J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Vicksburg”

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!

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Tragedy on the Mississippi

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

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

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

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

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

Hunters Find Bullets from American Civil War in 185-Year Old Alligator’s Hide

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[Vicksburg] A group of Mississippi hunters who shot and killed an alligator weighting 910 pounds (413 kilograms) on

Sunday, were amazed when they discovered that the animal already bore injuries caused by musket ammunitions from the Civil War era. A total of 9 spherical projectiles was found, and the various tests and analysis realized on them have confirmed that they were indeed fired at the animal in the 19th Century.

Nine of the wounds on the animal are believed to have been caused by Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-muskets. These old injuries were concentrated around the animals tail and hind legs, suggesting that the reptile could have possibly been used as a target for shooting practice by Confederate troops.

The huge animal also bore five other bullet wounds from three different calibers of hunting rifles, as well as many dents and scars, which shows that it survived many firearm injuries in the past. It did not however, survive the six .50-caliber bullets fired at him by the group of amateur hunters from Jackson, who were finally able to take it down.

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See more at: http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/usa-hunters-find-bullets-from-american-civil-war-in-185-year-old-alligators

USA: 24 November, 2014

Thanks to Chuck Bond and Dean Burchfield for sharing this news item with us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Although the holiday has been celebrated since the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, it didn’t become a nationally observed holiday until 1863. The last Thursday of November was proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, thus commemorating “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It took nearly a century before some cities in the South, such as Vicksburg, Mississippi, finally acknowledged the holiday.

Only a week earlier, on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate a national cemetery that was being established to bury Union soldiers who had met their demise there. After delivering his famous Gettysburg Address, which he considered to be “a few appropriate remarks,” he was overheard saying, “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.” This was because of the poor reception he received following his speech, but little did he know that his words would become one of the most famous addresses in American history.

With that, let us all give thanks for what we are blessed with. Sometimes it is difficult to perceive the blessings we receive, just as Mr. Lincoln failed to perceive the potency of his words at the time. Many have friends and/or family who are dealing with the loss of loved ones or other critical situations in their lives. During this holiday season, please pray for them, as well as our military personnel.

Haunted Houses and the Civil War

I previously mentioned a famous haunted house in Gettysburg known as the Farnsworth House, which stood witness to the battle in July, 1863, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address the following November. So many other houses are reportedly haunted that the list is virtually endless, but a few host more Civil War ghosts than others.

One other house in Gettysburg is supposedly haunted by Jennie Wade, who resided there and was killed by a stray sharpshooter’s bullet during the battle. The Carter House and the Carnton House, both in Franklin, Tennessee, are still visited by ghosts who witnessed the horrible Battle of Franklin in 1864. The McRaven House in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as well as the Lee-Custis House in Arlington, Virginia, are also ghostly dwellings.

New Orleans entertains its share of Civil War ghosts, along with many other spiritual entities. The Beauregard-Keyes House is said to play host to its former owner, General P.G.T. Beauregard. On several occasions, witnesses have heard and/or seen Beauregard’s Confederates charge through the dining room, complete with yelling, screaming, gunfire, and cannonade.

I met a nice young man last weekend who, once he found out I was a Civil War author, proceeded to tell me about the house he grew up in near Nashville. When I asked if it was haunted, he nearly turned white as a ghost, and told me that he had witnessed strange, scary, unexplainable things. I can’t wait to hear more about what happened. Another friend lives in an old plantation house in Hernando, Mississippi. This house is haunted, too. Not long ago, he and another friend, (both Civil War reenactors) were sitting in the parlor area when a candlestick on the mantle rose up, floated over to the center of the room, and fell to the floor with a crash on its own accord. Skeptics once, they believe in the supernatural now.

Haunted Battlefields

It seems that every battlefield, whether significant or minor, seems to inhabit its share of Civil War ghosts. Experts of the supernatural say that people who die sudden, unexpected, violent deaths are the ones whose souls get caught in limbo. Common occurrances are the sounds of gunfire, men yelling and marching, and ghostly apparitions of soldiers roaming around.

Gettysburg is the most famous haunted battlefield. It is believed that this is because it lies on a lei line (mineral deposits under the soil that criss-cross). These places attract apparitions because the electrical current caused by the lei lines coaxes spirits like moths to a flame. Voted “America’s Most Haunted,” Devil’s Den on the battlefield is so charged with energy from ghosts that people have difficulty taking pictures. The spirits drain the charge from their batteries within minutes. Besides the battlefield, numerous structures in town are also rumored to be haunted.

Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi has plenty of supernatural inhabitants as well. It is no wonder, since the citizens and Confederate army were under siege for weeks, forced to live in caves along the riverbank and eat vermin, dogs, etc. in order to survive. The town is filled with old abandoned buildings, but it is rumored that many are not completely empty. Spirits have been seen wandering the streets at night, along with frequenting local establishments, including old antebellum homes that have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts.

The Battle of Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War (Gettysburg being the first). Besides sightings of the usual soldier-ghosts, an entity that has come to be known as “Old Green Eyes,” and over the years, has been sighted by thousands of people. The creature sounds like something straight of a Grimm fairytale. With a hairy body, fang-like teeth, and glowing green eyes, it walks upright on two legs and wears a cloak. Besides Old Green Eyes, a woman in a wedding dress roams the area, as does a creepy soldier who stares at visitors until they leave.

The American Civil War and Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

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Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin is the largest in Ireland, with over one million burials since it first opened in 1832. Amongst the headstones are a number of graves and memorials to men who served far away from Dublin, representing both North and South in the American Civil War.

The Jesuit section of Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of that order are buried. Amongst those who lie beneath this cross is Father John Bannon (1829- 1913), the ‘Confederacy’s Fighting Chaplain’. He was sent to St. Louis following his ordination, and when war broke out he served as Chaplain to the First Missouri Confederate Brigade. He was captured with his unit following the fall of Vicksburg in 1863. He subsequently returned to Ireland in an attempt to assist in the disruption of Union recruitment efforts on the island.

Detail of the inscribed cross recording the names of the Jesuits buried in the order’s plot in Glasnevin. ‘P. Joannes Bannon’ can be seen second from bottom. Bannon never returned to America following the war, instead remaining in Ireland and becoming a Jesuit.

(This article courtesy of the Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey SCV Camp 1452, Hernando, MS).

CSS Alabama (And Other Civil War Battleships)


(Above: photos of USS Cairo at Vicksburg National Military Park)

On July 29, 1862, the CSS Alabama departed the shores of England where it had been constructed. The ship’s career was short-lived, however, because she was sunk in 1864. Originally launched as Enrica, the ship never anchored in Southern waters. She was dubbed the Alabama in August of 1862 to the jaunting melody of “Dixie” following President Jefferson Davis’commission of the vessel as read by the captain.

In 1865, the USS San Jacinto was wrecked. What remained of the vessel was sold at auction, and added to the US Treasury. The total sum was $224.61.

Many ships have survived the ages throughout history, and new wrecks are being discovered all the time. It wasn’t long ago that the turret to the USS Monitor was discovered, still containing the remains of the Civil War soldiers inside. The same goes for the CSS Hunley, one of the first submarines ever used, which vanished off the coast of South Carolina in 1864 after torpedoing the USS Housatonic.

I have seen a few remnants of boats during this era that still remain. One interesting artifact is located at Desoto Bend, near Omaha, Nebraska. Here, a museum houses what remains of a riverboat that sunk in the Missouri River around the time of the Civil War. There is also a wildlife refuge there where you can see a wide variety of water birds as they migrate during the fall.

Another fascinating relic resides at the National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The USS Cairo was sunk into the murky waters of the Yazoo River during the siege of Vicksburg, but all of the occupants managed to escape before she went down. Nearly a century later, the boat was retrieved, and artifacts are on display at the museum inside the park.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Although the holiday has been celebrated since the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, it didn’t become a nationally observed holiday until 1863. The last Thursday of November was proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, thus commemorating “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It took nearly a century before some cities in the South, such as Vicksburg, Mississippi, finally acknowledged the holiday.

Only a week earlier, on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate a national cemetery that was being established to bury Union soldiers who had met their demise there. After delivering his famous Gettysburg Address, which he considered to be “a few appropriate remarks,” he was overheard saying, “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.” This was because of the poor reception he received following his speech, but little did he know that his words would become one of the most famous addresses in American history.

With that, let us all give thanks for what we are blessed with. Sometimes it is difficult to perceive the blessings we receive, just as Mr. Lincoln failed to perceive the potency of his words at the time. Many have friends and/or family who are dealing with the loss of loved ones or other critical situations in their lives. During this holiday season, please pray for them, as well as our military personnel.

The Grand Review

A very noteworthy occasion happened 150 years ago. On June 5, 1863, General J.E.B. Stuart held a Grand Review of his cavalry troops in Virginia. Always the flamboyant cavalier, General Stuart transported ladies from Richmond via the Orange and Alexandria railroad. The review, complete with fancy maneuvers by the troopers, a floral-strewn grandstand, and trumpeters, also featured artillery that blasted at the horse soldiers with mock ammo.That evening, a ball was held, and General Stuart’s own musicians entertained while the ladies danced with Confederate cavalry officers.

Two days later, another review was held for General Robert E. Lee. It is believed that the Union cavalry, which was close by, saw dust rising over the ridge, kicked up by horses during the review, which gave away their location. The Yankees poised for attack. (For more information, please read my book, A Beckoning Hellfire, which describes these events in detail.)

On June 6, 1862, Memphis surrendered to Union forces. This marked a significant victory for Union troops in that they were able to seize partial control of the Mississippi River, a major waterway used for transport during that time. A year later, Vicksburg would also fall, enabling the Union to contain the entire length of the river. And on June 8, 1861, Tennessee formally seceded from the Union.

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