J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Shiloh”

The Impact of Progress

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I find it very disheartening when I learn about another Civil War battlefield that has been lost to history due to urban sprawl. The first time I saw this was when I visited the Battle of the Wilderness area in Virginia. Housing developments had been built on the battlefield, not far from where trenches were dug and are still visible today. To me these areas are sacred and should be cherished.

On July 20, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood attacked a portion of Union General William T. Sherman’s army outside of Atlanta, Georgia, on the banks of Peach Tree Creek. Sadly, all that remains now is a sign marking the spot. The battle was one of the bloodiest during the Atlanta Campaign, with 4,250 soldiers being killed, wounded, or captured. And yet, nothing is left to remind us of the terrible struggle that took place there. It’s easy to forget about the sacrifices these men made when there is no reminder other than a few markers.

Atlanta

On July 22, 1864, Union General James B. McPherson learned that his old West Point roommate, General John Bell Hood, was ready to strike. Skirmishers shot and killed McPherson. General Sherman wept when he saw McPherson’s body. The Federals rallied, crying, “Remember McPherson!” They staved off each Confederate assault until the Battle of Atlanta was finally over. It was the bloodiest battle of the Atlanta campaign. Again, there is no reminder of the terrible battle, since the field is now covered with gas stations, highways, and developments. The battlefield, like the one at Peach Tree Creek, is completely destroyed. The only reminder of McPherson’s death, an upturned cannon in a residential neighborhood, is basically forgotten. I think it is tragic that these men, who gave their lives for future generations, don’t receive a better legacy than this.

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Another example is Fleetwood Hill near Brandy Station, Virginia. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil. Years after the battle, however, homes were built on the sacred field. Fortunately, the Civil War Trust managed to buy back Fleetwood Hill, and is now in the process of restoring it to its original condition prior to the battle. (You can read more about this battle in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.)

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I consider all Civil War battlefields to be hallowed ground, and I only hope that what remains will be preserved. It seems every other aspect of the Confederacy is under attack, and it would be a shame and an insult to our children if we did not preserve these places.

The Civil War Trust is now in the process of saving over five hundred acres at four different Western Theatre battlefields: Shiloh, Stones River, Rocky Face Ridge, and Bentonville. For more information, check out http://www.civilwar.org/?referrer=https://www.google.com/.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469570084&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

Memorial at Shiloh

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Last Saturday, several SCV and UDC members traveled to Shiloh National Military Park to honor fallen Mississippians. A beautiful statue was erected last fall after years of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ efforts to save up enough money. Mississippi was the only state without a statue at Shiloh up until last year.

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Many participated in a special remembrance of the soldiers who are buried in a trench somewhere on the battlefield. (The marker was placed near the estimated trench.) Some of my United Daughters of the Confederacy sisters were also there to honor their ancestors.

The Battle of Shiloh took place in Hardin County, Tennessee on April 6-7, 1862. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was killed during the battle. Casualties numbered nearly 24,000. It was the bloodiest American battle up until that date. The battle was a loss for the Confederates, and opened the door for Grant to continue his rampage through Mississippi.

(Photos Courtesy of Linda McGan)

Haunted Civil War

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. While my kids were growing up, I enjoyed wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating as much as they did. My house was decked out in black and orange (my high school colors, BTW), rivaling Christmas in the decorations I displayed. For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated with the macabre, mysterious, and melancholy. Maybe that’s why I’m a Civil War author!

During the next few weeks, in honor of the month of October and Halloween, I’m dedicating my blog to unexplained, ghostly incidents in relation to the War Between the States. From Gettysburg to Andersonville and Chickamauga to Shiloh, tales of Civil War ghosts who never found their way home abound. Not only do these apparitions still walk the battlefields where they fell, but also dwell in their previous residences and “haunts,” so to speak.

I believe you’ll find these spectral sightings to be nothing less than spellbinding. Although many claim ghosts don’t exist, it’s hard to deny their presence, since many (living) people have witnessed sightings over the years. Reports of ghostly appearances started soon after the bloody battles ended, and still happen to this day. So enter the haunted dwellings of the Civil War soldiers, civilians, and casualties. (Feel free to tell us about your experiences as well!)

The “Moving Appeal”

 

 

In 1841, a little more than ten years after the City of Memphis was founded, Henry Van Pelt printed the first issue of the Memphis Appeal, a weekly newspaper. Van Pelt printed the fledgling newspaper from his home located on the Wolf River. Printed on single sheets of paper, the Appeal was anything but appealing. However, it served a need in what was at the time a hard-bitten, backwater frontier town on the Mississippi. Van Pelt (right) was a Democrat, and the paper reflected his political views, which were generally in opposition with the majority of Memphis citizens, who were Whigs. They, of course, had their own papers to voice their concerns. As Memphis grew into a real city, however, so did the Memphis Appeal. By 1847, it went from a weekly publication to a daily paper and with it a new name: the Memphis Daily Appeal. On April 23, 1851 – just two days after the paper celebrated its ten-year anniversary – Van Pelt dropped dead, and the newspaper changed hands.

As sectional conflicts over slavery and other issues exploded on the scene, Benjamin Dill took over as editor and John R. McClanahan became the paper’s printer. A native of Georgia, Dill had been a lawyer and worked as a bank cashier in Mississippi and Missouri before moving to Memphis and taking over the Appeal. Although neither were too outspoken on the issues of the day – other than voicing support for “state’s rights” – by the beginning of hostilities both men were thoroughly on board with secession and enthusiastically supported the Confederacy. As a result, the Memphis Daily Appeal became a very pro-Confederate newspaper.

In the spring of 1862, Union forces, fresh from their victories at Shiloh and Corinth, threatened to capture Memphis, and on June 6 the city surrendered to a Federal river fleet. With their very public stance in support of the Confederacy, Dill and McClanahan didn’t hang around to find out how the Yankees would treat them. Not only did they flee the day before the Federals arrived, they took the newspaper with them, loading all of the presses and other equipment on a boxcar (seen here in this artist’s render-ing). Thus began the strange saga of the “Moving Appeal.”

Heading south, the newspapermen set up shop in Grenada, Mississippi. On June 9, just three days after leaving Memphis, the publishers of the Appeal explained that they moved to Grenada in order to continue their advocacy of the Southern cause. “So long as two or three States are gathered together in the name of the Confederate States,” they wrote, “so long will we be found advocating, as zealously as ever, a continued resistance to the tyranny which a haughty foe is endeavoring to establish over us…” The Memphis Daily Appeal continued to publish from Grenada until November 29, when Grant’s approaching army during the Mississippi Central R.R. campaign forced Dill and McClanahan to relocate yet again, this time to Jackson.

The Appeal remained in Mississippi capital for about five months, and established itself in the Bowman House Hotel (right), where above his room McClanahan hung a banner which read “Memphis Head-quarters.” During the paper’s time in Jackson, there were shortages of ink and other necessities, but they improvised enough to continue publication. Then, in mid-May, Union troops once again got too close for comfort (it was Grant and Sherman this time) and the presses were loaded onto a flatboat and sent across the Pearl River, barely escaping capture by Sherman’s men on May 14, 1863. Sherman, of course, despised all newspapers and reporters. No doubt, he would have been delighted to rid the world of the “Moving Appeal.”

Heading east, the Appeal next stopped in Meridian, but kept moving into Georgia. From Atlanta, the Appeal published for the first time in Georgia one year after leaving Memphis, on June 6, 1863. The Appeal found a home in Atlanta for a whole year and had a healthy circulation of nearly 15,000.  As before, however, approaching Union armies threatened the paper’s existence and the Appeal was on the move again in June 1864 as Sherman began bombarding Atlanta. Even though the presses were shipped to Montgomery, the Appeal valiantly continued to publish news for the men in the trenches until as late as September 2. A few weeks later, presses were running again in Montgomery, where they remained until April, 1865.

On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox. The same day, Confederate forces were overwhelmed at Fort Blakeley, Alabama, on the northeast side of Mobile Bay. Clearly, the war was winding to a close. In Montgomery, Union cavalry forces under Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson (right) went on an extended and destructive raid through Alabama and into Georgia (the same raid in which the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa was burned to the ground and during which Jefferson Davis was captured). To try and escape Wilson, the paper and it’s presses fled to Columbus, Georgia. In Columbus, however, the Appeal staff was finally captured, including Benjamin Dill. When Dill was taken to General Wilson and introduced, Wilson is said to have exclaimed “Have we caught the old fox at last? Well I’ll be damned!” While he might have finally captured the editor, the valuable press was nowhere to be found, as it had been spirited away to Macon and hidden to escape destruction. The “Moving Appeal” had at last been grounded.

With the end of the war, the remaining members of the newspaper staff made their way back to Memphis. Within six months the Memphis Daily Appeal was publishing again, using the old wartime press which had been rescued from its hiding place in Macon. The once-secessionist editors now accepted the verdict of the Union through the force of arms and tried to look toward a new day for the paper and the city. For Dill and McClanahan, however, the journey would end soon. John McClanahan died after falling out of a window of the Gayoso Hotel and Benjamin Dill (right) died six months later of illness. The Appeal, however, did live on and today is known as the Commercial Appeal. If not for the heroic efforts to keep the presses running throughout the war, the paper might never have survived. Along the way, as another Southern newspaper put it, “Nothing in newspaperography can compare with [the Appeal’s] strange, eventful career.”

Article courtesy of “The Southern Comfort,” SCV Camp 1452 (Vol. 38, Issue 35) May, 2014

 

Mississippi Will Soon Be Represented at Shiloh

For quite some time, local camps of the Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans have been pursuing a very special project. It seems that every state that participated in the Battle of Shiloh has a monument, except for Mississippi. I’m not sure why it has taken this long to get the funds together, but I’m guessing it is because, after the Civil War ended, Reconstruction took hold and the state was so poverty-stricken that it couldn’t afford to pay for a monument.

However, that is going to change in the very near future. The state has agreed to match funds contributed by Mississippi SCV camps for the project. The following is a letter from the Mississippi SCV Commander, Alan Palmer.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce the passing of the Shiloh Monument Bill to fund the 250,000 dollars for the construction of the Shiloh Monument. The bill will be signed by the Governor by the 22nd of this month and it is worth noting the bill passed without a single nay vote. This is a major accomplishment for the continued efforts of the SCV and others who wish to remember and honor our ancestors.”There are many people who deserve recognition for this accomplishment but three deserve special mention. Buddy Ellis who started the SCV efforts in getting us all on-board at a time when it seemed economically impossible, and Greg Stewart who was instrumental in laying the groundwork and or lighting fires under the right people to proceed with this important legislation, and non SCV member Kimble Johnson who is the chair of the Mississippi Monuments Commission. As you know we cannot put so much as a single brick up at Shiloh, it has to come from the state and Kimble Johnson in that since is the state representative. The good news is he and we want the same thing and we will have a monument that will surpass all other monuments now at Shiloh, something we can all be proud of and that will honor our boys in the way they deserve after all these years.

“The total cost is expected to exceed $425,000 and of course that could go higher and probably will, the good news is with the $250,000 from the state we will begin the project with a little over $420,000 once the money is deposited into the Archives account in July. We still need to keep up our fund raising efforts to offset any additional costs that will come up, because they will come up and we don’t want to have to scale back for lack of funds. Every penny raised for the Shiloh Monument will go for the Shiloh Monuments construction, placement, and upkeep.

“We have developed a close working relationship with Kimble Johnson that we must maintain in order to have an important part in seeing this project through to completion. I spent two hours on the phone with Kim Friday night and we are on the same page and he has given us a most important task in the design of the monument to make sure it is a historically accurate representation of Mississippi troops. He also agrees that while the monument will represent the 6th Mississippi with larger than life Bronze figures ,all Mississippi units must be listed on the monument that were at Shiloh.

“As you know we also were trying to get legislation through that would provide state monies to help us restore and preserve those sacred Battle Flags that we have worked so hard on. I am sorry to say the bill died in committee, however, the bill did not die because of the provision to provide money for flag restoration and so we plan to present it again in the next legislative session with high hopes of getting it through. I mentioned a few weeks ago that several of us met with Lt. Gov Tate Reeves and he is very much in favor of restoring the flags and will be an ally in our future efforts. Along those lines and in speaking with Greg Stewart last night I think we should formulate a new permanent legislative committee to work with legislators in pursuing our goals. My thoughts for making this a permanent committee is that you cannot change committee members every two years when a new commander takes over because it takes time to establish relationships with the powers that be and an entirely new committee every two years would be ineffective at best. That being said, the committee would answer to the commander and division as we all do and a member could resign or be voted off the committee if the need arose by the EC and a new member appointed.  After seeing what can be accomplished I think this could be an extremely important committee in promoting and or defending our heritage as we move forward. Many of you have taken the lead on your own and achieved great success in the past but we need a concentrated full time effort in place and with that there is no telling what we could accomplish.

“God Bless the Mississippi Division and grant us continued success.”

This is exciting news, and well overdue. Best of luck in achieving your goal.

(Special thanks to Clay Pruett for sending me this article.)

Haunted Civil War (Part 2)

 

Many Civil War battlefields in Tennessee are believed to be haunted. One such battlefield that is occupied by a famous ghost is Chickamauga, and the entity has come to be known as “Old Green Eyes.” On numerous occasions, people have reported that an eerie presence approaches them, and that glowing green eyes are visible through the eerie mist that lingers around the base of Lookout Mountain.

A group of specters occupies another Tennessee battlefield, StonesRiver near Murfreesboro (just outside Nashville). At the “Slaughter Pen,” one particular spirit inhabits the area, his soul eternally doomed to roam what has now become a dark, shadowy, spooky wooded area.

Shiloh is another haunted battlefield where the land will forever have the impression cast upon it of death, suffering, and destruction. “Bloody Pond” is said to take on the color of blood on occasion, and of course, the battlefield, like nearly all Civil War battlefields, has its share of noises, such as distant drums, marching, battle cries, and gunfire.

Holly Springs Pilgrimage

Last weekend was the annual pilgrimage in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Varina Howell Davis #2559) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans were on hand Saturday morning to participate in the tour of Hillcrest Cemetery, where numerous Confederate soldiers are buried in unmarked graves. 

Later, some of the UDC ladies went to historic Montrose, one of the grand old antebellum homes in town, and served as tour guides. 

Holly Springs was captured by Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1862 following the Battle of Shiloh. Grant was so inspired by the town’s quaint beauty that he decided not to torch it, and so Holly Springs was spared. Every year, a parade of homes, 5-K run, brunch, and other fun events take place to honor the town. This year, an interesting new event was introduced, which was a tour of slave quarters.

More Photos of Shiloh

We had so much fun last weekend that I wanted to share more photos with y’all. Enjoy!

Shiloh!

Last weekend marked the beginning observances of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. To kick off scheduled week-long events, a reenactment took place near the park. Opening ceremonies included an appearance by Miss Tennessee, as well as reenactors portraying generals who fought there: Grant, Hardee, Albert Sidney Johnston (who was killed), Beauregard, Buell, Wallace, and Prentiss, to name a few.

Simultaneous battles took place before several hundred spectators. A ladies tea and soiree, followed by an 1860’s fashion show, were held under a big tent, surrounded by food vendors and sutlers selling any era item imaginable.

On Saturday evening, a period ball was held in the big tent, which was so filled with reenactors that it was difficult to move about. However, dancers still had a very enjoyable time. Music was performed by the 52nd Regimental String Band.

Sunday morning began with a period church service. Officers spoke about the roles they played during the battle, and then another reenactment took place before the event came to a close.

This week, a new film (finally!) will premier at the Visitors Center. The National Park Service will sponsor special events and talks. An annual illumination in the National Cemetery will be held next weekend, which will mark the real anniversary (April 6-7) of the Battle of Shiloh. (More photos to follow, so please stay tuned!)

Loreta Janeta Valazquez – Fact or Fiction?

A spy … a civilian pretending to be a soldier …a widow four times

All of these phrases describe one of the most fascinating, thrill-seeking characters of the Civil War. Because she was a woman, Loreta Janeta Valezquez was able to fool her contemporaries while supporting the Confederate cause she so adamantly believed in.

 Born to a wealthy Cuban family on June 26, 1842, her mother was French-American, and her father, a Spanish government official, owned plantations in Mexico and Cuba, but developed a strong hatred for the U.S. government when he lost an inherited ranch in the Mexican War. In 1849, Loreta was sent to stay with an aunt in New Orleans, where she was taught English and French in addition to her native Spanish at Catholic schools. Her idol was Joan of Arc, and she wished to become just like her. When Loreta was only fourteen, she met a handsome Texas army officer named William, but because her parents opposed their union, they eloped in 1856. The newlyweds traveled around to various army posts until, four years later, when Loreta was eighteen, they were in St. Louis, mourning the deaths of their three children. When the Civil War broke out, she insisted that her husband join the Confederacy, and begged to join with him, but he disallowed it, so she simply waited for him to leave. She disguised herself in one of two uniforms she had tailored in Memphis, donned a wig and fake moustache, bound her breasts, and padded the sleeves of her uniform, transforming into Harry T. Buford. Self-appointing herself as a lieutenant, she fooled fellow officers and soldiers by walking with a masculine gait, perfecting the art of spitting, and smoking cigars. She immediately went to Arkansas, and in four days raised a battalion, the Arkansas Grays, consisting of 236 men. She then sent them to her husband in Pensacola, Florida, where she turned them over to his command. William’s astonishment was short-lived, however, because a few days later, he was accidentally killed while showing his troops how to use their weapons.

The bereaved Loreta turned his battalion over to a friend, and soon after, searched for military adventure on the front, finding it at the First Battle of Manassas, where she observed poor frightened souls around her. “The supreme moment of my life had arrived, and all the glorious aspirations of my romantic girlhood were on the point of realization. I was elated beyond measure, although cool-headed enough … Fear was a word I did not know the meaning of; and as I noted the ashy faces, and the trembling limbs of some of the men about me, I almost wished that I could feel a little fear, if only for the sake of sympathizing with the poor devils.”

Soon, Loreta grew weary of camp life, so she borrowed a dress from a local farmer’s wife and made her way to Washington, D.C., where she was recruited as a Confederate spy. She claimed to have met Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. When she returned to the South, she was rewarded for her services by being assigned to detective duty. Apparently, espionage didn’t offer enough excitement for her either, so she put on her disguise and traveled to Tennessee, where she fought in the siege of Fort Donelson until its surrender. Wounded in the foot, she escaped detection by fleeing to New Orleans, but was arrested while in uniform for suspicion of being a Union spy and impersonating a man. Once she was released, she enlisted again to escape the city, and immediately went back up to Tennessee. There, she found the battalion she had raised in Arkansas, so she joined them in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. After the battle, she was wounded by a stray shell while she was on burial duty. Unfortunately, a doctor discovered her. Fleeing back down to New Orleans, she was there when Union General Benjamin F. Butler took control of the city in May 1862. Because she thought too many people were now aware of her true identity, she put away her uniform and traveled to Richmond, Virginia.

Upon her arrival, she was recruited as a Confederate spy, and traveled all over the country, crossing enemy lines while she wore both male and female disguises to traffic information, drugs, and counterfeit bills to the South. She married Confederate Captain Thomas DeCaulp, but he soon died at a Chattanooga hospital. Traveling back up north, she was hired by Union officials to search for “the woman … traveling and figuring as a Confederate agent,” or in other words, to search for herself. During that time, she attempted to organize a rebellion of Confederate prisoners in Ohio and Indiana, and helped to win the war of Costintin in 1864.

After the Civil War ended, she traveled around Europe and the South. Loreta married a third time. She and her husband, known only as Major Wasson, went to Venezuela as United States immigrants. He died in Caracus, so Loreta returned to America, this time going out west. She stopped in Salt Lake City long enough to give birth to a boy, and met Brigham Young. Nearly penniless, she traveled to Omaha, and charmed General W. S. Harney into giving her blankets and a revolver. Two days after she arrived to a mining town in Nevada, a sixty-year-old man proposed to her, but she refused. Supposedly, she married a fourth time, but the name of this younger man is unknown.

It wasn’t long before she was off again. “With my baby boy in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping, perhaps, but scarcely expecting, to find opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California.” Her money was dwindling, so in 1876, she wrote a book of her memoirs to support her child. Most of what is known about Loreta was written in her 600-page book, The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Valazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army. Upon its publication, General Jubal Early denounced it as pure fiction, but modern scholars have found some parts to be accurate. In 2007, the History Channel ran a special entitled Full Metal Corset, and verified some of the incidents described in the book, but there are still many facts in question.

Loreta is last documented as living in Nevada. She never took any of her four husband’s names. After 1880, there is no further record of her life, including where or how she died, presumably in1897.

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