Friday, July 31, 2009

Rock of Chickamauga

General George Henry Thomas was born on July 31st 1816.

George Henry Thomas was born July 31st 1816 in Southampton County Virginia. As a boy he warned neighbors about the slave revolute led by Nat Turner in 1831. He graduated from West Point in 1840, and saw military service in the Seminole Indian War, the Mexican War, and served as an instructor at West Point. In 1855, the US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appointed Thomas as a Major to the Second Cavalry.

With the out break of the Civil War, he like many southerns debated staying in the Union army. Thomas remained with the US military, and quickly rose through the ranks. On January 19th 1862, while in command of a force in Kentucky he attacked General Felix Zollicoffer’s Confederates at Mill Springs, and won the first important western theater Union victory. Holding firm to the field during the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19th 1863, Thomas earned the name “The Rock of Chickamauga”. In the autumn of 1864 Thomas was given the task of dealing with John Bell Hood in Tennessee, while General William Tecumseh Sherman made his march to the sea. For his victory in outside of Nashville TN, December 16th 1864 over Hood he was promoted to Major General, and given the thanks of Congress.

After the Civil War ended Thomas led the military departments in Kentucky and Tennessee until 1869. He was ordered to the West coast where he became the division commander of the Pacific and was headquarter in San Francisco. Thomas died there March 28th 1870.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Crater

The Battle of the Crater began on July 30th 1864 with a bang.

After weeks of hard work, shortly before dawn on July 30th 1864 Union Major General Ambrose E Burnside’s IX Corps blew up the tunnel that ran under the confederate’s line using four tons of black powder. Do to splicing of a low quality fuse the explosion didn’t go off when planned. Two men from the PA 48th Regiment, Lieutenant Jacob Douty and Sergeant Harry Reese, went into the tunnel and relit the fuse. The explosion created a crater and made a gap in the Confederate defenses of Petersburg Virginia along Pegram’s Salient. It killed about 300 instantly Rebel soldiers. The Union troops charged into the crater unit after unit, where they milled around in confusion. The Confederates led by Major General William Mahone quickly launched an attack. The Federals were repulsed with heavy casualties. The black soldiers of Brigadier General Edward Ferrero’s division were dreadfully mauled.

Union casualties were about 3,798 in killed, wounded or missing. The Confederates lost about 1,500. Charges were brought against General Burnside, and he was never again assigned to duty.

Other information about this battle
The Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864

Battle of the Crater

The Horrid Pit: The Battle of the Crater, the Civil War's Cruelest Mission

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Confederate Belle

Confederate spy Belle Boyd was arrested July 29th 1862 and held for a month in the Old Capitol Prison.

Marie Isabella “Belle” Boyd was born in Martinsburg Virginia [now part of West Virginia]. She operated as a Confederate spy from the father’s hotel in Front Royal Virginia. She passed along valuable information on several occasions to General Turner Ashby and Thomas Stonewall Jackson, while they campaigned in 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley. Although Boyd was arrested several times, it wasn’t until she was betrayed by a lover on July 29th 1862 that Boyd found herself incarcerated in Washington DC’s Old Capital Prison. Boyd was released as part of a prisoner exchanged a month latter.

Belle Boyd died while touring as an actor June 11th 1900 in Kilbourn Wisconsin [now known as Wisconsin Dells]. She was only 56. She is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Wisconsin Dells.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Are Coming

The song “We Are Coming Father Abraham” is published for the first time July 16th 1862 in the New York Evening Post.

Written by James Sloan Gibbons, the marching tune “We are coming, Father Abraham, Three Hundred Thousand More”, was meant to be used to recruit troops. The words to the song were published on July 16th 1862 in the New York Evening Post. Gibbons’ was a Quaker and an abolitionist, who was prompted to write the poem by President Abraham Lincoln’s call for an additional 300,000 troops. The poem was set to music by the Hutchinson Family Singers, Stephen Foster and others, and became a favorite among Union supporters.

For a copy of the words of this song

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Soldiers Cemetery

The project would become the National Cemetery at Gettysburg began with a land purchase on July 15th 1863.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin purchased land on the battlefield at Gettysburg PA, with the purpose of creating a cemetery. The “Soldiers Cemetery” was for the proper burial of Union soldiers. This was the brainchild of Gettysburg’s citizens who saw rain and wind uncover the shallow graves which dotted the battlefield. Money was raised and funds were provided by the Commonwealth of PA. Besides buying the ground that would become the cemetery, some of the money went to Samuel Weaver. He had the un-enviable job of removing the Union dead from their graves around the battlefield and hospital sites, for re-burial. The Confederate dead would remain buried on the field until the 1870’s when they moved to southern cemeteries.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Protect The Supplies

The Battle of Tupelo Mississippi on July 14th 1864 ensured that General William Tecumseh Sherman’s supply lines were safe.

Major General A J Smith with more 14,000 Union soldiers left LaGrange Tennessee on July 5th 1864. His order was to protect the lines Major General William T Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Having laid waist to the country as he advanced, July 13th 1864 found Smith moving east toward Tupelo MI.

In the mean time Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry, with about 6000 men and Lieutenant General Stephen D Lee with another 2,000 were with in two miles of Smith‘s Union force. The Confederates attacked on the morning of July 14th 1864. Lee’s assaults weren’t well coordinated and the Federal troops pushed them back inflicting large casualties on Rebels.

With the Union troops running short on supplies, Smith did not pursue Lee and Forrest. He headed back to Memphis on the 15th. Smith has been criticized for not destroying the Confederate command. He had, however fulfilled his orders and protected Sherman’s supply lines.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Line Drawn

The Northwest Ordinance passed on July 13th 1787 by act of the United States Congress of the Confederation.

The Northwest Ordinance [also known as the Freedom Ordinance, or the Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the US North West of the Ohio River], passed unanimously on July 13th 1787. The ordinance created the Northwest Territory out the area south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. This piece of legislation set the precedent of westward expansion in the United States. The Ordinance called for the eventual creation of not less than three, or more than five new states. The act also banned slavery in the new territory, which in effect established the Ohio River as the line between slave and free states.

Other information about the Ordinance
Text of The Northwest Ordinance

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rise To Command

Union victory at the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11th 1861 helped rise Major General George B McClellan to command.

On June 27th 1861 Major General George B McClellan who was then in command of the Union army in western Virginia, began moving troops south from Clarksburg VA. They reached the area around Rich Mountain in Randolph County Virginia [now West Virginia] on July 9th 1861 and come up against Confederate Lieutenant Colonel John Pegram. On July 11th 1861 Union Brigadier General William S Rosecrans took the Staunton Parkersburg Turnpike to Pegram’s rear. The next two hours of fighting split the Confederates forces. Pegram surrendered on July 13th 1861. About half of his men managed to escape.

On July 22nd 1861 McClellan was ordered to return to Washington DC, where he would be place in command of the Army of the Potomac. Rosecrans would be give the command of the army in western Virginia.

Further reading on this subject
The Battle of Rich Mountain: An Overview

Friday, July 10, 2009

Holding Onto Kentucky

President Abraham Lincoln wrote a memo on July 10th 1861 to Simon B Buckner about military need in Kentucky. Buckner had been sent to see Lincoln, by Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin to express the publics feeling regarding the succession. Lincoln’s note said, "It is my duty . . . to suppress an insurrection existing within the United States. I wish to do this with the least possible disturbance, or annoyance to well disposed people anywhere. So far I have not sent an armed force into Kentucky . . . I sincerely desire that no necessity for it may be presented; but I mean to say nothing which shall hereafter embarrass me in the performance of . . . my duty."

Kentucky became the last state to join the Confederacy, joining them as the 13th state in December 10th 1861.

For more information about Kentucky in the Civil War
The Civil War in Lexington KY

Thursday, July 9, 2009

After 48 Days Of Fighting

Learning of the surrender of Vicksburg, Confederate Major General Franklin Gardner surrendered Port Hudson on July 9th 1863.

Major General Franklin Gardner realized that his position at Port Hudson, Louisiana on the Mississippi was hopeless. They had used up practically all their supplies, and were down in many case to eating mules. After Vicksburg fell, he negotiated a surrender. The Rebels laid their arms down on July 9th 1863 after 48 days of fighting. As Union Admiral David Farragut was in New Orleans, Captain Thornton A Jenkins accepted the Confederate’s surrender.

Both the Confederate and Union side suffered large numbers of casualties during the long siege. On the Union side about 5000 men were killed, or wounded, with about another 5000 falling to disease and sunstroke. The Confederates had about 750 dead or wounded, many of whom died from disease.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The First To Ban Slavery

Vermont was a newly declared Republic on July 8th 1777, when she became the first government in what would become the United State to ban slavery.

The new Republic, which would become the fourteenth state in 1791, was formed after breaking away from New York. The founders met in Windsor, Vermont and drafted a constitution which abolished slavery in the first chapter.

I. THAT all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. Therefore, no male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one Years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive to such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

They Built Breastworks

The 123rd New York returned to Culp’s Hill on July 2nd 1863 to find their trenches in the possession of Rebel troops.

Formed in Washington Co NY [about an hour north east of Albany NY] in August 1862, the 123rd saw service with the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, before marching to Gettysburg PA. On the first of July the men of the 123rd marched from Littlestown PA, about 11 miles to Gettysburg. They bivouacked near the Baltimore Pike on Wolf Hill. The next day they moved into line on Culp’s Hill where they built a breastwork of logs, under the ordered of Brigadier General George Sears Greene. The regiment was ordered to support the left of the Union line near Little Round Top at about 6pm. Returning to their works after dark they ran into the enemy, who had occupied the breastwork.

A large monument was dedicated to the 123rd on Culp’s Hill in Gettysburg on September 4th 1888. The monument is over 18 feet high and shows “Clio” the muse of history. It cost $4,000.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Death Of Reynolds

"Forward men, forward, for God's sake, and drive those fellows out of the woods," the words spoken by Major General John Fulton Reynolds on the first day of Gettysburg July 1st 1863.

The black-hat veterans of the 2nd Wisconsin, “The Badgers” had just arrived on the field. They rushed into line, with Major John Fulton Reynolds’ words pushing them on, they advanced on the Rebels. As Reynolds turned in his saddle to see the 7th Wisconsin come into line and charge, he was struck in the back of the neck by a mini ball. General Reynolds’ orderly Charles Veil said, "He never spoke a word, or moved a muscle after he was struck. I have seen many men killed in action but never saw a ball do its work so instantly as did the ball that struck General Reynolds." Command then fell to Major General Abner Doubleday.

Reynolds body was taken from Gettysburg to Taneytown Maryland, and than to his hometown of Lancaster Pennsylvania where he was buried. He died exactly twenty-two years after the date of his graduation from West Point.

Some other reading that may of interest
The Death of Major General John F. Reynolds

Towards Gettysburg: A Biography of General John F. Reynolds

Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign