J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Appomattox”

Lee’s Retreat

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One hundred and fifty years ago today, Confederate General Robert E. Lee found his lines overextended around Petersburg, Virginia. The siege had been going on for nine months, and after a series of battles on April 1-2, 1865, the Rebel lines were broken. Lee withdrew from the city and took his army further southwest, hoping to link up with Confederate troops in North Carolina.

But Union General Ulysses S. Grant pursued, preventing Lee and his dwindling army from moving south. Lee fled through south central Virginia, into Amelia Court House, and west to Sailor’s Creek. Disaster for his army was soon approaching.

On April 6, 1865, the two armies clashed, resulting in a near annihilation of Lee’s forces. But the Confederates resiliently continued westward, marching through Farmville toward Appomattox Court House.

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In Honor of Two Famous Generals

This week marks the birthdays of two famous Confederate generals: Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee’s birthday was yesterday, January 19, and Jackson’s birthday is tomorrow, January 21.

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Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807. He was a son of the famous Revolutionary War hero, “Light Horse Harry” Lee. Robert E. Lee’s upbringing was atypical of Virginia gentry. Although his first home was at Stratford Hall (a beautiful plantation in Virginia that is now a tourist attraction), Lee’s family moved to Alexandria when he was four because his father was thrown into debtor’s prison. Robert E. Lee was accepted into West Point Military Academy in 1825, where he excelled and graduated at the top of his class with no demerits. He served as a military engineer, and married Mary Custis, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, at Arlington House.

After fighting in the Mexican War, Lee continued with the United States military until Virginia seceded in April, 1861. He then decided to stay true to his state, so he resigned his commission. He served under Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who eventually gave Lee total control of the Confederate Army. During the first two years of the war, Lee and Jackson fought side-by-side in several battles.

Following his surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Lee served as the President of Washington and Lee University in Lexington. His tenure was short-lived, however. He died on October 12, 1870, and is buried on campus. Lee was a true patriot, hero, and gentleman. He was deeply religious, and was greatly admired and respected by his men, as well as his students and the citizens of Lexington.

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Thomas J. Jackson, born on January 21, 1824, was also a deeply religious man. He was sometimes ridiculed for his peculiar, eccentric behavior. Jackson was extremely shy, but after a harsh upbringing, he learned to read, and managed to graduate from West Point in 1846. He fought in the Mexican War, where he met Robert E. Lee. In 1851, Jackson became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia, where his teaching methods received criticism. His first wife died in childbirth, but he remarried a few years later.

When the Civil War broke out, Jackson was assigned to Harpers Ferry, where he commanded the “Stonewall Brigade.” His strategic military genius helped win battles at First and Second Manassas, the Peninsula and Valley Campaigns, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. During the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, Jackson was mistaken for the enemy by his own men and wounded. His arm was amputated, and it was thought he would recover. But after eight days, he succumbed to pneumonia. He died on May 10, 1863, and is buried in Lexington Cemetery (his left arm is buried at Ellwood Manor).

Lee and Jackson were two of the most prolific generals of the Civil War. Their religious conviction and military genius will always be admired and revered. Both men, along with Jefferson Davis, are featured in the carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia.

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2015 vs. 1865

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This year, 2015, marks the final year of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. During the course of the war, many amazing things were invented, such as surveillance hot air balloons, as well as submarines, and many terrible things were invented, like the Gatling gun (predecessor to the machine gun). The war saw the start of Federal income tax, mass-production of goods like clothing, and paper money. The war also made significant advances in how warfare was conducted, in that men began fighting from trenches.

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Every battle of the Civil War was bloodier and more brutal than the previous, and by the time 1865 came around, people were so tired and heartbroken that the entire country yearned for peace. Three months after the New Year began, the war would finally end, but not without lasting repercussions.

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Some other lasting inventions created during the war included Borden canned milk, Underwood deviled ham, Van Camp’s pork and beans, sewing machines, postcards, pocket watches, breakfast cereal, and repeating rifles and six-shot revolvers. Major battles contributing to the end of the Civil War included the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, the Siege of Petersburg, and the Battle of Appomattox.

Haunted Lincoln

It is said that ghosts are the spirits of people who met traumatic, violent, untimely deaths. Abraham Lincoln, of course, is one, because he was murdered by John Wilkes Booth about a week after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to General Grant at Appomattox, and on Good Friday at that. Before his assassination, the president foresaw his own death in a dream, where he was wandering around the White House, and was told by a soldier that the president had been killed.

Since then, Lincoln’s ghost has been roaming the halls of the White House. Jenna Bush, one of President George W. Bush’s daughters, said that she had heard phantom opera music coming from the fireplace in her bedroom while she was living at the White House. In the same breath, she expressed her disappointment about never seeing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. It’s common knowledge that Lincoln’s spirit still resides within the Executive Mansion, as the White House was called during the Civil War. Several heads of state have witnessed the ghost of Lincoln, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, President Coolidge’s wife, Grace, President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Maureen.

The president’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, said that her husband’s ghost often visited her. She became an avid believer in the supernatural and regularly attended seances, usually under an assumed name to disguise her identity. In one photograph, an eerie manifestation of Lincoln appears behind her. It could have been a photographer’s trick, but many other witnesses have seen his ghost as well.


Sightings of Lincoln’s ghost have occurred near his grave in Springfield, Illinois, and at his former home there. It has also been seen at the Loudon Cottage in Loudonville, New York, which belonged to one of the women who was sitting in the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre when he was shot. The President’s spectral funeral train has been observed on the anniversary of its journey from Washington D.C. to Springfield, thundering through the darkness to its spooky destination.

Fortress Monroe, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was incarcerated for several years following his capture at the end of the war, is said to be haunted by Lincoln, as is Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was shot.

The Saddest Day

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Today marks the 149th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee was forced to surrender. It was sad for the South, because it meant the end of states’ rights and a more unified central government. It was sad for the country as a whole, because over 620,000 men lost their lives. Freed slaves thought it to be the happiest day until they discovered later on that the Federal government had no intention of helping them prosper in society. Because of this lack of support, many freedmen suffered from lack of food, medicine, etc., and had no other recourse but to return to their now impoverished former owners and beg for jobs. Thus, sharecropping began.
Appomattox Courthouse. where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, is now an historic national treasure. Wilmer McLean’s house has been restored, as have several other outbuildings at the tavern, located at a crossroads intersection. The road where Confederate soldiers lined up to surrender their arms still exists.

The buildings were in severe decay when restoration began. Mr. McLean lived at the home for five years after the war until his debt forced him to move back to Northern Virginia, where his wife owned a home. From that time until the 1970’s, the house and surrounding buildings stood vacant. Restoration is still in process.

 

The Saddest Day

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Today marks the 148th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, when the Confederacy was forced to surrender. It was sad for the South, because it meant the end of states’ rights and a more unified central government. It was sad for the country as a whole, because over 620,000 men lost their lives. Freed slaves thought it to be the happiest day until they discovered later on that the Federal government had no intention of helping them prosper as a society. Because of this lack of support, many freedmen suffered from lack of food, medicine, etc., and had no other recourse but to return to their now impoverished former owners and beg for jobs. Thus, sharecropping began.

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Appomattox Courthouse. where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, is now an historic national treasure. Wilmer McLean’s house has been restored, as have several other outbuildings at the tavern, located at a crossroads intersection. The road where Confederate soldiers lined up to surrender their arms still exists.

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The buildings were in severe decay when restoration began. Mr. McLean lived at the home for five years after the war until his debt forced him to move back to Northern Virginia, where his wife owned a home. From that time until the 1970’s, the house and surrounding buildings stood vacant. Restoration is still in process.

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The Saddest Day

Today marks the 147th anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, when the Confederacy was forced to surrender. It was sad for the South, because it meant the end of states’ rights and a more unified central government. It was sad for the country as a whole, because over 620,000 men lost their lives. Freed slaves thought it to be the happiest day until they discovered later on that the Federal government had no intention of helping them prosper as a society. Because of this lack of support, many freedmen suffered from lack of food, medicine, etc., and had no other recourse but to return to their now impoverished former owners and beg for jobs. Thus, sharecropping began.

Appomattox Courthouse. where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, is now an historic national treasure. Wilmer McLean’s house has been restored, as have several other outbuildings at the tavern, located at a crossroads intersection. The road where Confederate soldiers lined up to surrender their arms still exists.

The buildings were in severe decay when restoration began. Mr. McLean lived at the home for five years after the war until his debt forced him to move back to Northern Virginia, where his wife owned a home. From that time until the 1970’s, the house and surrounding buildings stood vacant. Restoration is still in process.

Civil War Anniversaries To Celebrate

Thankfully, the government managed to resolve its differences and come up with a budget just under the wire, barely making the deadline. What this means is that special anniversary events that were slated for this weekend will progress as planned, including a reenactment at Shiloh National Military Park and a special event at Ft. Sumter to mark the anniversary of the start of the Civil War.This event is planned for next Tuesday.

Another significant event that happened on April 9, 1865 was the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army to General Grant. Although this event was terribly sad for the Confederacy, but happy for the Union, we all have a reason to celebrate. The weather should be nice this weekend, and now we can all enjoy these national treasures, thanks to our hard working representatives.

(McLean House, Appomattox Court House, Virginia)

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