J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Battle of Glorieta Pass

One hundred and fifty years ago, a unique battle took place during the Civil War that set it apart from the rest, because it took place out west. The Battle of Glorieta Pass took place inNew Mexico, which at that time, had not yet become a state. The battle was dubbed “theGettysburgof the West.”

In 1862, Confederate forces organized southern portions ofArizonaandNew Mexicoterritories. They intended to capture gold and silver mines inColoradoterritory andCalifornia, and seize control ofCaliforniaports.

Unionand Confederate forces clashed at Apache Junction, and fighting was intense throughout the first day of the battle on March 26. Reinforcements for both sides arrived the following day, and on March 28, Federal forces attacked the Confederates, comprised primarily of Texans.New MexicoandColoradoinfantry units managed to attack and destroy Confederate supply trains, which forced the Rebels to retreat further south. The battle was the turning point in the war in the New Mexican territory.

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Cotton Boll Angels

Last Saturday, the ladies of Varina Howell Davis Chapter 2559 United Daughters of the Confederacy got together to create “cotton boll angels.” These cute little Christmas ornaments will be donated by our chapter to Beauvoir as a fundraiser.

Beauvoir is located on the gulf coast in Biloxi, Mississippi. The historic home was once the place where Confederate President Jefferson Davis spent his final years after the Civil War. He wrote his memoirs there, and was surely inspired by the “beautiful view,” which is what Beauvoir means in French. However, the property was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, numerous organizations have contributed to rebuilding and restoring the premises.

The UDC ladies made cotton boll angels last year, and all of the ornaments donated were immediately sold. If you get a chance to visit historic Beauvoir, make sure to purchase an angel to benefit the Presidential Residence.

We Need More Mystery Donations

Recently, a large sum of money was donated to the Franklin battle site in Franklin, Tennessee. The site includes 112 acres of protected land that was established in 2005. More land is being purchased for $1.85 million. The key property is located on Highway 31, and will protect it from being used for housing developments. 

The anonymous donor generously pledged to give $250,000, and the Civil War Trust will match the amount if local preservationists can raise $500,000 by May 1. The preservationists don’t know the identity of the donor, but do know that she is a woman. They are excited for the opportunity to hold a fundraising campaign to save the battlefield.

The Battle of Franklin took place on November 30, 1864, and was a Confederate loss. General John Bell Hood confronted Union General John M. Schofield. Two weeks later, Hood’s army was demolished at the Battle of Nashville.

For more information, or to make a donation, please visit www.franklinscharge.com

Don’t Swipe That Sword!

Many vacant homes have fallen victim to vandals who steal copper to pawn. Old statues are no exception, regardless of their historic significance. Thieves recently stole a sword from a statue at the burial site of none other than Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president is buried at the Lincoln Tomb Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois, along with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons. It was designated as a national historic site in 1960.

Last November, some culprit stole a sword that had previously been attached to the statue of a Civil War artillery officer. Authorities apprehended the offender, who turned out to be a 16-year-old boy. The sword was returned to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency once it was recovered.

The sculpture was designed by Larkin Mead. It is believed to be the first theft from the tomb since the same sword was stolen over 100 years ago.

Civil War Land Saved

The Civil War Trust recently made an announcement during a news conference at historic Belle Grove Plantation. Its latest campaign is to raise $1.8 million for battlefield restoration. Specifically, two areas on the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Frederick County,Virginia will be targeted. The properties are located at opposite ends of the battlefield.

One of the areas includes 12.5 acres at the Vermont Monument site, where an early morning Confederate attack surprised the Federals. Outnumbered by 10 to 1, Union soldiers met the Rebel advance and held their ground for half an hour. The 8th Vermont lost 110 of its 164 men.

The other area encompasses 64.5 acres located at Rienzi’s Knoll, where Union General Philip Sheridan arrived after riding his horse, Rienzi, thirteen miles, just in time to save the day. The ride was later immortalized in a poem, and Rienzi was renamed Winchester.

The battle took place on October 19, 1864. It was a decisive victory for the Union, and clinched Abraham Lincoln’s reelection.

For more info, visit: www.civilwar.org/campaign 150

The Sultana

A special exhibit is on display in Marion, Arkansas through March 25. It tells the story of the Sultana, which was America’s greatest maritime tragedy. The riverboat exploded and burned on the Mississippi River just north of Memphis early on the morning of April 27, 1865. Over laden with paroled Union soldiers released from Andersonville and Cahaba prisons, the steamship was designed to carry only 376 passengers, but over 2400 were loaded on. About 1800 perished, which was 200 more than the number of souls who were lost in the sinking of the Titanic. 

 

Marion is the closest in proximity to where the Sultana now lies, several feet below the surface in a local farmer’s field. Mound City was the last place the Sultana stopped before it headed northward, but the town doesn’t exist any longer. Local citizens went out on boats and pulled as many survivors out of the cold, rushing waters of Old Man River as they could, but after twelve hours, no more survivors were found, including the ship’s captain, J.C. Mason.

 

The exhibit sheds light on the tragedy, displays artifacts that survived, and features a short film telling the story of that fateful night. Many paintings depicting the tragedy are on display as well. It is the hope that if the exhibit attracts enough people, the town of Marion will invest in a permanent museum. On Sunday, several reeanctors and historians were on hand to discuss the Sultana.

Lottie and Ginnie Moon

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     During the American Civil War, two sisters went above and beyond the call of duty to prove their allegiance to the Confederate cause, and their daring adventures become legendary. Although they worked individually, together they became two of the South’s most notorious spies. The girls were both born in Virginia, but when they were young, their father, a physician, moved the family to Oxford, Ohio. (Their home is on the National Register of Historic Places.) Both girls were popular and had many suitors. Charlotte, the oldest, who was known as “Lottie,” became engaged to none other than Ambrose Burnside. Legend has it that she was a runaway bride who jilted him at the altar. She eventually married Jim Clark, who became a Common Pleas judge.

     At the onset of the Civil War, Lottie was 31, and her younger sister, Virginia, or “Ginnie” as she was referred to, was 16. When their father’s died, their mother, Cynthia, enrolled Ginnie in school at the Oxford Female College. However, the school was pro-abolitionist, and Ginnie did not share the same sentiment. She asked the school president to allow her to move to Tennessee to be with her mother, but the president refused. In retaliation, Ginnie shot out every star on the U.S. flag that flew over the college grounds. She was immediately expelled, so she traveled to Memphis to stay with Cynthia. The two wrapped bandages and nursed wounded soldiers, and after Memphis fell in June 1862, Ginnie passed through enemy lines, sneaking supplies and information while pretending to meet a beau.

     Judge Price became involved with the Knights of the Golden Circle, an underground Confederate network, and received secret messages from the organization. When he received a dispatch requesting that a message be delivered to Kentucky, Lottie volunteered for the job, thus embarking on her career of espionage. Disguising herself as an old Irish woman, she took a boat from Ohio to Lexington, met Colonel Thomas Scott, and gave him the papers to deliver to General Kirby Smith. She then returned to Oxford by train, but not before using her acting talents by tearfully convincing a Union general to ensure her passage north. Once she got a taste of the excitement of intelligence life, she delivered more messages. This got the attention of Confederate sympathizers in Canada, who invited her to Toronto. They set her up with forged papers, giving her claim as a British subject, and sent her back to the states. She traveled to Washington, supposedly met Secretary of War Stanton, and bluffed her way into Virginia by telling Union officials she needed to travel there for health reasons.

    Meanwhile, Ginnie continued her work in Memphis, and in 1863, while she was in Jackson, Mississippi, she learned that valuable information needed to be dispatched to the Knights of the Golden Circle in Ohio. She volunteered and took her mother along, convincing her that they would be safe because they had relatives there. Union officials were now wise to women posing as Confederate spies, and Ginnie was no exception. (See propaganda cartoon below.) She and her mother arrived in Ohio un-detained, and received the necessary paperwork and supplies. They boarded a boat to return south, but one of the commanders became suspicious, so he ordered that the two be searched. Ginnie’s reaction was documented in her memoirs:

“There was a slit in my skirt and in my petticoat I had a Colt revolver. I put my hand in and took it out, backed to the door and leveled it at him across the washstand. ‘If you make a move to touch me, I’ll kill you, so help me God!’”

     The captain backed down long enough for Ginnie to withdraw the secret message she had hidden in her bosom, immerse it in water, and swallow it. She and her mother where then taken to the provost marshal’s office, where Union officials searched the two ladies’ trunks. Inside one they discovered a heavy quilt, so they ripped it open and found that it was filled with medicine. A Federal officer supposedly pushed Ginnie’s hoop skirts aside so that he could close the door, and saw that her skirts were also quilted. A housekeeper was ordered to search their belongings. “Forty bottles of morphine, seven pounds of opium, and a quantity of camphor” were discovered in her skirts, on her person, and inside a giant bustle attached to the back of her dress. The two women were promptly taken to a hotel and placed on house arrest. Ginnie protested, and insisted that she see her sister’s previous beau, General Ambrose Burnside. The general had recently been assigned as new commander of the Union Department of the Ohio in Cincinnati, and was busy prosecuting Confederate sympathizers. An order he issued stated that anyone who displayed Confederate leanings would be tried for treason, and anyone caught helping the Rebels would be hung. Ginnie’s request was granted the following day, and when Burnside saw her, he reportedly held out both hands.

      “My child,” he said, “what have you done this for?”

     “Done what?” Ginnie asked.

     “Tried to go South without coming to me for a pass,” he replied. “They wouldn’t have dared stop you.”

     Learning of her family’s quandary, Lottie set out to rescue them. Disguising herself as an English invalid, she confronted Burnside, who discovered her true identity and placed her under house arrest as well. The three women remained captive for several months. Ginnie was required to report to General Hurlburt at ten o’clock every morning, but apparently, this wasn’t enough to deter her spying activities, because after three months, she was commanded to leave Union territory and stay out. Eventually, all charges were dropped.

     After the war, Lottie went back to Ohio to become one of America’s first female journalists, and traveled all over the world to cover stories. Ginnie returned to Memphis, but her restless nature got the best of her, so she traveled around the country, and eventually ended up in Hollywood. She landed bit parts in two movies: “The Spanish Dancer” and “Robin Hood” in the 1920’s. From there, she went to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she lived until her death at age 81.

 

Emma Sansom

On occasion, women became heroines of the Confederate cause purely by accident. Such is the case of Emma Sansom.

Born on June 2, 1847, Emma was a beautiful girl, tall and elegant, with large, deep blue eyes, auburn hair, and a fair complexion. In 1852, she moved with her family from Georgia to Gadsden, Alabama. Six years later, her father died, but the family managed to maintain their farm. Once the Civil War commenced, Emma’s brother, Rufus, enlisted with the 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment while she, her mother, and an older sister maintained the farm.

Emma had just returned from shopping one sunny morning, when suddenly, she heard the sound of approaching men and horses. Still standing in the yard, holding the reins, she watched as hundreds of Union soldiers arrived.

            “We were home on the morning of May 2, 1863, when a company of men wearing blue uniforms and riding mules and horses galloped past the house and went on towards the bridge. Pretty soon a great crowd of them came along and some of them stopped at the gate and asked for some water. One of them asked me where my father was and I told him he was dead.

            ‘Do you have any brothers?’ asked the Yankee soldier.

            ‘I have, sir,’ I said.

            ‘Where are they?’

            ‘In the Confederate army,’ I told him.

            ‘Do you think the South will whip us?’

            ‘They do!’

            ‘What do you think?’

            ‘I think we will win because God is on our side,’ I said.

            ‘I think God is on the side with the best artillery,’ said the soldier.”

            Emma stubbornly held onto her horse’s reins until another soldier snatched them away from her. Still, the women refused to panic. The soldiers searched their house for guns and saddles. Discovering Rufus, who was home recuperating from a wound he had received, they took him prisoner. The Yankees proceeded to nearby Black Creek, which was swollen from recent heavy rains, and torched the wooden bridge. The women were standing on the front porch, grieving Rufus, when Nathan Bedford Forrest appeared.

“Can you tell me where I can get across this damn creek?” he asked.

Fifteen-year-old Emma told him that the bridge had been burned, and that there wasn’t another one for two miles. She informed him of a ford two hundred yards away where she had seen cattle cross in low water, and where he and his men could likely cross, despite the raging current. Emma offered to escort him if one of his men would saddle a horse for her.

Forrest replied, “There is no time to saddle a horse; get up here behind me.”

Taking her hand, he pulled her up behind him on his steed, and assured her mother that he would return Emma safely. The duo rode down to the riverbank, but came under enemy fire, so they rode into the foliage and dismounted. Finding the spot she had referred to, they emerged from the cover of trees, and were once again fired upon.

            Emma placed herself in front of Forrest. “General,” she said, “stand behind me. They will not dare to shoot me.”

            Forrest, being the gallant cavalier that he was, refused. “I’m glad to have you for a pilot, but I’m not going to make breastworks of you.”

            He left her under cover behind the roots of a fallen tree. Crawling on his hands and knees, he looked back behind him, and saw that she had followed. With some consternation, he confronted her about going against his wishes.

            “Yes, General,” she said, “but I was fearful that you might be wounded; and it’s my purpose to be near you.”

            Defiantly, she waved her bonnet in the air. The Union soldiers on the other side realized they had been shooting at a female, so they immediately dropped their weapons and gave three cheers. Emma started for home, but soon came upon General Forrest again. He told her that one of his men, who had been killed, was laid out in her house, and requested that her family bury him in a nearby graveyard. After asking that she send him a lock of her hair, he rode off to later become victorious in the campaigning. By bluffing the Yankees into believing his troops were larger in number, he succeeded in capturing Colonel Abel Streight’s Union forces. He also returned Emma’s brother to her.

Emma could have faced severe retribution for aiding General Forrest. She escaped from her close call unscathed, except for a few bullet holes that had passed through her skirt. “They have only wounded my crinoline,” she casually remarked.

            Forrest was so grateful for Emma’s heroic gesture that he gave her a note of thanks:

Hed Quaters in Sadle

May 2 1863

My highest regardes to miss Emma Sansom for hir Gallant conduct while my posse was skirmishing with the Federals across Black Creek near Gadsden Allabama.

N. B. Forrest

Brig Genl Comding N. Ala

      After the war, the State of Alabama awarded Emma with a gold medal, and awarded her a section of public land “as a testimony of the high appreciation of her services by the people of Alabama.” She married in 1864, moved with her husband to Texas, and had five sons and two daughters. Emma died on August 9, 1900, and is buried in Little Mound Cemetery, twelve miles west of Gilmer, Texas. Her legacy lives on in a poem written by John Trotwood Moore. A monument in Gadsden, Alabama was erected by the UDC in her honor, and a school there is named after her.

Loreta Janeta Valazquez – Fact or Fiction?

A spy … a civilian pretending to be a soldier …a widow four times

All of these phrases describe one of the most fascinating, thrill-seeking characters of the Civil War. Because she was a woman, Loreta Janeta Valezquez was able to fool her contemporaries while supporting the Confederate cause she so adamantly believed in.

 Born to a wealthy Cuban family on June 26, 1842, her mother was French-American, and her father, a Spanish government official, owned plantations in Mexico and Cuba, but developed a strong hatred for the U.S. government when he lost an inherited ranch in the Mexican War. In 1849, Loreta was sent to stay with an aunt in New Orleans, where she was taught English and French in addition to her native Spanish at Catholic schools. Her idol was Joan of Arc, and she wished to become just like her. When Loreta was only fourteen, she met a handsome Texas army officer named William, but because her parents opposed their union, they eloped in 1856. The newlyweds traveled around to various army posts until, four years later, when Loreta was eighteen, they were in St. Louis, mourning the deaths of their three children. When the Civil War broke out, she insisted that her husband join the Confederacy, and begged to join with him, but he disallowed it, so she simply waited for him to leave. She disguised herself in one of two uniforms she had tailored in Memphis, donned a wig and fake moustache, bound her breasts, and padded the sleeves of her uniform, transforming into Harry T. Buford. Self-appointing herself as a lieutenant, she fooled fellow officers and soldiers by walking with a masculine gait, perfecting the art of spitting, and smoking cigars. She immediately went to Arkansas, and in four days raised a battalion, the Arkansas Grays, consisting of 236 men. She then sent them to her husband in Pensacola, Florida, where she turned them over to his command. William’s astonishment was short-lived, however, because a few days later, he was accidentally killed while showing his troops how to use their weapons.

The bereaved Loreta turned his battalion over to a friend, and soon after, searched for military adventure on the front, finding it at the First Battle of Manassas, where she observed poor frightened souls around her. “The supreme moment of my life had arrived, and all the glorious aspirations of my romantic girlhood were on the point of realization. I was elated beyond measure, although cool-headed enough … Fear was a word I did not know the meaning of; and as I noted the ashy faces, and the trembling limbs of some of the men about me, I almost wished that I could feel a little fear, if only for the sake of sympathizing with the poor devils.”

Soon, Loreta grew weary of camp life, so she borrowed a dress from a local farmer’s wife and made her way to Washington, D.C., where she was recruited as a Confederate spy. She claimed to have met Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. When she returned to the South, she was rewarded for her services by being assigned to detective duty. Apparently, espionage didn’t offer enough excitement for her either, so she put on her disguise and traveled to Tennessee, where she fought in the siege of Fort Donelson until its surrender. Wounded in the foot, she escaped detection by fleeing to New Orleans, but was arrested while in uniform for suspicion of being a Union spy and impersonating a man. Once she was released, she enlisted again to escape the city, and immediately went back up to Tennessee. There, she found the battalion she had raised in Arkansas, so she joined them in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. After the battle, she was wounded by a stray shell while she was on burial duty. Unfortunately, a doctor discovered her. Fleeing back down to New Orleans, she was there when Union General Benjamin F. Butler took control of the city in May 1862. Because she thought too many people were now aware of her true identity, she put away her uniform and traveled to Richmond, Virginia.

Upon her arrival, she was recruited as a Confederate spy, and traveled all over the country, crossing enemy lines while she wore both male and female disguises to traffic information, drugs, and counterfeit bills to the South. She married Confederate Captain Thomas DeCaulp, but he soon died at a Chattanooga hospital. Traveling back up north, she was hired by Union officials to search for “the woman … traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent,” or in other words, to search for herself. During that time, she attempted to organize a rebellion of Confederate prisoners in Ohio and Indiana, and helped to win the war of Costintin in 1864.

After the Civil War ended, she traveled around Europe and the South. Loreta married a third time. She and her husband, known only as Major Wasson, went to Venezuela as United States immigrants. He died in Caracus, so Loreta returned to America, this time going out west. She stopped in Salt Lake City long enough to give birth to a boy, and met Brigham Young. Nearly penniless, she traveled to Omaha, and charmed General W. S. Harney into giving her blankets and a revolver. Two days after she arrived to a mining town in Nevada, a sixty-year-old man proposed to her, but she refused. Supposedly, she married a fourth time, but the name of this younger man is unknown.

It wasn’t long before she was off again. “With my baby boy in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping, perhaps, but scarcely expecting, to find opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California.” Her money was dwindling, so in 1876, she wrote a book of her memoirs to support her child. Most of what is known about Loreta was written in her 600-page book, The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Valazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Upon its publication, General Jubal Early denounced it as pure fiction, but modern scholars have found some parts to be accurate. In 2007, the History Channel ran a special entitled Full Metal Corset, and verified some of the incidents described in the book, but there are still many facts in question.

Loreta is last documented as living in Nevada. She never took any of her four husband’s names. After 1880, there is no further record of her life, including where or how she died, presumably in1897.

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