J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “President Lincoln”

Was It Really All About Slavery?

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In last Sunday’s Colorado Springs Gazette, reporter David Ramsey wrote a story about Confederates who are buried in Colorado. He then went on to say that all of them undeniably fought to preserve slavery. He stressed this opinion throughout his story, and even contradicted people he interviewed with his strong opinions.

I’m not denying that slavery played a part in leading up to the Civil War, but Ramsey fails to mention all the other reasons why the war came about. He sites Confederate VP Alexander H. Stephens’ racist statements, but fails to take into account that racism was commonplace back then. President Lincoln was a huge racist, as a matter of fact, and wanted to ship all the blacks back to Africa or somewhere else out of the country. Ramsey claims that Robert E. Lee had slaves (which he set free before the war), but fails to mention how Grant kept his slaves until after the war, not to mention how seriously racist Sherman was, not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, and didn’t hesitate to kill as many as possible.

Here is a link to the story. Please let me know what your thoughts are. I’d love to see your comments!

https://gazette.com/news/david-ramsey-confederate-flags-fly-over-colorado-rebel-graves/article_7b2ca66a-8ef5-11e9-838e-1b97c92b8c31.html?fbclid=IwAR1ZMoV35Un9hAkw_gGwAXumVJ8LkCHP8kUqqzK1qd96n89GCYhTgqCG4Jw

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.)

 

Civil War Gold Found?

I’m always fascinated to learn about long-lost items from the Civil War that have been discovered. When I lived in Mississippi, it was fun to see what some of my WBTS enthusiast friends found with their metal detectors – from coins to belt buckles to buttons. The most interesting find was a Confederate sabre that a friend found buried on his farm. There are lots of theories about what happened to the Confederate gold, and now, some say they have found Union gold. I hope you find this article as fascinating as I do!

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RUMORED SITE OF $55M IN CIVIL WAR-ERA GOLD DRAWS FBI’S ATTENTION, REPORTS SAY

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President Abraham Lincoln reportedly ordered the shipment to help pay Union Army soldiers, Dennis Parada, owner of local treasure-hunting group Finders Keepers, told WJAC-TV.

“I’m not going to quit until it’s dug up,” Parada told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and if I die, my kid’s going to be around and make sure it’s going to be dug up.

Dozens of FBI agents, Pennsylvania state officials and members of a treasure-hunting group dug in a remote Pennsylvania site earlier this week, on rumors of Civil War-era gold being buried there.

A 155-year-old legend has it that a Civil War-era gold shipment bound for a U.S. Mint in Philadelphia was either lost or hidden northeast of Pittsburgh around the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

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“There’s something in there and I’m not giving up.”

Based on different stories, the shipment was composed of either 26 or 52 gold bars, each weighing 50 pounds, meaning it would be worth $27 million to $55 million today.

Local lore that the federal gold might be buried at the Dents Run site in Benezette Township, Pa., about 135 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, caught the FBI’s attention.

So earlier this week agents from the bureau and officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) set up a search area off Route 555, the Courier-Express reported.

The site is west of Driftwood, where a crew delivering the gold was attacked in an ambush, lone survivor Sgt. Jim Connors reportedly told his Army superiors at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. But the Army reportedly doubted his story and Connors died in a “western outpost,” leaving the loot unfound. 

This week the FBI wouldn’t say why it was at the site, revealing only that it was conducting “court-authorized law enforcement activity.”

Historians have cast doubt that the shipment of gold was lost on its way to Philadelphia. Finders Keepers also said Pennsylvania’s Historical and Museum Commission claims the legend of the lost gold is a myth, the Inquirer reported.

But the lost treasure recovery group has insisted for years that it discovered buried gold in a state forest at Dents Run (within the township) using a high-powered metal detector, but federal law wouldn’t allow it to conduct a dig in search of more, the Courier-Express reported.

A spokesman from the Pennsylvania DCNR said that the group previously asked to excavate the site, but elected not to pay a required $15,000 bond.

The spokesman also referred questions on Tuesday’s activity to the FBI, and Parada said he was under FBI orders not to discuss the site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/rumored-site-of-dollar55m-in-civil-war-era-gold-draws-fbis-attention-reports-say/ar-BBKk5dO?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

(Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452,  Sons of Confederate Veterans, President Jefferson Davis Chapter, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Volume 42, Issue No. 4, April 2018)

      

Honoring a Great Man

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(Portrait by Theodore Pine, 1904)

Confederate General Robert E. Lee was born on this date in 1807. Lee is one of my favorite characters of the Civil War, and is featured in many of my books. He was so loyal to his homeland that he gave up his commission with the U.S. Army to support Virginia when the Commonwealth seceded from the Union in 1861. This could not have been an easy decision for him. He was career military, and he was President Lincoln’s first choice to lead the Union Army. But because the country was split, Lee went with his heart and declined Lincoln’s offer.

The war wasn’t kind to General Lee. He lost many relatives during the war, and told President Jefferson Davis several times that he did not want to lead the Confederate Army. Inevitably, the South lost, but Lee accepted defeat with grace and humility. He was offered the presidency at Washington College in Lexington, which he accepted. Only five years later, he died of pneumonia, presumably brought on by heart failure.

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Robert E. Lee was a true patriot and a devout family man. He held his religious beliefs above all else. His stamina and integrity are admirable, and his leadership ability carried his soldiers through many battles. His men idolized him with love and adoration, and compared him to King Arthur. Lee was one of the greatest generals in American history.

That’s why it is such a shame that the country he fought and suffered so much for has turned against his memory. New Orleans is still debating whether to destroy the statue erected in his honor in that city. This is recurring all over the South. It is disgraceful that such a great man is depicted now in such a dishonorable light. Lee never fought to defend slavery: in fact, he set his slaves free well before the war took place. He did not believe in the institution. He fought under the Stars and Bars to preserve Southern rights and freedom, and as a declaration that his soldiers would fight to save their homes. Lee’s home, Arlington, was taken away from him during the war, but he never wavered in his faith of God and country. It is disgusting how the Stars and Bars for which he fought have been removed from his Chapel and burial place. Shame on you, Virginia, for allowing it to happen.

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(General Lee on his horse, Traveller, 1866)

Would that his enemies squirmed in their shame…but alas they have none.

“The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the unarmed and defenseless, and the wanton destruction of private property that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country.”

“It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies…and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth.”

Robert E. Lee

 

Thanksgiving Traditions

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Most people equate Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock (Plimoth Plantation). Although the first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a mild celebration between Native Americans and English settlers, it would not become a national observance for nearly 200 years.

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In an effort to unify a torn Union, President Lincoln declared, on October 3, 1863, that the final Thursday of November would be a day of Thanksgiving. He wished to commemorate “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

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The nation honored Thanksgiving by closing stores, holding parades, and sending Thanksgiving greeting cards. Although Thanksgiving was a national observance, it wasn’t designated as a true American holiday until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week to spike holiday retail sales during the Great Depression. Many opposed this move, so in 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, and it has been observed on that day ever since.

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The true essence of Thanksgiving isn’t Black Friday or football or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I love, don’t get me wrong) or even turkey. It is to give thanks for all the blessings we have, and for being a part of this magnificent, great nation under God. May you all have a blissful,  peaceful Thanksgiving.

 

 

Hallowed Ground Retained

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Recently, two separate Civil War battlefields received more protected ground due to the efforts of the Civil War Trust. One is the area known as Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, Virginia. During the course of the war, Brandy Station changed hands several times between Union and Confederate troops. It is also the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever happen in North America. This battle took place on June 9, 1863. Prior to the preservation, Fleetwood Hill was privately owned, and houses were built on it. But now, this 56-acre hill crest has been converted back to its original state, and appears the way it did 150 years ago.

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The second battlefield to attain protection is a plot of land known as the North Woods Tract at Antietam National Military Park. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) took place on September 17, 1862. Although the battle was a draw, President Lincoln declared it a Union victory, and used it as a catapult to launch his Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of battle that this country has ever seen. The Civil War Trust raised $300,000 in 45 days to acquire 1.2 acres of the North Woods Tract.

These two victories are part of an ongoing process. Sadly, many battlefields and significant places are being destroyed. The Civil War Trust strives to preserve these national treasures. For more information, visit civilwar.org.

http://www.civilwar.org/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=NorthWoods2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwpt/sets/72157660370326701

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.

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.

Yankee Myths

MYTH– “Confederate symbols should not be tolerated because they represent a government that fought a war to keep blacks in bondage and to preserve the institution of slavery.”

This is one of the most commonly used arguments against Confederate Symbolism and one of the easiest to prove false.

Everyone knows that the South (and the North) had slavery until 1865. The north had slavery at least until 1866, due to some holdouts like future President Union General Ulysses S. Grant who refused to give-up his slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment. Prior to 1866, slavery was completely legal. The Supreme Court had ruled favorably on the legality and constitutionality of slavery. Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln both promised many times, that they would not interfere with the practice of slavery. Even new laws were put on the books protecting slave owners from loss of slave property due to theft or runaways. Add to that, the fact that the Confederate States constituted the fifth wealthiest region in the world.

The slave owning states had all of these things and more. So why on earth would Southern States secede from the United States? Surely, no one believes that the South would have left the security of the Union and gone to fight a war for something they already had! Countries do not fight wars for the things they have, they fight wars to obtain the things they do not have.

To emphasize how secure the institution of slavery was in the United States, let’s look at what it would have taken to eliminate it. Since slavery was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, it would require a Constitutional Amendment and that is very difficult to achieve. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must agree to the Amendment and then three-fourths of all the states must vote to ratify the Amendment before it can become part of the U.S. Constitution. This simply would never have happened as long as the Southern States stayed in the Union! That’s right; with the South in the Union, the northern and Southern slave states would have voted down any attempt to amend the Constitution, thereby guaranteeing that the immoral institution of slavery could continue almost indefinitely. So you see, it is quite easy to prove that the South did not secede and fight a war to maintain slavery; an institution they already possessed.

What the South did not have was financial freedom. Southerners were slaves to the industrial demands of the north, just as blacks were slaves to the agricultural demands within the bonds of an unjust labor system. Growth potential was severely limited in the South so long as the north continued to levy heavy Tariffs on things that Southerners needed to purchase; and heavy taxes on those things that Southerners produced.

(Article courtesy of the General William Barksdale Camp 1220, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Columbus, Mississippi, September 2014)

The Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam)

The bloodiest single day of the Civil War took place on this date in 1862, near a small town named Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek.General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army confronted General George B. McClellan’s Union troops in what was the first major battle of the Civil War to take place on northern soil.

Major fighting took place across Millers cornfield, at Dunker Church, the Sunken Road, where the Yankees broke the Rebel center but failed to follow up the assault, and at a bridge spanning Antietam Creek. Charges and counter-charges over the bridge resulted in men piling up on one another so deep that advancing soldiers couldn’t get across. The river flowed red with their blood. The bridge later became known as Burnside Bridge.

Although Lee was outnumbered two to one, he managed to hold off the Yankees and retreat back to Virginia. McClellan failed to pursue, and the battle ended up being a draw. However, President Lincoln considered it enough of a victory to use it as a springboard in launching his Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, freeing only slaves in Confederate states.

Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross after the war, was at the battle tending to the wounded, where she acquired the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.” She came close to death herself when a bullet shot through the skirt of her dress, but she escaped unscathed.

The battle claimed 23,000 casualties. It also led to McClellan’s dismissal as Major General of the Army of the Potomac. Among several remarkable landmarks that still exist at this battlefield site are the Sunken Road, Dunker Church, and Burnside Bridge,

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