Saturday, March 31, 2012

The 42nd Indiana and the Dogs of War

At Fayetteville, before leaving the place for Huntsville, an officer of the command returning from outpost duty and passing a house was suddenly confronted by a vicious dog that savagely threatened to dispute every inch of ground with the officer in the discharge of duty. Plainly there could be no compromise, and then the officer drew his sword and “smote the dog, hip and thigh, to the death.”

The viciousness of the dog was as the gentlest zephyr is to the tornado when compared to the unbridled fury of the “woman of the house”, as she hastily appeared before the officer, sleeves rolled to the elbows, and shaking her fist under the officer's nasal protuberance, in a voice that awakened the echos demanded:

What did you kill my dog for?”

                      Officer: “What did your dog run at me for?”

                                                      Woman: “Why didn't you hit him with the other

                                                                         end of that thing?”

                                                       Officer: “Why didn't your dog run at me with the

                                                                          the other end?” “

This story was found while I was researching a related, though more serious, future post, and it appears in the “History of the Forty- Second Indiana Volunteer Infantry” by S. F. Horrall, captain of Company G.

I added this for a variety of reasons. Firstly and hopefully obviously, its just a darn funny story!

Where else would you find a story such as this outside of a contemporary regimental history unless a famous figure was involved? Probably nowhere, unless of course you are fortunate enough to have ready access to primary sources such as diaries and letters. That brings me to the second and maybe the most important reason. The regimental histories are becoming more numerous and available to the amateur historian, such as myself, and contain a wealth of information derived from the private soldiers of the American Civil War. Many are written several years after the fact and memories fade, but the purpose of these chronicles was not to give a history of the grand scheme of things, but to give old comrades a written record of their service to pass down to the generations to come. They give us a sense of what the common soldier was experiencing during the conflict and they offer details that add to our understanding of the war. They are always worth reading.

While I have not had time to sit and read the “History of the Forty Second” I did find fodder for future posts as well as insights into the post I hinted at earlier, so keep watching for more from the 42nd Indiana!

The Picket

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Father Ryans Poetry Pt. 2

Requiem Chant for the Federal Dead by Father Ryan

Fr. Abram J. Ryan in later life
The restless find rest, in the lonesome, still grave,
And the bravest and best, and the truest and brave,
Whose work hath been done, work heavy and hard
They, each, every one, win highest reward
This grave is their throne, and when they lie down
In the grave, still and lone, they wear the crown
None other may wear, and the living have care
Of the still, lonesome grave, of the true and the brave
The brave are the true, and the true are the brave.
Wearers of Blue, who rest in the grave.
I of the Gray, today chant your dirge,
In the battle’s red surge, your bright lives were wrecked
Never a wave that hath not been flecked
By the whitest of foam a-crowning its crest
You fought for your home, your name and your rest
Ah, God knoweth best, the ways of this world.
The banner is furled, that waved o’er the Gray,
The banner still waves that flashed o’er the Blue
And this sacred day, you bring to still graves,
The sweet flowers of May, to crown the dead braves.
Who saved from the Gray, the Union for you.
Yours the bright Blue, that colors the skies                        
Stars in it for you, whose light never dies.
Mine the dark Gray and sad as a cloud,
Skies and stars stay, clouds float away.
Ah! Dear Southern Dead, the Ghosts of the Gray
Whose brave blood was shed, ye are with me today.
And I am your voice. I hear what you say.
Priest of our God, the men of the Blue and the men of the Gray
Lie dead ‘neath the sod, chant the praise of the men
Who met us in fight, on stream, crag and glen,
Each heart for its right, sing the true and the brave,
Who met in the fray, cry out from the grave.
Both the Blue and the Gray, each grave is so calm
Our still voices blend, in a beautiful psalm.
Let all hatreds end, from the bright Golden Shore
We cry to the world, be brothers once more.
One banner is furled, the other still waves,
O'er us and the Brave, and from far away,
We, the Blue and the Gray, ah! together we pray,
Let never hand sever, one bright star from star,
We see it from afar, and its star-folds shall float forever and ever.

As promised, this is yet another poem written by Fr. Abram Ryan, Poet-priest of the South. As this poem was written long after the end of the American Civil War, you may notice a reduction of sectional patriotic fervor. It was not meant to ease the grief of losing the war, nor was it intended to arouse old patriotism and memories in the breast of the old Confederate. You may detect just a hint of sorrow for the “Lost Cause” but the central theme of this poem is that of reconciliation. It was read Memorial Day, 1884, at the decoration of soldiers graves at Reinzi Cemetery in Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin, yet it was never published in any of the later editions of Father Ryans poetry. [1]

The final stanza, with the dead of both sides speaking:

We, the Blue and the Gray, Ah! Together we pray,
Let never hand sever, one bright star from star.
We see it from afar, and its star-folds shall float forever and ever.

Did I say there was reduced patriotism? I take it back. Patriots, Blue and Gray, for one nation and one flag now.

The Picket

The Father Abram J. Ryan Archive at Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, North Carolina, retrieved from

Friday, March 23, 2012

Strategy&Tactics Magazine: A Review

This post does not deal specifically with the American Civil War, but you may find it interesting.

It has been several years since I have even played a conflict simulation game, and I really was not expecting a game related magazine amongst the junk in my mailbox. Imagine my surprise in finding a complimentary issue of Strategy&Tactics. I remember playing war games when I was younger and they often induced me to dig further into the who, what, and why of a particular battle, campaign, or a war.

I must admit however that Strategy&Tactics was not my cup of tea. It was not because it was poorly written or that the games inside were necessarily bad, but the broad range of subject matter rarely held much to interest me. My taste in history or historical games was and remains rather narrow. I enjoy things from the 18th century onward, mostly US history or the role the country played on the global stage. After a while of looking at the magazine containing things pertaining to the Renaissance, the Byzantine Empire, or the Crusades, I quit looking for it. They would still have short articles on other eras within the pages but most of the content was centered around the current game inside the issue.

Not much has changed.

The issue I received was number 274 for May- June 2012. And as I suspected when I looked inside, it had a wide variety of material. It had “The Sun Never Sets”, an article on the British Colonial wars of the 19th century, and an article dealing with the game “The Sun Never Sets, II”, by their game company, Decision Games. Both articles were quite good, so I was not terribly disappointed but they did not make me want to run out and buy the game.

The magazine also had an article on the military mapmakers craft, and gave a brief history of the symbols and the drawing of the maps. It also included the modern unit symbols which I found surprising since I had no idea what some of them stood for! Now I do!

An article on the Khmer Empire was out of my league, and an article on the Russian Brusilov Offensive of 1916 was also featured.

The “Departments” kept my interest better than the main articles with things ranging from US vs Canada conflicts, a short article asking whether or not Buell saved Grants bacon at Shiloh, and a very good piece about the Spanish conquistadors. They were not lengthy but very well written and I enjoyed them tremendously.

One thing I found while perusing the magazine was the fact that now you can get a non game issue, or a premium issue which does have the game, at a higher price of course. You can also subscribe to either version if you are a non-gamer. That way you can save some money until you see a game that strikes your fancy. Then you can run to the game store or order that issue on line with the bucks you saved.

The complimentary issue held a nice introductory offer, six issues of S&T or World at War, a sister publication focusing on WW2 onward, for $19.95 (USD). This offer also can be mixed between the two, and if you prefer and feel sporty, you can throw in a couple of issues of a third sister titled Modern War. I like that idea as it allows people with broad interests a way to mollify their appetites. At $6.00 (USD) per single issue this offer is great.

On the whole I think Strategy &Tactics is a good magazine which fills a need for historical commentary as pertaining to simulation games. Its content is well written, the layout of the pages is clean and easily read, and the paper it is printed on is top quality that should last for years in your library. For those interested in a variety of era, S&T is a good choice if you have the money to subscribe. The non gamer will enjoy it as well. Another good thing, S&T uses source citation. Not all magazines have them, but given the range of history covered within the magazine, they should have them. I want to know where the information came from so I can explore the topic further and they fill the bill!

The downside is the price unless you take advantage of the special offer, and the very broad content may leave one feeling let down after a while. That is how S&T started out 40 some years ago, and it has worked well for them but it is not for everyone.

If you have a wide interest in military history then I would say yes, by all means subscribe. There should be enough inside each issue to satisfy you.

If not, I think you should keep it in mind and look for it in the game store or online. At some point there will be something that appeals to you, and then it will be well worth the price paid for that issue.

You can subscribe to or order the latest issue of Strategy&Tactics as well as back issues at:

***A quick check of their back issues revealed some interesting articles and games!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Mother's Prayer

A Mothers Prayer [1]


Father, in the battle fray,
Shelter his dear head, I pray!
Nerve his young arm with the might
Of Justice, Liberty, and Right.
Where the red hail deadliest falls,
Where stern duty loudly calls,
Where the strife is fierce and wild--
Father! Guard, oh guard my child!

Where the foe rush swift and strong,
Madly striking for the wrong;
Where the clash of angry steel
Rings above the battle-field;
Where the stifling air is hot,
With bursting shell and whistling shot;
Father, to my boy's brave breast
Let no treacherous blade be pressed!

Father! If my woman's heart--
Frail and weak in every part--
Wanders from Thy mercy seat,
After those dear roving feet,
Let Thy tender pitying grace
Every selfish thought erase!
If this mother love be wrong,
Pardon, bless, and make me strong.

For when silent shades of night
Shut the bright world from my sight,
When, around the cheerful fire,
Gather brothers, sisters, sire:                                     

Father Ryan during the war.
Then I miss my boy's bright face                                         
From the old familiar place,
And my sad heart wanders back
To tented field and bivouac.

Often in my troubled sleep
Waking- wearily to weep--
Often dreaming he is near,
Calming every anxious fear--
Often startled by the flash
Of hostile swords that meet and clash,
Till the cannons smoke and roar
Hide him from my sight no more.

Thus I dream, and hope, and pray,
All the weary hours away;
But I know his cause is just,
And I center all my trust
In Thy promise-- “As Thy day, so
shall thy strength be”--alway!
Yet I need Thy guidance still;
Father, let me do Thy will.

If new sorrow should befall,
If my noble boy should fall,
If the bright head I have blessed
On the cold earth find its rest;
Still, with all the mother heart,
Torn and quivering with the smart,
I yield him 'neath Thy chastening rod,
To his country and his God!

This beautiful piece of poetry was written by Father Abram Joseph Ryan sometime during the American Civil War. Ryan has been proclaimed as “The Poet Priest of the South” or “The Poet Priest of the Confederacy” dating back to the war itself. He was born on February 5, 1838 and died April 22, 1886. Beyond that I can not at this time give much more information. Manuscripts that I have found, ranging from the late 19th century through to more recent works including Catholic journals and encyclopedias contain so much conflicting information about him that it is difficult establish accurate facts. As an example, some manuscripts give his birth date as August 15, 1839. Some list his place of birth as Norfolk, Virginia while others say Hagerstown Maryland. You can see what I am up against here. I am going to keep digging since I am working on posts pertaining to Civil War chaplains and he after all was a priest, but again conflicting sources say he never actually joined the Confederate army and others say he did. The only agreement is that he served the Southern soldier as best he could.
Be that as it may, Father Ryan's poetry stands alone in its power, patriotism, and depth of feeling that is unparalleled by any poet of the day, North or South. In fact, many of them could find a place in a Yankee home as easily as one found in Dixie. Mothers all across the land may have found solace in this piece.
Although Ryan may be best noted for post war laments for the Lost Cause, not all of his work exudes the despondency of “The Conquered Banner” or “The Sword of Robert Lee”, and I will show one of his post war poems that bears no resemblance to those two poems in an up coming post.

1-War Lyrics and Songs of the South, Ryan, Abram Joseph, 1866, page 42
Image from Belmont Abbey College Collection, Belmont, North Carolina
The Picket

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One more on the Confederate Battle Flag

This one is just off the top of my head.
I had a short conversation with a gentleman yesterday that was wearing a Sons of Confederate Veterans ball cap. I mentioned that I liked his cap and he immediately went on the defensive, calmly and politely mind you, and stated that it was not about race and their logo was not a racist symbol. I was surprised, in a way, at the speed that it came out. I assured him that I understood the CBF and was not faulting him in any shape, form, or fashion. Heck, in my younger days I have been known to sport the CBF on a ball cap, licence plate or window decal on the truck. And like him I never intended it to be a racist slam on anyone.

In todays world however someone is always going to take it as thus and will never see the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" embroidered around the flag.

It set me to thinking.

It seems to me the organization needs to change their logo in an effort to enhance and clarify their public image. The CBF has outlived its welcome in this country, rightly or wrongly, and it will evermore be seen as racist, no matter where it flys or who flies it. If the SCV changed its banner it might be helpful in attempts at successful and meaningful dialogue with folks like those in Lexington, Virginia or in Texas. It is food for thought. Sometimes we need to "go along to get along".

The battle flag of the Confederacy was furled and cased in 1865 and should have remained that way, but someone turned it into the hateful (in the eyes of many) thing that it is today. There is but one flag for this country and it is this one:

But then again, living under that flag it gives us the right to fly this one:

So if everyone would dismount their high horses, we would get along much better.

Anyway, once we got past the CBF, he told me of his ancestors. Seems his two GGGranddads rode with Morgan. His family tradition said that the only reason they rode with him was that they were afraid of Forrest!  Ain't that a hoot?!

The Picket

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

YouTube and the American Civil War: The Sequel

As I stated in my post of February 16, 2012, YouTube is hardly the place to do ACW research, but I believe I also said that you never can tell what you might find.
This link is the latest of my finds, and in the interest of keeping things balanced here I thought I would share it. It combines two of the things I most enjoy, Irish music and the study of the war. It also maintains a balance that I wish to preserve so no one can say I am decidedly Confederate in my leanings nor by the same token a super Yankee.
The Wolftones- The Fighting 69th
Again, it is not the best place for research, but it is a good place to take a break! And this might get to be a habit!
The Picket

Monday, March 5, 2012

Battle In The Snow

A great battle was fought near here yesterday, an unimaginable event given the fierce snowstorm that blanketed the battlefield the night before last. The air was alive with missiles of all calibers, and blood stained the otherwise pristine snow. Who could have foreseen this terrible cataclysm? It is reported that one of our generals was captured, and several colonels, majors, and captains have been wounded and some also made prisoners. The cries of the wounded rent the air, mingled with the sounds of terrified and wounded horses, the clatter of flying caissons, and punctuated with demonic oaths of fury! O! What a horrible cacophony of sound! And above it all rose the glorious Rebel yell! Charges were made lustily and with precision, ranks were dressed and gaps closed, the officers cheering and exhorting their men in battle. The fight lasted all day, and drew to a close only at the gathering of dusk. Wet, cold, and tired the armies dispersed, the wounded were helped by their friends and all was forgiven, for you see, the warring parties all belonged to our mighty Army of Tennessee, and the missiles were made of snow! Many were badly injured, broken bones and missing teeth were much in evidence, but the snow had brought forth the excitement of youth in our boys. What wag started it all, or how the battle lines were drawn is a mystery, but the Great Snow Battle of Dalton was over, a spectacular victory for our army!

This account might have appeared in a Dalton, Georgia newspaper in late March of 1864, just prior to the Spring campaigning season but it did not. It is my attempt to report on an actual event, using the writing style prevalent at the time. It is based on an account of the battle by Sam Watkins. Although he touches on the episode in his book, “Company Aytch” he makes no mention there of the following incident.

It seems that there was at least one man killed during the snow battle. Jimmie White, a youngster of about fourteen, had been ran over by one of the captured caissons. With both legs broken and “otherwise injured” the surgeon told him; “Jimmie, you are very badly hurt, and you will have to die. It is impossible to do anything for you.”

Jimmie protested, saying, “Doctor, I don't want to die. I am not prepared to die.”

Watkins, who was also attending the boy asked, “Jimmie. Do you know Jesus?” Jimmie said he did not. “Jesus only is able cure you.” replied Sam.“Well, where is he?” Jimmie asked, which was a legitimate question. Sam told him as best he knew how about the Lord.

The doctor had given the boy a strong opiate to ease his pain, and he soon became drowsy. Fighting to stay awake, for he did not want to die in his sleep, he had Watkins hold his hand up, so when Jesus came, He would see it. The soldier did as he was asked but he was weary and miserable from the snow battle. Jimmie soon fell asleep, and Watkins propped the lads hand up with blankets to keep it raised, and he too was soon asleep. Upon awakening, he saw the little hand still upraised, but the life of Jimmie White had ended. Let Sam Watkins finish the tale:

We wrapped poor Jimmie in a soldiers blanket, dug his grave and buried him
at the foot of the hill 'till the morning of the resurrection. Jesus Christ never lost
sight of poor Jimmie Whites hand that was raised for Him.”
I dare say, neither did Sam Watkins.


 Confederate Veteran, Volume 1, issue 9, September 1893, page 261
 drawing from Confederate Veteran, Volume 2, issue 3, July 1894, page 204