Friday, May 30, 2008

General Appearance Part 2

The following are descriptions from the letters of Liet. Col. Walter A. Roher of the 20th Mississippi Infantry, these were puplished in Civil War Times Illustrated in their July, 1979 issue;

Letter of Jan. 28th, 1864, describing General Leonidas Polk, "He wore a rather rusty looking uniform, made no attempt at display in dress...In person I think the Bishop is at least six feet in height, large portly, and as straight as an arrow, has the appearance of a man who enjoyed good living before the war and would have no objection to it now if he could get it, he has a good head, rather too round, covered with grey hair, a good face with a full beard, closely trimmed, a big mouth with a few dirty teeth in front, weighs about two hundred pounds..."
He describes Forrest as, "well mounted and wore a shiny black hat such as the Blockade runners bring through from Memphis and sell at $80-he had on a pretty good uniform except the hat, he must be at least six feet in height, his hair is long and almost white, he wears his whiskers only around his mouth and under his chin, shaving the sides of his face, his heard is black, I suppose he manages to get dye enough from Memphis to keep it so, he has a keen, gray eye, his forehead is high and expansive, his face is long, smooth and sallow, and tapers to the chin, his lips are thing and tightly compressed, he seldom smiles and is said never to laugh..."

Monday, May 26, 2008

General Appearance Part 1.

We have a standard image in our mind's eye of what Civil War Generals looked like, we see Lee in his fine dress uniform surrendering to the sloppily dressed US Grant, we see the hundreds of images of them with their double dressed frock coats and golden trimmings, but is that the reality? Just as today, there were dress uniforms and there were fatigue uniforms, and generals on either side were not exempt from not wishing to dispoil their finery. This is the first of several posts that will give descriptions of what a Army of Tennessee General looked like in the field.

From Sherman's March Through The South by Captain David Conyngham regarding the truce after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, June 27, 1864;

"I saw Pat Cleburne, with that tall, meagre frame, and that ugly scar across his lank, gloomy face, stand with a thoughtful air, looking on the work his division had done; for it was his troops that defended the line of works in the centre, and committed such fearful havoc on Newton's and Davis's divisions. He looked a fit type of lean Cassius...Cheatham looked rugged and healthy, though seemingly sad and despondent. He wore his fatigue dress-a blue flannel shirt, black neck-tie, gray homespun pantaloons, and slouched, black hat..."

With Feeling...

With regards to the feeling of Confederate soldiers on certain issues, the following is from the Personal Recollections of Sherman's Campaigns by Captain George Pepper, 80th Ohio Infantry;

"...a corporal of Company I, 60th Illinois, broke from the line, and under cover of projecting ledges, got up within twenty feet of a squad of rebels on the summit. Taking shelter from the sharpshooters, he called out:
'I say, rebs, don't you want to hear Old Abe's Amnesty Proclamation read!'
'Yes! yes!' was the unanimous cry, 'give us the ape's proclamation.'
'Attention!' commanded the corporal; and in a clear and resonant voice he read the Amnesty Proclamation to the rebels whose hands were raised to destroy the fabric of a Government established by our fathers. When he arrived at those passages of the Proclamation where the negro was referred to, he was interrupted by cries of 'none of your damned Abolitionism! Look out for rocks!' and down over his hiding-place decended a shower of stones and rocks. Having finished ther reading, the corporal asked:
'Well, rebs, how do you like the terms? Will you hear it again!'
'Not to-day, you bloody Yankee. Now crawl down in a hurry, and we won't fire,' was the response, and the daring corporal descended and rejoined his command..."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Morgan's "Ever Faithful" Mammy

One of my last official acts before leaving Kentucky for the summer was to take a stroll through the Lexington Cemetery, a mecca for those interested in the Commonwealth's Confederate contingent. The Hunt and Morgan family plot is, unsurprisingly, noteworthy for its high concentration of names familiar to students of the Western theater. The graves are arranged in semi-circles, all surrounding big daddy and golden-age Lexington millionaire John Wesley Hunt.

Among these resting places of one of Kentucky's first families, I noticed one marker standing out of place, in the middle of two rows (arcs?) of graves. You can see hers in the bottom right corner of the picture, behind the first arc of Hunt and Morgan graves. The small stone was marked "Bouviette James (Col.) Ever Faithful." Intrigued by this odd placement of a loyal family servant in the family plot, and hoping to find some evidence of postwar paternalistic benevolence, I did some digging.

Aunt Betty, as the Morgans called her, was the mammy of the house, caring for the children including young John Hunt Morgan. During the war, it is said that she was so loyal to the children that she became an ardent supporter of the Confederate cause, and likely mourned the family's losses along with the household's whites. When she died in 1870, the family buried her in their own plot with some of the surviving Morgans and Basil Duke as her pallbearers. So devoted to the family, was Ms. James, that her ghost is still said to haunt the house in Lexington, and was often seen with children when the residence was still occupied. Neat story, and one not unlike many of the "loyal slave" stories throughout the wartime and postwar South. It may even be seen as rather touching that the family would consider a former slave such an integral part of their household.

Undoubtedly, the relationship between family servant and white folks was close, even affectionate at times, but the relationship was always understood to be unequal. Black was always and unquestionably subservient to white, and the knowledge of this distinction was present in every daily interaction. In the case of Bouviette, her status within the household carried over into death as well. The Hunts and Morgans could not even write her name on her tombstone without reference to her skin color lest some future visitor mistake this (colored) woman for one of the "real" family. Further separating her is her placement within the plot. While Aunt Betty was buried with the family, hers was the only grave not arranged in one of the semi-circles around John Wesley Hunt. She was inside the household, to speak, but was never nor never would be part of the (quite literal) family circle. Her marker, smaller than the rest of the family, also highlights her inequality. Though she was of advanced age when she died in 1870, James received the same sized headstone as the Morgan children who died in infancy or pre-adulthood. Implicitly, then, Aunt Betty was in life and was to be in death a perpetual child, a racial other, and an inside-outsider in the Morgan family.

I find it most amazing that the Morgans perpetuated this master-servant domestic relationship beyond the grave. The permanence of Bouviette's outsider, unequal, childlike status is reinforced even though the post-Emancipation world had destroyed the legal framework of that relationship. Bouviette's unequal situation is particularly interesting in light of the political situation in 1870, the year she died. The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869 meant that blacks in Kentucky would vote for the first time in that year. When black men were beginning challenging Kentucky's antebellum political and social racial caste system through political participation, when black and white seemed closer to equality than they had ever been, when the slaveowning Hunts and Morgans feared their world was turning upside down, they buried their loyal old Mammy inside but ever outside the family circle. They showed their credentials as caring, paternalistic masters while at the same time demonstrated their idea of the proper station of African Americans in the Commonwealth.

A few feet from Bouviette, in one of the Morgan semi-circles, lies Francis K. Morgan, little brother of John H. Frank enlisted and served as a Private in Co. I of Morgan's and later Duke's 2nd KY Cav. during the war, and in 1870 joined the Citizens' Guards, a Lexington militia company raised amid white claims that the advent of black suffrage would lead blacks to claim full social equality with whites. Old antebellum fears of insurrection, race war, and miscegenation were trotted out to scare Kentucky whites into action against the state's newly-energized Republican party. Instead of "defending" the "threatened" white citizenry, though, the militiamen of the Guards and four other companies led by former Union and Confederate officers in the city would beat, shoot, intimidate, and harass blacks trying to vote or hold political rallies during elections from 1870-1873 (those companies and their violent reassertion of white supremacy, incidentally, were the subject of my recently completed MA thesis).

In the context of Frank Morgan's and other white Lexingtonians' struggle against black political and social equality in the early 1870s, Bouviette's "Ever Faithful" epitaph is a lesson for Bluegrass African Americans in their "proper" status: loyal, submissive, and unequal. Far from doing her honor by burying her "with" the family, Bouviette's peculiar interment in the Lexington Cemetery is a head on a pike, a hanged pirate in the harbor, a lesson, warning, and threat to African Americans no longer bound by slavery but still bound by the Commonwealth's antebellum racism and violence.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Doctor, Doctor...(Not for a weak stomach)

A while back I posted some medical cases from the Confederate States Medical And Surgical Journal. Here are a few more presented by Chief Surgeon Caryle Terry, Hindman's Division;

Case 1.- Marion Carlisle, second lieutenant company "G," 19th South Carolina; gun shot wound; right knee-joint implicated, and femur comminuted; amputation middle third of thigh. Stump attacked with erysipelas about the fifth week, which caused much delay; finally recovered and was sent to General Hospital No.16.

Case 13.- W.T. Kirby, private 50th Alabama; amputation middle third thigh; condition bad; stump did not do well; muscular and cutaneous tissues contracting very much, leaving bone protruding, which was again amputated, after which patent did very well, and was sent to General Hospital, October 13th.

Case 34.- J. Bishop, corporal company "D," 22d Alabama; ball passed through both hips, and bulbous portion urethra; bled profusely on the field; right femur fractured near its neck; suffered great pain for fifteen days; urine poured through wound, and repeated hemorrhages, from which he died October 8.

Case 49. W.B. Brown, corporal company "F," 24th Alabama; ball passes through abdomen; passed fecal matter from both orifices for fifteen days; finally both healed, and feces passed naturally; no peritoneal symptoms; sent to rear, in safe condition, October 31.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John C. Breckinridge's cane

Isaac Bassett, a Senate employee for over 64 years during the 19th Century, left a rich collection of written reminiscences upon his death in 1895. It was his hope that these notes would be used to publish a memoir of his life as a Senate employee (from

I contacted the NARA in January 2008, and one of the archivists burned a copy of Bassett's written notes and collected papers to a DVD and sent it to me free of charge. Since this blog deals with the Army of Tennessee, I thought it might be of interest to delve into General Breckinridge's senatorial past. I have included an excerpt concerning a cane left behind by Breckinridge after his departure from Washington City.

"I have in my posetion [sic] a cain [sic] that that he left at the Capitol when he left during the rebelling it is made of a peese [sic] of the Charter Oak. I consider it quite a relic and would like to keep it but if any of the children comes for it they shall have it on the head of the cain [sic] is the words
The Equality of the States
Connecticut, Kentucky
Presented to Hon. J.C. Breckridge[sic]
By his friends-Hartford Conn’t
Since riting[sic] the above I have delivered the cain[sic] to his son Clifton Breckridge[sic] he was veary[sic] thankful in receiving it" (Bassett, Box 14A, page 13)

More to follow...

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Saga of Little Newt continues.

From Newton Davis' letter of Jan. 18th, 1863; "Little Newt is well. I heard him singing very joyiously a little while ago in camp. He takes every thing very easy & heroically. He wrote home for some more clothes by Hoodenpyle. He lost his knapsack and most of his clothes during the last fight. He very thoughtfully put on two full suits of everything that morning and consequently is not so bad off as a great many others. He has enough still to change, but one pair of his pants are nearly worn out."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Not Shaara's Longstreet

Well this doesnt fit into the Longstreet character from Killer Angels; Army before Richmond, June 17, 1862., "Soldiers: You have marched out to fight the battles of your country, and by those dates you must be rescyred from the shame of slavery. Your foes have declared their purpose of bringing you to beggery; and avarice, their natural characteristic, incites them to redoubled efforts for the conquest of the South, in order that they may seize her sunny fields and happy homes. Already has the hatred of one of their great leaders attempted to make the negro your equal by declairing his freedom. They care not for the blood of babes nor carnage of innocent women which servile insurrection thus stirred up may bring upon their heads. Worse than this, the North has sent forth another infamous chief, encouraging lust of his hirelings to the dishonor and violation of those Southern women who have so untireingly labored to clothe our soldiers in the field and nurse our sick and wounded. If ever men were called upon to defend the beloved daughters of their country, that now is our duty. Let such thoughts nerve you up to the most dreadful shock of battle; for were it certain death, death would be better than the fate that defeat would entail upon us all. But remember, though the fiery noise of battle is indeed most terrifying, and seems to threaten universal ruin, it is not so destructive as it seems, and few soldiers after all are slain. This the commanding generals desires particularly to impress upon the fresh and inexperienced troops who now constitute a part of this command. Let officers and men, even under the most formidable fire, preserve a quiet demeanor and self-possessed temper. Keep cool, obey orders, and aim low. Remember while you are doing this, and driving the enemy before you, your comrades may be relied on to support you on either side, and are in turn relying upon you...James Longstreet, Major-General, Commanding."


Wow, that is all I can say.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Little Newt Writes Or "I am tired of cooking and washing on myself."

Dear Reader, Here is another instalment of the Little Newt Chronicles, this one is the best though, one of his own letters that somehow made it into Col. Davis' collection. Woe be to Isaac or Mose.

Camp Near Shelbyville, Tenn.
Jan. 13th, 1863.

Dear Father and Mother;

I seat myself this evening to write you a few lines to let you that I am well. I am not so very well at the present, but I hope I will be well in a day or two. I was in the Battle of Murfreesboro, the grape and cannister shot and Bombs and musket balls fell around us thicker than hail I thought, but as my maker would have it. I never got touched any where with a ball. We was in line of battle 6 or 7 days in the rain and guns was continually firing and shells bursting over us. There was 8 of our company wounded, 1 killed, 1 missing, and our Regt was cut up rite badly. I was not over all of the battle field but the part I was on I think I saw about 5 dead yankees to 1 Southerner. Well Mother and Papa I have such a bad place to write and I am not so well I can't write much. I lost my knapsack again. I put on my grays pants you sent me and another gray coat and dress and 2 pair of draws and 2 shirts and I put the first pants you sent me and the last two shirts all in the wagon, put their knapsacks in the wagon and mine was last and a good many of the boys lost theirs. Bird Hoodenpyle has gone home on furlough and mother send me a coat and 1 shirt and papa sent me a negro by Hoodenpyle. Send Isaac or Mose I want one of them. I am tired of cooking and washing on myself.
Send me a little box of butter and a pound cake or two and unions. Hoodenpyle will not have much to bring and he will bring that for me, I will write again soon. You must write soon. I do want to hear from home so bad and have not received a letter from home since we came through Chattanooga, Tenn. Write soon. So Good-Bye.

N.N. Halbert.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back to Bragg

One of the first things that I recommend to learn about Braxton Bragg is the transcript of a talk that the late Dr. McWhiney made to the Civil War Round Table in Chicago, The article is short, but covers some of the basic misunderstandings about General Bragg.