Browsing "Southern Heroism"

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)

 

The Graves of American Heroes

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.org

 

The Graves of American Heroes

“[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)

Helpful Yankee Artillerist

Though the Southern troops below were astonished by a captured Northern artilleryman offering to help “mow those Yankees down,” it is not surprising that soldiers, most likely European immigrants, who enlisted for money rather than patriotism, would fire upon fellow soldiers they had little in common with other than  a blue uniform.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Helpful Yankee Artillerist

“As a result of [General Matthew C.] Butler’s scouting report, [General Wade] Hampton noted that [the enemy’s] left flank was “in the air.” He suggested that if the infantry attacked the Yankees from the west, holding them in position at Ream’s Station, he could come up from the south to drive the Federals away from the [Wilmington & Weldon] railroad and back to their lines. [General Robert E.] Lee agreed with the plan.

The next morning, shortly after sunrise . . . Butler drove the Yankee skirmishers back toward their lines, then waited for the infantry attack. The enemy, of course, was uncomfortable with Butler on their flank, so they opened an artillery barrage toward his ranks. “They are disposed to be rather familiar this morning,” Butler observed calmly to [General Thomas] Rosser.

[After Gen. A.P. Hill’s assault about 3PM], Butler dismounted his men . . . to approach his adversary from the rear. “The enemy, taken on the front and flank, fell back pell mell,” one stated, “through trees cut down, fence rails, breastworks of every kind . . . thrown up as a defense against us.”

The Rebels captured the [enemy] artillery, but no one knew how to fire the pieces. An enemy prisoner saw the problem. “If you boys will allow me,” he called, “I can mow those Yankees down.”

The astonished Confederates moved aside, and the Union gunner quickly opened a devastating fire on his former friends (many of whom were foreigners who did not speak English, some of whom had only recently arrived from overseas). “[He] seems to enjoy the sport very much,” one of [Butler’s] men recalled.”

(Southern Hero, Matthew Calbraith Butler, Samuel J. Martin, Stackpole Book, 2001, pp. 109-110)

 

Great and Famed American Soldiers

The text below is taken from Judge D.F. Pugh’s address at the dedication of the Camp Chase Cemetery. He was at the time Past Department Commander of the GAR of Ohio, and spoke respectfully of the valor and dedication of his brave, half-fed and barefooted adversaries from the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Great and Famed American Soldiers

“That the Confederate soldiers were gallant, that they were hard fighters, can be proved by every Union soldier who struggled against them in the fiery front of battle.

After the battle of Missionary Ridge I was attracted by the extreme youthful appearance of a dead Tennessee Confederate soldier who belonged to a regiment of Cheatham’s Division, against which we had fought the day before. He was not over fifteen years of age and very slender. He was clothed in a cotton suit and was barefooted – barefooted!—on that cold and wet 24th day of November, 1863.

I examined his haversack. For a day’s rations there were a handful of black beans, a few slices of sorghum, and a half dozen roasted acorns. That was an infinitely poor outfit for marching and fighting, but that Tennessee soldier had made it answer his purpose. The Confederates who, half fed, looked bravely into our faces for many long, agonizing weeks over the ramparts of Vicksburg; the remnants of Lee’s magnificent army, which, fed on raw corn and persimmons, fluttered their heroic rags and interposed their bodies for a year between Grant’s army and Richmond, only a few miles away – all these men were great soldiers. I pity the American who cannot be proud of their valor and endurance.

We can never challenge the fame of those men whose skill and valor made them the idols of the Confederate army. The fame of Lee, Jackson, the Johnston’s, Gordon, Longstreet, the Hills, Hood and Stuart, and many thousands of noncommissioned and private soldiers of the Confederate armies, whose names are not mentioned on historical pages, can never be tarnished by the carping criticisms of the narrow and shallow-minded.”

(Judge Pugh’s Address, Confederate Veteran, July 1902, page 295)

The Grandest Soldiers That Ever Marched

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the men who followed Lee and other Southern generals was their steadfast determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Rarely after mid-1863 were there even odds and most often Lee fought successfully against foes two or three times his own number.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Grandest Soldiers That Ever Marched

“It is quite a mistaken idea that the Yankees were poor soldiers and easily whipped. Any Confederate soldier who met them often in battle will testify that they were hard and tenacious fighters, especially those from the Great North West.

The Confederates could claim very little credit for holding at bay such a mighty host armed with the most improved weapons and devices of warfare for four long, dreary years, and defeating them so often and disastrously, with odds often greatly against them, had the Northern army been merely a disorganized mob and rabble.

Yes, the Northern army was a fine one, well equipped and well officered, with all the resources at hand that could be desired for great and aggressive warfare; but it had to meet an army of Southern troops composed of the grandest soldiers that ever marched to martial music, or fought in defense of country!

Just to think, that the Southern army of six hundred thousand men, poorly armed and equipped, ridiculously clad and meagerly fed, without tents, without medicine, without pay, checkmating, baffling, repulsing and often humiliating and disastrously defeating the Northern army of 2,778,304 men armed with the most improved engines of warfare, well paid, well fed, abundantly clothed; backed by all the resources of a great nation, for four long, dreary years, staggers the credulity of man to contemplate.

In a letter to General [Jubal] Early shortly after the close of the war, General Robert E. Lee wrote: “It will be difficult to get the world to understand the odds against which we fought.” From the number drawing pensions from the United States government today, fifty years since the close of hostilities, there might have been a million more soldiers in the Union Army than given in the figures named above.”

(Sketch of the War Record of the Edisto Rifles, William V. Izlar, The State Company, 1914, pp. 98-100)

Theodore Roosevelt's Tribute to Lee

In his Life of Thomas H. Benton (Houghton-Mifflin, 1900), Theodore Roosevelt traced the important influences which formed Benton’s character to the militant spirit found in his native South, and further mentions that important influence on the Southern army and its commander.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Theodore Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee

“No man who is not willing to bear arms and to fight for his rights can give a good reason why he should be entitled to the privilege of living in a free community. The decline of the militant spirit in the Northeast during the first half of this century was much to be regretted.

To it is due more than to any other cause the undoubted average individual inferiority of the Northern compared with the Southern troops – at any rate, at the beginning of the [War].

The Southerners, by their whole mode of living, their habits, and their love of outdoor sports, kept up their warlike spirit, while in the North the so-called upper classes developed along the lines of a wealthy and timid bourgeoisie type, measuring everything by a mercantile standard (a peculiarly debasing one, if taken purely by itself), and submitting to be ruled in local affairs by low, foreign mobs, and in national affairs by their arrogant Southern kinsmen. The militant spirit of these last certainly stood them in good stead in the civil war.

The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee, and their leader will undoubtedly rank, without any exception, as the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth . . .”

(Roosevelt’s Tribute to Lee, Rev. J.H. McNeilly; Confederate Veteran, June 1900, page 257)

Georgia's Alamo

Comparable to the vastly outnumbered Texans’ at the Alamo, and similar to Col. William Lamb’s vastly outnumbered and outgunned North Carolinians at Fort Fisher the following month, Fort McAllister’s garrison was fighting an enemy seventeen times their own strength. As is common today, Southern defenders are often termed “Confederates” rather than identified as mostly local men defending their homes, farms, families and State.

At Fort McAllister were the First Regiment, Georgia Reserve’s Companies D and E under Captains George N. Hendry and Angus Morrison, respectively; the Emmet Rifles under Capt. George A. Nicoll; and Capt. Nicholas Clinch’s Light Battery of artillery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Georgia’s Alamo

“The sporadic crackle of musketry echoed through the woods and marshes as Union patrols probed the defenses of Fort McAllister on Tuesday, December 13, 1864. Hunched in the fort were about 230 Confederates commanded by [Savannah native] Major George W. Anderson, Jr. All of them knew they faced a grim and hopeless task in repelling the expected attack.

Behind . . . skirmishers and shielded by forests . . . four thousand Federals were deploying, intent on overrunning the fort at any cost. McAllister had a number of large-caliber guns, but most were aimed at the sea.

Under the direction of engineer Capt. Thomas A. White, the Confederates had done everything possible to strengthen McAllister, especially the landward defenses . . . as [enemy] troops neared the sea.

Anderson realized it would be much more difficult to hold the fort against a land assault, but vowed a fight to the last. “I determined under the circumstances, and notwithstanding the great disparity of numbers, between the garrison and attacking forces, to defend the fort to the last extremity,” he later recalled. Numbering his effectives as 150 men, Anderson added that “with no possible hope of reinforcement, from any quarter, . . . holding the fort was simply a question of time. There was but one alternative – death or captivity.”

The attack was launched shortly after 4PM. Ragged musketry and cannon fire dropped some of the Yankees as there neared the breastworks. Other explosions ripped gaps in the blue line . . . “[and torpedo-mines] were exploded by the tread of the troops, blowing many men to atoms.” “The Federal skirmish line was very heavy and the fire so close and so rapid that it was at times impossible to work our guns,” Anderson said of the [enemy] assault. “My sharpshooters did all in their power, but were entirely too few to suppress this galling fire upon the artillerists.”

[Enemy troops swarmed] onto the embankments to engage the Rebels in hand to hand combat. “[The enemy commander wrote that] There was a pause, a cessation of fire. The smoke cleared away and the parapets were blue with our men, who fired their muskets in the air . . . “

The surviving Confederate troops scrambled into the bombproofs, where the close-quarter fighting continued. The combat swirled for several minutes before the last defenders were overwhelmed. The Southerners “only succumbed as each man was individually overpowered,” [an enemy commander] reported.

“The fort was never surrendered,” Anderson recalled, “It was captured by overwhelming numbers.” Captain Nicholas B. Clinch, Anderson’s artillery commander, personified the Rebels’ mettle. Refusing to surrender, he became engaged ion a personal duel with [an enemy captain]. “The two fought for some minutes after the fighting had ceased,” a soldier recalled, “Both were good swordsmen and they were permitted to fight it out.” [The enemy captain] was “severely wounded about the head and shoulders” before other bluecoats intervened and subdued Clinch.

Bayoneted six times, sobered six times, and shot twice, Clinch was captured and survived the war. The fort was taken at 4:30PM, the assault lasting but fifteen minutes.”

(Civil War Savannah, Derek Smith, Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, 1997, pp. 173-178)

Pages:«12345678