J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Yankee”

Shiloh (“Peaceful Place” in Hebrew)

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This weekend marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. Last year was the big event, with over 10,000 spectators and reenactors in attendance (myself included). Although nothing as monumental is slated for this year, the Shiloh National Military Park will still hold discussions and tours of the battlefield.

ImageLast year, a week of events to commemorate the terrible battle took place, including two separate reenactments. 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.

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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.

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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.

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Laura Ratcliffe – Confederate Spy

If it wasn’t for Laura Ratcliffe, Colonel John Mosby, the infamous “Grey Ghost,” might have been captured by the Yankees. Not only did she aid Mosby in his mission to serve the Confederacy as a Partisan Ranger, but she also provided valuable information to Confederate cavalry commander Brigadier General J. E. B. Stuart.

 

Laura Ratcliffe was born on May 28, 1836 in Fairfax City, Virginia. Her parents were Francis Fitzhugh and Ann McCarty (Lee) Ratcliffe. Laura was a distant cousin to General Robert E. Lee on her mother’s side. When her father died, she moved with her mother and two sisters to Frying Pan (now Herndon) in Fairfax County, just south of Washington D.C. Once the Civil War broke out, the area bore witness to numerous raids and encampments from both sides.

 

Laura and one of her sisters volunteered to serve as nurses. During the winter of 1861, while they were assisting wounded soldiers, Laura met General J. E. B. (James Ewell Brown) Stuart, and the two became friends.  He wrote several personal letters and four poems to her, imploring her to continue with her espionage. In return, she provided him and fellow cavalryman Colonel John Singleton Mosby with valuable information concerning Union troop activity in the county.

 

A year later, Stuart led his cavalry on several raids in the area, and he visited Laura at her home many times. While at the Ratcliffe home, Mosby asked if he could remain there and continue operations instead of going into winter quarters. Stuart consented, and departed the area. Mosby and nine other soldiers from the 1st Virginia Cavalry continued to use the Ratcliffe home as their headquarters. Oftentimes, Mosby met Laura at a large rock near the top of Squirrel Hill to exchange information. Following one particularly lucrative raid, he requested that Laura keep the Federal greenbacks he had confiscated for safekeeping, so she stashed them beneath the rock.

 

In February 1863, Mosby captured several Federal soldiers, and returned their plunder to local citizens. Laura discovered that the Yankees had set a trap for Mosby, so she warned him of the intended ambush. Because of her valuable information, Mosby avoided arrest and captured a sutler’s wagon.

 

Captain Willard Glazer with the 2nd New York Cavalry complained that Laura “is a very active and cunning rebel, who is known to our men, and is at least suspected of assisting Mosby not a little in his movements … by the means of Miss Ratcliffe and her rebellious sisterhood, Mosby is generally informed.”

 

In March, Mosby managed to capture Union Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton by surprising him in his sleep. Arriving in the general’s room, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby?”

 

“Yes,” replied the general. “Have you captured the devil?”

 

“No,” Mosby responded. “The devil has caught you.”

 

Mosby captured the general, two of his captains, and 58 horses without firing a single shot. When President Abraham Lincoln heard of the event, he reportedly said that generals are replaceable, but he deeply regretted the loss of so many good horses.

 

Although it was obvious to the Federals that Laura’s house was being used for Confederate headquarters, she was never arrested or tried for any crime. After the war ended, she lived with her mother in an old farmhouse named “Merrybrook.” In 1890, Laura, who was now 54 years old and destitute, married a neighbor, Union veteran Milton Hanna. She became wealthy because of it, but her husband died in an accident seven years later.

 

Laura was a very private person, and never sought or received recognition for her courageous contributions to the Confederacy. Instead, she directed her attentions to the poor and unfortunate. In 1914, she fell and presumably broke her hip, but because she refused to receive medical treatment from a male doctor, the diagnosis was never verified. However, the accident left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Before her death at age 87 on August 8, 1923, she requested that “a neat grey granite stone” be placed at her gravesite with the names of Ratcliffe, Coleman, and Hanna carved into them. In 2007, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Laura Ratcliffe Branch, erected such a marker.

 

Merrybrook is now under direct threat. The current owners are striving to have the home preserved, but development is encroaching. The rock where Laura and Colonel Mosby exchanged information still exists, and a monument on the country highway nearby has been erected with an inscription that reads:

 

This large boulder, located just south of here, served as an important landmark during the Civil War, when Col. John S. Mosby’s Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) assembled there to raid Union outposts, communications, and supply lines. Laura Ratcliffe, a young woman who lived nearby and spied for Mosby, concealed money and messages for him under the rock. Mosby credited her with saving him from certain capture by Federal cavalry on one occasion. She also was a friend of Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart.

 

Among the items discovered in her effects after her death was a gold-embossed brown leather album, which contained several poems, as well as the signatures of General J. E. B. Stuart, Colonel Mosby, and Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee, son of Robert E. Lee. A gold watch chain belonging to Stuart was also found with her possessions.

 

For more information, and to learn how you can help with preservation, please visit:

www.lauraratcliffe.org.

 

Nancy Hart

 

“The Rebel in the Family”

The life of Confederate spy Nancy Hart is shrouded in mystery. Old documents refer to her with a mixture of fact and folklore. It is believed that she was born in Raleigh, North Carolina to John and Rebecca Hart in 1846. Her mother was a first cousin of Andrew Johnson, who later became president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The Harts were devout Christians, and her father frequently held family worship services. While Nancy was still an infant, they moved to Tazwell, Virginia.

Nancy was tall, lithe, and black-eyed. She was a middle child who had six, or possibly twelve, siblings. In 1853, she went to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and William Clay Price, in Roane County, Virginia, which became West Virginia in 1863. The family lived in the wilderness, so Nancy learned how to be an accomplished hunter and rider, but she never learned how to read and write. When the Civil War began, the Roane County held divided loyalties. Friends, neighbors, and families were separated by opposing beliefs. William was not a Confederate soldier, but he did his part by assisting them. After drawing suspicion, Union soldiers confronted him at his farm and ordered him to go to nearby Spencer to take the oath of allegiance. He departed with the Yankees, but never made it to Spencer. His body was discovered three days later. He had been shot in the back and left in the road.

The murder of William spawned Nancy’s loathing for the Federals. She revered the Southern Cause, even though two of her brothers went to fight for the North. In early 1861, her neighbors, the Kelly’s, held a going away party for their two sons who had joined the Confederate Army. While the party was commencing, Union officers marched past the house in the moonlight. Nancy hollered, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” Four rifle shots rang out in response, and four minie balls struck the front stoop, one of which lodged in the door. Three days later, Nancy joined the Moccasin Rangers, who were pro-Southern guerrillas, and rode with their leader, Perry Conley (or Connolly) at the head of the column, leading the Rangers while working as a spy, scout, and guide to the local region. She travelled alone at night to deliver messages between Confederate armies, and slept during the day. She also saved the lives of many wounded Rebel soldiers by hiding them with Southern sympathizers and nursing them back to health. Posing as a farm girl, she peddled eggs and vegetables to Union detachments to obtain information, and scouted isolated Federal outposts to report their strength, population, and vulnerability to General Stonewall Jackson. She even led Jackson’s cavalry on several raids. In the fall of 1861, Conley narrowly escaped the Federals, but Nancy was captured. Deciding she didn’t know anything, they released her, which was a big mistake, because she reported back to Conley with valuable information about the Yankees.

Nancy married one of the Moccasin Rangers, Joshua Douglas. Conley was mortally wounded in an engagement with Ohio Infantry in early summer, 1862. He fought off his attackers until he ran out of ammunition, and then the Yankees clubbed him to death. Afterward, the Rangers disbanded. Nancy’s husband joined up with the 19th Virginia Cavalry, and she moved into the mountains of Nicholas County, where she continued her work as a messenger. A reward for her capture was issued, and it wasn’t long until Union Lieutenant Colonel Starr recognized “Peggy,” as Nancy was known by both armies. She and a female friend were discovered in a log cabin, crushing corn. They were taken prisoner, and confined to the second-story of an old, dilapidated house in Summersville.  Soldiers were quartered downstairs, and a sentry was posted to guard them in their room.

While there, 20-year-old Nancy was allowed to roam the jail grounds of her own free will. She gained the attention of several soldiers, including telegrapher Marion H. Kerner, who convinced Starr to transfer the young women to the Summersville jail, and supplied them with sewing materials and illustrated papers. When an itinerant photographer showed up to hone his trade, Kerner pursuaded Nancy to pose for a picture, although she said that she didn’t have clothes “fittin’ to be pictured in.” Kerner requested clothing from some Union women, and fashioned a Yankee officer’s hat by folding the bill and inserting a plume. The resulting photograph is the only one in existence of Nancy Hart, who, according to legend, refused to smile because she had to wear Yankee attire.

Here is where the story differs. One version states that, later that night, Nancy tricked a naive soldier. After talking to him extensively, she convinced him to show her his pistol. The young, enamored Yankee willingly obliged. She promptly fired into his heart, killing him instantly. Nancy jumped headlong out of a second-story window into a clump of tall jimson weeds, and escaped bareback on Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse.

A week later, on July 25, she returned with 200 Confederate cavalrymen. She was still riding Lieutenant Colonel Starr’s horse. At 4:00 a.m., the Rebels burned three buildings, including the commissary storehouse. They also destroyed two wagons, and captured eight mules and twelve horses. In all, only ten shots were fired, and two soldiers were wounded. The Confederates easily arrested the slumbering Yankees, including Starr, who was shipped off to Libby Prison with his officers. Marion Kerner was also captured, but Nancy convinced the Confederate officers to release him because of the kind treatment he had shown her. He was immediately arrested, however, after attempting to send a telegraph to Union forces.

Nancy faded out of the picture as an active partisan, no doubt knowing that, if she were to be captured again, a rope would be waiting for her. After the War Between the States ended, her husband returned, and they lived in Greenbrier County, raising two sons. Nancy’s last public appearance was in 1902, when she testified at the Courthouse in Lewisburg on behalf of her son, Kennos, who was charged with killing a man at a dance. Nancy died in either 1902 or 1913.

The other version of her story isn’t nearly as colorful, and is much sadder. According to Hart family legend, Nancy was born to rebel, and paid with her life after she was arrested and confined in Summersville. Because Union troops didn’t want the locals to know, her hanging on Cold Knob Mountain was kept a secret. Nancy remained calm, but once allowed to speak, she hollered out the Rebel yell, as well as “Wahoo! Whoop! Hurrah!” and “Yay for the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis!” However, there is little or no evidence suggesting that Nancy was executed by hanging. On the other hand, there is little or no evidence stating that she ever married, either, and no official record of her killing a Union soldier. Census records are sketchy at best, as are family records.

She is buried at Mannings Knob Cemetery in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, near Richwood, where the Mannings family buried their slaves. The cemetery is also known as Nancy Hart Cemetery. She was originally buried with only a pile of stones to mark her grave. Years later, Jim Comstock, a publisher and Civil War buff, decided that she deserved a proper marker, so he and Nancy’s granddaughter found the top of Mannings Knob, but the area had been bulldozed to make room for a beacon tower. Her grave was never located. However, a marker was erected in the cemetery in her honor. 

Marion H. Kerner, the Union officer who convinced Nancy to pose for a photograph, said that the last glimpse he caught of her was shortly after the Summersville raid, and he never “heard of her since. She may be dead.”  He later wrote about her, making her story famous in Leslie’s Weekly Magazine. The article was published in 1910. A large rock, known as “Nancy’s Dancing Rock,” still exists on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River, near the place where Nancy grew up.

Battle of Fredericksburg

This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. It was during this battle that Burnside’s Union forces faced defeat at the hands of General Lee’s Confederates, who were entrenched on Marye’s Heights. The Yankees were literally mowed down, and during the course of the bitter cold night, suffered tremendously, their cries and moans echoing in the still December air to the distraught ears of the Rebels.

One remarkable soldier laid his life on the line to assist the poor soldiers he was fighting against. This is a profound gesture, because the Union soldiers had pillaged the town upon their arrival, driving the remaining citizens into the woods to fend for themselves. Private Richard Rowland Kirkland, only nineteen years old, ventured out onto the battlefield to offer fallen Yankees sips of water from his canteen. Because of his bravery, he is forever known as “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

The battlefield has been honorably preserved, as has a house that survived the midst of battle and still has bullet hole pock mark scars to prove it. In two of my novels, A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire, the battle is described in detail. Once the fighting ceased, Northern Lights became visible in the winter sky. This was extremely unusual, as they are normally not seen that far south. The Confederates took it as a sign from God that he approved of their victory.

Battle of Collierville

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Yesterday’s reenactment of the Battle of Collierville drew hundreds to Schilling Farms in Collierville, Tennessee. Besides spectators, many reenactors showed up as well.

Not only do adults participate in the fun, but so do children, as shown in these photos. These kids had a great time posing for pictures and playing with the two dachshunds we brought along.

(Gabe Owens and Kristian Hatfield look serious enough to “kill” some Yankees)

The reenactment was the 149th anniversary of the battle. On Sunday, October 11, 1863, Brigadier Confederate General James R. Chalmers confronted Union Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman. The Rebels drove the Federals into a fort, but then withdrew. The battle lasted five hours. General Sherman was nearly captured during the battle. His horse, Dolly, was captured.

This brave Yankee drummer boy was killed during the “battle.” Luckily, he came back to life to pose for this photograph!

Please stay tuned … I will be posting more pics later on this week!

Excerpt From A Beautiful Glittering Lie

As promised, I am posting another excerpt from my new novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. You can purchase copies via my website, www.jdrhawkins.com, through Amazon, or from Barnes and Noble. Thanks for reading!

By mid-July, the Union Army finally began to move, and on Thursday, the 18th, the Alabamians received orders to strike tents and cook two days’ rations in preparation of a march. The sick, who were principally suffering from the measles, were left behind in Winchester.

While the men marched through town, women, old men, and children came out to see them, calling, “Please don’t leave us to the Yankees!”

The foot soldiers set off, marching throughout the day and all night, until they were finally allowed to sleep, but only for two hours. At daylight, they resumed their march, continuing on through the day, from the Shenandoah through Ashby’s Gap across the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their uniforms were beginning to show signs of wear, in that shoes and wool coats had sprouted holes, kepis, forage caps, and Egyptian-style havelocks were beginning to fray, and rations were becoming sparse.

Storm clouds mushroomed, thickening to a dark gray by dusk, and obscured the setting sun. Around 10:30 p.m., the Confederate soldiers arrived at Piedmont Station in a miserable, torrential downpour. They sloshed through mud while trying to keep their gunpowder dry. Completely exhausted, the men struggled to obtain what little rest they could under their temporary shelters, which failed to provide much remedy from the rain. At midnight, they took a train to Manassas Junction, arriving at approximately 9:00 a.m. on the morning of the 20th.

The men marched about two miles north of the junction before being allowed to bivouac near what they learned was referred to as Ball’s Ford. They rested in their temporary camp for a few hours prior to assuming their position, defending the stone bridge that spanned a creek known as the Bull Run River. It was along this road that the enemy was expected to come. Shortly after sunrise on July 21, a Sunday, the distant boom of cannons announced their foe’s arrival.

It wasn’t long before the Yankees came into view: their appearance seemed surreal. The men of the 4th   Alabama were confronted with the entire advancing Union Army. As they neared, the regiments on either side of the North Alabamians fell away. Colonel Jones ordered his men to hold fast while he had them march up a hill to a low fence surrounding a corn field.

General Bee galloped over to the regiment and commanded them by calling out, “Up, Alabamians!”

The men rushed over the fence, and advanced at a double quick to the top of the hill. Colonel Jones ordered them to lie down just below the crest, to fire, load, and fire again. The Federals became entrenched only about 100 yards from where they were.

Struggling with their obsolete weapons, the soldiers bit off cartridges and loaded their muskets as rapidly as they could. All the while, Colonel Jones sat calmly atop Old Battalion with one leg draped across the pommel of his saddle, observing the enemy’s movements. Upon his command, the North Alabamians rose, delivered a volley, and after waiting for his signal, fell back upon the cool, damp earth. They were spread from the corn field on their right to a pine woodlot on their left. The men fought on for over an hour with only artillery to support them.

Glancing at his comrades, Hiram took a moment to catch his breath. The situation at hand was dangerous, yet dreamlike. He had envisioned this moment for months, and had discussed it with his fellow comrades. Still, the realization that it was actually taking place was difficult to comprehend. His heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was in his throat. He glanced at Bud, whose face was blackened from powder. Obviously concentrating with all his might, Bud continued to jump to his feet, fire, and fall down again while grimacing. Men around them fell with thuds like acorns from oak trees. Bullets whizzed all around them, sounding like angry wasps. Some whistled and ricocheted, haphazardly hitting and missing men as they screamed, moaned, and cursed the wretched Yankees.

One man who thought he could fire better if he remained standing, bragged to the men close to Bud, “Watch how nicely I can take that officer off his horse.”

Just as he took aim with his rifle, a Yankee bullet penetrated his skull. He fell in a heap, his brains splattered onto the field. Bud glanced at Hiram, shook his head in dismay, and kept firing like nothing had happened. Stunned, Hiram forced himself to shake it off, continuing to fight as well.

For some reason, the Union Army ceased firing at noon. Bracing themselves for another attack, the Rebels utilized the time to check their firearms. Word came that artillery was running low, which caused a slight panic, but Jones assured his men that they could win the battle before their ammunition ran out.

After two hours of quiet, the Yankees resumed their assault, and the Confederates fought off several Union advances. Men in colorful garb fashioned after French Algerian Zouaves attacked first, but were driven back. Then came, one at a time, three other regiments, but all eventually broke and ran. Their uniforms caused confusion, for men on either side were dressed in both blue and gray, including Colonel Jones, who wore the blue uniform he had donned while previously serving in the U.S. Army.

The men spied two unknown regiments clad in gray, approaching in a line on their right. Assuming they were Confederates, the Alabamians signaled by raising their hands to their caps while giving the password, “our homes,” and the unknown regiment signaled back by mirroring the action. Law ordered his soldiers to form a line behind the new arrivals. As soon as the 4th unfurled their flags, they were quickly surprised when the culprits turned and opened fire on them. Several men were shot, screaming in agony while the deceivers perpetrated their lines. Others reacted by bursting into hysterical laughter, contrary to what the situation demanded.

The 4th Alabama was finally flanked. As the regiment was commanded to retire, James Alexander fell, a bullet piercing his abdomen, sending his entrails splattering. Bud witnessed his terrible injury, but was unable to assist, and although in shock, he retreated with his regiment in a tornado of chaos. Old Battalion was hit in the leg, forcing Colonel Jones to dismount. In a hail of bullets, he too was hit in both thighs, and crumbled to the ground with a broken left leg. Law immediately took command, managing to retire his troops, but was compelled to leave Jones on the field because Union soldiers had forded Bull Run River. Major Scott went down, shot through the leg. Law fell next, his arm broken by a Yankee’s bullet, and was quickly taken from the field. The remaining Alabamians now had no one to guide them, and stood befuddled in mass confusion while men writhed around them on the ground, bloody and dying, as smoke and thunder filled the air.

Hiram and his comrades fell back through a skirt of woods, descended a hill, and formed a line, trying to regroup, regardless of the humid, withering heat, their parched thirst, and the horror that engulfed them.

Captain Tracy delivered a patriotic speech, saying, “Strike for the green graves of your sires. Strike for your altars and fires, God and your native land.”

He then asked for volunteers to retrieve Jones, but was convinced by another captain that the effort was futile. At a loss, the regiment awaited orders, watching survivors from other divisions scatter or huddle together in a nearby ravine.

Generals Johnston and Beauregard arrived on their right.

Johnston asked, “Where are your field officers?”

“They’ve been left on the battlefield,” came a response.

Another man asked the general to place the regiment in position, to which Johnston replied that he would, once he analyzed the situation, and the generals rode off.

It was now two o’clock. All of a sudden, General Bee rode up on his steed, excitably waving his sword.

“What body of troops is this?” he hollered at them.

“Why General, don’t you know your own troops? We’re what remains of the Fourth Alabama!” Enoch Campbell exclaimed.

The general appeared calm but perturbed. “This is all of my brigade I can find,” he stated to the soldiers. “Will you follow me back to where the firin’ is goin’ on?”

“Aye, sir!” yelled Hiram, at first not recognizing his own voice.

“To the death!” added George Anderson.

Bee immediately set the men into action, leading them forward into the fray. On the other side of the ravine awaited a brigade of Virginians commanded by General Thomas Jackson, who sat stoically upon his steed.

General Bee brought him to the men’s attention, and said, “Let us go and support Jackson! See he stands like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!”

As the regiment moved left, an artillery battery cut through their ranks. Bee and his army veered right, while the rest of the regiment moved forward into the woods.

Mayhem prevailed. The men were unable to distinguish friend from foe. Forced to fall back, they retired in a hurricane of bullets to await further orders. Hiram and Bud trailed behind, and as they retreated, Hiram overheard Bee address Jackson.

“General, they’re pushin’ us back!”

Jackson replied calmly, his blue eyes barely visible from beneath his forage cap, “Well, sir, we shall give them the bayonet.”

General Bee ordered his men to retreat to a nearby hill. The Rebels fell behind it, and fortified the hill. Suddenly, the field began to grow quiet, except for the frantic wails of injured soldiers. To the Alabamians relief, the Federals were retreating. With one hand, Hiram withdrew his pocket watch, and wiped sweat from his brow with the other. Clicking the timepiece open, he saw that it was nearly five o’clock. The battle had gone on for seven hours.

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)

Christmas Good Will

Holiday charity was displayed frequently during the War Between the States. On more than one occasion, troops displayed reciprocity by exchanging coffee for tobacco, northern newspapers for southern ones, and songs. The Rebel bands proudly played “Dixie,” followed by a retaliatory rendition of “Yankee Doodle” from the Federals. Both sides came together as they played “Home Sweet Home,” with nary a dry eye on either side as soldiers reminisced of their home and loved ones.

The Civil War was unique in that both sides held the same basic principles and beliefs, had the same religions, patriots, and histories. The soldiers frequently came together to share stories, and then turned around and killed each other the next morning during battle. It is difficult to fathom such an existence, and indeed, many veterans expressed the same sentiment years later during Civil War reunions.

Sergeant Richard Kirkland was a Confederate soldier who displayed compassion on the battlefield at Fredericksburg, but Union soldiers also felt empathy for their adversaries. On Christmas Day, 1864, ninety soldiers from Michigan and their captain loaded up wagons with food and supplies. They then distributed them to destitute citizens living in the Georgia countryside who had been victimized during Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” The Yankees even went so far as to tie tree branches to the heads of their mules, resembling reindeer.

Nothing expresses the nation’s sentiment better than this excerpt printed in Harper’s Weekly on December 26, 1863: “Even with all the sorrow that hangs, and will forever hang, over so many households; even while war still rages; even while there are serious questions yet to be settled – out it not to be, and is it not, a merry Christmas?”

The Battle above the Clouds

From November 23 through November 25, 1863, the third and final Battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee took place. After being defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, which took place on September 18-20, Union Maj. General Rosencrans’ forces retreated to Chattanooga, and Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee pursued. Bragg arranged his troops so that the Yankees were surrounded, and therefore, under seige.

President Lincoln quickly put Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant in charge of his army in the West. Grant replaced Rosencrans with Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. After several blunders occurred on both sides, the Federals came out victorious. Even though Grant lost more men, the Yankees managed to drive off the Rebels, which opened the door for Atlanta’s capture, and ultimately, Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Nathan Bedford Forrest had reported to Bragg that the Yankees were in full retreat, and told him the Confederates should cut them off, but Bragg didn’t listen. During the battle, Forrest’s favorite mount, Highlander, was shot in the neck. To prevent his horse from bleeding out, Forrest plugged the hole with his finger and continued fighting until he could ride out of danger. Once he removed his finger, the loyal steed staggered, fell, and died.

Wilson’s Creek Reenactment

Sunday concluded the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) near Springfield, Missouri. The event was a huge success, with approximately 3,500 reenactors participating, along with 31 cannons and over 400 horses on hand. Eye witnesses to the event proclaimed it as being “awesome” and “overwhelming.”

The actual battle, the first major one to take place in the Western Theatre of the Civil War, took place on August 10, 1861. Huge reenactments such as this are amazing, in that their depiction is true to life. The participants strive to make the events as historically accurate as possible. Spectators watched as battles played out before them. Some of the audience, as well as the soldiers, had ancestors who actually fought in the battle, which gave them a taste of what their great-great grandfathers experienced.

Other events that took place over the weekend included a period wedding, a military ball, and living history demonstrations. At the conclusion of the weekend, Yankees and Confederates were reunited once again in an atmosphere of goodwill.

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