Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Ghost of Thomas Cobb

Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb

       The very first blog I wrote was on Thomas R.R. Cobb. I wrote about the conspiracy theory surrounding his death. Some said he was killed by artillery shrapnel, others say a bullet, and yet another claimed it was friendly fire. Recently, I have learned of another Cobb story.
       Thomas Cobb built his house in 1830. In 1850 he added octagonal wings. It was still on its original site in 1984, when the city decided it needed to be torn down. The house was in a state of disrepair. The home was then moved to Stone Mountain Park where it was to be restored. The restoration never occurred. In 2004, a non-profit organization had it brought back to Athens and restored to its original condition. It opened for tours in 2007. 

Cobb House today in Athens, Georgia

       The present staff have some very strange stories to tell about the place. According to them, two priests have visited the home and asked who the ghost is. Both priests said they saw a man dressed in gray descend the stairs and walk into General Cobb's library where he stood by the fireplace. They also tell a story of some newspapers catching fire in the house while no one was there. The papers were found the next morning completely burned, but none of the house was touched. One of the priests said that the house was being protected by Cobb. 
       The staff also claims to hear footsteps and a little girl laughing when there are no visitors in the home. The Cobb's had three children die inside the home. The staff believes the girl laughing is one of Cobb's deceased children. There is also an armoire that belonged to General Cobb. The doors on the cabinet are very difficult to open. Often times the staff will arrive in the morning to find the doors wide open. The staff believes Cobb's spirit is there looking for something.
       There is a part of this story I find a bit difficult to believe. According to the priests and the staff, General Cobb's ghost is benevolent and appreciates what is occurring at his old home. I've studied Confederate Generals all my life and there is one thing that is certain. In life, General Cobb was not a benevolent person. The man had a violent temper and often seemed paranoid. During the war he constantly complained about his superiors. He didn't agree with Davis's policy and even labelled Robert E. Lee as being haughty and crude. 
       Maybe Cobb haunts his old home place. If I'm ever in Athens, Georgia, I would like to tour the house. Regardless, if ghosts are real, it would be a man like Thomas Cobb who would have a restless spirit. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Battle of Franklin by James R. Knight

The Battle of Franklin

       If your interested in the Battle of Franklin then I strongly suggest this book by James R. Knight. Mr. Knight is a volunteer at the Carter House Museum in Franklin, Tennessee. I purchased my book while there almost two years ago. Mr. Knight is very friendly and signed my book while I was there. He is a retired pilot who flew DC-10's for Federal Express.
       I remember asking him if his book was as good as Eric Jacobson's book on the Battle of Franklin and he very humbly replied that it wasn't. The next time I was at the Carter House I saw James again. He didn't remember me, but I walked up and told him I was upset with him because he had lied to me. I think he realized I was pulling his leg. He asked me what had he done. I reminded him of what he had told me about his book and informed him that his book was as good as Eric's. He then thanked me. 
       Truthfully, there is no book more informative on the Battle of Franklin than Eric Jacobson's For Cause and Comrades. Eric is the historian at the Carnton Plantation which is also located in Franklin. That is not to say that James book isn't also a great read. I found a few stories and anecdotes that weren't in Eric's book. I strongly recommend both books if your a big fan of the battle.

James R. Knight

       Mr. Knight's book is written as part of a series, whereas Eric's book is written from lifelong study. You would expect his book to be more in depth. If you don't have the time to read a long book with lots of detail, I would recommend James' book. If your like me and devour everything you can on the Civil War, then I would buy them both.
       He also has a book out on the Battle of Fort Donelson that I haven't purchased yet. Next time  I'm in Franklin, I plan on stopping in and seeing James and have him autograph a copy for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

James Edward Rains: Knightly Soul

James Edward Rains

       James Edward Rains was born on April 10, 1833 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father was a Methodist minister. He spent his youth making saddle tack in his fathers saddle shop. He attended college at Yale and graduated in 1854. He then studied law and became the associate editor of the Daily Republican Banner under future Confederate Brigadier General Feliz Kirk Zollicoffer. 
       Rains became an attorney in Nashville in 1858. He soon married Ida Yeatman and they had a daughter in 1859. Though opposed to secession, Rains joined a company in Nashville when the war began and was quickly elected lieutenant. It wasn't long before he was made a Captain and then colonel of the 11th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. 
       The ladies of Nashville presented the regiment with a nice flag before they departed. Colonel Rains made a short speech in which he promised they would bring the flag back or not come back at all. Rains and his regiment would see most of their action in east Tennessee serving around Cumberland Gap. He would soon be promoted to Brigadier General by President Jefferson Davis.
       They were attached to Bragg's army following the Kentucky invasion in 1862. He would fight on the extreme left flank on the opening day of the Battle of Murfreesboro. Their job was to sweep north and then turn right toward the pike and cut off Rosecrans' supply line to Nashville. 

Rains in Confederate Uniform

       One soldier noted how the sounds of cannon and rifle fire seemed to inspire General Rains as ballroom music to a dance lover. He led his brigade forward and made the right wheel. They ran into stiff resistance in a cedar thicket. Colonel Vance latter reported that this was the worst fire they would encounter all day. The brigade suffered from intense artillery and infantry fire. 
       General Rains was out front leading his men forward. He shouted, Forward, my brave men, forward!" At that moment a bullet struck him in the chest, pierced his heart and he fell dead. One of his men stated that Rains was pierced by a bullet that sent that knightly soul back to the God who gave it. 
       The brigade soon ran out of ammunition and was forced to fall back. The pike was never taken. One soldier wrote that they watched a long black casket being carried back to Murfreesboro which contained General Rains remains. He talked about what a gloom it cast on the army. Most men believed that James Edward Rains was worth a thousand men in battle. 
       Soon after the battle, a minister approached Rosecrans about carrying Rains body back through Federal lines to be buried in his home town at Nashville. Rosecrans allowed the body to be carried back, but refused the fallen officer to be buried with military honors. 

Grave of James Edward Rains

       Today, General James Edward Rains rests in Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery. He was twenty-nine years old. His daughter was only three at the time of his death. He is still remembered as a knightly soul. Prior to the war, there was nothing in Rains life to make one believe he would make such a great military leader. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Confederate flag and religion

What does this flag have to do with religion?

       I recently recieved a paper from a friend that talked about the Confederate Battle Flag and Saint Andrew's Cross. So I wanted to study Saint Andrew and try and understand why his cross was picked for the Confederate Battle Flag.
       Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. Both were fishermen and when Jesus approached the two men, he told them to follow him and he would make them ‘fishers of men’. We know that Andrew preached the gospel of Christ in Romania and parts of Russia.
       Andrew was crucified in Greece at a very old age, some say he was ninety years old. Like his brother, Andrew didn’t feel that he deserved to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus. Peter asked to be crucified upside down. Andrew asked to be crucified on an ‘X shaped’ cross. His wish was granted.
        In 1964, the pope sent back all the parts of Andrew to be kept by the Greek Orthodox Church in the city where he was crucified. These parts included a part of his skull, a small finger and parts of his cross. The rest of Andrew’s remains are in a tomb in Italy.
       According to legend, in 832 when the Scots were going into battle against the Angles, the Scottish leader said a prayer and stated in that prayer that he would appoint Saint Andrew the Patron Saint of Scotland if his army was victorious. Just before entering the battle, white clouds were observed making a Saint Andrew’s Cross in the blue sky. The Scots saw it as a sign of victory from God. Although badly outnumbered, the Scots won the battle.

Flag of Scotland

       The present day flag of Scotland has a blue background with a white ‘X’ on top. The background represents the sky and the ‘X’ represents the clouds.

Spanish Military Flag

       Spain also used a flag based on Saint Andrew’s Cross a couple of centuries ago. They also still use that emblem on many of their military patches. The Soviet Union still uses the cross on many of their military flags because Andrew preached there.

Naval Ensign of Russia

       It wasn’t by accident that the Confederate government used the same cross in it’s battle flag. Over 75% of the people in the South had a Celtic background and Saint Andrew’s Cross was a religious symbol for those people. Because of this, the Confederate battle flag, though hated widely by people who misunderstand its meaning has come to be called the Southern Cross by the people who respect it. The following are more Confederate Flags with religious symbols attached to them.

3rd Kentucky Infantry Flag

Major General Dabney Maury's Headquarters Flag

Missouri State Battle Flag

Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk's Headquarters Flag

Dept. of East Tennessee Flag and Scottish Flag

Alabama State Flag and Saint Andrew's Flag
(Ironically this flag has been protested as looking too much like the Confederate Battle Flag)

Florida State Flag
(Florida claims the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with this, it's Spanish in origin)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bragg's Light

General Braxton Bragg

       Braxton Bragg was born in Warrenton, North Carolina in 1817. His father was a carpenter and many people in Warrenton looked down on Bragg's family because they were middle-class. He was often teased as a child because of the rumor that his mother had killed a free black man. Rumors were also circulated that Braxton Bragg had been born in prison because of this. Braxton often spoke of his father throughout his life, but never made mention of his mother. 
       Bragg's father secured his son an appointment to West Point and the young officer graduated fifth in the class of 1837 and secured a commission in the artillery. Bragg saw action in the Seminole War, but became a hero in the Mexican War. Upon his return from Mexico to his hometown of Warrenton, the citizens presented him with a sword and cheered his heroism. Many have speculated how Bragg might have felt being cheered by the very people who had made his childhood life so miserable. 
       Braxton wasn't loved by his men. He was known to be a strict disciplinarian and while in Mexico, one of his men tried to kill him by rolling a lit cannonball under his cot. The cot was destroyed by the blast, but Bragg escaped without injury. Ulysses Grant loved to tell a story about the time on the frontier when Bragg was post commander and quartermaster. Bragg had gotten into an argument with himself over supplies. When he notified his immediate superior of the problem, his commander had remarked, "My God, Mister Bragg, you have argued with everyone in the army and now your arguing with yourself!"

       Braxton made a trip to Louisiana where he met Eliza Brooks Ellis. She was the daughter of a rich sugar planter and the two soon fell in love. Bragg tried to take Eliza to the frontier with him, but things didn't work out. She had been raised on a plantation where she had everything a girl could possibly want. On the frontier, the living conditions were rather rough. She soon protested. Braxton tried to please his wife by asking Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to have his artillery battery assigned to Louisiana. When Davis refused, Bragg resigned his commission and moved to Thibodaux, Louisiana with his young bride. 
       He then bought a sugar plantation which consisted of 1,600 acres and 105 slaves. Bragg wasn't a cruel master, but he ran his plantation like a military unit. It didn't take long before Bragg started showing a profit. 
       When the Civil War began, Bragg was commissioned a major general. He would become one of the most controversial generals of the war. He first saw action at Shiloh leading a corps. After Shiloh, when Beauregard fell out of favor with President Davis, Bragg was promoted to general and given command of the Army of Tennessee. He proved to be a great organizer, though not a great military leader. 
       Kirby Smith would talk him into invading Kentucky. Bragg's first major battle as army commander would occur at Perryville. Bragg had pushed the Federal army back almost a mile by the time the first day was over. He then realized he faced a much larger enemy force than he had initially believed. Kirby Smith begged Bragg to stay and fight and Braxton promised he would, only to retreat during the night. 
       At Murfreesboro, he surprised the Federal army under General Rosecrans and bent it back like a hair pin. He failed to destroy Rosecrans' army or cut off their supply line and therefore ordered a retreat. By this point of his career, his subordinates were growing frustrated with his lack of leadership. 
       At the Battle of Chickamauga, Bragg won the greatest victory of the war for the Confederate army in the west. He failed to believe the enemy forces were defeated and refused to pursue. Once he finally realized he had won it was too late. He then went on a head hunting mission with his subordinates. He fought with Bedford Forrest, got rid of Hindman and D.H. Hill, then sent Longstreet to Knoxville which further weakened his army. Although his men had lost confidence in him, Davis kept him in command. 
       When the Federal army struck his force at Chattanooga and caused his army to practically break he offered to resign. The man was truly surprised when Davis accepted his resignation. Davis then made Bragg his military advisor. It wouldn't be the last field command for Braxton Bragg though. At the end of the war, Davis placed Bragg in command of Wilmington, North Carolina. He also bungled this assignment by not taking the Federal force serious. He had a major disagreement with General William Whiting and as a result, Fort Fisher fell and Whiting was mortally wounded. 
       Bragg's life began to spiral downward after the loss. Robert E. Lee was placed in command of all Confederate forces which cost Bragg his job as military advisor. One of his enemies, John C. Breckinridge was made Secretary of War. President Davis felt sorry for his friend and attempted to transfer him to Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi command. The politicians in the west wanted no part of Bragg and that plan fell apart. 
       During the Carolina's Campaign, Davis made Bragg a corps commander under Joseph E. Johnston. He would again make major mistakes at the Battle of Bentonville and Johnston would never forgive the man. 
       After the war, Bragg was broke, his plantation had been confiscated by the Federal government. His friend Jefferson Davis was made president of a life insurance company. Davis offered him a job as an insurance agent. He worked there over a year before becoming frustrated with the low pay and a job he believed was below him. He then went to work as an engineer for the city of Mobile. He soon got into an argument with his superiors and quit that job. He then moved to Texas where he became chief engineer for a railroad. Within a year he got into an argument with the board of directors and then resigned. 
       In September of 1876, Bragg was walking down a Galveston street with a friend (if you can believe he had one), when he collapsed on the sidewalk in front of a drug store. He was carried into the drug store where he was pronounced dead within ten minutes. Braxton Bragg was 59 years old. The cause of death has been listed as heart disease, but we will probably never know for sure. He rests today in Mobile's Magnolia Cemetery. 

Bragg's grave in Mobile, Alabama

       It is only fitting that a man as controversial as Braxton Bragg would leave behind some sort of unexplained legacy. The spot on the street at Galveston where Bragg collapsed has been the sight of some unexplained phenomena. There is a ghost light that appears there from time to time over the years. The locals have nicknamed it 'Bragg's Light'. I have attempted to locate the exact spot where this occurs for this blog, but haven't been able to find it online. I have written a guy who gives ghost tours in Galveston, Texas, but he never replied. Maybe I can update this mystery later. One has to wonder if the light appears as a result of this controversial commander arguing with himself over which direction he should go to spend eternity.