Monday, May 28, 2012

Forgotten- Memorial Day 2012

Cemeteries all across the United States have blossomed with thousands of small US flags that mark the final resting places of our veterans.

This is the holler where 14 dead Confederate soldiers rest. Unknowns and forgotten, they share a single grave. This is the 150th anniversary year of their burial here, far from their homes. The place is a small country cemetery in Southern Indiana. ( See Forgotten, December 17, 2011)

The Holler. 14 unknown Confederate soldiers rest here.

Many more of their kinsmen and comrades would fill graves in the North, in POW camp plots and battlefield cemeteries. Some of them, too, would be unknown. They, like these, would fill unmarked graves and be forgotten over the course of years.

Many of their comrades survived the war and for the most part lived their remaining days as productive members of the United States. Some would eventually enter politics and represent their states or the nation at all levels including Congress and the Foreign Services.

James Longstreet would serve as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

John S. Mosby served as US Consul to Hong Kong.

Joseph Wheeler served in the US House of Representatives as a congressman from Alabama and also as a Major General of Volunteers, United States Army during the Spanish American War and the Philippine- American War (Philippine Insurrection).

Robert Lee became president of Washington College, later named Washington and Lee University.

These men are only the more famous among many that formerly served in the Confederate States Army, then went on to serve the whole nation as civilians or soldiers. What might they have become, these fourteen unknowns, had they lived? As evinced by the more famous men, they too may have gone on to great things. Perhaps not on such a grand scale, but possibly may have been mayors, county councilmen, or simply good citizens.

Some words from Ulysses Grant may be in order here. These come from his Personal Memoirs completed shortly before he died in 1885. For brevity the most pertinent are shown, but they are in context of the sentiment of the whole passage.

The people who had been in rebellion must necessarily come back into the Union, and be incorporated as an integral part of the nation.” and also, “They surely would not make good citizens if they felt they had a yoke around their necks.” (page752)

I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate.” (page 778)

Finally, in his Report of the period 1864- 1865, Grant concludes, speaking of all Federal soldiers, and expresses this hope:

Let them hope for perpetual peace and harmony with that enemy, whose manhood, however mistaken the cause, drew forth such herculean deeds of valor.” (page 847-48)

In honoring these fourteen soldiers I in no way mean to imply that the cause they fought for was anything other than what Grant called it, a mistaken cause. It is simply a matter of honoring an American soldier, nothing more. Besides, unknowns should be remembered by someone. It would be wise to look beyond the years 1861-1865 and see what former Confederates achieved, as Americans, and honor them on Memorial Day as we do their Federal brethren and all of the rest of our soldiers who have fallen. To ignore them, their achievements, and their contributions would only dishonor ourselves.

The little US flag in the above photo was placed there by yours truly and is only in proximity to the graves location which is not exactly known. To some it would have been more appropriate to have placed the Stars and Bars there but somehow I think these men would be pleased with the Stars and Stripes. They may still be known only to God, but at least they are not completely forgotten. They may have been rebellious Americans, but now they lie under one flag. It just seems fitting.

Remember ALL of them! One Nation, One Flag, Under God.


Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Grant, Ulysses S., The Library of America, edition, 1990.

Photos by the author who is not much of a photographer!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

Major John McCrae, First Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up your quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields...,

... in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and every other field where American soldiers have fallen, and still lie.
Yes, I know it is from the wrong war, indeed the wrong century, but this is perhaps the most enduring war poem that has ever been penned. It was written fifty years after the US Civil War, in May of 1915 during The Great War. A war that would eventually resemble the last stages of the civil war here. In its simplicity the poem begs the reader to remember the soldiers and their sacrifice and to never forget them, while admonishing us to never give up on a fight that is right. It is now nearly a century old, but is as appropriate today as it was then.
Memorial Day is May 28, 2012. Today it is only the 24th. There is a reasoning to my posting this early. The sad fact is that most people are looking forward to a three day weekend and give little thought to the reason behind it. Tomorrow, Friday, folks will be more concerned about the price of gas and if the boat and fishing tackle are up to snuff and ready for action. Some will be on their way to the airport or train station for visits to kin folk or just a get away from home. Saturday more will be leaving for and some will be arriving at their destinations. From here on through the weekend they will be engrossed in having a good time until they have to head for home, worn out and cussing the holiday traffic. Few will be near a computer to read the latest blog posts. I would imagine, too, that many of the “big time” bloggers will be absent over the holiday.
So by way of reminder, before the hustle and bustle of the weekend actually begins...

Never Forget Them

From there hit the “HOME” tab to explore this great site.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Captain Robert D. Chapman, Fifty-Fifth Georgia Infantry was captured at Cumberland Gap on September 9, 1863, and sent north toward the prison at Johnson's Island. He did not quite make it as he and a companion, Lieutenant James Lane made good an escape after a couple of days march. Evading Federal pickets and Yankee columns marching south, the pair also had bandits and bushwhackers to avoid. Some proved to be very dangerous as evidenced by Chapman and Lane's capture by a clan of them, and their nearly being murdered by them. Both Confederates had spent some time in the region and knew full well the dangers presented by such men. When the clan proposed their release early one morning, the men that were to escort them discharged their rifles, then reloaded them. Alarm bells went off in Chapman's head, and when their escort instructed the soldiers to take the left fork of a mountain path while they themselves took the right, it was enough evidence to Chapman that evil was afoot. The two followed the left fork a distance enough to be out of sight of their would be killers, then dove off of the trail and beat a hasty retreat through the underbrush. After some hours floundering through the tangled terrain the men found a path, followed it, only to find the cabin they came to looked very familiar. They had traveled in circles and were right back where the most danger lay, the home of the bloody clan! Realizing their mistake they quickly went the opposite direction!

After much tramping along rough trails, wading creeks, and generally wearing themselves out, they found a barn which to them looked more like civilization. It was early morning and they were spent, footsore, and famished. They helped themselves to some fence rails for a fire to dry their clothes, (not the smartest move, but they seem to have gotten away with it) then they curled up in the straw in the barn and slept, un-disturbed, for several hours. Late in the morning the soldiers roused themselves and set out again, traveling at a slow pace, not so much to avoid suspicion, but they were in no shape to travel quickly and Chapman had one shoe that was badly damaged and his sock was placed over it to keep it together. He would praise Southern women for their ability to knit such rugged socks!

Chapman and Lane traveled east and past the home of the farmer whose barn they had slept in and asked of his young son if the road led to a Rebel camp. Yes, was the answer, and the pair continued on their way. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, the farmer was a member of a Union Home Guard outfit that had been organized by loyal Union men in the neighborhood to protect their property from the ravages of Rebel bushwhacker bands. These were not the typical partizans or guerrillas that had the Confederate Cause at heart, rather they were the outlaws, thieves, and murderers that preyed on innocent victims irregardless of their loyalties. They quite often fought each other, and some of these bands were made up of deserters from both armies. In essence they were from the lowest stratum the Confederacy (or Federals) had to offer.

The farmers name was Sizemore which was also the name of the clan that had nearly murdered the two men up in the hills. This man was more upstanding and denounced his kinsmen. This Sizemore was told by his son that the men had passed by, and he and another man set out to capture them, thinking they were a part of an outlaw band or were on their way to become a part of one that inhabited the area. They took a short cut and placed themselves ahead of the weary soldiers, and soon captured them, the Confederates offered no resistance. Chapman felt that he would have been better off if they had just shot him, rather than having to face capture and its unknown result. Chapman and Lane presented themselves under aliases and as deserters from the Rebel army, the same story they had given to the hill country clan, just in case these men were more closely knit to their kin than they let on. Fortunately they were not, and as luck would have it their capture in all probability had saved their lives, for the camp they were heading toward in fact did belong to one of the bushwhacker bands.

News of Chapman and Lane's escape from the hills had reached the farmers home while he was in pursuit of the two rebels. The farmer demanded a full accounting of the episode, but Chapman balked, he being still unsure of the intent of his captor. He finally told all, but retained the facade of their being Rebel deserters. This satisfied Sizemore, who told them that they were the only two people he had ever heard of that had encountered his deadly kin and survived to tell the tale. They were still his prisoners, but now they were under the protection of Farmer Sizemore who promised to get the articles stolen from them earlier by his kin, and he did.
Farmer Sizemore advised the Confederates to travel to Booneville, Kentucky,with he and another man as escort, and turn themselves over to the Provost Marshal stationed there and take the oath to the Federal government. This he said would provide them legitimate travel papers so the two could travel freely about the countryside and eventually home. Chapman and Lane agreed to this, with one unspoken stipulation. They would not take the oath, but would turn themselves over to the Provost Marshal as officers in the Fifty-fifth Georgia, Confederate States Army. They preferred to be treated as prisoners of war than be seen as turncoats in the Confederacy. The 15th of September 1863 marked the end of Robert Chapman's and James Lane's odyssey in the hill country. They had been on the lamb since the September 11, and the next day would see them once again on their way to Johnson's Island, only this time they would be delivered.

Captain Robert D. Chapman

Chapman and Lane arrived at Johnson's Island September 30, but were housed away from other officers of the Fifty-fifth as housing was allotted according to date of arrival. Chapman would contract diphtheria that winter but would recover. The winter of 1863-64 was one of the harshest in the region in years, and diphtheria and pneumonia ran wild through the camp. Life in the camp was not pleasant of course, but Chapman states that the food was adequate as far as prison fare goes, and only diminished as Lake Erie froze then later thawed rendering it difficult to supply the prison. Of course there was always a tunnel being dug or other means of escape being considered at all times. Shortly before his departure from the island, Chapman was involved in digging his own tunnel, but gave up when it was announced that he, along with other prisoners, would be transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland. James Lane would remain at Johnson's Island for the remainder of the war and be released in June 1865.
Chapman left the island on February 9, 1864 and was carried by boat to Sandusky, Ohio, where he and the others would be transported to Point Lookout by rail. He still had no intention of remaining a prisoner, and even had absconded with a couple of small saws from a workshop on the island. With these he attempted to saw through the floor of the train car that transported him and his fellows toward their new home. This plan was soon to be discarded, as the first saw was badly dulled in the effort, and the hole was discovered. At each stop along the way a guard detail was set on the platform and the opposite side of the train, so escape once the train stopped was rendered a hopeless proposition. The only other option was to exit the car through a window while the train was slowing down for a stop but still in motion. This plan was settled on, and Chapman was about to go into the night alone. He was better prepared for this escape, in a sense, than he was for the episode in the hills. He had learned from a fellow prisoner of a citizen, a young lady in Emmetsburg, Maryland, that would aid him and she would be able to point the way toward other sympathetic souls who would tell of more friends that would aid him in getting south. So near ten o'clock in the evening, February 11, 1864, his escape was made amid “thunder and lightning, earthquake, dirt, dust, and blood” just outside York, Pennsylvania. It had been discovered he was missing so he had to evade guards for a short time, but the train and guards finally moved on. “A lone Confederate had invaded Pennsylvania and flanked the enemy”!
From here his escape was somewhat tame as compared to the earlier adventure, yet he was still in danger of discovery all along the rout. The weather had turned foul, but his contacts were very hospitable but he could not linger long in one spot. He would travel through snowstorms and freezing landscapes along the way but he had to move, for his sake as well as his hosts. At length he would enter the Shenandoah Valley where he would meet half a dozen Virginia cavalrymen who were on furlough and secretly visiting kin in the Valley. These men comprised his escort home to Confederate lines where he arrived safely on March 1, 1864. After he was verified to be who he said he was, he went to Staunton, Virginia, where he entered the hospital for a few days. Then he went to Richmond to have a new set of identification papers made, having burned his originals way back in September of 1863, then applied for and received a thirty day furlough.
Captain Robert D. Chapman served the Confederate States for the remainder of the war among what was left of the Fifty-fifth Georgia, about 130 men, as part of a guard detachment and as Adjutant at the prison at Andersonville, Georgia and later in the line of Joseph Johnston's army facing Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas. It all was the adventure of lifetime, or a lifetime in an adventure.

Chapman, R.D., A Georgia Soldier in the Civil War, 1861-1865, 1923

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Grant-Buckner Friendship

February 16, 1862 was a gloomy day for the Confederate soldiers at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River near the Tennessee town of Dover. The weather was of course cold, but the gloom was not completely the result of foul weather. The command structure of this little army had very nearly collapsed entirely. The ranking generals, Brigadier General John B. Floyd (late Secretary of War in the Buchanan administration) and Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow abandoned the place in the night. They feared a swift trip to the gallows for treason if they were captured by Ulysses Grant's army.
To make matters more distressing, Nathan Bedford Forrest, a colonel of cavalry at the time, had also left the place, slipping across icy swamps to safety. Forrest was no coward but he saw the futility of the position. Forrest declared he was going take his command out of the trap before it was surrendered or “bust hell wide open” in the attempt. [1]

The command of Donelson finally rested on Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner. “For my part, I will stay with the men, and share their fate.” [2]

S.B. Buckner

Buckner was born April 1, 1823 near Munfordville, Kentucky and received sufficient education in the schools of the area to place him on good footing when he applied for and received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point. While there he would become acquainted with many cadets that would later become notable or notorious during the War Between the States. Among these were Thomas Jackson, George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, and George Pickett. Also among the cadets at the same time was one Sam Grant. Buckner's own class of 1844 also graduated the renowned Winfield Hancock and Alfred Pleasanton. Buckner graduated eleventh in the class of twenty-five. [3] He served in the war with Mexico and was brevetted to captain for distinguished gallantry. And so did Sam Grant, who was also brevetted to the rank of captain during the war, for the same reason. Their friendship had dated back many years prior to the Civil War, including a time Buckner had covered a penniless Grants hotel bill in New York City while both were there. It was not a loan exactly, no money was
exchanged, but Grant did repay Buckner from money sent to him by his father Jesse Grant. Their friendship was therewith cemented. [4]

Now on this cold February day in 1862 the pair were facing each other. This time over the barrels of guns pointing in opposite directions. It must have been a strange feeling for Buckner knowing his old friend was across the way in command of troops who would make no such distinction. Grant was aware Buckner was in Fort Donelson, but he was not likely to know that Buckner was now in command of the fort. Not until he received the letter under flag of truce seeking terms over Buckner's name.

U.S. Grant

Grants response of “immediate and unconditional surrender” was followed by Buckners bitter reply; he would “accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms you propose.” In no way was Grant obligated to offer anything beyond this, and Buckner as a soldier would have known that. Perhaps his surly reply was based on the next line of Grants message: “I propose to move immediately upon your works.” It is quite possible Buckner may have expected a more cordial response to his request for terms given the old relationship the men shared, but it is doubtful he was expecting anything beyond what was acceptable military practice of the day. For his response he would be labeled by the press as being “petty”.

The two commanders would meet in an atmosphere that Grant termed as “very friendly”. Talking of the “old days” was not a matter of discussion, burial of the dead was uppermost in their minds, procuring rations for the prisoners and the number of them Grant was about to deal with took precedence. The next morning Buckner would be on his way north on a steamer, a prisoner of war, and Grant would be planning his next move. In the end the Confederates would receive what was due them as to terms which closely resemble what Grant offered Lee at Appomattox. Commissioned officers were allowed to keep their sidearms and personal property, the ranks were allowed their blankets, clothing, and personal property they could carry on their backs, plus they were issued two days rations. That is usually where the story of Fort Donelson ends, but before the two generals parted, Grant offered his “purse” to Buckner, which he politely declined. The old friendship was there still, but a bit strained. How would it have looked if the press had gotten a hold of this incident at the time? Surely Grants loyalty would have been called into question at a minimum, and Shiloh was a scant six weeks away. An episode such as this coupled with the first day of Shiloh may well have wrecked Grants career that was only now beginning to blossom. Fortunately for all concerned, even to this generation, Grant made his offer discreetly and no one was the wiser.

The press condemned Buckner roundly for the defeat soon after the surrender. That would ease somewhat when they learned of the actions of Pillow and Floyd.
After the war, Buckner would become a newspaper editor in New Orleans and then Louisville. While editor of the Louisville Courier in 1868 he was somewhat “baited” into making disparaging remarks about the then candidate candidate for the President of the United States, General Ulysses Grant. A New York paper had quoted him as saying Grant “was no general”, to which Editor Buckner replied: “he [Buckner] begged the indulgence of doing his own thinking, even though the Radicals may deem it advisable to deny so great a privilege to General Grant, and seek to limit the play of his intellect to horses and cigars.” [5] Therefore he would not use his position as editor to disparage anyone and his thoughts on Grants generalship had no bearing on the platform, the candidate, or if he merited his candidacy. He would keep his own counsel on the matter. The Courier was a leading Democrat newspaper in Kentucky, and Grant was a Republican. It would have been very easy to inflict damage on Grants campaign if he chose to. Buckner would support the Democratic ticket of Horatio Seymour and Frank Blair Jr. but at least he did not and would not attack Grant.
After Grant served two terms a president he entered private life and in 1884 his last business venture failed. Grant had invested nearly all of his savings in a banking firm in 1881 and the head of the firm swindled the money along with the investments of other Grant relatives including Ulysses Jr., a partner in the firm. There are no records that show Buckner sent any financial aid to the bereft former president, but a bishop in the Methodist Church South, E.E. Hoss, claims that Buckner sent Grant a check for $5000 dollars at the time. Buckner does not seem to deny or confirm the story himself. [6]
Shortly before Grant died at Mount McGregor, New York in July, 1885 Buckner with his new wife Delia, visited the dieing man. Esophageal cancer had rendered speaking painful for Grant painful, so his side of the conversation was carried out by writing on a note pad. The pair talked of Mexico and their time at West Point, and Buckner told his old friend that the soldiers, indeed most of the citizens of the old Confederacy were appreciative of him “not only for the magnanimity at the close of the war, but also for his just and friendly conduct afterward to prevent the government authorities from violating the terms of military convention which he had made then and which the South had accepted.”
Grant was visibly pleased, and on his pad he wrote the reply:
I have witnessed since my sickness just what I have wished to see since the war: harmony and good feeling between the sections...”
The visit soon ended. Julia Grant and Delia Buckner collected the slips of paper Grant had written on, and Mrs. Grant allowed Mrs. Buckner to keep most of them. At first Buckner was loathe to release any part of the conversation to the press, but afterward he would relinquish some of it, that which pertained to the war, and kept the rest to himself. He said that beyond what he shared with the press “there was nothing whatever in the interview that is of interest to anybody except General Grant and myself.” [7]
The Buckner's returned to Kentucky, only to return to New York in a couple of weeks. General Grant Died July 23, 1885 and General Simon Bolivar Buckner would serve as one of his pallbearers.
In the end the friendship between Grant and Buckner was strained by the war, but it endured. The two would never face each other squarely on the battlefield after the fall of Fort Donelson or for that matter even meet again until the summer of Grants death, although Buckner had been in Washington “50 times while Grant was president” he felt no urge to call on him. “It was a sense of modesty and a desire to avoid notoriety and 
misinterpretation that kept him from seeing Grant in his exalted position.” Delia Buckner believed. [8]
Such a pity.
The Picket

    1) The Partizan Rangers of the Confederate States Army, Johnson, Adam R., 1904 page 67
    2) The Orphan Brigade, Davis, William C., 1980. page 70
    3) Simon Bolivar Buckner: Borderland Knight, Stickles, Arndt M., 1940, page 13
    4) Ibid, page 37
    5) Ibid, page 296
    6) Ibid, page 324
    7) Ibid, pages 325-329
    8) Ibid,page 324
Photos from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 7, 2012

A bit of a Breather

I have been on a short sabbatical from posting here at The Picket. A number of factors have contributed to this but nothing that will cause me to close up shop. Actually it may be a good thing to step away from the thing for a while. My goal here has been and continues to be, to bring you the reader the best quality reading and enjoyment I can give, no matter the time between posts. Lately I have found three good little stories that I have run to ground, only to find I can not find a conclusion for them. Lack of information, even in the age of the Internet, still persists in the search for facts. Time wasted? No, not really, but the final product of these stories may be a ways off. At least I have a start!

What I have been doing in my time away is getting caught up on my reading. I do a lot of reading, mostly survey work for the blog, but I have not sat down and devoted time to a single book for some time. It has been quite refreshing to sit down of an evening and read just for the shear pleasure of reading. I have reading "projects" that I have put off for a while and now can say I have finished two of them, started a third, and lined up more for the future. My thinking is linear, and so is my reading. I never could jump from one thing to another and back again and keep track of it all. But now I can say I have accomplished my goals.

My first reading project was to finally finish reading Bruce Catton's "Centennial History of the Civil War". I must confess this was a 20 year project. I purchased the last volume "Never Call Retreat" in 1982, I know that is a fact since I used the sales receipt for a bookmark! I remember reading the first couple of chapters and deciding that I would gain more if I read it from the beginning of the series so I laid it aside. Little did I realize it would take me so long to complete the set! I finally found the first volume, "The Coming Fury" in a yard sale about 5 years ago. Ah, progress! Then last Spring while in the local Goodwill store I finally found "Terrible Swift Sword" to complete the set! YAHOO! So I started to read it, between work, school, and other Spring/Summer activities. After twenty years I can honestly say it was worth the wait. It was hardly what I expected from Catton, as it gave a distinctly Confederate viewpoint of the conflict. I do not mean to suggest that is in any way Pro Confederate or a "Lost Cause" apology as it is not. Mr. Catton drew from Confederate sources more in this body of work more than any of his other work that I am familiar with, and I am familiar with quite a bit of it. It was a good balance to say the least and I gained more understanding of the political arena of the time than from any other writing by any other author. I would highly recommend it to anyone but especially to someone just beginning to study the American Civil War as it is a good base to build upon.
Another project completed was my reading of "Gettysburg" from the Bantam Books "Eyewitness To the Civil War" series. It was another yard sale find, purchased for .25 cents about 5 years ago. This book was placed in my reading "pile" and kept getting buried by other books that seemed to hold more interest to me. It finally worked its way to the top again and I decided to go ahead and read it. Being another book about Gettysburg was mainly the reason it took so long to read since I have read many books about that battle, but this one was written by two of the actual participants and no they were not Lee, Longstreet, or that guy from Maine! Colonel William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama Infantry wrote his account long after the war for "The Century" magazine, and Lieutenant Frank A. Haskell of General John Gibbon's staff wrote his shortly after the battle. He did not survive the war.
Both give vivid accounts of the battle that held me in awe and raised my old question: "How could, why would, men endure such horror?" Of course the works hold no answer, but serve to remind us that the war was fought by ordinary men.
Finally a bit of news. Meg Thompson is nearing the completion of her book First Fallen: The Life And Times of Elmer Ellsworth. If you have not visited her blog of the same name (see my blog roll) I encourage you to do so. It will give you a feel for her writing skill and see what she is doing in the sphere of the American Civil War. I believe you will enjoy her blog, and I know you will enjoy her book. I know this because I have had the honor and privilege to be one of her pre-publication readers. I can't tell you the details but it is a well written and documented book. A review of it will come after publication. For now, visit her blog, hit the Facebook share button and start putting the book on your wish list.
And it would not hurt my feelings if you hit the Facebook share button here on my blog. I don't mind having more people reading my writing!