J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Federal”

The Plot to Burn New York City

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In the closing months of 1864, with the Federal noose ever tightening, the Confederate government began to contemplate enacting a so-called, “War of Attrition” in an effort to bring about negotiations to end the conflict. One such strategy would involve the burning of New York City. November 1864 would see a hand- picked group of former Southern soldiers leave their Canadian base and arrive in the city to carry out the deed. Commanded by Col. Robert Martin, the eight men were determined to bring to the North some of the horrors being suffered by the citizens of the Confederacy.

Armed with 144 bottles of “Greek Fire,” each man was detailed a specific location to set ablaze, mainly around the Broadway district. However, when the appointed time came, only a few of the group stepped up; the others were frightened by the arrival of large numbers of Federal troops to garrison the city when rumors of an attack leaked out. These bluecoats would leave the city by November 15, believing that danger had passed.

Election Day, November 25, 1864 came and the Southern plan went into effect; each remaining man was given 10 bottles of the incendiary and went from hotel to hotel setting fires before quickly making their escape to an appointed place. James Headley set fire to his room in the Astor House before continuing onto the City Hotel, Everett House and United States Hotel. As he left the last, he heard fire alarms ringing across the district and saw the consternation on the streets.

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Also, on fire was Barnum’s Museum, a place that was not part of the original plan. One of the raiders, Capt. Robert C Kennedy, having carried out his mission, paid a visit to a local hostelry, where his patriotism was restored, and still armed with the fiery liquid, Kennedy went into the museum and set it ablaze. Amazingly, no casualties ensued despite there being over 2,500 people attending a theatrical performance. Throughout the night, firemen rushed to quench the fires, dawn revealing that the Southern plot had done very little damage to the city while the search for Martin, Headley, Kennedy and their accomplices began. They would make their escape to Toronto before returning to the South, all successfully, except one; Capt. Robert Kennedy.

Between 1861 and 1864 there were at least three plots discussed in Canada; individuals involved in these were Clement Clay, Col. Jacob Thompson and John W Booth. One was the “Kidnapping Plot” whereby President Lincoln was to be taken captive and brought to face President Davis. This plan was shelved as it was considered too dangerous to carry out. A second plan was to assassinate President Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson and Secretary Seward led by John W. Booth. The third plan was the destruction of as many Northern cities and towns as possible.

(Irish In Blue & Gray: Remembering the Irish in America 1861-1865, editors: Liam and LaDona McAlister)

Additional information provided by this editor:

“Robert C. Kennedy was tried as a spy for his part in the setting of numerous fires in New York City in November, 1864. Places burned by him and others (who were never tried) included a number of hotels and Barnum’s Museum. He was executed on Governor’s Island. He was buried in an unmarked grave on the island in New York Harbor. All of the bodies buried on the island were disinterred in the late 1870’s and re-buried in Cypress Hills. It is probable that he is buried in an unmarked grave in the National Cemetery ” – John F Walter

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey camp 1452, Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 42, issue no. 11, Nov. 2018 ed.)

 

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The Slaves of General Forrest

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There has been a lot of controversery surrounding General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Some say he started the Ku Klux Klan, which is untrue. In fact, General Forrest called for the KKK to disband after the group became too violent. Another false assumption is that he was a cruel slave owner. He was a product of his time, and although he owned slaves, he never abused them or split up families. In fact, his slaves adored him so much that they fought with him during the Civil War. They even stayed with him after the war and mourned his death. General Forrest strived to bring the races together after the war ended.

Here a few excerpts from my book, Horses in Gray, which describe how General Forrest treated his slaves.

Horses in Gray Cover

Chapter 4

The Thirty Horses of Forrest

 

Those hoof beats die not upon fame’s crimson sod,

But will ring through her song and her story;

He fought like a Titan and struck like a god,

And his dust is our ashes of glory.1

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest often stated that he was “a horse ahead”2 at the end, meaning that he had thirty horses shot out from under him and killed twenty-nine men during the course of the war. It is virtually impossible to trace all thirty horses, since at times Forrest appropriated a horse on the spot. On one occasion, he ordered a Union officer to dismount, got on the officer’s horse, and rode away.

On June 14, 1861, Forrest, who had remained silent on the issue of secession, walked into the headquarters of Capt. Josiah White’s Tennessee Mounted Rifles and enlisted as a private. His brother, Jeffrey, and son, Willie, enlisted with him. The Forrests were ordered to Camp Yellow Jacket, a training camp sixty-five miles north of Memphis. These troopers in training would become the famous Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, which fought until the end of the war under Forrest’s leadership.

John Milton Hubbard was a private in Hardeman’s Avengers, which would later be attached to the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry. He was stationed at Camp Yellow Jacket and remembered meeting Forrest: “Two cavalry companies from Memphis were in camp near us—Logwood’s and White’s. In riding near these one day, I met a soldier speeding a magnificent black horse along a country road as if for exercise and the pleasure of being astride of so fine an animal. On closer inspection, I saw it was Bedford Forrest, only a private like myself, whom I had known ten years before down in Mississippi. I had occasion afterward to see a good deal of him.”3

            In October, Forrest was given command of a regiment and named it Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. He posted advertisements in the Memphis Appeal, calling for “five hundred able-bodied men, mounted and equipped with such arms as they can procure (shotguns and pistols preferable), suitable to the service. Those who cannot entirely equip themselves will be furnished arms by the State.”4

In its editorial columns, the Memphis Appeal supported the notice: “To Arms! We invite attention to the call of Col. N.B. Forrest in today’s paper. There are still hundreds of young men in the country anxious to engage in the military service. Those whose fancy inclines them to the cavalry service will find no better opportunity to enlist under a bold, capable and efficient commander. Now is the time.”5

            Part of Forrest’s command included an escort company of between forty and ninety men, which Forrest referred to as his Special Forces. Among these troopers, who were the finest, most elite soldiers in his cavalry, were eight of Forrest’s slaves.

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And in another excerpt:

After the war, Forrest set up housekeeping with his wife, Mary Ann, near Memphis. In August 1866, Federal cavalrymen rode past Forrest’s house. King Philip, who was grazing in the front yard, saw the blue coats and instantly recognized them as the enemy. Watching the men dismount and start toward the house, King Philip charged at them with teeth bared, head and tail raised, and front feet flailing. He did not stop until he had chased every Federal soldier from the lot. One of the cavalrymen who had been injured by the horse declared that he would kill King Philip, but Jerry (Forrest’s previous body servant) rushed to the horse’s defense. “The Gin’ral,”58 as Jerry called him, emerged from the house, took control of King Philip, and had Jerry lead the spirited steed off to the stable.

“General,” the Federal captain in charge said, “now I can account for your success. Your Negroes fight for you, and your horses fight for you.”59 

Sadly, King Philip died of colic later that year.

Forrest passed away on October 29, 1877. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, but in 1904 his remains were interred in Memphis’s Forrest Park. All of the sidewalks in the park were named after officers who served under him—except for one, which was named for his war horse King Philip.

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(The statue of General Forrest mounted on King Philip was illegally removed by the city of Memphis last month. Stay tuned for more details.)

https://www.amazon.com/Horses-Gray-Famous-Confederate-Warhorses/dp/145562327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515730595&sr=8-1&keywords=horses+in+gray

“Wherever there has been great suffering, people are always seeing strange things.”

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(Ghostly apparitions on the Chickamauga battlefield. Photo courtesy of Danial Druey.)

The Battle of Chickamauga was a costly one. On September 19 – 20, 1863, approximately 35,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was considered a Confederate victory because the Rebels halted the Federal advance. Chickamauga, meaning “River of Death” in Cherokee, lived up to its name. Not surprisingly, the site of the battle in Georgia is reportedly haunted.

In 1876, thirteen years after the battle, ex-Confederate Jim Carlock participated in a centennial celebration. While walking across the battlefield, he and his friends saw something ten feet high with a “big white head.” He said the entity appeared to be a black woman carrying a bundle of clothes on her head.

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Edward Tinney, former historian and chief ranger at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park from 1969 to 1986, said ghostly sightings are not uncommon. The most famous phantom is known as “Old Green Eyes.” This ghost takes on many different shapes, including a Confederate soldier and a green-eyed panther. Old Green Eyes was spotted soon after the battle ended when surviving soldiers saw the strange specter.

“Green Eyes is rumored to be a man who lost his head to a cannonball, frantically searching the battlefield at night for his dislocated body,” Tinney said.

According to legend, the ghost of Old Green Eyes existed years before the battle took place, possibly during the time that Native Americans lived on the land.

One night in 1976, Tinney was on the battlefield checking on camping reenactors. A man over 6 feet tall, wearing a long black duster, with stringy black, waist-length hair, walked toward him. Intimidated, Tinney crossed to the other side of the road. The man reached him and flashed a devilish grin. His dark eyes glistened. Just then, a car came down the road and the scary apparition vanished.

Another ghost appears in the form of a lady in a white wedding dress. Known as the “Lady in White,” the ghost is supposedly searching for her lover. Many visitors have reported hearing gunshots and hoof beats, or smelling the strong scent of alcohol. Reports of ghostly encounters and paranormal activities number in the hundreds.

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(Ghost horse behind reenactor. Photo courtesy of Rick Kanan.)

Several years ago, David Lester was camping on the battlefield with several other reenactors. Some of his comrades wandered over to a neighboring camp to say hello to the soldiers. They talked for several hours before returning to their camp. In the morning, they returned to the camp, only to discover that there was no sign of a campfire or any trace of human occupation. There was only undisturbed land.

(Headline quote courtesy of Edward Tinney.)

(Next up: Battle of Perryville)

The Fight for Heritage Continues

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Last week, the Sons of Confederate Veterans won a major victory in Memphis, Tennessee, after a judge decided that they had the right to sue the city for changing the names of three parks. Forrest Park, named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the primary subject of the suit, because the SCV had placed a large sign at the edge of the park designating it as “Forrest Park.” The city removed the sign without notice, and changed the name of the park to Health Sciences Park. They also did away with Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park, renaming them as well.

The ruling is a tremendous victory for Constitutional rights. To remove all things “Confederate” is a criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. Confederate veterans were designated as American veterans way back in 1906, when a Congressional Act was passed as a move toward reconciliation. To destroy or mutilate any veteran’s grave or marker is a Federal offense and should be treated accordingly.

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This goes hand in hand with trying to do away with the Confederate battle flag – the flag for which these veterans so gallantly fought. It is disrespectful to omit the flag from public view because it is misconceived by a few. This has happened at Washington and Lee University. In the chapel where General Robert E. Lee is interred, Confederate flags have been removed. The Confederate battle flag that flew above the Confederate soldier’s monument on the State Capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina received national attention a couple of months ago after a massacre took place by a lunatic at a church, and was also removed.

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Several schools around the country are debating whether or not to remove the flag. Although a small town in Virginia decided to retain the flag and their mascot name, “the Rebels,” and Gettysburg, South Dakota declined removing the Confederate battle flag from their town’s logo and police cars, other towns have caved under the pressure brought on by hate groups such as the NAACP. In Kentucky, the debate will continue later this month when board members discuss replacing the flag that was previously flying over an elementary school in Floyd County but was taken down.

Scary But True

Amazon Staff: Federal Government ordered us not to sell Confederate Flag

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Amazon.com staff are telling irate customers that the company was ordered by the federal government not to sell items featuring the Confederate Flag. Amazon made the announcement, along with eBay, Sears and Walmart, that it would no longer sell products bearing the Confederate Flag, but according to a conversation posted on YouTube between a customer and an Amazon sales rep, the decision could have been made as a result of pressure from the Federal Government.

At first, the Amazon staffer claims that the items were banned because they were deemed to be offensive, but when pressed by the customer, the sales rep tells a different story.

“Is this a political statement by Amazon.com or is this a directive that you’re following, that the government said you know we want you guys not to sell these anymore?” asks the caller.

“The government is not allowing us to sell this Confederate flag,” responds the staffer.

“So the government is not allowing you….to sell it?” asks the caller.

The sales rep responds, “yes.”

“So Amazon is not making a political statement, this is something the government told you to do?” questions the caller.

“Exactly,” responds the staffer.

In addition, when customers queried Amazon’s decision to stop selling Confederate items via the company’s official website, they were told by another Amazon representative that the items were no longer available as a result of “federal law” and that Amazon was “instructed to remove all Confederate flags from sale.”

This of course makes the entire story far more sinister. As a private company, it is Amazon’s right to sell what it likes, no matter what people feel about the decision, but if the federal government has ordered the retailer not to sell Confederate Flags (while Nazi memorabilia is still freely available), this clearly represents an egregious act of censorship that has no basis in law. Karl Marx would be happy.

(Article courtesy of General William Barksdale Camp 1220 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Columbus, Mississippi, July 2015)

Confederate Cavalry

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Over one hundred and fifty years ago, two significant Civil War cavalry battles took place. The first was on June 9, 1863, and was the largest cavalry battle to take place in North America. The battle near Brandy Station, Virginia, occurred after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s troopers were surprised by Union General David McMurtrie Gregg’s cavalry forces. The battle was a turning point for the Confederate cavalry. Up until then, they were far superior to the Federal cavalry, but the Yankees improved their skills, and by 1863, became worthy foes. This event lead up to the Battle of Gettysburg. My novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes the Battle of Brandy Station, and explains the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

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Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since.

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Tragedy on the Mississippi

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One hundred and fifty years ago today, the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history took place. This little known event happened on the Mississippi River, not long after the Civil War ended. The name of the vessel was the Sultana.

At the close of the war, Union prisoners were released from Southern POW camps. Some of the parolees were transported to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they awaited their release. Riverboats traveling along the Mississippi River vied for the lucrative opportunity to transport newly released prisoners to their homes in the north, and were paid handsomely by the Federal government. One such vessel, the Sultana, was chosen to transport Andersonville and Alabama prisoners, who were crowded onto the boat, surpassing the 376 person limit.

The boat made its way upriver to Helena, Arkansas, where the above photo was taken. It docked in Memphis, and shortly before 2 a.m., set off for Cairo, Illinois. However, seven miles north of Memphis, the boat suddenly exploded, sending burning prisoners to their deaths or into the icy cold river, which was flooded and swollen with spring thaw. Those who weren’t burned to death or drowned managed to make their way to the riverbanks, and waited for rescue while they watched the unmanned boat spin helplessly in the water, aflame in the night sky. After being rescued, the surviving Union soldiers were taken to hospitals in Memphis. Many succumbed to their wounds, or to their weakened state as POW’s, but some survived. Approximately 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers perished.

Controversy still surrounds the tragedy, including a conspiracy theory that Confederates sabotaged the boat, but this was never proven. It is believed that a faulty boiler actually caused the explosion. Although the riverboat was overloaded, and some people were rumored to have taken bribes, no one was ever held accountable.

Today, there are monuments signifying the event. One is located in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. The disaster was overshadowed by President Lincoln’s assassination, as well as the manhunt for his killer, John Wilkes Booth, who was killed the day before in Virginia. The Sultana tragedy was barely reported in newspapers. Americans were tired of war and death, so the horrific event was essentially ignored. It was a terrible ending to a terrible war.

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.

 

Another Family Made Homeless to Sherman’s Glory

“The last act of barbarism I saw Sherman’s soldiers commit was near Bentonville, N.C., on the morning of the last great battle for Southern independence. On the preceding night Gen. Joseph E. Johnston . . . quietly moved his army from Smithfield and threw it directly across Sherman’s path at Bentonville.  Gen. George G. Dibrell’s cavalry division, composed of his own brigade of Tennesseans and Col. Breckinridge’s Kentuckians, was falling back in front of one of the advancing Federal columns, the writer of this commanding the rear guard, closely followed by the enemy’s advance.

We had just crossed a narrow swamp . . . and passed by a neat, comfortable-looking farmhouse, occupied by women and children.  Halting some distance beyond and looking back, we saw Federal soldiers enter the house. Presently women were heard screaming, in a few minutes the building was in flames, and another family was homeless.

Sherman’s raid was ended, and he was a great hero. With his great army of veterans, almost unopposed, he had overrun and desolated the fairest sections of the South, burning cities, towns, and country-dwellings; had wantonly destroyed many millions of dollars’ worth of property, both public and private; had made homeless and destitute thousands of women and children and aged men by burning their house and destroying their means of subsistence. And it was to glorify him and for these deeds of barbarism that “Marching Through Georgia” was written, and it is for this it is sung.”

(What Marching Through Georgia Means, Milford Overly, Confederate Veteran, September 1904, pg. 446)

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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