised. Whenever an opportunity was presented, he pounced upon a party of Rebels or guerillas, cutting them to pieces, capturing arms, ammunition, and provisions for his scouts. Becoming the perfect terror to his enemies there is no question that he was a guerrilla warfare expert of considerable ability.




‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson and his Missouri Bushwhackers

Bloody Bill AndersonNo account of the Civil War in Missouri would be complete without an account of the life of ‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson. He actions as a guerrilla and bushwhacker in Kansas and Missouri are legendary.

William T. Anderson was born in Kentucky in 1840 and moved with his family to Missouri as a child. As a teenager he moved with his family across the border to Kansas. It was during this time that the conflict known as ‘Bleeding Kansas’ was taking place and the Andersons were on the pro-slavery side. Anderson became a horse trader in 1860 but soon turned to horse stealing, reselling them as far away as New Mexico.

In late 1861, Anderson traveled south with brother Jim and Judge A.I. Baker, in an apparent attempt to join the Confederate Army. But they soon ran into Union cavalry in Vernon County, Missouri. They fled back to Kansas but one of their number was captured and imprisoned for four months under the suspicion that the group members were Confederate guerrillas.

Anderson’s father was killed by Judge A.I. Baker in a legal dispute in May 1862. Anderson vowed revenge and eventually killed Baker by locking him in the basement of his store and burning the building down. He then fled to Missouri with his brother Jim robbing travelers along the way.

In Missouri, the Andersons soon joined Quantrill’s Raiders early in 1863 having supported themselves by robbing people and stealing horses throughout the latter part of 1862.

Missouri had a large Union presence throughout the Civil War, but also many civilians whose sympathies lay with the Confederacy. From July 1861 until the end of the war, the state suffered up to 25,000 deaths from guerrilla warfare, more than any other state. Confederate General Sterling Price failed to gain control of Missouri in his 1861 offensive and retreated into Arkansas, leaving only the guerrillas to challenge Union dominance.

The most active guerrilla band was led by William Quantrill who operated in the Jackson County area. Anderson participated in a raid near Council Grove, Kansas with Quantrill’s Raiders. After robbing a store 15 miles from the town they were pursued by the United States Marshal and a large posse. They split into smaller groups and made their way back into Missouri and safety.

This early raid might have given Quantrill and his lieutenants the idea of raids deeper into Kansas. The border was poorly defended and the raiders could travel deep into the state before Union defenders were alerted to their presence.

In early summer 1863, Anderson was made a lieutenant, serving in a unit led by George M. Todd. In June and July, Anderson took part in several raids that killed Union soldiers, in Westport, Kansas and Lafayette County, Missouri. The first reference to Anderson in Official Records of the American Civil War concerns his activities at this time, describing him as the captain who commanded 30–40 men guerrillas. 

By late July, Anderson led groups of guerrillas on raids, and was often pursued by Union volunteer cavalry. Anderson was under Quantrill’s command, but independently organized some attacks.

Quantrill’s Raiders had a support network in Missouri, that provided them with numerous hiding places. Anderson’s sisters aided the guerrillas by gathering information inside Union territory. In August 1863, however, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr., attempted to thwart the guerrillas by arresting their female relatives, and Anderson’s sisters were confined in a three-story building on Grand Avenue in Kansas City with a number of other girls. While they were confined, the building collapsed, killing one of Anderson’s sisters. 

In the aftermath, rumors that the building had been intentionally sabotaged by Union soldiers spread quickly. Anderson was convinced that it had been a deliberate act. Biographer Larry Wood wrote that Anderson’s motivation shifted after the death of his sister, arguing that killing then became his focus—and an enjoyable act. 

The collapse of the Grand Avenue Jail became the impetus for Quantrill’s raid on the town of Lawrence, Kansas. On August 21, 1863 Quantrill’s Raiders attacked the town and began a slaughter that would become known as the Lawrence Massacre.

The raiders immediately killed a number of Union Army recruits. They proceeded to pillage and burn many buildings, killing almost every man they found, but taking care not to shoot women. Anderson was reported to have personally killed 14 people. Although some men begged him to spare them, he persisted, but he relented when a woman pleaded with him not to torch her house. 

The group under Anderson’s command, notably including Archie Clement and Frank James, killed more than any of the other group. They left town at 9 a.m., after a company of Union soldiers approached the town. The raiding party was pursued by Union forces, but eventually managed to break contact with the soldiers and scatter into the Missouri woods. 

In all, Quantrill’s men killed 182 men and boys, many in front of their families. They burned some 185 buildings in Lawrence. The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events in the whole history of Kansas. The Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence survived the attack, but a number of its members were killed and records destroyed.

General Thomas Ewing reacted to the massacre by issuing General Order No. 11. It called for the forced evacuation that evicted almost 20,000 people from four Missouri counties and burned many of their homes. The four Missouri counties became a devastated “no man’s land,” with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble showing where homes and thriving communities had once stood, earning the sobriquet “The Burnt District.”

After the Lawrence Massacre, Quantrill’s Raiders decided to move further south into Texas but before they left the area they attacked Fort Blair, Kansas. Many of the raiders were wearing Union uniforms that they had pillaged from warehouses in Lawrence.

Fort Blair was garrisoned by 90 Union soldiers who were able to hold off the raiders. But during the attack a larger group of Union soldiers approached the fort. Thinking that the raiders were their fellow Unionists, they were ambushed by Quantrill’s men, losing 100 of their number.

 Anderson and his men were in the rear of the charge, but gathered a large amount of plunder from the dead soldiers, irritating some guerrillas from the front line of the charge. Not satisfied with the number killed, Anderson and Todd wished to attack the fort again, but Quantrill considered another attack too risky. He angered Anderson by ordering his forces to withdraw.

While in Texas, Anderson married a woman who worked in a saloon in Sherman, Texas. Anderson separated his men from Quantrill’s larger group but eventually the tension between the two men eased. Most of Quantrill’s men eventually joined the regular Confederate Army but he retained 84 men and reunited with Anderson.

After one of Anderson’s men was shot to death by Quantrill for stealing, Anderson reported him to General Samuel Cooper who had Quantrill arrested. Quantrill soon escaped and was pursued by Anderson who was unable to recapture him. Anderson was commissioned a captain and after several months returned to Missouri.

Anderson led his band on numerous raids both in Missouri and into Kansas. As his raids increased so too did his group of guerrillas. It was during this time that Jesse James joined his brother Frank as a member of Anderson’s command. General Clinton B. Fisk ordered his men to find and kill Anderson, but they were thwarted by Anderson’s support network and his forces’ superior training and arms.

Throughout most of 1864 and into 1865, Anderson and his raiders conducted a reign of terror against Union targets in Missouri. The Union authorities sent a force of 100 well-trained soldiers and 650 militia after the guerrillas. The two sides had a number of engagements. By August 1864 Anderson’s men were regularly scalping the men that they killed.

On September 27, 1864, Anderson led his 75-man band into Centralia, Kansas where they looted the town, a stagecoach and a train. They slaughtered captured Union soldiers, executing them in cold blood. The guerrillas set the passenger train on fire and derailed an approaching freight train. Anderson’s band then rode back to their camp, taking a large amount of looted goods.

They were pursued by the 39th Missouri Volunteer Infantry but after a pitched battle routed them. Anderson’s men killed 125 soldiers in the battle and 22 from the train in one of the most decisive guerrilla victories of the Civil War. It was Anderson’s greatest victory, surpassing Lawrence and Baxter Springs in brutality and the number of casualties.

In a response to the Centralia raid, Union troops began a relentless pursuit of Anderson’s raiders. Eventually they evaded their pursuers and William T. Anderson in deatharrived in Boonville, Missouri where he met with Confederate General Sterling Price who ordered him to travel to the Missouri railroad and disrupt rail traffic. Anderson ignored Price’s orders and continued to loot and pillage Union strongholds.

The Union Army assigned Lieutenant Colonel Samuel P. Cox to kill Anderson, providing him with a group of experienced soldiers. Soon after
Anderson left Glasgow, a local woman saw him and told Cox of his presence. 

On October 26, 1864, he pursued Anderson’s group with 150 men and engaged them in battle. Anderson and his men charged the Union forces, killing five or six of them, but turned back under heavy fire. Only Anderson and one other man continued to charge after the others retreated. Anderson was hit by a bullet behind an ear, likely killing him instantly. Four other guerrillas were killed in the attack. The victory made a hero of Cox and led to his promotion.

Union soldiers identified Anderson by a letter found in his pocket and paraded his body through the streets of Richmond, Missouri. The corpse was photographed and displayed at a local courthouse for public viewing, along with Anderson’s possessions. Union soldiers claimed that Anderson was found with a string that had 53 knots, symbolizing each person he had killed.