J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Hurricane Revisited

On the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, another hurricane, Isaac, is storming onto the gulf shore and zeroing in on New Orleans. What was predicted to be a 100-year occurrence happened way too soon. Fortunately, the storm isn’t playing out to be as severe as Katrina was.

Some relevant Civil War sites that could be in danger include Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi. When Katrina hit, the main house withstood the storm, but many outbuildings and gardens washed away.

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There are several significant sites in New Orleans, including the Beauregard-Keys house, located at 1113 Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Another important structure related to the War Between the States is located at 1134 First Street in the Garden District. It was once owned by Judge Charles Fenner, who was a friend of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. On December 6, 1889, while visiting Judge Fenner, Davis passed away in his home.

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Regardless of the historical treasures that are threatened, many families who endured severe hardship seven years ago are faced with the same dilemma. Please pray for their safety and deliverance during this crucial weekend.

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Battle of 2nd Manassas

From August 28-30, 1862, the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place in Prince William County, Virginia.The battle between General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops and General Pope’s Union forces resulted in a Confederate victory.

The first day of battle ended in a stalemate, and the second day nearly ended the same way, until C.S.A. General Longstreet’s army arrived to support Jackson. When Pope renewed his attack on August 30, Longstreet retaliated by sending his 28,000 Confederates to counterattack. It was the largest simultaneous mass attack of the war. The Yankees were driven back, and the battle nearly ended in a repeat of the 1861 battle, when the Union army literally ran back to Washington.

Last month marked the 151st anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). Since this year is the sesquicentennial of the Battle of 2nd Manassas, events were slated and took place earlier this week.

Mascots and the War Between the States

We all know the important role that horses and mules played in the Civil War. They were essential to the mobility of armies. They pulled artillery caissons, carried officers, served as couriers, and of course, transported the cavalry. But besides equines, many other animals served in the War Between the States as well.

Soldiers were attached to their pets, and some brought along dogs, cats, and various domesticated livestock to the war front. They adopted squirrels, bears, birds, raccoons, and other wildlife as company mascots. Some unusual mascots included a badger, a camel, and a bald eagle known as “Old Abe,” which represented the 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. General Lee kept a hen that dutifully laid an egg for him every morning.

Many of these special animals are immortalized in statuesque form, including General Lee’s horse, Traveller, General Grant’s Cincinnati, and General Stonewall Jackson’s Little Sorrel. Dogs are honored, too, including Sallie, mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania. Her likeness is carved in bronze on the regimental monument at Gettysburg. There are many other famous canines that accompanied their masters to the battlefield … and to their death. A few are even buried there. These include Jack, with the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Old Harvey with the 104th Ohio, and Major with the 19th Maine.

Excerpt From A Beautiful Glittering Lie

As promised, I am posting another excerpt from my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. You can purchase copies via my website, www.jdrhawkins.com, through Amazon, or from Barnes and Noble. Thanks for reading!

By mid-July, the Union Army finally began to move, and on Thursday, the 18th, the Alabamians received orders to strike tents and cook two days’ rations in preparation of a march. The sick, who were principally suffering from the measles, were left behind in Winchester.

While the men marched through town, women, old men, and children came out to see them, calling, “Please don’t leave us to the Yankees!”

The foot soldiers set off, marching throughout the day and all night, until they were finally allowed to sleep, but only for two hours. At daylight, they resumed their march, continuing on through the day, from the Shenandoah through Ashby’s Gap across the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their uniforms were beginning to show signs of wear, in that shoes and wool coats had sprouted holes, kepis, forage caps, and Egyptian-style havelocks were beginning to fray, and rations were becoming sparse.

Storm clouds mushroomed, thickening to a dark gray by dusk, and obscured the setting sun. Around 10:30 p.m., the Confederate soldiers arrived at Piedmont Station in a miserable, torrential downpour. They sloshed through mud while trying to keep their gunpowder dry. Completely exhausted, the men struggled to obtain what little rest they could under their temporary shelters, which failed to provide much remedy from the rain. At midnight, they took a train to Manassas Junction, arriving at approximately 9:00 a.m. on the morning of the 20th.

The men marched about two miles north of the junction before being allowed to bivouac near what they learned was referred to as Ball’s Ford. They rested in their temporary camp for a few hours prior to assuming their position, defending the stone bridge that spanned a creek known as the Bull Run River. It was along this road that the enemy was expected to come. Shortly after sunrise on July 21, a Sunday, the distant boom of cannons announced their foe’s arrival.

It wasn’t long before the Yankees came into view: their appearance seemed surreal. The men of the 4th   Alabama were confronted with the entire advancing Union Army. As they neared, the regiments on either side of the North Alabamians fell away. Colonel Jones ordered his men to hold fast while he had them march up a hill to a low fence surrounding a corn field.

General Bee galloped over to the regiment and commanded them by calling out, “Up, Alabamians!”

The men rushed over the fence, and advanced at a double quick to the top of the hill. Colonel Jones ordered them to lie down just below the crest, to fire, load, and fire again. The Federals became entrenched only about 100 yards from where they were.

Struggling with their obsolete weapons, the soldiers bit off cartridges and loaded their muskets as rapidly as they could. All the while, Colonel Jones sat calmly atop Old Battalion with one leg draped across the pommel of his saddle, observing the enemy’s movements. Upon his command, the North Alabamians rose, delivered a volley, and after waiting for his signal, fell back upon the cool, damp earth. They were spread from the corn field on their right to a pine woodlot on their left. The men fought on for over an hour with only artillery to support them.

Glancing at his comrades, Hiram took a moment to catch his breath. The situation at hand was dangerous, yet dreamlike. He had envisioned this moment for months, and had discussed it with his fellow comrades. Still, the realization that it was actually taking place was difficult to comprehend. His heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was in his throat. He glanced at Bud, whose face was blackened from powder. Obviously concentrating with all his might, Bud continued to jump to his feet, fire, and fall down again while grimacing. Men around them fell with thuds like acorns from oak trees. Bullets whizzed all around them, sounding like angry wasps. Some whistled and ricocheted, haphazardly hitting and missing men as they screamed, moaned, and cursed the wretched Yankees.

One man who thought he could fire better if he remained standing, bragged to the men close to Bud, “Watch how nicely I can take that officer off his horse.”

Just as he took aim with his rifle, a Yankee bullet penetrated his skull. He fell in a heap, his brains splattered onto the field. Bud glanced at Hiram, shook his head in dismay, and kept firing like nothing had happened. Stunned, Hiram forced himself to shake it off, continuing to fight as well.

For some reason, the Union Army ceased firing at noon. Bracing themselves for another attack, the Rebels utilized the time to check their firearms. Word came that artillery was running low, which caused a slight panic, but Jones assured his men that they could win the battle before their ammunition ran out.

After two hours of quiet, the Yankees resumed their assault, and the Confederates fought off several Union advances. Men in colorful garb fashioned after French Algerian Zouaves attacked first, but were driven back. Then came, one at a time, three other regiments, but all eventually broke and ran. Their uniforms caused confusion, for men on either side were dressed in both blue and gray, including Colonel Jones, who wore the blue uniform he had donned while previously serving in the U.S. Army.

The men spied two unknown regiments clad in gray, approaching in a line on their right. Assuming they were Confederates, the Alabamians signaled by raising their hands to their caps while giving the password, “our homes,” and the unknown regiment signaled back by mirroring the action. Law ordered his soldiers to form a line behind the new arrivals. As soon as the 4th unfurled their flags, they were quickly surprised when the culprits turned and opened fire on them. Several men were shot, screaming in agony while the deceivers perpetrated their lines. Others reacted by bursting into hysterical laughter, contrary to what the situation demanded.

The 4th Alabama was finally flanked. As the regiment was commanded to retire, James Alexander fell, a bullet piercing his abdomen, sending his entrails splattering. Bud witnessed his terrible injury, but was unable to assist, and although in shock, he retreated with his regiment in a tornado of chaos. Old Battalion was hit in the leg, forcing Colonel Jones to dismount. In a hail of bullets, he too was hit in both thighs, and crumbled to the ground with a broken left leg. Law immediately took command, managing to retire his troops, but was compelled to leave Jones on the field because Union soldiers had forded Bull Run River. Major Scott went down, shot through the leg. Law fell next, his arm broken by a Yankee’s bullet, and was quickly taken from the field. The remaining Alabamians now had no one to guide them, and stood befuddled in mass confusion while men writhed around them on the ground, bloody and dying, as smoke and thunder filled the air.

Hiram and his comrades fell back through a skirt of woods, descended a hill, and formed a line, trying to regroup, regardless of the humid, withering heat, their parched thirst, and the horror that engulfed them.

Captain Tracy delivered a patriotic speech, saying, “Strike for the green graves of your sires. Strike for your altars and fires, God and your native land.”

He then asked for volunteers to retrieve Jones, but was convinced by another captain that the effort was futile. At a loss, the regiment awaited orders, watching survivors from other divisions scatter or huddle together in a nearby ravine.

Generals Johnston and Beauregard arrived on their right.

Johnston asked, “Where are your field officers?”

“They’ve been left on the battlefield,” came a response.

Another man asked the general to place the regiment in position, to which Johnston replied that he would, once he analyzed the situation, and the generals rode off.

It was now two o’clock. All of a sudden, General Bee rode up on his steed, excitably waving his sword.

“What body of troops is this?” he hollered at them.

“Why General, don’t you know your own troops? We’re what remains of the Fourth Alabama!” Enoch Campbell exclaimed.

The general appeared calm but perturbed. “This is all of my brigade I can find,” he stated to the soldiers. “Will you follow me back to where the firin’ is goin’ on?”

“Aye, sir!” yelled Hiram, at first not recognizing his own voice.

“To the death!” added George Anderson.

Bee immediately set the men into action, leading them forward into the fray. On the other side of the ravine awaited a brigade of Virginians commanded by General Thomas Jackson, who sat stoically upon his steed.

General Bee brought him to the men’s attention, and said, “Let us go and support Jackson! See he stands like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!”

As the regiment moved left, an artillery battery cut through their ranks. Bee and his army veered right, while the rest of the regiment moved forward into the woods.

Mayhem prevailed. The men were unable to distinguish friend from foe. Forced to fall back, they retired in a hurricane of bullets to await further orders. Hiram and Bud trailed behind, and as they retreated, Hiram overheard Bee address Jackson.

“General, they’re pushin’ us back!”

Jackson replied calmly, his blue eyes barely visible from beneath his forage cap, “Well, sir, we shall give them the bayonet.”

General Bee ordered his men to retreat to a nearby hill. The Rebels fell behind it, and fortified the hill. Suddenly, the field began to grow quiet, except for the frantic wails of injured soldiers. To the Alabamians relief, the Federals were retreating. With one hand, Hiram withdrew his pocket watch, and wiped sweat from his brow with the other. Clicking the timepiece open, he saw that it was nearly five o’clock. The battle had gone on for seven hours.

151st Anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek

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Friday marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, or Oak Hills, as the Yankees called it. The battle was fought between Brig. General Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West and the Union army’s Brig. General Benjamin McCulloch. Over the course of the day, the Confederates attacked Union forces three times, but were unable to break through their line. The Confederates withdrew, but the Union army was low on ammunition and manpower, so they retreated. Because it was one of the first battles in the war, the Confederates were ill-equipped and disorganized, so they failed to pursue. They did, however, claim victory, and were able to secure Southwestern Missouri for the Confederacy. This was the first battle in which an officer was killed, that being General Nathaniel Lyon.

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On Friday, August 10, the National Park Service is allowing free admission into the battlefield. Many exciting events are scheduled, including special tours, demonstrations, and access into the historic Ray House, which sets on the national battlefield. This weekend, August 10-12, artillery and infantry demonstrations will be held, as well as special tours and programs. Members of the Sons and Daughters of Confederate and Union Veterans will also be on hand to discuss their ancestors’ participation.

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Virginians Have All the Fun

It’s times like these I wish I lived in Virginia. Sure, Mississippi is nice (and hot!) in the summer, and there are lots of Civil War events slated for next month. But the place to be right now for Civil War action is in Virginia.

Some reenactments that have recently transpired include a depiction of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry riding around McClellan, which took place in June. How much fun that must have been! Last weekend was the 150th Battle of 2nd Manassas/Bull Run in Middletown, Virginia. With the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States in full swing, there are plenty more events coming up.

Tomorrow will be the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County. August 17-19 is the reenactment of the Battle of Saltville, as well as a Civil War show in Richmond. The weekend of August 24 will be the 150th Second Manassas Anniversary Event, and the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Kettle Run at Bristoe Station Battlefield Park. At nearby Sharpsburg, Maryland, the 150th Battle of Antietam-Sharpsburg is scheduled to take place the weekend of September 14-16. And the 148th Battle of Cedar Creek is slated for October 20-21 in Middletown, Virginia.

The daddy of them all will be the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. I strongly recommend reserving your hotel room now. (I went online to reserve one yesterday and they were all sold out in Gettysburg and Hanover, and half were sold out in York.)

Famous Horses of the Civil War

Recently, I had the privilege of giving a Civil War presentation of my choosing. Since I am an avid horse lover, and my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, is about the Confederate cavalry, I decided to speak about famous Civil War horses. The most famous equines are listed below.

Traveller (Gen. Robert E. Lee) – As a colt, he won 1st prize at a fair in Lewisburg, VA. First named “Jeff Davis” by his owner, Major Thomas Broun, who paid $175 in gold for him, General Lee always referred to him as “my colt.” Lee obtained Traveller in the spring of 1862, purchased him for $200 in currency and changed his name, and the two were seen together almost daily. Lee owned other horses: “Grace Darling,” “Brown Roan,” “Lucy Long,” “Ajax,” and “Richmond,” but all became unserviceable. He was astride Traveller when he rode to the McLean house at Appomattox Court House, and Traveller lived with General Lee at Washington and Lee University after the war. At Lee’s funeral, Traveller marched behind the hearse, his step slow and his head bowed as if he understood the importance of the occasion.

King Philip (Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest) – This horse charged and snapped his teeth at anyone wearing blue. After the war, King Philip chased off Yankees visiting General Forrest, and while pulling a wagon, went after policemen wearing blue uniforms. One of Forrest’s men noted, “Your negroes fight for you and your horses fight for you.” King Philip died later in 1865 from colic and is depicted at Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. General Forrest also owned “Roderick” and “Highlander,” who was shot in the carotid at Chattanooga. Forrest plugged the hole with his finger until after battle, whereby the horse dropped dead. The general claimed that he killed 30 Yankees, and had 29 horses shot out from under him. He is quoted as saying after the war, “I was one horse ahead.”

Cincinnati (Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant) – After the Battle of Chattanooga in 1863, General Grant went to St. Louis, where a man offered to sell him his horse if he promised to take good care of it. Grant accepted, renamed the stallion, and kept him until the horse died in 1878. Cincinnati was the son of Lexington, the fastest four-mile thoroughbred in the U.S., and nearly equaled the speed of his half-brother, Kentucky. Grant was offered $10,000 in gold for him but refused. This fact is profound since Grant was near poverty before he wrote his memoirs. General Grant only permitted two others to ride Cincinnati: President Lincoln and Admiral Daniel Ammen, who had saved his life from drowning when he was a boy. Grant was a horse lover who got along better with horses than he did people and originally wanted to be in the cavalry but was declined. Other horses he owned included Jack, who was with him until after the battle of Chattanooga and which Grant used for special occasions and parades. Grant donated him to the Sanitary Fair in Chicago in 1863-64 where the horse was raffled off and brought $4000 to Sanitary Commission. Grant rode “Fox” at Shiloh, “Kangaroo” at Vicksburg, and also owned “Egypt” and “Jeff Davis,” which in 1864, was captured from Joe Davis’ plantation (Jefferson’s brother).

Daniel Webster (Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan) – This horse was called “that Devil Dan” because of his speed. McClellan owned the horse from 1862 until after the war, and the animal died at age 23. McClellan said of his beloved steed, “No soldier ever had a better horse than I had in Daniel Webster.” The general, who invented the McClellan saddle, also owned “Black Burns” and “Kentuck.”

Highfly (Maj. Gen. JEB Stuart) –In the summer of 1862, Stuart was stretched out on a bench on the porch of a tavern waiting for General Fitzhugh Lee to arrive, but the Yankees arrived first. Stuart narrowly escaped on Highfly, but his hat with the long ostrich plume was captured. General Stuart also owned Virginia, a warm-blooded mare who saved Stuart from capture when he invaded Pennsylvania by leaping over a wide gulley and escaping capture.

Old Sorrel (Gen. Stonewall Jackson) – This mare was also known as “Little Sorrel” because she was so small that when Jackson was mounted, his feet almost touched the ground. He obtained her on May 1, 1861 while in command of the garrison at Harper’s Ferry when a train with supplies for Union troops was captured. She was then thought to be 11 years old. In 1884, Old Sorrel appeared at a state fair in Hagerstown, Maryland, where almost all her mane and tail hair was plucked out by souvenir hunters. When she died, she was stuffed, and is now at the Solder’s Home in Richmond.

Winchester (Gen. Philip Sheridan) – Originally named “Rienzi,” he was given to then Colonel Sheridan in the spring of 1862 while Sheridan was stationed at Rienzi, Mississippi, but the horse’s name wasn’t changed until after Sheridan’s famous ride to Winchester in the Battle of Cedar Creek on Oct. 19, 1864. Winchester was so revered that when he died, he was stuffed and given to the Smithsonian Institution. Sheridan also owned “Alderbaron” prior to Winchester.

Baldy (Brig. Gen.George Meade) – The horse was with him at 1st Bull Run (wounded twice) and Antietam, where he was left for dead but later discovered grazing with a deep wound in his neck. He was also at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, where he received a bullet lodged between his ribs. Meade kept him with the army until the following spring, then sent him to pasture in Pennsylvania. After the war, Meade retrieved his charger, fully recovered, and the two became inseparable. Baldy followed Meade’s hearse, lived 10 more years, and upon his death, his head and two fore hoofs were mounted and are now cherished relics of the George G. Meade Post, Grand Army of the Republic in Philadelphia.

Lexington (Gen. William T. Sherman) – This horse was a Kentucky thoroughbred who attracted admiration due to his fine form. Sherman was astride Lexington when he entered Atlanta, and following the war in 1865, rode him in final Grand Review in Washington. Sherman also owned Sam, a half-thoroughbred bay that made one of the longest and most difficult marches ever recorded in history from Vicksburg to Washington. He died of extreme old age in 1884.

Moscow (Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny) – This was a white horse that made the general very conspicuous during battle, so he switched to a bay named “Decatur” and then to “Bayard.”

Other Famous Horses include:

Lookout (Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker) – obtained in Chattanooga and named after a battle that took place there

Almond Eye (Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler)

Nellie Gray (Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee)

Billy (Maj. Gen. George Thomas) named after his friend, General William T. Sherman

Fleeter (Belle Boyd)

Dixie (Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne) – killed at Perryville – Cleburne was killed at Franklin, Tennessee

Rifle (Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell)

Beauregard (Capt. W.I. Rasin) – ridden by Rasin to Appomattox and survived until 1883

Black Hawk (Maj. Gen. William Bate)

Fire-eater (Gen. Albert Johnston)

Old Fox (Col. E.G. Skinner)

Slasher (Maj. Gen. John Logan)

Boomerang (Col. John McArthur)

Memphis River City

It is a well-known fact that riverboats were essential to Southern commerce before and during the War Between the States. Southern states used rivers to transport cotton to the north, and one of the most heavily-used rivers was the Mississippi. Old Man River took his share, as there are still many riverboats sunken into the silt of the mighty, muddy Father of Waters.

The Union Army’s primary objective in the Western Theatre was to secure the Mississippi, thus strangling the Confederacy’s ability to trade and ship wares to various states below the Mason-Dixon Line. By the middle of 1863, the Yankees had accomplished this feat by capturing Vicksburg.

At the end of the war, riverboats were used extensively to transport released prisoners. One such boat, the Sultana, has virtually been lost to history, but her story is fascinating. Overloaded to around 2,400, with a maximum capacity allowance of only 376, the boat chugged her way up the Mississippi until it reached Memphis. A few hours later, as she made her way to Cairo, Illinois, carrying POW’s from Andersonville and Catalpa prisons, she exploded. Only a few hundred survived. Known as the worst maritime disaster in North American history, all that remains are a few markers, one of which is located at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

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