Friday, July 25, 2008

A Little More Fiber in the Diet.....


This post comes to you with a special thanks to Dr. Keith Bohannon.

William Coffin, 39th Iowa, to wife, [3 miles north of Kingston, Ga] May 20, 1864
“what dead and prisners [of the enemy] I have seen seem to be pretty wel clothed and their haversacks wel filled with corn bread and meat their tirds along the road looks like coon tirds in roastenyear time there is a goodeal of brand mixed in . . . “

So for any reenactors out there you might want to increase your fiber intake before your next event for a truely authentic experience.

I've Been Workin' on the Railroad Boys

As some of you all are aware, the 1st Tennessee (of Sam Watkins fame) is one of my research interests. Yesterday I was running the CSRs of some of the more popular characters from Co. Aytch that weren't actually in the Maury Grays. We all remember Tom Tuck and his game cock Fed, Confed, or Confederacy but I found more of interest to old Tom too. Tuck was a member of the original Co. F, the "Railroad Boys" from Nashville, a company that (not surprisingly) had large numbers of Irishmen serving with it. In Tuck's CSR there is a note to see some correspondence in H.J. Sutton's file of the 24th Tenn. Spurred on by this lead, I found a jewel.
Lt. Gen. Polk
Comd'g Corps

Hd Qrs Army of Tenn
Tullahoma March 23d 1863

General
The General Commanding desires to know whether the hereafter named men are accustomed to Rail Road work and if they were in the employ of the Nashville and Chattanooga Rail Road and its branches previous to enlistment.
H.J. Sutton Capt. Burnett's Co 24th Tenn
M. Ross Co. F 1st "
John McAffee " " 1st "
W.H. Cumming " " 1st "
Isaac Shewin " " 1st "
Morgan Dickison " " 1st "
James Wade " " 1st "
Joseph Taylor " " 1st "
Thos Tuck " " 1st "
W.H. Myres " " 1st "
L. Taylor " " 1st "
A.J. Hull " " 1st "
Moses Vannoy " A 1st "
Patrick Blunkall Capt Falcher's Co 1st "
F. Quinn Capt Daniel's " 26th Ala
J.H. Forrst Co E 5th Geo
G.W. Angel Co K 24th Tenn
Thos Welch Co I 10th Texas

I am General
Very Respectfully
your obt servt
George Wm Brent
A A Gen

The Railroad Boys were railroad boys indeed. Now, I had always presumed that Co. F men were the unskilled railroad labor that was essentially expendable when the war came along, and could afford to enlist but I may have been proved wrong. These men were detailed for work on the Nashville & Chattanooga throughout the summer of '63 and it would follow that Bragg would not detail raw, unskilled labor but instead tap men with specific knowledge and specific skills. Unfortunately, because of the transient nature of railroad work, Tuck doesn't show up in the 1860 census in Nashville. I wonder what we'd find if he did. Incidentally, Tuck was captured while on his railroad detail, eventually exchanged, and served out the war with the 1st, being one of the handful to surrender in North Carolina.

Also of note, the fighting cock Confed does not have his own CSR file. Though a game personality and a favorite among the troops of the 1st, he (like other living property taken into the army by Confederates) was not a soldier. Neither was Weary Clyburne. Also, thanks to Kevin for posting this Pete Carmichael paper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To Build a Barricade

I had talked earlier about my hairbrained idea to build a small section of defensive works around the Kelly Field salient (now Battleline Road) here at Chickamauga. Well, we had our experiment this weekend and between myself and former park ranger Lindsey Brown and our own Lee White on Sunday we threw together about fifteen yards of usable, knee high works.

We learned a few valuable lessons in the process, too. One: the size of the logs represented in monuments like the 33rd OH and the 16th US is more or less correct. I had thought we would be able to build with bigger logs, but smaller ones stacked better. Two: we read about the many fence rails that were used in the process, and we found that the six we pulled off of one of the battlefield's recreated fence lines were some of our most valuable pieces. Being flat and straight helps greatlyWe when stacking. Three: cedar is one of the greatest woods known to mankind. Like the soldiers who suffered for want of tools (except for artillerymen), we had to stick to using deadfall. Most of the downed trees in the forest around us were rotted through and therefore useless. The cedars, however, were always solid, and even when rotten on the outside retained a solid core that was both hard and light. The best part about all this was, the area we were building had been a giant cedar glade at the time of the battle, and so it is likely that cedar would have been a key feature of the original works.

Five: Knee high is plenty. I had always assumed that the works were roughly knee high, and once we got to the point where we felt secure in the lines, we found that they were almost exactly that. This gives ample room to load protected and then raise up on a knee to fire. I don't think the fighting was done exclusively from the prone or the kneeling position but a combination of both for maximum protection. Six: This could be done quickly. With two men working about half the day on Saturday and three on Sunday (we were out for full days but were talking to visitors constantly which interrupted our work) we figure there are somewhere around 12-15 man hours in this stretch of line. Given that the U.S. troops had in the neighborhood of 3 hours from sunup to Confederate attacks to build, then I expect that their line would have been as solid as our own. I feel for the fellows, though, shaking off the frosty morning cold, dragging logs forward and piling them up with skirmishing going on constantly in the front. Becoming completely exhausted before having to fight all day on little food and next to no water must have been beyond misery. Unfortunately for Scribner's guys around where we were building, they would have fought all day only to have their flank rolled up by the final Confederate assault. Their works held all day, but overwhelming Confederate numbers (fun to use that argument against the Lost Causers) sentenced a good many of them (eventually) to Andersonville for their efforts.

The best -- and most rewarding -- part of the weekend was the response we got from visitors. From the gentleman whose ancestor was in the 38th Indiana (the right of Scribner's line in view of where we were building) to the two little boys who asked some very insightful questions about soldiers and their kit, begged their mom to let them build works in the back yard, and braved sharing our hardtack, everyone that we talked to seemed interested. The story of the changing face of warfare, of moving from the Napoleonic (whichever one you mean) battlefield to the 1864 campaigns and WWI is one that is often told by rangers at Chickamauga. Now we have some tangible resources to help us tell that story. I close with a video of the finished product in operation starring yours truly and filmed by our own Mr. White. video

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Viewshed Restoration

There has been much talk about Civil War National Parks doing viewshed restoration in recent years, Gettysburg and Vicksburg most notably. Here at Chickamauga we have been trying to do the same. The forest that exists today is more dense and overgrown than was normal for 1863. In a few spots on the battlefield, we have begun to cut the undergrowth, selectively fell trees, and begin the process of opening the forest back up. This has made those areas interpretative gold to us on staff. To further enhance the usability of one of the areas, a handful of interested parties are going to reconstruct a section of the temporary field fortifications built by Thomas' Corps around the Kelly Field area.

The tour stop for "Battleline Road" is in the position where the left of Scribner's brigade joined with the right of King's Regular brigade. We will build the works along the line of Ben Scribner's brigade. One of his units, the 33rd O.V.I. were in the center of the brigade line and their monument shows much of what we hope to accomplish. The relief shows the fighting in incredible detail. Check out the piles of logs there, interspersed with large rocks. They're likely not more than knee or thigh high, but just high enough to provide cover for a man lying or crouching down, which we can see here. Scribner initially had his brigade in two lines, and as the Confederates (first Helm's Kentuckians and later Colquitt's Georgians and S. Carolinians) attacked he ordered the second line up to the front to fire over the heads of the first regiment and then drop back down to the ground to reload. This essentially doubled the firepower-per-foot of line covered. On the monument you can see the 10th Wisconsin moving up and firing over the heads of the men of the 33rd OH, who are behind the works.

Scribner's account of all this from his memoirs, How Soldiers Were Made, is very good, and I quote...
We formed in two deployed lines along a wooded ridge, behind us an open field, and before us the ground sloped away from view in the timber. Our division was on the extreme left of the army and covered the road to Rossville and Chattanooga. The Third Brigade [Starkweather] was on my right and the regular brigade on my left. We hastily threw up breastworks of rails and such logs as could be found, in front of each line. The second line, owing to the declivity of the ridge, was very near the first. These dispositions had scarcely been made, when the enemy commenced a furious assault upon us. I instructed my second line to move to the works of the first and deliver their fire after the first, by my order, should commence to fire, then each was to load his musket shielded by the same shelter, and thus to alternately load and fire while the conflict lasted. The enemy prepared for this attack with much deliberation. Their battle flags (a white ball on a dark field) [this is Helm coming up] were planted along their line to form by, and their officers, with swords held across their breasts with both hands, facing their men, dressed their line with commendable coolness and vim [gotta love those Kentuckians!]. When they got ready, they made a dash upon us. We had reserved our fire while they were making these preparations, but now we gave them a warm reception with an incessant outpour of bullets. The battery of the Thrid Brigade [4th Indiana Battery] had a flank range along my front by some of their guns. This range was a narrow open space covered with green, mossy grass. In this space we held the enemy while the battery mowed them down.
While we are building we will interpret the tactical advantage given the US troops in these positions, and the changing nature of Civil War combat from "traditional" maneuvers of '61 to "modern" practices of the '64 campaigns, with Chickamauga as a transition. Before photo at left; check back early next week for after shots of the completed section of works.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"A True Story of the Ku Klux, White Caps and Happenings in the South"


I thought I'd share with you all some excerpts from a typescript from the collection of the Chattanooga History Center. Written by E. G. Carroll, a Rossville, Georgia attorney between 1920 and 1930, this record of extra-legal violence provides a fascinating insight into the postwar environment of Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee and the ongoing act of memory making that made Klansmen and White Caps into heroes who upheld morality, racial order, and law.
Today's excerpts:
"This is a true story of the activites of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Caps in North Georgia, and teh incident that led to the destruction of the White Caps. I have gotten my information in regard to the Ku Klux Klan from men who belonged to the organization and women who lived through those terrible Carpetbag days. Most of the information that I have gathered in regard to the White Caps was given to me by the late Steve Shackleford of Gordon County Georgia, who lived in a community where most of the men belonged to the organization.
I find that most people think that the Ku Klux Klan and the White Caps were the same organization but they were not. The Ku Klux Klan was a secret organization that operated in the South during the Carpetbag days immediately after the Civil War. The White Caps were the outgrowth from the original Ku Klux Klan and operated in North Georgia until sometime in the nineties. They wore the same disguise and probably started out under the same laws and regulations as the Ku Klux Klan, but they were not the same organization."
..... "Of course we have no written records of what happened in those days, this is the Klan kept no records of what they did. I have gathered what little information I have of Klansmen and conditions in those days, from talking with men and women who were there. Those old Klansmn were very stingy with their information. My father T. B. Carroll of Marion County, Tennessee, was a Confederate soldier and a Klansman, but he would tell me very little about the organization. He did tell me about some of the things Uncle Bill Smith did over in Marion County. I don't suppose there is anyon in Marion County Tennessee, who remembers one arm Bill Smith. Uncle Bill and his company used to come over and do the hanging for the Chattanooga Boys. They hung some carpetbaggers down on the river one night to the beams of an old building. There was no chance to charge that hanging to the Chattanooga Boys, for they made it convenient to be seen on the streets at the time of the hanging. It seem[ed] to be a rule of the Klan to never make a raid in their own community."
Copyright, Chattanooga History Center, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"By the Old Soldier it is Readily Understood"

Adding some weight to Chris's Post a while back on fighting on the ground, here are some more quotes from vets here at Chickamauga:

“The citizens of today will doubtless wonder how any man could escape such a rain of shot and shell, but by the old soldier it is readily understood. While ninety per cent of these shots were being fired the men were lying flat on their faces and were overshooting each other when suddenly one or the other would spring to his feet and with a bound and a yell rush at a double-quick upon their foe, giving him time to fire one or at most two rounds when his ranks would be broken and compelled to retire.”
-- Lt. Lot D. Young, 4th Kentucky, CSA

Reminiscences of a Soldier of the Orphan Brigade, 1918. Online here.

“Facing the fire, the line pressed forward on the full run, keeping the ranks tolerably well…at the top of the ridge, they encountered a withering fire, halted and laid down and fired a few rounds. Then once more they moved forward, running & yelling… The advance was suddenly checked. ‘Lie down’ ran along the line…
By lying close to the ground, the men were somewhat protected. Most of the cannon balls and shot flew over us… [we] made good use of our Enfields – firing, turning upon [our] backs and reloading while still lying down…
…when the enemy’s fire seemed to slacken, the men instinctively began to get upon their feet, and, with a rousing cheer, were about to dash forward in another charge. They were then met by fiercer and hotter firing than ever. ‘Lie down’ was the word.”

-- Joseph Whitney, 96th Illinois

Kiss Clara for Me: The Civil War Letters of Joseph Whitney, 96th Ill, 1969.

“We went forward in the (face) of an awful fire from the batteries and musketry. We went on till we were directly under the cannon mouth when we were so tired out that the whole line was compelled to stop. We lay down and loaded and fired and gave them the best we had while the grape and shell and rifles of the rebels tore great holes in our ranks.”
-- Orson Young, 96th Illinois

96th Ill. unit file, Chick-Chatt NMP

“Pretty soon we were brought to a halt, close by where the writer was lying down….The rain of lead that the Federals poured into our line was terrific. Our loss in officers and men for the first few minutes was alarming in the extreme. Capt. Jack Leonard, later banker at Dallas, Texas, commanding Company ‘E,’ lost in killed and wounded twenty-eight men, out of a company of about fifty. This seemed to be a key or the turning point in the great battle, and we were ordered to lie flat down and hold it….We went in search of Gen. Deshler and found him on the line to our right, down on his hands and knees, as if trying to see below the smoke and discover the position of the enemy.”
--Lt. Robert M. Collins, 15th Texas

Chapters from the Unwritten History of the War Between the States, 1893

“We are so flat on the ground that we don’t make much show. They shoot at us, but we do not return it….the fireing is very heavy on our right and left, and the Yank are blazing away at us like fury. Some heavy pine timber here – While lying down here today one man is shot in the head and killed so dead that the man next to him did not know it until we had to move, and moving here was an awful bad piece of business; bullets fly like the wind you can hear them zip zip – zip but you cant see them.”
-- Capt. Samuel T. Foster, 17th/18th Texas

One of Cleburne's Command, The Civil War Reminiscences and Diary of Capt. Samuel T. Foster, Granbury's Texas Brigade, CSA, 1980.

I particularly love Joseph Whitney's description of short, rushing advances that gain a few yards and then take cover again. Moving from cover to cover is something we expect from soldiers today, but I find it fascinating when otherwise well-read visitors to Chick-Chatt still expect Civil War units to march on like little toy soldiers. Notice also what the 96th Ill. fellows, Lot Young, and the 15th Wisconsin in the painting above are doing, they're advancing to close the space between them and the enemy. They're not looking for a fire-fight, but are instead taking the fire until they build up the nerve to rush on the enemy with the bayonet. Here we get to another common misconception among many. As Brent Nosworthy would have us remember, the "Napoleonic tactics" that the Civil War armies used were not the plodding lock-step of Bonaparte (which would best be reflected Scott's US tactics), but instead the adaptation of Napoleon III's use of daring rushes on the enemy -- relying on elan and the bayonet to counter the "scientific fire" of the new rifle musket. Civil War infantry were not trained to be 1812 line companies, but instead as Chasseurs a Pied, quick moving light infantry intended to close the rifle musket's elongated "deadly space" and take advantage of the long reload time to drive the enemy away at the point of the cold steel. The old "tactics didn't evolve with technology" line -- like most traditional Civil War interpretations -- doesn't seem to have much weight under scrutiny of primary sources.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

General Appearances Part 3.


For the uniform and General buffs out there, here is another description that I have found. This time of General William "Blizzards" Loring, from The Memphis Daily Appeal, June 17th, 1863; "The rebel general was dressed in the most negligent style. He wore an old black slouch hat, a soiled linen coat, a pair of whitey brown corduroy pantaloons, very much the worse for wear, and an old pair of boots. His staff officers wore very neat uniforms, which looked new, and all the troops or as many as the quartermaster saw, wore new uniforms, and looked fresh and in good health." Interesting contrast between the General and his staff officers, and of this earlier photograph of him.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July from the 72nd Indiana


With the recent work looking at motivations of soldiers and other aspects of the mind of the Confederate soldier it should not be forgotten that there were United States soldiers who would display some of the same views and attitudes, in this case I'm refering to a diehard hatred of the enemy, similar to my previous post on the matter. The following is a good example of that, A special thanks to Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP Historian Jim Ogden for bringing this to my attention this morning, the account is from the History of The Seventy-Second Regiment Indiana on July 4th, 1863, "We gathered in the afternoon at headquarters and Col. Kirkpatrick, who was the only politician in the regiment, was called out for a speech. He responded in one of his happiest efforts. When he spoke of the 'dear old flag, the stars and stripes' in a grand burst of eloquence he said, 'they should wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave when the last mother's son of the rebellion should be dead and rotten, damned and forgotten.' We cheered him to the echo...This occasion was an oasis in the many dreary days of our service."

The Emasculated Postwar South

April 1865, the end of the Civil War, must have been an unfathomable blow for many Confederates. I think we may underestimate the psychological impact of defeat on the Confederate soldier (particularly Jason Phillips' young "diehards"). Not only had they lost the war that they had been fighting and dying in for four years, but their society was in ruins. Sure, there was physical destruction, but their social worlds were turned upside down as well. Slavery, which had brought with it both economic success and social stability, was torn out from under the white South. White Southern soldiers had been whipped on the battlefield, their efforts to protect home and fireside had come to naught, and they had failed to defend their way of life. Bertram Wyatt-Brown notes the shame and dishonor that this failure brought down on the heads of Confederates. What's more, slavery's end meant that citizenship, and the manhood that came with it in the 19th c., was open to African Americans. As Confederate soldiers returned home, found themselves no longer in control of their local political (and racial) structures, unable to make a decent living for their families, and insulted by their former slaves' assertions of citizenship and the rights of men, 1865 was a psychological crisis for Southern males.

All of this came flooding back when I was in Nashville on a research trip earlier this week. In the War Memorial Plaza near the capital sits a 1926 monument to the women of the Confederacy. The monument depicts
"Fame supporting the wounded and exhausted Confederate soldier with her left arm while with her right hand she is placing a wreath upon the head of the Southern Woman, whose every nerve is vibrating with love and sympathy for the soldier and his cause, as expressed by the palm she is trying to place upon his breast, thoroughly unconscious that as her reward a crown is being placed upon her own head."(1) Alright, but aside from the fama gloriaque patriae, I was most struck by the unusual tip of the flag being drug down by the defeated soldier. Good God, it's limp!

Indeed, cutting through all the neo-classicism here, there is indeed a powerful statement on how the white South saw the end of the war. As Anne Sarah Rubin points out, the white South was a poltically, economically, and socially shattered nation The Confederacy's fall was an irrecoverable blow to the honor, pride, and manhood of some who slid into alcoholism, fled to Brazil or Egypt, or sank into deep depressions for the rest of their lives. The language of Reconstruction and Redemption is couched in terms of manhood lost, manhood asserted, and manhood reclaimed. Former Confederates lost that claim to masculinity when they were shut out of the political process, blacks claimed a share of that manhood themselves when they first began serving in the Union Army during the war and began to vote after it. Whites lashed out against this assertion of masculinity, too. Kuklux night riders at times castrated lynching victims, and often used accusations of rape (a decidedly masculine crime) as pretext for racial violence. In my own work on post-Fifteenth Amendment racial violence in Kentucky, we see organized anti-black militia activity in the state began as blacks began to vote, amid exaggerated rumors of a "Negro Kuklux" that was to fight back against the white Klan's own excesses, essentially challenging white men's role of "defenders" of the community. In reasserting control of their own communities during the era of Redemption, southern white males successfully reclaimed their shattered -- even limp -- manhood as well.

The UCV, who approved the design, apparently remembered that stinging shame of emasculation well, even in the 20th century. Yet again, beneath the veneer of Lost Cause glorification lurks some nuggets of the raw reality of the war years.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Rovin' We Shall Go

This summer, the staff of your favorite Western Theater blog (this one...right?) have been taking a series of research trips on our days off. There are some quality posts that are due to be written stemming from these, but I thought I'd share one of the lighter ones. Last week while headed to Montgomery to the Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, we stopped in Jacksonville, AL, the hometown of our own Chris Young. Now, Jacksonville at the time of the War was a regular metropolis, the transportation hub of the northeast (in the pre-Birmingham days), and the county seat of Calhoun.

Now it is none of those things. It is home to a fine regional university, though, and more important to our readership is the resting place of The Gallant Pelham. I know, I try to keep our posts centered on the war in the West, but I figure that since he is buried in an area that Eastern Theater partisans rarely travel to (i.e. outside the I-95 corridor) it deserves some illumination (I kid, I kid). The Gallant Pelham's memory still hangs heavy on the good people of Jacksonville, the main drag through town, the one that used to lead right to the courthouse has been renamed for him. The cemetary, too, cannot seem to move beyond his dashing Confederate legacy. The pedestaled statue of the Major dominates the cemetery, and is placed, curiously, on the edge of the cemetery, looking over the town. It struck me as the Feudal lord, surveying his lands and serfs; Pelham, Earl of Jacksonville, Defender of the Cause.

And the local SCV (Pelham Camp, go figure!) has contributed in its own way to further the cult of the glorious Cause. Their marker for some CS unknowns who died in the hospitals in the town sums up so much about the romanticization and glorification of the Confederate soldier that has taken place over the intervening years. "Carved out of the endurance of granite God created his masterpiece -- The Confederate Soldier."

Even the grave of a local reenactor (and yes, it did mention that fact quite prominently) abandons traditional imagery of death, mourning, and grief to have laser-carved Lost Cause images from Mort Kunstler's playbook. What does it mean to define your own life, and your lasting footprint on this physical world, not for any feats that you yourself have attained, but instead to define yourself in relation to an historical event? Honestly, this is not even defining yourself in relation to a historical event, but instead to the constructed memory of that event, the Beau Ideal of the Lost Cause that the sacrifice of the young, dashing, Gallant Pelham over across the way did so much to establish in both life and death. Do the people of Jacksonville still live to serve the Cause? Can't we say something else about Mr. Carter other than "He was true to the 'ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods'?"


All this stands in marked contrast to one small section of the cemetary, not far, incidentally, from the Pelham monument. The graves of the servants of the Hoke, Forney, and Abernathy families (some of the best names in the antebellum town, I'm told). "In memory of their faithful servants: Ellen, Sallie, Nancy, Jemima, Mary, Judy, Harriet, Alfred, Johnny, and others." And others? There were better than 35 "others" in that plot. The families don't know enough to name more than the handful, don't care how many there are, don't mark them with more than a rock. Those "faithful servants," apparently, should just be happy they got to be buried with their whitefolks, and in such close proximity to that dashing young artillerist who died to perpetuate their inferiority. Of course, in contrast to those CS unknowns, there isn't a Sons of Former Slaves group to come back and place nice stones on the graves of these people. They receive no eulogy, no one to tell how their own endurance must have been carved out of granite. Instead, they remain nameless, faceless, nearly forgotten. Even when remembered, these people are seen not as icons of the past whose lives we should emulate but as faithful witnesses to the Old South, as those good ol' darkies whom the paternalistic Confederacy was fighting to "care for." I don't mean to downplay the physical sacrifice of the Confederacy or of its fighting men here, but what are we to think of these slaves, of American citizens of all colors today, if the CS soldier was indeed "God's Masterpiece?"