Thursday, December 31, 2009


Well, on this last day of 2009 I have decided to talk a bit about the last day of 1862. 147 years ago today the Battle of Stones River aka Murfreesboro began with a surprise attack early in the morning, once again Alex McCook would see his men flee from the field, and once again Bragg would start a battle with everything going his way. Today very little of the site is undeveloped and as I write this more and more is being paved over, ground where Manigault's men first got their taste of a real battle, an event C.I. Walker discussed is going under the bulldozer. Sadly, over the past ten years so much of this field has disappeared with very little attention, unlike what we get from the fields to the East.
Stones River has received very little attention for a battle its size and for one that had the impact that it did with its connection to the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a savage little engagement with the loss of several promising commanders on both sides, and its one of those that I want to address today, Brigadier General James Edward Rains.

Rains commanded a brigade in John McCowan's division. Rains was born April 10, 1833 in Nashville, the son of the Rev. John Rains. Rains grew up working in his father's saddlery and by the age of Seventeen had but five months of formal education, but he was finally able to get a private tutor and then move on to attend the Washington Academy and stayed one term before obtaining $400 to enter Yale. Rains entered the Law School as a sophomore as in 1851. Rains advanced rapidly through the class and graduated second in the Class of 1854. After graduation he returned home and found employment as the headmaster of the Millwood Academy in nearby Cheatham County, a position he would hold for two years before entering the Law profession. In 1857 he entered the realm of politics, and campaigned strongly against future governor, Isham Harris. After the election became the associate editor of the Daily Republican Banner, whose editor was future Confederate General, Felix Zollicoffer. In this position he remained active in local politics and a voice of opposition to the secession movement in Tennessee.

Life was going well for young Rains, he was elected Nashville city attorney in 1858, married Ida Yeatman the same year, and then in 1860 he saw the birth of his daughter, Laura, as well as be elected the District Attorney General for Davidson, Williamson, and Sumner counties. Then the Secession crisis struck. Although strongly opposing secession, Rains supported fellow Tennessean John Bell in the election of 1860, Rains soon found himself having to make a hard decision and in the spring of 1861 he enlisted as a private in the Hermitage Guards, which soon became Company D of the 11th TN. Infantry. Rains rose quickly through the ranks and by May 10th, 1861, less than a month before Tennessee would leave the Union on its third attempt, Rains was elected Colonel of the 11th Tennessee.

Rains and the 11th were sent to volatile East Tennessee and there he would receive command of a brigade, distinguishing himself in the defense of Cumberland Gap in June of 1862, he received a promotion to Brigadier General on November 4th, 1862. When the Department of East Tennessee was absorbed into the Army of Tennessee in November 20th of 1862, Rains found himself part of General John McCowan's Division in Hardee's Corps.

On December 31st, 1862 Rains would lead his brigade into its first pitched battle, and as the Rain's Confederates pressed the Union forces back, capturing artillery, but as they pressed the Union forces back, resistance stiffened and at this time Rains rode out to encourage his men, shouting, "Forward my brave boys, forward!" Rains then fell from his horse, shot through the heart, killed instantly.

After the Battle, Rains' father would bring James' 3 year old daughter with him to meet with Rosecrans and obtained permission to have the Generals body disinterred from its battlefield grave and moved to the Nashville City Cemetery, where his former boss, Felix Zollicoffer was buried after his death at Mill Springs. In 1888, Rains would be removed to Mount Olivet and buried near the Confederate Section, facing the Confederate Monument.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Compromise II

Alright, you knew that throwing out the H. Clay comment would bring me on board here. Obviously this student, like many of mine this semester, is not well versed in writing nor would be well respected in the realm of orators like the Great Pacificator!

Unfortunately, the United States Congress can only work so long in a year (365 days). Granted, sessions were not as they are today. The first session, or long session, typically ran from early December until May or June, while the second session, the short session, typically ran from early December to March. Now, on occasion, when the rigors of legislating was needed expediently, the president could call a special session at any time during the adjournment of Congress. But let us think about the situation for a moment. The idea of secession had plagued the country pretty much from its inception. Just a few tense or semi-tense moments that come to mind is the Hartford Convention, The Missouri Crisis, The Nullification Crisis, Sumner's "Crimes Against Kansas" speech, etc.

In his speech on "The Compromise Resolutions" in the United States Senate on February 5 and 6, 1850, Henry Clay stated,"I implore, as the best blessing which Heaven can bestow upon me upon earth, that if the direful and sad event of the dissolution of the Union shall happen, I may not survive to behold the sad and heart-rending spectacle." Although the Compromise of 1850 became a reality, brought about mainly by the work of fellow U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Clay's wish was granted by the Almighty. He died on June 29, 1852. The Great Triumvirate of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun managed to keep the country together for almost half a century, but I am not so sure that even they could have compromised their way out of the impending Civil War. Although Calhoun threatened secession, often his cooler side prevailed and did not rent apart the Union he labored to create for so many years as a congressman, senator, and vice president. Now, the fire-eaters, abolitionists, and other up-and-coming young congressmen and senators were not as compromising as their older counterparts.

In my opinion, had Congress remained in session until they reached a compromise, the congressmen and senators would have beaten each other senseless. Think back to the Sumner caning or the Foote/Benton tussle on the floors of Congress. I suppose this student is a fellow Kentuckian and realized that long time Senator John J. Crittenden did present a compromise in the United States Senate. In December 1860, Crittenden proposed, in what became known as "The Crittenden Compromise:"

A joint resolution (S. No. 50) proposing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Whereas serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the northern and southern states, concerning the rights and security of the rights of the slaveholding States, and especially their rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by constitutional provisions, which shall do equal justice to all sections, and thereby restore to all the people that peace and good-will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States: Therefore,

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both Houses concurring,) That the following articles be, and are hereby, proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by conventions of three-fourths of the several States:

Article 1: In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situate north of 36 degrees 30 minutes, slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited while such territory shall remain under territorial government. In all the territory south of said line of latitude, slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property by all the departments of the territorial government during its continuance. And when any territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress according to the then Federal ratio of representation of the people of the United States, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States, with or without slavery, as the constitution of such new State may provide.

Article 2: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves.

Article 3: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery within the District of Columbia, so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress at any time prohibit officers of the Federal Government, or members of Congress, whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterwards taking them from the District.

Article 4: Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory, in which slaves are by law permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable river, or by the sea.

Article 5: That in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty so to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his fugitive slave in all cases where the marshall or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said fugitive was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation, or when, after arrest, said fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his fugitive slave under the said clause of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof. And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such fugitive, they shall have the right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue was committed, and to recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said fugitive slave. And the said county, after it has paid said amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from the recovery of his fugitive slave, in like manner as the owner himself might have sued and recovered.

Article 6: No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment will be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is, or may be, allowed or permitted.
And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States, there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may be remedied by its legislative power; and whereas it is the desire of Congress, so far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the country, and threaten the stability of its institutions; Therefore,

1. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and constitutional by the judgement of the Supreme Court of the United States.; that the slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of those laws, and that they ought not to be repealed, or so modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought to be made for the punishment of those who attempt by rescue of the slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of said laws.

2. That all State laws which conflict with the fugitive slave acts of Congress, or any other constitutional acts of Congress, or which, in their operation, impede, hinder, or delay the free course and due execution of any of said acts, are null and void by the plain provisions of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which have obstructed the due administration and execution of acts of Congress, and especially the acts for the delivery of fugitive slaves, and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly to recommend the repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or such legislative corrections or explanations of them as may prevent their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.

3. That the act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the fugitive slave law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the act, equal in amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of or against the claimant. And to avoid misconstruction, the last clause of the fifth section of said act, which authorizes the person holding a warrent for the arrest or detention of a fugitive slave, to summon to his aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall be resistance or danger of resistance or rescue.

4. That the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade, and especially those prohibiting the importation of slaves in the United States, ought to be made effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed; and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly made.

The Senate tabled the compromise on December 31, 1860, and Congress never moved on the measure.

With all that said, I am not sure if a perpetual congressional session would have made any difference during the secession crisis.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Bit of finals week fun from the University of Kentucky that shows some ideological continuity between 1861 and 2009 in the Commonwealth. My intro to U.S. students had a short essay question as follows:

Who’s to blame for the Civil War, and how did we get there, between 1840 and 1861?

Now, this should prompt the students to air the grievances of both North and South, taking into account the litany of events that drove us toward conflict for twenty years. Historiographically speaking, I'm looking for a "blundering generation" sort of answer, which is perhaps debatable, but seems to cover the material well enough for non-majors. However, I was pleased to see this from a student still, it would seem, steeped in the anger and frustration that proslavery Unionists in Kentucky felt during the secession crisis.

The Confederates are to blame for starting the Civil War. Just because you’re not getting what [you] want doesn’t mean you need to succeed [sic] from the Union and start a war with them. They should’ve just kept calling congress into session until they reached compromise and if they didn’t get their states rights, then they could have succeeded [sic] from the Union.

Legacy of H. Clay much?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Guibor's Missiouri Battery in the Battle of Franklin

A quick posting for the Battle of Franklin, TN, fought 145 years ago today as the sun set. Much of the story fo the battle focuses on the fighting around the Carter House and the death of Major General Patrick Cleburne and the five other Generals killed. One of the most neglected and indeed forgotten roles of the battle is that of the few artillerists who went into action, the following is an account of one of them, Pvt. Samuel Dunlap of Guibor's Battery:

"...about 4 O.C. PM. our troops were quickly formed in three lines of
battle - & as some of our artillery had not yet arrived from Columbia - our
battery was divided in sections with the corps - one going to the right &
the one of which I was a member remaining in the center. Our section was ordered
to go out in front of the advance line & commence firing. We were soon in
position - guns loaded, & at the command fire! sent two shells screaming
through the air in the direction of the fortified little city.

This was a signal for our men to prepare for a charge all around the lines
- & a deafening roar of artillery - attended with the bursting of shells
& whizzing of minnies - from the enemies guns, was heard in return. Our
pieces fired as rapidly as possible & until our first line of battle passed
- then limbering up - fell in their rear to join in the charge. This was the
first & only instance during the war in which we were ordered to charge as
artillery - but Hood's intention on this occasion was to take everything by
storm - & had he been sucessful - when a good position for artillery had
been reached - we would have been ready to plant our guns. Our advance exteneded
down an open field, over a small ravine & railroad - up an inclined plain in
full view of the enemy. Our horses had become almost wild with excitement -
rearing & pitching to free themselves from their drivers - & escape the
'hailstorm' of shot & shell, that was tearing up the ground around them.

In crossing the railroad, one of the wheel tugs of my gun broke which
necessitated a short halt. While I was assisting the wheel driver to mend it - a
minnie ball from the enemies gun, hit my canteen, mashing one side into the
other - I was excited! & did not feel the jar. My companion hearing the
sharp crack - asked - Sam didn't that strike you? I said no. & was not aware
of what a protector it had been until sometime afterward...We had moved but a
few paces from where the breakage occured - when this same wheel driver was hit
on top of the head with a fragment of shell & fell forward between his
horses - lodging upon the bridle reins & end of pole. He was born from the
field & place filled by one of the cannoniers. We succeeded in driving the
enemy from their first & second line of works but our first line of battle
becoming so decimated by the continous hail of shell, grape, canister &
minnies into their ranks - had to be filled up by the second & third. Not
being able to obtain a position, from which we could do execution, without
endangering the lives of our own men - the battery was halted at the first line
of works - but our infantry kept steadily on - on! until their enemy was driven
behind the last line of entrenchments. We were told to remain in place, subject
to orders - & I assure you the continual riar of shot, shell & the sight
of our comrads falling around us - made our position anything but a pleasant
one. To be a silent & helpless spectator, when death in all its horridness,
is hovering over you - listen to the cries of the wounded & dying as they
are being 'Carted' off the field - requires greater nerve - than to face the
cannons mouth in heat of battle.

Our Infantry after reaching the last line of entrenchments - met with such
stubborn & overwhelming resistance, & failing to rout their adversaries,
dripping down in the outer ditch, where they kept up firing at each other across
the works - by elevating the breech of their rifles, with one hand - at the same
time crouching as low to the earth as possible, to avoid exposing their bodies.
Some of our infantry told me after the battle - the Feds threw shovels &
picks over the works at them, & were hurled back from whence they came, with
as much force as possible.

The outer ditch was filled with our men sweltering in their own blood while
the inner one in like manner was filled with the enemies dead & wounded.
Some time after dark our company moved back a short distance, & at 9 O.C. PM
firing ceased all around the lines, except occasional sharpshooting..."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Resaca Battlefield

Well this has come as bad news, although not unexpected given the crisis that has developed in the Georgia State Park system, which has closed down several of its historic sites and drastically reduced hours and staff. Although, it will be good to finally see the site open, it concerns me a great deal about how the battle will be interpreted and how the site will be used. The following is from The Daily Citizen, Dalton, GA, November 25th, 2009:

Gordon County commission votes to proceed with battlefield project
Lydia Senn, Calhoun Times

The Gordon County Board of Commissioners has voted to move forward in an agreement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to construct the Resaca Battlefield Park.During a special called meeting held Nov. 20, they signed a letter of intent with the DNR that would allow the county to gain control over $3.4 million in state funds to create the Resaca Battlefield Park.Originally, the DNR was helmed with the responsibility of creating the park and visitors center. However, according to a statement made by David Freedman, Chief Engineer of the Department of Natural Resources at a prior meeting due to the state’s economic situation the park was not a feasible endeavor.The county will now be responsible for maintaining the park, keeping it staffed and setting up exhibits. The county will also be allowed to profit from the park by charging admission.According to Commissioner Dick Gordon, the county will cut costs by having memorabilia on loan from members of the community and from the Historical Preservation Society.Gordon also believes the battlefield park will be a thriving destination in Gordon County.“This gives us an opportunity to put a road into Gordon County,” said Gordon.While the park will have eventual economic benefits, commission Chairman Allen Long says he feels the county has been pushed into the project.“I think we don’t like the fact the state has forced Gordon County into the situation we are in,” said Long.The state offered the county the funds with the understanding that county and the city of Resaca would have to contribute a combined $1 million to construct a road into the park area. The City of Calhoun has agreed to provide water services and power lines to the site.Long said if the county could not gain a bid under the $3.4 million cost estimate, the program would not move forward.“I do think the Resaca Battlefield is a worthy project,” Long said.The approval of the letter of intent was voted in 3 to 1 with one abstention.

Friday, November 27, 2009

7th Ohio at Ringgold Gap

Today marks the 146th Anniversary of the last engagement in the Chattanooga Campaign, the Battle of Ringgold Gap. This rear guard action would pit Patrick Cleburne and his division against the ad hoc Corps of Joe Hooker, facing nearly 2 to 1 odds, Cleburne would deliver a sound defeat to Hooker, earning the thanks of the Confederate Congress for saving the Army of Tennessee. So today we are going to depart somewhat from our theme and discuss one of the opponents of the Army of Tennessee. One of the worst phases of the battle would see the attack of Col. William R. Creighton's brigade be caught in a devestating cross fire as it attacked up a ravine in White Oak Mountain, just north of Ringgold Gap. Creighton's old regiment, the 7th Ohio, would suffer particularly hard, losing 12 of the 13 officers that it had taken into action, Creighton among them. It should also be noted that they lost more men than they had lost at Gettysburg a few months prior. The 7th was known throughout the army as the Rooster Regiment, many of the officers sporting Rooster pins on their uniforms, and going into action crowing. At Ringgold, Creighton had stood on a rock as the regiment formed, flapped his arms and crowed, the men responding in kind as they started forward in their attack.

Colonel William R. Creighton was a dapper soldier, he had enlisted along with the rest of the 7th when Lincoln issued the call to arms in the spring of 1861 to preserve the Union. Creighton, born in Pittsburg, PA, had moved to Cleveland, OH, a few years prior and found employment with the Cleveland Herald. He had earned a name for himself in the local social circles as commander of the Cleveland Light Guard Zouaves, a drill team inspired by Elmer Elsworth's efforts, and with the call to arms, quickly raised a company for service. Creighton would find himself a Captain in the newly formed 7th Ohio Infantry. Seeing service first in Virginia, by the late summer of 1863, Creighton was Colonel of the regiment and bound for Chattanooga, TN. In the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Creighton's brigade commander, Col. Charles Candy, was injured giving Creighton command of the brigade, which he would command for a few days before being mortally wounded at Ringgold Gap, moments after his friend, Liet. Col. Orrin J. Crane was killed. Creighton's body along with Crane's would be carried back to Cleveland and buried side by side.

The 7th Ohio never recoved from the fight at Ringgold, and refused to reenlist in the spring of 1864, feeling they had been needlessly sacrificed at Ringgold.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Battle of Cat Creek, November 26, 1863

During the retreat from Missionary Ridge there were several rear guard actions that have been forgotten to all but the most serious of students, one of those was the engagement at Camp Creek, very little was ever recorded about it, being overshadowed by the fight at Ringgold Gap on November 27th. However, Sam Watkins did leave his version of events, which I will leave with you here:

About dark a small body of cavalry dashed in ahead of us and captured and carried off one piece of artillery and Colonel John F. House, General Maney's assistant adjutant-general. We will have to form line of battle and drive them back. Well, we quickly form line of battle, and the Yankees are seen to emerge from the woods about two hundred yards from iis. We piomptly shell off those sides of bacon and sacks of hard-tack that we had worried and tugged with all day long. Bang, bang, siz, siz. We are ordered to load and fire promptly and to hold our position. Yonder they come, a whole division. Our regiment is the only regiment in the action. They are crowding us; our poor little handful of men are being killed and wounded by scores. There is General George Maney badly wounded and being carried to the rear, and there is Moon, of Fulcher's battalion, killed dead in his tracks. We can't much longer hold our position. A minnie ball passes through my Bible in my side pocket. All at once we are ordered to open ranks. Here comes one piece of artillery from a Mississippi battery, bouncing ten feet high, over brush and logs and bending down little trees and saplings, under whip and spur, the horses are champing the bits, and are muddied from head to foot. Now, quick, quick; look, the Yankees have discovered the battery, and are preparing to charge it. The limber, horses and caisson to the rear. No. 1 shrapnel, load, fire—boom, boom; load, ablouyat—boom, boom. I saw Sam Seay fall badly wounded and carried to the rear. I stopped firing to look at Sergeant Doyle how he handled his gun. At every discharge it would bounce, and turn its muzzle completely to the rear, when those old artillery soldiers would return it to its place—and it seemed they fired a shot almost every ten seconds. Fire, men. Our muskets roll and rattle, making music like the kettle and bass drum combined. They are checked; we see them fall back to the woods, and night throws her mantle over the scene. We fell back now, and had to strip and wade Chickamauga river. It was up to our armpits, and was as cold as charity. We had to carry our clothes across on the points of our bayonets. Fires had been kindled every few yards on the other side, and we soon got warmed up again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Missionary Ridge: A South Carolina View

To continue our observance of the 146th Anniversary of the Battles for Chattanooga, today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The following is a letter from Captain C. Irvine Walker of Arthur Manigault's staff, which I have edited and published earlier this year in GREAT THINGS ARE EXPECTED OF US. Walker calls them like he sees them and the following is no exception, it is his letter of December 1st, 1863 to his beloved Orie Sinclair describing the disaster at Missionary Ridge.

"After another battle I am permitted by Providence to write you announcing
my safety. I would have written sooner but the movements – backwards, I am sorry
to say, prevented. We have met with one of the most severe and unaccountable
defeats of the whole war. There are only two reasons I can assign.

1st. the necessarily great lengths of our lines, and the scarcity of troops, the
number being entirely inadequate to its defence.

2nd. An unaccountable panic seizing the whole left of the army.

As far as the results are concerned other than the loss in the battle, I can't think they are other then would have been yielded without a struggle. There is no doubt that Genl. Bragg intended to have fallen back on the night of the 25th. Nov. if he had not been attacked and forced to yield the position.

I will write you a full account of the battle as soon as I have time, I saw most of it with my own eyes, and can speak from knowledge.

It has been reported and I hear circulated as far as Mobile that our Brigade was the first to give way. If you hear any one say so, contradict it at once. Breckenridge's troops ( a little more than his Division) gave way fully 15 minutes before our Division did. And our Brigade did not give way until both of the Brigades on our right and left had gone, and the enemy not only firing upon our left flank with small arms, but had already turned our own guns upon us, and fired several rounds enfilading our line. The enemy was driven back every time in our front with severe loss and did not reach our line until they formed a line on the hill on our left (which they had taken)
perpendicular to ours, and marched down on our left flank. The loss in the army
will amount to about 5,000 – principally prisoners. The right of the army
repulsed the army very handsomely. I was proud to have been in the left at
Chickamauga, but I am extremely mortified to have been there at Chattanooga.

I feel very much mortified at the result of the battle. We ought never
to have been driven away by a front attack.

The Yankees moved up to the attack in most gallant style. I don't think any feat of the war can equal their attack on Missionary Ridge. If our men had only held their ground it would have been but child's play, however to have whipped them, so strong was our position naturally. But instead of this, they fled panic stricken before the enemy. If any one deserved any credit, I believe our Brigade does, but the whole army deserves censure. They ignominiously left a field which could have been theirs
had they but nerved their hearts to take it.

When I saw the men running I could not believe that they were the heroes of Shiloh, Perryville, Belmont, Oak Hills, Murfreesboro and Chickamauga. Can our past virtues and successes cover our present defeat? The Banner of the proud army of Tenn. is trailing in the dust. I am perfectly willing to trust to them to raise it again triumphantly in the face of a now victorious foe. Our men feel their disgrace and are
determined to wipe it out in blood. Our next battle will be a glorious victory
to our now dishonored arms.

I can account for our defeat only as a judgment of God. I can see no other cause. God only could have given our foes victory when such great advantages of human intellect and position were given us.

I am glad to say that our army is not all demoralized, and as soon as
we can supply our losses in material and collect our stragglers we will be
ready to face the foe and pay him dearly for his temerity. "

Army of Tennessee Scholarship

Just curious, what would you say we need to see in the way of scholarship in the study of the Army of Tennessee and the Western Theatre?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Battle Above the Clouds

Today marks the 146th anniversary of one of the most unusual battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, the fabled "Battle Above the Clouds". This battle has some of the most comical remarks associated with it that I have ever seen, for instance the following from the report of Colonel William Francis Dowd of the 24th Mississippi,

"Our whole brigade only numbered about fifteen hundred men, while the whole of Hooker's Corps was rapidly advancing on us. General Walthall was upon the ground early and changed our front...I ordered my men behind rocks, trees and every cover that nature afforded, and instructed them not to fire until the enemy moved out in the open space in my immediate front. In the meantime the Federal troops advanced...The slaughter was terrible on both sides. I
saw our color bearer shot down within a few feet of me, but the colores were
immediately taken up and held by one of the color guard...General Walthall had ordered me early in the morning "to hold my post till hell froze over," and thinking at this juncture that the ice was about five feet over it, I went up the lines and ordered my regiment to retire...and reform in the rear of the Cravens House..."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Orchard Knob

Today marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Orchard Knob. It is a relatively overlooked phase of the struggle for Chattanooga, but one that set the stage for the Union victory at Missionary Ridge, two days later. The Battle occured just before sunset on November 23rd, 1863 and was a rather one sided affair between two regiments of Arthur Manigault's Brigade (28th Alabama and 24th Alabamas), the 28th losing one of its colors, and Thomas J. Wood's Division. Manigault would later remember:

"About 4:30 o'clock the enemy formed two lines of battle with a skirmish line in front, and began to move forward. About five o'clock, their skirmishers came within range of ours, and the fight commenced. Out advanced troops were soon driven in by their line of battle, who moved steadily to the attack. Their first line was checked by our fire, but the second line coming to their assistance, together they moved forward in spite of our fire, which was not heavy enough to deter them, and came in contact wuth the reserve line of skirmishers. Both regiments behaved gallantly, many of them fighting hand to hand; but the odds against them were irresistible, and Lieut. Col. Butler, 28th Ala., Commanding, in order to save his regiment, was forced to give the order to retire. The other regiment, 24th Alabama, had already given way. Had they contended much longer, they would have been killed or captured to a man, as the lines to their right and left had broken, and the enemy were getting to their rear. The 28th lost a good many, the 24th fewer-in all about 175 men. Having obtained possession of our picket line and the hill mentioned, the enemy seemed satisfied, and pushed forward no further. Our skirmishers retired about 350 or 400 yards and halted. Whilst the enemy advanced large numbers immediately in front of the hill to protect and hold it, he set large parties to work upon it, building breastworks and batteries for their artillery. In rear also was a large reserve force, and for the security of this point to which they seemed to attach much importance they must have held in front at least 6,000 men, exclusive of the two lines in front."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Killer Angels and neo-Confederate Multiculturalism

Looking over the first page of the Introduction to The Killer Angels, I am -- no surprise here -- displeased with Shaara's characterization of the two armies.

Of the Army of Northern Virginia, Shaara writes:

They are rebels and volunteers. They are mostly unpaid and usually
self-equipped. ... It is Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. Though there are many
men who cannot read or write, they all speak English. They share common
customs and a common faith...

Of the Army of the Potomac:
It is a strange new kind of army, a polyglot mass of vastly dissimilar men,
fighting for union. There are strange accents and strange religions and
many who do not speak English at all. Nothing like this army has been seen
upon the planet. ... They are volunteers: last of the great volunteer armies,
for the draft is beginning that summer in the North.

Aside from beating these two descriptions up with big sticks of scholarship that, admittedly, have come largely since Shaara wrote, I have another important question. Would the modern neo-Confederate movement agree with this characterization of the Confederate Army anymore?

I pose this stemming from Jonathan Sarris' lovely characterization of the neo-Confederate movement's recent obsession with finding -- creating -- "Black Confederates" as an effort to find a "multicultural" Condfederacy and thereby counteract their well-deserved stigma of racism. Has the Anglo-Saxon Protestant A.N.V. been replaced by the equally mythological enlightened paradise of a rainbow coalition army fighting for libertarian values?

My my, What would the old boys think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interpreting Wiley's Material Culture.

During the Bell Wiley Panel last Saturday afternoon at the Southern, Pete Carmichael posed the interesting question of interpreting the evidence that Wiley had used descriptively. That is, how can historians use the material culture of the soldier - what he ate, what he wore, etc. - to better understand (and in the case of both the park service and the academy, to better teach) the dynamics of wartime life. Earl Hess raised the valuable point of the "battlefield detective" type work that has been done on some Civil War battlefields, but that is, of course, straying from Wiley's methods and sources, therefore being rather out of the spirit. Carmichael was on to something using sources like Wiley's letters and diaries.

I think that material culture has two important interpretative uses. 1) Strategic. As anyone who has been on one of Jim Ogden's staff rides at Chick-Chatt can attest, the materiel of the Confederate soldier is a window into the political economy of the Confederacy, Chattanooga being the gateway into the industrial heartland of the Confederacy. A Johnny writing home about the abundance of goods - and, yes, that happens despite mythology - reveals the extent of the (to quote The Ogden) "Confederate military-industrial complex."

2) Social. What do clothes say about the man? What prewar associations did soldiers make between cloth and status? Is the fact that the Confederacy resorts to the cotton-wool blended jean cloth vice the all-wool uniforms of regulation (and their U.S. counterparts) significant? I think it is, particularly with this army emerging from a southern slave society. How do Confederate soldiers, particularly those from elite backgrounds, react when they are issued uniforms of jean cloth? Is it degrading to wear the material often associated with "jeans wearers," a term antedating "redneck" and "hillbilly"? Is it more degrading when, after hauling off large quantities of jeans from the 1862 Kentucky Campaign, slaveowning Confederates are issued suits of the same goods marketed as "negro cloth" before the war?

This is, also, something I've been playing around with recently. I mentioned a while back poking around on a project on the relationship of the 5th Ky. Inf. to the rest of the Orphan Brigade. That issue of interpreting material culture, using it for more than its purely descriptive, "wonder what it was like..." value. In a paper I'm prepping for the Appalachain Studies Association's meeting in the Spring in Dahlonega, I bring out Kentucky Confederates' association of cloth and class. One brief illustrative point from my paper, my take on an account of the 5th Ky. joining the rest of the Brigade, which by that time was uniformly uniformed in what is now known as the "Columbus Depot" jacket.

"'Say, there backwoods, bawled one [Orphan], 'any more butternut jeans where you
came from?' And such attacks came quick and fast." Such attacks, of
course, associated both class - jeans coats - and space - the backwoods - with
the men of the Fifth Kentucky and as a consequence with the mountains as a whole
without regard to material evidence of the Fifth's actual range of sartorial
class presentations.

Lee, if I remember correctly, has found some similar evidence of disdain for rough jeans from his South Carolinians. Any more we're aware of?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Southern Recap and Some Postwar Musings

Freshly back from the Southern Historical Association's meeting in Louisville this weekend, I find myself thoroughly refreshed. The last few months have seen me studying for my PhD qualifying examinations in January and estranged from the archives to any meaningful extent. But, the scholarly environment of the Southern has rejuvenated me, and I figure that while I've got this burst of creative energy I could blog a bit, right?

Among the panels I attended was a session on the rise of a professional/middle class in the antebellum South. The standout presentation, in my opinion, coming from Jennifer Green, whose new -- excellent -- book traces the emergence, preservation, and reproduction of the southern middle class through the means of military education. It was my favorite new book this year. She ably used the case of brief Western-Theater-attendee Micah Jenkins to demonstrate the difficulty of distinguishing between middle class men and planters. Jenkins came from a wealthy planting family, but unlike his brothers attended the Citadel, a military school where Green shows he far outranked his classmates in land and slave ownership. After his graduation he both talked of buying land for a new cotton operation and opening a military academy of his own, having a foot in both the world of the planter and the middle class teacher.

Green challenges us to think of military schools not as bastions of Southern landed wealth and privilege as often seen in the late nineteenth- and twentieth centuries, but instead as academies of discipline, order, hard work, and a middling position of both subordination to higher authority and some independent command -- all demanded of both junior officers in the field and of the professional men of the South.

Given this training, I wonder what we might see if we take (if I remember correctly) Ken Noe's suggestion during the Bell Wiley retrospective panel on Saturday afternoon to understand more about the immediate postwar lives of the well-studied Johnny Reb. My own work on Kentucky's Ben Buckner -- though not a Johnny certainly a member of Green's Southern professional class and Kentucky Military Institute alum -- has revealed some interesting things about Blue-Gray reconciliation and cooperation to pick up the pieces of the old order. The formation of the Kuklux in a law office in Pulaski for similar ends might suggest the same. In the wake of the collapse of the plantation system was the county-seat-dwelling professional class all that was left to restore the what was salvageable of the status quo ante bellum? Can the rise of the New South in the latter part of the century be attributed to the leadership of this group, already rising in prominence by the 1850s and still standing in 1865?

Certainly, the post-Appomattox South is a cloudy picture and all these claims can be asterisked, complicated, and expounded upon. But that's no reason not to try to pitch in and find some answers. Please, Civil War public, let's not stop caring about the lives of these soldiers when they take off their uniforms.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

West Coast Talk

I would be remiss if I didnt mention that over the weekend of October 23-25 that I along with fellow AOTer Chris Young spoke at the West Coast Civil War Conference in Clovis, CA, just outside of Fresno, we were part of an all star line up of Chickamauga-Chattanooga Campaign historians that included Dr. Steven Woodworth, Dr. Glenn Robertson, Jim Ogden, and Wiley Sword among others. It was an impressive program. I also, as I always do, came away having learned a lot from Glenn Robertson's talks. For those of you who dont know Glenn, he is the dean of Chickamauga historians, and I was truely honored to be part of the same program with him. Finally, my friend and fellow blogger, Dave Powell was there for the release of his book, the Maps of Chickamauga, published by Savas and Beatie, LLC. I had seen the draft of the book and scans of the maps, but was really impressed with the completed product. So once again, I will say that if you want to learn about Chickamauga, this book is required reading.

To wrap things up though, I spoke on September 19th, 1863, covering all of the actions of that day and The Battle of Ringgold Gap. Both seemed to be well received, and I managed to get through all 66 slides of my power point program in 50 minutes for the September 19th talk. I will conclude by saying it was really a pleasure.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chickamauga Study Group Tour 2010

Dave Powell has posted the schedule for next years Chickamauga Study Group Tour of the Chickamauga Battlefield. These are great tours that get you out on the ground and cover in detail a particular action or personality of the the battle, so if you havent been on one of these and have the opportunity to do so, I highly recommend going on next years.

CCNMP Study Group 2010 tours March 12 and 13, 2010.

Friday Morning: Bragg in Command, part IBy Bus, we will trace Confederate Commander Braxton Bragg’s movements to the field between September 9th and 19th, discussing his command decisions and the information he had at the time. Stops will include Lee and Gordon’s Mills, Rock Springs, Lafayette, Leet’s Tanyard.

Friday Afternoon: Bragg in command, part IIBy Bus and foot. We begin with a hike down to Thedford Ford, discuss Bragg reaching the field on the 19th and subsequent decisions that day, then hike back. From there we will discuss the morning confusion with Polk, the decision to order everyone into action, and later meetings. We will visit Brotherton Field and the 20th HQ site near Winfrey Field.

Saturday Morning: Cleburne AttacksOn foot. While Breckinridge’s Division overwhelmed John Beatty’s Brigade and nearly broke through into Thomas’ Rear, the southern end of Kelly Field was assailed by DH Hill’s other Division, under Pat Cleburne. Cleburne’s men had a difficult fight that morning, and it was not the command’s best performance. We will examine Polk’s attack, Wood’s delay and wandering, and finally, Deshler’s desperate action at noon. We will visit Polk’s tablet on Alexander Bridge Road, move overland to Wood’s approximate departure point, track his brigade’s attack with Stewart into Poe field (visit Alabama Monument) and work our way up the ridge to Deshler’s mortuary monument.

Saturday Afternoon: Final defense of Battle line RoadOn foot, we will examine the defense of Battle line road, and the final retreat from that position on September 20th. We will focus primarily on Baird’s Division and the difficulties they experienced as they tried to disengage, on how well the overall retreat was managed, and on the nature of the final Confederate attack in this sector.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chattanooga 146th Anniversary Events

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park invites the public to attend special programs commemorating the anniversary of the Battles for Chattanooga the weekend of Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22, 2009.

Battlefield staff and volunteers will offer a variety of educational programs; walks, talks, guided tours, and living history demonstrations throughout the weekend. These programs will take place throughout the Chattanooga area, including Moccasin Bend, Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga, Orchard Knob, Missionary Ridge, Tunnel Hill, and Ringgold Gap. Living history demonstrations will occur at Point Park on the top of Lookout Mountain and include Union infantry and Confederate artillery. The Infantry and Artillery programs will describe the difficulties the Union Infantry and the Confederate Artillery faced during the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Both the infantry and artillery camps will be open throughout the weekend and visitors are encouraged to learn what life was like for the Civil War soldier and artilleryman.
Confederate Artillery DemonstrationsSaturday, November 21: 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m.Sunday, November 22: 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Union Infantry DemonstrationsSaturday, November 21: 10:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 4:15 p.m.Sunday, November 22: 10:45 a.m., 12:15p.m., 1:45 p.m., 3:15 p.m.
See the below program schedule for more details.

Throughout the day on Saturday, November 21 author Mark Hughes will be available to discuss and sign his book, “The New Civil War Handbook” at the Point Park Visitor Center. This book provides facts and photos for readers of all ages and is a quick reference guide to a huge range of topics on the American Civil War.

The Battles for Chattanooga, November 23-25, 1863, marked the end of a bloody, five month campaign for control of the key rail center and “Gateway to the Deep South.” In 1864, Chattanooga became General William T. Sherman’s supply and communication base for his Georgia campaign.

For more information about this event and the expanding number of programs at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, contact the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center at 706-866-9241, the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at 423-821-7786, or visit the park’s website at


Point Park Guided Walking Tour – 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.Explore the Campaign for Chattanooga from the perspective of Union and Confederate troops as they struggled for control of the “Gateway to the Deep South.” This 45 minute walking tour begins inside the Point Park Entrance Gate.“A Vicious Little Battery:” The Union Artillery on Moccasin Bend during the Siege and Battles for Chattanooga– 9:00 a.m.Union artillery entrenched on Moccasin Bend assisted in covering troop movements during the Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Join Park Historian Jim Ogden on a 90 minute walking tour to learn more about the Civil War sites on historic Moccasin Bend. Please wear comfortable shoes. This tour begins on Moccasin Bend Road just north of the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute grounds. Look for the “Special Program” signs and the park ranger who will direct you to the parking area.
Walking Tour of Downtown Chattanooga’s Civil War Sites – 9:30 a.m.As a railroad hub, Chattanooga was a growing town in the mid-19th century when actions in the Civil War made it militarily significant. Join Historian Patrice Glass in examining Chattanooga through the accounts of its residents and discover how military occupation affected the town. This 90 minute walking tour begins on the south entrance to the Walnut Street Bridge.

“An Inspiriting Sight:” The Engagement at Orchard Knob – 11:30 a.m. On November 23, 1863, Union forces moved out of Chattanooga and assaulted a small number of Confederates on Orchard Knob, a prominent knoll between the city and Missionary Ridge. Meet Park Ranger Christopher Young inside the Orchard Knob entrance gate at the corner of Ivy Street and Orchard Knob Avenue for this 90 minute tour.

Over the River and Through the Woods to Missionary Ridge: Grant and Sherman’s Main Effort at Chattanooga – 1:30 p.m.“Attack the Confederate right flank northeast of Chattanooga and drive the rebel army southward and into North Georgia.” That was the mission assigned to Major General William T. Sherman by the overall Union commander in the Chattanooga area, Ulysses S. Grant. It was intended to be Grant’s main strike at the Southerners arrayed outside of Chattanooga too. But, to accomplish this, Sherman had a number of obstacles before him, most notably a river and a significant wooded ridge. Join Park Historian Jim Ogden and U. S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Historian Gerald Hodge for a two hour car caravan tour of some of the key points associated with Sherman’s execution of Grant’s main effort. The tour will examine the Tennessee River in the area of Sherman’s crossing, progress up onto Missionary Ridge as Sherman did and discuss the Confederate reaction. This program begins at the Tennessee Riverpark Fishing Park on Amnicola Highway just downstream/west of theC. B. Robinson Bridge.

“The Most Unbounded Enthusiasm…Ever Witnessed:” Missionary Ridge – De Long Reservation – 2:30 p.m. On the afternoon of November 25, 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland, without orders, charged up Missionary Ridge and dealt the Confederate Army of Tennessee the decisive blow in the campaign for Chattanooga. Join Park Ranger Gerry Allen for a 45 minute program on the top of Missionary Ridge to learn about the “Miracle at Missionary Ridge.” Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. This tour is held at the De Long Reservation on Missionary Ridge.


Point Park Guided Walking Tour – 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.Explore the Campaign for Chattanooga from the perspective of Union and Confederate troops as they struggled for control of the “Gateway to the Deep South.” This 45 minute walking tour begins inside the Point Park Entrance Gate.

The Tallest Fighting I Was Ever In:” Lookout Mountain – 1:00 p.m. On the morning of November 24, 1863, General Joseph Hooker’s Union forces were ordered to make a “demonstration” against Confederate forces defending the slopes of Lookout Mountain. Join Park Volunteer Ansley Moses on a 90 minute walking tour of the “Battle Above the Clouds.” Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. This tour begins at the Cravens House parking lot.

Cleburne and Stevenson Defeat Sherman at Tunnel Hill – 1:30 p.m.Park Historian Jim Ogden and U. S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Cumming’s Brigade Historian Gerald Hodge will lead a two hour walking tour of the Tunnel Hill/Sherman Reservation area of the Missionary Ridge Battlefield looking at the ill-fated attacks by Union Major-General William Sherman on the carefully positioned and entrenched Confederates of Patrick Cleburne’s and Carter Stevenson’s divisions. We’ll walk the ground to describe a portion of the Southern line and look at how the Confederates dealt with the series of Union attacks on November 25, 1863. This program begins at the Sherman Reservation on Lightfoot Mill Road, just off Crest Road on Missionary Ridge.

“Senseless Exposure of Brave Men:” Ringgold Gap – 3:00 p.m. On the morning of November 27th, 1863, Union forces under GeneralJoseph Hooker clashed with the rear guard of the Confederate Army led by General Patrick Cleburne at Ringgold Gap in a small but vicious engagement. Join Park Ranger Lee White on a 90 minute driving tour beginning at the Ringgold Depot, located at the intersection of U. S. Highway 41 and Depot Street in Ringgold, Georgia.

“Without Producing the Slightest Result:” Artillery Demonstrations Join Park Ranger Anton Heinlein and living historians portraying Confederate artillerymen to learn about the attempts and difficulties that Confederate artillerists faced during the Siege of Chattanooga, as well as, the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Artillery demonstrations will be conducted in historic Point Park, a unit of Lookout Mountain Battlefield.
Confederate Artillery DemonstrationsSaturday at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.Sunday at 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

“Does the General Expect Us to Fly:” Union Infantry DemonstrationsJoin Park Ranger Anton Heinlein and living historians portraying Union infantrymen to learn about the role of Union Infantry in the November 24, 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain. Infantry demonstrations will be conducted in historic Point Park, a unit of Lookout Mountain Battlefield.
Saturday at 10:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:15 p m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.Sunday at 10:45 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.


Friday, October 16, 2009

John Brown

I would feel remiss if I didnt mention that today is the beginning of the 150th cycle with John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry in his failed attempt to put a swift and violent end to Slavery. That event was termed the fire bell ringing in the night and lit the fuse, although some can argue it had already been lit in Kansas. To keep it relavent though, I will share a couple of Army of Tennessee links to Old Brown.

Captain John Brown had come onto the national stage during Bleeding Kansas as a leader of a band of abolitionist forces and with great infamy for the Pottawatomie Massacre (May 24-25, 1856). The first family to be visited that night was that of James P. Doyle an immigrant from Hamilton Co, TN, Doyle and his eldest sons, William and Drury, were hacked and shot to death. Brown would spare 16 year old John Doyle. The Doyle survivors would soon return back to Hamilton County, and after Brown was captured at Harper's Ferry, young John would be offered to opportunity of pulling the lever to hang Brown. In 1861 John Doyle would enlist in the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry (Ashby's) and serve as bugler, fighting in Wheeler's Cavalry for most of the war.

A wave of fear swept through the South in the months following Harper's Ferry, headlines read "The Riot", "Invasion", and most terrifying of all to Southerners, "Insurrection". Brown proved to them that all the rumors were true in their minds, that the North wanted another Haiti for them. Throughout the south milita companies were formed, membership in pre existing militas grew and states began to allocate large sums of money for the purchase of weapons, etc. Among the groups that were formed were many companies that would soon become part of the Army of Tennessee, specifically Company A and Company B of the 10th South Carolina Infantry.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Maps of Chickamauga

We are alive but busy with many things, including the upcoming West Coast Civil War Roundtable Conference, but I thought I would take the time to point out an incredibly important book is about to come out on the Battle of Chickamauga. This work, the Maps of the Battle of Chickamauga, by Dave Powell and published by Savas Beatie, LLC,, is the definative one volume work on the battle at this time and the maps are superb, reflecting the quality of all titles from Savas Beatie.
If you have been intimidated with Chickamauga before I highly recommend this book.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Welcome to Dave Powell

Dave Powell is one of the top historians on the Battle of Chickamauga and his map study of the battle will become a standard on the history of the battle when it comes out this fall. Dave has launched his own blog on the Battle of Chickamauga, you can check it out at So, welcome Dave, glad to have you in the blogging world.


Monday, August 3, 2009

A Good Read

Wanted to post a quick note to my memory post. The most recent Tennessee Historical Quarterly includes an excellent essay by James B. Williams title "The Tennessee Civil War Commission: Looking to the Past as Tennessee Plans for the Future."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Overlooked Western Battles

The following article addresses the lack of attention given to the battles of the Trans-Mississippi, thought it would be appropriate today since everyone's attention seems to be focused on that small Pennsylvania college town. Also note that a number of the units that made up the Army of Tennessee had their first combat experiences at either Wilson's Creek or Pea Ridge.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Remembering the Civil War

I've just read David Blight's thoughts on the Civil War Sesquicentennial published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and it has gotten me thinking about how the 150th anniversary will be marked here in Chattanooga. As Dr. Blight points out "the centennial commemoration of the Civil War was a political and historical debacle." Racism, anti-communism, and Lost Causism all worked to obscure the causes and consequences of the conflict. Most of the centennial celebrated "a master narrative of mutual heroism in a war in which everyone had fought for their sense of the 'right'."

As Blight points out the 150th anniversary allows us the opportunity to stare the past directly in the face and to struggle with the complex and troubling history of the war and its aftermath (especially the issue of emancipation and the many responses to the end of slavery that impact American social and cultural life today). But how willing will our audiences in Chattanooga be to confronting these issues? Dr. Blight paints a hopeful picture based on his experience at the University of Richmond symposium "America on the Eve of the Civil War". In it scholars investigated the rising tensions surrounding John Brown's Harper's Ferry raid and the increasing anxiety over the election of 1860. Politicians and the public alike responded enthusiastically and Blight concludes "If the self-selected audience can be any kind of model, and if the Richmond event can be evenly modestly duplicated elsewhere, the sesquicentennial will be very different from the fiasco of the centennial of the Civil War in 1961-1965."

My recent experience suggests that to modestly duplicate the success of the Richmond symposium (or at least to engage in the kind of analysis and examination the panelists prompted) in our region will take much work. I have been struck by the continuing hold of the Lost Cause interpretation in our region (a version of the Civil War that minimizes to the point of invisibility the central role of slavery in the conflict). It also seems true that a decided majority of those interested in the Civil War in our neighborhood prefer to emphasize the glory of military history over the social, cultural, and political issues that created the context for secession and war. This point became particularly clear during the recent 145th commemorations of the battle of Chickamauga. Two commemorative events were held to mark the event -- one a large scale reenactment of the battle held on private land in McLemore's Cove the other a small living history event at the Chickamauga National Military Park.

The Chattanooga Times estimated nearly 40,000 people attended the 3 day festival at McLemore's Cove. There they were treated to period sutlers, food vendors, and large scale re-creations of the battle. The Times ran daily articles about the festival including streaming video on their website. Interpretation included the dubious (presentations that made claims that African American slaves supported the Confederacy) to the mundane (one streaming video on the Times site showed a group of school students listening to a recital of facts about the commanders of the Union army). At the same time, at the Chickamuaga National Military Park about 3,500 people gathered over the weekend to take tours, watch tactical demonstrations, and engage with the question of slavery and the Confederacy in an innovative living history demonstration. Little attention was paid by the local press.

The two events were dramatically different -- one was largely empty of the kind of content Dr. Blight (and many others) hope will be at the forefront of the150th commemorations. The other contained elements of both military history and social and cultural history that engaged multiple approaches to undertanding the war. The former approach gained the lion's share of publicity and attention. The latter gained an appreciative yet small audience and paltry media attention. To me the events and response to them suggest that much serious work needs to be done in our community before the kind of engagement so many hope for can be achieved.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Great Things Are Expected Of Us Finally Shipping

Just a brief post to say we are still alive and that Great Things Are Expected Of Us is finally shipping out from the publishers. So for those of you who have preordered you should be getting it soon, and thank you. For others if you order now you should receive a copy in a timely fashion soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Take These Pistols to My Father"

As the semster ends, my intro to U.S. history students are quickly approaching the Civil War. Last week we looked at two Mexican War-era lithographs depicting the death of Lt. Col. Henry Clay, jr. of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry at the battle of Buena Vista. I asked my students to think about these two images in light of 1) the potential political implications of each and 2) how warfare is depicted. They drew out some fantastic points, including:

- The most common reaction was to the American flag flying above the scene. It seems "extremely patriotic," one wrote.
- Continuing on this nationalist theme, some noticed that "American troops are in straight line & seem more organized, [with] more intricate uniforms." They linked these lines advancing under the flag to themes of the constant and "always advancing" progress of Manifest Destiny.
- Like many of the young men in uniform in Mexico, the students saw this image as a depiction of the heroism and glory of military service. "It shows the great leader dying an honorable death on the battlefield giving an inspiring quote to his officers, handing over his pistols." The inspiring quote, for those who can't make it out: "Leave me, save yourselves. Take these pistols to my father and tell him I have done all I can with them and now return them to him."
- Many linked Clay's drive to acquit himself well on the battlefield to the expectations of manhood and honor, some even to Clay jr's attempt to "fill the shoes" of Clay sr. by "dying fighting for" the family reputation.

Discussion of the second image focused on the "otherization" (my word, not theirs) of the Mexican enemies. The enemy is "hostilely [sic] killing the man with little emotion/remorse." It tries to depict "defeat not by a noble enemy but by [a] barbaric people." They concluded that this encouraged Americans to fight against Mexican "barbarity," justified by God's providential designs for the U.S. carrying its civilization to the entire continent. ...or so Jimmy Polk might say.
- Discussions about the depiction of war in the second image versus the first were insightful, too. In contrast to the first lithograph where "the battle continues in the background...while the figures in front look peaceful," and Clay's grapeshot wound in the thigh is "unreal" "sanitized violence," the second image shows "disarray," and "chaos." Most concluded that the second image was more "blunt," even more "realistic," and shows warfare with "very little honor" indeed. In our class discussion we talked about how movies today serve many of the same purposes as these images did in the 1840s.
- Looking toward exam time, I was quite pleased to see the students pick up on some irony in the very fact of Clay jr's death. One noted that the Col. died "because of a border dispute [of which] Henry Clay [sr] didn't want to be a part...he felt it was unnecessary." Another found it "ironic b/c [ah, the age of text-speak!] Clay is always being defeated (1844 by Polk) & his son is portrayed being defeated." (That one's for you, Chris!)

All in all, a useful little assignment that the students got into. I asked them to relate these themes -- both the political implications of the debate over the spread of free soil/slavery into the West and the impact of images of war on young men of military age -- in relation to why men would enlist to fight in the Civil War. And we'll be there in just a couple weeks!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rainy Post-Shiloh Days

As I sit in cooped up in my office on this dreary April day, I am reminded that 147 years ago tens of thousands of men were doing precisely the same. After the excitement of battle had faded, the survivors were given ample time to reflect on their experiences as movement ground to a halt. Maj. Ben Buckner of the 20th KY (U.S.) felt much the same as he wrote home to Helen.

Although I have written you two letters in the last days, I dont know how I can better spend an hour or so this gloomy rainy miserable evening than by writing to you again, feeling assured that you will receive any thing I may write with pleasure, however uninteresting it might be to others; and as you are so very good about writing as indeed you are about every thing else, I would have no excuse for not having written should by time during the next week be so occupied as to make it impossible to do so. But dearest though I may write you never so long a letter you must not expect any thing of interest. The battle with all its horror as well as points of interest you have learned all about long since, and we have no incident in camp worth relating. We are stuck fast in the mud, and as it rains here every day I dont know when we will move, as it would now be utterly impossible to drag our artillery over these horrid roads. The rebels are somewhere, I dont know where, though if they were only five miles distant I would not know it as the movements of the rebels and indeed of our own army are kept profound secrets from both officers and men. ...
You dont know how very much I want to see you. Do you know that the day of the battle, I thought of you again and again , that during the terrible scene that I thought not of mother & father or self only you. God bless you darling you are so good, true, and noble. ... Write me a long letter dear Helen, tell me every thing about you. ...
As ever yours

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Parks, the Public Sphere, and Preservation

I had a thought during a discussion last week on the contentious issue of mountain top removal coal mining (MTR) when someone mentioned that the Romantic views of sweeping mountain vistas that were the backdrop for an anti-MTR film looked like something out of a National Park Service site video. "Ha," I thought, "true enough." But it also got me thinking about the symbolism of the National Parks, specifically the seal and patch I have emblazoned on a sizable percentage of my clothing: an arrowhead inverted with a buffalo grazing in the foreground in front of a majestic redwood and a mountain rising in the background.

Does the NPS identify itself with things lost or vanishing, Indians, indigenous plant and animal species, and geological formations, all of which have found themselves the target of modernization? Is the NPS to be the curators of America's zoo-of-the-past when we have finally rid ourselves of these beautiful inconveniences? Does the government preservation of space only encourage the exploitation of places not designated sacred, beautiful, or otherwise special?

And here's where I think Jurgen Habermas' idea of the public sphere, a space outside formal politics where citizens can communicatively debate issues concerning the body politic, is so vitally important to a new role for the NPS and for Americans generally. I attended the National Council on Public History conference this weekend where Dr. James Brewer Stewart's keynote address, “Abolishing Slavery in Lincoln’s Time and Ours: The Legacies of American Slavery and the Challenges of Human Trafficking,” envisioned a new -- but at the same time very old -- role for historic sites. Speaking specifically about those that dealt with slavery in the past, Dr. Stewart encouraged sites to use their roots in historical slavery as a platform to launch discussion about modern day human trafficking, to smash the concept that slavery ended in 1865 (a concept that Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement cast into doubt anyway) by showing that ending only American slavery did not end the phenomenon worldwide. He encouraged, too, a dialogue between the public and interpreters about how the issues of the past continue to affect our world today.
As public land, why should a National Park site not be the site of public sphere debate among concerned citizens?It seems to me that NPS sites have always been tied to public debate. To whit: Chickamauga or any other Civil War battlefield was the site of a debate over the meanings of citizenship, freedom, equality, race, class, gender, and a host of other issues when the armies met there in 1863. Perhaps 34,000 casualties was not Habermas' ideal of communicative action, but it nevertheless is an extreme example of debate over vital issues outside of formal politics. Later, in the 1890s and onward, the battlefield became a site of commemoration and (white) North-South reconciliation. Themes of shared sacrifice and valor were played up, while the "emancipatory" legacy of the war was largely redacted. The monuments on the field attest to this revisioning of the war as an unfortunate but glorious national Iliad. This understanding continued through the 1960s commemoration of the war's 100th anniversary, which employed Confederate memory as a banner to rally anti-Civil Rights support in the white South. With the 150th anniversary of the war approaching, the NPS has a chance to use its Civil War sites in a new way, as a public free space to encourage civil dialogue (Incidentally, this is the reason I was at the conference, participating in a panel of public historians discussing themes and strategies for the CW 150th). There will be resistance from many, saying that entering "politics" could bias the site. But by recognizing and discussing the fact that these places have -- in one way or the other -- always been spaces for social-political debate, how is employing that space for the same purpose today any different? That legacy of debate, being a bandbox for the playing out of the politics of memory, is the very reason these spaces have become places invested with cultural meaning.

In my opinion, the parks-as-free-space model of use will have to take hold if we are to positively preserve Civil War battlefields. As the country moves farther away from the Civil War being a "felt history," as the Civil War becomes a shrinking part of America's historical consciousness, and as general public interest in history declines, continuing the tradition of civic dialogue in these spaces will demonstrate to a new generation of Americans the continuing lessons that can be drawn from these places, these memories. It will increase public awareness of these sites as important, as relevant, as vital to our national identity. By demonstrating that relevance and usefulness we can create a new set of "stakeholders," people emotionally invested in the continued preservation and appropriate use of these places, and thereby -- hopefully -- preserve their lessons for another generation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

T'was the 6th of April about the break of day...

Just a quick note to mark the 147th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh. The first battle for the Army of Mississippi, soon to be known as the Army of Tennessee. It is interesting to note that in the last few years Shiloh has finally been given its share of printed attention, due in large part to fromer NPS staffer, Tim Smith. In a few weeks, the University of Southern Illinois Press will be releaseing the first in a series of essay books on the Western Campaigns, edited by Dr. Stephen Woodworth, it is fitting that the first volumne will be on Shiloh, and contain a contribution from Tim. Hopefully, all of this will lead to more works on the Western Theater in general.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Civil War Preservation Trust Park Day 2009

Just a reminder for everyone that tomorrow, April 4th, is Park Day, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP is participating as are other sites around the country, so if you can check with your local site and help out.

Also, for those in the Atlanta area, Sunday is the Free talk at the Atlanta History Center on Gen. J.C. Vaughn, if you can please go as the more participants they have the more money the History Center receives.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Bedford Forrest still makes it into a lot of newspapers. Here is a story from last week about the Wizard.

Memphis' Forrest Park on National Register of Historic Places

Designation puts efforts to change name on hold
By Linda Moore, Memphis Commercial Appeal Thursday, March 19, 2009

Forrest Park has quietly been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and efforts to rename the park or disinter the bodies buried there have, for now, been laid to rest.
The park at Union and Manassas where Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife are buried received the honorary designation this month from the National Park Service.
The park has long been a point of racial controversy in Memphis, with local officials and other groups periodically rallying to rename the park and remove the statue of Forrest, a revered cavalry leader in the Civil War who also was a slave trader and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The nomination was submitted by the Forrest Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"It's just a great honor to have the park and the statue recognized as a historic place," said Lee Millar, the camp's public affairs officer. "We're very happy for fellow historians and the city and county to have another site listed on the national register."

Although not involved in seeking the designation, the Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy also was excited by the news. "I'm very happy, basically because it's just a part of Memphis' history that needs to be preserved for future generations," said president Audrey Rainey.

Attorney and former Shelby County commissioner Walter Bailey tried to quash the nomination but says continued protests will be put on hold.

"I think we're at a point where until such time as we see some concern by our city leaders, we have to continue to pause," Bailey said.

And he doesn't blame the Forrest supporters for their success.

"It seems to me the responsibility and the blame rest with our city leaders for being so passive about it," Bailey said.

Last fall, the nomination went before the Tennessee Historical Commission. Initially approved, the vote was rescinded after about a dozen Memphians, including Bailey and state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, protested, arguing that the park had been created to pay homage to a slave trader. The Sons of Confederate Veterans withdrew the nomination, regrouped and successfully appealed the state commission's decision to the park service, which administers the register.
Despite the successful bid, the designation is an honor, not a shield.

Because Forrest Park is owned by the city of Memphis, the city has the authority to rename it or have the graves moved unless the project involves federal dollars, said Bill Reynolds, spokesman with the National Park Service in Atlanta.

"If the city makes changes to the site in some way, shape or form that would or could cause a potential review of the status of the site, it could cause it to lose its designation if the historical integrity of the site is compromised in any way," he said.

The 8-acre park was established in the early 1900s and was designed by famed park and landscape designer George Kessler. The sculpture of Forrest was done by Charles H. Niehaus, whose work can be seen at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

John Crawford Vaughn Talk

For the readers in the Atlanta area there is going to be an opportunity to learn about a interesting Confederate Officer, General John C. Vaughn and help out the Atlanta History Center at the same time.

The following is from the Military Curator, Dr. Gordon Jones;

Dear friends --

Recently, some of you have kindly asked what you can do for the Atlanta History Center to help us out in these hard times. Well, Here's one thing -- attend a free benefit event Sunday, April 5, at starting 2:30pm in McElreath Hall. See the attached flyer. All you have to do is show up and our sponsor will make a donation to the AHC for every person in attendance!

Better still, you get to hear a talk by Larry Gordon, author of the new book The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and His East Tennessee Cavalry. If you have never heard of Vaughn, you are not alone. But he is a fascinating fellow -- literally the last Confederate general in the eastern theater to give up -- and yet he hailed from heavily Unionist East Tennessee. This is a great story and the book is full of new information.

Books will be available for purchase and signing by the author -- and all proceeds go to help the AHC. We will begin gathering and book signing at 1:30, lecture starts at 2:30, book signing resumes about 3:30.

Please try to be here -- and bring your friends and family -- I guarantee it will be worth your time!

Many thanks, Gordon

The Atlanta History Center is in the Buckhead area off West Paces Ferry Road, if you have not been there before please make an effort to see it, the museum is fantastic, having a great Civil War exhibit.