Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hold That Gap At All Hazards

The Battle of Ringgold Gap, a Confederate victory was fought November 27th 1863 in northwest Georgia.

The Battle of Missionary Ridge was disastrous to the Confederate Army of Tennessee and sent them limping into northwest Georgia.  Reaching the mountain pass of Ringgold Gap, Confederate General Braxton Bragg, needed time to get his wagons and artillery; which were bogged down on the muddy roads through, so he called on Major General Patrick Cleburne to hold the pass from the Union army “at all hazards, and keep back the enemy until the artillery and transportation” are secure.  Ringgold Gap was a narrow railroad cut used by the Western & Atlantic just outside the town of Ringgold, Georgia.

Cleburne’s men opened the battle with artillery about 3 am surprising Union Major General Joseph Hooker’s following force.  Hooker tried to regain the initiative attempting to outflank the Cleburne’s position.  Cleburne held his ground with two cannon and 4,100 men for five hours, not giving Hooker or his 12,000 soldiers any ground.  The Confederate wagons and artillery having made it through the Gap, at about noon Cleburne managed a successful retreat.  It was a costly fight for both sides, with the Confederates loosing 480 men and the Union 432.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Confederate Ship, Union Ship

The USS Ellis went down with a fight on the morning of November 25th 1862, after its commander had to have her abandoned.

The Ellis started life as the CSS Ellis when she was purchased by the state of North Carolina in 1861 at Norfolk, Virginia and turned over to the Confederacy.  She was placed under the command of Commander W T Muse, and sat to the defense of Fort Hatteras in North Carolina.  On February 10th 1862 she was taken by the Union after a desperate fight with the USS Ceres just off of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
She then became the USS Ellis and as part of the Union Navy was assigned to the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron.  Under the command of Lieutenant C L Franklin she went into service in the rivers of the North Carolina coast.  The Ellis took part in the capture of Fort Macon on April 25th 1862, and destroyed a battery and salt works at Swansboro, North Carolina in August 1862.

The Ellis sailed up the New River Inlet in November 1862 under the command of Lieutenant William B Cushing.  She captured two Confederate schooners, but ran aground on November 24th 1862 as she sailed back down the river.  After dark Cushing had all of the Ellis’ equipment, guns, coal, and all but five crew members transferred to the captured schooners.  As the schooners went down the river Cushing and his five crewmen waited on the Ellis for a fight.  In the early hours of November 25th 1862 the Confederates opened fire on the Ellis.  Cushing refused to surrender his ship, so before leaving her he had fires set on board, and the one remaining gun loaded and pointed toward the Confederates so it would shoot when the fire reached it.  The Ellis blew up shortly after she was abandoned when the fires exploded her magazine.
Cushing and his men made their escape to the schooners and out the mouth of the inlet.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waving The American Flag

Union Sergeant John Kiggins of the 149th New York was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 24th 1863 at the Battle of Lookout Mountain.

John Kiggins was born February 2nd 1837 in DeRuyter, Madison, New York.

Kiggins enlisted September 2nd 1862, and became a Sergeant on November 1st 1863.  On November 24th 1863 the 149th New York moved on Lookout Mountain from the Tennessee side of the mountain.  The plan was to overwhelm the Confederates on the Lookout Mountain by sheer force of numbers.  As the fight got rolling, a heavy fog layed over the lower mountain.  The men of the 149th found themselves stuck in between the Confederate line in their front and friendly fire coming from their rear.   Kiggins a Sergeant in Company D of the 149th could see the men were in a predicament, and he grabbed a large American flag, stood up on a stump and began waving it over his head.  This movement stop the fire on the 149th coming from their rear, but made Kiggins a great target for Confederates in his front.  Kiggins found nine bullet holes in his uniform, the top of his head was grazed by a bullet and one shot went through his thigh.  In the end the Union won the Battle the next day.

Kiggins would be wounded again May 25th 1864 in the shoulder at the Battle of New Hope Church.  He didn’t return to his unit until April 23rd 1865 at Raleigh, North Carolina.

Kiggins returned after the war to Syracuse, New York where he worked for the Whitman and Barnes Company a tool making company as a night watchman.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor on January 12th 1892.  The citation for the award reads, “Waved the colors to save the lives of the men who were being fired upon by their own batteries, and thereby drew upon himself a concentrated fire from the enemy.”  Kiggins died in Syracuse, New York September 29th 1914.  He is buried in the Bath National Cemetery in Bath, Steuben, New York.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Houses Trembled Ten Miles Off

Fort McRee located on the eastern tip of Perdido Key, Florida was continued to be fired on, on November 23rd 1861 by Union batteries and the USS Niagara.

Fort McRee was a bent elliptical fort built on a barrier island.  At its widest points the fort was 450 feet by 150 feet wide.  The wall that faced the channel was 366 feet long and about 35 feet above the water line during low tide.  McRee held 128 cannons, including twenty-four 32 pounders.  The fort was built before 1839 by William Henry Chase who oversaw the construction of all the Pensacola area forts.
In early January 1861 Union troops located at Fort McRee destroyed about 20,000 pound of gunpowder and evacuated to Fort Pickens.  On January 12th 1861 Confederate troops from Alabama and Florida occupied McRee.

On the morning of November 22nd 1861 Union batteries located at Fort Pickens opened on some Confederate steamers docked at the Navy Yard.  The ships escaped with very little damage, while the Confederate guns located at Forts Barrancas and McRee returned fire on Fort Pickens.  The USS Richmond and USS Niagara moved in firing on Fort McRee, shooting the Fort’s flagstaffs off.  The Confederate fire was able to do some damage to the USS Richmond.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg said of that day's battle, that "the houses in Pensacola, ten miles off, trembled from the effect; and immense quantities of dead fish floated on the surface of the lagoon, stunned by the concussion."  At about 5 pm with the tide going out the two Union ships had to withdraw and the guns of McRee fell silent.
The Battle took up again on November 23rd 1861 where it had left off.  The Union side firing around 5,000 rounds of ammo into Fort McRee did extensive damage.  Fort McRee’s Confederate commander Colonel John B Villepique sent word to Bragg that the fort was exposed, half his guns had been dismounted and the powder was in danger.  The Confederate only returned about 1,000 shots, killing 2 and wounding 13 Union men.  Fort McRee would survive the bombardment, but large chunks of wall were blown away or collapsed, and one powder magazine caved in.  Six Confederate soldiers died in the action.

Monday, November 19, 2012

First Battle In Indian Territory

The Battle of Round Mountain was fought in Indian Territory on November 19th 1861 near Yale, Oklahoma.

Confederate Colonel Douglas Hancock Cooper the commander of the Indian Department moved on November 15th 1861 with about 1,400 troops, including the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment to bring Chief Opothleyahola the leader of a band of Union supporting Creeks and Seminoles, under Confederate control or drive them out of the territory.  Cooper’s men found Opothleyahola’s camp on the Deep Fork of the Canadian River empty.  On November 19th 1861 Cooper got information that Opothleyahola was working a fort near the Red Fork of the Arkansas River.

At about 4 pm on November 19th Cooper’s cavalry found the Indians had abandoned there camp on the Red Fork.  Trying to follow Opothleyahola’s people the 4th Texas ran into warriors at the foot of Round Mountains just inside the tree line.  There was a short fight and then Opothleyahola’s men set the prairie grass on fire, and retreated under that cover.

The next morning Cooper’s men found that Opothleyahola and his Union supporters had fled the area.  The Confederates called it a victory as they had drove Opothleyahola out of the territory.  By the end of 1861 the Indians had fled to Kansas.

If you are interested in reading more, check out BATTLE OF ROUND MOUNTAIN

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scrawled The Verses Without Looking

Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” November 18th 1861, which would become a popular patriotic song during the Civil War.

The music was originally written about 1856 by William Steffe as the spiritual “Canaan’s Happy Shore”.  A Vermont man; Thomas Bishop used the tune to set the words of “John Brown’s Body”, which was used by his Massachusetts unit for a marching song.   Julia Ward Howe was at a public review of troops near Washington when she first heard the song.  Reverend James Freeman Clarke who had escorted Howe to the review suggested she should write new words for the song.

Howe was staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC on the night of November 18th 1861, when she claimed to have awoken with words of the hymn in her mind.  She remember writing the lyrics this way, “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was published February 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The First Union Army Lady Doctor

Doctor Mary Edwards Walker a Union Army surgeon was awarded the Medal of Honor November 11th 1865 under the recommendation of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Mary Edwards Walker was born November 26th 1832 in Oswego, New York the daughter of Alvah and Vesta Walker.  She worked on the family farm and took to wearing men’s clothing while working.  She was educated in the local school her mother taught.  After earning her own money to pay for it, Walker attended the Syracuse Medical College, graduating with a medical degree in 1855.  She married Albert Miller a fellow student and the two of them opened a practice in Rome, New York.

When the Civil War started Walker volunteered her service to the Union Army.  At first she was only allowed to operate as a nurse, as the Army didn’t have any other female surgeons.  She was at the First Battle of Bull Run.  Walker worked unpaid as a field surgeon on the front line at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chickamauga.  She was finally made a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)" for the Union Army of the Cumberland in September 1863.  This made Walker the first female Union army surgeon.  She was captured April 10th 1864, behind the lines helping a Confederate doctor with an amputation and was sent to prison in Richmond, Virginia until exchanged.  President Andrew Johnson had her awarded the Medal of Honor after she was recommended by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas on November 11th 1865.

Following the war Walker went on to write and lecturer about health care, temperance, and women’s rights.  She died February 21st 1919.  At her funeral there was an American flag draped over her coffin.  She is buried in the Rural Cemetery in Oswego, New York.

In 1917 the United State Congress removed Walker’s name along with 910 other Medal of Honor recipients from the Roll of Honor.  None of the 911 was asked to return their medal and Walker wore her until her death.

If you’re interested in reading more Dr Mary E Walker  is a good web site to start with.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The First To Leave The Senate

James Chestnut Jr a United States Senator, and Confederate General was the first Southern Senator to resign from the United States Senate on November 10th 1860.

James Chesnut Jr was born January 18th 1815 at the family home Mulberry Plantation in Camden, South Carolina, the son of James and Mary (Cox) Chesnut.  He was the youngest of fourteen children and the only surviving son.  The family was among the wealthiest of southern planters.  Chesnut graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1835 and opened a practice in Camden in 1837.  He married Mary Boykin Miller April 23rd 1840 [she is well known for the diary she kept during the War].  He quickly became a rising star in southern politics, becoming a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1840, the South Carolina State Senate in 1852 and serving as its president 1856-58.
In 1858 the South Carolina Legislature voted to send Chesnut to Washington to replace United States Senator Josiah J Evans.  Although he defended states’ rights and slavery, Chesnut opposed restarting the slave trade and was not strongly in favor of secession.  Following the election of Abraham Lincoln, Chesnut felt he could no longer serve in his office as Senator.  He became the first of the Southern senators to resign their seats on November 10th 1860.

Chesnut was at the South Carolina secession convention in December 1860 and would be elected to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America, a part of the committee who drafted the Confederate Constitution.  Chesnut gave the orders to open fire on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861; he was serving as the aide-de-camp to Confederate P G T Beauregard.  In 1864 he was promoted to Brigadier General and commanded a South Carolina reserve unit until the end of the war.
Following the Civil War Chesnut returned to practicing law in Camden, South Carolina.  He died at his home in Camden, South Carolina February 1st 1885 and is buried in the Knights Hill Cemetery there.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Department Of The Army

The Union Army’s Department of Kansas was created on November 9th 1861 with Brigadier General David Hunter as the commander.

The Department of Kansas was created from the Western Department on November 9th 1861.  The Department covered the area of the Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, Indian Territory west of Arkansas, Nebraska Territory and of course Kansas.  It’s first commander was Union Brigadier General David Hunter.  The Department became a part of the Union Department of Mississippi on March 11th 1862.

There would be a Union Department of Kansas two more times before the end of the war.  The second time it was formed on May 2nd 1862 and included the same area except for Fort Garland in Colorado.  Dakota and Nebraska Territories were taken out on October 11 1862, and the Department was once again absorbed, this time into the Union Department of Missouri.  Then it came back again on January 1st 1864 with the original make up minus Fort Garland, but with Fort Smith, Arkansas added.  Shortly after November 9th 1864 the Department was once again merged into the Department of Missouri.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There Could Have Benn A British Invasion

The Trent Affair occurred when a British mail packet was intercepted by the USS San Jacinto and two Confederate diplomats were removed from the ship on November 8th 1861 and held as contraband of war.

Union Captain Charles Wilkes the commander of the USS San Jacinto intercepted a British mail packet, the RMS Trent on November 8th 1861.  The British ship was boarder and two Confederate diplomats; James Murray Mason and John Slidell, were found on board and removed under Union custody.  The two men were on their way to England and France to try to get diplomatic recognition for the Confederacy and were traveling under the protection of the British flag.

The initial public reaction within the Union was to come together against Britain, but President Abraham Lincoln knew better then to risk a war on that front.  The Confederate states thought this might be the thing that would hurt Federal and British relations and bring them recognition.  In Britain there was outrage that their neutrality had been violated and they demanded an apology as well as the release of Mason and Slidell.  There was even a movement of English troops to Canada for a possible invasion of Maine.

There were several weeks of tension which was resolved when Union Secretary of State William Seward made a disavowal of Captain Wilkes’ action saying he had erred in not bringing the RMS Trent in for adjudication violating the policy of freedom of the seas.  There was no formal apology, but Mason and Slidell were released and allowed to continue on their diplomatic mission to Britain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Small Hold In Missouri

The Battle of Clark’s Mill was fought November 7th 1862 in Douglas County, Missouri.

Union Captain Hiram E Barstow the commander at Clark’s Mill received intelligence that there were Confederate troops in his area.  He sent a unit toward Gainesville, while he moved with another unit toward the southeast.  Barstow’s group met a small Confederate force led by Colonel John Q Burbridge and they had a short skirmish.  Learning another Confederate unit commanded by Colonel Colton Greene was approaching from the north Barstow moved his men back to Clark’s Mill.  The Union troops opened up artillery and began a five hour fight with the approaching Confederates.  After five hours of fighting, the Confederates demanded Barstow surrender.  As the Union Captain was out numbered he accepted the terms.

After paroling the Union troops the Confederates burned the blockhouse at Clark’s Mill.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Battle of Clark's Mill is a good place to start.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Tenth Texas Governor

Pendleton Murrah became the tenth Governor of Texas November 5th 1863; he served until the end of the Civil War.

Pendleton Murrah was born about 1826 South Carolina or Alabama, he may have been the illegitimate son of Peggy Murrah or was an orphan.  Murrah received his early education through the charitable society of the Baptist Church.  He graduated in 1848 from Brown University.  Murrah moved to Texas where he started practicing law in Marshall, Texas.  He was elected in 1857 to the Texas State legislature.

When the Civil War started Murrah was a great supporter of the Confederate cause.  He served with the 14th Texas as their quartermaster in 1862, but had to resign due to poor health.  He became the Governor of Texas November 5th 1863.  Murrah and the Confederacy had issues over the impressment goods, conscription of soldiers, frontier defenses, and finances.  Even after Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered Murrah continued to encourage Confederate troops to fight.  In May 1865 when Union troops entered Texas Murrah went to Mexico with other Confederate leaders.

Murrah’s health was not good and shortly after reaching Monterrey, Mexico he died of tuberculosis on August 4th 1865.  He is buried in Panteon Municipal Cemetery, Monterrey, Mexico.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Diseases Took There Toll

The 38th Iowa was mustered in for three years of Union service November 4th 1862, they were known as the Martyr Regiment.

The 38th Iowa Infantry was recruited from Bremmer, Chickasaw, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek Counties.  They received their initial training at Camp Franklin in Dubuque, Iowa and mustered into Union service on November 4th 1862.  The Regiment moved on January 2nd 1863 to Fort Thompson in New Madrid, Missouri where they performed garrison duty, until June 6th 1863 when the men left for Vicksburg as part of Union Major General Francis Herron’s Division.

The 38th arrived near Vicksburg on June 11th 1863.  Union General Ulysses S Grant moved the Division to the southernmost part of his line to protect against Confederate Cavalry thought to be moving in from Yazoo City, Mississippi.  The 38th crossed the river on June 14th 1863 and went into camp at Warrenton, Mississippi.  The 38th and 34th Iowa Infantry consolidated on December 12th 1864.  During the Battle of Fort Blakely in Alabama on April 9th 1865; one of the last battles of the war, men from the old 38th charged redoubt #4 loosing 1 man killed and 8 men wounded.

The 38th had a total of 1037 men in its service.  Two men were killed, and 315 died from diseases.  The 38th lost more men to sickness than any other Iowa Regiment during the war.

If you’re interested in reading more about this Regiment A Brief History of the 38th Iowa is a good web site.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Over A Railroad

The Cavalry Battle at Collierville November 3rd 1863 was a move against the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.

There were four minor battles in the Collierville, Tennessee area in 1863.  On November 3rd 1863 Confederate Brigadier General James R Chalmers was leading a raid up from Mississippi to break up the Memphis & Charleston Railroad which Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman was using for supplies and troop movements.  Chalmers learned that there were only two Union regiments defending Collierville, so he decided to attack.

Union Colonel Edward Hatch was in command at Collierville, but he also had men located at Germantown, Tennessee just five miles to the west.  Hatch got intelligence telling him of Chalmers’ approach.  Hatch sent to Germantown for Union Cavalry.  As Chalmers attacked the Union troops at Collierville, the Union Cavalry from Germantown attacked the Confederate flank.

Surprised by Union troops on his flanks, Chalmers brook off the battle and withdrew his soldiers back to Mississippi.  The Memphis & Charleston Railroad remained opened.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Doctor, A Politican, A Soldier

Confederate Colonel and former United States Congressman Henry Marchmore Shaw was killed November 1st 1864.

Henry Marchmore Shaw was born November 20th 1819 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He graduated in 1838 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia with a medical degree and opened a practice in Indiantown, North Carolina.  As a politician he ran as a Democrat and was elected to the United States Congress, surviving from 1853 to 1859 with a gap during 55 -57.

When the Civil War started Shaw enlisted in the Confederate Army.  He was made a Colonel in the 8th North Carolina, and commanded them at the Battle of Roanoke Island in September 1861.  When Union General Ambrose Burnside attacked the Island in February 1862, Shaw captured.  During a battle near New Bern, North Carolina he was killed on November 1st 1864.  Shaw was buried in Shawboro Cemetery in Shawboro, North Carolina.