J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

A National Day of Fast

On this date in 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed a national day of “Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.” Aware of what was in store for his beloved country, Davis asked for the fast so that people could have the opportunity to reflect on the circumstances at hand.

Ulysses S. Grant, a relatively unknown Union general, had won significant battles at Fort Henry on February 8 and Fort Donelson on February 18. This was a daunting situation for the South, because the loss of the two forts signified loss of control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, thus allowing the Yankees to attack the Confederacy’s interior. Nashville had been lost to Federal invasion on February 23, which was also alarming to the Confederacy.

Davis’ proclamation for a day of prayer was significant for a time when this country was deeply rooted in Christian ideals and beliefs. Every event that occurred during the Civil War was attributed to God’s will. Davis had previously proclaimed a national day of fasting on June 13, 1861, and would request ten more during the course of the war, asking Southern citizens to attend church and fervently pray for the preservation of the South.

Advertisements

Civil War Gun Show

Last weekend, the Southaven, Mississippi Arena hosted its annual Civil War Gun Show. The event attracted several hundred people, as well as dozens of vendors. Many Civil War buffs came out to see displays of guns, artifacts, collectors items, and artwork, as well as old books and new authors selling their titles.

The local Sons of Confederate Veterans Samuel Hughey Camp was represented during the weekend. It was a great opportunity to see unique historical artifacts and meet Civil War enthusiasts. We even had a chance to vote for the re-instigation of Colonel Reb as mascot of Ole Miss!

Black Confederates (Pt. 2 – Too Little Too Late)

On February 20, 1865, the Confederate Congress authorized the recruitment of slaves into the army. Well, as we all know, the war ended only months later, but this leaves a haunting question. If Jefferson Davis had authorized the use of slaves, could the Confederacy have won the Civil War?

Timeless questions arise as to the reasoning behind such actions. During the War Between the States, many military maneuvers were still very new. Trench warfare orininated during the Civil War, as did the use of machine guns, hand granades, and land mines. Submarines were newly invented, as were iron ships. The Civil War was the first time that troops were transported by way of railroads.

So what took the Rebels so long to realize that they were going to lose the war if they didn’t instigate the use of slaves? At that time, 3/4 of the Southern population was black. If the South had promised freedom for slaves who fought for the Cause, perhaps the outcome would have been very different. Because insurrection by slaves had taken place only a few years previously in Virginia, it was probably enough to scare authorities into thinking that, should they enlist slaves, the blacks might turn against their masters. But the black Confederates who enlisted didn’t do as predicted. They fought nobly, and with honor. It’s only a wonder why there weren’t more of them.

Black Confederates

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it appropriate to talk about the part African-Americans played during the Civil War. Everyone knows that President Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. What they likely don’t know is that he had no intention to free slaves in northern states, or states that he had jurisdiction in. In fact, in his home state of Illinois, freed slaves were disallowed, and Lincoln did nothing to reverse the fact.

On February 20, 1865, Conferate Congress authorized the arming of slaves. As we all know, it was too little too late, and the Confederacy crumbled months later.

During the War Between the States, the Union army enlisted black soldiers. However, most of those poor guys were forced to hard labor, and didn’t engage in battles. By the war’s end, African Americans constituted less that one percent of the U.S. population, yet made up 10 percent of the Union army. Altogether, 180,000 black men enlisted, which was more than 85 percent of those eligible.

On the Confederate side, General Patrick Cleburne advocated enlisting slaves to fight for the cause in return for their freedom. But after he was killed in 1864, the idea fizzled until it was again raised in November 1864 by President Jefferson Davis. The Confederate Congress authorized enlisting 300,000 black soldiers in March 1865, but the war ended the following month. Speculation arises that if the war had ended sooner, Lincoln probably would not have signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. The Confederacy missed the opportunity to tap into their largest source of manpower, and were thus so outnumbered that they were doomed to fail.

Sherman’s Path of Destruction

On this date in 1865, Union forces under General William Tecumseh Sherman continued their march of devastation, reaching Columbia, South Carolina. Because it was the first state to secede from the Union, soldiers felt a deep-seated vengeance, so they burned the city to the ground. The previous winter, they had gone through Alabama and on to Georgia, burning Atlanta and capturing Savannah before Christmas. The rampaging soldiers’ path spanned 60 miles wide. They burned, pillaged, and destroyed everything in their path. Their behavior was explained away by Sherman as waging “total war” against the enemy.

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

Sherman was a serious racist, and although the Union supported emancipation, most soldiers didn’t. This was proven during the march, when Sherman ordered his men to destroy a bridge, leaving behind freed slaves who had followed them. The freedmen were so distraught over being left behind that many jumped into the river, and because they couldn’t swim, hundreds drowned.

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

Sherman’s soldiers would continue north, tying up with General Ulysses S. Grant’s men as they laid siege on Petersburg. By early April, they would take the Confederate capital of Richmond as well, and force General Robert E. Lee to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia.

Birth of a President

This country’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 12, 1809 in Kentucky. Oddly enough, his birthplace was only a few miles from that of the Confederacy’s first president, Jefferson Davis. When Lincoln was very young, his family moved to Indiana. His mother died when he was only 9, but not from a mysterious vampire monster. She actually succumbed to what was known as milk sickness.

“Honest Abe” learned how to read by firelight, and advanced from a lowly country bumpkin to a lawyer to a congressman. When he was elected president in 1860, he was the first man to run on the Republican ticket. He won with only a plurality of the popular vote, but 183 in the electoral vote. Because of threats on his life, he had to be smuggled into Washington. His wit and humor must have been tested repeatedly, for not only did his country split in two, but he suffered many personal losses as well.

President Lincoln received much criticism during his presidency, especially and understandably from Southerners, but his untimely murder made many sad. It’s interesting to speculate whether Reconstruction would have gone more smoothly and wouldn’t have lasted as long if Lincoln had survived. Over the course of time, he has become a matyr for Emancipation, and has become almost a saint to most. His birthday is celebrated in conjunction every year with our first president and founding father, George Washington.

Lincoln has been the subject of thousands of books, movies, articles, and other media outlets. Recently, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator was released, which told the story of Lincoln’s assassins, especially Mary Surratt. Two big movies are planned for release this year. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln will be released this fall, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter will come out this summer.

Hail to the Chief

On this date in 1861, Jefferson Davis was chosen as the Confederacy’s new president. This was a momentous occasion for a country divided in controversy, seated on the edge of turmultous tragedy. Davis was reluctant to accept the job, since he deeply loved his country, but in the end, he accepted the position, which stipulated that his presidency would last for six years.

Ironically, Davis, like so many public officials of his time, illuded to the horrors to come in his acceptance speech. He took his oath of office at the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. During the ceremony, the president arrived in a black lacquered coach drawn by six white horses, and to those watching, it probably seemed like a fairy tale, surreal in the respect that the South quite possibly could become its own nation. President Davis was sworn in to serve a six-year term of office, but of course, the Confederacy didn’t survive long enough for that vision to be realized.

This event is discussed indepth in my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, which is due out this spring. The book will be available at all retail outlets and through Amazon.

Age Old Debate

On this date in 1863, Secretary of State William Seward rejected France’s offer to mediate peace and end the War Between the States. Needless to say, because of his decision, millions more died, and some of the worst battles fought on American soil took place. Some of those battles still hold records today in the number of casualties they claimed.

This brings us to that familiar old adage: What would have happened if the South had won the Civil War? There have been numerous books written on the subject, as well as ongoing blogs and discussions. One thing is for certain, however. If the war had ended at the onset of 1863, millions of American men would have kept their lives.

Seward was criticized for his decision, and despised by some because of it. An accomplice of John Wilkes Booth, Lewis Powell, nearly killed Seward at the same time that Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, Seward was criticized by the press for purchasing Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, calling it “Seward’s Folly.” He got the last laugh though, when gold was discovered five years later, in 1872.

Juliet Opie Hopkins “Florence Nightingale of the South”

Juliet Opie Hopkins was a pioneer in the advancement of women at a time when most were overlooked for supervisory positions. Her extraordinary abilities awarded her the position of leadership and power that didn’t exist anywhere else.

 

She was born on May 7, 1818 at her family’s Woodburn Plantation in Jefferson County, Virginia. Her father owned around 2,000 slaves, which established him in elite society. During her childhood, she was home-schooled, and was sent to Miss Ritchie’s private school in Richmond when she reached adolescence. When she was sixteen, however, her mother died, so she left school to return home, where she helped manage Woodburn.

 

In 1837, Juliet married Commodore Alexander Gordon of the United States Navy. However, Gordon died in 1849, leaving her a young widow. She remarried in 1854, to a widower who was twenty-four years her senior. Arthur Hopkins was a lawyer and prominent businessman who had served as a United States senator and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. They adopted a niece, and considered her to be their daughter.

 

When the War Between the States broke out, Juliet sold her estates in New York, Virginia, and Alabama. She donated the money to the Confederacy for the establishment of hospitals. The Confederate military system dictated that each state was responsible for the care of its own patients.

 

In June 1861, she moved to Richmond and began organizing money and supplies that were sent from Alabama. In August, she set up a hospital for Alabama’s soldiers, and by November, had established a larger second hospital as well. During the November session, the Alabama legislature assumed responsibility for supporting the hospitals and appointed Juliet as chief matron. In the spring of 1862, she established a third hospital, and received the help of 92 women’s auxiliary groups in Alabama who made clothing and collected supplies.

 

During the Battle of Seven Pines, on June 1, 1862, she was shot twice in the leg while attempting to rescue wounded men from the battlefield. Her injuries required surgery and left her with a permanent limp.

 

Although her husband was technically named State Hospital Agent, she was the one in charge. Regardless of her tremendous responsibilities, Juliet found time to personally care for soldiers by writing letters, making furlough requests, providing books, and keeping a thorough list of the deceased. She even collected hair samples from the dead to send to their families, which was common practice at the time.

 

A nurse in the Third Alabama Hospital, Fannie Beers, wrote about her:

 

“I have never seen a woman better fitted for such work. Energetic, tireless, systematic, loving profoundly the cause and its defenders, she neglected no detail of business or other thing that should afford aid or comfort to the sick and wounded. She kept up a voluminous correspondence, made in person every purchase for her charges, received and accounted for hundreds of boxes sent from Alabama containing clothing and delicacies for the sick and visited the wards of the hospitals every day. If she found any duty neglected by nurse or surgeon or hospital steward, her personal reprimand was certain and very severe. She could not nurse the sick or wounded personally, for her whole time was necessarily devoted to executive duties, but her smile was the sweetest, I believe, that ever lit up a human face, and standing by the bedside of some poor Alabamian, away from home and wretched as well as sick, she must have seemed to him like an angel visitant.”

 

In March 1863, the Confederate Medical Department assumed control over all hospitals. Many patients were sent to larger facilities, which prompted the closure of 35 units, including two of Juliet’s hospitals. The third hospital was closed in October, so she moved back to Alabama. Finding supplies scarce, she had the carpets in her Mobile home cut up and used for blankets. She continued her work in Tuskagee and Montgomery hospitals. When the state was invaded in April 1865, she and her husband fled to Georgia. After the war ended, they returned to Mobile, and her humanitarian efforts became more well-known, making her a living legend.

 

Judge Hopkins died later that year, so Juliet left Alabama to live on property she still owned in New York City. Because she and her husband had lost most of their wealth, she lived the rest of her life in relative poverty. She died on March 9, 1890 while visiting her daughter in Washington D.C. Scores of veterans attended her funeral, including Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and Joseph E. Johnston, as well as Union General John Schofield. Members of the Alabama congressional delegation served as pallbearers. She was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in the same gravesite as her son-in-law, Union General Romeyn Beck Ayers. In 1987, a marker was finally placed on her grave.

 

It is estimated that Juliet donated between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Southern cause. She was so revered by her peers that her picture was printed on Alabama Confederate paper currency 25-cent pieces and $50 bills. She is a member of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

Post Navigation