Thursday, March 26, 2015

James Conner: The General and His Unlucky Leg

Brigadier General James Conner

       James Conner was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1829. He became a lawyer and began his practice in 1852. He soon became a United States Attorney and tried a case involving the illegal slave trade. Like most in South Carolina, James was a secessionist. When the war began, he became a captain under Wade Hampton in the Hampton Legion. Sent to Virginia, he soon had a minor dispute with fellow officer and future Confederate general Matthew Butler. The two seemed to be advancing together against Union forces, when Butler attempted to get all the credit for a victory and moved too quickly allowing the Federals to escape. 
       At the Battle of Manassas, when Hampton and other commanders were wounded, Conner took over the Legion and following the battle was promoted to major. In the spring of 1862, he was made colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry that needed an experienced commander. At the Battle of Mechanicsville, a bullet struck him in the leg and broke a bone. He was out of action for two years because of the ugliness of the wound. During that time he served on various military courts. 
       On June 1, 1864, Conner was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Samuel McGowan's South Carolina brigade. He was still not fit for extreme field service, so Lee assigned him to Chaffin's Bluff. He then proceeded as part of Kershaw's Division to participate in Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Just a few days before the Battle of Cedar Creek, a shell fragment struck him in his "unlucky leg." The shrapnel passed through Conner's knee and shattered the bone. This time the limb would be amputated close to his hip. Thus ended the war for Brigadier General James Conner. 

The only other known wartime photograph of James Conner

       Conner would return to his law practice following the war. Had injury not kept him from so much of the war, he may have become one of the great generals we read of today. James Conner was a friend of both Robert E. Lee and Pierre Beauregard. He would die in Richmond, Virginia in 1883 at the age of 53. He died of bronchitis. His wife Sallie would outlive him by 44 years, dying in 1928. James Conner rests today in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, the city of his birth.

Sallie <i>Enders</i> Conner

Sallie Enders the wife of James Conner

A photograph of Sallie sometime before her death

James Conner

Graves of both James and Sallie Conner


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Argument Over Black Confederate Soldiers

Image result for black confederates

Confederate soldiers

       I'm by no means what you would call a Neo-Confederate. I don't attempt to rewrite history the way a lot of Southerners and Northerners do. I just study history and attempt to call it like I see it without bias. I have had numerous discussions with supposed "historians" online who refuse to do the same. These discussions always have the same context, people calling themselves historians who are very closed minded about that time period. The problem begins when someone looks at the 1800's through modern eyes. 
       First, let me say this, I do not condone slavery, I truly believe it was an evil thing. However, it was legal at the time. These modern eyed historians believe the war was fought over something that was legalized by the American government. Now a Neo-Confederate believes the war would have happened had slavery not been involved. That also is a ridiculous statement. Yet, there was more to that war than just black and white, good versus evil, there were lots of gray areas, plenty of good and evil on both sides. These modern day historians refuse to believe that money had anything to do with the war. They ignore other problems the nation had at the time besides slavery. It doesn't fit into their perfect American government ideals. They went to school as children and were brainwashed with the old stories of how our founding fathers and leaders never sin, etc, and they refuse to believe any differently. 
       Now, for their theory to work, they have to believe that the black race would never have supported the Confederacy. So they convince themselves that there were no black Confederate soldiers. Let's take a look at what I have learned in about five minutes of research and see what I've uncovered. 

Negro Confederate pickets

The above drawing appeared in Harper's Weekly (A New York paper) in 1863 showing black Confederate pickets on guard duty as seen through a Federal officers field glasses during the war

       It's true that the Confederate government didn't recognize black soldiers, yet there are many incidents to show that blacks served the army. One "historian" argued with me that they were merely cooks, valets, and therefore not soldiers. I used to work with a guy that is a Vietnam veteran, he was a cook during the conflict, but this "historian" considers him a soldier. Why? Because the Vietnam veteran has a piece of paper that states he was a soldier. You see here how people twist things to suit their own agenda. 
       Just how bad was it to be a slave during that time period? I did a conversion of what a thousand dollars (what a healthy slave cost in 1860) and it comes to 29,500 dollars in today's money. We've all seen the Hollywood movies (and we all know that movies never lie about history) of white slave owners beating and mistreating their slaves. There were without a doubt some mean slave owners just like there are bad husbands, fathers, and mothers today, but most people that spend that kind of money will not abuse what they've bought, but take good care of it. 
       The best way to learn what being a slave was like at the time is from the mouth of the enemy. United States Colonel John  Beatty commanding the Third Ohio Infantry was posted in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and observed: "The poor whites are as poor as rot, and the rich are very rich. There is no substantial well-to-do middle class. The slaves are, in fact, the middle class here. They are not considered so good, of course, as their masters, but a great deal better than the white trash…The women sport flounces and the men canes…all are slaves.”
       Later, during the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River for you Yankee's) we learn that Confederate Brigadier General St. John Liddell had a black bugler. Private John Berry of the Eighth Arkansas Infantry describes an incident with captured Federal soldiers: "Passing through the yard of a nice farmhouse, we captured some of the Federal outposts, who pleaded for mercy. General Liddell swore at them, telling them they were fine fellows, invading our country and then asking pardon. Old Jake, the bugler, whacked one of them over the head with his saber, saying, with an oath, 'You youst get home, den.'"
       Another argument from the "historians" against black troops serving the Confederacy is that black men weren't allowed to carry weapons. Old Jake evidently was allowed to carry a saber. There is also the incident involving a black guard named Ben who carried a rifle. Ben was placed by Confederate Brigadier General William Mahone to guard surplus rations. When a white soldier approached and attempted to steal rations, Ben ordered him to halt. He ignored the command, so Ben fractured his skull with the rifle, killing the white Confederate soldier. The soldier's friends wanted to kill Ben, but General Mahone took up for Ben. In 1928, an amendment was added so that black Confederate's could collect a military pension. 
       Another black soldier is listed as fighting under Confederate Brigadier General James Holt Clanton at Greensport, Alabama. The black soldier named Griffin approached General Clanton and asked, "Where is Marse Batt?" Clanton pointed toward the Federal lines and said, "He is there dead." Griffin charged and recovered the white Confederate's body amid severe Federal fire. When he returned to Clanton's position, Clanton asked, "Is he dead?" Griffin replied, "I don't know. My mammy was his nurse and I'm older than he is. I promised to take care of him and bring him to her. I'm carrying him home now."
       There was also the incident of a black man named Sam that went to Shiloh with his white best friend named Billy Patton. Sam was owned by Billy's father George Patton (who became governor of Alabama following the war). When Billy was killed during the first days fighting, Sam refused to leave the field without Billy's body. Sam found Billy's body and brought him all the way from Shiloh to Corinth and then back to Florence, Alabama. One story says that the Confederate army took the horse away from Sam in Corinth and Sam was forced to carry Billy's body home himself. Either way, Sam was treated as a hero for the remainder of his life by the Patton family. 
       There is a video on youtube of an ex black Confederate who says he's been to all the reunions of Confederate soldiers and has been treated the same as any other soldier. 

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A black Confederate soldier at a reunion

       Here is a small list of Black Confederate soldiers that I have found with minimal trouble. 

Griffin, First Alabama Cavalry, referred to as a soldier.

Dan Robertson, Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry, fifer owned by the Lagrange Military Institute. 

Henry Adcock , John Brown, Alley Newton (cook), John Pride, Tom Pride, Anthony Steward, all of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and all free men. 

Bill King (cook), Reuben Battle, Bob Battle, all of the 20th Tennessee Infantry, all free men. 

Brunton Alexander, Sampson Alley, Harris Bruington, Jeff Bruington, Jo Bruington, Lafayett Bruington, Vincent Bruington, William Burgess, John Cummings, James Farley, James Fields, William Gibson, John Hale, James Harris, Rufus Harris, William Albans Harris, all of the 25th Tennessee Infantry and all free men. 

Adam (cook), Lewis (cook), Solomon (cook) of the 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Adam and Lewis were slaves, Solomon was free.

Ben (guard) of the 16th Virginia Infantry, armed with a rifle. 

       Let the record speak for itself, although all those "historians" that refuse to believe the obvious will continue to ignore the evidence. It will not fit into their perfect little world of the holy north against the evil south. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stephen Elliott, Jr: The Artillery Officer Turned General of Infantry

Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr.

       Stephen Elliott, Jr. was born in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1830. He attended Harvard, but withdrew before completing his studies. Prior to the war, he was a planter, politician, and captain of an artillery militia battery. His battery helped in the taking of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war. He then began his service protecting Charleston Harbor. He was wounded in the leg while in command of Fort Beauregard while defending Port Royal, South Carolina. The wound was a result of a rifled cannon exploding upon the thirty-second shot of the battle. A fragment from the barrel struck him in the leg. Luckily for Elliott it was a slight wound. Elliott also led his command to victory at the Battle of Pocataligo near Yemassee, South Carolina. 
       Elliott was soon recommended for promotion by both William S. Walker and Robert E. Lee. Lee described Elliott as "one of the best officers in the Department...he exhibited intelligence, boldness, and sagacity." As a result he was promoted to major of artillery. Elliott led his command in several raids and even captured Federal boats. 
       He returned to Charleston in 1863 and served under General Beauregard there. Beauregard was thoroughly impressed with Elliott and placed him in command of Fort Sumter. Elliott strengthened the fort and as a result, the structure withstood 19,000 Federal artillery rounds being hurled against it. Elliott would be forced to take a leave of seventeen days when a powder magazine exploded in the fort wounding him in both the head and ankle. His head wound healed rather quickly, but his ankle gave him trouble for some time. Elliott soon became a Confederate hero for his actions at Fort Sumter. Beauregard immediately recommended him for promotion. 

Fort Sumter under Confederate control

       Elliott was soon sent to guard the Weldon Railroad just below Petersburg, Virginia. The regiment he commanded was a part of William S. Walker's brigade. Walker had been Elliott's commander back in South Carolina early in the war when they fought around Port Royal. When Walker accidentally rode into Federal lines, was wounded, and captured, Elliott was promoted to brigadier general on the recommendation of General Beauregard again. He would see action at Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg. 
       The most difficult day of the war for Elliott would occur on June 30, 1864 having been a general officer just over a month. Burnside's IX Corps occupied the trenches across from Elliott's brigade and had some Pennsylvania coal miners in his command. They dug a tunnel beneath a position known as Elliott's Salient. Inside the small earthen fort was the 18th, 20th South Carolina Infantry, and a four gun battery commanded by Captain Richard Pegram. Most of these commands would be destroyed when the powder filled mine exploded. 

Me and my buddy Jerry standing at the entrance to the mine

Me standing across the crater for scale

       Stephen Elliott reacted quickly by leading a counterattack against the Federal troops who charged into the huge hole left in the ground. He was wounded by a bullet striking him in the chest and passing through his left lung. He was carried to the rear, the wound believed to be mortal. Elliott's father and wife came to see him in Petersburg before his death. Soon, doctors realized that Elliott was going to survive and although his left arm was partially paralyzed, he obtained a furlough. He was unable to return to command for several months. 
       Elliott would recover in time to participate in the last battle under Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, North Carolina. During this battle, he was wounded in the arm and his old Petersburg wound was reopened. Elliott was home on furlough when the army surrendered. With the finally over, Elliott planned to return to politics. Unfortunately, the doctors had been correct when they had called his Petersburg wound fatal. His health shattered, he died on February 21, 1866 in Aiken, South Carolina. He rests today in Saint Helena's Episcopal Churchyard in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was 35 years old. Most historians agree that Elliott would have made a name for himself to rival Wade Hampton and others had he spent the entire war in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee himself appreciated Elliott's leadership. 

Stephen Elliott, Jr

Resting place of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

Another view of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cullen Andrews Battle: A Man of Duty

Only known wartime photograph of Battle taken after August of 1863

       Cullen Andrews Battle was born in Powelton, Georgia in 1829. The son of a doctor, he moved with his family to Eufaula, Alabama at the age of seven. He graduated from the University of Alabama and studied law under John Gill Shorter. Shorter would become the governor of Alabama during the Civil War. Battle would become a lawyer and because of his eloquent speech would enter politics. He was a close friend of William Lowndes Yancey and became a strong secessionist. 
       When the war began, Battle became major of the 3rd Alabama Infantry. the regiment was sent to Virginia. Before seeing any action, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the unit. The regiment's colonel Tennent Lomax was killed at Seven Pines. Battle was slightly wounded in the same engagement, but was promoted to colonel. He led the 3rd Alabama at South Mountain and Sharpsburg. He was slightly wounded at both places, entering a hospital for only one day following Sharpsburg. His old law mentor, Governor Shorter had been campaigning hard behind the scenes for Battle's promotion. Shorter stated that Battle's gallantry was notorious within the army. 
       He would see only limited action during the Chancellorsville Campaign. In April of 1863, his horse reared and fell with him into a ditch injuring him severely. Two days later, while jumping another ditch, his back was wrenched badly on horseback. He was riding in an ambulance during the Chancellorsville Campaign. He performed well at Gettysburg, despite the fact that he was part of Edward O'Neal's disjointed assault. O'Neal was passed over for brigadier general and Battle was promoted on August 20, 1863. He would be absent November and December of that year with chronic bronchitis. 
       During the Overland Campaign, he led his brigade capably, but his best service would come in the Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 under Lieutenant General Jubal Early. He fought hard at Winchester and again at Cedar Creek. At the later battle, he was shot in the left knee, causing serious injury to the kneecap. Although the leg would be saved, he would get around on crutches for years. He would not recover in time to return to the war. 
       Following the war, he would again practice law, then move to North Carolina and edit a newspaper. He also became mayor of New Bern, North Carolina. He would die in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1905 of sepsis. He was 75 years old. He rests today in Virginia's second largest cemetery, Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia. Battle was called a man of duty. His memoirs were published called Third Alabama: The Civil War Memoirs of Brigadier General Cullen Andrews Battle, CSA.

Cullen Andrews Battle

Grave of Cullen Andrews Battle

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Robert Hopkins Hatton: The Purest, Noblest, and Best

Hon. Robert Hatton, Tenn - NARA - 528692.jpg

Robert Hopkins Hatton

       One of the northern born Confederate general's was Robert Hopkins Hatton who was born in Ohio in 1826. The son of a preacher, he moved with his family to Tennessee at the age of eight. At the age of fourteen, he had a severe fever. Physicians prescribed him oral mercury which burned his lips to the point that when he made speeches later in life, his mouth would froth. By 1850, he was practicing law in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was elected to the state legislature in 1855 and ran against Isham Harris for governor in 1857. The two men campaigned hard against each other, at one point they got into a fist fight. Hatton lost the campaign to Harris who would become Tennessee's wartime governor. 
       When the southern states began to secede, Hatton worked tirelessly to keep Tennessee in the Union. His figure was burned in effigy by his hometown because of his pro-Unionist views. All of that was before Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to invade the South. Hatton lost faith in the Union and joined the Confederate Army. He was elected colonel of the 7th Tennessee Infantry and his regiment was ordered to the mountains of western Virginia. During the cold winter of 1861-1862, he came down with camp fever. His health would suffer in the cold mountains of western Virginia. He attempted without success to have his regiment transferred back to Tennessee. 
       By late May of 1862, he was back in good health and had also received a promotion to brigadier general. His brigade was sent to join Joseph E. Johnston's army guarding Richmond. His brigade arrived on the battlefield of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. 

Another pre-war photograph of Robert Hopkins Hatton

       Mounted on his horse named "Old Ball," he led his brigade forward across an open field and into a swamp of thick brush. He rode forward, waving his hat, and shouting, "Forward, my brave boys! Forward!" President Davis was on the field personally watching the charge and remarked, "That brigade moves in handsomely, but it will lose its commander." At that moment, the Federal line unleashed a volley into the charging Tennesseans and General Hatton was instantly killed. Some sources say his horse was killed first and General Hatton was killed as he charged ahead on foot. The attack was repulsed, but not before his men brought the body of their beloved commander off the field. 
       Robert Hatton was 36 years old. First buried in Richmond, Virginia, his body was then buried in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1866, his body would be brought home to Lebanon, Tennessee where he rests today in Cedar Grove Cemetery. His pistol had been found by a Federal officer in the mud the day after his death and thirty years later was returned to his family. The Louisville Journal called Hatton one of the purest, noblest, and best men. 

An obviously retouched photograph of Hatton in a uniform

Gen Robert Hopkins Hatton

Monument to Robert Hatton in Lebanon, Tennessee

Gen Robert Hopkins Hatton

Grave of Robert Hatton

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

John Echols: Noble Leader

Brigadier General John Echols

       John Echols was born on March 20, 1823 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He attended the Virginia Military Institute, but earned his degree at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (which would become Washington and Lee University following the war). He then studied law at Harvard and began a law practice in Union, Virginia (now West Virginia). 
       Echols was a huge man for the time, standing six feet, four inches in height and weighing over 260 pounds. Despite his imposing size, he was a likable person and gallant officer. Prior to the war, he served one term in the Virginia House of Delegates. Following Virginia's secession, Echols became lieutenant colonel of the 27th Virginia Infantry Regiment. He commanded the regiment at the Battle of Manassas. The unit was part of the famed Stonewall Brigade there. Following the battle, he was promoted to colonel of the regiment. Stonewall Jackson described Echols as a "noble leader." 
        At the disastrous Battle of Kernstown, Echols led his regiment as they repulsed two charges by the Federal troops. At the height of the assault, Echols was shot through the shoulder, the bullet entering his arm and fracturing the humerus. Although he was out of action for several weeks, he would luckily not lose the arm. Following the battle, Echols was promoted to brigadier general. 
       He was back in command of a brigade by the fall of 1862. He was placed in command of the Department of Southwestern Virginia, yet resigned his command before serving a month. Echols seems to have suffered from ill health and was unable to return to command until the summer of 1863. His next action was at the Battle of Droop Mountain where he commanded 1,200 troops against 5,000 Federals. Though vastly outnumbered, he held his position for over an hour before withdrawing. He had been defeated, but his reputation wasn't affected in the least. 
       His brigade was placed under Major General John C. Breckinridge's command at the Battle of New Market (which became famous because of the service there of the V.M.I. Cadets). Echols brigade helped Breckinridge secure a victory. Soon after the battle, he again was forced to relinquish his command because of "neuralgia of the heart." The disease causes severe pains in the chest. 
       Echols returned to duty as the commander of the District of Southwest Virginia in August of 1864. He defeated a Federal force at the Battle of Saltville in October of that year. When he learned of Lee's retreat from Petersburg and Richmond, he gathered a force of 7,000 men and marched to meet Lee. He learned of Lee's surrender while moving to meet him. Echols then moved his command to join Joseph E. Johnston's army in North Carolina. When Johnston surrendered, Echols fled with the Confederate government in an attempt to escape the country without being forced to surrender. He was captured at Augusta, Georgia. 

A post-war image of John Echols

       Echols eventually settled in Staunton (pronounced Stanton), Virginia (having spent almost all the war in the Shenandoah Valley). He would see work as a banker, run a railroad, and serve on the board at Washington and Lee University. Despite years of health problems, Echols would live until 1896, dying of kidney disease in Stuanton, Virginia. He was 73 years old. He rests today in Thornrose Cemetery in that city. 

Jerry and I at the grave of John Echols (Echols rests just to my right about even with the second block up)

A variant of the first image of John Echols


Friday, February 13, 2015

Robert Frederick Hoke: Underrated General

Robert Frederick Hoke (in his colonel's uniform)

       Robert Frederick Hoke was born in 1837 in Lincolnton, North Carolina. The city and county (Lincoln) was named for Major General Benjamin Lincoln who commanded American troops in the Revolutionary War. The name has nothing to do with northern President Abraham Lincoln. Hoke's father was a successful business man there, but an unsuccessful politician losing his bid for governor of the state in 1844. Robert Hoke graduated from the Kentucky Military Institute and began to manage his family's business ventures, including the iron works, cotton mill, and other's. 
       Robert began his service in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant in the 1st North Carolina Infantry. His first action occurred at the Battle of Big Bethel where he was commended by his commander, Confederate Colonel Daniel Harvey Hill. Hill praised Hoke for his coolness and judgement under fire. He was quickly promoted to major and then made lieutenant colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Infantry. By 1862, the 33rd was assigned to Lawrence O'Bryan Branch's Brigade. 
       The regiment saw action at the Battle of New Bern where the colonel was captured, forcing Hoke to assume command of the regiment. Branch praised Hoke for his conduct in the action there. The brigade was then sent to Virginia where they saw action under Lee during the Seven Days' (where he was wounded), Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg (Antietam Campaign). Hoke's regiment performed admiringly at Second Manassas and was praised for his actions there. Following Sharpsburg, Hoke was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 21st North Carolina Infantry. 

Hoke in his brigadier general's uniform (note the wreath around the stars and the double buttons on the coat)

       Hoke took command of Isaac Trimble's brigade during the Fredericksburg Campaign and led the unit in a counterattack when Meade's Federal Division broke through Confederate A.P. Hill's lines on the right flank. His horse was struck in the head, throwing Hoke off, and his foot caught in the stirrup dragged him, making him senseless for a short time. Because of his action at Fredericksburg, he earned a promotion to brigadier general to rank from January 17, 1863. 
       He commanded his brigade during the Battle of Marye's Heights (Second Federicksburg) during the Chancellorsville Campaign on May 4, 1863. A bullet struck Robert in the shoulder area, passed through the head of the humerus (upper arm bone), the shoulder joint, and exited his scapula (shoulder blade). Surgery was performed that day and Hoke was out of action for seven months, returning in December of 1863. He would miss the Gettysburg Campaign because of the severe wound. 

Headquarters Flag of Major General Robert Hoke

       General Hoke would return to duty commanding troops in North Carolina along the Roanoke River. He saw action near New Bern, although he wasn't completely healed from his wound yet. Hoke commanded his division during the Siege of Plymouth, North Carolina from April 17 until April 20, 1864. There he lost 800 men, but captured 2,000 Federal troops under the command of Brigadier General Henry Wessells. When the Federal troops surrendered, General Wessells told Hoke, "This is the saddest day of my life." Hoke replied, "This is the proudest day of my life."
       Robert Hoke's division was next sent to Bermuda Hundred just south of Richmond, Virginia. When first stationed there, he was warned of an approaching Federal force. He replied, "I shall fight them if met from all sides." 
       His division next saw action under General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Cold Harbor where Grant's forces suffered devastating losses. He was sent back to North Carolina where he saw action in the fight at Fort Fisher near Wilmington. In January of 1865, he was again absent from his command because of a boil on his face. Upon his return to duty, he fought under Joseph Johnston at the Battle of Bentonville to wrap up his military career. When the army surrendered, Hoke addressed his troops, "The proudest days in all your proud careers was that on which you enlisted as Southern soldiers."
       Following the war, he again became a successful business man, becoming director of the North Carolina Railroad Company. He eventually was diagnosed with diabetes. The last few weeks of his life, he was in a diabetic coma and succumbed to the disease on July 3, 1912 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He rests there today in Oakwood Cemetery. Robert Hoke was 75 years old. 

Robert Frederick Hoke

Grave of Robert Hoke