Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Among the best

Stephen Dodson Ramseur

       Stephen Dodson Ramseur was born on May 31, 1837, in Lincolnton, North Carolina. The above image is a very young photograph of Stephen Ramseur. He turned out to be a very aggressive commander under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. He had a very good education before obtaining an appointment to West Point. He was an excellent student, graduating just 14 out of 41 cadets. He stood just five feet, eight inches tall and was very slender. Ramseur was very religious, a member of the Presbyterian Church, he was very military in bearing, securing an appointment in the U.S. Artillery. 
       He never reported to his assignment, having resigned his commission before his native state left the Union. He was already a member of the Confederate Army before North Carolina seceded. Ramseur believed that much in 'States Rights.' His new command saw limited action before joining the army in Virginia that fought in the Seven Day's Campaign. He suffered a wound to his right arm at the Battle of Malvern Hill during the last engagement of the campaign. 
       Ramseur would miss action for the next six months, but upon his return would be promoted to brigadier general. He would take command of the North Carolina Infantry brigade of George B. Anderson, who had been mortally wounded at Sharpsburg (Antietam). He would lead his brigade at Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863 where he was once again wounded. General Robert E. Lee praised his young brigadier general for his action there. Ramseur seemed fearless in combat. Robert E. Lee declared Ramseur among the best of the brigadiers in his army. 

Brigadier General Stephen Ramseur showing premature balding

       During the first day of Gettysburg, Ramseur, along with Junius Daniel and George Doles, led his brigade to victory. His division commander failed him that day and he was forced to use his own judgement against the Federal troops. He would see no more action at Gettysburg and unfortunately, the Confederate Army would suffer a defeat as its best commanders missed the important part of the battle. 
        He would see action at the Wilderness where he would prove his worth as a commander. His finest day would come at the Battle of Spotsylvania just six day after the Wilderness battle. There, he led a counterattack that saved the day for General Lee. He was also wounded in this engagement. Robert E. Lee thanked him personally and his commander Richard Ewell also praised his gallantry. 

Brigadier General Stephen Ramseur as he would have appeared at the time of his death

       Ramseur was 27 at the time of his promotion to major general and command of a division. One problem that historians have found with Ramseur is his inability to properly scout the position his division was to assault prior to an attack. I have found very little to support this claim. He made a mistake in his first action as division command at Bethesda Church, but more than made up for it at Cold Harbor. Lee then sent Ramseur along with Jubal Early on the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. 
   Ramseur was successful at the Battle of Monacacy and then because of poor reconnaissance on his part (see above) at Stephenson's Depot, he made this greatest mistake of his career. Ramseur blamed his subordinates and men, this was a tragic mistake. He led his men forward at the Third Battle of Winchester and made up for his mistake. This would reverse itself several days latter at the Battle of Fisher's Hill. There, Ramseur commanded the entire division because of the loss of Robert Rodes. He would react slowly and see his division crushed. 
          At Cedar Creek in October of 1864, Ramseur hoped a victory would grant him a furlough to see his new born child. He urged his men forward and was an impressive commander. He placed a flower in his lapel as he urged his men forward. One soldier said that Ramseur's presence was electrical. Although the day soon turned against the Confederates, Ramseur remained with his division, rallying them at every reverse. A Federal bullet struck him in the side, penetrating both lungs before exiting his body. He was soon captured on the field. 

Belle Grove Plantation

       Ramseur was carried to Belle Grove Plantation where he died that night. He was checked on from time to time by Federal General Phillip Sheridan who had attended West Point with many Southern officers. Sheridan had hated everything Southern prior to the war and throughout his life. Ramseur would die without ever seeing his wife or newborn child again.

Sight where Ramseur was mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, this monument was unveiled by his daughter Mary Dodson Ramseur in 1921

Resting place of Stephen Ramseur

       Stephen Ramseur was just 27 years old. He rests today in Saint Luke's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Lincolnton, North Carolina. He never got to meet his daughter who was born just four days before he died. She would die in 1935 having been an art teacher. 

Mary D Ramseur

Mary Dodson Ramseur (daughter of General Ramseur)

Ellen Richmond Ramseur

Ellen Richmond Ramseur (wife of Major General Stephen D. Ramseur) she lived until 1900

Monday, January 19, 2015

Humphrey Marshall: Obese and Verbose

Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall

       Humphrey Marshall was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1812. His father John was a politician and lawyer. Humphrey graduated from West Point ranked 42 out of 45 cadets. He saw action in the cavalry during the Black Hawk War. He would serve in the military for less than a year before resigning to a law practice in Louisville. Marshall was active in the Kentucky Militia and helped raise a cavalry company to fight during the Mexican War. He became somewhat a hero for his command charged a larger Mexican force at the Battle of Buena Vista.        Following the Mexican War, his reputation secured him a seat in the U.S. Congress. He would remain a politician in some capacity until the beginning of the Civil War. When the war began, he left Kentucky for fear of being arrested because of his Southern sympathies. At this point in his life, he stood just under six feet in height and weighed over three hundred pounds.  

Humphrey Marshall

       Marshall went to visit President Davis, who made him a brigadier general in the fall of 1861 and gave him a small command. He truly wasn't suited for campaigning because of his weight. He would spend the war without seeing any major fighting. Like most political generals of the time, Marshall thought himself a military genius and practically demanded independent command. Each time he was ordered to report to a senior officer, he would submit his resignation. He did participate in the invasion of Kentucky in 1862, but saw no serious fighting. 
       In the summer of 1863, Marshall again turned in his resignation and this time it was accepted cheerfully. He continuously sent letters to both President Davis and Robert E. Lee. Lee was polite with Marshall, but Davis had little patience for the man. He would spend the rest of the war serving as a Confederate congressman representing his home state. Following the war, Marshall lived in Texas and later moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he practiced law. He eventually made his way back to Louisville, Kentucky where he practiced law until his death in 1872. 

Humphrey Marshall

The grave of Humphrey Marshall

       Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall rests today in Frankfurt Cemetery, Frankfurt, Kentucky. He was 60 years old. There are a couple of anecdotes surrounding his service in the field I'd like to share. Once, when he was warned about Federal snipers easily targeting him because of his size, he remarked that he would be forced to surround himself with fat staff officers. He so hated the thought of being commanded by any superior officer that once he was asked why he was camped in such a remote location. Was he afraid of the Yankee's. No, he replied, he was attempting to avoid Confederate major generals. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Robert Doak Lilley: The only Confederate General I ever cursed

Brigadier General Robert Doak Lilley

       For anyone that has any doubt, my personal hero's are Confederate Generals, Colonels, and Soldiers, not necessarily in that order. I would never speak evil of any of these guys, but a man has his limits, so to speak. I was pushed beyond my feeble limit with my red haired temper and poor General Lilley paid the price. 
       Robert Doak Lilley was born in Greenville, Virginia in 1836. He graduated from what is today Washington and Lee University. He then became a salesman of surveying instruments of his father's design. He just happened to be in Charleston, South Carolina when the Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in 1861. He returned to Virginia where he recruited a company in the 25th Virginia Infantry and became its captain.
       The above photograph was once considered the only wartime photographed image of General Lilley, like his grave, this too is now false. Part of his regiment was captured in the battle's in the Rich Mountain Campaign. Lilley managed to escape with part of his company. They would be a part of Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. At the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862, Lilley saw the regiment break from a Federal assault. He personally took the regimental colors and helped solidify the Confederate line. He was commended for bravery at Second Manassas. He also led his troops, exhibiting great courage at Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Fredericksburg.
       He was promoted to Major just after new years of 1863. His regiment was sent back to the Shenandoah Valley during the Chancellorsville Campaign. They would rejoin Lee's Army for the invasion of Pennsylvania. He would fight under John Marshall "Rum" Jones at Gettysburg and be promoted to lieutenant colonel following that battle. 
       His next major battle would be at the Wilderness in the spring of 1864. He would fight at Spotsylvania and be promoted to colonel of the 25th Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to brigadier general following Spotsylvania. They joined Early in the invasion of Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. 
       On July 20, 1864, while attempting to rally his broken lines at Stephenson's Depot, Lilley was hit three times and captured. Federal surgeons removed one of his arms that day. When the Federal army retreated from Winchester, they left the wounded brigadier behind. He was soon recovered by Confederate forces in the area. Once he was ready to take the field again, he commanded forces in the Shenandoah Valley. He held this command until the end of the war.

Another photograph of Lilley

       He spent his years after the war devoted to Washington and Lee College and his church. He would die in Richmond, Virginia in 1886 and be buried in Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia or so they say. This is where we come to the part about me cursing a Confederate General for the first time in my life. My buddy Jerry Smith and our wives entered this cemetery in search of General Lilley and General Echols. General Echols was quickly found. General Lilley as my buddy Jerry likes to say (not so much). 

Robert Doak Lilley is fourth from left, standing just over Robert E. Lee's left shoulder

       We spread out and combed this cemetery for about two hours. There was not a sign of the tombstone you see below. I asked the locals and they claimed to have seen it before, but they couldn't locate the marker. My buddy Jerry found something on his phone that said that Lilley was buried near Jedediah Hotchkiss who was a map maker on Stonewall Jackson's staff. We found Jedediah's grave, and combed the area around it up to 100 yards, still no General Lilley. We left a message with a lady that oversee's the cemetery. She returned our call and told us that she could take us right to his grave, but we were almost to Richmond, Virginia by this time. 
       It was a hot afternoon (I don't do heat, it gives me a migraine, and this day was no exception), we had searched the cemetery several times, I was frustrated, had little sleep the night before and I may have cursed General Lilley under my breath a time or two that afternoon. I truly wasn't cursing him, but the fact that there was no way to find such a great man's grave. It only means I will have to return to the cemetery when I visit Gettysburg later this year. 

Robert Doak Lilley

The possible resting place of General Robert D. Lilley, but I'm not betting my paycheck on him being there

Sunday, January 4, 2015

William Felix Brantley: I have no brigade

W F Brantley CSA ACW.jpg

No uniformed photograph exists of General Brantley

       William Felix Brantley was born in Alabama in 1830. His parents moved to Mississippi while he was a youngster. Brantley became a lawyer in Greensboro, Mississippi in 1852. He voted to take Mississippi out of the Union and became captain of Company D, 15th Mississippi Infantry. He led his company at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky in January of 1862. 
       They then moved to Corinth, Mississippi and he led the company in the Battle of Shiloh in April. When the regiment was reorganized, Brantley was elected lieutenant colonel of the 15th Mississippi Infantry. He fought again at Munfordsville, Kentucky, but missed the Battle of Perryville. He would be promoted to colonel and lead the regiment at the Battle of Murfreesboro. There, he was slightly wounded by an exploding artillery shell in the fight for the Cedar thicket on the Union right flank. He would lead a regiment at Chickamauga and fight near the Craven's House on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. He was praised for his courage there. 
        During the Atlanta Campaign, his men withstood assault after assault at Resaca all while receiving enfilade fire from Union artillery. They saw repeated action during the Atlanta Campaign. When Samuel Benton was mortally wounded at Atlanta, Brantley was promoted to brigadier general of the Mississippi Brigade. He led his brigade into the unsuccessful Battle of Ezra Church. They would lose heavily there and again at the Battle of Jonesboro. 
       The recently exchanged Major General Edward Johnson of Robert E. Lee's Army would soon command Brantley's Brigade. They would advance into Tennessee and become participants in the horrific fighting at Franklin. His corps commander Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee would praise both Brantley and Zachariah Deas's troops for their actions in the bloody fighting there. His brigade advanced after dark against the area just west of the Carter House. After the repulse, Major James Ratchford wrote, "After the firing had ceased, about midnight, I was sent along our corps front with orders from General Lee to the Brigadiers and Major Generals to get ready for a renewal of the fight at daylight. I found General Brantley, who had commanded a Mississippi Brigade, sitting almost stupefied on the ground near the line of battle. I gave him the order, but he seemed not to hear me. I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to rouse him, repeating the instructions for his brigade. He mumbled, 'I have no brigade.' I asked him where the men were, and he replied, 'They're all dead.' I said, 'Surely not all,' and added that if he did not make some effort to get his men together, I would be compelled to report it to General (Stephen D.) Lee. He roused himself then and said, 'I'll see if there are any left.' The next morning he had gathered up about two hundred men, all that remained of a whole brigade that went into the fight." A brigade during the Civil War usually consisted of 1500 to 2000 men. 


A pre-war image of William Brantley

       Brantley's dead were in the trenches and on the earthworks near the Carter House. He took the remnants of his brigade on to Nashville, where they faced Steedman's black troops. They held part of the line on the extreme Confederate right. They would get their vengeance there for the suffering they received at Franklin. They repulsed a desperate charge at Nashville. Following the campaign, he would reform his brigade in Mississippi. They numbered 152 men by this time. 
       Following the war, he returned to Mississippi and his law practice. He'd been warned about travelling between Winona and Greensboro, Mississippi, but he'd replied that he would travel wherever his business took him. He'd survived four years of bloody Civil War, to be killed in a shotgun blast on the road between the two towns. He was in the process of bringing the murderers of his brother Arnold to justice. His assailants were never found. His brother Edmund was killed in a duel. Another brother John was killed in Texas by David Balzell. In 1870, his brother Arnold, the mayor of Winona was shot dead in cold blood. William was attempting to bring his murderers to justice when they ambushed and killed him. 
       It was said of Brantley, that he would not turn from doing what was right once his mind was set. He was a fearless man, as can be proved by his Civil War record. He rests today in the New Greensboro Cemetery, Webster County, Mississippi. He was 40 years old. 

William Felix Brantley

The grave of William Felix Brantley

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Samuel Garland: The Most Fearless Man I Ever Knew

Brigadier General Samuel Garland, Jr.

       Samuel Garland, Jr. was born on December 16, 1830 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He graduated second in his class at V.M.I. in 1849. Prior to the Civil War, he became a lawyer and captain of his local militia company. In 1856, he married Elizabeth Campbell Meem. He purchased a home for Eliza as she was called in Lynchburg.

Home of Samuel and Eliza Garland

       When the war began, Garland became colonel of the 11th Virginia Infantry. His regiment was assigned to Longstreet's Brigade near Manassas, Virginia. On June 12, 1861, Eliza would die of the flu and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. Garland saw action at the engagement at Blackburn's Ford and was praised by General Longstreet for his coolness. The regiment would be held in reserve during the Battle of Manassas. On July 31, 1861, Garland's four year old son Sammie would also succumb to the flu. He was buried next to his mother in Lynchburg. Samuel Garland was devastated, but because of his religious beliefs he knew he would meet them again. He would be somewhat depressed for the rest of his life. 
       He led his regiment again in the skirmish at Dranesville and was praised for his coolness in action there. Joseph Johnston recommended he be promoted to brigadier general for his bravery under fire. 
       His regiment was assigned to D.H. Hill's Brigade at the Battle of Williamsburg and earned praise from Hill when he was wounded, but refused to leave the field. Because of this action, he was promoted to brigadier general on May 23, 1862 and given a brigade. He had two horses shot from beneath him in the Battle of Seven Pines. 
       During the Battle of Gaines' Mill, he successfully attacked a Federal flank and his brigade took many prisoners. He also led his brigade in the slaughter at the Battle of Malvern Hill. General Garland's reputation was outstanding by this point and he seemed destined for higher command. 

Samuel Garland in his militia uniform before the war

       General Garland's brigade was assigned to guard Richmond and Fredericksburg which ensured his missing the Battle of Second Manassas. His brigade was still a part of D.H. Hill's Division during the Maryland Campaign. His brigade contained a little over one thousand men during the Battle of Fox's Gap on South Mountain just two days before the Battle of Antietam. 
       As his brigade was being hard pressed there, Colonel Thomas Ruffin of the 13th North Carolina Infantry approached Garland and requested him move back to a safer position. Garland replied, "I may as well be here as yourself."
       Ruffin replied, "No it is my duty, but you should lead your brigade from a safer position."
       Ruffin was then struck in the hip by a Federal bullet. At the same instant a bullet struck Garland in middle of his back and exited through his right breast. One of his aides rushed forward to his side and caught Garland's last words which were, "I am killed. Send for the senior colonel."

Position marking the spot where Garland was killed at Fox's Gap

       General Lee praised Garland as an accomplished and brave officer. His immediate commander D.H. Hill said that Garland was "the most fearless man I ever knew." According to all who served with him, he would have been destined for higher rank had he lived. Samuel Garland was 31 years old. He rests today next to his wife and son in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

Me and Ole Man at the grave of Samuel Garland in Lynchburg

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Henry Alexander Wise: It's the sound I want

Brigadier General Henry A. Wise

       One of the more interesting personalities in the Confederate Army was Henry Alexander Wise. He is often portrayed as a political general for that is just what he was, but he had some moments where he appeared to have some potential. I often tell a story about him that is quite comical and will include it at the end of the blog. 
       Henry Wise was born on December 3, 1806 in Drummondtown, Virginia. He graduated from Washington College (not to be confused with present day Washington and Lee College) in Pennsylvania. He became a lawyer and an outspoken supporter of states rights. An excellent public speaker, he soon became a congressman and then governor of Virginia. He was the governor during John Brown's raid and execution. Following the war, he would be taunted by Federal soldiers for allowing Brown to be executed. 

Henry A Wise CDV.jpg

A young Henry Wise

       He did a lot to pull Virginia from the United States and into the Confederacy. He immediately offered to help the Confederate Army despite not having any military experience. His popularity meant Davis had little choice but to make him an officer. Davis appointed him a brigadier general on June 5, 1861. His brigade was sent to the mountains of Western Virginia and placed under Brigadier General John B. Floyd. This would prove to be a mistake because he and Floyd were old political enemies and would never get along. 
       Wise had a temper when he felt he was dishonored. Even the arrival of General Robert E. Lee couldn't force Wise to get along with Floyd. He repeatedly asked Davis for a transfer and received the transfer in September to Richmond without his brigade. He would be assigned to a district command in North Carolina. Soon after arriving, Wise realized that the area was under threat by Federal General Ambrose Burnside. He began feuding with his commander Benjamin Huger. Begging for reinforcements, Wise went to Richmond to appeal directly to Davis for troops without permission to leave his command. He was sent back to North Carolina without troops and on February 8, 1862, Roanoke Island fell to Burnside as he had predicted. Wise was exonerated for the loss.

Another Wartime photograph of Henry Wise. Though he is in his mid-fifties here he appears much older.

       Robert E. Lee would give Wise command of a brigade upon his return to Richmond. His brigade would see little action and people nicknamed his command "the Life Insurance Company." This frustrated Wise and he thirsted for action. His brigade was sent to South Carolina in the fall of 1863, but saw little action there. His brigade would return to Petersburg, Virginia in the spring of 1864. He was part of a failed attack near Port Walthall and became unpopular for criticizing his superiors although he received a good deal of blame for the failure. 
       When Grant's army approached Petersburg in June of 1864, Wise had his best day of the war. His defense was stubborn and helped save the town. In an effort to secure praise in the Richmond newspapers for his brigade's performance, he offended Major General Bushrod Johnson and was soon relieved of command. He would regain command in January of 1865. He cut his way through the trap at Saylor's Creek and was praised for his performance there by Robert E. Lee. Ironically, he would be given command of Bushrod Johnson's division for his performance. 

Another uniformed wartime photograph of Wise

       Wise would surrender the division at Appomattox with the rest of Lee's Army. Following the war, he would practice law in Richmond. He never asked for a pardon. He died of tuberculosis on September 12, 1876 at the age of 69. He rests today in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, the "Arlington of the Confederacy." The war was especially hard on General Wise. He had nineteen relatives serve in the war. Of these, ten were wounded and two were killed. Among the killed was his son. It was reported that he looked sick during the war, his body thin, eyes sunken, but these losses had brought him closer to God. It was reported that he had extreme faith in Jesus his savior, but he does curse sometimes. 

Jerry and I at the grave of Henry Wise

       Now for the comical story I promised you. Early in the war, Wise had no military experience whatsoever. His brigade was posted in a forest. He ordered up his artillery to fire on the enemy. When the commander of the artillery protested that his cannon's wouldn't have much effect because of the tree's, Wise replied, "Damn the effect, it's the sound I want!"

Henry Wise stands second from right in this photograph with seven other Confederate generals. Lee sits second from left. James Conner stands at far left. Next to Conner stands Martin Gary, next to him is John Magruder, to the right is Robert Lilley, next to him is Pierre Beauregard, between Beauregard and Wise is Alexander Lawton. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Right to be Offended by John Crisp

English Professor John Crisp

       Well, I've picked up a newspaper where another English professor is attempting to rewrite our history books yet again. Why should we have history professor's if the English professor's know more about history than everyone else. The name of Mr. Crisp's column is The Right to be Offended in the US and of course it was all about slavery. In Mr. Crisp's column you'll find out that the Sons of Confederate Veterans are in the wrong for teaching what the war was truly over. Let's look at a few things he mentions in his column and see how intelligent Mr. Crisp truly is on Civil War history.

The 1st National Flag of the Confederacy otherwise known as the "Stars and Bars"

The Confederate Battle Flag on the Texas S.C.V. tag

       In Mr. Crisp's column, he is offended by the "notorious Stars and Bars battle flag." These are his words, not mine. Now there never was a "Stars and Bars battle flag. The Confederate 1st National Flag that actually flew over a country was called the Stars and Bars. The Confederate battle flag flew over an army and never flew in any official manner over the government of the Confederate States. I guess actually knowing your history doesn't matter when you write a column as an English professor. 
       Now this idiot goes on to say that because he had an ancestor who owned slaves, it makes him the expert on whether blacks should be offended by the flag. But, he does say that his slave holding ancestors are too removed from him to give him feelings of guilt. Now, it sounds a lot like hypocrisy to me. 
       Now, I've been told that the reason the flag offends is because Ku Klux Klan used the flag in the 1940's. Fair enough, now look at the photograph below and tell me should this flag also offend since the Klan used it before the 1940's. 

This flag offends me because it was used by the Ku Klux Klan

       I'm currently reading Bevin Alexander's new book Such Troops As These. He gives a few reasons that caused the Civil War. Among them is the disagreement on slavery. Is that the only reason? Mr. Alexander explains that the dispute came down to money. This is a direct quote from Bevin Alexander's book:

       "Northern industrialists wanted to create a closed American economy in which only their products would be available. And these products would cost more than British products because American industry was newer and less efficient than British industry. The South was being asked to pay to strengthen Northern industry...and this conflict played an important role in the division of North and South."

      The most shocking thing of all is that Bevin Alexander is a historian, not an English professor. I've said it in blogs before about English professors. They should stick with teaching English, Grammar, etc. and let the historians teach history.