Browsing "Southern Heroism"

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)

 

Incomparable American Soldiers

After his twenty-thousand men were soundly whipped by eight-thousand Southern men under General A.P. Hill in mid-1864, at least one enemy general realized that only merciless attrition, starvation and destruction could force the Americans he fought to lower their arms.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Incomparable American Soldiers

“So much has been said about the morale of the Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg . . . and to say nothing about the splendid fighting of [General] A.P. Hill’s men and the cavalry at Ream’s Station in August 1864, and the almost daily fights that [Gen.] W.H.F. Lee’s cavalry had along the Boydton Plank Road and the Weldon Railroad at Ream’s Station, we swept Hancock’s celebrated 2nd Corps away from our front like the whirlwind.

Nothing stopped us and our force was far inferior [in number] to theirs . . . General A.P. Hill sent . . . for a mounted man who was familiar with the country, and he [Lt. Aldrich] was sent.

When he reported to General Hill, the General said: “Lieutenant, how many men have you with the cavalry?”

Lieutenant Aldrich told him that he had about two thousand and then asked: “General Hill, how many men have you?”

The response was: “About eight thousand, I think.”

Then the General said: “How many men do you think are in front of us Lieutenant?”

To which the Lieutenant replied: “All of Hancock’s troops, I should say about twenty thousand men.”

Lieutenant Aldrich then insinuated that the General was attempting a big job with the force he had.

General Hill then said: “Lieutenant, if we can’t whip them with this proportion we’d better stop the war right now.”

History shows well how he figured. General Hancock, when he returned from the hospital testified to the completeness of [his] defeat and told his Corps that the Confederate army could not be beaten, but must be worn out.”

(The Battle of Five Forks, David Caldwell, Columbia, SC, Confederate Veteran Magazine, March 1914, page 117)

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

Six Thousand Against Twenty Thousand!

 

Despite the tide of war turning against them and being hopelessly outnumbered in every battle, the hungry and ragged American soldiers fought on in North Carolina, bravely trying to destroy the Northern invaders. They fought to protect their families, homes and State; their enemies fought for bounties, looting and conquest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Six Thousand Against Twenty Thousand!

“At Monroe’s Farm . . . General Wade Hampton and his Confederate cavalry caught Judson Kilpatrick with his pants down — in fact, without any pants — in a sudden surprise attack during the early dawn of March 11 [1865]. Had the famished Confederates not stopped to loot the Yankee camp of food, they might have gained a signal victory that day.

Many of the Confederates killed in that fight were boys — the seed corn of the Confederacy, as Governor Vance called them. They died then, those boys, many calling for their mothers. Their mangled bodies lie in a mass grave in old Longstreet Church Cemetery, now a part of the Fort Bragg [military] Reservation.

On through Fayetteville, across the Cape Fear River and up toward Averasboro went [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s little army of hungry, ragged men. Only a few days before an order had been issued than none would be excused from duty merely because he had no shoes! And this was March, and it was cold and it rained — Lord, it rained all the time.

So they slogged through the mud and the mire and ate parched corn, pickled pork, roots, grub worms — anything they could chew and swallow. It was at the time when Johnston’s chief surgeon stated he didn’t believe there was a sound set of guts in the entire Confederate Army.

The route of Johnston’s retreat could be followed by following the trail of dysentery-ridden soldiers left in houses along the way. These, then, were the 6,000 men of General Hardee’s Corps, composed principally of South Carolinians, who placed themselves across that 3-1/2 mile stretch of land between the Cape Fear River and Black Rivers — 4 miles south of old Averasboro. Their job? Lick the Yankees!

Over in the Black River Swamp the Confederates had charged the Yankee position . . . The charge was intended to turn the Federal right and neatly cul-de-sac the whole Yankee Army against the Cape Fear River and destroy it. Six thousand against twenty thousand!”

(They Passed This Way, Malcolm Fowler, Friends of Harnett County Library, 1955, pp. 95-96)

 

The South Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

Hooker Amuses the American Napoleons

The Duke of Wellington reportedly stated that “a man of refined Christian sensibilities is totally unfit for the profession of a soldier,” though two devoted Christians, Lee and Jackson faithfully performed their soldierly duties to near-perfection against tremendous odds.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hooker Amuses the American Napoleons

“On the Confederate side, the force operating at Chancellorsville consisted of McLaw’s and Anderson’s divisions of Longstreet’s corps (Hood’s and Pickett’s divisions of that corps, under Longstreet, were in the vicinity of Suffolk, on the south side of the James river), and Jackson’s corps, of A.P. Hill’s, [Jubal] Early’s, D.H. Hill’s under Rodes, and [Issac] Trimble’s under [Raleigh] Colston, and two brigades of cavalry under W.H.F. Lee and Fitzhugh Lee.

Present, then, we find six infantry divisions or twenty-eight brigades, and the cavalry brigades of nine regiments. The official return of the Army of Northern Virginia nearest to the battle extant – viz: 31st March 1863 . . . you have present at Chancellorsville a Confederate total on 53,303, with some 170 pieces of artillery.

Now let us see what 133,708 fighting men in blue did with 53,303 “boys in gray.”

It will be demonstrated that “the finest army on the planet” as Hooker termed it, “was like the waves of the ocean driven upon the beach by some unseen force, and whose white crests we so soon broken into glittering jewels on the sand.”

[Three of Hooker’s] corps were to constitute the left wing of the army – were to hold and amuse General Lee and prevent him from observing the great flank movement of the right wing, and to pursue him, when maneuvered out of his entrenchments, by the approaching hosts on his left-rear.

Hooker’s original left wing was about equal in numbers to General Lee’s whole army, and his right wing, or marching column, of four infantry corps and one cavalry corps [57,414], would represent his numerical advantage in strength.

The Confederate commander knew a movement was in progress. With the serenity of almost superhuman intelligence he waited for it to be developed before his plans were laid to counteract it, for he remembered the maxim of the great Napoleon, that when your enemy is making a mistake he must not be interrupted.

General Lee was to keep 14,000 men in front of Hooker’s 73,124 while Jackson moved around his right flank with 26,000. [Upon personally viewing the exposed and undefended enemy flank, Jackson’s] eyes burned with a brilliant glow, lighting up his sad face. His expression was one of intense interest, his face was colored slightly with the paint of approaching battle, and radiant at the success of his flanking movement.

From what I have read and heard of Jackson since that day, I know now what he was doing then. Oh! “beware of rashness,” General Hooker. Stonewall Jackson is praying in full view of your right flank!”

(Chancellorsville – Address of General Fitzhugh Lee, Southern Historical Papers, Volume VII, 1879, pp. 558-560; 570-572)

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee's Spirit

Major-General Robert F. Hoke of Lincolnton, North Carolina was said to be Lee’s personal choice for command of the Army of Northern Virginia should he be incapacitated. A brilliant division commander, Hoke was not a West Pointer and after the war declined any reminiscences of his participation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee’s Spirit

“I once saw General Hoke eating ham and eggs and buckwheat cakes in a hotel in Greensboro. A massive man with broad smooth brow and well-trimmed gray beard, he resembled the pictures of General Lee. Later in the day when I was introduced to him at a railway station, the talk fell on the war with Spain, which had just ended and he told me President McKinley had offered him by telegraph a brigadier’s commission in the army preparing to go to Cuba.

He thanked the President but declined. “I have seen enough of war in my time,” he said. He spoke as casually as if he had said,” “I had all the buckwheat cakes for breakfast I wanted.”

We were then only four miles from the spot where he as the commander of a division in [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s army had surrendered to Sherman. I tried to draw him out on the subject, but he was politely uninterested.

General Hoke engaged in mining and railroading after 1865. He resolutely refused to enter politics, unlike many of his brother officers who were only too ready to capitalize their war records. In this General Hoke revealed a kinship of the spirit of General Lee.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 36-37)

History Helps Those Only Who Help Themselves

The victor writes the history unless challenged by the defeated, and it remains for the vanquished to pass their histories on to their children. Colonel Waddell below was an accomplished North Carolina jurist, author, and essayist, and one who fought political corruption and violence during Radical reconstruction. See: http://cfhi.net/AlfredMooreWaddellEnlightenedWilmingtonian.php

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

History Helps Those Only Who Help Themselves

“In November, 1901 the annual convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was held in Wilmington, North Carolina and Mayor Alfred Moore Waddell, welcomed them to this historic city. In his address, he said that “As one who bore a humble part in the service of the Confederacy I reverently salute you the wives, sisters, and daughters of my comrades, the noblest army of heroines and patriots that ever trod the earth.”

He went on to say that:

“Your organization is unique in human annals, as was the struggle whose memories you seek to preserve. The dreamer and sentimentalist may fold his hands, and with a sigh exclaim that history will do justice between the parties to that struggle; but experience has shown that history, like Providence, helps those only who help themselves, and will honor only those who help her to record the truth.

You will readily admit that if the Southern people had remained silent, and had used no printer’s ink after the war, they would have been pilloried in history as Rebels and traitors who had, causelessly and without a shadow of excuse, drenched the land with the blood of unoffending patriots.

But the Southern people did not remain silent; they published in a thousand forms the truth, both as to the causes which impelled them to assert their rights and as to the battles in which they maintained them, and have thus made a partial, unjust and one-sided history impossible.

In this work the Memorial Association first, and after them the United Daughters of the Confederacy, have been the most heroic and devoted, and they may justly claim a large share of the credit for successfully vindicating before the world the causes which their Southern countrymen engaged, and in which thousands of them sacrificed their lives.”

(Confederate Veteran Magazine, November 1901, pp. 485-486)