Friday, February 17, 2012

My Blog Roll

    As of today I have been writing “The Picket” for two months! This will be my 18th post, and I hope those who have stopped by here have enjoyed what I have presented. I have made an effort to give a balanced mix of stories relating to the American Civil War, with viewpoints from opposite sides of the conflict and I think I have achieved that pretty well. I hope so.

    Today's post is intended to share some thoughts on my “Blog Roll”. It might be taken by some as a shameless attempt to increase my readership, which is only partly true. The main reason however is a sincere attempt to give credit where credit is due, and to highlight what I consider some of the best blogs on the web. While many blogs may show a whole column of blogs in their sidebar, my Blog Roll is rather short and I intentionally keep a short list to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. I do read several blogs and have a couple I am watching closely that may be added later so check my blog roll often.

    For now, begging your indulgence, I would like to recommend the following for your consideration. They are listed in no particular order so do not construe the first one on the list as being the best.

1) I have recently added John Banks' Civil War Blog. Mr. Banks focuses on Antietam and Gettysburg with emphasis on Connecticut soldiers that fought there as well as the war as a whole. The photographs are interesting and give views of places that most people may never see. His post of February 15, 2012 gives A short biography of 20 Connecticut soldiers that fell at the Battle of Antietam, and photos of some of their grave markers. The post was a poignant reminder that the war was fought by ordinary men in extraordinary times. It will be a boon to those tracing their ancestry in Connecticut.

 2) First Fallen: The Life and Times of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, by Meg.(I withhold her last name since it does not appear on her blog in order to preserve that wish.) The title of this blog will throw you if you have less than a passing interest in Colonel Elmer Ellsworth but don't be fooled! Meg covers more than the Colonel, and a good portion of the other topics are devoted to day to day life as experienced by the common soldier. Her recent posts of February 10-14, 2012 were devoted to Valentines Day and Valentines cards, with a link to the Colonel of course! That was an aspect of the war I had never, ever thought about and I was thoroughly enlightened on the subject by these posts. Her blog is always entertaining, informative, and on at least one occasion her cat made an appearance by hacking her computer! That darn cat! Her enthusiasm for her subjects clearly shows with each post and she has written a book about Colonel Ellsworth which should be published soon.

3) Emerging Civil War: This one appears on several blog rolls across the web with good reason and is made up of several men and women that are very knowledgeable about the war. The subjects range from politics to battles and are always written in an easy to read style that imparts the information well without being stuffy and boring. Guest posters also frequent this site and are always enjoyable. As their sub title suggests, they truly do give a “voice to the next generation of Civil War historians.” The one thing to be aware of with this site is the posts can at times be rather lengthy so you will need to have a few minutes to spare.

4) My Civil War Obsession: Written by Richard McCormick, the blog draws from old newspapers and is aimed at what was happening in Kentucky during the war. It fills a need in
the history of the war by covering local politics and personalities as related to the war as a whole and is always a good read. Book reviews appear from time to time and Mr. McCormick also covers some recent news of note as with the post of February 13, 2012 sharing news of Civil War Trusts efforts to save parts of the Perryville battlefield. His blog contains history not usually found on the beaten path of study.
    These blogs are the best of the lot in my humble opinion and they all are well presented, regularly updated and interesting. The quality of content and writing contained in them is superb and well worth the time taken to read them. I hope my blog will one day be able to stand among them.
In conclusion I would like to say to all of the above:

Well Done! And Thank You!

The Picket

Thursday, February 16, 2012

YouTube and the American Civil War

      The following video can be found on YouTube. It is loosely based on the fight at the “Dead Angle” during the battles around Kennesaw Mountain near Marietta Georgia on June 27, 1864. The particulars related in the song are described in Sam R. Watkins' “Company Aytch” and stay pretty near the account presented by Watkins. YouTube is not a place I would recommend one go for source material although there are some videos from some well known historians sprinkled in if you take the time to look. I have found some old songs after reading the title in an old book or magazine and sometimes I chance upon the song as rendered by present day artists.

      What makes this song and video so appealing is that it uses less footage from movies like “Gettysburg” to portray the action. There are some scenes from the movie but most of the action is provided by re-enactors. It is not full of “still” shots or artwork, but it blends them into the whole rather well. It stays pretty close to historical fact as far as Watkins and Maury Grays are concerned. Every unit mentioned in the song was at the “Dead Angle” as were Walter Hood, who in fact died there, and Colonel Field. All in all it is one of the best videos I have seen on the subject of the American Civil War. Give it a look, and when you are finished browse around. You might be surprised at what you find!

The Picket

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

103rd Illinois at Missionary Ridge

We last visited the 103rd Illinois Volunteers while they were having difficulty with the water in the Yazoo River country. Several things of importance have occurred since then.

The regiment had been marching all over Mississippi, with not much to show for the effort but sore feet. They were able to “capture a nice heard of hogs” along the way, 156 in number, and shortly thereafter were put on one-quarter rations, the foragers would see to the rest. [1] Evidently the bacon went to the Federal Commissary to be divided among everyone. Ah, the life of an infantryman! We must remember however that a regiment is only a part of a whole, and that whole now was Frank Blair's 15th Army Corps (Ewings 4th division), Shermans Army of the Tennessee. The regiment was attached to this command July 21, 1863. Other changes had occurred as well. The roster had been devastated by disease, one company mustering for duty only eleven men and another able to muster but twelve on August 17. The surgeon sent twenty per cent of the soldiers home, and a like number of officers if transportation could be found. It was hoped that the men could recuperate elsewhere better while allowing the healthy soldiers to remain so. Their camp, “Camp Sherman” as they called it, was now near the Big Black River. It was described as “well arranged and in a nice shady place and a great improvement over what we had before this time.”at Haines' Bluff, but bad water was found here too. The men left in camp had light fatigue duty, just enough to keep in shape, but no killing detail.[2] The remainder of the 103rd and the brigade would leave Camp Sherman September 28, and the men were “cheered by the prospect of getting into a more healthful climate with better water.” [3]
During this march Brigadier General John M. Corse attempted to mount the entire brigade but was able to procure enough horses for only two companies of the 103rd , C and G under the command of Captain Charles W. Wills of G company, and the 15th Michigan. They were detached for mounted service in North Alabama in early November.[4] Not only was the face of the 103rd changing, the brigade was changing.

Finally after weeks of rides on transport steamers and cross country marching during October and early November the footsore soldiers arrived at Trenton, Georgia on November 18. Lookout Mountain could be seen in the distance, and from the number of lights visible on it, it appeared to be “well garrisoned”. A new chapter was about to unfold for the boys from Illinois.[5] They were not destined for the encounter with the Confederates at Lookout Mountain however. There lot was more marching and their destination was the northern spur of Missionary Ridge, a place known as Tunnel Hill. On 24 November they helped clear a hill northwest of there of Rebel pickets. The brigade fortified that hill and the men of the 103rd hauled a battery of artillery (1st Missouri) to its top. The Missourians succeeded in driving the enemy under cover across the valley, then they rested knowing that there would be fighting on the morrow.
Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863
Alfred Waud

Major General Ulysses Grant had ordered Sherman to attack the enemy at Tunnel Hill at first light the morning of November 25 and the men were up well before daylight. They breakfasted on hardtack and coffee and shortly after 6 AM the brigade moved out and across the valley to begin the assault on the heavily timbered and fortified objective. Near the foot of the hill the brigade met the enemy skirmish line in partially finished defensive works and drove them back after an hours hard fighting into the works of the main Confederate line on the crest about 400 yards away. Here they waited and prepared for the next assault. It started about 11:00, the 40th Illinois in front as skirmishers, followed by three companies of the 103rd about thirty paces behind. The rest of the brigade was formed with the remaining companies of the 103rd on the right, 6th Iowa to their left then the 46th Ohio. The charge was sounded and the brigade moved forward with a shout, the companies of the 103rd in the skirmish line moved through the men of the 40th in their eagerness. In his official report, Colonel Charles Walcutt of the 46th Ohio (now in command of the brigade) writes of this charge:

The advance was sounded, and the several lines rushed over the brow of the hill under a most terrific fire. Being in easy canister and musket range, it seemed almost impossible for any troops to withstand it, but so eager were the men to take the new position that they charged through it, all with a fearlessness and determination that was astonishing.
The fight would continue for the next three or four hours and only after numerous unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the Rebels the men were recalled, leaving many dead and wounded on the field. Small groups that could not retire but found cover on the slope tried to make the enemy respect their presence by keeping up a constant fire inflicting some damage on them. Some of the men of the brigade were able to gain the works but most were killed.[6] Not all of them were however as the near capture at these works of one Joe Walters of Company F illustrates. As Walters drew near the defenses, a Rebel sergeant sprang across the wall and demanded “Gimme that gun and come in here you damn Yankee coward!” Walters thrust the rifle at his antagonist and said “Here, take the gun. It ain’t worth a cuss anyway.” It had been hit by a bullet and rendered inoperative. Directly a small Rebel corporal jumped the wall and giving the same command the big sergeant had given, grabbed Walters by the other arm. They had captured themselves a live Yankee! Or so it seemed, for coming up fast were two more men of the 103rd, Isaac Harn and another soldier who rescued their friend. Harn shot the big sergeant, and Walters dealt the little corporal a blow that knocked him senseless to the ground. Walters turned and dashed down the hill to safety with only the loss of a finger for his trouble despite the storm of led that followed him. Harn would later be killed. [7] The worst was over but fighting and shooting would continue until nightfall, when the men would collect their wounded and bury their dead, all the while skirmishing with the Confederates. This would trail off at around 3:00 AM when the Rebel return fire died away to nothing. They had withdrawn and were in retreat toward Dalton, Georgia. The morning of the 26th the men of the 103rd would retrieve their dead and wounded that fell near the enemy works which could not be reached during the previous night. They would then fall in with the rest of the army in pursuit of Braxton Bragg.
This little vignette of battle may be similar to many others except for one detail. From the time the 103rd Illinois was mustered into Federal Service in October 1862 until they were engaged at Missionary Ridge, this was to be their first battle. They had seen death from disease for over a year and considering all of these dead, the number of sick and unfit, and including the detachment of two companies for mounted service, the regiment would muster 236 muskets. They would leave behind them 92 more dead and wounded. At long last they had proven their mettle to the other regiments of the brigade and would no longer be accused of joining the army to “evade the draft and eat the rations.” They had seen the Elephant, and the price was terrible, there on Tunnel Hill.

Numbers 1-5 and 7 from Reminiscences of the Civil War from Diaries of Members of the 103rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, 1904.
Number 6 from War of the Rebellion, Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (OR)
1- Page 22
2- Page 18,19
3- Page 19, 20
4- Page 22
5- Page 23
6- OR, Series 1, Volume 31, part 2, Page 636.
7- Page 28
Missionary Ridge drawing by Alfred R. Waud from Library of Congress,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Hoosier

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 near Hodgensville Kentucky, and lived there until 1816 when the Lincoln family moved to Spencer county Indiana. There Thomas Lincoln, Abe's father, staked out a claim for his farm near Little Pigeon Creek and the town of Gentryville. It was there that the 16th President of the United States spent his formative years and would develop the physical strength that became legend, working as a ferryman, farmer, day laborer, flatboat man and as a carpenter, the trade of his father, and one that he never really cared for. His strength was attested to by a neighbor when the man related that Abe could “Sink his ax deeper in the wood than any man I ever saw.” On other occasions it is reported by neighbors that Abe once single handedly moved an old farmers chicken coop by carrying it on his back, and he carried a heavy log that three men could not lift. These may be parables intended to show Lincoln was a man of great physical strength.

He would come to love the written word during his years there and set out to read anything he could get his hands on from the Holy Bible to Shakespeare and everything in between. It was the book “The Life of Washington” that goes down in history as one of the memorable incidents in young Lincolns life. The book belonged to a neighbor, Josiah Crawford. Abe had borrowed the book and after reading it one night he placed it on a shelf in the loft where he slept, near at hand so he could begin reading again come morning. Unfortunately a storm blew through the area that night and drove rain through a crack between the logs of the cabin, soaking the book thoroughly. Abe would have to work the debt off by working for twenty-five cents a day for three days to cover the cost of the book which Crawford estimated at seventy-five cents.

His mother Nancy would begin his schooling and taught him the basics of reading, writing and “ciphering to the rule of three”. His stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln would continue his education and encouraged young Abe as he studied his books. By Lincolns own admission his formal education was sorely lacking and amounted to less than a year in Kentucky and Indiana combined.Thomas Lincoln would finally pull Abe out of school, considering the time consumed in the walk to and from the schoolhouse a waste and it could be better used on the farm.

Lincolns interest in the law also began while in Indiana. One of the books he had borrowed was “The Revised Statutes of Indiana” and he would often walk to either Boonville, in neighboring Warrick county, or to Rockport in southern Spencer county to attend court. These trips would surely lead him toward the path he would eventually take in Illinois, and also influence his gift of oratory as he watched and listened to the lawyers at their work. He would often “mount a stump” and preach a sermon or give a political speech that likely as not would get him in trouble with his father. It seemed that every time Abe would take off on a speech during the work day the other hands would stop working and listen. It is also said that if there was no audience, Abe would speak to the trees which provided him with a suitable substitute.
Abraham Lincoln would leave Indiana in the spring of 1830 at the age of twenty-one, the last time he would move with his father Thomas as a part of his clan. He would leave behind the graves of his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died of the “milk
sickness” in 1818 and sister Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, who died in childbirth along with the child January 20, 1828. From then on he would make his own way and grow to become the man the world knows today, built upon the foundation laid in that small community of Gentryville between the forks of Little Pigeon Creek.
These are mere gleanings from the memories of people that lived near the Lincoln during his time on the Little Pigeon. Some of them are no doubt true as verified in later conversations with his closest acquaintances. It is believable that he would become a favorite among the men gathering at Jones' store where his gift of gab was well received and polished, and it would serve him well in later years. Topics would run the gamut from religion to slavery and politics, or just plain coarse humor. The memories of those who contributed these fragments were no doubt dimmed by the distance of years or perhaps clouded by hopes of fame to be reflected back to themselves. They were in the most part taken from interviews of the remaining citizen of Gentryville who knew (or claimed to know) the Lincoln's 35 years after they had removed to Illinois. Sadly the world was never afforded the opportunity to receive the whole, unadulterated story from the man himself. That opportunity was lost when the assassins bullet struck but given what we do know of the man he would have almost certainly penned his memoirs and the natural storyteller in him would have given the ages one corker of a story!
Bibliography, Sources
1- Abraham Lincoln: A History, Volume One, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, 1886
2- Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life, Volume 1 William H. Herndon, Jesse W. Wiek, 1888, 1921
3- The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Ward Hill Lamon, Chauncey F. Black, 1872

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Wisdom of E.P. Alexander

I am one of those people that actually reads the introduction of a book. This can sometimes be an exercise in boredom that contains no real benefit. Then there are some where the author is simply trumpeting his or her own views and knowledge of the subject. Save it for the dust jacket. On occasion however, hidden in the part of a book so often taken for granted one can find a true gem. Such is the case of the following from “Military Memoirs of a Confederate” by Edward Porter Alexander, (1907) late Brigadier General, Confederate States Army. The following is a passage of the introduction but not its whole body.

“One thing remains to be said. The world has not stood still in the years since we took up arms for what we deemed our most valuable right – that of self government. We now enjoy the rare privilege of seeing what we fought for in the retrospect. It no longer seems so desirable. It would now prove only a curse. We have good cause to thank God for our escape from it , not alone for our sake, but for that of the whole country and even the world.

Had our cause succeeded, divergent interests must soon have further separated the States into groups, and this continent would have been given to over to divided nationalities, each weak and unable to command foreign credit. Since the days of Greece, Confederacies have only held together against foreign enemies, and in times of peace have soon disintegrated. It is surely not necessary to contrast what would have been our prospects as citizens of such States with our condition now as citizens of the strongest, richest, and, strange for us to say who once called ourselves “conquered” and our cause “lost”, the freest nation on earth.”
These few words written a little over forty years after the war seem directed toward a Southern, ex-Confederate reader who may have needed reminding that the outcome of the war was actually beneficial to them as much as it was to those that served the Union. It must have been hard for them to see it at the time. I think Alexander's words may also have been aimed toward the generations to follow the old soldiers and their children. Even today there are those that espouse the “Lost Cause” and seek to distort the historical record to suit their agenda.

Perhaps he foresaw that some in generations beyond his that would hold such feeling. His words, “It would only prove a curse.”, should be enough warning to those that would seek to distort history. There is nothing wrong with being proud of a Confederate ancestor, Southern heritage, or Southern culture. The sticking point is not being able to differentiate between the Confederacy and the others. They co existed for four years but kin, culture, and heritage predated the Confederate States of America and has post dated it for 150 years and there is much more to look at and be proud of along with the old soldier.

While I do not hold with the “Lost Cause” mentality, I do not stand with those that would lump all people that are proud of their Confederate ancestors and heritage into that same mold.

What is important for all of us to remember is that the war is over and the outcome is determined. We all live under one flag now, and that flag covers all of us with the freedom to hold feelings and opinions that may go against what some would say are out of step with what is perceived to be the “right” way of thinking. Having differing views is but one of the fruits we all enjoy under that common flag and they are a part of what makes this “the freest nation on earth.”

Alexander concludes his introduction with this:
...for our Union is not built to perish. Its bonds were not formed by peaceable agreements in conventions, but were forged in the white heat of battles, in a war fought out to the bitter end, and are for eternity.” (italics mine) I can not add to that.
The Picket
Military Memoirs of a Confederate, retrieved from Google books.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A College Education Is Ruining My Life!

Well, no, not really, but it takes away from time I would much rather devote to writing on this blog about the American Civil War. What really bothers me is the style of writing the university I attend demands. Papers written for class MUST BE in APA format, which to me is the most awkward style of citation there is. It ruins the flow of what I am reading, (Smith ,2012) AND what I am trying to research. I like citation and I usually do it here, (The Picket, Jones 2012) but in the form of end notes, a style I have employed much longer than I care to say. Now I have just demonstrated how APA citation can really hinder a post, article, or anything else for that matter. So much so that I forgot why I came on here! But really I am just taking a break from writing a short research paper for my Psychology class and to let my loyal readers (I think I still have a couple) know I am still here. I am still digging for things on Fitz-John Porter, and even found some! I have been a might side tracked with Adam Rankin Johnson and plan two or three more posts on his escapades among other little sidelights I may find.
An education is important and it must take priority but I wish they would let me alone so I can write without all the hassle of APA! Now, nose to the grindstone, back to the salt mine, lift that barge! Tote that bale! Ahhhh, I feel better now. This was so much more fun! And by the way, if you like what you have seen so far, leave a comment!
The Picket