Sunday, March 29, 2015

Virginia Trip, My Buddy Jerry on Facebook, Excerpt From Upcoming Book

My Buddy Jerry with his twin brother V.M.I. Superintendent Francis Smith

       Lately, I've been giving my Virginia Civil Wargasm a lot of thought. That was a great trip and now I want to take Jerry, Mel, and my wife to Gettysburg. I've had the honor of visiting that battlefield twice. Like Franklin, Tennessee, it's one of my favorite fields. Although, the "what ifs" of that battle have been blown out of proportion, it's still fun for a Southerner to stand there and think of them.
       By the way, my buddy Jerry Smith is now on facebook and probably needs some friends, especially if you're a "good ole rebel." Very few people know this, but I've also rewritten my very first book which I think was poorly written. The first time is always the toughest, and I believe I've gotten better as I go. I thought it would be cool to use an excerpt here from the book that actually happened to a great Confederate officer from Louisiana named Roberdeau Chatham Wheat. The following comes from my upcoming book entitled Like A Stonewall

       Major Roberdeau Wheat, commander of the Louisiana Tigers walked up, gave a half hearted salute and gave Evans a rough pat on the back. The man was a giant at six feet, four inches. He weighted two hundred and seventy-five pounds. Wheat was an imposing man. He had be be to control his troops. The Louisiana Tigers were composed of ex-cons, dock workers, and some of the roughest Irishmen in the country. It took a man like Wheat to instill discipline on a group of that nature. The entire regiment wore the colorful zouve uniforms made famous by the French army. The majority of them had shaved their heads except for a small spot in the back that they pig-tail.
          His men were sunburned and muscular from hard labor on the docks of New Orleans. They were impressive looking men dressed in bright red shirts, blue and white striped baggy breeches, white gaiters, and the red fez. The fez was invented by Africans and adopted by the French while stationed in Morocco.
          Wheat's tigers loved the attention they receive from all the women. One Richmond journal has labeled them the most dangerous soldiers to ever march to a field of battle. That remained to be seen. They carried brass knuckles and bowie knives. Two of their officers have already fought a duel with each other and three privates have died from accidents.
          Evans figured he'd gotten command of the tigers because like them, he too was considered a bit rough around the edges. Evans liked Wheat. The man was quite jolly, never in a bad mood, always entertaining to be around. He seemed a bit immature for his thirty-five years. He's spent his life seeking adventure. Boredom was the one thing that would make Wheat sad. Wheat had  said he'd fought in the Mexican War for the pure pleasure of it. This war was just another adventure he'd embarked upon.
          Just two years younger than Evans, he looked and acted a lot younger. Evans thought of him as a boy, a huge boy. Wheat had a round face with a thin dark mustache. He was heavy, but not fat. His fingers reminded Evans of fat round sausages.

Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat

Excerpt from the next time we meet Wheat in the book:

       “Take your tigers and charge the center of the Federal line,” Evans shouted as he pointed toward the Union position.
          “You got it,” Wheat yelled back. He turned and gave orders for his battalion to move forward across the field into what every one of them knew was close quarters combat.
          Evans watched the giant lead his men forward. They gave a yell as they began to charge. He watched them begin in the right direction, but they soon changed direction and moved toward the Federal artillery. It wasn't what he'd asked for. He couldn't believe his eyes. A large portion of his men threw down their weapons and charged with Bowie knives drawn. He watched them get within twenty-five yards of the enemy artillery pieces. Evans was in awe of his brave men who were fearless enough to charge enemy cannons with only knives drawn. Deep down, he knew they couldn't succeed. Men began to fall at every step from the combined artillery and infantry fire.
          The most conspicuous figure among the group was Major Roberdeau Wheat. The gentle giant was in front of his men shouting and waving his sword. At that moment, something caught Evans eye. Another Federal regiment was coming onto the field already in line of battle. He watched them lower their muskets and open fire on Wheat's battalion. Just as quickly as Wheat's charge had begun, it was over. He saw the Louisiana Tigers disappear in a cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared, many of the fancy dressed men were on the ground. The survivors were racing back toward Evans main line. Major Wheat lay on the ground with his men.

Jerry and I at the grave of Major Roberdeau Wheat in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia

Another excerpt for Wheat:

       The bullet had struck Roberdeau Wheat below the armpit, traveled through both lungs and exited his side. Two men attempted to carry the huge man toward the rear, but it was useless. He just weighed too much. One of the men recruited two more men and they placed Wheat in a blanket. It was all four men could do to lift the giant off the ground, but they were determined to get him to a surgeon. They weren't about to allow their brave commander to fall into Federal hands.
          Wheat coughed and blood ran down his clean shaven chin. They approached a split rail fence. Wheat gasped, “You may as well leave me here.”
          “Not gonna do it, Sir.” One of the men mumbled as he strained with the great weight.
          Another man nearby with a slight wound to his forearm moved over and said, “Better let me help.”
          They eased the blanket on the ground. The five of them took his arms, legs, while the other supported his head. They struggled to get him over the fence. Once across they placed him back on the blanket and struggled down the gentle rise toward the stream. Once over the stream, the real struggle began. They would have to lug the man over another fence and up Henry Hill. About half way up the hill they eased the blanket to the ground and collapsed around him in exhaustion.
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A Pre-War photograph of Major Wheat

       As the surgeon began his inspection, Wheat coughed up more blood and asked, “How bad is it?”
          The surgeon cut Wheat's shirt away and found the entry hole. He reached around on the other side and found where the bullet had exited his body. Shot through both lungs, the surgeon understood that Roberdeau Wheat had seen his last battle. There was just no way he could possibly survive such a wound. He frowned and said, “It's damned bad. I'm just gonna be honest with you. Your wound is mortal. You need to make your peace with God before it's too late.”
          Wheat smiled. Well, I don't feel like dying just yet.”
          The surgeon was surprised at the lightness of Wheat's mood at such ghastly news. He believed the major was just too afraid to face the truth. He said, “There is no case on record of anyone with such a wound having survived. I'm sorry, Major.”

          Wheat attempted to laugh, but coughed up more blood. He said, “Then, Doc, I will put my case on record.”

You will also notice that it hasn't been to the editor yet. So does Wheat survive the tragic wound? Does he survive the war? I guess I could be ugly and make everyone wait on the book, but all you'd have to do is search Wikipedia. So here is the final excerpt pertaining to Roberdeau Wheat:

       Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat who had been told he couldn't possibly survive being shot through both lungs did indeed put his case on record. Sadly, he would return to his command and be killed during the Battle of Gaines’ Mill almost a year later at the age of 36. He rests today in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, which is considered the Arlington of the Confederacy. 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

James Conner: The General and His Unlucky Leg

Brigadier General James Conner

       James Conner was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1829. He became a lawyer and began his practice in 1852. He soon became a United States Attorney and tried a case involving the illegal slave trade. Like most in South Carolina, James was a secessionist. When the war began, he became a captain under Wade Hampton in the Hampton Legion. Sent to Virginia, he soon had a minor dispute with fellow officer and future Confederate general Matthew Butler. The two seemed to be advancing together against Union forces, when Butler attempted to get all the credit for a victory and moved too quickly allowing the Federals to escape. 
       At the Battle of Manassas, when Hampton and other commanders were wounded, Conner took over the Legion and following the battle was promoted to major. In the spring of 1862, he was made colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry that needed an experienced commander. At the Battle of Mechanicsville, a bullet struck him in the leg and broke a bone. He was out of action for two years because of the ugliness of the wound. During that time he served on various military courts. 
       On June 1, 1864, Conner was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Samuel McGowan's South Carolina brigade. He was still not fit for extreme field service, so Lee assigned him to Chaffin's Bluff. He then proceeded as part of Kershaw's Division to participate in Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Just a few days before the Battle of Cedar Creek, a shell fragment struck him in his "unlucky leg." The shrapnel passed through Conner's knee and shattered the bone. This time the limb would be amputated close to his hip. Thus ended the war for Brigadier General James Conner. 

The only other known wartime photograph of James Conner

       Conner would return to his law practice following the war. Had injury not kept him from so much of the war, he may have become one of the great generals we read of today. James Conner was a friend of both Robert E. Lee and Pierre Beauregard. He would die in Richmond, Virginia in 1883 at the age of 53. He died of bronchitis. His wife Sallie would outlive him by 44 years, dying in 1928. James Conner rests today in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, the city of his birth.

Sallie <i>Enders</i> Conner

Sallie Enders the wife of James Conner

A photograph of Sallie sometime before her death

James Conner

Graves of both James and Sallie Conner


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Argument Over Black Confederate Soldiers

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Confederate soldiers

       I'm by no means what you would call a Neo-Confederate. I don't attempt to rewrite history the way a lot of Southerners and Northerners do. I just study history and attempt to call it like I see it without bias. I have had numerous discussions with supposed "historians" online who refuse to do the same. These discussions always have the same context, people calling themselves historians who are very closed minded about that time period. The problem begins when someone looks at the 1800's through modern eyes. 
       First, let me say this, I do not condone slavery, I truly believe it was an evil thing. However, it was legal at the time. These modern eyed historians believe the war was fought over something that was legalized by the American government. Now a Neo-Confederate believes the war would have happened had slavery not been involved. That also is a ridiculous statement. Yet, there was more to that war than just black and white, good versus evil, there were lots of gray areas, plenty of good and evil on both sides. These modern day historians refuse to believe that money had anything to do with the war. They ignore other problems the nation had at the time besides slavery. It doesn't fit into their perfect American government ideals. They went to school as children and were brainwashed with the old stories of how our founding fathers and leaders never sin, etc, and they refuse to believe any differently. 
       Now, for their theory to work, they have to believe that the black race would never have supported the Confederacy. So they convince themselves that there were no black Confederate soldiers. Let's take a look at what I have learned in about five minutes of research and see what I've uncovered. 

Negro Confederate pickets

The above drawing appeared in Harper's Weekly (A New York paper) in 1863 showing black Confederate pickets on guard duty as seen through a Federal officers field glasses during the war

       It's true that the Confederate government didn't recognize black soldiers, yet there are many incidents to show that blacks served the army. One "historian" argued with me that they were merely cooks, valets, and therefore not soldiers. I used to work with a guy that is a Vietnam veteran, he was a cook during the conflict, but this "historian" considers him a soldier. Why? Because the Vietnam veteran has a piece of paper that states he was a soldier. You see here how people twist things to suit their own agenda. 
       Just how bad was it to be a slave during that time period? I did a conversion of what a thousand dollars (what a healthy slave cost in 1860) and it comes to 29,500 dollars in today's money. We've all seen the Hollywood movies (and we all know that movies never lie about history) of white slave owners beating and mistreating their slaves. There were without a doubt some mean slave owners just like there are bad husbands, fathers, and mothers today, but most people that spend that kind of money will not abuse what they've bought, but take good care of it. 
       The best way to learn what being a slave was like at the time is from the mouth of the enemy. United States Colonel John  Beatty commanding the Third Ohio Infantry was posted in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and observed: "The poor whites are as poor as rot, and the rich are very rich. There is no substantial well-to-do middle class. The slaves are, in fact, the middle class here. They are not considered so good, of course, as their masters, but a great deal better than the white trash…The women sport flounces and the men canes…all are slaves.”
       Later, during the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River for you Yankee's) we learn that Confederate Brigadier General St. John Liddell had a black bugler. Private John Berry of the Eighth Arkansas Infantry describes an incident with captured Federal soldiers: "Passing through the yard of a nice farmhouse, we captured some of the Federal outposts, who pleaded for mercy. General Liddell swore at them, telling them they were fine fellows, invading our country and then asking pardon. Old Jake, the bugler, whacked one of them over the head with his saber, saying, with an oath, 'You youst get home, den.'"
       Another argument from the "historians" against black troops serving the Confederacy is that black men weren't allowed to carry weapons. Old Jake evidently was allowed to carry a saber. There is also the incident involving a black guard named Ben who carried a rifle. Ben was placed by Confederate Brigadier General William Mahone to guard surplus rations. When a white soldier approached and attempted to steal rations, Ben ordered him to halt. He ignored the command, so Ben fractured his skull with the rifle, killing the white Confederate soldier. The soldier's friends wanted to kill Ben, but General Mahone took up for Ben. In 1928, an amendment was added so that black Confederate's could collect a military pension. 
       Another black soldier is listed as fighting under Confederate Brigadier General James Holt Clanton at Greensport, Alabama. The black soldier named Griffin approached General Clanton and asked, "Where is Marse Batt?" Clanton pointed toward the Federal lines and said, "He is there dead." Griffin charged and recovered the white Confederate's body amid severe Federal fire. When he returned to Clanton's position, Clanton asked, "Is he dead?" Griffin replied, "I don't know. My mammy was his nurse and I'm older than he is. I promised to take care of him and bring him to her. I'm carrying him home now."
       There was also the incident of a black man named Sam that went to Shiloh with his white best friend named Billy Patton. Sam was owned by Billy's father George Patton (who became governor of Alabama following the war). When Billy was killed during the first days fighting, Sam refused to leave the field without Billy's body. Sam found Billy's body and brought him all the way from Shiloh to Corinth and then back to Florence, Alabama. One story says that the Confederate army took the horse away from Sam in Corinth and Sam was forced to carry Billy's body home himself. Either way, Sam was treated as a hero for the remainder of his life by the Patton family. 
       There is a video on youtube of an ex black Confederate who says he's been to all the reunions of Confederate soldiers and has been treated the same as any other soldier. 

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A black Confederate soldier at a reunion

       Here is a small list of Black Confederate soldiers that I have found with minimal trouble. 

Griffin, First Alabama Cavalry, referred to as a soldier.

Dan Robertson, Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry, fifer owned by the Lagrange Military Institute. 

Henry Adcock , John Brown, Alley Newton (cook), John Pride, Tom Pride, Anthony Steward, all of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and all free men. 

Bill King (cook), Reuben Battle, Bob Battle, all of the 20th Tennessee Infantry, all free men. 

Brunton Alexander, Sampson Alley, Harris Bruington, Jeff Bruington, Jo Bruington, Lafayett Bruington, Vincent Bruington, William Burgess, John Cummings, James Farley, James Fields, William Gibson, John Hale, James Harris, Rufus Harris, William Albans Harris, all of the 25th Tennessee Infantry and all free men. 

Adam (cook), Lewis (cook), Solomon (cook) of the 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Adam and Lewis were slaves, Solomon was free.

Ben (guard) of the 16th Virginia Infantry, armed with a rifle. 

       Let the record speak for itself, although all those "historians" that refuse to believe the obvious will continue to ignore the evidence. It will not fit into their perfect little world of the holy north against the evil south. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stephen Elliott, Jr: The Artillery Officer Turned General of Infantry

Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr.

       Stephen Elliott, Jr. was born in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1830. He attended Harvard, but withdrew before completing his studies. Prior to the war, he was a planter, politician, and captain of an artillery militia battery. His battery helped in the taking of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war. He then began his service protecting Charleston Harbor. He was wounded in the leg while in command of Fort Beauregard while defending Port Royal, South Carolina. The wound was a result of a rifled cannon exploding upon the thirty-second shot of the battle. A fragment from the barrel struck him in the leg. Luckily for Elliott it was a slight wound. Elliott also led his command to victory at the Battle of Pocataligo near Yemassee, South Carolina. 
       Elliott was soon recommended for promotion by both William S. Walker and Robert E. Lee. Lee described Elliott as "one of the best officers in the Department...he exhibited intelligence, boldness, and sagacity." As a result he was promoted to major of artillery. Elliott led his command in several raids and even captured Federal boats. 
       He returned to Charleston in 1863 and served under General Beauregard there. Beauregard was thoroughly impressed with Elliott and placed him in command of Fort Sumter. Elliott strengthened the fort and as a result, the structure withstood 19,000 Federal artillery rounds being hurled against it. Elliott would be forced to take a leave of seventeen days when a powder magazine exploded in the fort wounding him in both the head and ankle. His head wound healed rather quickly, but his ankle gave him trouble for some time. Elliott soon became a Confederate hero for his actions at Fort Sumter. Beauregard immediately recommended him for promotion. 

Fort Sumter under Confederate control

       Elliott was soon sent to guard the Weldon Railroad just below Petersburg, Virginia. The regiment he commanded was a part of William S. Walker's brigade. Walker had been Elliott's commander back in South Carolina early in the war when they fought around Port Royal. When Walker accidentally rode into Federal lines, was wounded, and captured, Elliott was promoted to brigadier general on the recommendation of General Beauregard again. He would see action at Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg. 
       The most difficult day of the war for Elliott would occur on June 30, 1864 having been a general officer just over a month. Burnside's IX Corps occupied the trenches across from Elliott's brigade and had some Pennsylvania coal miners in his command. They dug a tunnel beneath a position known as Elliott's Salient. Inside the small earthen fort was the 18th, 20th South Carolina Infantry, and a four gun battery commanded by Captain Richard Pegram. Most of these commands would be destroyed when the powder filled mine exploded. 

Me and my buddy Jerry standing at the entrance to the mine

Me standing across the crater for scale

       Stephen Elliott reacted quickly by leading a counterattack against the Federal troops who charged into the huge hole left in the ground. He was wounded by a bullet striking him in the chest and passing through his left lung. He was carried to the rear, the wound believed to be mortal. Elliott's father and wife came to see him in Petersburg before his death. Soon, doctors realized that Elliott was going to survive and although his left arm was partially paralyzed, he obtained a furlough. He was unable to return to command for several months. 
       Elliott would recover in time to participate in the last battle under Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, North Carolina. During this battle, he was wounded in the arm and his old Petersburg wound was reopened. Elliott was home on furlough when the army surrendered. With the finally over, Elliott planned to return to politics. Unfortunately, the doctors had been correct when they had called his Petersburg wound fatal. His health shattered, he died on February 21, 1866 in Aiken, South Carolina. He rests today in Saint Helena's Episcopal Churchyard in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was 35 years old. Most historians agree that Elliott would have made a name for himself to rival Wade Hampton and others had he spent the entire war in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee himself appreciated Elliott's leadership. 

Stephen Elliott, Jr

Resting place of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

Another view of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cullen Andrews Battle: A Man of Duty

Only known wartime photograph of Battle taken after August of 1863

       Cullen Andrews Battle was born in Powelton, Georgia in 1829. The son of a doctor, he moved with his family to Eufaula, Alabama at the age of seven. He graduated from the University of Alabama and studied law under John Gill Shorter. Shorter would become the governor of Alabama during the Civil War. Battle would become a lawyer and because of his eloquent speech would enter politics. He was a close friend of William Lowndes Yancey and became a strong secessionist. 
       When the war began, Battle became major of the 3rd Alabama Infantry. the regiment was sent to Virginia. Before seeing any action, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the unit. The regiment's colonel Tennent Lomax was killed at Seven Pines. Battle was slightly wounded in the same engagement, but was promoted to colonel. He led the 3rd Alabama at South Mountain and Sharpsburg. He was slightly wounded at both places, entering a hospital for only one day following Sharpsburg. His old law mentor, Governor Shorter had been campaigning hard behind the scenes for Battle's promotion. Shorter stated that Battle's gallantry was notorious within the army. 
       He would see only limited action during the Chancellorsville Campaign. In April of 1863, his horse reared and fell with him into a ditch injuring him severely. Two days later, while jumping another ditch, his back was wrenched badly on horseback. He was riding in an ambulance during the Chancellorsville Campaign. He performed well at Gettysburg, despite the fact that he was part of Edward O'Neal's disjointed assault. O'Neal was passed over for brigadier general and Battle was promoted on August 20, 1863. He would be absent November and December of that year with chronic bronchitis. 
       During the Overland Campaign, he led his brigade capably, but his best service would come in the Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 under Lieutenant General Jubal Early. He fought hard at Winchester and again at Cedar Creek. At the later battle, he was shot in the left knee, causing serious injury to the kneecap. Although the leg would be saved, he would get around on crutches for years. He would not recover in time to return to the war. 
       Following the war, he would again practice law, then move to North Carolina and edit a newspaper. He also became mayor of New Bern, North Carolina. He would die in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1905 of sepsis. He was 75 years old. He rests today in Virginia's second largest cemetery, Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia. Battle was called a man of duty. His memoirs were published called Third Alabama: The Civil War Memoirs of Brigadier General Cullen Andrews Battle, CSA.

Cullen Andrews Battle

Grave of Cullen Andrews Battle