Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brother Against Brother, Part 2

Confederate Brigadier General James B. Terrill

Federal Brigadier General William R. Terrill

       Two more brothers who served as general's during the Civil War on opposite sides were James and William Terrill. Unlike the McIntosh brothers, both of the Terrill brothers would die fighting during the war. William was born in 1834 and obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He would rise to the rank of brigadier general and be mortally wounded by artillery fire at the Battle of Perryville. His younger brother James was born in 1838 and attended the Virginia Military Institute. Unlike William, he didn't make the military his career, but instead became an attorney. When the war began, James and another brother named Phillip joined the Confederate army. Phillip was a private and was killed at the Battle of Cedar Creek. James who rose to the rank of brigadier general was killed at Bethesda Church by a Federal sharpshooter. He was buried by the Federals on the field and his grave has been lost to history.
        After the war, their father erected a monument to the memory of the Terrill brothers which read, 'This monument erected by their father. God alone knows which was right.'

Confederate Major General George B. Crittenden

Federal Major General Thomas L. Crittenden

       George Crittenden was born in 1812 and his younger brother Thomas was born in 1819. George graduated from the United States Military Academy and became a career soldier. He saw action in the Black Hawk War and Mexican War. The Crittenden family were close friends with the Davis family, both from Kentucky. George decided to join the Confederate army under his close friend Jefferson Davis. He commanded the troops at Mill Springs during the defeat there. Rumors soon circulated that he had been intoxicated while on duty. A courts-martial was convened and Crittenden was cashiered from the army. Thomas became a lawyer and joined the army to fight during the Mexican War. He rejoined the army when the Civil War began and rose to the rank of major general before resigning in 1864. 

Confederate Brigadier General John R. Cooke

Federal Brigadier General Phillip St. George Cooke

       In an even rarer incident, there were a pair of general's who fought on opposite sides who were father against son. Virginia born Federal cavalry commander Phillip Cooke remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War began. His Harvard educated son John Rogers Cooke would resign his commission and enter the Confederate army. John's sister Flora Cooke had married a Virginian named James Ewell Brown Stuart, otherwise known as Jeb. When the war began Stuart would see action on the Peninsula in Virginia against his father-in-law Phillip. Stuart once said that his father-in-law would regret his decision for fighting against his home state but once and that would be eternally. 
       Bother Cooke's would survive the war, but Stuart would be mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern in 1864. The senior Cooke would outlive his son by four years dying in 1895. These are just a few of the many close relatives in the officer ranks during the war. There were many cousins who fought against each other in that war also. Abraham Buford and John Buford, both served in the cavalry service. Robert E. Lee's second cousin was Samuel P. Lee who was a rear admiral in the United States Navy and in charge of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  There were probably few families who weren't affected by relatives fighting relatives during the Civil War. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Brother Against Brother, Part 1

Confederate Brigadier General James M. McIntosh

       Most everyone has heard stories about the Civil War being a war where brothers often fought one another. Few realize that this also occurred among the generals who fought. James McQueen McIntosh was born in 1828 in Florida while his father was stationed there in the U.S. Army. A year later, while still at that post James little brother John Baillie McIntosh would be born. Their father would be killed during the Mexican War. 
       James would miss the Mexican War while attending West Point. There he proved to be a very poor student. He cared very little for the classroom and like fellow Confederate General George Pickett, he would finish dead last in his class. His brother John wouldn't attend West Point, but served in the Navy as a midshipman during the Mexican War. 

Union Brigadier General John B. McIntosh

       When the Civil War began, James resigned his commission and became colonel of the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles. He saw action at Wilson's Creek where he proved to be a daring cavalry commander. He was famous for his fearlessness in battle and his colorful language. Leading his men in desperate charges would prove his undoing. 
       He would receive a promotion to brigadier general for his actions in routing a numerically superior force. His first major battle following that promotion would prove to be his last. At the Battle of Pea Ridge after seeing his friend and commander Benjamin McCulloch killed. He charged forward in an attempt to recover the mans body and be shot through the heart. They would carry the high-strung officer back to the National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas where he rests today. James McIntosh was either 33 or 34 years old. His exact birth date has been lost to history. 

McCulloch and McIntosh were both killed in the treeline across the field

       When the war began, James's brother John was working in business in New Jersey. Like James, John would spend the war serving in the cavalry. He was with McClellan's army during the Seven Days. He served well during the  Battle of Chancellorsville. He led an attack against J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry at Gettysburg. His next action would be over a year later at the Battle of Winchester where he would lose a leg. 
       Following the war, John would return to New Jersey and die there in 1888 at the age of 59. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick, New Jersey. It makes you wonder how two brothers so close in age could ever consider fighting a war on opposite sides. 

James grave in Arkansas

John's grave in New Jersey

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Jennie Wade Story by Cindy L. Small

The Jennie Wade Story by Cindy L. Small claims to be a true account of the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.  Although attempts were made to smear her reputation by the famous John Burns,Cindy Small manages to dig up all known evidence and set the record straight.  When you finish this book you will understand that Jennie Wade was indeed baking bread for Union soldiers when she was killed.  Contrary to the way John Burns described Jennie Wade as a lady of loose character.  In truth John Burns attempted to smear Jennie's reputation because he despised having to share his fame with anyone else.  

Although the book is only 71 pages long Mrs. Small does an excellent job covering everything that is known about Jennie's life.  She stops just short of a forensic investigation, describing where the bullet was thought to have come from and the path the bullet took as it struck her in the back after passing through two doors.  The bullet was ranging upwards, passed through her heart and spent its force stopping inside her corset.  All eyewitness accounts claim that Jennie died making bread for union soldiers.  Cindy Small says that Jennie was buried with the dough still on her hands.  

Actual dough tray Jennie was using

Cindy Small goes into the details of Jennie's fiance Jack Skelly, the message he gave to Wesley Culp when he was mortally wounded in Virginia.  Wesley Culp went to school with Jennie and Jack, born and raised in Gettysburg, he had moved to Virginia prior to the war and remained loyal to the South.  Wesley would be killed on his cousins farm before he could deliver any message.  The amazing part of this story is that none of the three childhood friends knew the fate of their classmates.  Cindy Small's book lists for less than six dollars but it is worth every penny.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Crisis In Confederate Command

General Edmund Kirby Smith
 On a recent Civil Wargasam my wife bought me the book, The Red River Campaign, edited by Savas, Woodbury, and Joiner.  Reading this small book of only 130 pages reminded me of another book I have read on the subject.  A few years ago I read, A Crisis In Confederate Command by Jeffery Prushankin.  This book went into the disagreement between Confederate General Edwin Kirby Smith and Major General Richard Taylor.  

 The disagreement between Smith and Taylor had more to do with strategy than anything.  Richard Taylor had commanded a Louisiana brigade during the early part of the war under Stonewall Jackson in Virginia.  He had studied closely what Stonewall had accomplished.  He was extremely aggressive like Stonewall and believed that once you had your enemy against the ropes you went in for the kill.  

Major General Richard Taylor

Edmond Kirby Smith was the total opposite of Richard Taylor.  Kirby Smith's generalship has been compared to that of Joseph E. Johnston.  Instead, Kirby Smith's idea on strategy closely resembled that of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  Smith believed in spreading his forces out and defending every foot of his military district.  Richard Taylor believed in concentrating his forces and hitting a small part of the enemy at a time.  

When Federal Major General Nathaniel Banks began his campaign up the Red River, Richard Taylor only had 6,000 men present.  Banks army numbered 28,000 men.  Taylor was forced to retreat because he didn't have enough troops to stop Banks.  Taylor begged Smith to reinforce him with troops from Arkansas.  Smith was worried about Federal General Steele's forces in Arkansas and was afraid to commit too many men.  He finally reinforced Taylor with 1,800 men, bringing his total to 8,800 men.  In true Stonewall Jackson fashion, Richard Taylor caught Banks army strung out on the road and hit him at a place called Mansfield.  Although his attack was disjointed, he managed to defeat Banks.  At a high cost in officers, Taylor lost 1000 men while Banks lost 2,235 men.  For Banks, the Red River Campaign  was over.  He immediately began to retreat.  

They would fight again the next day  at Pleasant Hill in an indecisive battle.  Banks army then escaped unmolested.  Taylor blamed General Edmond Kirby Smith for not reinforcing him with enough troops to destroy Banks.  Taylor was awarded with a promotion to lieutenant general for his actions in the campaign.  Unfortunately, he had lost Brigadier General Alfred Mouton, Brigadier General Thomas Green, Brigadier General William R. Scurry, and Horace Randall.

Brigadier General Thomas Green

Brigadier General Alfred Mouton

Colonel Horace Randall

Brigadier General William R. Scurry

I have always wondered what these two men could have accomplished if they had worked together instead of bickering with each other more than they did the enemy.  For more on the subject I recommend reading Prushankins A Crisis in Confederate Command.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Rashness of That Hour by Robert Wynstra

Book focuses on Iverson's actions at Gettysburg

       I've just finished reading The Rashness of That Hour by Robert Wynstra and found it to be an excellent addition to my library. The book begins with the history of General Iverson and his brigade. It is quite interesting to note that the morale of the brigade had been suffering from an internal power struggle. Governor Vance of North Carolina didn't improve things when he protested that a Georgia officer had been promoted to lead troops from his state. As I read the book, I almost began to feel sorry for Alfred Iverson.
       The further into the book I got, I soon switched back to thinking the man brought most of his suffering on himself. The more I read, the more the man reminded me of another general named Braxton Bragg. Once Iverson made an enemy, he immediately did everything in his power to rid himself of the man, no matter how useful that man might have been to the efficiency of his brigade. 

Brigadier General Afred Iverson, Jr.

       By the time I read about Iverson in battle, I had the opinion the man might have had a streak of cowardice. He was far to the rear at Chancellorsville and in his official report claimed to have been rallying another brigade's troops. His job should have been to supervise his own men in battle. At Gettysburg, he again remained in the rear, sending his men across a field against Federal infantry posted behind a stone wall. He didn't have skirmishers posted to the front, simply telling his men to advance and give them hell. They were within eighty yards of the stone wall before they knew there were Federals anywhere near them. Out of his 1400 man brigade, 900 became casualty's in a matter of minutes. They were trapped on the field in a gully under relenting fire. 

This gully would later come to be known as Iverson's Pits. 
It provided no shelter for the men trapped there.

       Iverson in his report failed to mention the brave action of his men, yet blamed them for surrendering when the Federals advanced into the gully and captured most of the survivors. Following the battle, Iverson was eventually sent back home to Georgia where he commanded a brigade of cavalry under Wheeler. He attempted to stop Sherman's invasion of the state and his brigade was credited with capturing Union General George Stoneman's raiders. They planned to ride deep into Georgia and free the prisoners at Andersonville. With a force of only six-hundred men, Iverson's brigade managed to capture Stoneman and his troops. I had always read about Iverson redeeming himself over the fiasco at Gettysburg by this daring feat in Georgia. However, to my shock, Wynstra reports that again Iverson was far in the rear of his command. The actual credit for the capture belongs to Colonel Crews who was present and leading the brigade. 

George Stoneman captured by Iverson's brigade, but not Iverson

       The book is a great read and serves as not only a biography of Alfred Iverson, but also to his North Carolina brigade. Iverson survived the war, one wants to say "of course" here and died of old age in 1911 at the age of 82. He rests in Atlanta's famous Oakland Cemetery. Wynstra does go into a good bit of detail about the commanders of every unit involved in the fighting around Gettysburg if you enjoy that type thing. I'm not one of those people. I can't remember any of the captains names, especially when he lists the commanders of each artillery unit on the field at the time. Other than that, I found it a very interesting book that I found difficult to stop reading. 

Iverson sometime around 1900

       The men of Iverson's North Carolina brigade never forgave their general. Forty years after the battle, Captain Turner of Iverson's command wrote, "Unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson's deserted band to its doom. Deep and long must the desolate homes and orphan children of North Carolina rue the rashness of that hour." These are the most appropriate last sentences of Wynstra's book.

Me at the grave of Iverson August, 2011.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Other Virginia: CSS Virginia II

CSS Virginia II

       Everyone remotely interested in the American Civil War has some understanding about the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack). A lot less have heard of the Confederate Ironclad called the CSS Virginia II. Construction on this ship which was classified as an ironclad-ram, began in the spring of 1862 in Richmond, Virginia. Thirty-thousand dollars was raised by the Richmond chapter of the "Ladies Aid and Defense Society". Although, such a large portion of money was raised by women, the Virginia II never acquired the nickname that was given to the CSS Palmetto State in Charleston Harbor. Money for the Palmetto State was raised by the women of Charleston and therefore it was called the "Ladies Gunboat". 

CSS Virginia II blueprints

       The sleek warship was finally ready for launch after a year of construction. It slid into the water in June of 1863 among prolonged cheers. Sadly, because of shortages, she wouldn't be battle ready until the spring of 1864. She would see her first major action at Trent's Reach in January of 1865. The Confederate intentions at Trent's Reach was to break through the Federal Navy and attack City Point, Virginia, General Grant's supply depot for the Army of the Potomac. 

USS Onondaga

       Despite two days of bitter fighting, the Confederate fleet, which consisted of the CSS Virginia II, CSS Fredericksburg, and the CSS Richmond were forced to withdraw. The Federal Navy had one ironclad available called the USS Onondaga accompanied by several gunboats. The Onondaga had withdrawn downriver, the captain afraid to engage the three Confederate ironclads alone. The next day, General Grant ordered the Onondaga back upstream with the gunboats to attack the Confederate flotilla. 
       During the night, at ebb tide, the Virginia II and the Richmond became grounded. The Onondaga arrived and opened fire on the two grounded ships, neither of which could return fire because of they're position. Just as the Onondaga began to close with the two ironclads, the tide rose enough for them to float free. After a brief engagement, the Confederate ironclads retreated upriver while the Onondaga returned downstream toward City Point. 
       The Onondaga had been hit once by the Virginia II which seemed to cause some damage. The Onondaga had hit the Virginia II seven times without much effect, but the Virginia II had been hit by cannon fire over seventy times from the Federal forts ashore and was in bad shape. Her engine was leaking steam and it became obvious she couldn't re-engage the Federal navy without repairs. The Confederate ships had fired almost fifteen-hundred rounds during the two days of action. 

Riddled smokestack of the Virginia II

       Two months after the battle, all three Confederate ironclads were scuttled to prevent capture as General Lee evacuated Richmond and Petersburg. The Virginia II was supposed to be as formidable as her namesake the Virginia. She carried 150 officers and men and was supposed to obtain a speed of ten knots, the fastest of the Confederate built ironclads. The ship carried three 7" Brooke rifles and one 10" Brooke smoothbore. Her weakness was in her armor plating. Originally intended to carry 6" of iron as a shield, because of shortages, she carried 5" on her sides and stern. She was a sleek ship with armor at various angles. Had she been employed earlier in the war, she may have made a diffference. The CSS Virginia II rests today under the twenty feet under the silt opposite from Drury's Bluff. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Alfred Holt Colquitt: A man of many talents

Alfred Holt Colquitt before his 1862 promotion

       Alfred Holt Colquitt became many things during his sixty-nine years on this earth. He was born in Georgia in 1824, the son of a United States Senator. Young Alfred graduated from Princeton and became a lawyer. He served in the United States Army during the Mexican War being commissioned a major. Returning from the Mexican War, Colquitt began to dabble in politics becoming a United States Congressman and serving in the Georgia State Legislature.
       When the Civil War began, Colquitt became a captain in the 6th Georgia Infantry. By the time the regiment saw action at Seven Pines, Colquitt had become colonel. He led the regiment throughout the Seven Days and was promoted to brigadier general before Lee's army invaded Maryland. He would command a brigade at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. His brigade was so under-strength following the latter battle that General Lee sent Colquitt and his men back to Georgia to recruit. 

Colquitt sometime after his promotion in 1862

       Colquitt and his brigade would next see action in Florida. They were sent there and placed under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan. They were sent there to stop and invasion of 5,000 men under Federal Brigadier General Truman Seymour. Against orders, the Federal general began his invasion meeting Colquitt and Finegan at the Battle of Olustee. Both forces were about equal, but the Federal army lost over 2000 men, while the Confederate's lost less than a thousand. It was one of Colquitt's best days as a commander. Not only had they stopped the invasion, but had defeated the famed 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.
       During the Siege of Petersburg, Colquitt's brigade would again be sent to Virginia to serve under General Lee. Despite having seen some of the war's fiercest fighting, especially at Antietam, Colquitt came through the war without a scratch. He returned to Georgia and eventually became governor of the state for two terms and was elected to two terms in the United States Senate. He would die while serving there. 

Colquitt in his later years

       During the Civil War, he was called a competent and inspiring commander. He suffered a stroke in 1893 and was paralyzed on one side of his body for the last six months of his life. Unable to speak, he suffered another stroke on March 26, 1894 and died. He rests today in Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia. He'd accomplished a lot in his life, fighting in two wars, serving in both houses of congress, the Georgia legislature, a lawyer, governor and at one point in his life he became a preacher. 

Colquitt's grave

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Excerpt from my upcoming book "Die Like Men": Shy's Hill action at Nashville

Me standing at the spot where the following occurred 

      Brigadier General Thomas Benton Smith was young, just twenty-six years old. He was a striking man, tall and attractive to the ladies. He thought about Tod Carter, his assistant quartermaster who’d been killed back at Franklin. Tod had always kidded him about sharing a few ladies with him.
          Like General Gordon, who’d been captured at Franklin, Smith had graduated from the Nashville Military Institute. He’d become a railroad conductor after graduation. People just didn’t seem to understand that he liked to ride trains.
          The rain was coming down in torrents now. Like his men, he was cold, tired, and hungry. They’d gotten little sleep last night. At the moment, Smith was frustrated over his position. They’d been placed here in the dark on the crest of this hill. Instead of being on the military crest, they were on the actual crest itself. What all this meant was, when the Federals advanced, they couldn’t fire on them until they came over the ledge just twenty yards in front of his position. This situation made his line extremely weak.

Brigadier General Thomas Benton Smith

       He had cannons, but they couldn’t depress their muzzles to fire on the advancing Yankees until they were on top of them. It wasn’t his fault either, but that wasn’t any consolation to him at the moment. Ector’s Texans had occupied the position in the dark last evening. They hadn’t even bothered to throw up breastworks or place abatis in front of the lines. His brigade had been brought up here later in the night, and they’d had to dig all night to be prepared. By the time it had gotten to be daylight, he realized the fragility of his situation, but by then it was too late. Bate had instructed him to throw up breastworks. He had told Smith that the entire position of the army may rest on his brigade on top of this hill.
          The ground had been frozen last night and made the digging difficult. To add to the problem, he had very few picks and shovels. Most of his men were forced to dig with their bayonets. Others would sneak out into the dark and gather branches and logs. They threw anything that would stop a bullet into their breastworks. Rocks were piled up and covered over with dirt. All night long he had listened to the enemy voices in the cool night air near the base of the hill. He could see their fires through the trees.
          His adjutant, Captain Jones, and James Cooper, one of his aides, walked up. Cooper said, “Sir, a six-foot man could get within twenty feet of our works, and we wouldn’t know it.”
          Captain Jones added, “This is the poorest position we’ve ever been placed in.”
          “I agree,” Smith replied, “but it’s too late to change our dispositions now, gentlemen.”
          “That’s not all the good news, sir,” Cooper jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the rear. “Cheatham has ordered off Ector’s brigade. That’s the only reserves we have, and we keep stretching the line left. We ain’t much more than a skirmish line now.”
          Smith shook his head, making no reply.
          Cooper added. “I’m sure, when darkness gets here, we’ll be ordered to retreat. By the sound in our rear, we may already be surrounded.”

Major General William Brimage Bate

       He looked to his right and noticed how thin Finley’s Florida brigade had become. Ector’s Texas brigade had been pulled out of line about an hour ago to go face Wilson’s cavalry on some knoll in their rear. He and Strahl’s old brigade had been forced to extend their already thin lines to cover the gap Ector’s men left behind. He thought about poor old Otho Strahl. He was a good man. He’ll be severely missed. Strahl’s brigade and Smith’s were all Tennesseans fighting for their homes.
          By the sound of the firing behind him, he wondered if his brigade would see any fighting at all. It was becoming unnerving. The Federal cavalry was definitely getting in their rear, and he began to wonder if they wouldn’t be forced to surrender without a fight. The firing in rear of their position soon stopped. He wished he knew what was happening.
          Suddenly, Thomas Smith’s world erupted in flame and smoke. Federal batteries to the west and north of the hill all opened fire at once. It felt as though they were concentrating their fire on Smith’s one brigade. It probably felt that way to everyone on the hill. With that much artillery being poured on this hill, it could only mean one thing—an infantry assault was coming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confederate General Killed by D.U.I.?

William Edwin Baldwin

Brigadier General William Edwin Baldwin

Confederate Brigadier General William Edwin Baldwin was born in 1827 in South Carolina. He moved with his family at an early age to Columbus, Mississippi and that is where he would call home. As an adult, Baldwin owned a book store and served in a local militia company. He served as an officer in that company for twelve years. 
When the Civil War began, he was made captain and the company became a part of the 14th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. The regiment was assigned to Pensacola, Florida where Baldwin became colonel commanding the regiment. He would soon be sent to Cumberland Gap and placed in charge of a brigade. 
From there he was sent to Fort Donelson, Tennessee where he was placed in command of a brigade of Tennessee and Mississippi Infantry. His brigade led the breakout attempt there and he was commended for his courageous leadership. He was surrendered there with the rest of the fort and held prisoner of war for six months. 
After being exchanged, Baldwin was promoted to brigadier general and sent to Mississippi. His brigade fought at the Battle of Port Gibson. During the siege of Vicksburg, Baldwin was wounded, but was soon back in command of his men. When Pemberton approached all his officers looking for support in surrendering his command, he received approval from all but one man. That man was William Baldwin who voted to hold out to the last man. 
Baldwin was exchanged and sent to Mobile where he took command of a garrison of sixteen-hundred men. It was here that Baldwin would meet an early death. Although, many disagree as to what happened, we know that he died from a fall from his horse. It was reported that a stirrup broke and the fall resulted in his death. 
As with all of history things are a little murky. Rumors were soon being spread that Baldwin had been intoxicated and riding his horse at high speed when he fell from the saddle. Many believe the story was changed to a broken stirrup in an attempt to save the man’s reputation. 
Regardless of whether the rumors are true or not, William Edwin Baldwin was a brave officer and hero of the Civil War. Everyone makes mistakes and this should have no impact on the man’s war record. 
William Edwin Baldwin was 36 years old. Initially buried in Mobile, he would be re-interred in Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi where he rests today. 

Resting place of General Baldwin

Sunday, July 31, 2011

William Booth Taliaferro: The man who couldn't destroy a Stonewall

William Booth Taliaferro

William Booth Taliaferro (pronounced Tah-liver), was born in 1822 in Virginia.  The man came from a very prominent family.  He was the nephew of James A. Seddon, who would become a Confederate Secretary of War.  He earned a degree at William and Mary College and then attended Harvard Law School.  He would work as an attorney until the Mexican War began.  He then joined the Eleventh United States Infantry where he was made a captain.  He would eventually be promoted to major before he was mustered out following the war.  Taliaferro would then serve in the Virginia House of Delegates and became a major general in the Virginia State Militia.  

When the Civil War began, Taliaferro would be made colonel of the Twenty-third Virginia Infantry Regiment.  The unit would see action at Rich Mountain and Corrick's Ford under Robert S. Garnett (Garnett would be the first general killed during the war at Corrick's Ford).  He was soon commanding a brigade consisting of Georgia, Arkansas and Virginia Infantry.  His subordinates hated him because he was a very strict disciplinarian.  He was assaulted by a drunken Georgia soldier under his command on one occasion.  

A young Taliaferro before the war

He also proved to be a thorn in the side of his superiors.  He and William Loring petitioned Richmond to remove "Stonewall" Jackson from command in January of 1862.  Though they both failed, Taliaferro was promoted to brigadier general.  Jackson protested the promotion, but at the same time appreciated Taliaferro's devotion to discipline.  Though neither man liked the other personally, they managed to serve together during the Valley Campaign and Seven Days battle's around Richmond.  

At Cedar Mountain, when General Charles Winder was killed, Jackson gave Taliaferro  command of the division.  He would command the division at the Battle of Groveton where he would be severely wounded.  The man would be absent recovering for three months.  He again commanded the division at the Battle of Fredericksburg where they were held in reserve, yet still suffered a slight wound.  Taliaferro felt he had earned a promotion to major general by this point.  He became frustrated thinking Jackson was blocking his promotion.  He would ask and be granted a transfer, both men happy to be rid of the other.  

Another wartime view of Taliaferro

Taliaferro was sent to General Beauregard in Charleston, South Carolina.  Beauregard placed the man in command of Battery Wagner, a sand fort located on Morris Island.  Taliaferro and his thirteen hundred man command endured a week of heavy shelling from Federal gunboats.  Following the bombardment, over 5,000 Federal infantry assaulted the fort.  The assault would fail, the Union army losing over 1400 men including Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, while Taliaferro's force lost less than 200.  

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Colonel Shaw was the son of a prominent Boston family and led the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Colored Infantry.  The Confederate government considered leading black troops against Southern forces to be inciting servile insurrection.  Also, during that time in American history, it was a disgrace for a white man to be buried in the same area as a black man.  When Shaw's father wrote the Confederate commanders at Charleston a request for the body of his son, the reply was, "We buried him with his niggers."  It is still argued today who exactly replied to Shaw's father. Some say it was Taliaferro, others claim it was General Trappier, while still others claim it was an unnamed Confederate major.  Regardless, it was meant as an insult.

Battery Wagner would never fall, despite being bombarded for another sixty days, it would eventually be abandoned for lack of supplies.  A month following the battle, Beauregard removed Talaiferro from command at Battery Wagner and placed him in command of an infantry division on James Island.  He would command a division for the remainder of the war, but saw very little actual fighting.  His command would be surrendered by Joseph E. Johnston to Sherman on May 2, 1865.  He would never receive his longed for promotion to major general.

After the war, Taliaferro would return to the Virginia State Legislature and serve as a judge.  He served on the boards of William and Mary College and the Virginia Military Institute.  William Booth Taliaferro would die in 1898 at the age of 75.  He rests today in Ware Church Cemetery, Gloucester, Virginia.  Who knows what he may have become had he not undermined "Stonewall" Jackson during the first year of the war.  

Taliaferro's resting place

Sunday, July 24, 2011

John Decatur Barry: The man who destroyed a stone wall

John Decatur Barry

       John Decatur Barry was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1839. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and was working as a banker when the war began. He was a member of a local militia company that became Company I, Eighteenth North Carolina Infantry. 
       The regiment spent the first part of the war in North Carolina. In April, 1862 the company was reorganized and Barry was made a captain. The regiment was sent to Robert E. Lee's army the next month and fought during the Seven Days battles where they took heavy casualties. Barry himself was seriously wounded at Frayser's Farm. It is believed he wasn't able to return to the army until September. He would enter Maryland with Lee's army where he was commended for his gallantry and bravery and awarded with a promotion to major. Barry would see action at Fredericksburg in December. 
       The low point of Barry's career would occur at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863. After Stonewall Jackson's successful attack on the Federal right flank, the Eighteenth North Carolina was called up from reserve for night operations. A group of horsemen came riding toward the fresh regiment. Barry, thinking it was Federal cavalry ordered his men to open fire. Despite the yells from the riders that they were friends, Barry thinking it was a trick ordered them to fire again. Because of this order, John Decatur Barry had mortally wounded Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
       The battle had been severe on the officer corps of the Eighteenth North Carolina. Out of thirteen field officers, only Barry was unhurt. He had moved from private to colonel in just over a year. He would lead the regiment in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg and during the Mine Run Campaign. Because of his actions during the Battle of the Wilderness, Barry's commanding officer recommended he be promoted to brigadier. He also saw heavy action at Spotsylvania. 
       When Brigadier General James Lane was wounded at Cold Harbor, Barry took command of the brigade. He would see his first major action in command of a brigade at the Weldon Railroad. General Lee asked Davis to promote Barry to brigadier general in command of Lane's brigade. He would never lead the brigade in battle once he was promoted. While scouting the Federal lines at Deep Bottom, a Federal sharpshooter shot the newly appointed brigadier in the hand which caused him to lose two fingers and remain out of action for the rest of the year. Lee was forced to ask the war department to cancel the promotion which it did. 

Barry as a major

       He would return to duty and again command the brigade in early 1865, but was soon transferred back to North Carolina. After the war he became a newspaper editor. Just two years after the war, Barry would die in Wilmington, North Carolina at the age of twenty-six. The man was noted for his bravery. He rests today in Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery. 
       It was said that he returned from the war with his health broken, but his friends told a different story about the man's early death. It was said that Barry felt responsible for Stonewall's death and couldn't live with the fact that he may have cost the Confederacy the war that night at Chancellorsville. His friends often said that John Decatur Barry died of a broken heart.

John Decatur Barry's grave

The inscription reads, "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant."
This is in reference to his rise from private to general.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fought Like Hell: William Barksdale

William Barksdale

       William Barksdale was born in 1821 in Tennessee.  His father had served in the War of 1812.  He moved to Columbus, Mississippi, became a lawyer and editor.  He was a captain in the Mexican War and proved himself to be an excellent commander.  
       Returning from the Mexican War a hero, he was elected to the United States Congress where he served until Mississippi left the Union.  He had never supported secession, but stated that he would join Mississippi if it should secede because the South had borne the burdens of maintaining the Federal government. 
       He began the Civil War as Colonel of the 13th Mississippi Infantry.   At the battle of First Manassas, he and members of his regiment stumbled into a nest of angry yellow jackets, their only action in that battle.  He was almost court-martialed for drunkenness, but promised to abstain from liquor for the duration of the war.    
       When Brigadier General Richard Griffith was killed at Savage's Station, Barksdale was promoted to Brigadier General.   McLaws had recommended him for promotion after witnessing him leading his brigades charge with the Confederate battle flag at Malvern Hill.  He missed Second Manassas, but fought at the Battle of Antietam.
       His best day of the war came at Fredricksburg in December 1862.  His brigade was assigned to defend Federal river crossings into town.  He sent General Robert E. Lee a message, asking him if he wanted a bridge of dead Yankees.  Once the Federal troops forded the river, Barksdale and his men fought an excellent rearguard action through the streets of town to the heights where Lee's main army was entrenched.  He defended the stonewall at Fredericksburg during the Battle of Chancellorsville, helping to secure Lee's right flank.  Heavily outnumbered they were pushed out of the way, but managed to move into the enemy's rear after he passed by to assault Lee and helped to save the day. 

No uniformed photo of Barksdale exists (all are pre-war)

       Barksdale and his brigade arrived at Gettysburg just after midnight on July 2, 1863.  They formed on the right flank the next day which mean they would be assaulting the Peach Orchard.  Beyond the Peach Orchard was the Trostle House where the Ninth Massachusetts Artillery was located.  The Federal battery was shelling Barksdale's men furiously.  Barksdale begged his division commander Lafayette McLaws and corps commander James Longstreet for permission to charge the little battery.  Both instructed him to wait.  Barksdale begged Longstreet to just give him five minutes and he would take those cannons.  Longstreet told him that they would all be going in shortly. 
       William Barksdale then called all his brigade's officers for a conference.  He stated, "The line in front must be broken.  To do so, let every officer and man animate his comrades by his personal presence in the front line."
       Barksdale was on a white horse and positioned himself just behind his line in the center of his brigade.  When the message from McLaws reached Barksdale to advance, the man's face radiated with joy.  He held his hat in his hand and his long white hair waved behind him.  He instructed his men that they would advance to within seventy-five yards of the Federal battery, halt, fire and then charge with the bayonet.  He then spurred his horse fifty yards in front of his brigade to lead them.  Advancing toward the Trostle house, Barksdale's brigade captured fifty men and General Graham.  He expertly maneuvered his brigade across the road.  When two of his colonels begged him to stop and reform, he refused.  Barksdale yelled, "We've got them on the run! Move your regiments!"

Area where Barksdale was wounded

       He then shouted for his men to charge. He yelled, "Advance! Advance! Brave Mississippians, one more charge and the day is ours!"
       Leading his men forward, William Barksdale was hit nine times by rifle fire.  Legend has it that a Federal captain ordered his entire company to fire at the mounted officer.  He told one of his couriers, "Tell my wife I am killed, but we fought like hell."
       Barksdale's brigade would enter the battle with 1,420 men and lose 730 men killed, wounded or missing.  His brigade broke the Federal line, overran the artillery battery, but just wasn't strong enough to hold the ground they'd won.  Captured, Barksdale was carried to the Hummelbaugh house.  He told surgeons there that Hancock had better watch his back because Pete (James Longstreet's nickname) would have a surprise for him in the morning. 

Hummelbaugh house and backyard

       He told the Federal soldiers who captured him that he had never regretted the choices he'd made and prayed that God would be a father to his boys and care for his wife.  General Barksdale survived until the next day when he was seen lying in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house.  A young boy was there dipping water into his mouth, while the general burning with a fever, oblivious to the boy's presence was begging for water.  Federal soldiers raided his body for souvenirs.  They cut the buttons, collar insignia and gold lace from his uniform.  He was buried in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house.
       Before the war was over, Misses Barksdale traveled to Gettysburg to retrieve the body of her husband.  She took William's dog along.  When they reached the grave where Barksdale was buried, the dog began to act peculiar.  When they began digging, the dog began to behave irrationally.  Once the body was removed and placed in the wagon, the dog could not be coaxed away from the grave.  Misses Barksdale spent the night in Gettysburg and before leaving the next morning attempted once more to take the dog home.  Still the dog would allow no one to approach the old grave.  Barksdale's wife was forced to leave the dog in Gettysburg and return home to Mississippi.  The dog refused to leave his masters old grave site and within a week died of dehydration.  Barksdale's dog now rests in the original grave of William Barksdale, somewhere in the backyard of the Hummelbaugh house at Gettysburg. 
       Local legend states that Barksdale's voice can still be heard there begging for water and at other times his dog can still be heard howling mournfully for his lost master. 

Barksdale's Grave

       William Barksdale was one of the most aggressive general's who served during the Civil War.  He was described as being fearless.  I have an uncle and several cousins who fought under his command during the war.  Some survived to return home, while a few did not. 
       General Barksdale rests today in Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, Mississippi.  He was forty-one years old.   It was inevitable that a general possessing his personality would be killed in battle.  The most amazing thing was that he lasted as long as he did.