Monday, December 27, 2010

A Sad Tragic End

Philip St. George Cocke

       Philip St. George Cocke was born in 1809 in Virginia. His father had served as an officer in the War of 1812 and secured Philip with an appointment at the United States Military Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1828, ranking sixth out of forty-five cadets. He would serve in the artillery for six years before resigning to return to Virginia where he would become a planter. He would devote the rest of his life to the management of his plantation in Powhatan County, Virginia and other plantations he owned in Mississippi. 
       The same year he resigned, he married Sallie Elizabeth Courtney Bowdoin. Cocke became very interested in agriculture and believed in trying new techniques with his crops. As a result, he wrote numerous articles about planting and eventually rose to become president of the Virginia Agricultural Society. He also served on the board of visitors at the Virginia Military Institute. 
       When Virginia seceded, Cocke was made brigadier general in the Virginia militia and ordered to protect the area just south of the Potomac River. He reported to Robert E. Lee that he had just three hundred men to protect Alexandria, Virginia with against what he thought were over 10,000 enemy troops. Lee implored Cocke to not abandon the town even if it meant fighting against overwhelming numbers. Despite Lee’s pleas, Cocke abandoned the town without a fight. 

Cocke around the time the war began

       Despite this failure in the eyes of Lee, Cocke had studied the terrain around Manassas and it seems he was the first to conceive of that place as the ideal place to make a defensive stand. When Cocke’s troops were merged into the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, he was made a colonel in that army. Cocke was dejected and may have considered resigning, but General Lee must have convinced the man he was needed. 
       Beauregard took command of the army at Manassas and placed Cocke in command of a brigade. The man saw minor action at Blackburn’s Ford and was praised for leading his brigade into combat during the Battle of Manassas, although his was a minor engagement. After the battle, President Davis promoted Cocke to brigadier general in the Confederate army. 
       At this point, General Cocke’s life began to spiral downward. He seemed to have been suffering from what would later be called a nervous breakdown. When Eppa Hunton’s regiment was assigned to Cocke’s brigade, he was invited to eat dinner with the man. While he and Cocke rode back to the general’s tent, he suddenly blurted out, “My God, my God, my country!”
       This shocked Hunton and he was of the opinion from that moment forward that Cocke’s mind was a little off. The man had been in the field for eight months with huge responsibilities resting on him. Responsibilities that he didn’t seem capable of coping with. A few weeks later he returned home and as one Confederate noted, he was “shattered in body and mind.” 

Belmead Plantation

       He perceived imaginary slights from General Beauregard on his conduct at the Battle of Manassas. (In fact Beauregard had nothing but praise for Cocke’s performance there.) The man was mentally exhausted having placed too much pressure on himself and his actions. On December 26, 1861, he shot himself in the head at “Belmead” mansion, Powhatan, Virginia and was buried on the grounds there. In 1904, he would be reinterred in  Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia which is known at “the Arlington of the Confederacy.”
       Eppa Hunton may have summed it up best when he had the following to say about General Philip Cocke, “he was a brave man, a good man, an earnest patriot, but he was not a military man.” 

Cocke's grave in Hollywood Cemetery

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old Green Eyes

Chickamauga Battlefield

       I’m not much on ghosts as I have never seen a ghost. This ghost story intrigues me for some reason. My buddy, Jerry Smith has seen a ghost, so I thought I would write this story just for him.
       The Army of Tennessee, with the help of a corps from General Lee’s army in Virginia, attacked the Federal Army of the Cumberland just south of Chattanooga. The name of the creek there is called Chickamauga Creek, which means ‘River of Death’ in the Cherokee language. 
       The battle was fought over the period of two days and resulted in 35,000 casualties. It was the second highest number of casualties next to the great battle at Gettysburg. 
       The Federal line broke on the second day and raced back toward Chattanooga. General George Thomas organized a defensive line at a place called Snodgrass Hill. Because of his stand here, most of the Federal army was given time to escape and Thomas earned his famous nickname ‘Rock of Chickamauga’. 

Snodgrass Hill

       According to stories passed down by the soldiers who fought  there, a strange looking creature was seen walking among the dead and dying, just at dusk. The creature had glowing green eyes, long white hair, and huge misshapen jaws with protruding fangs. He also wore knee high boots and a long black cape. 
       Stories of the creature didn’t end with the battle. It was reported in 1876, the creature was still being spotted on the Chickamauga battlefield. Some believe the creature was there prior to the Civil War. According to Cherokee Indian folklore, the Chickamauga Cherokees were forced to move from the area because of the presence of witches. 
       In 1976, a park ranger was walking down a road near Snodgrass Hill when he met ‘Old Green Eyes’ approaching. He said that the creature turned and gave him a devilish grin as they passed each other on opposite sides of the road. The ranger didn’t believe in ghosts at the time of the sighting, but after the incident, he felt as though ‘Old Green Eyes’ was always watching him from the woods. Many employees and visitors to the park believe they are being watched from the forest today.
       Two car accidents have been blamed on ‘Old Green Eyes’. According to the victims, the creature is standing in the middle of the road with those glowing green eyes. They both swerved the car to avoid hitting the creature and struck a tree. 
       I like the story, but I’m not sure I believe in ghosts. One thing is certain. I’m going to take my buddy Jerry up there and see if he can find ‘Old Green Eyes’ for me.

Blurry picture supposed to be of Old Green Eyes

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Brave Trans-Mississippi General

Horace Randal

       Horace Randal was born in 1833 in Tennessee, but his family moved to Texas when he was six years old. He was able to obtain an appointment to the United States Military Academy and graduated next to last place in the class of 1854. He would be commissioned a lieutenant in the infantry and spent the next six years in the west seeing action against Apache Indians. 
       Randal married Julia Bassett in 1858. She would die in childbirth just before the Civil War began in 1861. The newborn wouldn't survive either. He would marry Nannie Taylor in 1862 and they would have one son named Horace, Jr.

Randal and wife Julia

       When Texas left the Union, Randal resigned his commission and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama. Confederate President Davis promised Randal a commission as Captain in the Confederate army and ordered Randal to Pensacola, Florida. When Randal received a commission as 1st lieutenant, he returned to Montgomery where he ripped his commission to shreds.
       Randal then traveled to Virginia as a private citizen where he served on the staff of Gustavus Smith without pay. Smith asked President Davis to make Randal a captain. Davis admitted a mistake had been made, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He made Randal a 1st lieutenant in the Confederate cavalry. 
       One Confederate soldier said of Randal, “Colonel Horace Randal, in some respects the most remarkable man I met during the war…He was a classmate of General Stuart at West Point, but had more physical dash than Stuart.”
       General John Bell Hood, another classmate of Randal, predicted that Randal would become the greatest cavalry leader of the war if given the chance. Others also mentioned how Randal never bragged on himself or his abilities, but always exhibited modesty.
       In the winter, Randal left the army in Virginia and traveled to Texas where he raised the 28th Texas Cavalry and became its colonel. They soon left Texas for Arkansas where they were dismounted and used as infantry. He was placed in charge of a brigade although he was only a colonel. 
       Kirby Smith, the overall commander of the Trans-Mississippi department wrote Richmond seeking a promotion to brigadier general for Randal. The request was declined because Richmond was too far out of contact with the needs of the department west of the Mississippi River. Smith would have to appoint his own generals. 
       After the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, his immediate commander Richard Taylor had nothing but high praise for Randal. Kirby Smith decided to promote Randal to brigadier general on his own. 
       Randal would only see action in one more battle. At the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry he would fall mortally wounded in a flank attack on the Federal’s position on April 30, 1864 and died on May 2. He was 33 years old. Randal rests today in Old Marshall Cemetery, Marshall, Texas. Randal County, Texas is named in his honor.

The grave of Brigadier General Horace Randal

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Old Bench-leg

Roger Weightman Hanson

       Roger Weightman Hanson was born in Winchester, Kentucky in 1827. After finishing school, he volunteered for the Mexican War. He was made a 1st lieutenant in John Williams Kentucky company and earned a reputation for his fearlessness in combat. Despite his reckless actions in battle, he came home without a scratch. 
       That would change in Lexington, Kentucky when he and a fellow law student had a disagreement they decided to settle by dueling. In this duel, Hanson would be shot in the leg just above the knee causing him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. It would also earn him the nickname “Bench-leg”. 
       Roger Hanson decided to travel to California during the gold rush. En route, his horse died and he was forced to limp the last 200 miles on foot. The “gold fever” didn’t last a year and he returned to Lexington, Kentucky. There he earned another reputation for his defense in criminal cases as an attorney. 
       When the Civil War began, he agreed with Kentucky about remaining neutral. He changed his mind soon after the war began because he believed a Union victory would greatly reduce the power of the state governments. 
       He was commissioned a colonel in the Confederate army and took command of the 2nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Hanson was a strict commander who insisted his regiment have discipline and lots of drill. Most men would despise a commander like Hanson, but he had a great sense of humor and his men loved him. 
       His regiment was soon sent to Fort Donelson where they fought well but became prisoners when the fort fell. Called “the best colonel in our service”, the Confederates worked hard for Hanson’s exchange. He was exchanged too late to join the Bragg’s army in Kentucky. General Breckinridge was soon promoted to command the division and this resulted in Hanson being promoted to brigadier general of the “Orphan Brigade” on October 26, 1862. The brigade earned the nickname because they were all Kentuckians isolated from their home state. 
       Roger Hanson wasn't at all pleased with the condition of his brigade. The Kentuckians were great in soldiers, but were extremely lax around camp. Hanson was extremely active in the short time he was commander of the brigade, but wasn't very satisfied with the results. The men just didn’t care about policing their camp and keeping their area clean. 
       On the final day of the Battle of Murfreesboro, Bragg ordered Breckinridge to take his division and charge the Federal lines on high ground across a field and behind Stones River. Not only would Breckinridge be attacking a Federal division in a strong position, but the Federals had 60 cannons lined up hub to hub. 

Hanson's men would be forced to ford Stones River under fire

       Breckinridge begged Bragg not to send his men into what was certainly going to be a slaughter. Bragg wasn’t listening. He simply replied, “I believe, sir, you have your orders.”
       When Breckinridge told his brigade commanders what they were ordered to do, Hanson became furious. He went so far as to threaten the life of General Bragg and had to be restrained. (He wouldn’t be the last Confederate to threaten Bragg.) 
       As Hanson formed his men for the attack, his anger subsided and he became melancholy. He remarked to one of his staff officers, “I believe this will be my last battle.”

Position of the Federal cannons

       The 4500 man division surged across the field into the fierce artillery and rifle barrage. Shrapnel from an exploding artillery shell struck Hanson near the knee severing his femoral artery. (Some say it struck him in the hip. General Breckinridge rode to Hanson’s side. Despite the shells bursting overhead, he tried to stem the blood gushing from his brigadier’s leg. Breckinridge’s eyes were filled with tears. 
       The Confederate assault soon stalled after having lost 1800 men in less than an hour. As Hanson was being treated by a surgeon, he never complained about the pain, but insisted the man go treat his wounded men. Back in Murfreesboro, Breckinridge’s wife and Hanson’s wife both tried to nurse him back to health. A surgeon said the leg needed to be amputated, but Hanson was too weak to survive the surgery. 

The general's wife, Virginia Peters Hanson

       Two days later, Hanson would die from loss of blood. He admitted that it was glorious to die for ones country and have died in a just cause and done my duty. He would pass away in the company of his wife and friends. Originally buried in Nashville, today he rests beside his wife in Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky.

Grave of Roger and Virginia Hanson

Monday, December 13, 2010

Only Indiana General Killed During The Civil War

Brigadier General Hackleman

       Pleasant Adam Hackleman was a lawyer and politician before the Civil War. Because of his hard work helping Lincoln get elected, he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Federal army. He saw action early in the war at the fiasco at Ball's Bluff. Hackleman would then be sent to the western army where he would not see action again until the Battle of Corinth under General Rosecrans.
       On the first day of the battle there, the Confederate army under Van Dorn hit Rosecrans hard. Part of the Federal line began to fall apart. Hackleman was attempting to rally his men  when he was struck in the neck by a bullet. 
       Being carried to the rear, Hackleman stated, "I am dying, but I die for my country. If we are victorious send my remains home; if not, bury me on the field."
       They would be the last words the forty-seven year old general would ever utter. He was carried to the Tishomingo Hotel and laid on the floor of the ladies' parlor. Surviving until nightfall, his division commander Thomas Davies would be by his side as he took his last breath.

Tishomingo Hotel

       The battle went from an apparent defeat to a victory the next day and Pleasant Hackleman would get his wish of being buried at home. Today, he rests in East Hill Cemetery, Rushville, Indiana.

Site of Pleasant Hackleman's death today

Pleasant Hackleman's grave

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The General with the long name: Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton

Brigadier General Alfred Mouton

       Alfred Mouton was born on February 18, 1829 in Opelousas, Louisiana. His father would become governor of the state in 1843. The younger Mouton would eventually receive an education at West Point, graduating 38th in the class of 1850. He immediately resigned his commission and returned to Louisiana to become a planter. After managing his fathers plantation for two years, he then purchased a plantation of his own. 

Mouton's father's plantation called Ile Copal

        He received an appointment as brigadier general in the Louisiana State Militia in 1855. When the Civil War arrived, Mouton was commissioned a captain in the Confederate army by President Jefferson Davis. He would help raise the 18th Louisiana Infantry and was elected colonel of the unit.
      The regiment would be placed in Daniel Ruggles brigade and sent to Corinth, Mississippi. From there, the unit would see action at Shiloh. On the first day, Mouton led a brave charge which resulted in heavy casualties. The colonels clothes and saddle had dozens of bullet holes and his horse was killed beneath him in the assault. On the second day of the battle, Mouton was wounded in the face. The wound became infected and he was forced to return home to recover. 
       For the gallantry he demonstrated at Shiloh, President Davis promoted Mouton to brigadier general. Upon recovery, he was placed under Richard Taylor in Louisiana. Because of an attack of rheumatism, he would miss his first battle with his new command. He repulsed Federal attacks at the Battle of Bisland in April of 1863, but would see no more action for the remainder of the year.
       Taylor gave Mouton command of a division although it didn’t result in a promotion to major general. In other words, Mouton had more responsibility, but with the same pay. He would lead the division in the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864 and helped Taylor’s army defeat Federal General Banks. Sadly, this battle would be Mouton’s last.
       Taylor had nothing but praise for Mouton’s brave charge at Mansfield. Despite heavy casualties, Mouton’s men pressed on across an open field, through a ravine and up a hill. They captured several Federal guns and caused the enemy line to break. Thirty-five Federal soldiers threw down their rifles to surrender. Mouton watched as his men raised their rifles to fire on the defenseless enemy soldiers. He immediately rode his horse in front of his men and ordered them to hold their fire. Five of the surrendering enemy soldiers reached down and grabbing their rifles opened fire on the man who had just saved their lives. 
       Mouton was hit by several bullets and fell from the saddle, killed almost instantly. The act so enraged Mouton’s men that they immediately opened fire killing all thirty-five of the enemy troops. One Confederate soldier said the dead enemy soldiers lay around the body of General Mouton looking like a guard of honor pulled from the Federal ranks to honor such a brave man.

Death site of General Mouton at Mansfield

       Mouton was buried on the field and his division marched past the grave, many with tears filling their eyes. Some were said to have thrown themselves on the ground in sorrow at the loss of their brave commander. His men were so angered at the act, that many captured Federals begged for mercy for fear of vengeance. 
      Richard Taylor admitted to being deeply affected at the loss of his division commander. Mouton had been loyal to his commander. Kirby Smith in overall command had been feuding with Taylor over strategy. Smith wanted to fight on the defensive and react to the enemy’s moves. Taylor had learned his warfare under Jackson and believed in taking the initiative against the enemy. With Mouton gone, Taylor lost an ally in his personal battle with Smith.

Mouton's statue in Lafayette, Louisiana

       Alfred Mouton’s body would eventually be removed and buried in the Mouton family plot in Saint John Cemetery, Lafayette, Louisiana. The only bad thing that was ever said about Mouton was written by one of his soldiers. The man complained that Mouton didn't like to carry out executions of his men for desertion. The general with the long name was not only respected by his men, but he seemed like a genuine good person. He certainly didn't deserve the sad fate that he suffered.

The grave of Alfred Mouton

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The gallant charge of Brigadier General John Adams

Confederate Brigadier General John Adams

       John Adams was born in Nashville, Tennessee on July 1, 1825. Adams entered West Point and graduated in 25th in the class of 1846. He fought in the Mexican War and was cited for gallantry at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosalea. He would spend the remainder of his career in the United States army fighting Indians out west. 
       When the Civil War began, Adams would receive a commission of colonel in the cavalry and remain at that rank for the first two years of the war. One embarrassing incident occurred at Sweeden's Cove, Tennessee, where his command was surprised by Federal forces and he would lose over a hundred men. Despite the mishap, General Joseph E. Johnston would recommend Adams for promotion to brigadier general. He would receive that promotion by May, 1863 and took command of Lloyd Tilghman's Mississippi brigade after that officer's death at the Battle of Champions Hill. 
       He would spend the remainder of his life in command of this brigade. He saw action at Jackson, Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign. After the surrender of Vicksburg, his brigade would be transferred to Georgia, where they fought throughout the Atlanta Campaign. 

John Adams early in the war

        Adams would be in lead the brigade when Hood's army invaded Tennessee in the fall of 1864. At the Battle of Franklin, Adams was wounded in the arm early in the fight. His staff insisted he leave the field for medical attention. Adams refused, saying, "I am going to see my men through."
       Once his brigade neared the breastworks, they came upon and impenetrable abatis of Osage Orange trees the Federal soldiers had chopped down in front of their works. Adams brigade came to a sudden halt and he understood for them to stay in this position meant certain death. He rode his horse west until he came to a gap in the abatis and directed his men to charge through. Leading by example, he turned his horse through the gap and charged the Federal breastworks alone. The Federal troops could hardly believe their eyes. 

John Adams gallant charge at Franklin

       Colonel Scott Stewart of the 65th Illinois Infantry yelled for his men to hold their fire because he thought John Adams was too brave an officer to die this way. At that moment, Adams rode his horse upon the breastworks and attempted to snatch the regimental battle flag from the flag bearers hands. The color guard opened fire at once. Adams and his horse both collapsed in a heap, the horse landing on the leg of the general. 
       When the firing had died down, the Federal soldiers climbed onto the works and pulled the general from beneath the horse. He had been hit by nine bullets, but was still alive. They made him a pillow of the cotton from the old gin house and gave him water. At this point, the Federal soldiers apologized for shooting such a brave man. Adams replied, "It is the fate of a soldier to die for his country." He died a few minutes later and after dark, the Federal soldiers placed his body back among his men on the other side of the works. 
       The next morning, his body was placed in a wagon beside the body of Major General Patrick Cleburne and carried back to the rear porch of the Carnton Plantation. His body was then carried to Pulaski, Tennessee where it rests today beside his wife in Maplewood Cemetery.

The grave of John Adams in Pulaski, Tennessee

       Like a lot of incidents that occur during the fog of war, Adams death would become controversial after the war. One soldier in the 65th Illinois reported that Federal troops found Adams in front of the earthworks, but the man was already dead. He stated the body was brought inside the Federal lines and placed near the cotton gin which caused many to believe the general had actually penetrated the Union lines. 
       Federal General Jacob Cox stated that Adams and his horse were shot outside the breastworks. He claimed Adams horse charged ahead after being hit and died on top of the works. Adams, he reported, was shot through the legs and attempted to crawl away when he was shot to pieces. He originally stated that Adams was never brought inside the works, but later changed his story. Cox was in the vicinity, but in all likelihood he never witnessed the death of Adams personally and was only repeating a story he had heard.
       Colonel Casement, commander of the brigade that Adams charged, claimed in 1891 that he was the man who spoke with Adams. He said that Adams was conscious and uncomplaining and only desired to be placed back among friends. 
       Tom Gore, a soldier in the 15th Mississippi Infantry said he saw Adams horse staggering after being hit by nine bullets. This account was soon accepted as false due to the fact that Adams cousin and adjutant, Captain Thomas Gibson stated that Adams horse named "Old Charlie" tended to squat close to the ground when under fire. With all the heavy firing at Franklin, it is almost certain that Adams horse did the same here, causing Gore and others to think the animal had been hit.
       Most historians today believe that Adams was hit on the enemy parapet and taken prisoner only to die within Federal lines. Most believe he was then returned to the Confederate side of the works after dark before the Federals retreated to Nashville. Whichever story is true, one thing is certain, Adams was one of the bravest officers in the Confederate army and few have led such a gallant charge in any war.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The "Roll Tide" General

Confederate Brigadier General John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders

       When my Auburn fans are giving me a good ribbing, I like to ask them a trivia question. Which state university provided a Confederate general who gave his life for the Southern cause. Few people have heard of John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders. It may seem I'm desperate to go that far back, but then again, that's the only era that I study. 
       John Sanders was born on April 4, 1840 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was twenty years old when Alabama seceded and a cadet at the University of Alabama. At the time, he was serving as orderly sergeant of the cadet corps and his commandant called him the best soldier and officer of the group. Despite the fact that his family wished he would stay and finish his education, Sanders withdrew from school and helped raise Company C, 11th Alabama Infantry. Because of his stellar record at the University of Alabama, he was elected captain of the company.
       The 11th Alabama would be rushed to Virginia, but failed to arrive in time to fight at First Manassas. After that battle, the 11th would be placed in Cadmus Wilcox's all Alabama brigade. Sanders would see action at the battles of Seven Pines, Gaines' Mill and Frayser's Farm where he was wounded in the leg. The wound was severe enough to keep him out of action for a month. 
       Because of the attrition in the 11th, Sanders would return to find himself the ranking officer. He would lead the regiment at the Battle of Second Manassas. He was then promoted to Major and led the regiment again at Antietam where he was slightly wounded in the face. After Antietam, Sanders would be promoted to colonel at the age of 22. 
       He would next lead the regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville where he received high praise from General Wilcox. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, Sanders would be hit in the knee by rifle fire while leading the regiment in an assault on Cemetery Ridge. The wound was serious enough to keep him out of action for five months. When he was able to return to command, he found that Wilcox had been promoted to Major General and he was the senior colonel of the brigade. He would lead the brigade in action during the Mine Run Campaign, but Lee felt he was too young to receive promotion to Brigadier General. The command was given to Abner Perrin. 
       Sanders returned to command of the 11th Alabama and saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness. At Spotsylvania, when the Federal army overran the "Mule Shoe", Perrin would be killed and Sanders took command of the brigade once again. He helped repulse the Federal onslaught and this time, Lee recommended him for promotion to Brigadier General. He led an impressive attack at the North Anna River and fought at Cold Harbor. His greatest day of the war would come at Petersburg during the Battle of the Crater. He personally led a counterattack that retook the crater. His men would take three Federal battle flags and capture over seven hundred prisoners. 
       His worst day would come at the Battle of Globe Tavern. Leading his brigade in an attack on foot, he would be shot through the thighs, severing both femoral arteries. He didn't collapse, but ordered his adjutant to take him to the rear. Losing blood rapidly, he would ask to be lain on the ground where he bled to death in a very few minutes. John Sanders was 24 years old. 
       His men had nothing but praise for the gallant young commander. It was said there were none braver in the Confederate army than General Sanders. Others said he was born to command and possessed the first qualities of a soldier. A Charleston newspaper wrote that none were more beloved and no death more regretted that the young Alabama general. 

General Sanders original burial site in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

       His body would be carried back to Richmond and buried in Hollywood Cemetery, the "Arlington of the Confederacy." There is a marker in Hollywood Cemetery to the young general, but the exact location of his grave has been lost to history. There is a marker for him in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama. 

The marker for John Sanders in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama