J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Yankees”

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!

A National Day of Fast

On this date in 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed a national day of “Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.” Aware of what was in store for his beloved country, Davis asked for the fast so that people could have the opportunity to reflect on the circumstances at hand.

Ulysses S. Grant, a relatively unknown Union general, had won significant battles at Fort Henry on February 8 and Fort Donelson on February 18. This was a daunting situation for the South, because the loss of the two forts signified loss of control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, thus allowing the Yankees to attack the Confederacy’s interior. Nashville had been lost to Federal invasion on February 23, which was also alarming to the Confederacy.

Davis’ proclamation for a day of prayer was significant for a time when this country was deeply rooted in Christian ideals and beliefs. Every event that occurred during the Civil War was attributed to God’s will. Davis had previously proclaimed a national day of fasting on June 13, 1861, and would request ten more during the course of the war, asking Southern citizens to attend church and fervently pray for the preservation of the South.

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