Thursday, June 18, 2015

Major General Franklin Gardner


Major General Franklin Gardner

       Frank Gardner was born in 1823 in New York City. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and his mother was from a wealthy Louisiana family. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1838 and graduated 17th out of 39 cadets in the Class of 1843. His one note of distinction was his ranking of first in his class in drawing which was considered an important subject at the time because of the need to draw fortifications and maps in wartime. 
       Like his father, Frank married into a wealthy Louisiana family. He married Marie Celeste Mathilde Mouton, the sister of future Confederate Brigadier General Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton (see my blog Her father Alexander Mouton would also become the governor of Louisiana. 
       Following graduation from West Point, he entered military service in the infantry. He would see at least four major battles in the Mexican War and was distinguished twice for gallantry. He served under Albert Sidney Johnston during the Morman Expedition with the rank of captain. When the South seceded from the Union, he never bothered to resign, but simply departed his post in Utah for Louisiana. 
       He spent the early part of the Civil War bouncing from post to post. He served as a lieutenant colonel of infantry, a staff officer under Jubal Early, commanded a brigade of cavalry, and even saw action at Shiloh. When Beauregard became commander of the Army of Mississippi, he was promoted to brigadier general commanding all the cavalry of the army. Gardner would see action at Perryville in this capacity. Following Perryville, he promoted to major general and sent to the position he would become most famous for holding: Port Hudson. 
       Although John C. Pemberton and Vicksburg have gained more attention, Port Hudson was just as important as Vicksburg as a fort defending the Mississippi River. While Vicksburg held the northern part of a 200 mile section of the Mississippi, Port Hudson held the southern point. While Pemberton's 33,000 man army was withstanding a siege by Ulysses Grant and his army of 77,000, Frank Gardner was fighting longer odds. His 7,500 men were facing between thirty and forty thousand under Nathaniel Banks. 

A Confederate Columbiad at Port Hudson

       At Port Hudson, Frank Gardner placed his engineering skills to good work. He strengthened the fort and prepared the defenders for hard fighting. When Banks army arrived, Gardner withstood 47 days of siege and inflicted 5,000 casualties on his enemy. Another 5,000 Union soldiers became casualties to disease during this same period. Gardner's total casualties amounted to almost one thousand men. 
        He refused to surrender until July 9, 1863 after he was certain that Vicksburg had fallen and that Joseph Johnston wasn't coming to his aide with reinforcements. His men were half starved, been exposed to constant artillery fire for over forty days, had no medical supplies, and were utterly exhausted. He had accomplished far more than most men would have in the same situation. 
       He remained a prisoner of war until August of 1864 when he was exchanged. Gardner was then sent to command the District of Mississippi and East Louisiana under Richard Taylor. He would see minimal action for the remainder of the war. Following the war, he made a living farming in Lafayette, Louisiana. He would only survive the war by eight years. He died at age fifty of unknown causes. His tombstone lists his middle name as Kitchell, although there are few other sources that show him having a middle name. 

Franklin Kitchell Gardner

Frank Gardner's grave

       He rests today in Saint John's Cemetery in Lafayette, Louisiana. His wife Mary would outlive him by almost 42 years. He rests in the same cemetery as his brother-in-law Brigadier General Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton who was killed at the Battle of Mansfield in 1864. 

An image said to be Franklin Gardner, some people believe this is actually a photograph of Confederate Brigadier General Richard Brooke Garnett

(See my blog

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Mini-Civil Wargasm With My Buddy Pat: Part II

Ruthie, Stacie, and Pat

       I went to church with Pat Sunday morning and on the way back to his house, he took me to a few places. I didn't expect much, a Confederate cemetery, and an old ironworks site. The cemetery was larger than I expected and kept extremely neat. These soldiers were brought to a house that still stands today (but privately owned) from Mississippi where they died of disease and wounds. Pat said he'd never been inside the house. I told him that I'd ask if they would show us around, but we arrived to find a fence around the property with a large iron gate. We figured they didn't want to show anyone around by the looks of things. 

About half of the Confederate Cemetery

       The next stop found us in Shelby, Alabama outside what appeared to be an old abandoned house. It was actually the Shelby Hotel and dated back to the war. Again, we wanted to go inside, but someone had a padlock on the door. The place has fallen into disrepair and it appears someone plans to let if fall apart. Pat said the last time he visited the site the windows were all intact. The glass is very old and its a shame someone is vandalizing the place. 

Shelby Hotel

       Next to the hotel is the old Shelby Ironworks site. There is a neat little park on the south side of the road, but across the road stands the ribs of one of the old furnaces. Someone had recently cleared the area with a bulldozer, so Pat and I prowled a good deal of the area. We found more ruins, but my biggest fear was chiggers. Since taking Doc Rick Price to Shy's Hill two years ago, I've had an extreme fear of chiggers. I was eaten alive. Pat promised me we were safe and luckily, almost two weeks later, not a bite. 

Remains of one of the furnaces

       I got on Pat's nerves asking him a thousand questions regarding the area. He finally told me that I was asking him things he couldn't answer. The place was so neat and I was so excited that I wasn't thinking about how I sounded. Arriving home, I did a little research and learned just how large the ironworks site truly was. 

An old Photo of both furnaces

A map of the entire area showing the Shelby Hotel, furnaces, and rail lines

       Overall, the trip was a blast and I'm already looking forward to the next one. I told Pat next time I'll take him down to Columbus, Georgia to the Civil War Naval Museum. We may even head on down to Andersonville, another place I've never mentioned if he would like. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Mini-Civil Wargasm With My Buddy Pat: Part I

The New Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust in Selma's Live Oak Cemetery

       Stacie and I had been planning to spend the weekend with my good buddy Pat and his wife Ruthie for several months now. We went down on Friday afternoon on May 22nd and spent two nights there. If you know anything about the way our year began, we you understand how badly we needed the time away. Pat, Ruthie, and another couple of their friends were there the first night. When we planned this visit, we had no idea that the new Nathan B. Forrest bust was to be unveiled on this weekend. When Pat told me we were going the next morning, I was excited because it would add another three pictures of me with Confederate generals graves. 
       Pat cooked us all the biggest steaks I've ever attempted to eat in my life. I couldn't do it. Pat's buddy Larry not only ate all of his steak, but half of his wife Nita's. I couldn't believe it. Larry was a door gunner during the Vietnam War. Larry went to bed before Pat and I, so we sat on the front porch and discussed our favorite subject of course, the Civil War. 
       The next morning we arose early and headed to Selma which is about an hour south of Pat's house. The trip was relatively uneventful if you don't take into account the lady texting while meeting us in our lane. Pat has a brand new pickup that I thought was gonna need a lot of work, along with its three occupants. The wives were following us down in another vehicle. 


Pat and I at the grave of Catesby Ap Jones

       We arrived in Live Oak Cemetery at 9:30 a.m. just in time for the cemetery tour. The first grave we got our picture taken was at Confederate Naval Captain Catesby Ap Jones. Captain Jones was the man who took charge of the CSS Virginia during its engagement with the USS Monitor. We then were led to the grave of Brigadier General Edmund Winston Pettus. Pettus had the distinction of being captured three times during the war. We learned that Pettus was buried under a flat concrete marker because he was a very humble person. 

Pat and I with Brigadier General Edmund W. Pettus

       We were then taken to the grave of "Old Reliable" himself. Confederate Lieutenant General William J. Hardee. Hardee fought with the Army of Tennessee from Shiloh until Atlanta when he finally left that army following an argument with General John Bell Hood. He would return to that army to finish the war in the Carolina's during the spring of 1865. General Hardee was my favorite general's best friend, Patrick R. Cleburne. Hardee was also known as the Army of Tennessee's biggest back biter, which says a lot when you look at all the turmoil that occurred in that army. 

Me and Pat with General William J. Hardee

       We then finished up the Civil War tour with little known Confederate Brigadier General John Tyler Morgan. Morgan was more famous as a post-war senator than as a Confederate general. Ironically, his monument is much larger than the others as you can see by the photo. 

Us with General John T. Morgan

       We remained in the cemetery for most of the rest of the afternoon listening to the unveiling ceremony. It was not in our original plans, but I'm extremely glad we did. There were four wonderful speakers that kept our attention. (Even with my narcolepsy I only nodded once or twice). During the cemetery tour, I'd learned there was an extremely interesting cannon at City Hall that I wanted to visit. Pat promised me we'd go there before calling it a day. My wife became extremely interested in a couple of strange looking grasshoppers on Catesby Ap Jones grave that we don't have in Northern Alabama. (She kept calling them crickets for some reason which caused Pat to laugh and say "Those are grasshoppers.")

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper on Captain Jones's Grave

       The city historian was one of the speakers at the event and as soon as it was finished, I approached him and asked where the Confederate ironclads were built during the war. He told me where to go (it just happened to be very near where we ate dinner). Sadly, there is nothing left on the location but just some trees. After we ate, we headed to City Hall where one of the Seven Inch Brooke rifles that was on board the CSS Tennessee during the Battle of Mobile Bay sits today. Two Confederate sailors were killed serving this very gun during that engagement. The rifle is marked S-5, which means it was the fifth Brooke Rifle cast at Selma. 

Left to Right: Me, Pat, and Larry with the sweetest piece of history in Selma

       I thought this was a pretty neat little Civil War trip, but Pat had a surprise in store for me the next day. He took me to a Confederate ironwork's and cemetery. I'll write that blog tomorrow, stay tuned.