J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Yankees”

Dog Days of Summer

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By the time July starts winding down, the heat is beginning to wear on everyone, and we  all start thinking about when school will resume again. I’m fortunate in that I live in the mountains, so if it gets too hot, we can head up to the hills to cool off.

Although summer was the most likely time for battles to take place during the Civil War, there was also a lot of down time. The soldiers were left to their own devices to entertain themselves. Many wrote letters to their loved ones. Others passed the time by playing cards, gambling, reading weeks-old newspapers, or shooting the bull, as they called it.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, describing typical southern soldiers who passed the time away while waiting for the next big battle.

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Jake and David led their horses to the edge of the field to graze and fell down upon the damp grass in sheer exhaustion. Two other members of their company approached and lay down on the grass next to them. They welcomed each other with a weary, “Hey.”

“We heared y’all were from Alabama, so we thought we’d come over and make your acquaintance. You boys jist git in last night?” one asked.

“Yeah,” David replied.

He introduced himself and Jake. The two veterans did the same, stating that their names were John Chase and Michael Tailor.

“Do we drill tomorrow, too, or do we git a day of rest, bein’s it’s the Sabbath?” asked David.

“There’ll be no drillin’ tomorrow. Ole Beauty’s a stickler for lettin’ us off on Sundays,” John said, referring to Stuart by a nickname the general had acquired at West Point.

“Where y’all from?” asked Jake.

“We’re from Georgia,” John replied.

“How come y‘all are in a company of Virginians?” asked David.

“Well, we were over here with my cousin,” explained Michael. “Us and some other fellers from our company. Kerr, Smith, Crawford, and Campbell. Anyway, we were supposed to leave to go down south with our brigade, but when we got back, they were already gone!”

“What brigade is that?” asked David.

“Hampton’s,” John responded. “We’re with the Jeff Davis Legion. Reckon we’ll have hell to pay when they git back up here!” He and Michael chuckled. “So y’all will jist have to tolerate a few of us Georgians around the place,” he went on. “Least till our fellers git back.”

“Reckon we can overlook it if y’all can,” Jake said with a grin.

John snickered, raising an eyebrow. “I’m inclined to think that us Rebels are all in this together, so I’ll forgive y’all for bein’ from Alabama.”

David and Jake looked at each other and shrugged.

“I have cousins in Alabama,” Michael told them. “Y’all know the Ryan’s?”

Jake and David gaped at each other in astonishment.

“There are a lot of Ryan’s around our parts,” Jake replied.

“How about that!” Michael laughed. He seemed happy to hear of any news from home, however obscure it might be. They talked about their families for a while until he stood and said, “All this nostalgic talk is makin’ me well up.”

John pulled himself to his feet. “Let’s meet up tonight, and we’ll shoot the bull,” he suggested.

Jake and David agreed before following the Georgians back into camp.

“Hey,” John said over his shoulder. “Do either one of you boys know how to write, because I’ve been longin’ to send a letter home to my wife, but I jist can’t figure out how to put it in words.”

“We can write a letter for you,” said David, happy to oblige.

John smiled and trudged back toward camp.

Hesitating until the Georgians were out of earshot, Jake gave David a shove, which caused him to stumble.

“What was that for?” he angrily fired back.

“I ain’t volunteerin’ to write a letter for every soldier out here,” Jake stated.

David gave him a crooked grin, knowing that his friend wasn’t very good at writing. “Well, I’ll jist do it, then,” he said.

They returned to camp and scrounged around for something to eat, but could only manage to find the same staples they’d consumed earlier. After they tied their horses out to graze, Sergeant Williams came by and invited them to his fire. Jake and David followed him to discover a large iron kettle hanging over a flame.

“Put that Yankee coat in here, and the dye will turn it butternut,” the sergeant instructed.

David removed the coat he’d been wearing since the previous evening. He let it fall into the boiling concoction. “What do you use for dye?” he asked.

“Walnut hulls, acorns, and lye,” William replied.

They chuckled at the rhyme. Standing over the kettle, they watched the boiling water roll over the garment as it gradually washed the dark blue coat to brownish-yellow.

When he was satisfied with the result, William retrieved the coat with a stick and hung it on a bush to dry. “You’ll have to leave this here till tomorrow,” he told David, “but you can borrow my saddle blanket if you want.”

“Thanks,” David said. “I reckon I’ll be all right.”

The two troopers exchanged smiles. After bidding goodnight to the sergeant, Jake and David returned to their site, but were surprised by what awaited them. Six men were standing there, waiting for their return.

“There they are!” exclaimed John, a wide grin parting the thick fur on his face. “These boys will write home for us!”

Jake looked at David, scoffed, and shook his head. “I’m illiterate all of a sudden,” he muttered.

One of the Georgians they hadn’t yet met held out a pen and a piece of wallpaper. David wondered whose wall he’d peeled it from.

“How do,” the Georgian said, “I’m Custis Kerr.” He held out his other hand and grasped onto David’s. “John and Michael here said y’all can write a letter for us.” He had a scraggly beard that reminded David of a wire-haired dog he’d seen once. Pausing momentarily, Custis added, “I’d be willin’ to give you somethin’ for it.”

“Do you have anything to eat?” Jake inquired.

“Well, I have a cornpone and some honey,” said Custis.

David smiled, took the pen and paper from him, and seated himself on the log next to their fire. Custis sat beside him, grinning from ear to ear. Positioning the wallpaper on his thigh, David poised the pen erect and glanced over at him.

“Ain’t you holdin’ it in the wrong hand?” Custis asked.

“I’m left handed,” David explained.

The Georgians howled.

“We ain’t never seen a lefty afore!” one of them exclaimed.

David felt a little awkward, but had grown up enduring such teases, so he shrugged it off.

“Whatcha want me to write?”

“Dear Mother,” Custis dictated, “I am feelin’ well and believe the weather is becomin’ more mild.”

David raised an eyebrow as he scribbled down the words, wondering if this soldier had anything more important to say.

“I am doin’ fine and look forward to seein’ you a’gin.” Custis spoke like he was reading, slow and deliberate, so that David would catch every word. “I am writin’ to M.S.B. and C.L.S.”

Throwing a glance at him, David wondered how many letters he was expected to write for each and every soldier. He started to regret his hasty offer to John and Michael.

“If you don’t have anything more to say, I’ll close for you,” he said, hoping Custis would take him up on his offer.

“Hold on a minute.” The Georgian raised his hand. He nodded and pointed to the wallpaper, coaxing his transcriber to continue. “Received the parcels you sent from home. Many of the boys enjoyed them also.” He stopped to rub his beard in thought. “Reckon that’s all. Jist put down your lovin’ son, Custis.”

David finished writing and handed the piece of wallpaper to him. Custis clutched onto it like it was a gold nugget.

“Oh, what’s your name?” he asked.

“David Summers.”

“Thanks kindly, Summers,” Custis said, and walked off.

Another Georgian, Peter Smith, had David write home to his wife and two daughters in exchange for dehydrated vegetables. Alfred Crawford dictated a letter to his sweetheart, gave David a sewn bag of pennyroyal leaves for his effort, and instructed him to place it at the foot of his bed to repel fleas. A newlywed, Robert Campbell, sought assistance in addressing a letter to his wife. He rewarded his comrade with saddle soup and graybacks amounting to three dollars. David also wrote one letter each for John and Michael. In the time it took for him to write the soldiers’ letters, he learned more about each cavalryman than most of the others would ever know about each other. Graciously, he accepted their offerings in return.

When he had finished, he realized it was getting dark. Thankfully, Jake had taken the initiative to fry some salt pork, so he and David devoured it along with the newly-acquired cornpone and crusted honey. They cleaned up and relaxed, lying on their backs and gazing up at the stars. David’s writer’s cramp left him too disabled to pen a letter to his own family, but he reasoned that he could do it tomorrow, since it would be a day of rest. He started dozing off, but heard voices growing louder.

“Mind if’n we jine you?” Michael asked.

David opened his eyes and glanced at Jake, who shook his head, grinning as he sat up.

John chuckled. “You look right tuckered out. Did we run you ragged today?” He chuckled again. “We came over to shoot the bull with you fellers.”

David pried himself up. The two veterans seated themselves on logs. John pulled a meerschaum from his pocket and lit it. The pungent odor of rich tobacco intermingled with the smell of burning firewood.

“By the way,” Michael said, his dark eyes twinkling in the firelight. “I’d recommend you get rid of that can of desecrated vegetables Smith gave you.”

“Why?” asked David.

“I’ve heard tell that if’n you eat those critters, they’ll expand in your stomach and make you explode!”

David’s eyes grew large. He retrieved the can of dehydrated vegetables from his saddlebag, threw it into the fire, and watched along with the others. The can sizzled, popped open, and was quickly consumed by flames. Inexplicably, the recollection of Tom’s terrible death back home in the barn entered his mind. He looked away.

“I heard that last month they caught ole Abe Lincoln in a drunken stupor,” John remarked nonchalantly. “Heard from a source in Washin’ton City that he was on a binge for thirty-six hours and was still drunk when he left the drinkin’ establishment!” He laughed heartily.

Jake winked at David. It was obvious their guests were extravagant liars, but amusing, nonetheless.

“I heard tell that General Burnside passed on in his sleep,” Michael said, “and that General Beauregard was accompanied on a march by concubines and wagonloads of champagne.”

Jake and David chuckled.

“I heard from a couple of Louisiana Zouaves that the good people of New Orleans printed a picture of General Butler on the bottoms of their chamber pots!” exclaimed John. He guffawed loudly. “That’s one way to git even with that damned Yankee general!” he exclaimed, referring to the dreadful officer who had taken over the city nearly a year ago. The four soldiers laughed loudly at this.

“Is it truthful that General Stuart’s a teetotaler?” asked Jake.

John nodded, enjoying his pipe. “That he is, and a ladies’ man, but a devoted husband and father over all.”

“Where in Georgia are y’all from?” David inquired.

“Savannah,” said Michael.

“I heard it’s right purty over there,” said Jake. “Y’all have any land?” he asked.

“I have about a hundred acres,” John replied, “and a few niggers to help run the place, but Michael ain’t got any, ‘cept what his kinfolk live on. We’ve got plenty of big plantations’round our parts.”

“When we were ridin’ in,” Jake said, “we heard some fellers talkin’ bout a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, but we didn’t know what they meant by it.”

“Oh.” John took a puff from his clay pipe. “The plantation owners and their overseers are exempt from fightin’ if’n they have twenty slaves.”

“That don’t seem right,” said David.

“Nothin’ in war is right, Summers,” Michael said, “and you’ll find that out soon enough. But General Hampton’s supposed to be the largest slave owner in the South, and he’s fightin’. Say, you ain’t a conscript, are you?”

“No sir,” David responded proudly. “We’re both enlistees.”

John nodded and smiled, clenching the pipe in his teeth. He puffed again. “That’s good. We ain’t real fond of conscripts ’round here. Anyone forced to jine up ain’t worthy of the fight, and those fellers will run off first chance they git. Jist like those cowards from our home state who refuse to fight. We call them Georgia crackers. It’s downright unpatriotic.”

Jake leaned in toward his friend. “You should ask him about your pa,” he reminded.

The other soldiers looked at David, waiting for him to speak. He took a deep sigh, and said, “My pa is buried here somewhere, and I was wonderin’ if y’all might know where I could find him.”

The Georgians exchanged glances.

“Can’t rightly direct you,” Michael said. “The burial site’s mighty large, and not every grave is marked. It could take days, or even weeks, and you still might not find him.”

David bit his lower lip and gazed into the fire, disappointed with the answer he’d received.

Jake quickly changed the subject and they were soon engaged in telling one chilling horror story after another, most of which the other soldiers made up. David enthralled them with “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story by Edgar Allen Poe, which none of the others had heard before. To his amusement, the others actually shivered at his telling of the story. The four soldiers talked on into the night until they realized it was late and decided to retire. As the Georgians departed, Jake leaned back, mumbling something unintelligible. David fell asleep but was soon startled awake by the bugler’s invasion.

“I thought we got today off,” he muttered to Jake while they pulled on their boots.

“Reckon they have roll every day,” Jake said with a yawn.

He and David sauntered to the field where they again went through military procedures. Their company was informed that General Fitzhugh Lee, who was the nephew of Robert E. Lee, had taken his cavalry brigade northward. After being released, the boys stood in line for rations, disappointed with the lack of variety once more, but they ate it anyway, grateful for the meager nourishment. Afterward, they gave their mounts some seed corn and oats.

Finally finding free time, David settled in to read from his Testament. He opened the leather flap. Inside was the miniature Southern Cross Josie had sewn for him. His heart grew heavy at the thought of her, Rena, and their mother. He had hardly been gone a week, yet it seemed like years.

Flipping through the sacred pages, he found a scripture that caught his eye: So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jake sat down beside him, holding a newspaper he had found.

“Where’d you git that?” David asked.

“Down at the sink,” Jake replied, opening the paper. “It’s a few weeks old, but it’s somethin’ to read.”

“Couldn’t find better use for it?” David snickered.

Jake glared at him. “You wouldn’t think it was so funny if you had this ailment,” he grumbled.

David shrugged. “Seems to me some of that salt pork should’ve worked its way out by now.” Unable to help himself, he snickered again.

Jake threw the newspaper down on the ground and stood. “Reckon I’ll see what’s goin’ on around camp,” he announced, and stomped off.

Deciding it would be a good time to write a letter home, David found his pencil and paper and began writing.

 

Dear Ma and sisters,

I take pencil in hand to inform you that Jake and I arived yesterday evening and are being aclimated to our suroundings. We have plenty to eat and are feeling fine and our horses are fine. We have yet to see General Stuart. To-day is Sunday and you will be glad to know that I am studying scripture and find it very reasuring. Please tell Callie I wish her well if you see her. I would like very much if you could rite to me every particular of what is going on back home. I am thinking of you fondly and will rite again in the near future.

Your son and brother until deth,

David

 

Intentionally excluding any reference to Tom Caldwell, he placed the folded letter into an envelope.

They must have heard by now, he thought. They must know that I killed him.

Deciding to hunt for Jake and deliver his letter to the post, he walked around camp, taking notice of the activities around him. He was stunned to see men gambling, pitching horseshoes, cursing, drinking, betting, and slapping papers while they played their poker hands, not only because it was the Sabbath, but also because it was only one week after Easter. One soldier asked David to join him for a sip of “Pine Top,” but he refused. Drinking, especially on a Sunday, appalled him. Curious as to why there were no services, he asked another trooper.

“In the beginnin’,” the soldier said, “we held services faithfully every week.” He cocked his head at David.   “But truth be told, as time went on, we all got too tired of the war to care anymore.”

David nodded, and turned to search out his best friend. Jake stood in a throng surrounding two Rebels who were seated at a table. In front of them, a Federal canteen lay on its side. The men yelled and squinted at it.

“Come on, Howitzer!” one hollered.

“Go, Minié Ball!” another exclaimed. The spectators shouted excitedly.

“What’s goin’ on?” David asked his friend.

“They’re havin’ lice races,” Jake replied. He grinned at David before looking back at the table.

The crowd cheered. One of the contenders sprang from the table and threw his arms up in victory.

“Better luck next time!” he bellowed, shaking his opponent’s hand.

The loser presented a Confederate note to his rival, and men within the crowd exchanged currency as well.

David observed the spectacle with amazement, glad that no man of the cloth was there to witness it. He felt a twinge of humiliation for the soldiers in attendance, and wondered why they didn’t display any moral responsibility. Deciding he’d seen enough, he walked back over to his campsite. Jake followed, talking all the while about the carefree life of a soldier.

“Do you reckon I’ll be able to find Pa’s grave?” David asked him.

Jake’s joviality quickly changed to solemn reserve. He shrugged in response. “Sounds like the gravesite’s mighty large. It could take us days to find him, and besides, the major might notice us missin’.”

“Well, maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow if he knows where Pa might be.”

“Why don’t you ask him now?” Jake grinned, motioning for him to follow.

They walked through camp to a white canvas tent and timidly entered.

“Sir,” Jake said quietly to catch the major’s attention.

Major Warner looked up from the map he was studying. David followed Jake inside the tent, and the two saluted.

“At ease,” the major softly commanded. “What can I do for you boys?”

“My friend was wonderin’ if you might know where his pa’s buried,” Jake explained. “He was killed here last December.”

“Do you know which regiment he was with?” asked Major Warner.

David nodded. “Yessir. He was with the 4th Alabama. Uh, the North Alabamians infantry division.”

The major scratched his head. “What was your father’s name, Private?”

“Hiram Summers, sir.”

“Well, let me look into it, and I’ll git back to you in a day or two.”

“Yessir.”

The boys saluted and exited the tent. Once again, David was disappointed with the response he’d received, but decided he had no choice but to wait.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-Renegade/dp/197963372X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532666094&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

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Senseless Actions Explained

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I thought the author of the following article put the issue of destroying Confederate Monuments into perspective, so I wanted to share.

The Danger of Taking Down Confederate Monuments

By Christine Barr

Christine Barr is a Texan from Tennessee writing for the Paris Post- Intelligencer.

She is the mother of four children.

It becomes tiresome pointing out the same old historical half-truths when talking about the War Between the States. So in the interest of not getting distracted from my main point, let’s ignore the many reasons other than slavery behind the formation of the Confederate States of America (CSA).

Why not? Most do already.

Instead, let’s talk about why current politicians’ taking down monuments to CSA soldiers and politicians is far more dangerous than allowing them to remain.

First, a word about symbols. It is entirely possible, and in fact most often the case, that symbols can contain a multitude of meanings. That meaning is determined by the context in the which the symbol is seen, and by the person the viewer of the symbol is.

You may see the U.S. flag, and feel inspired as it reminds you of patriotism and love of country; citizens of other countries often have a far different interpretation.

I see the cross, and am reminded of the inestimable love of Jesus, while non-Christians may have a negative reaction.

And who is to say that one side is wrong?

Symbols do not have meaning separate from the context in which they exist. The meaning is an artificial construct – a red rose is simply a flower until someone from a culture which view both the flower and its color as significant sees it.

That means that it is entirely possible that the person who tells you a Confederate monument or flag represents pride in regional heritage is not in fact racist.

That does not mean that to someone else, the flag or monument does embody racism – usually the argument against the flags of the CSA are predicated on the fact that slavery was an economic issue behind the South’s dissatisfaction with remaining in the Union.

This completely ignores the objective fact that the Union did not disavow slavery upon commencing actions against the CSA, and continued to have slavery be legal in the slave states of the Union even AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation freed some slaves in very specific areas.

It is usually also brought up that racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan have used the flags, again ignoring the role of the U.S. flag in the racist groups’ rallies, etc.

Minus any evidence to the contrary, the fact is that it is the willful ignorance, or conscious ignoring, of these facts that allow politicians and various organizations to manipulate the public through craven appeal to a simplistic understanding.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars – from some unknown source – were used to remove statues and memorials in New Orleans. Now the mayor can gleefully claim to have fought the nasty racists, and undoubtedly those who have rewarded him with accolades and their applause will continue to congratulate him and his cronies on this grand stand against racism.

It’s an easy – if tawdry – way to get a bump in approval. But at the end of the day, how has it made the life of even one New Orleans minority citizen better?

The supposedly private funds used to destroy part of the history of a city with a large amount of historical tourism might have been used to help rectify the housing shortage which continues to burden the largely minority workforce that enables the tourism industry to succeed.

It could have been used to help transform the lackluster public education system, enabling even the poorest citizens to have confidence that their children were receiving the kind of education which would equip them to take their place in society and be the kind of leaders so desperately needed in New Orleans.

Instead, it went to the wanton destruction of items that had no impact on the day-to-day lives of the very population most in need of having the real legacy of racism erased.

The greatest danger in this kind of empty political stunt is the fact it enables smug, self-satisfied Yankees and “progressive” Southerners to once again make the CSA and the South their racial scapegoat.

Northerners won’t have to grapple with the embedded racism that informed their region in the 1860s, and which continues to this day. Those self-hating Southerners can pretend that they have risen above it.

How glorious to be amongst the non-racists of the United States! How grand to know that there is nothing other than removing those statues that need be done!

The hard work of ensuring equality for all requires all hands on deck.

By seeking to alienate a large portion of citizens who rightly wish to preserve their historical heritage and NOT support racism, those who take advantage of the ignorance and easily swayed opinions of otherwise well-meaning liberals do the cause of freedom, justice and equality an extreme disservice.

It also doesn’t serve our nation in the long run to ignore large chunks of our history and pretend that the complexities of our past just didn’t exist.

It doesn’t advance us; it puts us on the level of ISIS and all those who delight in bombing statues, destroying museums and trying to erase that which doesn’t support their agenda.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, November 24, 2017 issue)

J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry

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Tomorrow marks a significant event in American history. On June 8, 1863, a Grand Review was held by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station, Virginia. The event was reportedly a magnificent display of military tactics and cavalry maneuvers. Unfortunately, the dust the horses stirred up caught the attention of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg, whose cavalry was nearby. Early the following morning, on June 9, 1863, Stuart’s cavalry was taken by surprise when Gregg’s troopers attacked, and a fierce battle ensued, raging all day. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil.

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The outcome was that, even though the Yankees now displayed their ability to compete with Confederate cavalry, Stuart managed to ward them off and keep General Robert E. Lee’s infantry screened as they made their way north. You can read more about this in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319?ie=UTF8&keywords=a%20beckoning%20hellfire&qid=1465328752&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Stuart is one of my favorite Civil War personalities. Not surprisingly, his name is under the current politically correct attack to change all things Confederate and eradicate Southern history.

A school bearing General Stuart’s name is under scrutiny and the PC are trying to force its removal. This goes against what the polls and petitions show: that the vast majority do not favor this institutional vandalism. However, it doesn’t seem to matter or make any difference what the people want.

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The Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, on the other hand, has scored a major victory with the restoration of the statue of General Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond. Thanks to this project, as well as a maintenance program which will be launched soon, the statue will be a gleaming tribute to General Stuart for years to come.

http://www.stuart-mosby.com/

Update on Lee’s Headquarters

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I recently blogged about the Civil War Trust’s efforts to restore the Widow Thompson House, where General Robert E. Lee had his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. The CWT’s goal is to restore the house to its appearance in 1863. The Civil War Trust also intends to restore the surrounding landscape and install an interpretive trail.

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(Photo of the Widow Thompson’s House on Chamberlain Pike taken circa 1861 – 1865.)

The stone house, built in the 1830’s, was owned by Thaddeus Stephens, the Radical Republican Pennsylvania congressman who played an important role in Civil War financing and the anti-slavery movement. The house was leased to Mary Thompson who, in 1863, was a widow living in the house with her eight children. The property surrounding the house played a pivotal role during the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Located on Seminary Ridge, the house was first in the center of the Union line of defense and then became a key position for the Confederates. Lee’s army pushed out the Yankees, and the Confederate general quickly took control of the house as his headquarters. For the next three days, the house served as a hospital, fortress, and nerve center for the Confederate army.

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In the 1890’s, the house was left out of the National Military Park and fell into private hands. The site became a popular attraction. Campgrounds, cottages, and a museum popped up around the house. In the 1960’s, Larson’s Motel (later Quality Inn) and a large restaurant surrounded the house.

Two years ago, the Civil War Trust announced plans to purchase and restore the property, as well as four acres surrounding the house, at a cost of $6 million. After receiving donations, the property was purchased last year. This year, restoration to the property’s 1863 appearance began with the demolition of the restaurant and motel. This first phase will be completed this month.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/quality-inn-at-general-lees-headquarters-gettysburg

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/preservation/gettysburg-lees-headquarters.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=51116

 

Homestead Day Harvest Festival

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The Blue and the Gray united once again at the annual Homestead Day Harvest Festival, which was held last Saturday at the Beaver Creek Nature Area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Union and Confederate soldiers were on hand to demonstrate living history, reenact camp life, and teach new recruits the art of handling rifles.

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The event is held every year and attracts thousands. Besides Civil War reenactors, gunslingers were there to show spectators how to effectively draw a pistol in a gunfight. There were also displays of pioneer life, including candle making, chair caning, blacksmithing, butter churning, panning for gold, wagon rides, wood carving, rope making, spinning, weaving, shucking corn, and hoeing a field with the use of horse-drawn plows. Music was provided by SD Old Time Fiddlers. There was even a snake oil salesman!

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Little Rebels and Yankees had fun aiming and firing their weapons, and the soldiers had fun teasing them by firing black powder and making the kids jump! Although not many reenactors were there, it was still a fun-filled, educational event.

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(Greg Olsen, Union, and Kevin Gansz, Confederate)

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,

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

 

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.

Civil War Songs

I recently had the honor of giving a presentation about Civil War music. This is always fun, as most everyone has heard of at least one song presented. I received the greatest participation when I started singing “Dixie,” (of course!) otherwise known as “Dixie’s Land.”

The list of songs created during the War Between the States is almost endless. As Ken Burns said in his documentary, “it was a singing war.” On many occasions, the Confederates and Yankees would find themselves camped on opposite sides of a river, where they would exchange songs. Inevitably, the bantering led to “Home Sweet Home.” When the song ended, quiet remorse followed.

The Civil War spawned such great songwriters and composers as Stephen Foster, (“Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Genie With the Light Brown Hair,” and “Oh! Susanna,”) as well as Henry Clay Work and Daniel Emmett. Songs ranged from patriotic compositions to marching songs, melodies about political figures to spirituals. Music was an important release for soldiers, who carried along their harmonicas, banjos, drums, jaw harps, guitars, and violins. Many made their own instruments out of bones, cigar boxes, tree branches, or whatever else they could find. Songs were sometimes taken from old traditional melodies, and several variations of a song were frequently invented with new lyrics written for whatever occasion presented itself.

Senatobia … So Nice!

Last Tuesday, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the Senatobia Public Library in Senatobia, Mississippi for their monthly “Lunch with Books” series. At once, I was overcome with the beautiful small town. I had never ventured over to Senatobia before (it is about 25 minutes from where I live), but now I’m glad I did.

Once I arrived, I was greeted like an old friend, and whisked into the meeting room, where a group of ladies had already congregated. While their social club, which has been getting together for over ten years, enjoyed their lunch and conversation, I set up a book table and spoke with Rosa, the woman in charge. She gave me a stellar introduction, and I delved into my topic, discussing my new Civil War novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. The thing I really love about talking to Southerners is that they are still very adamant about their love of the Confederacy and their loathing of Yankees! Rightfully so, after hearing some of their horror stories, and they all have such wonderful stories to tell about their ancestors.

Although they insisted that I tell them where I was from, they came to the conclusion that I was a Christened southerner, which made my day. Thank you so much, ladies, for your hospitality and spirit. Book signings like this make it all worthwhile!

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