Browsing "Southern Heroism"

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts seemed unaware of his State’s deep involvement in the transatlantic slave trade as he arraigns the South for an absence of morals. Senator John Critcher below served during the war as a lieutenant-colonel of the Fifteenth Virginia cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Eminent and Unmatched Virginians

“In the debate on Education in the House of Representatives, Mr. Hoar, of Massachusetts remarked that slavery in the South was not so observable in the degradation of the slave as in the depravity of the master.

Mr. Critcher, of Virginia replied:

“Reminding the gentleman from Massachusetts that every signer of the Declaration of Independence, except those from his State, and perhaps one or two others, were slave-owners, he would venture to make a bold assertion; he would venture to say that he could name more eminent men from the parish of his residence, than the gentleman could name from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He would proceed to name them, and yield the floor to the gentleman to match them if he could.

On one side of his estate is Wakefield, the birthplace of Washington. On the other side is Stratford, the residence of Light Horse Harry Lee, of glorious Revolutionary memory.

Adjoining Stratford is Chantilly, the residence of Richard Henry Lee, the mover of the Declaration of Independence, and the Cicero of the American Revolution. There lived Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Lee, at one time Washington’s Attorney General; and Arthur Lee, the accomplished negotiator of the treaty of commerce and alliance between the Colonies and France in 1777.

Returning, as said before, you come first to the birthplace of Washington; another hour’s drive will bring you to the birthplace of Monroe; another hour’s drive to the birthplace of Madison, and if the gentleman supposes that the present generation is unworthy of their illustrious ancestors, he has but to stand on the same estate to see the massive chimneys of the baronial mansion that witnessed the birth of Robert E. Lee.

These are some of the eminent men from the parish of his residence, and he yielded the floor that the gentleman might match them, if he could, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

(Degrading Influence of Slavery, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 12, Barefoot Publishing, pg. 59)

 

History of Heroism and Honesty

The report of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans History Committee below expressed concern that “tens of thousands of boys and girls are growing up into manhood and womanhood throughout the South, with improper ideas concerning the struggle between the States; and with distorted conceptions concerning the causes” of the war. They sought remedies for this deplorable state of affairs.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

History Emphasizing Heroism and Honesty

“We have asked each member of our committee to urge upon each camp in his State the importance of gathering reliable data for the use of the future historian. This is a sacred duty that we owe to the living and to the dead and to those who are yet unborn. The establishment of truth is never wrong.

When we realize, as all of us must, that from the gloom of overwhelming defeat at the hands of superior numbers a righteous cause arises and appeals to posterity to render the verdict in accordance with the truth, loyalty to the memories of our dead, patriotism, and self-respect all urge us to go forward in our work till we are amply repaid for all of our labors by a glorious consummation of our undertaking.

Your committee has made an earnest effort to ascertain what United States histories are used in the schools of this republic. We have, so far, not found a single Southern history north of the Ohio and Potomac Rivers.

In the South thousands of schools use Northern histories. We do not condemn any work solely on the ground that it is a Northern publication . . . What we desire placed in the hands of the millions of American youth is a work that metes out exact justice to both sections of our great country; a work that tells the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Below, we give an extract from an article recently written by a man of Northern birth, Northern education, and Northern principles. The subject that he discusses is “Unfair School Histories.” In speaking of some recent Southern publications, he objects to them because they glorify the South rather than the whole Union. He says:

“It cannot be supposed that such histories will have a permanent place in any school of our land, but why are they adopted in preference to those hitherto in use? Because the books of Northern authorship exhibit an offensive and unfair sectional bias. Northerners may not see it, but it is there. Our school histories seem to need revision.

Do our [Northern] textbooks impress the fact that slavery existed in many of the northern States also in the early years of the century? That it was New England votes, combined with those of the extreme South, that prolonged the slave trade twenty years, against the protest of the middle South? Do our school children realize that secession was boldly and widely advocated in New England in 1814?

Do they think of the Southern leaders as high-minded, noble, and devout men, who fought with consummate bravery? Are we clearly taught that many of those leaders were in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery? That the questions involved were open to honest differences of opinion? That financial considerations unconsciously biased the views of both North and South on slavery?

The truest history, as well as the most patriotic, is that which gives great emphasis to the heroism and honesty, the manliness and Christian character, of the combatants on both sides. No history is worth a place in our schools that is not written in this spirit.

We therefore recommend that there be a committee of three in each State to work in conjunction with similar committees from the Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy. Let each committee find out what histories are used in the different counties; find out their inaccuracies, and point them out to the various county boards of education and to the people generally.

Patriots everywhere recognize the fact that the continued denunciation and misrepresentation of any part of a common people is a danger to all, and an infamy to all. Let the histories that our children study revere the truth, and we shall be satisfied. Let them record that . . . the South stood on lines of self-defense in battle and in doctrine . . . that the South fought honestly and fearlessly, and that when its banner was furled upon its folds not a stain was there to mar its beauty.”

(United Sons of Confederate Veterans, Report of the History Committee, Confederate Veteran, January 1900, pp. 18-20)

 

Confederate Veterans Recognized in Arlington

Republican President William McKinley was disturbed by the untended condition of Confederate graves near Fredericksburg in 1896 and responded favorably to the United Confederate Veterans interest in re-interring Southern veterans of the War Between the States. The Confederate Section of Arlington Cemetery was created with a monument approved in 1906 by Secretary of War and future President William Howard Taft. The 1929 US Public Law 810 authorized the Secretary of War to “erect headstones over the graves of soldiers who served in the Confederate Army”; US Public Law 85-425 of 1958 provided pensions for Confederate veterans equal to that of Union veterans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confederate Veterans Recognized in Arlington

“The solemn and patriotic undertaking resulting in the attentive care now being given by the [United States] government to the graves of the thousands of soldiers of the South who died while prisoners of war and the marking of these graves with the proper inscription of the Confederate States army was commenced by the establishment of the beautiful Confederate Section in Arlington Cemetery, the great national burial ground near Washington, and was brought about by Camp No. 1191, United Confederate Veterans, under the leadership of its commander, Dr. S.E. Lewis, now the United States Commissioner for this great work.

[Dr. Lewis has] devoted himself in all these years since 1898, when he investigated the graves of such Confederate soldiers as were buried at Arlington and in other places around the capital. Finding them in unsuitable locations, neglected, and without a soldier’s mark, in 1899 he, in conjunction with his Camp Committee on Confederate Dead, brought the matter by petition before President [William] McKinley and received his sympathy and support, which resulted in an appropriation by Congress in 1900 and in an order for reburial and proper marking by the secretary of War, April 25, 1901.

These Confederate dead, numbering one hundred and twenty-eight in the National Soldier’s Home Cemetery, in the District of Columbia, and one hundred and thirty-six in the older part of Arlington Cemetery, were re-buried . . . with new headstones and the inscriptions . . . consisting of the name and rank of the Confederate soldier, his company, regiment, State, and finally, the letters C.S.A., signifying the Confederate States Army.

The completion of the work in Arlington Cemetery opened the way [for Dr. Lewis] to extend the same attention to the graves of all Confederate soldiers and sailors, over thirty thousand, who died as prisoners of war . . .

This work of rescuing and marking soldiers’ graves under such circumstances has no parallel in history, and those whose knowledge of Confederate soldiers and sympathy with their families in our Southland led them to initiate and prosecute this great memorial have earned the lasting gratitude of every Confederate veteran and should be held in the highest esteem by all who value the honor of the South to the end of time.”

(Patriotic Work of Dr. S.E. Lewis, by E.W. Anderson, Jacksonville, Fla., Confederate Veteran, July 1914, pg. 331)

Here Lies an American Hero

The first commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, General John B. Gordon of Georgia, tried repeatedly to retire from his high office, “but his comrades would not consent.” Below, he spoke in 1890 of the necessity of maintaining unblemished the nobility, heroism, sacrifices, suffering and glorious memory of the American soldiers in grey.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Here Lies and American Hero

“[The United Confederate Veterans] was created on high lines, and its first commander was the gallant soldier, General John B. Gordon, at the time governor of Georgia, and later was United States senator. General Gordon was continued as commander-in-chief until his death.

The note . . . struck in the constitution of the United Confederate Veterans were reechoed in the opening speech of the first commander-in-chief. General Gordon, addressing the Veterans and the public, said:

“Comrades, no argument is needed to secure for those objects your enthusiastic endorsement. They have burdened your thoughts for many years. You have cherished them in sorrow, poverty and humiliation. In the face of misconstruction, you have held them in your hearts with the strength of religious convictions.

No misjudgments can defeat your peaceful purposes for the future. Your aspirations have been lifted by the mere force and urgency of surrounding conditions to a plane far above the paltry considerations of partisan triumphs.

The honor of the American Government, the just powers of the Federal Government, the equal rights of States, the integrity of the Constitutional Union, the sanctions of law, and the enforcement of order have no class of defenders more true and devoted than the ex-soldiers of the South and their worthy descendants. But you realize the great truth that a people without the memories of heroic suffering or sacrifice are a people without history.

To cherish such memories and recall such a past, whether crowned with success or consecrated in defeat, is to idealize principle and strengthen character, intensify love of country, and convert defeat and disaster into pillars of support for future manhood and noble womanhood.

Whether the Southern people, under their changed conditions, may ever hope to witness another civilization which shall equal that which began with their Washington and ended with their Lee, it is certainly true that devotion to their glorious past is not only the surest guarantee of future progress and the holiest bond of unity, but is also the strongest claim they can present to the confidence and respect of the other sections of the Union.

It is political in no sense, except so far as the word “political” is a synonym for the word “patriotic.” [It will] cherish the past glories of the dead Confederacy and transmute them into living inspirations for future service to the living Republic; of truth, because it will seek to gather and preserve, as witness to history, the unimpeachable facts which shall doom falsehood to die that truth may live; of justice, because it will cultivate . . . that broader and higher and nobler sentiment which would write on the grave of every soldier who fell on our side, “Here lies an American hero, a martyr to the right as his conscience conceived it.”

(The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 5, Robert S. Lanier, editor, Blue & Grey Press, 1987, pp. 298-299)

 

Jackson's Value to Lee

Second only to Robert E. Lee as a great American military commander, Stonewall Jackson’s death proved to be a calamity which may have cost Lee the battle at Gettysburg. Jackson, like Lee, could handily defeat far superior forces as he did between April 30 and June 9, 1862 in the Valley, frustrating 70,000 Northern troops with less than 18,000 men of his own.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jackson’s Value to Lee

“It was not until the spring of 1862, when Lee became Jefferson Davis’ military advisor and Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia that Jackson’s independent command in the Shenandoah Valley came under Lee’s control. It was at this time that the partnership between Lee and Jackson first took form.

At once Lee sensed Jackson’s integrity. Lenoir Chambers . . . wrote that while Jackson and Lee were far apart, as far as communications went, they were always able, through their letters and orders, to project themselves into the future. Each had a sagacity to discern what the other was thinking or desired. Lee never had a subordinate so quick to grasp his thoughts or so reliable in carrying them out or, when on his own, in taking care of himself while he fitted all his movements to the grand purpose as did Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862.

On several occasions, Jackson demonstrated his zealous devotion to his chieftain. During the winter of 1863-63 [near Fredericksburg], Lee once sent word that he wanted to talk with Jackson at his convenience on a matter of no great urgency. Thereupon Jackson arising at daybreak and without breakfast rode through a blinding snow storm to Lee’s headquarters, 15 miles away.

Lee expressed amazement, saying: “You know, General, I did not wish you to come in such a storm. It was a matter of no importance and I am sorry you had such a ride.” Thereupon Jackson blushed and simply said: “I received your note, General.” Jackson’s personal loyalty to Lee was intimately bound up with his confidence in Lee’s military ability. Once when an officer had criticized Lee, Jackson instantly replied: “Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man I would follow blindfold.”

On that beautiful Sunday morning of May 10, 1863, when he was informed that Jackson could probably not live through the day, Lee at first refused to believe it, saying: “Surely God will not take from us now that we need him so much.” Notifying Gen. Jeb Stuart of Jackson’s death, Lee said: “The great and good Jackson is no more . . . May his spirit pervade our whole army; our country will then be secure.”

It was only after the war that General Lee gave a glimpse of what he may have thought in 1863 of the ultimate consequence of the removal of Jackson from the scene. In a conversation with one of his friends at Washington College, of which he was then president, he remarked: “If I had had Stonewall Jackson, as far as a man can see, I should have won the battle of Gettysburg.”

(Wartime Relationship Between Lee and Jackson, Dr. W. Gleason Bean, Rockbridge Historical Society Proceedings, Volume Six, J.P. Bell Company, 1966, pp. 43-46)

Jackson's Skill, Nerve and Generalship

Though early in his career friends saw Thomas J. Jackson exhibiting much energy and industry, none viewed him as possessing anything resembling military genius. His biographer John Esten Cooke wrote of Jackson that “To fight to the death was his unfaltering resolve, and his own invincible resolution was infused into his troops; they became inspired by his ardor, and were more than a match for two or three times their number fighting without this stimulus.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jackson’s Skill, Nerve and Generalship

“ . . . Jackson set out in person for Winchester [in late May 1862], travelling by a special train on the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. A gentleman who was with his relates a scene that ensued during the brief journey. At one of the wayside stations, a courier was seen galloping down from the direction of Winchester, and Jackson clutched at the dispatch which he brought. “What news?” he asked.

As [the courier] spoke his lips were firmly compressed, his face grew rigid, and his eyes fixed themselves apparently on some distant object. Then this preoccupation suddenly disappeared; he read the [dispatch] which he held in his hand, tore it to pieces . . . and leaning forward, rested his forehead on his hands, and immediately fell asleep. He soon roused himself and, turning to the gentleman who furnishes these particulars, said:

“I am going to send you to Richmond for re-enforcements. I have just received a dispatch informing me of the advance of the enemy upon Front Royal, which is captured, and Fremont [with 25,000 men] is now advancing toward Wardensville. Thus, you see, I am nearly surrounded by a very large force.

“What is your own [plan], General?”

“To meet this attack I only have 15,000 effective men.”

“What will you do if they cut you off, General?” Jackson hesitated for a moment, and the coolly replied: “I will fall back upon Maryland for re-enforcements.”

Jackson was in earnest. If his retreat was cut off, he intended to advance into Maryland, and doubtless make his way straight to Baltimore and Washington, depending on the Southern sentiment in that portion of the State to bring him re-enforcements. The design was characteristic of his military genius, and its bold air of invasion probably surrounded it with more charms to the leader, who never lost sight of that policy.

That the [Northern] Government was apprehensive of some such movement is certain. The wildest rumors were prevalent in that country. It was said that Jackson had defeated all his opponents, had crossed the Potomac with an enormous army, and was then advancing on Washington. Terror reigned in the North.

We have seen that the “great force” at Jackson’s command was 15,000 men, and that a much larger force was about to close in on his rear. His position was critical in the extreme. Unless he moved with the greatest speed, and reached Strasburg before the junction of [Northern commanders] Fremont and Shields [4,000 men], his retreat would be cut off, and General McDowell, then at Front Royal [with 20,000 men], would achieve his design of “bagging Jackson.”   To defeat the designs of the enemy, and extricate his forces, was the object upon which he now concentrated all his skill, nerve and generalship.

On the speed of the “foot cavalry” depended the safety of the army; and if the larger portion marched, as they seem to have done, from the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry to Strasburg, nearly fifty miles, between the afternoon of the 30th and the night of the 31st of May, it is one of the swiftest marches on record. Jackson arrived in time, just in time . . . [and then] determined to attack Fremont, and hold him in check. Jackson was now comparatively safe. He had realized the prayer which his great namesake of the “Hermitage” uttered for a friend – he had “triumphed over all his enemies.”

[Jackson] had flanked them at Front Royal, pursued them from Middletown, beaten them at Winchester, chased them to the Potomac, filled Washington with alarm; and now, when their forces were closing in upon his rear to intercept him, he had passed between them with his prisoners and stores, struck them heavily as he retired, and was moving toward the upper Valley.

He had captured 2300 prisoners, 100 cattle, 34,900 pounds of bacon, flour, salt, sugar, coffee, hard bread, and cheese, $125,185 worth of quartermasters stores, $25,000 worth of sutler stores, immense medical stores, 9354 small-arms, two pieces of artillery, many cavalry horses . . . These results had been achieved with the loss of 68 killed, 329 wounded, and 3 missing – a total loss of 400. In ending his report, Jackson proudly reported that the battle of Winchester was, “on our part, a battle without a straggler.”

(Life of Stonewall Jackson, John Esten Cooke, D. Appleton and Company, 1876, pp. 158-161)

Stonewall's Noble and High Mission on Earth

The early victories of Southern armies were cause for much celebration across the Atlantic, and this was reported home by Confederate diplomats. The London Times, Morning Herald and Evening Standard reported the elation with which Jackson’s victory at Chancellorsville was received, and later the widespread grief over his death.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Stonewall’s Noble and High Mission on Earth

Diplomatic Correspondence, 1863

From: A. Dudley Mann, No. 48, 3 Rue D’Arlon, Brussels, May 28, 1863

To: Hon. J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, Confederate States of America, Richmond, Va.

“Sir: The excessive joy occasioned on this side of the Atlantic by our dazzling victory at Chancellorsville has been tinged by inordinate sorrow. [General Stonewall Jackson’s death causes] civilization to mourn, as it has rarely ever mourned, for the loss of a public man.

The London Times of yesterday no more than reflects the general opinion of Europe upon the subject in the following paragraph contained in its leader: “The Confederate laurels won on the field of Chancellorsville must be twined with the cypress. Probably no disaster of the war will have carried such grief to Southern hearts as the death of General Jackson . . . Even on this side of the ocean the gallant soldier’s fate will everywhere be heard of with pity and sympathy not only as a brave man fighting for his country’s independence, but as one of the most consummate generals that this century has produced.

The blows he struck at the enemy were as terrible and decisive as Bonaparte himself. But perhaps the crowning glory of his life was the great battle in which he fell.

When the Federal commander, by crossing the river twelve miles above his camp and pressing on as he thought to the rear of the Confederates, had placed them between two bodies of his army, he was so confident of success as to boast that the enemy was the property of the Army of the Potomac. It was reserved to Jackson, by a swift and secret march, to fall upon his right wing, crush it, and by an attack unsurpassed in fierceness and pertinacity to drive his [enemy’s] very superior forces back into a position from which he could not extricate himself except by flight across the river.

[That evening], Jackson received two wounds, one in the left arm, the other in the right hand. Amputation of the arm was necessary, and the Southern hero sank under the effects of it. He was only thirty-eight years old, and was known before the war as a man of simple and noble character and of strong religious faith.”

The conservative organ, the Morning Herald, also in its leader says: “No end can be more honorable to any man [than] to die at his post of duty. To die of his wounds in battle, with the shout of victory still ringing in his ears, is a glory reserved to the soldier.

The sympathy that is felt in Europe for their grief at this immeasurable loss will add to the warmth of popular feeling for the men who have striven so long in a just cause and acquitted themselves so well. A soldier of remarkable ability, he fought with the advantage of an earnest faith in his cause; and, controlled in all he did by a strong religious feeling, he fought the better still for believing that God was on his side.

He was animated by the spirit which rendered the soldiers of the Commonwealth irresistible in fight, which carried Havelock through incredible dangers to the gates of Lucknow in triumph. The Christian and patriotic soldier achieved the last and greatest of his successes in dying for his country. He perished doubly a martyr, and in his last breath attested the righteousness of the cause which he sealed with his blood.”

The Paris correspondent for the Evening Standard . . . remarks: “I cannot forbear noticing the universal feeling of regret created among the English colony in Paris by the sad tidings . . . He was a hero after our own heart . . . I can safely say deeper and more unanimous sorrow has not been experienced by our countrymen here.

The Northerners in Paris often express wonder at the universal sympathy for the South felt by Englishmen. They may learn a useful lesson from the tribute paid by our countrymen to Stonewall Jackson. Independently of the justice of the cause, independently of the disgust excited by the arrogance and boasting of the North, it is the presence in the Southern ranks of such men as Davis, Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, Stuart, Beauregard, and Semmes that conciliate the esteem of the world, as well as its admiration. Stonewall Jackson was one of the most heroic figures that have been thrown into relief in the course of this gigantic struggle.

Look at the North, and we may ask: Quando et quo invenient parem? Low speculators, dishonest politicians, pettifogging tyrants, unhanged murderers, and strong-minded women, for whose conduct insanity is the only possible excuse – these are the worthies of the North. The loss of Jackson has brought home this contrast to many minds, and, if possible, added strength to the general conviction in the ultimate triumph of the cause supported by such as he.”

General Jackson has lived long enough for the creation of world-wide, exalted fame; but alas! not sufficiently long for the interest of his struggling country. Nobly, most nobly, did he complete his high mission on earth. In his separation from us let us console ourselves with the belief that his illustrious example will exercise as salutary an influence upon our citizen soldiers in the hour of battle as did his presence, and that his pure spirit will linger around his beloved associates whenever they may be engaged and guide to their accustomed achievements.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, A. Dudley Mann”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt, pp. 489-492)

 

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

Necessity being the mother of invention, the war and naval blockade thrust upon the American South forced its citizenry to rely on their ingenuity to not only survive, but fight tenaciously for independence against vast and overwhelming odds for four grueling years.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

“One lasting a beneficial result of this situation somewhat compensates for the temporary inconveniences and sufferings. It stimulated the inventive genius of the Southern people and revealed to them a mechanical capacity which they did not know they possessed. Speaking to a New England audience in 1886 on “The Political and Social South During the War,” [former North Carolina governor and United States Senator Zebulon] Vance said:

“You can scarcely imagine the feeling which comes to a people when isolated as we were, and shut out from communication with all the world. A nation in prison we were, in the midst of civilized society, and forced to rely exclusively upon ourselves for everything. When the war began, with the exception of a few cotton and woolen mills and the crude establishments common to all plantations and villages, we were utterly without manufactures of any kind . . . But the land was full of resources, and the raw material for the manufacture of all that we needed.

And strange as it may appear to you, it was full of mechanical capacity to deal with this material . . . Cotton and woolen mills quickly sprang up and the capacity of existing ones enlarged. Foundries for casting cannon, shops for making fire arms, swords and bayonets, and mills for making powder were set up in abundance. Shoes and blankets were made by the hundred thousand, and transportation wagons and camp equipages of all kind soon supplied the demand.

The situation called into active use all the mechanical talent of our people. The village or cross-road blacksmith refurnished his shop and made tools and agricultural implements for his neighbors; the shoemaker, the cooper, the wheelwright, and the tanner, all sprang into sudden importance. Even the druggist who compounded from the wondrous flora of the country substitutes for nearly all the drugs of commerce, which if not so efficacious were at least more harmless than the genuine article.

The devices and expedients adopted in all the industries, the social and domestic departments of our daily life, were most ingenious, though sometimes ludicrous.”

((North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, Vol. II, R.D.W. Conner, American Historical Society, 1929, pp. 195-196)

The South's Invincible Bravery

The South believed the invader of their land inferior and recalled that Hannibal had destroyed more than ninety percent of a vastly superior Roman army; Frederick the Great defeated an army twice the size of his in 1757; and Zachary Taylor defeated 15,000 Mexicans at Buena Vista in 1847 with 5,000 troops. Historian Bell Wiley noted: “Indeed, it is doubtful that any people ever went to war with greater enthusiasm than did Confederates in 1861.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South’s Invincible Bravery

“General Robert E. Lee had decided to disregard the advice of a division commander [to] assault the strong Federal position [at Malvern Hill]. For the task he selected country boys and men from the Deep South . . . together with regiments from North Carolina and Virginia. These were proud soldiers, even a bit cocky now because for nearly a week they had been pushing Yankees back . . . [the enemy general] thought they came on with “a reckless disregard for life . . . with a determination to capture our army, or destroy it.”

At Sharpsburg a Federal remembered that the advance of his unit was stopped by a “long and steady line of rebel gray . . . sweeping down through the woods.”

Another Northerner recounted the “invincible bravery” of the attacking Confederates and how his regiment “opened a withering, literally withering, fire on the rebels . . . but they still advanced. A color-bearer came forward within fifteen yards of our line, and with the utmost desperation waved a rebel flag in front of him.

Our men fairly roared, “Shoot the man with the flag! And he went down in a twinkling and the flag was not raised in sight again. Several charges at Sharpsburg cost the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment sixty-two percent of its 325 men. One company lost all but five of its 30 men; two-thirds of the men and all of the officers in another company were killed or wounded.

The South lost 175,000 soldiers in the first twenty-seven months of combat. This number was more than the entire Confederate military service in the summer of 1861 and it far exceeded the strength of any army that Lee ever commanded. More than 80,000 Southerners fell in just five battles. At Gettysburg, three out of every ten Confederates present were hit; one brigade lost sixty-five percent of its men and seventy percent of its field officers in a single charge.

A North Carolina regiment started the action with some 800 men; only 216 survived unhurt. Another unit lost two-thirds of its men as well as its commander in a brief assault.”

(Attack and Die, Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage, Grady McWhiney and Perry Jamieson, University of Alabama Press, 1982, pp. 3-5)

Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home

The year 1862 ended with great loss on both sides; the carnage at Fredericksburg should have convinced a sane Northern leader that the human cost of his war upon the South was not worth the ever-increasing casualty lists. By mid-year Lincoln was told that enlistments had virtually ceased and that only forced conscription could fill his armies fighting against poorly-armed and supplied Southern men who were fighting for their homes and political independence. In the fighting [below] at Seven Days’, twenty-five Athens, Georgia men were killed at the Seven Days’ battle.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home

“General Robert E. Lee, now in command of the entire force defending Richmond, set June 26 [1862] as the day for a great attack to drive the enemy from the area. Suddenly, in mid-afternoon there came the crashing sounds of war. Many thousands of Confederate soldiers crossed the Chickahominy [river], advancing eastward toward the village of Mechanicsville, driving the enemy steadily before them.

It was after four o’clock in the afternoon before Captain Samuel Lumpkin led the Johnson Guards across the Chickahominy . . . [and] Scarcely had they crossed before a group of civilian horsemen appeared . . . it was President [Jefferson] Davis, trying as ever to get nearer the center of action.

Lumpkin’s men hurried toward Mechanicsville with their regiment . . . exposed on open ground to the raking fire from the heights beyond. Some found cover, others could only protect themselves by lying down prone. There was no chance for a direct assault on the Federal lines, and the Southern commanders could only hope to flank the Union left. The Forty-fourth Georgia, that included the Johnson Guards, was given the task . . . in the face of the concentrated fire of Federal muskets that poured bullets into them from the easiest point-blank range.

The Georgia lines were shattered, and the attack utterly crushed. Of the five hundred men of the Forty-fourth Regiment that entered the battle, less than fifty escaped unharmed; nine-tenths of the command were shot or captured. Of the three hundred Georgians that lay dead in the tangled swamp of Beaver Dam Creek, eleven were country boys from the Watkinsville area, shot dead on their first day of battle, hundreds of miles from home.

On the following days the Confederate command, rallying all along the line, regained the initiative it had lost at Beaver Dam Creek. At Gaines’ Mill, Savage Station, and Frayser’s Farm, in one bitter battle after another, the enemy was gradually pushed back from the gates of Richmond.

In the early morning hours of July 1, the war once again caught up with the Johnson Guards, when the weary survivors of Ripley’s Brigade were thrown into the attack against the hill. Before the day was over, the six other Clarke County companies were joined in the fight, all occupying the same battle line. The old Athens Guards [of Capt. Henry C. Billups] and [Capt. Isaac S. Vincent’s] Clarke [County] Rifles, now merely companies “K” and “L” in the regiment of [Ambrose] R. Wright’s Brigade, were on hand. So were Captain William S. Grady’s Highland Guards, of Robert Ransom’s Brigade, and the three Athens companies of Tom Cobb’s Legion, of his brother Howell’s Brigade.

At one time, all the Athens companies were on the move simultaneously in the Army’s desperate attempt to make headway up the murderous slope. But the onslaught was useless; the defensive positions were too strong, and he attackers were driven back with great loss. As night came on, the Federals still held the hill. When the artillery of both sides finally ceased firing at ten o’clock that night, only the agonized cries of the wounded and the dying could be heard from the hillside.

At daylight the following morning, Wright’s Brigade of Georgians was one of only two Confederate commands that had not been swept off the hill. As the men of the Athens Guard and Clarke Rifles looked up the slope, the only soldiers they could see were the writhing wounded and the shattered bodies of the dead. Eleven of their comrades had been killed.

Out of sight, behind the crest of the hill, a Federal force of cavalry and infantry waited for a time, but withdrew at the first fire of the Confederates. By ten o’clock in the morning, the last Union soldier had disappeared . . . The field belonged to the South at last, but the victory had not been won. The enemy had successfully got away.

Edgar Richardson, of [Capt. Marcellus Stanley’s] Troup Artillery, walked over the Malvern Hill battlefield, looked at the bulging eyes of the dead, and wrote his sister he never wanted “to behold such a sight again.” Tom Cobb wrote [wife] Marion: “It is very unpleasant to go to [the battlefields], not only on account of the stench, but also the flies which . . . over the whole earth and trees in a dense mass.

Thus ended the Seven Days. The enemy was gone, withdrawn to its James River base, and Richmond was saved.”

(These Men She Gave, Civil War Diary of Athens, Georgia, John F. Stegeman, UG Press, pp. 52-54)