American Civil War
Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army,
Strange army of ragged individualists,
The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals,
The unmachined, the men come out of the ground,
Still for the most part, living close to the ground
As the roots of the cow-pea, the roots of the jessamine,
The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels,
The rebels against the steel combustion-chamber
Of the half-born new age of engines and metal hands.
The fighters who fought for themselves in the old clan-fashion.
Army of planters’ sons and rusty poor-whites,
Where one man came to war with a haircloth trunk
Full of fine shirts and a body-servant to mend them,
And another came with a rifle used at King’s Mountain
And nothing else but his pants and his sun-cracked hands,
Aristo-democracy armed with a forlorn hope,
Where a scholar turned the leaves of an Arabic grammar
By the campfire-glow, and a drawling mountaineer
Told dirty stories old as the bawdy world,
Where one of Lee’s sons worked a gun with the Rockbridge Battery
And two were cavalry generals. Continue reading
When writing about the Civil War I always marvel that it did not inflict mortal harm on this Republic. That it did not do so, was because many good men and women, on both sides after the War, lived up to the prophetic words of Lincoln, uttered at the end of his First Inaugural Address:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
This was all put nicely in a conversation that Douglas Southall Freeman, the great Civil War historian, had with his father Walker Freeman, a Confederate veteran who had served in the Army of Northern Virginia, while Douglas was writing his magisterial four volume R.E. Lee. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The New York Volunteer sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. New York supplied more troops to the Union than any other state. Some 400-460,000 New Yorkers wore Union blue during the War in 27 regiments of Cavalry, 3 regiments of United States Colored Troops, 15 regiments of artillery, 8 engineer regiments and an astounding 248 infantry regiments. The New York Volunteers took a back seat to men from no other state in the Union in providing manpower to win the War.
Dr. Mary Walker was a woman of firsts. Born in 1832, she taught school to earn the money necessary to attend Syracuse Medical College. Graduating in 1855 she opened up a joint medical practice with her husband and fellow medical student Albert Miller. At the outset of the War she served as a nurse with the Army of the Potomac as there was no allowance made for female Army surgeons. Nothing daunted, she served as an unpaid and unofficial surgeon at Fredericksburg and Chattanooga. Having an adventurous spirit she unsuccessfully applied to be a spy for the Union in 1862. Finally she obtained employment as contracting acting surgeon with the Army of the Cumberland in September 1863, the first woman in US military history to serve as an Army surgeon.
She served as assistant surgeon with the 52nd Ohio. She would frequently cross battle lines to aid civilians. On April 10, 1864 she was arrested by Confederate troops as a spy. She was transported to Richmond and held there until August 12, 1864 when she was exchanged. She served as a surgeon during the battle of Atlanta. The quality of her service may be judged by the efforts of General Sherman and General Thomas, the commander of the Army of the Cumberland, to have her awarded the Medal of Honor. Their efforts were crowned with success in 1865 when she became the first and, so far, only woman to earn this honor. Continue reading
There is nothing new in adding color to Civil War era photographs. Even during the War photographs would occasionally have tint supplied. However, up until now the resulting products did not look like modern color photography. Until now is the operative phrase:
Jordan J. Lloyd, a colorist for Dynamichrome, a digital image-restoration agency, brings old photos back to life, from grainy, glass-plate originals to high-resolution JPEGs. For the following images, Llyod researched extensively the Civil War era, down to the shoulder marks of commanders. He cleaned up scratches and blemishes and corrected for light exposure to restore the images to their original condition.
Lloyd then applied multiple layers of color to the original, much like highlighting an image with a colored pencil. The more layers piled on, the more realistic the photo becomes, Lloyd says. Extra layers reveal a slight flush in the subjects’ faces, sharpen reflections, and add gleam to metals in the scene. Continue reading
In the never ending effort of the Obama administration to see just how absurd they can be over the fake government shutdown, they have attempted to close down the Gettysburg battlefield. I say attempted because a lot of tourists are engaging in civil disobedience and touring the battlefield, playing catch me if you can with National Park Service Rangers. Go here to read all about it.
This of course is all part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Obama administration:
A U.S. park ranger, who did not wish to be identified, told FoxNews.com that supervisors within the National Park Service overruled plans to deal with the budget cuts in a way that would have had minimal impact on the public. Instead, the source said, park staff were told to cancel special events and cut “interpretation services” — the talks, tours and other education services provided by local park rangers.
Instead of feeling pain the public has had a glimpse into just how mean, petty and spiteful the gangsters currently in power in the White House can be.
These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.
Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858
The things you find while wandering the Internet! Here is a pastoral letter on Abraham Lincoln written in 2009 on the bicentennial of his birth by Bishop W. Francis Malooly, Wilmington Diocese:
MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY IN THE 21ST CENTURY: REMEMBERING PRESIDENT LINCOLN ON THE BICENTENNIAL OF HIS BIRTH 1
A Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Wilmington by Bishop W. Francis Malooly
Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago today. Lincoln was not a Catholic. Nor was he a member of any organized denomination and his religious views are in many ways obscure. Some aspects of his legacy are still controversial almost 150 years after his death. Yet, by any measure Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s greatest statesmen and his speeches and writings contain some of the most profound thinking relating to religion that have been produced in this nation. Moreover, in his life we can see many of the classic Christian virtues; virtues that are as relevant today as they ever were in the past; virtues that help explain why Lincoln’s legacy is so large.
Before turning to Lincoln, himself, though, it is useful to first consider another statesman whose life reflects those virtues. In 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saint Thomas More to be the patron of statesmen and politicians: “There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life. Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing…His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue.”2
My predecessor, Bishop Michael Saltarelli, inspired by Pope John Paul II’s proclamation, issued in September 2004 his Litany of Saint Thomas More, Martyr and Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers which concludes with the prayer: “Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life – the foundation of all other human rights.”3 With this Litany, Bishop Saltarelli emphasized that it is important for each of us to remember politicians and public servants daily in our prayers. He also placed the Diocese of Wilmington at the forefront of efforts to foster and promote devotion to Saint Thomas More. As G.K. Chesterton so prophetically stated in 1929 “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.”4
I followed Bishop Saltarelli’s lead this fall when I reissued the Litany and asked every parish to pray it at the end of every Mass in the Diocese the weekend of October 25-26, 2008.5
Saint Thomas More and Abraham Lincoln were two very different men, living in different countries and separated by centuries. Nevertheless, they shared the view that public service required them to pursue the public good rather than their own personal ends, even to the point that they put their lives at risk-and ultimately died-in that pursuit. Indeed, Lincoln and St. Thomas shared many virtues-virtues that are key to effective public service. In Lincoln’s life, Catholics and non-Catholics alike can see so many dimensions of the beatitudes, the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) lived vibrantly. We can see through the lens of Abraham Lincoln so many of the lessons that were taught in the life of Saint Thomas More – that virtue in the life of the politician extends to both their public and their private lives, that magnanimity and charity lead to solid decisions in moments of crisis and confusion, and that governance is above all, an exercise in virtue. Continue reading
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was an irascible and cantankerous man who didn’t suffer fools, or anyone else for that matter, gladly. He was often a pain to be around. However he more than made up for his lack of people skills, with driving energy, imagination and tenacity. These characteristics all came into play in the wake of the Union defeat at Chickamauga.
On the night of September 23, 1863 he went to the White House and took the drastic step of summoning the President from his bed to attend a hurried council of war. Stanton proposed to dispatch to Chattanooga from the Army of the Potomac the XI and XII corps, some 20,000 men. Lincoln was dubious that the troops, having to travel some 1200 miles by rail, would arrive in time to aid Rosecrans. Stanton came prepared for this objection. Present at the meeting was Colonel D.C. McCallum, head of the Department of Military Railroads, who, at Stanton’s prompting, promised that the troops could be shipped in a week, and vouched for it with his life. Lincoln, reassured, agreed to the plan. The expedition was to be commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac given another opportunity to play a major role in the War. Continue reading
On Saturday night, September 21, 2013, I was master of ceremonies at a performance of “Visiting the Lincolns” performed by Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller in Dwight, Illinois. The performance was masterful. Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller have been performing as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln since the mid-nineties and they gave a highly polished two person play. The audience was very much a part of the play, as the premise of the play is that the members of the audience are unexpected visitors at the White House who appear just before the Lincolns on Good Friday 1865 are due to leave to attend a play at Ford’s Theater.
The play is a mixture of comedy and drama as the Lincolns deal with the task of attempting to entertain their unexpected guests. Mrs. Lincoln serves lemon juice and cookies as she and Mr. Lincoln discuss their courtship, and their sorrow over the deaths of their sons Eddie and Willie, as well as Emancipation, the War and the other events that made the Civil War an unforgettable crossroads in American history. Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller demonstrate both the bickering, that the Lincolns did on occasion historically, and their deep love for each other. The play is enlivened with some of Lincoln’s stories and constant interaction between the Lincolns and the audience. One of the more dramatic episodes occurs when Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln are reading amusing dispatches from Union generals and criticizing the incompetence that was often a hallmark of Union high command, when Mrs. Lincoln lightheartedly begins reading Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, not realizing that the letter consoled a mother for the loss of her five sons, and the reading awakens Mary’s constant grief over the loss of her two sons. It made the dramatic hallmark for the evening. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The immortal Johnny Cash singing a medley of We Are Coming Father Abraham, The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie at Ford’s Theater in 1979. Continue reading
An intelligent observer of the American Civil War in early September of 1863 would have reached certain conclusions about the War thus far:
1. The Union was losing the War in the East. After many spectacular battles and huge casualties, the battle lines in Virginia remained much the same as they had early in the War: the Union controlled the northern third of the Old Dominion state and the South controlled the Southern two-thirds. A stalemate of more than two years duration favored the Confederacy.
2. The War in the trans-Mississippi was a side show that could be ignored.
3. In the West, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, the Union was clearly winning, with control of the Mississippi wrested from the Confederacy, with New Orleans and large sections of Louisiana controlled by the Union, and with Tennessee largely under Union control.
4. The northern Presidential election in 1864 would probably prove decisive. If Lincoln could make progress in the East and continue to win in the West he would likely be re-elected. If the Confederacy could maintain the stalemate in the East and reverse the Union momentum in the West, or at least slow it to a crawl, Lincoln would be defeated and the Confederacy would win its independence.
General Braxton Bragg, the irascible commander of the Army of Tennessee, clearly understood that the Confederacy could not continue losing in the West, and that is why he rolled the iron dice of war at Chickamauga in a desperate attempt to stop the offensive of Major General William Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland. Bragg proved fortunate, and his hard luck army gave the Confederacy one of its great victories, and the chance to change the whole course of the War.
Below is the passage on Chickamauga from the memoir of John B. Gordon, who during the war rose from Captain to Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia. Gordon did not fight at Chickamauga, but his wonderfully colorful account of the battle, ground he was familiar with from being reared there in his childhood, written with his usual entertaining purple prose, captures well the facts of the battle, and how this victory was treasured by the South, even as its benefits to the Confederacy were ultimately thrown away due to a lack of pursuit and the desultory, and unsuccessful, siege of Chattanooga. Continue reading
I beg in behalf of this army that the War Department may not overlook so great an event because it is not written in letters of blood.
Major General William Rosecrans to Secretary of War Stanton after the completion of the Tullahoma Campaign.
Mention Gettysburg and almost all Americans will recall that it was a battle fought during the Civil War. Mention the Tullahoma campaign, and almost all Americans will give a blank stare. A pity, because the almost bloodless campaign demonstrates one of the finest pieces of generalship to be found in the War.
After the battle of Murfreesboro in December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863, the two opposing armies seemed to go into suspended animation for a period of half a year. Bragg withdrew his Army of Tennessee to 30 miles south of Murfreesboro at Tullahoma, Tennessee and contented himself with observing Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland and awaiting events. Rosecrans seemed content to stay in Murfreesboro indefinitely, reinforcing and resupplying his army. Calls to remove Rosecrans became frequent, along with frequent entreaties for Rosecrans to attack Bragg. Rosecrans refused to move until he was ready. On June 23, 1863 he was ready.
Here is the account of the campaign written by Union Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert C. Kniffin in 1887 for The Century Magazine and which later appeared in Battles and Leaders. I admire both its conciseness and its accuracy: Continue reading
A near miraculous Confederate victory, and the most humiliating Union defeat of the Civil War, the Second Battle of Sabine Pass fought on September 8, 1863 indicates how badly a battle plan can go awry when confronted by a brave and determined foe.
In 1863 the Lincoln administration was eager to deter Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico from trading with the Confederacy. To accomplish this, Major General Nathaniel Banks ordered Major General William B. Franklin to lead an amphibious force up the Sabine River in Texas, capture Confederate Fort Griffith and occupy the town of Sabine Pass.
On September 8, 1863 Captain Frederick Crocker, United States Navy, steamed up the Sabine to attack Fort Griffith, his force consisting of four gunboats and eighteen transports, loaded with 5,000 Union troops. Opposing this armada were 46 Confederates with six cannon at Fort Griffith.
The Confederates were mainly Irish dock workers who had formed the Jeff Davis Guards at the beginning of the War. They were commanded by Lieutenant Richard, “Dick” , Dowling, who had immigrated to America from Ireland with his family as a small child. A successful owner of a chain of saloons before a war, Dowling now faced a military situation that would have alarmed any professional soldier. Continue reading
Visitors to Washington DC might be surprised at first to encounter a monument to nuns and sisters entitled Nuns of the Battlefield. It was erected by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in 1924 to honor the some 600 Catholic nuns and sisters who during the Civil War nursed soldiers on both sides. It bears this inscription:
THEY COMFORTED THE DYING, NURSED THE WOUNDED, CARRIED HOPE TOTHE IMPRISONED, GAVE IN HIS NAME A DRINK OF WATER TO THE THIRSTY
Anti-Catholic propaganda prior to the Civil War often focused on alleged lurid misdeeds involving nuns, the completely fictional account written by Maria Monk being a typical example, thus combining both bigotry and near pornography. A convent was burned by an anti-Catholic mob in 1834 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, their minds poisoned by just such allegations.
Nuns and sisters prior to the Civil War would not wear their habits outside of their convents for fear of insult or attack. Then, in the words of Lincoln, the war came.
Nuns on both sides swiftly volunteered to served as nurses, and they proved superb at this task. Mary Livermore, who served on the United States Sanitary Commission and who would later win fame as an early fighter for the rights of women, wrote this tribute after the War:
“I am neither a Catholic, nor an advocate of the monastic institutions of that church . . . But I can never forget my experience during the War of the Rebellion . . . Never did I meet these Catholic sisters in hospitals, on transports, or hospital steamers, without observing their devotion, faithfulness, and unobtrusiveness. They gave themselves no airs of superiority or holiness, shirked no duty, sought no easy place, bred no mischiefs. Sick and wounded men watched for their entrance into the wards at morning, and looked a regretful farewell when they departed at night.”
Soldiers were impressed both by the quality of the nursing they received from the nuns and their good cheer and kindness. Generations of bigotry melted away by the ministrations of these women of God. A Confederate chaplain recalled this incident between a soldier and a sister:
“Sister, is it true that you belong to the Catholic Church?”
“Yes, sir, it’s true. And that’s the source of the greatest happiness I have in this life.”
“Well, I declare. I’d never have suspected it. I’ve heard so many things . . . I thought Catholics were the worst people on earth.”
“I hope you don’t think so now.”
“Well, Sister . . . I’ll tell you. If you say you’re a Catholic, I’ll certainly have a better opinion of Catholics from now on.” Continue reading
The mascot of the Eighth Wisconsin infantry during the Civil War, Old Abe became a symbol of the Union war effort.
Born in 1861 the female bald eaglet was captured soon after birth by Ahgamahwegezhig (Chief Sky) a member of the Ojibwe tribe. Traded to Daniel McCann for a bushel of corn in the summer of 1861, he sold her to the Eau Claire Badgers a company of Union volunteer infantry for $2.50. Captain Perkins of the company named the bird Old Abe and a perch was made for her to stand on, and a soldier assigned to look after her. The Eau Claire Badgers became part of the Eighth Wisconsin and Old Abe became the regimental mascot.
Old Abe served with the regiment throughout the War and witnessed some thirty battles. During fighting she would spread her wings and shriek. Press coverage of her was extensive. Confederates referred to her as the Yankee Buzzard and placed bounties on her head.
A soldier wrote home after the battle of Corinth: Continue reading