Browsing "Southern Heroism"

Lee’s Only Chance

Though Lincoln doubted that he would be reelected in 1864, and was heard to state that he hoped another Republican would replace him as he feared being imprisoned by a Democrat for his numerous unconstitutional acts, his Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana said “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.” By that time there were far too many whose careers and wealth depended upon the powerful centralized government Lincoln had created, and which the Radical Republicans wanted to rule.

The starving, ragged soldiers of Lee and Johnston were the last remaining barriers to full Radical control of the destiny of the “nation conceived in liberty” declared at Gettysburg in November 1863.  

Lee’s Only Chance

“In Lee’s ranks there was less fear of Grant than of that grim enemy, hunger. George Cary Eggleston [A Rebel’s Recollections] reports the rigid economies in food which his men practiced; then he adds:

“Hunger to starving men is wholly unrelated to the desire for food as that is commonly understood and felt. It is a great agony of the whole body and the soul as well. It is unimaginable, all-pervading pain inflicted when the strength to endure pain is utterly gone. It is a great despairing cry of a wasting body – a cry of flesh and blood, marrow, nerves, bones, and faculties for strength with which to exist and to endure existence. It is a horror which, once suffered, leaves an impression that is never erased from memory, and to this day the old agony of that campaign comes back upon me at the mere thought of any living creature’s lacking the food it desires, even though its hunger be only the ordinary craving and the denial be necessary for the creature’s health.”

In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union losses were 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. Grant, however, could find new recruits; he was amply reinforced; and he had no embarrassment from the lack of food or equipment. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.

Confederate losses in the Wilderness campaign were proportionally heavier than those of Grant, behind whom stood the North with its numbers, wealth, organization, and equipment.  Lee’s chance of conquering the Northern armies had gone.  His only chance was in the doubtful hope that a stout and desperate defense, if continued long enough, would wear down the Northern will to fight, produce Lincoln’s defeat in the election of 1864, and by the sheer force of war weariness bring peace on terms acceptable to the South.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 544-547)

Aug 26, 2020 - American Military Genius, Patriotism, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on “Old Blizzards” and an Army of Heroes

“Old Blizzards” and an Army of Heroes

At the Battle of Chapultepec, “It was early afternoon when [Lieutenant-Colonel] Loring and the US troops breached the Garita de Belen . . . after a short advance, a shot from the garita shattered Loring’s left arm. In the Mexican War, medical care for the wound was simple and direct, and the medical instruments were often merely knives and saws. Dr. H.H. Steiner of Augusta, Georgia, reported:

“Loring laid aside a cigar, sat quietly in a chair without opiates to relieve the pain, and allowed the arm to be cut off without a murmur of a groan. The arm was buried on the heights by his men, with the hand pointing toward the City of Mexico.”

Thirty-one years later, Loring remembered: “When I was wounded . . . and there with the battle . . . going on before my eyes, my arm was amputated. The excitement of the spectacle drove away all sense of pain, and like Poreau, I smoked a cigar while they were sawing into my poor bones . . . None but an army of heroes could have accomplished the conquest of Mexico.”

“Old Blizzards” and an Army of Heroes

“Few officers resigned from the United States Army to enter the Confederate service with a richer experience than Loring. In May, 1861, he was six months past his forty-second birthday and had been soldiering since he was fourteen. He had been in the Seminole wars in Florida at a time when most of his later associates were learning parade-ground tactics on the fields of West Point.

Later he studied law, and when Florida became a State Loring sat in the State legislature.  Then, when the Mexican War called for valorous men, the twenty-seven-year-old Loring abandoned politics forever.  He became a captain, a major, a lieutenant-colonel.  He won brevet promotions for gallant and meritorious conduct. At Mexico he led an assault on Belen Gate and lost an arm. Thereafter his empty sleeve bore its eloquent testimony to his courage and gallantry. When the war ended, Loring stayed in the army.

For a dozen years, young Loring proved that the army made no mistake in keeping [a one-armed lieutenant-colonel] in the service. No product of West Point looked more like a soldier than he. He led his regiment, with six hundred mule teams, for twenty-five hundred miles across the mountains to Oregon. A generation later it was called “the greatest military feat on record.”

He fought Indians on the Rio Grande and on the Gila in Arizona. He fought Mormons in Utah. He went to Europe to study the military systems of the continent. He came back to command the Department of New Mexico. At thirty-eight he was the youngest line colonel of the American army.

When he entered the Confederate service, even his enemies bore him tribute: a man of “unflinching honor and integrity,” said the Federal officer who replaced him in his western command.”

(W.W. Loring: Florida’s Forgotten General, James W. Raab, Sunflower University Press, 1996, excerpts Forward; pg. 12)

On The Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

It is said that Grant at Appomattox offered rations and transportation home to Lee’s surrendered Americans, or to exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many might have gladly avoided living under Northern rule, “but in distant homes were old men, helpless women and children, whose cry for help it was not hard to hear.” With all the destruction around them and carpetbaggers flowing Southward, “no one dreamed of what has followed.”

On the Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

“[The enemy] were proud of their success, were more willing to give than our men, in the soreness of defeat, and not a man of that grand army of a hundred and fifty thousand men but could, and, I believe, would testify, that on purely personal grounds, the few worn out, half-starved men that gathered around General Lee and his falling flag held the prouder position of the two. Had politicians left things alone, such feelings would have resulted in a very different condition of things.

“We stacked eight thousand stands of arms, all told: artillery, cavalry, infantry, stragglers, wagon rats and all the rest, from twelve to fifteen thousand men.

The United States troops, by their own estimate, were one hundred fifty thousand men, with a railroad connecting their rear with Washington, New York, Germany, France, Belgium, Africa – all the world, and the rest of mankind,” as General [Richard] Taylor comprehensively remarked, for their recruiting stations were all over the world, and the crusade against the South, under pressure of the “almighty dollar,” was as absolute and varied in its nationality as was that of “Peter the Hermit,” under pressure of religious zeal upon Jerusalem.

Those of us who took serious consideration of the state of affairs, felt that with our defeat we had absolutely lost our country – the one we held under the Constitution – as though we had been conquered and made a colony of by France or Russia. So far, it was all according to the order of things, and we stood on the bare hills, men without a country.”

(Dickison and His Men, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing, 1890, excerpt pp. 241-243)

Barbarous Pillaging

In early February, 1865, Captain J.J. Dickison’s 145 Florida cavalrymen struck 400 black and white federal raiders at Station Number Four – forcing them to retreat toward Cedar Keys after a sharp three-hour engagement.  The next month a thousand-man Northern invasion force arrived at St. Marks, forcing Floridians to hastily organize a defense force of student cadets from the State Seminary, old men and a few companies of regular troops.  The ensuing battle at Natural Bridge, a Southern victory, was practically the closing conflict of the war in Florida. Capt. Dickison was known as Florida’s “Swamp Fox,” earning his name for swift and unexpected strikes against the enemy, as did Francis Marion of earlier fame. 

Barbarous Pillaging

“Forts Barrancas and Pickens were the only points in Florida west of the St. Johns which were held permanently [by Northern forces] after 1862.  Six miles from Barrancas is Pensacola. The town then was under federal guns. A force varying from 1,800 to 3,000 men was in garrison at Barrancas [and] the commandant was Brigadier-General Alexander Asboth, a native Hungarian who had served under Kossuth in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

With him were several Slav and Magyar comrades in arms – younger men than he – who held commissions in the federal army. Three of them were popularly reputed to be the nephews of Louis Kossuth. A portion of Asboth’s force was black, recruited partly from Negroes in the vicinity.

When not engaged in the barbarous practice of pillaging, Asboth was an urbane, pleasant fellow with a great love for flowers and a keen interest in dogs and fine horses. He and his fellow Hungarians were hated, dreaded and condemned by the country people of that section [for being “furreners”, Yankees”.  Certainly Barrancas proved a thorn in the side of West Florida. From it, as from Jacksonville, raiders went forth to lay waste the exhausted country.

[From July 21-25 1864], General Asboth advances from Barrancas at the head of 1,100 men – blacks and whites. [His] ultimate goal is Baldwin County, Alabama, where spies report opportunity to profitably raid, burn and cut-off the small detachments of Confederate troops guarding the country. After a show of resistance . . . [Asboth] retires to Barrancas.

[From July 20-29], An expedition of 400 men from the 2nd US Colored Infantry and 2nd [US] Florida Cavalry [lands at St. Andrews bay], march forty-four miles into the interior, burn two bridges, one large grist mill, eighty bales of cotton, and a quantity of stores, and gathering up 115 Negroes and a few horses, they return to the coast.  They encounter no armed opposition.

[Sept. 23], they surprise the village of Eucheanna, plundering homes, gathering up horses and mules, and making prisoners of fifteen private citizens. From Euchaeana, the raiding column heads for Jackson County. Preparations are made at Marianna for resistance . . . Old men and boys are armed with what weapons they can secure – shot-guns and squirrel rifles. There about 300 old men and boys await the arrival of the federal column.

The raiders . . . sweep aside the barricade with artillery and follow this with a determined charge of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. The Confederate force breaks up . . . Some take refuge in the Episcopal church . . . and continue the fight from its windows. A torch is thrown against the church . . . It takes fire. As its occupants rush from the burning building they are shot down and fall amid the gravestones of the churchyard. Some of the boys are burned to death in the church.

Marianna is plundered. That night the federal column quits Marianna on its return march to Pensacola. The prisoners and moveable booty are carried along.

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, W.W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 307-312)

May 3, 2020 - American Military Genius, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Lincoln's Grand Army, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Becoming Machines Without Memory

Becoming Machines Without Memory

After his victory at Second Manassas, Gen. Robert E. Lee fought McClellan once again at Sharpsburg with Stonewall Jackson at his side, “which in some respects was the greatest feat of Southern arms. Again, Lee fought a perfect battle, and with 39,000 men defeated every attack of 87,000.”

One of Lee’s contemporaries later eulogized him: “Students looking for an example . . . will find in the life of Lee an inspiration to noble living and high endeavor such is nowhere else found . . . [He was] a man whose strength was the might of gentleness and self-command.”  

Becoming Machines Without Memory

“Lee’s great victory changed the whole character of the war. The finest army of the Union had been put hors de combat for several months, and the initiative was in the hands of the Confederates. But again, Davis’s caution had its influence upon the temerarious Lee. The President could not believe that McClellan was utterly disposed of, and a proposal from Jackson, made right after the Seven Days, went unnoticed: Jackson proposed to ignore McClellan and invade the North with 60,000 men.

By the middle of August, when it was certain that McClellan, now reduced to a mere corps commander, had withdrawn from the peninsula, this was done; but by that time a reorganized Army of the Potomac, under John Pope, who had captured Island Number Ten, was organized and in the way.

Lee now moved to “suppress Pope” before McClellan’s corps could reinforce him. Lee, still studying the character of his opponent – who this time was a rattle-brained braggart – contemptuously divided his army, sending Jackson with about 25,000 men to Pope’s rear at Manassas Junction.  Jackson cut Pope’s communications with Washington and burnt millions in supplies. Lee followed with the rest of his army at a distance of fifty miles. Jackson held Pope at bay, and even deluded him into thinking that he had gained an advantage; then Lee arrived.

Next day the united Confederate army crushed and routed Pope, 55,000 against 70,000, and threatened Washington. This great battle, Second Manassas, was a strategic and tactical masterpiece, perfect in every detail, Napoleonic in its conception and performance. From this time Lee’s prestige rose, never to sink again until Americans have succeeded in turning themselves into machines without memory.”

(Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall, A Biographical Narrative, Allen Tate, Minton, Balch & Company, 1929, excerpts pp. 142-143)

May 27, 2019 - American Military Genius, Costs of War, Economics, Myth of Saving the Union, New England History, Southern Heroism, The War at Sea    Comments Off on Turning New England’s Mind to Thoughts of Peace

Turning New England’s Mind to Thoughts of Peace

The American Confederacy’s leadership exploited Northern war-weariness in 1864 by sending agents and money to Canada to open a northern front, increased its destruction of New England’s merchant fleet, and work toward Lincoln’s political defeat in November 1864.

Confederate commerce raiders effectively destroyed the North’s merchant shipping as it caught, burned or sunk hundreds of vessels, made future merchant voyages uninsurable, and forced the North to transfer goods to foreign ships for safety. The CSS Shenandoah of Captain James Waddell targeted New England’s whalers, capturing or sinking 38 vessels in one year.

It is noteworthy that Confederate overseas agent James Dunwoody Bulloch’s half-sister Martha was the mother of Theodore Roosevelt and grandmother of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Turning New England’s Mind to Thoughts of Peace

“Ironically, however, the very success of the Florida, the Alabama and other Confederate cruisers had added one more dilemma to those confronting Bulloch: toward what end would any new raiders be directed?

Earlier cruisers, after all, had succeeded beyond the Confederates’ wildest expectations. Writing to [Secretary of the Navy Stephen] Mallory the previous February [1864], Bulloch had reported, “There really seems nothing for our ships to do now upon the open sea.”

Even in the Pacific, passing mariners noticed a conspicuous absence of US ships. As one correspondent wrote, “The master of a French ship reported not one [Northern] ship at the Guano Islands off Peru, where in 1863, seventy or eighty had waited impatiently for their profitable cargoes.”

By early spring, however, Mallory had a new target in mind. That March, in a letter to Bulloch, he proposed redeploying existing commerce raiders and acquiring new ones for a concerted assault on New England’s globally-dispersed fishing and whaling fleet. The Alabama, the Florida, and other raiders had already made sporadic attacks on New England’s whaling vessels operating off the Azores and other Atlantic islands; likewise, there had been raids on fishing schooners off the New England coast.

What Mallory now envisioned was something on a grander scale. By driving up operating costs and insurance rates for New England’s fishing and whaling industries, he believed, the Confederate Navy would render the region a powerful lobby in Washington devoted to ending the war.

As he put it, “The simultaneous appearance of efficient cruisers on the New England coast and fishing banks, in the West Indies and South Atlantic, in the Pacific among the whalemen, and in the East Indies, would have a decided tendency to turn the trading mind of New England to thoughts of peace.”

(Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah, Tom Chaffin, Hill & Wang, 2006, excerpts pp. 24-25)

North Carolina’s State Flag

The original North Carolina Republic flag of 1861 was altered in 1885 with only the red and blue colors rearranged, and the lower date announcing the date of secession changed to “May 20th, 1775,” the date of the Halifax Resolutions.

This mattered little as both dates, 1775 and 1861, “places the Old North State in the very front rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and absolute independence from foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.”

Militarily invaded and conquered in 1865, North Carolinians were forced to forever renounce political independence, and thus written in a new State constitution imported from Ohio.

North Carolina’s State Flag

“The flag is an emblem of great antiquity and has commanded respect and reverence from practically all nations from earliest times. History traces it to divine origin, the early peoples of the earth attributing to it strange, mysterious, and supernatural powers.

Indeed, our first recorded references to the standard and the banner, of which our present flag is but a modified form, are from sacred rather than from secular sources. We are told that it was around the banner that the prophets of old rallied their armies and under which the hosts of Israel were led to war, believing, as they did, that it carried with it divine favor and protection.

Since that time all nations and all peoples have had their flags and emblems, though the ancient superstition regarding their divine merits and supernatural powers has disappeared from among civilized peoples. The flag now, the world over, possesses the same meaning and has a uniform significance to all nations wherever found.

It stands as a symbol of strength and unity, representing the national spirit and patriotism of the people over whom it floats. In both lord and subject, the ruler and the ruled, it commands respect, inspires patriotism, and instills loyalty both in peace and in war.

[In the United States], each of the different States in the Union has a “State flag” symbolic of its own individuality and domestic ideals. Every State in the American Union has a flag of some kind, each expressive of some particular trait, or commemorative of some historical event, of the people over which it floats.

The constitutional convention of 1861, which declared for [North Carolina’s] secession from the Union, adopted what it termed a State flag. On May 20, 1861, the Convention adopted the resolution of secession which declared the State out of the Union.

This State flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to the first ten regiments of State troops during the summer of that year and was borne by them throughout the war, being the only flag, except the National and Confederate colors, used by the North Carolina troops during the Civil War. The first date [on the red union and within a gilt scroll in semi-circular form], “May 20th, 1775” refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence . . . The second date appearing on the State flag is that of “May 20th 1861 . . .”

(The North Carolina State Flag, W.R. Edmonds, Edwards & Broughton Company, 1913, excerpts pp. 5-7)

Many “American” Flags

The wide range of what can be referred to as “American” flags is seen in all Territorial & State flags, as well as the Bennington, Betsy Ross, Gadsden, Texas Republic, California Bear, Maine Pine and Star, Bonnie Blue – and all flags of the American Confederacy, 1861-1865. The Stars & Stripes is one of the “American” flags noted above, but not the only one. It is properly referred to as the flag of the United States.

The Gen. Wm. J. Hardee headquarters flag, dark blue with a large white circle is an “American” flag. So is Gen. Robert E. Lee’s headquarters flag, and North Carolina Republic flag of 1861.

What are called “Confederate” flags include not only the First National, which is the actual Stars & Bars, but also the Second and Third National, as well as regimental and unit flags – all “American” flags. It is noteworthy that the “X” pattern of the Battle Flag is drawn from St. Andrews Cross, which makes the Second and Third National flags of the American Confederacy the only national flags in the Western Hemisphere to incorporate a Christian symbol.

To Southern soldiers 1861-1865, their flags symbolized all the reasons they fought: defense of their families, home, community, and their efforts to preserve a heritage of liberty they traced back to their forefathers and the American Revolution.

Especially in the South, the unit flags were sewn by the mothers, aunts, daughters and sisters of those who went off to defend their country. Consider this from the presentation of the Desoto Rifle’s unit flag in 1861 New Orleans:

“Receive from your mothers and sisters, from those whose affections greet you, these colors woven by our feeble but reliant hands; and when this bright flag shall float before you on the battlefield, let it not only inspire you with the patriotic ambition of a soldier aspiring to his own and his country’s honor and glory, but also may it be a sign that cherished ones appeal to you to save them from a heartless and fanatical foe.”

What those mothers and sisters spoke of as they presented the colors to their men is best captured by Brigadier-General Lewis Armistead as his 53rd Virginia Regiment began the long walk toward enemy lines on Gettysburg’s third day:

“Men, remember your wives, your mothers, your sisters and your sweethearts! Armistead walked down the line to the men of the Fifty-seventh Virginia, to whom he yelled:

“Remember men, what you are fighting for. Remember your homes and firesides, your mothers and wives and sisters and your sweethearts.”

All was nearly ready now. He walked a bit farther down the line, and called out: “Men, remember what you are fighting for! Your homes, your firesides, your sweethearts! Follow me.”

(Sources: The Returned Battle Flags, Richard Rollins, editor, 1995; The Damned Flags of the Rebellion, Richard Rollins, 1997. Rank and File Publications)

Apr 8, 2019 - Carnage, Costs of War, Memorials to the Past, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Absolute Edge of No Return

The Absolute Edge of No Return

Though referred to as a defeat below, the end of the third day at Gettysburg left 3155 Northern men and 3903 Southern men dead – the latter higher due to massed assaults. On the fourth day, the Northern commander remained behind his entrenchments, made no effort to attack, and ordered only his cavalry out to ascertain his adversary’s movements.

During his foray into Pennsylvania, Lee had drawn Northern troops away from Richmond, sent fear into the North with his invasion, resupplied his troops in a fertile region, and allowed the Shenandoah a peaceful respite.

The Absolute Edge of No Return

“Toward the end of his long life, the Confederate General James Longstreet is supposed to have visited the town of Oxford, Mississippi, where his sister lived and where his uncle, the Judge Longstreet of the “Georgia Scenes,” had once resided. It was after Longstreet’s extended dispute with other former Confederate leaders over the responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg, and so when a small boy came up to the old man and asked him: “General, what happened to you at Gettysburg?” Longstreet almost suffered a stroke then and there. The name of the small boy, the story goes, was William Faulkner.

The episode almost certainly never took place. Longstreet’s biographer places it in 1898, when Faulkner was one year old, and not even William Faulkner would have displayed such precocity as that. It probably happened in Chicago, not Oxford, and if anyone asked such a question of Longstreet, it was Faulkner’s longtime friend, Phil Stone. The anecdote recalls a passage from Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust.” Lawyer Gavin Stevens is talking to his young nephew, Chick Mallison:

“It’s all now you see. Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that afternoon in July, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out, and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably, and his sword in the other looking up the hill looking for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance . . . And that moment doesn’t even need a fourteen year-old boy to think — This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble . . . This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world’s roaring rim.”

(Regionalism and the Southern Literary Renascence, Louis D. Rubin, Jr.; The South and the Sectional Image: The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 146-147)

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

The many monuments to Americans across the South represent a lasting tribute to the patriots who fought in 1861 for the very same reasons patriots of 1776 fought: independence, political liberty, and in self-defense. They were symbols of bereavement for those lost in battle, as well as symbols to guide future generations toward emulating their patriotic example.

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

“In April 1878, former President Jefferson Davis prepared a letter to be read at the laying of the cornerstone of the Confederate monument at Macon, Georgia: “Should it be asked why, then, build this monument? The answer is, they [the veterans] do not need it, but posterity may. It is not their reward, but our debt . . . Let the monument, rising from earth toward heaven, lift the minds of those who come after us to a higher standard than the common test of success.

Let it teach than man is born for duty, not for expediency; that when an attack in made on the community to which he belongs, by which he is protected, and to which his allegiance is due, his first obligation is to defend that community; and that under such conditions it is better to have “fought and lost than never to have fought at all”. . . Let this monument teach that heroism derives its lustre from the justice of the cause in which it was displayed, and let it mark the difference between a war waged for the robber-like purpose of conquest and one to repel invasions – to defend a people’s hearth’s and altars, and to maintain their laws and liberties . . .”

The next year, an editorial in the Southern Historical Society Papers perpetuated the concept of memorializing the Southern soldier by stating: “But let us see to it that we build them a monument more enduring than marble, “more lasting than bronze,” as we put on record the true story of their heroic deeds, and enshrine them forever in the hearts of generations yet unborn.”

(A Guide to Confederate Monuments in South Carolina: “Passing the Silent Cup,” Robert S. Seigler, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1997, excerpts pg. 14)