J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “General Grant”

More Stories of Christmases Past

It’s difficult to imagine what life was like way back in 1864. What with a “civil” war going on and the country torn in two. Taking down monuments and changing street names erases our history. Let these stories be a reminder of how our nation suffered during the War Between the States. Let us never forget.

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CHRISTMAS IN THE CONFEDERACY

Excerpts below were written by Varina Davis, the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, describing Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.

“For as Christmas season was ushered in under the darkest clouds, everyone felt the cataclysm which impended but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family.”

Due to the blockades around Confederate states, families could not find certain types of food and merchandise for their holiday celebrations, and available items were outrageously priced. The Southerners had to substitute many of the ingredients in the favorite Christmas recipes, and they had to make most of their gifts and tree decorations.

In Richmond, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived, it was discovered that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been previously promised a Christmas tree, toys, and candy. The excerpt below shows how the people of Richmond creatively worked together to bring Christmas to the orphans in spite of the war’s shortages.

“The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years. The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy- hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children’s treasures for a contribution to the orphan’s tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children’s toys that gather in a nursery closet. Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.”

When the orphans received their gifts, “the different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was ‘worth two years of peaceful life’ to see.”

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A SOLDIER’S CHRISTMAS

Christmas (December 25, 1864) came while we were fighting famine within and Grant without our lines. To meet either was a serious problem. The Southern people from their earliest history had observed Christmas as the great holiday season of the year. It was the time of times, the longed-for period of universal and innocent, but almost boundlessjollification among young and old…

The holiday, however, on Hatcher’s Run, near Petersburg, was joyless enough for the most misanthropic. The one worn-out railroad running to the far South could not bring to us half enough necessary supplies; and even if it could have transported Christmas boxes of good things, the people at home were too depleted to send them. They had already impoverished themselves to help their struggling Government, and large areas of our territory had been made desolate by the ravages of marching armies.

The brave fellows at the front, however, knew that their friends at home would gladly send them the last pound of sugar in the pantry, and the last turkey or chicken from the barnyard. So, they facetiously wished each other “Merry Christmas!” as they dined on their wretched fare. There was no complaining, no repining, for they knew their exhausted country was doing all it could for them.

Source: REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR, By Gen. John B. Gordon, 1904

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, Hernando, MS, vol. 42 issue #12, December 2018 ed.)

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Halloween Hauntings and the Civil War (Pt. 6)

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Most people think of cemeteries and battlefields when they hear about strange apparitions that exist in regard to the Civil War. However, many old fortresses are rumored to host the spirits of soldiers as well. As my final installation of “Halloween Hauntings,” I bring to you the forts that time forgot.

Delaware

Fort Delaware, located in Delaware City, Delaware, is an imposing structure that is said to be one of the most haunted places in America. It is no wonder, considering the suffering that took place during the War Between the States. The fort unintentionally became a prisoner of war camp, with most of its inhabitants being captured at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The fort, located on six acres, with 32 foot high walls and surrounded by a medieval moat, housed over 40,000 men by war’s end. The fort had the highest mortality rate of any POW camp: 2500 to 3000 men died. The ghosts of incarcerated Confederates reportedly still inhabit the place, as does a woman and several children. Across the river is Finn’s Point National Cemetery, where most of the Confederate soldiers are buried. Sadly, only one marker is placed, which reads, “Erected By The United States To Mark The Burial Place Of 2436 Confederate Soldiers Who Died At Fort Delaware While Prisoners Of War And Whose Graves Cannot Now Be Individually Identified.”

Fort Monroe, where President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned following his capture after the fall of the Confederacy, is another ominous place that seethes with spiritual energy. Located in Virginia, which ranks as the most haunted place in America according to the National Register of Haunted Locations, the fort has reported many spiritual sightings, including those of Abraham Lincoln and General U.S. Grant.

Off the gulf coast of Alabama exists two ancient forts that have now become tourist attractions: Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. Both forts have a long history of military service, surviving many wars, and not surprisingly, both have their share of supernatural inhabitants. Visitors have reported hearing footsteps, seeing strange apparitions that follow them out of the park areas, and noticing ghosts that observe them while they are there.

 

Fireworks and the Fourth

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I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July. This holiday brings many fun-filled memories of family, friends, and special summers. Although everyone has fond memories of July 4, let’s not forget what the holiday truly represents: FREEDOM. We have been a free country for so long that it’s easy to take that for granted, but remember our ancestors, who gave their lives so that we could be free. The Fourth of July  is historically significant, not only for our War of Independence, but also for the War Between the States.

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In 1863, two important events played out: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The battle of Gettysburg, after three days of heavy fighting, ended on July 4, with both sides thinking they were victorious. It was realized later that the Confederate army had actually suffered a defeat; the first major loss of the war. At Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union General Grant succeeded in taking the town after a month-long siege, thus securing the Mississippi River for Federal use.

Our founding fathers sacrificed home and health to secure our freedom. This 4th of July, let us honor those who so loved, cherished, and believed in our country that they laid down their lives unselfishly. God bless America!

Annual Pilgrimages

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One of my favorite things about living in the South was attending pilgrimages. Several take place in Mississippi each year, including Natchez, Aberdeen, and Holy Springs. These events typically occur during the month of April. It is an amazing experience to participate in one of these pilgrimages and see what it was like to live in the antebellum South. Pilgrimages attract people from all over the world.

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My own personal experience included serving as a docent at one of the beautiful mansions in Holly Springs. This small town was spared when Union General Grant decided it was too pretty to burn. One of the majestic homes served as his headquarters during his invasion into Mississippi leading up to the Battles of Iuka and Corinth in 1862.

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As a tour guide, I had the privilege of learning about one of the spectacular houses in Holly Springs, including its previous owners. Holly Springs is a favorite location for those wishing to see a glimpse of the past as displayed in the grand old mansions. Most of the homes, built in the 1850’s, have been restored to their original grandeur. Besides the home tour, a special service is held in the cemetery to honor fallen Confederate soldiers who are buried there, and a tour of slave shacks is also included.

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Magnolias and moonlit nights add to the romance, as do belles dressed in ball gowns and horse-drawn carriages parading through the streets. Pilgrimages are an excellent way to experience the past while living in the present, and see what true Southern beauty represents.

Racehorses and the Civil War

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Many racehorses were used during the Civil War. My new book, Horses in Gray, discusses this topic. At the start of the war, Southern gentry thought that thoroughbreds would outperform other breeds, and thus assure victory for the Confederacy. Southern soldiers brought their steeds with them, and most were nimble, well-bred stock from Virginia and Kentucky. However, it didn’t take long for both armies to figure out that thoroughbreds were too flighty and unpredictable under gunfire, so they switched primarily to Morgans, Percherons, and Saddlebreds, and used various other breeds as well.

Thoroughbreds were mostly ridden by commanding officers after that, to give them the appearance of dignity and nobility. General Grant’s horse, Cincinnati, was a descendant of Lexington, a record-breaking thoroughbred. Grant was supposedly offered $10,000 in gold for Cincinnati, but he declined the offer. President Lincoln rode the horse on occasion, and reportedly enjoyed riding him very much. After Grant was elected president, Cincinnati went with him to the White House.

General Lee’s horse, Traveller, also had royal racing blood in his veins. His lineage stretched back to English racehorses; from Diomed, to Sir Archy, to Grey Eagle, which was Traveller’s sire. Grey Eagle was a famous, full-blooded thoroughbred, and set many records. Traveller’s dam was a half-bred grade mare named Flora. After the war, Traveller accompanied Lee to Washington and Lee University in Alexandria, Virginia, where Lee served as president. The general gave rides to the town’s children on Traveller, and everyone could set their timepieces to the punctuality Lee displayed when riding Traveller through town.

On this date in 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. It was the first of Secretariat’s Triple Crown victories. It should be interesting to see how American Pharoah, last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby winner, does in his two upcoming Triple Crown races. Thoroughbred racing was a very popular sport in this country since its birth, and fortunately, still is today.

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.

Mascots and the War Between the States

We all know the important roles horses and mules played during 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 battlefront. They adopted squirrels, bears, birds, raccoons, and other wildlife as company mascots. Some unusual mascots included a badger, a camel known as “Old Douglas,” which was part of the 43rd Mississippi, and a bald eagle named “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.

Privations, Suffering and Deliberate Cruelties

Starvation, literal starvation, was doing its deadly work. So depleted and poisoned was the blood of many of Lee’s men from insufficient and unsound food that a slight wound which would probably not have been reported at the beginning of the war would often cause blood-poison, gangrene, and death.

Yet the spirits of these brave men seemed to rise as their condition grew more desperate . . . it was a harrowing but not uncommon sight to see those hungry men gather the wasted corn from under the feet of half-fed horses, and wash and parch and eat it to satisfy in some measure their craving for food.”  General John B. Gordon, “Reminiscences of the Civil War.”

“Winter poured down its snows and its sleets upon Lee’s shelterless men in the trenches. Some of them burrowed into the earth.  Most of them shivered over the feeble fires kept burning along the lines. Scanty and thin were the garments of these heroes.  Most of them were clad in mere rags.

Gaunt famine oppressed them every hour. One quarter of a pound of rancid bacon and a little meal was the daily portion assigned to each man by the rules of the War Department. But even this allowance failed when the railroads broke down and left the bacon and the flour and the mean piled up beside the track in Georgia and the Carolinas.  One-sixth of the daily ration was the allotment for a considerable time, and very often the supply of bacon failed entirely.

At the close of the year, Grant had one hundred and ten thousand men. Lee had sixty-six thousand on his rolls, but this included men on detached duty, leaving him barely forty thousand soldiers to defend the trenches that were then stretched out forty miles in length from the Chickahominy to Hatcher’s Run.” Henry Alexander White, “Life of Robert E. Lee.”

“When their own soldiers were suffering such hardships as these in the field, the Confederate leaders made every effort to exchange men so that helpless prisoners of war would not suffer in anything like equal measure, offering even to send back prisoners without requiring an equivalent.  Hence, the charges brought against the Confederate government of intentional ill-treatment of prisoners of war are not supported by the facts.

[In  the South] the same quantity and quality of rations were given to prisoners and guards; but that variety in food could not be had or transported on the broken-down railway system of a non-manufacturing country, which system could not or did not provide sufficient clothes and food even for the Confederate soldiers in the field.

[The] control of the prisons in the North was turned over by Secretary Stanton and the vindictive and partisan men (who were later responsible also for the crimes of Reconstruction) to the lowest element of an alien population and to Negro guards of a criminal type, and such men as President Lincoln, Seward, McClellan, and the best people in the North were intentionally kept in ignorance of conditions in Northern prisons while officially furnished with stories as to “the deliberate cruelties” practiced in the South.”

(The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 399-406)

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.

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)

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