Tuesday, January 29, 2013

After The War by David Hardin: A Book Review

       I'm just finishing up reading the book After The War by David Hardin. I can truly say this has been one enjoyable book. I could hardly put it down. He goes through several of the major figures lives following the Civil War. The first chapter is an excellent one on the life of Winnie Davis, the Daughter of the Confederacy. I found it fascinating how even Jubal Early thought it was his business who Winnie married. 
       The second chapter is about Tom Sherman, General Sherman's son. Tom became a priest in the Catholic Church and this upset Cump Sherman to no end. He never forgave his wife for pushing religion on his son. Ironically the book I just finished was Grant's Last Victory by Charles Flood and there was a chapter that dealt with Grant's last days in this book. A great chapter was about Mary Boydkin Chesnut and there was a chapter dealing with General John Bell Hood and General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee, George H. Thomas, George Custer and his wife are all covered in this book. 
       Hardin is a great writer and story teller. I found I didn't agree with all of his opinions regarding certain things, but overall I would strongly recommend his book. I bought my copy at Books-A-Million. The only problem with a good book like this one is the fact that I zip through it so fast, I'm having to go purchase another.   

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cooly Watching His Coming Death: John Marshall Jones

Brigadier General John Marshall "Rum" Jones

       John Marshall Jones was born in 1820 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended the United States Military Academy and graduated 39th among 52 classmates in the Class of 1841. He stood below average because of his ranking in conduct. His nickname may have something to do with his conduct problem. He was called "Rum" because of his fondness for the bottle. 
       He would serve in the U.S. Army until the outbreak of the Civil War having seen no action whatsoever. He served as a staff officer for General Magruder, General Ewell, and General Early until May 15, 1863 when he was elevated from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general. It would seem unfair that a general of his talent remained so long at a lower grade of rank, but it seems his nickname had something to do with his being promoted. Ewell often stated that Jones was a fine officer deserving of higher rank. 

Pre-war picture of General Jones

       Lee had a conversation with Jones about his drinking before asking that President Davis promote him. Lee told Davis that Jones had promised to resign if his old habits began to occur again. Regardless, Jones had an assignment ahead of him that would drive most sober men to drink. He was taking over the second brigade of Stonewall Jackson's old division (not the Stonewall Brigade). This brigade had been under several inept officers. The last officer was John Robert Jones (not related to John Marshall Jones) who had been court-martialed for cowardice at Antietam. 
       John Marshall Jones proved to be just what the brigade needed. He would prove to be a strict disciplinarian, yet he proved that he truly cared for the welfare of his men. He quickly turned the brigade into a proud hard fighting unit. He would lead them in a desperate assault on Culp's Hill at Gettysburg and fall with a severe thigh wound there. He would recover in time for the fight at Mine Run and fall again with a slight head wound. 

Battle of the Wilderness

       At the Battle of the Wilderness, Jones's brigade was struck in the right flank scattering his men. He and a staff officer Robert Davies Early attempted to rally the brigade. Having failed to stop them from retreating, Jones turned and faced the enemy. He and his staff officer "cooly watched watching the enemy when he was slain." Word soon spread throughout the army that "rather than survive the disgrace of his command, preferred death." 
       General Ewell considered Jones's loss an irreparable one. There was a stone placed on the south side of the Pike marking where Jones was shot down, but has since vanished. 

John M. Jones

General Jones Grave

       His body would be carried back to the town where he was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and laid to rest in Maplewood Cemetery. He was 43 years old. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Skeletons of the Civil War by Debra Glass and Heath Mathews

Skeletons Of The Civil War - True Ghost Stories of the Army of Tennessee

A Great Book

       Last month, I had the opportunity to sit beside Debra Glass and Heath Mathews and sell books at the worlds largest Civil War show in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the first time I had met Heath in person. I'd talked to him on the phone a few times. Heath turned out to be a great guy. It didn't take me long to learn that Heath is the type person who is committed to saving as much of our historic battle grounds as possible. Sometimes, he feels like he's fighting a losing battle. 
       After the show on Sunday, we took the grand tour of Franklin and had a blast. I finally visited the graves of the Carter family and witnessed the spot where Hardin Figures, the fifteen year old boy, climbed a tree and watched the battle. He also showed where the house stood where Brigadier General States Rights Gist had died. Debra doesn't like General Gist very much because he came out so violently against Cleburne's proclamation to free the slaves and make soldiers out of them. While that is true of the man, he was fine commander and probably deserved a shot at division command. Besides, you have to love his name. 
       Heath and I then walked the ground where my ancestor Private Mack Keenum charged the osage orange abatis on the far right under General Thomas Moore Scott. We located what we think is the approximate position of General Adams death. Walked behind the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and found the position where a sign once stood marking the death site of General Strahl. 
       We passed through Franklin again a couple of weeks ago and again looked Heath up. Again, we did some more touring of the field of Franklin. I may be working with my publisher soon to do a documentary on the affair at Spring Hill and plan on asking Heath for help. If you haven't read the book Skeletons of the Civil War, you need to buy a copy soon. Even if your not into ghost stories, there is a lot of history in the book. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Grant's Final Victory by Charles Bracelen Flood

Grant's Final Victory

I recently bought Grant's Final Victory by Charles Bracelen Flood. The book is not about any of Grant's war experiences or his term as president, but only covers the last year of his life. Flood does an excellent job with this story. Although, I like a few pages finishing it, I can go ahead and recommend this book. I found it difficult to put down. It's just one of those books that gets a grip on you and you can't stop. Flood is an excellent story teller. It reminded me of a book I had read years ago about Robert Edward Lee after the Civil War. That book is called Lee: The Last Years. I went and looked in my book case among my 450 Civil War books and sure enough, Charles Flood had written that book as well. 

Lee: The Last Years also by Flood

       I strongly recommend both books by Charles Flood. The book is very readable, but one must take caution with certain points. Charles obviously idolizes Grant. He would make it appear that Grant was truthful in his biography and this is the part I have trouble with. Although, there are problems with things Grant said in his biography, this is a very good book about the last years of Grant's life. I'm a southerner and I love everything the South stood for, yet I respect Grant. Unlike his counterpart William T. Sherman, being a victor, he could forgive the south for what he saw as wrong. Grant could respect what his enemies stood for.
       He understood as the book by Flood states that the founding fathers would have included the word secession if they'd have know the county would have gone to war and cost the county nearly a million men to decide whether a state could secede. Grant actually said that he believed the founding fathers would have placed the exact words in the constitution to avoid a war like the nation endured. He truly believed the constitution protected the individual states from being forced to remain in the Federal union. 
       I've been around these northern born historians that have been given the head job in Southern battlefields, etc., and I can tell you there is no mistake about the power they have been given. I have friends that were battlefield guides and were fired because they were Southern born. All you have to do is contact a great friend of mine named Heath Mathews and he will definitely tell you how the world has changed in order to be politically correct. To hell with the true history of our nation as long as we all bow down to what the world wants us to believe in this day and time. I will speak the truth and hell with changing history to impress the ones that want people change history for their own purposes or votes. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wheatfield Storm: The Death of Paul Jones Semmes

Brigadier General Paul Jones Semmes

       Among the three Confederate brigadier generals mortally wounded on July 2, 1863 was a Georgian named Paul Jones Semmes. He was the cousin of famous Confederate Admiral and Brigadier General Raphael Semmes. General Semmes had seen action during the Peninsula Campaign, The Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. 
       General Semmes was wounded in the fighting at the Bloody Wheatfield on the second day at Gettysburg. He'd carried a tourniquet since the war had begun and never needed until this day. The fighting was so severe that he pulled the tourniquet out of his pocket and was holding it in his hand when he was shot in the thigh. The bullet severed his femoral artery. He immediately applied the tourniquet which saved his life for the moment. 
       Some of his soldiers made a litter out of a captured U.S. flag and carried him off the field to a surgeon. After the surgeon bound up the wound and Semmes was placed in an ambulance and sent back to Virginia. He arrived in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) and survived until July 10. There, everything was done that could possibly save his life. 
       Before he died, Semmes said, "I consider it a privilege to die for my country." General Lee said of Semmes, "He died as he had lived, discharging the highest duty of a patriot with devotion that never faltered and courage that never shrank from no danger."
       General Semmes was 48 years old. He is buried in Linwood Cemetery, Columbus, Georgia. 

Me at Semmes grave in Columbus, Georgia

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thunderbolt: The Mystery of John Hunt Morgan

John Hunt Morgan

       Did Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan die in the War Between the States? Believe it or not, there are those that believe he escaped death in Kentucky and lived under an alias the rest of his life. So what is the story of the death of General Morgan?

Williams House in Greeneville, Kentucky

       On September 4, 1864, General Morgan spent the night in the widow Catherine Williams home in Greeneville, Tennessee. She was a distant relative of his wife Martha Ready. He spread his troops too thin to guard the approaches into town and only had his staff with him at the home. Because it was raining, he allowed his headquarters guard stay inside the house. All of this would cost him his life. A teenager named Jimmy Leady rode sixteen miles to the camp of Federal General Alvan Gillem and informed him where Morgan was staying the night. 
       The next night, Gillem's forces surprised Morgan and two companies began to surround the house in an attempt to capture him. General Morgan sprang from bed, pulled on a pair of Federal cavalry pants and some slippers. He was wearing a white muslin shirt. He grabbed his belt and holsters and raced downstairs. With a Colt revolver in each hand, he told Mrs. Williams  goodbye and stated, "The Yankee's will never take me a prisoner again."

Morgan was asleep in this bed just moments before his death

       Morgan and some of his staff raced through the garden and hid beneath Saint James Episcopal Church. He handed one of his pistols to Captain James Rogers of his staff and asked him to assist him in making their escape. Rogers informed Morgan that it was useless as they were surrounded. Morgan replied, "We must do it if possible." 
       When the Federals broke the door open and began to search the church, Morgan and his staff ran into Mrs. Williams vineyard and hid. Morgan's troops attempted to rescue him several times but were driven back by the Federals. Mrs. David Fry spotted Morgan in the vineyard and  informed the Federals of his location. Federal soldiers arrived on the scene and Morgan was soon surrounded. 
      "Don't shoot; I surrender!" Morgan yelled. The Federals began to scream, "Kill him! Kill him!" General Morgan threw up his hands and screamed, "Oh my God!" The Federal soldiers then opened fire. A bullet struck him in the back and passed through his heart. Death was instant. The man credited with killing Morgan was Private Andrew Campbell of the 13th Tennessee Union Cavalry. He then shouted, "I have killed the damned horse thief."
       Campbell took the body to the edge of town and threw it into a ditch full of water. The local Unionist soon arrived and began to dance around the body. They soon stripped Morgan's body down to his underwear. When members of Morgan's staff asked General Gillem not to treat Morgan's remains like that of a dog, Gillem replied, "Aye Sir, and it shall lie there and rot like a dog!"
       Later, Captain Rogers and another staff officer were allowed to retrieve the body and carry it back to Mrs. Williams house. They had to have a Federal cavalry escort because the mob dancing around the body refused to let them have the body. His body was embalmed and they found one bullet wound. His face had been scratched from the mistreatment by the Federals and the mob. 

Michael Grissom's book

       I was reading about Morgan's death not long ago when I remembered a story I'd read in the book Southern By The Grace Of God by Michael Andrew Grissom. I'd read this book in the early nineties, but still remember this particular story because it made such an impression on  my mind. 
       While in Oklahoma, Mr. Grissom was attempting to organize a local Sons of Confederate Veterans camp. One fellow claimed to be a direct descendant of General John Hunt Morgan. The story goes that on the morning when Morgan was surprised there was much confusion. It is true there was quite a bit of confusion that foggy damp morning. Morgan was supposed to have swapped coats with a staff officer that morning. Although hit in the side, Morgan managed to escape, but his staff officer was killed. He eventually made his way north to Illinois to find a lady named Maggie Critzer who he'd met before the war. 
       Reaching Maggie, he changed his name to John Hunt Cole, married the lady and together they lived with her family. Several men recognized Cole as John Hunt Morgan and a fight was started. Morgan killed two of the men. Having been discovered alive, he took Maggie and fled to Kansas. They later moved to Missouri where Maggie died in 1879. Cole then married Carolyn Reardion. Cole began to practice medicine and it was noted what an excellent shot he was with a pistol. 
       In 1892, Cole moved into Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) and a visitor would often arrive after dark. The man would visit Cole until just before daylight when he would again leave town. According to Cole's descendant's, this man was General Morgan's brother. In 1899, Cole came down with pneumonia and believing he was about to die, he told his son John Morgan Cole and his wife Carolyn who he really was. When his son asked him why he hadn't admitted this before since there was no longer any danger of him being sent to prison, Cole replied that he was still legally married to Mattie Ready of Tennessee and it would also bring dishonor to his family. 
       The story is rather long and adds a lot of evidence to suggest that John Hunt Cole was really John Hunt Morgan. One coincidence is the tombstone of Cole. His birth date is the same as John Hunt Morgan's, only the death dates are different of course. 

Tombstone of John Hunt Cole

       Also, there is a photograph of John Hunt Cole as an older gentleman. Many people say the two men look alike. Of course, claiming to be someone famous back in those days was quite common. There were numerous men who claimed to have been John Wilkes Booth and there's even a mummy of one of these men in a private collector's possession today. Brushy Bill Roberts swore that he was actually Billy the Kidd. There were rumors that Jesse James was not shot by Robert Ford, but escaped, remarried and had children long after he was supposedly dead. There are actually people today that claim to be descendants of John Wilkes Booth, but the son or daughter of Booth was born long after the war and his death. The Cole/Morgan story does have some convincing arguments. 

Are these the same men?