Browsing "Southern Heroism"

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)

 

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)