J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “President Lincoln”

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,

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)

Savannah as a Christmas Gift

On December 21, 1864, after pushing his troops over 300 miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in Savannah, capturing the city that was inhabited by only a few women, children, and slaves. Happy with his accomplishment, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln. “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

I can’t imagine what the women of Savannah felt upon this invasion other than absolute loathing, which is understandable. By now, most of the South was aware that the war was winding down, and that they were losing. What complete loss they must have experienced at a time that was traditionally held as a joyous occasion.

With this in mind, let us rejoice in our freedom, and celebrate the fact that we live in such a prosperous country. Even though commercialism is everywhere, we should try to look past it and celebrate in honor of those who fought, suffered, and died before us for what they believed in. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

 

Black Confederates

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it appropriate to talk about the part African-Americans played during the Civil War. Everyone knows that President Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. What they likely don’t know is that he had no intention to free slaves in northern states, or states that he had jurisdiction in. In fact, in his home state of Illinois, freed slaves were disallowed, and Lincoln did nothing to reverse the fact.

On February 20, 1865, Conferate Congress authorized the arming of slaves. As we all know, it was too little too late, and the Confederacy crumbled months later.

During the War Between the States, the Union army enlisted black soldiers. However, most of those poor guys were forced to hard labor, and didn’t engage in battles. By the war’s end, African Americans constituted less that one percent of the U.S. population, yet made up 10 percent of the Union army. Altogether, 180,000 black men enlisted, which was more than 85 percent of those eligible.

On the Confederate side, General Patrick Cleburne advocated enlisting slaves to fight for the cause in return for their freedom. But after he was killed in 1864, the idea fizzled until it was again raised in November 1864 by President Jefferson Davis. The Confederate Congress authorized enlisting 300,000 black soldiers in March 1865, but the war ended the following month. Speculation arises that if the war had ended sooner, Lincoln probably would not have signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. The Confederacy missed the opportunity to tap into their largest source of manpower, and were thus so outnumbered that they were doomed to fail.

Black Confederates

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it appropriate to talk about the part African-Americans played during the Civil War. Everyone knows that President Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. What they likely don’t know is that he had no intention to free slaves in northern states, or states that he had jurisdiction in. In fact, in his home state of Illinois, freed slaves were disallowed, and Lincoln did nothing to reverse the fact.

On February 20, 1865, Conferate Congress authorized the arming of slaves. As we all know, it was too little too late, and the Confederacy crumbled months later.

During the War Between the States, the Union army enlisted black soldiers. However, most of those poor guys were forced to hard labor, and didn’t engage in battles. By the war’s end, African Americans constituted less that one percent of the U.S. population, yet made up 10 percent of the Union army. Altogether, 180,000 black men enlisted, which was more than 85 percent of those eligible.

On the Confederate side, General Patrick Cleburne advocated enlisting slaves to fight for the cause in return for their freedom. But after he was killed in 1864, the idea fizzled until it was again raised in November 1864 by President Jefferson Davis. The Confederate Congress authorized enlisting 300,000 black soldiers in March 1865, but the war ended the following month. Speculation arises that if the war had ended sooner, Lincoln probably would not have signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. The Confederacy missed the opportunity to tap into their largest source of manpower, and were thus so outnumbered that they were doomed to fail.

Savannah As a Christmas Gift

On December 21, 1864, after pushing his troops over 300 miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in Savannah, capturing the city that was inhabited by only a few women, children, and slaves. Happy with his accomplishment, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln. “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

I can’t imagine what the women of Savannah felt upon this invasion other than absolute loathing, which is understandable. By now, most of the South was aware that the war was winding down, and that they were losing. What complete loss they must have experienced at a time that was traditionally held as a joyous occasion.

With this in mind, let us rejoice in our freedom, and celebrate the fact that we live in such a prosperous country. Even though commercialism is everywhere, we should try to look past it and celebrate in honor of those who fought, suffered, and died before us for what they believed in. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Annual Remembrance Day

Beginning on November 18, Gettysburg will hold its annual Remembrance Day celebration. A ball at the Gettysburg Hotel will kick off the occasion, followed by several other events leading up to the 148th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which took place on November 19, 1863. These events also revolve around Veteran’s Day on Friday.

Music will be provided by the Libby Prison Minstrels (I love that name) and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band. The cost includes a three-course dinner. Next weekend (Nov. 19), reenactors will march through town. Following the parade, a presentation will take place at the Cyclorama in Gettysburg National Military Park. After the ceremony, men in blue and gray will congregate at the wall near Cemetery Ridge, where soldiers clashed during Pickett’s Charge. A ceremonial handshake between sides will take place, symbolizing unity, and then the reenactors will break away to lay wreaths, flags, and flowers on the graves of the men they portrayed. Reenactors include soldiers, women, and children dressed in period costumes, musicians, including drummers and flutists, and flag-bearers. “President Lincoln” will lead the parade in a white carriage.

A word to the wise: if you plan on attending, bring along your long johns! It gets very cold in Pennsylvania in mid-November.

For further information, contact johngetysg@aol.com

Or visit: www.remembrancedayball.com.

Virginia’s Secession

It was on this date in 1861 that Virginia officially seceded from the Union. At the time, West Virginia was part of the state. It didn’t break away until 1863, because sentiment in the western part of Virginia leaned toward the Union, whereas the eastern section went with the side of the Confederacy.

Virginia’s Ordinance of Secession was passed at the State Capitol in Richmond on April 17, 1861, subject to voter ratification. On May 23, 1861, the referendum confirmed it by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451.

It’s common knowledge that many of Virginia’s sons were torn by their loyalties. Probably the most famous is Robert E. Lee, who served as a combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. Although he denounced secession, once his home state of Virginia left the Union, he turned down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Federal Army and resigned his post to serve for the Confederacy. The rest, they say, is history.

Pratt Street Riot

The first bloodshed of the Civil War took place a week after Union-occupied Ft. Sumter was fired upon by Confederate forces. Subsequently, Virginia voted to secede, and President Lincoln called for 75,000 additional troops. As the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment traveled through Baltimore on their way to Washington D.C., an altercation occurred – four soldiers and 34 civilians were killed in the riot.

This weekend, Baltimore will commemorate the Pratt Street Riot with a procession on Pratt Street, a living history demonstration, the grand re-opening of President Street Station, a symposium hosted by the National Park Service, and candlelight tours at Fort McHenry.

The city also plans other events throughout the year. These include special events in regard to President Lincoln’s arrival to the city by train. The B&O Railroad Museum will have the largest collection of Civil War railroad equipment in the world on display. Live performances, music, and exhibits of memorabilia and artifacts will take place as well.

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