Browsing "American Military Genius"

A Legendary American Sea Captain

There is a particular irony in a famed Confederate sea captain, who, in the immediate prewar times, was celebrated as a liberator of Africans taken from their home aboard New England slave ships, captained by New Englanders. In late 1865, John Newland Maffitt’s daughter Florie married Wilmingtonian and Lieutenant Joshua Grainger Wright of the First North Carolina Infantry, a veteran of Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before being seriously wounded. Wright was a postwar member of the United Confederate Veterans as well as the historic Cape Fear Club; he was buried on the last day of the nineteenth century, with Colonels John Lucas Cantwell and John Douglas Taylor among his pallbearers.

Lt. Joshua Grainger Wright was also one of the University of North Carolina’s “Class of ’61,” and who are honored by the “Silent Sam” monument on the Chapel Hill campus for their patriotism and service to the Old North State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Legendary American Sea Captain

“In 1858, Maffitt took command of the [USS] Dolphin and received orders from President [James] Buchanan to capture slave ships in the Bahama Channel, the Straits of Florida, the northwest coast of Cuba, and the Gulf of Mexico.

During his command of the Dolphin and, later, the Crusader, Captain Maffitt captured four slave ships. From one ship alone, he freed 500 naked blacks and treated in such a way that he won praise in the islands and in the States.

“The courtesy and commiseration of Captain Maffitt and the officers of the Crusader toward the captured Africans were a theme of particular commendation at Key West and Havana. In the course of this [antislavery] crusade, he had captured more slave ships and set free more enslaved Africans than any other officer of the United States Navy, or of any Navy.”

In 1861, after resigning from the United States Navy, he joined the Confederate forces as a lieutenant. His initial duty was as Engineering Officer to General Robert E. Lee [and by] 1862, Maffitt was running the blockade. He pierced the blockade many times with ships like the Florida, the Owl, the Lillian and the Florie, which was named for his “beautiful daughter,” Florence Maffitt.

Captain Maffitt . . . was promoted to Commander on April 29, 1863 “for gallant and meritorious conduct in running the blockade in and out of Mobile against an overwhelming force of the enemy and under his fire, and since in actively cruising against and destroying the enemy’s commerce.”

On the night Fort Fisher fell [January 15, 1865], Captain Maffitt was close to shore when fireworks began to go off all around him. Maffitt, seeing that the parties were aboard Union ships, quickly began to steal back unnoticed through the celebrating blockade; out to sea and then to the islands.”

(The Wrights of Wilmington, Susan Taylor Block, Wilmington Printing Company, 1992, excerpts pp. 96-100)

Lee the Specimen of True Manhood

The greatest of American military men, indeed a “cavalier, soldier and citizen, Robert E. Lee “effaced self, refused gifts and high place, overcame the bufferings of fate, and in defeat was as calm as in victory.” The author Robert Winston relates a story of a young girl whose father was a diplomat in Rome during the second reign of Grover Cleveland. After seeing a portrait of Lee on her father’s office wall, she asked why a picture of a rebel was so prominently displayed. “Ah, my child,” the father replied, “you are yet too young to understand but someday you will – and so will the world.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lee the Specimen of True Manhood

“During his imprisonment Jefferson Davis became a martyr for [the South] . . . Southerners saw in his imprisonment and the manacles and the other indignities a Christ-like figure suffering for their sins, and in the long years after his release. Davis’s struggle to regain his personal and financial fortunes mirrored those of all.

In 1870, when Lee died, [former vice president John] Breckinridge broke his resolution not to speak in public again by delivering a eulogy during memorial services in Louisville. “He failed,” the Kentuckian said of Lee. “The result is in the future. It may be better or for worse. We hope for the better.”

But failure alone did not define a man, or for that matter a cause. Lesser men often met with great worldly success, “but it is disaster alone that reveals the qualities of true greatness.”

While the world applauded those who erected memorials to their achievements, he thought there was another kind of triumph that went beyond the material and transient triumphs of men.

“Is not that man successful also who by his valor, moderation and courage, with all their associate virtues, presents to the world such a specimen of true manhood as his children and his children’s children will be proud to imitate?” he asked.

“In this sense he was not a failure.”

(An Honorable Defeat, the Last Days of the Confederate Government, William C. Davis, Harcourt, Inc., 2001, excerpt, pp. 396-397)

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

James D. Bulloch, born in Savannah and descended from Scottish forbears, was the foremost planner of naval affairs for the new American nation in 1861. His grandfather, Archibald Bulloch (1730-1777), guided Georgia’s Liberty Party in actions against oppressive British colonial measures and later served as a colonel in the Revolution. James remained in England after the war and died there in exile in 1901. It is said that Bulloch was encouraged to write his memoirs by nephew Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1880’s, which inspired Teddy’s later book on the War of 1812. Roosevelt praised his uncle and other Southern patriots for following their duty to fight for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

“In 1861 the disintegrating forces prevailed, and eleven of the Constituent Republics withdrew from the Union on the plea that the original conditions of Union had been broken by the others, and they formed a fresh confederation among themselves. The remaining States or Republics resisted that act of separation, and affirmed that the people of the whole United States were, or should be fused into, one nation, and that the division of the Union into States had, or should hereafter have, no greater political significance than the division of the several States into counties.

The Union of 1787 was dissolved in 1861 by the action of ten of the constituent republics. A new Union was formed in 1865 by the military power of the majority of States, compelling the minority to accept their view of the national compact. The former Union was a confederation of States, and was of course a Federal Republic; the latter Union is founded upon a fusion of the people into one nation, with a supreme centralized executive and administrative Government at Washington, and can no longer be called a Federal Republic; it has become an Imperial Republic.

The latter name gives some promise of greater strength and cohesion of the former, but the duration of the restored Union will depend very much on whether the people of the whole country fully realize, and are really reconciled to, the new dogma that each State is only an aggregate of counties, and that its political functions are only to consist in regulating such purely domestic concerns as the central authority in Washington may leave to its discretion.

If the majority who have effected the change in the conditions of the American Union are content to leave the management of public affairs to the professional politicians, the “caucuses,” and the “wire-pullers,” they will have fought in vain, and will find that to secure the semblance of a strictly national Union they have sacrificed the substance of individual liberty.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

Aug 6, 2017 - American Military Genius, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

Though Gen. Robert E. Lee trusted Joseph E. Johnston in command of all Southern forces in North Carolina in early 1865, his continued retreat in front of Sherman greatly alarmed Lee in Virginia, who wrote: “Should you be forced back in this direction [Richmond] both armies would certainly starve. You must judge what the probabilities will be of arresting Sherman by battle. A bold and unexpected attack might relieve us.”  The gallant stand of Gen. William J. Hardee’s former garrison troops at Averasboro in mid-March stopped Sherman’s advance for the first time since Atlanta, and renewed confidence in Southern arms followed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

“Sherman came on irresistibly – like Lord Cornwallis – North Carolinians were reminded. The feeling of dread, of terror, may have been comparable to the folk tales of their grandparents, but not the speed, the destructive power, the calamitous results. Compared to Sherman’s, Cornwallis’s invasion during the Revolution was child’s play.

Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, fell on February 17; Charleston, the following morning; Wilmington, on the twenty-second. Richmond had looked to Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard to coordinate defensive efforts and obstruct Sherman’s advance . . . [though he resorted] to heady 1861 rhetoric; concentrate 35,000 Confederates at Salisbury, North Carolina and fight Sherman there, “crush him, then to concentrate all forces against Grant, and then to march on Washington to dictate a peace.”

[Once Robert E. Lee was appointed] commander-in-chief of all Confederate armies . . . Lee turned to President Jefferson Davis and asked that Joseph E. Johnston be retrieved from oblivion. With greatest reluctance, Davis acquiesced [though concerned that the] General will not risk a battle unless he has all the chances in his favor.” Lee wired Johnston on February 22. “Concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.”

The controversial Johnston had worked a miracle before – when he gathered fragments of two defeated Confederate armies at Dalton, Georgia, in early 1864, and fashioned them into an effective fighting force that proceeded to frustrate Sherman’s heavier numbers and resources for three months.

Sherman’s strategy by the last week of February 1865 was becoming clear to the Confederates. He would continue to push through the Carolinas, up into Virginia, and there unite with Grant against Lee. Lee doubted that Sherman would move northwest via Charlotte . . . rather, Lee expected him to turn toward Goldsboro and the coast – to snap the vital [Wilmington &] Weldon railroad and unite with Schofield.

On February 24, Johnston went to Charlotte, assumed command from Beauregard, and immediately held a review. [The troops cheered the General] and this feeling of confidence in Johnston and enthusiasm over his return to command swept through the ranks and the officer’s corps of the Army of Tennessee. They loved the man. He could redeem them. They knew it.

Once [Johnston combined his disparate forces into one, he] would possess a sizable fore, admittedly less than half of Sherman’s numbers but sufficient to cause mischief, perhaps even to wound his adversary seriously. If Sherman’s army could be caught divided and fought in fractions, certainly before he united with [his other wing], there might be hope of checking, perhaps defeating, part of his force – an isolated column perhaps. Once this had been accomplished, other positive opportunities would present themselves.”

(Bentonville, The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston, Nathaniel C. Hughes, Jr., UNC Press, 1996, pp. 21-24)

Heroes for All Americans

The mid-1970s pardons of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were only symbolic gestures that had little impact beyond political posturing, though the outpouring of respect and veneration of these great American leaders showed an America still exhibiting historical perspective. This was the same era that historian Emil Eisenschiml revisited the long-overlooked plot of Edwin Stanton’s Radical Republican’s plotting Lincoln’s death.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heroes for All Americans

“In August 1975, President Gerald Ford signed Senate Joint Resolution 23 restoring full citizenship rights to Robert E. Lee. Three years later, President Jimmy Carter approved congressional action extending similar amnesty to Jefferson Davis.

A generation following Appomattox, “Marse Robert” had eclipsed all other Confederate rivals, becoming the region’s most celebrated hero. Theodore Roosevelt praised the Confederacy’s greatest general as a hero for all Americans. In the mid-1920s Congress heartily endorsed the refurbishing of the Custis-Lee mansion, naming the home a national shrine. Author Douglas Hall] Freeman painted a portrait of Lee as an individual beyond reproach in all respects of his public and private life.

After World War II . . . A host of symbolic measures indicated his status as a national hero: Virginia’s placement of a statue of the general in the Capitol building; the hanging of Lee’s portrait in the main reading room of the West Point Library; the christening of the nuclear-powered submarine the Robert E. Lee; and the opening of America’s centennial celebration of the Civil War with separate ceremonies at Grant’s and Lee’s tombs.

[The] intensity with which the general was venerated, especially in the South, made any criticism of him risky business. President Dwight Eisenhower learned this fact the hard way. In May, 1957, Ike visited the Gettysburg battlefield in the company of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. After their tour, the World War II heroes told reporters that both Meade and Lee deserved to be sacked for the errors they had committed at Gettysburg.

Senator Olin Johnson of South Carolina indignantly responded to Ike’s blasphemy” “It is offensive to my people to listen to a general who had at his disposal in his day the most wealth, men, materials of war, and the largest army, navy and air force in history, and hear him criticize a great Confederate general who, despite poverty, starvation, a ragged army, and practically no navy or munitions, managed to hold off and even invade the territory of the industrialized, wealthy, well-fed Yankees.”

Senator Harry Byrd, Sr. of Virginia . . . observed that “Lee needs no defense . . . his glorious record, his noble character, and his moral leadership give him a place in world history that no one can impair.” An editorial in the Washington Evening Star called the president’s post-tour comments a major setback for Republican efforts to woo votes in Dixie . . . “

[Senator Hubert] Humphrey of Minnesota melodramatically seconded a pardon: “I know I am what one would call a Yankee, but I am more than that: I am an American. One great American was Robert E. Lee.”

Shortly after Carter’s election, Senator Mark Hatfield [of Oregon] introduced in the Senate a bill “to restore Posthumously Citizenship to Jefferson F. Davis.” In lengthy remarks, Hatfield [stated that] the Confederate leader was “an honest public servant of principle the like of which is all too rare in these days when expedience is more ardently practiced than conviction defended.” Hatfield claimed that his resolution would “correct a grave injustice inflicted upon Davis by a vindictive conqueror.”

(Reconstruction in the Wake of Vietnam; The Pardoning of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, Francis MacDonnell, Civil War History, Vol. XL, 1994, Kent State University Press, excerpts, pp. 127-130)

A Splendid Body of American Soldiers

After fighting Sherman’s army of invaders to a standstill with one-quarter of their strength, Joe Johnston’s revived Army of Tennessee marched in review and under the gaze of the assembled North Carolina citizens. Gen. Thomas L. Clingman of North Carolina, exhorted his chief to allow his men to fight the invading host to the last, surpass the Greeks and gain everlasting immortality.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Splendid Body of American Soldiers

“After the battle of Bentonville, General [Joseph E.] Johnston retired his army to Smithfield, where he remained confronting [the enemy] for three weeks. While here General Johnston held a review 6 April, at which many ladies and civilians of Raleigh, including Governor Vance and officers of the State and Confederate Government were present. The army presented a fine appearance and the men were in excellent spirits.

There were in this army remnants of commands who under Albert Sidney Johnston won the first day’s battle of Shiloh, and nearly annihilated Grant’s army. Men who under Bragg, had won the battles of Murfreesboro and Chickamauga, and under Johnston had confronted Sherman from Dalton to Atlanta; the men who under Hood, had been in the disastrous battle of Franklin; who had followed [Generals Nathan Bedford] Forrest and [Joe] Wheeler and [Wade] Hampton and had successfully defended Fort Sumter for four years against the combined land and sea forces of the United States, and the brigades of [General Robert F.] Hoke’s Division, who had won endearing renown in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Here also were assembled those regiments of Junior Reserves, who under Colonels Hinsdale, Anderson, Broadfoot and Walter Clark emulated the heroism of their veteran comrades, and who on the battlefields of Kinston and Bentonville had shown they were of the same [mettle] as their sires and deserving of imperishable record in the history of their country.

It was a splendid body of American soldiers; survivors of a hundred battlefields; and as they marched proudly in review before their General, they were conscious of duty nobly done and nerved for any future service that might be required of them in defense of their country.

General Clingman visited his brigade while in camp at Smithfield, and though on crutches, asked of General Johnston the honor of commanding the rear guard. This was denied him, as he was physically unable to perform such duty, and he addressed the Southern commander as follows:

“Sir, much has been said about dying in the last ditch. You have left with you here thirty thousand of as brave men as the sun ever shone upon. Let us take our stand here and fight the two armies of Grant and Sherman to the end, and thus show to the world how far we can surpass the Thermopylae of the Greeks.”

(Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65, Walter Clark, editor, Volume IV, Nash Brothers, 1901, excerpt, pp. 498-499)

May 7, 2017 - American Military Genius, Memorials to the Past, Southern Conservatives, Southern Patriots, Southern Statesmen, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on A Soldier and Statesman Who Served His State

A Soldier and Statesman Who Served His State

At the unveiling of Jefferson Davis’ bronze figure in Statuary Hall, Hon. Pat Harrison spoke: “Few men in the history of the Nation rendered more signal service for the country in peace or in war than did Davis. He is not among strangers . . . Over there are clay, Webster, Benton, Cass and Calhoun, his idol, with whom he served in the Senate of the United States.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Soldier and Statesman Who Served His State

An impressive scene was that in Statuary Hall of the Capitol at Washington, on June 2 [1931], when the State of Mississippi presented to the nation the bronze figure of her adopted son, Jefferson Davis, soldier and statesman.

As the cord holding the huge United States flag about the statue was drawn by Miss Adele Hayes-Davis, great grand-daughter of Jefferson Davis, another son of Mississippi, Hon. Pat Harrison, stepped to the front and delivered an eloquent tribute to the man who had served his State and nation in high places, yet had died without a country.

Fitting indeed that he should be now be known and recognized for that high service, as he has stood for long in the love and esteem of his people of the South, so now he stands in the Nation’s Valhalla of those who gave it greatest service. Of high character and blameless life, no more distinguished citizen of Mississippi could have been thus honored, and few there be who will feel but that Jefferson Davis has at last come into his own.

Commenting upon the feeling that would have been aroused by the placing of this statue in the Capitol some years back, the Boston Transcript concludes in a lengthy editorial: “The name of Jefferson Davis is justly revered in the South today, and there is no reason why it should not be honored in the North.”

In his address, Edgar S. Wilson, of Mississippi – who was a pallbearer at the Davis funeral in New Orleans – recounted scenes in the last days of Mr. Davis, “particularly when the Mississippi legislature called him before it to demonstrate to him the love and affection of the people of the State, although he walked among them a disenfranchised man.”

(In the Nation’s Capitol, Confederate Veteran Magazine, July 1931, excerpt, page 244)

 

The True Story of the Late War

Northern General Don Piatt was a prewar Ohio lawyer who was critical of Lincoln, whom he believed a skeptic, believing only what he saw, and possessing a low estimate of human nature. Piatt believed the latter blinded Lincoln to the South as Southerners valued honor and were determined to achieve political liberty and independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The True Story of the Late War

“[James] Madison said: “A Union of States with such an ingredient as coercion would seem to provide for its own destruction.”

It certainly would provide for the destruction of the principles of liberty itself. Looked at in the lurid light of the [18]60’s, one expression in the above letter of President Madison will make the reader pause and reflect a moment. The “feeble debility of the South could never face the vigorous activity of the North.”

The Republican Party had inherited from its progenitor, the Federal [Party], the above idea of the South’s feeble debility. Members of that party invited United States Senators and Congressmen to take their wives and daughters out to see the first fight of the war, especially to “see rebels run at the sight of Union soldiers.” Everybody knows how the rebels ran at Bull Run.

Republican officers of the Union army have expressed their opinion of the South’s “feeble debility.” General Don Piatt, a Union officer, on this subject has this:

“The true story of the late war,” wrote General Piatt in 1887, “has not yet been told. It probably never will be told. It is not flattering to our people; unpalatable truths seldom find their way into history. How rebels fought the world will never know; for two years they kept an army in the field that girt their borders with a fire that shriveled our forces as they marched in, like tissue paper in a flame. Southern people were animated by a feeling that the word fanaticism feebly expresses. (Love of liberty expresses it.)

For two years this feeling held those rebels to a conflict in which they were invincible. The North poured out its noble soldiery by the thousands, and they fought well, but their broken columns and thinned lines drifted back upon our capital, with nothing but shameful disasters to tell of the dead, the dying, the lost colors and the captured artillery. Grant’s road from the Rapidan to Richmond was marked by a highway of human bones. The Northern army had more killed than the Confederate Generals had in command.”

“We can lose five men to their one and win,” said Grant. The men of the South, half-starved, unsheltered, in rags, shoeless, yet Grant’s marches from the Rapidan to Richmond left dead behind him more men than the Confederates had in the field!

The Reverend H.W. Beecher preached a sermon in his church on the “Price of Liberty” . . . [and] astonished his congregation by illustrations from the South:

”Where,” exclaimed the preacher, “shall we find such heroic self-denial, such upbearing under every physical discomfort, such patience in poverty, in distress, in absolute want, as we find in the Southern army? They fight better in a bad cause than you do in a good one; they fight better for a passion than you do for a sentiment. They fight well and bear up under trouble nobly, they suffer and never complain, they go in rags and never rebel, they are in earnest for their liberty, they believe in it, and if they can they mean to get it.”

“Lincoln’s low estimate of humanity,” says Piatt, “blinded him to the South. He could not understand that men would fight for an idea. He thought the South’s [independence] movement a sort of political game of bluff.”

Hannibal Hamlin said: “The South will have to come to us for arms, and come without money to pay for them.” “And for coffins,” said John P. Hale, with a laugh. “To put a regiment in the field,” said Mr. Speaker Banks, “costs more than the entire income of an entire Southern State.”

It was not long before the men of the North found that the South’s soldiers supplied themselves with arms and clothing captured from Union soldiers.”

(Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, George Edmunds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 117-119)

Brave Deeds Worthy of Harp and Poet

Gen. Jubal Early was held in high esteem by Stonewall Jackson, in whose army the former commanded a division. General Robert E. Lee greatly valued Early as a subordinate commander and tolerated Early’s cursing in his presence. “Old Jube” had an opportunity to capture Washington late in the war, and rather than submit to subjugation at war’s end decided on temporary exile in Canada via Havana. The home he occupied at Niagara-on-the-Lake across from Fort Niagara still stands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Brave Deeds Worthy of the Harp and Poet

“It was my fortune to participate in most of the military operations in which the army in Virginia was engaged both before and after General Lee assumed the command. My operations and my campaign stand on their own merits.

I believe that the world has never produced a body of men superior, in courage, patriotism and endurance, to the private soldiers of the Confederate armies. I have repeatedly seen those soldiers submit, with cheerfulness, to privations and hardships which would appear to be almost incredible; and the wild cheers of our brave men, when their thin lines were sent back opposing hosts of Federal troops, staggering, reeling and flying, have often thrilled every fiber in my heart.

I have seen, with my own eyes, ragged, barefooted, and hungry, Confederate soldiers perform deeds which, if performed in days of yore by mailed warriors in glittering armor, would have inspired the harp of the minstrel and the pen of the poet.

Having been a witness of and participant in great events, I have given a statement of what I saw and did, for the use of the future historian. Having had some means of judging, I will say that, in my opinion, both Mr. [Jefferson] Davis and General Lee, in their respective spheres, did all for the success of our cause which it was possible for mortal men to do and it is a great privilege and comfort for me so to believe. In regard to my own services, I have the consciousness of having done my duty to my country, to the very best of my ability.

During the war, slavery was used as a catch-word to arouse the passions of a fanatical mob, and to some extent the prejudices of the civilized world were excited against us; but the war was not made on our part for slavery.

High dignitaries in both church and state in Old England, and puritans in New England, had participated in the profits of a trade by which the ignorant and barbarous natives of Africa were brought from that country and sold into slavery in the American Colonies.

The generation in the Southern States which defended their country in the late war, found amongst them, in a civilized and Christianized condition, 4,000,000 of the descendants of those degraded Africans. Nevertheless, the struggle made by the people of the South was not for the institution of slavery, but for the inestimable right of self-government, against the domination of a fanatical faction at the North; and slavery was the mere occasion of the development of the antagonism between the two sections. That right of self-government has been lost, and slavery violently abolished.

When the passions and infatuations of the day shall have been dissipated by time, and all the results of the late war shall have passed into irrevocable history, the future chronicler of that history will have a most important duty to perform, and posterity, while poring over its pages, will be lost in wonder at the follies and crimes committed in this generation.”

(Gen. Jubal A. Early: Narrative of the War Between the States, Jubal A. Early, Da Capo Press, 1989 (original 1912), excerpts, pp. viii-x)

 

Feb 5, 2017 - American Military Genius, Memorials to the Past, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Passing of a Creole Hero

The Passing of a Creole Hero

General Pierre G.T. Beaurgard is said to have been an enigma “for after the war he helped to destroy the old agrarian way and to build the New — the industrial — South.” Said also to have been a good general rather than a great one, his masterful defense of Charleston and Petersburg against staggering odds are a testament to his tactical abilities, though the independent field command he craved eluded his grasp. His egotistical mind and tongue warred continuously with fellow generals and political leaders of the Confederacy, and left him in a combative spirit long after the war ended.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Passing of the Creole Hero

“Beauregard seemed resigned to death. On Saturday, February 18, 1893, he seemed better, and dressed and came downstairs. The next day he complained of a feeling of oppression around his heart, and that night he did not sleep well.

Still, he got up on Monday, the twentieth, and spent most of the day in the garden and on the balcony. He dined with the family and spoke cheerfully of his recovery. Before retiring that night, he wound his watch so he could follow the doctor’s orders. Before [son] Henri left, Beauregard said, “I will be well tomorrow if I sleep tonight.”

The nurses remained on duty in the room. Shortly after ten they were startled to hear the death rattle in his throat. Before they could summon the family he was dead.

Into the home on Esplanade Avenue the condolences and resolutions of respect poured in a flood. They came from Louisiana and from all over the South – from State and city officials, former comrades, the organizations of which he had been a member, chapters of the United Confederate Veterans from Virginian to Texas.

[New Orleans] Mayor John Fitzpatrick proclaimed a period of mourning until after the funeral and directed that all municipal buildings be closed. Governor Murphy F. Foster ordered the same arrangements at the capital in Baton Rouge. Both the governor and the mayor asked the family for permission to let the body lie in state at the City Hall, and consent was granted.

Accompanied by an escort of National Guard units, the body, resting in a heavy casket finished in burl and ebony and adorned with silver handles, was conveyed to the council room at the City Hall. The walls of the dimly-lit chamber were hung with black drapes and Confederate and United States flags. Three Confederate emblems, one of which belonged to the Washington Artillery, covered the casket.

Above the catafalque stood the battle flag which Miss Hettie Cary had made for him from her own dress in 1861. All that night and throughout the next day, while an honor guard of Confederate veterans stood by, thousands of people passed through the room to gaze on the Creole hero.

On the afternoon of the twenty-third the body was . . . taken for burial to the tomb of the Army of Tennessee in Metarie Cemetery. Riding in a carriage was the chief mourner, Edmund Kirby Smith, now the only surviving full general of the Confederacy, who had come to New Orleans to attend a reunion. A month later he too would be dead.

At the grave, priests chanted the requiem, three volleys were fired in a last salute, and taps were sounded. From above, the equestrian statue of Albert Sidney Johnston looked down on the scene.”

(P.G.T. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray, T. Harry Williams, LSU Press, 1955, excepts, pp. 320; 326-328)

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