Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Texas Civil War Museum

Two days before Christmas, I had the pleasure of visiting the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. My mom, who is not a Civil War buff also visited the museum. In spite of her low level of interest in the Civil War, she enjoyed her visit to the museum and stated that she was impressed by it. Now that is high praise! I too thought it was a nicely done museum, and I strongly encourage you to visit it if you haven’t done so already.

After paying the modest entrance fee of $6.00, I entered the museum and learned that it is really three collections under one roof. The collections are:

Ray Richey’s collection of Union and Confederate artifacts

Judy Richey’s collection of 250 Victorian dresses as well as many accessories

The Texas Confederate Museum consisting of Texas artifacts and other items from the Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy

The first part of the museum is dedicated to Mr. Richey’s wonderful artifacts—only a part of his collection is on display. The organization of his collection is well done with Union and Confederate artifacts in separate areas and then subdivided by army branch. There are also areas devoted to musical instruments, medical items, and the navy. A surprisingly large number of artifacts are traced to the actual soldier who used the item. Mr. Richey’s artifacts include all theaters of the war with the majority associated with the eastern and western theaters. Mixed in are some magnificent banners from both sides. My personal favorite was the regimental flag of the 12th Illinois Cavalry that featured a rather humorous slogan: “I Like Your Style.”

Mrs. Richey’s collection of Victorian era ladies clothing is attractively displayed and well worth a perusal. As an avid bicyclist I almost collapsed with laughter while viewing a lady’s bicycling outfit from the Victorian era. Admittedly, I am thankful that bustles, heavy fabrics, parasols, fans, and hair jewelry are not a part of my fashion ensembles.

The Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy have some wonderful items on display associated with Texas soldiers including some beautiful flags and other artifacts. It was exciting to see a gun used by Captain J. C. Means of the 28th Texas Cavalry—the very unit whose history I wrote.

While purchasing some items from the gift store, I struck up a conversation with a couple of store employees and they suggested an excursion into Fort Worth…that side trip will be the subject of the next blog posting.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Out and About

Yesterday, I visited the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, and this morning I visited the gravesites of two notable Texas Confederates. Next week I'll plan to do some detailed postings about my latest travel adventures. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's Your Favorite Used Bookstore?

You probably have guessed by now, but I love visiting used bookstores! My first stop at a used bookstore is the Civil War section of course. Next I browse the history category in general and then it’s off to fluffy stuff like murder mysteries. Here are my favorite three used bookstores:

Recycled BooksDenton, Texas. I prowled this bookstore for countless hours while I attended graduate school at the University of North Texas. Their website claims that they have 17,000 square feet devoted to books, music CDs, etc. The history area is a strong one with always a large selection of Civil War books that are attractively priced.

Dickson Street BooksFayetteville, Arkansas. This is a much smaller bookstore (8,000 square feet) than Recycled Books, but the Civil War section is always well stocked with often some unusual titles. Books seem to be priced a bit higher than at Recycled Books.

Gardner’s Used Books & Music, Inc.Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bills itself as “Oklahoma’s largest used bookstore,” and at 23,000 square feet who is to argue with that claim? There are always a lot of Civil War books, but they seem to lean mostly toward easier to find/more common titles. Still, I have found some good titles on occasion. The pricing seems higher than either of the other two stores, but if you trade in books you can get some good deals.

Since I enjoy visiting used bookstores so much, I’d like to know your recommendations for the best places to find used Civil War books west of the Mississippi River—write in and let me know!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Simple Commemoration

The fall semester is over, and my holiday break has started! In honor of this momentous occasion, I started reading Little To Eat And Thin Mud To Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2007), a book that has sat on my shelf for too long. The general editor of the book is Gary D. Joiner who is probably the leading expert today on the Red River campaign. The book itself is an interesting concept…a volume devoted entirely to primary accounts of a single Civil War campaign.

A passage about the commemoration of the battle of Mansfield caught my eye:

“The memories of the terrible struggle of the Civil War linger, particularly in the South. A victory such as the Battle of Mansfield was long celebrated, and even today the church bell at Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Mansfield rings at 4 P. M. on April 8, as it has each year since the battle” (p. xxvii-xxviii).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Emotional Importance of Hair

Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, is one of the great folks that I have “met” thanks to this blog. She recently sent me a link to a webpage that has transcriptions of three letters written by Hugh Brothers of the 19th Arkansas Infantry. Mr. Brothers’ letters, placed online by Bobby J. Wadsworth, contain delightful spelling and a colorful way of conveying news. The letters document an outbreak of measles at Fort McCulloch in the Choctaw Nation of the Indian Territory, but perhaps the most interesting sections deal with his request for his wife to send him braids of her hair. She complied with his request, and his comments about the significance of her hair are touching. See what you think! Brothers was among those who surrendered at Arkansas Post in January 1863; sadly, he died of smallpox at Camp Douglas, Illinois in March 1863.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Attempt to Educate

In my previous posting, I highlighted a booklet that I recently purchased titled Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Convention Of The Oklahoma State Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (1932). The Proceedings notes the culmination of a project to fund and then give the “Confederate Museum” in Richmond, Virginia, a portrait of Stand Watie. This was accomplished at a cost of $168.48; the artist, Rev. Gregory Gerrer, was a monk at the St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Gerrer was a rather well known artist at the time, and you may read more about him by clicking the link on his name. Mrs. Lutie H. Walcott reported that the portrait was placed in the “Solid South” room and she stated “I think Oklahoma has done one big thing [,] for the eyes of some of [the] other states have been opened at last to what Indian Territory stood for during the war between the states.” Admittedly, I would like to know what she thought “Indian Territory stood for” during the conflict, but it is obvious these women were attempting to educate others about the war in the trans-Mississippi. The process still continues ladies!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Bookstore Find

While perusing the Gardner’s Used Books and Music store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday, I happened across a booklet titled Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Convention Of The Oklahoma State Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (1932). Intrigued, I purchased the item for an amazingly low price of $1.95. The Proceedings includes reports from many chapters and lists the officers for the 37 United Daughters of the Confederacy chapters in Oklahoma. Of particular interest to me were items relating to the U. D. C. chapters in Shawnee (where I grew up), in Pryor (where I live now), and Elk City (where my great-grandparents were living). After purchasing it, I discovered that my great-grandmother was listed as the chaplain for the chapter in Elk City. What a surprise to purchase an item that listed one of my ancestors!

The Proceedings mentions a number of projects that these ladies were involved in including some that related to remembering the war in the trans-Mississippi.

For example, Mrs. Helen Mann Gorman, the Oklahoma Division president, wrote a letter to the Division Presidents in Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas that read in part:

“’I had the good fortune to visit the battlefield of Pea Ridge or Elk Horn Tavern—as my father who participated in that battle—always called it. The particular plot where stands the monuments to Generals McColloch [sic] and McIntosh was in a rather neglected condition. The thought came to me would it not be well at some future time for the Divisions of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma to form an association to see that this historic battlefield is well marked and given perpetual care. Every thing has to have a beginning and perhaps the consumation [sic] of this dream would not be realized in our administrations, but we could sow the tiny seed and the ‘harvest would come later.’”

Did the U.D.C. play an active role in the preservation of the Pea Ridge battlefield? If anyone has the answer, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Blogger's Audience

Although I have been writing this blog since July 2009, I still don’t feel like an experienced blogger. As an example, Blogspot collects certain information about my blog that is available to me, but I only recently clicked on a mysterious tab labeled “Stats.” When I clicked on it I discovered that Blogspot has been collecting various statistics relating to my blog since May 2010. Now, I regard myself as a fairly humble person, and so I was greatly surprised to learn that my blog has had 5,146 page views since May. Because of the specific nature of my blog, I'm assuming that 5,146 page views represents a rather small audience in the world of blogging. Interestingly though, I may have reached more people through my blog postings than as a result of my published books and journal articles. Another surprise (to me anyway) is the geographical location of my readers. Here are the top five countries where page views have originated from since May:

United States: 3,980 page views
United Kingdom: 175 page views
Russia: 158 page views
Germany: 137 page views
Taiwan: 73 page views

I expected that American readers would dominate my audience, but why am I getting readers from Russia? And why is it that twelve readers from Slovenia have checked out my blog this month? What about the one reader from Norway and the one reader from Hungary today? If you are a reader from somewhere other than the United States, I invite you to leave comments. Admittedly, I'm curious as to why this blog has attracted a small international following.

The statistics section also noted the blog postings that had the most page views with the top four being:

An Iowan Discusses Marching, 15 April 2010
Mr. Catton of Michigan, 1 August 2010
The Importance of Guerrilla Warfare, 25 March 2010
Flags of Confederate Trans-Mississippi Units, 6 March 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Off to War!

Lately, I have been perusing Michael E. Banasik, ed., Missouri in 1861: The Civil War Letters of Franc B. Wilkie, Newspaper Correspondent (Iowa City: Camp Pope Bookshop, 2001) that is part of the Camp Pope Bookshop’s Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series. Franc B. Wilkie, an accomplished journalist, traveled south to Missouri with the Washington Guards and the Governor’s Greys, two militia companies from Dubuque, Iowa. While cruising down the Mississippi River in April 1861, Wilkie reported on the humorous behavior of these Iowans:

“The Greys took their stations on one side of the cabin, the Guards the other….Profound silence soon covered the whole boat, till suddenly some ‘rough’ on the floor gave a tremendous ‘Baa!’ Another at the other end responded, then the chorus was taken up in all parts, and in three seconds the whole crowd was Baa-ing with the force of a thousand calf-power. So it went till day-light. There were cat voices, sheep voices, and coon voices. There were goslings and crowings. There were fellows there who could beat any jackass on a bray, and give him fifty. In short there were more noises than ever were made or ever will be again, unless all jackasses, mules, gobblers, roosters, cats, coons, and cattle in creation are assembled for a grand concert. Nobody slept; some laughed a little, others swore a great deal, and thus wore away the night” (p. 9).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"My feelings are too bitter."

The recent elections caused me to wonder what soldiers said about political events during the war, and I recalled some passages from letters that I edited several years ago. The quotes below are taken from Johansson, M. Jane, ed. Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Letters of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862-1864 (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2000), 147-148.

On 12 July 1863, 1st Lieutenant Theophilus Perry of the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) sat in camp in Delhi, Louisiana, exhausted from a difficult campaign as his regiment, a part of Walker’s Texas division, had marched extensively on the west side of the Mississippi during the Vicksburg campaign. Less than a week before penning a letter to his wife, Perry suddenly became commander of his company when its Captain shot himself. But his words do not refer directly to the outcome of the Vicksburg campaign, nor his new position, but instead they refer to his reaction to the attitude of the people on the home front and to politicians.

Perry felt particular outrage toward men “who once violently talked of whipping the reluctant youths of the land off to the War, and who themselves have ignobly speculated upon the necessities of the soldier and his family, accumulated fortunes out of the sacrifice of those that have bared their bosons to the bayonet, and yet sculk away from danger themselves. I deplore the necessity for a draft, but cannot help feeling some degree of satisfaction to hear that such characters have stood the draft. The universal sentiment of the army condemns them. They have subjected themselves to the scorn of all true men. They are arrent hypocrits….They have a holy horror at the soldier going home. They have objection to the soldier being elected to civil positions….They think it presumptious for the soldier to try to influence the administration of government at home. We despise such sentiment….”

As he wrote, he reflected on the upcoming elections of 1863:

“We hear that the noisey men there desire less for the war. We despise their professions. We are against Murrah for Governor. He is a cheat. We are against Bob Haysey and Isaac Johnson. We vote for Parker who is a miserable skinflint and numskull, in order to beat the others and because he is over fifty. We are against all of the white livered ____sors [ink smeared]. But I desist. My feelings are too bitter. I sometimes feel condemned. I flame up to a great heat when I talk about these base demagogues and hypocrits.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Halloween?

I have just finished going through a number of published accounts written by soldiers in the trans-Mississippi and found no mention of either Halloween or All Souls' Day. All Souls' Day at the time of the Civil War was mostly recognized by Roman Catholics and Anglicans, religious groups that did not have large numbers of adherents in the trans-Mississippi. It appears that soldiers in the trans-Mississippi did not sit around the campfire on Halloween and tell each other ghost stories; or if they did, it doesn't appear to be reflected in the written record. If you know of any written accounts by trans-Mississippi soldiers about Halloween or All Souls' Day, then please let me know.

In the meantime, Dale Cox has posted links to some Arkansas ghost stories on his excellent blog, Arkansas in the Civil War.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"times are hard here and a fair prospect of being worse[.]"

Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, has worked extensively with the Confederate Citizens records that are available through Footnote.com. Last week, she sent me her transcription of the letter below written by Henry Bass of Arkansas to his brother and gave me permission to post it on my blog. The letter documents how guerrilla activities destabilized southern society and hurt loyalty for the Confederate cause. Interestingly, Dr. Daniel E. Sutherland makes the same basic point in his important book, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role Of Guerrillas In The American Civil War (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Lake Enterprise Ark. March the 29th 1863

Dear Brother

I received your kind letter in February and was very glad to hear from you all again[.] I would have writen to you before now but the mal is stoped crossing the river[.] I have a chance of sending this across by hand my health has improved a great deal since I wrote to you though I am not well yet[.] I have no strength and the least exposure make me sick[.] times are hard here and a fair prospect of being worse[.] the Federals are on the Mason Hills within fiften miles of us and will be here as soon as the water gets out of Beof river bottom which will be about June[.] there has been a great many negroes Brought in here from the river and the fedrel troops say they are coming after them as soon as the waters fall and there is nothing to hinder them from coming[.] we have no troops in the country and I hope will not have for if we had we would [have] two evils instead of one and my experience is that the southron troops injures a country as bad as the federals[.] the only differece is the Southerons take all that people has to live on and then Burns the cotton when they here of yankees coming and is taken with a leaving but they leave the negroes and the yankees comalong and find nothing els and they locate on Mr niger and so it goe[.] I have been a close observer of passing events since this war Broke out and have become disgusted withe the whhole concen under the title of Confederate States from the venerable head down but it will soon be over with and then I am afraid our country will suffer from jahawkers than we have from honerable war for we have plenty of men that have no honer and they only want an opportunity to rob and plunder and will be strend [?] by the absence of law[.] I have heard plenty of men say in the army if the south faild that they would jahawk as long as they lived and men of that class dont care who they rob

I think if I remain at home I will be over to se you in the summer when I can come through the swamp if I do not I will come as soon as the war is over[.] we have had a very wet cold Spring there is nothing planted here yet[.] I have all my corn land ready to plant and will plant this week[.] we had a severe storm last night and is very cold to day

So far we have plenty to live on corn is worth a dollar Bacon 30 cts Sugar 35 cts flour $80 per bbl coffee none Salt is worth $2.50 one hundred miles from here at the Salt works it has sold there as high as ten doller per bushel write to me and it may get here some time

Yor Brother Henry Bass

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Great Cast Of Characters

Recently, I read Albert Castel’s book, Civil War Kansas: Reaping The Whirlwind and found it to be a well-rounded account of that troubled place. My copy of the book is a reprint edition published by the University Press of Kansas in 1997, and it is notable for its new preface penned by the author. Castel explains that he did most of the research for his dissertation (the basis for the book) in the fall of 1954. He lived at the YMCA in Topeka while doing most of his research, and he discusses his long days reading documents and taking notes. Researchers of that era certainly had many challenges due to the absence of photocopiers and personal computers.

If you have never read Civil War Kansas then I heartily recommend that you pick up a copy sometime. It is of reasonable length (232 pages of text), is well written, and presents a colorful cast of characters and events. In those 232 pages of text, I do not believe that Castel once described a person of integrity. James G. Blunt, D. R. Anthony, Thomas Carney, Marshall Cleveland, Charles R. Jennison, James H. Lane, Samuel C. Pomeroy, Sterling Price, William C. Quantrill, Charles Robinson, John M. Schofield—all were men of sometimes startling character flaws. Castel does not shy away from discussing corruption, jayhawking, and unseemly political fights. Military events are featured as well with chapters devoted to Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence and Price’s Missouri Raid.

Civil War Kansas does a good job of reminding readers that the Civil War era was an incredibly tumultuous period.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Danger in the New Mexico Territory

Diseases took their toll during many marches and in many encampments during the war. Although Arkansas, as seen in previous postings, was the site for many deadly outbreaks certainly there were other dangerous places too. One of the most interesting campaigns of the war was the invasion of the New Mexico Territory by Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s army comprised of Texas units. Although the battles of Val Verde, Glorieta Pass, and Peralta garner much attention (and rightly so), the men in the ranks suffered more from microbes than from bullets. The number of Confederates, though, who succumbed to disease during the campaign is unknown although approximations can be made. Dr. Donald S. Frazier in his Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (1995) estimated that “150 Rebels had died in combat or from wounds. Others died daily from pneumonia or other diseases…. [Altogether] Sibley’s Army of New Mexico had lost more than 600 men while the Unionists had lost less than half that number, mostly battlefield casualties” (Frazier, p. 240). Martin Hardwick Hall in his older book, Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign (1960) stated “At least eighty had been killed outright on the several battlefields, while some of the over two hundred wounded later died of their wounds. Diseases such as smallpox and, particularly, pneumonia carried many to the grave. The three hospitals left behind in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Socorro were filled with sick and wounded, and all along the line of retreat the Confederates had abandoned those too ill to continue….It is probably not an exaggeration to estimate that, either because of battle or disease, around 500 Confederates had lost their lives during the course of the campaign” (Hall, p. 202).

Numbers can be difficult to grasp, so here is an account written near the end of the campaign by Sergeant Alfred B. Peticolas of the Fourth Regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers that puts a more human face on the problem of disease:

“Monday, 12 May 1862 [Franklin, Texas]

Still lying in camp. Talk of a baker to bake bread for the Company. The Paymaster has been up a week and is busy paying off the troops. Coffee is making out a muster roll; a tedious job. Clark is quite sick. John Kuykendall and W. B. James are down with the measles. Major Hampton is dangerously sick and has been delirious. Lieut. Roeder has been unwell for several days and is now taking the measles. Clark and W. B. James have gone to the hospital. John Kuykendall refuses to go, though he has a contagious disease.” Five days later Peticolas reported “Clark died on Thursday and we buried him yesterday. Purcell and Kleberg are sick; Purcell has yellow jaunders [sic]. Clark died with billious fever and the yellow jaunders combined. All the men are more or less unwell, and it is distressing to notice how general is the debility in camp” (Don E. Alberts, ed., Rebels on the Rio Grande: The Civil War Journal of A. B. Peticolas, Albuquerque: Merit Press, 1993, p. 129, 131-132).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Shock: A Civil War Battle That I Had Never Heard Of

I suppose that title manages to reflect not only a certain arrogance but also ignorance as well. While reading through my Saturday copy of The Tulsa World, I happened across an article about an investigation led by Dr. Douglas Scott, a well known forensic archaeologist. He and his team are attempting to find the site of the Battle of Marshall (Missouri); the headline notes that this is a “famous Civil War battle site.” Huh? I wracked my brain and came to the conclusion that I had never heard of the Battle of Marshall. This was a humbling moment for someone who has studied the Civil War in detail for 37 years. The article notes that this battle, fought on 13 October 1863, marked the conclusion of a raid by Colonel Joseph O. Shelby into central Missouri. The battle featured much action but hardly any bloodshed and yet the encounter was enough to cause the Confederates to retreat back to Arkansas. James M. Denny, the leading expert on the event, is quoted in the article, and the website of the Mid-Missouri Civil War Round Table features a lengthy article by him on the battle.

Work responsibilities have led to a decline in the number of my postings of late—hopefully, I’ll be able to pick up the pace again later this month.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hurrah for the Kansas Historical Society!

According to the Summer 2010 Reflections, a publication of the Kansas Historical Society, thousands of records have already been digitized by that organization, and there are plans to digitize all of their Civil War collections. By going to the website for the Kansas Memory project you can see that many documents are now available. Documents can be accessed in a number of ways such as by subject, by collection name, by date, etc. In a casual perusal I noticed the following goodies have already been digitized: a postwar account written by Asbury Thornhill to the National Tribune that describes his capture in the Indian Territory and his captivity at Camp Ford in Texas; letters by Cyrus Leland of the 10th Kansas Cavalry; a letter written by H. M. Simpson describing Quantrill’s attack on Lawrence, Kansas; the correspondence of Henry A. Strong of the 12th Kansas Infantry; Samuel J. Reader’s diary and autobiography describing the Bleeding Kansas years and his service as a militiaman during Price’s raid into Missouri; and the letters of Samuel Worthington who served in the 11th Kansas Cavalry. There are many additional documents and photographs available online on the website. Perhaps someday researchers will no longer need to use either microfiche or microfilm!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hard Times near Fort Smith, Arkansas

Today the “tour” of dangerous, disease ridden places in the trans-Mississippi continues. I can’t help but notice that the topic of disease is not often discussed in blogs, and yet many Civil War soldiers had more days of sickness than days spent in combat.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on Arkansas in this series, but a place in Arkansas is again the topic. While Confederate soldiers suffered at Camp Nelson in the latter part of 1862, southerners also experienced a biological disaster in encampments near Fort Smith. Dr. William L. Shea in his award-winning, Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign (2009) details conditions in an area where soldiers from Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas camped. Shea quotes a Texan named John C. Williams who wrote that his encampment near Fort Smith “was the ‘unhealthiest camp we were placed in during the war’” (p. 83). Men died of typhoid, dysentery, and various camp illnesses in the Arkansas River Valley. Shea estimates that as a result of disease at these encampments “the loss of manpower could not have been less than a brigade” (p. 84).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Confederate Monument in Kansas

While recently visiting the Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site near Pleasanton, Kansas, I saw the “first and only Confederate monument in the state of Kansas” according to the interpretive walking trail brochure. According to the brochure the monument was dedicated in 2004 by the “Kansas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.” Here is a photograph of the monument:

In 2005, the “Kansas Division of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War” funded and constructed the Benteen Footbridge which allows visitors walking on the interpretive trail to reach the main ford across Mine Creek.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

“…the spectacle is probably without a parallel in the war.”

Cavalryman William Forse Scott of the 4th Iowa Veteran Volunteer Cavalry wrote that in reference to the great charge by Union troopers at the Battle of Mine Creek on 25 October 1864. This battle (also known as the Battle of the Osage, or the Battle of the Marais des Cygnes, or the Battle of Little Osage) was fought in Kansas near the conclusion of General Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri. It is considered to be one of the largest cavalry battles of the conflict, and certainly it ranks as a battle with one of the most lopsided outcomes.

On Labor Day weekend, my mom and I went on a day trip to the Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site which is near Pleasanton, Kansas. A small visitor’s center is on the battle site, and I spent a pleasant hour or so walking an interpretive trail. According to their website, the Mine Creek Battlefield Foundation has been successful in acquiring an additional 210 acres of battlefield property.

Two brigades of well armed Union troopers managed to catch two John F. Fagan’s and John S. Marmaduke’s cavalry divisions as they attempted to guard a ford being used by a supply train crossing Mine Creek. Union cavalrymen, according to Scott, charged across “ground [that] was entirely open and covered with prairie grass” (p. 332). The sight must have indeed been a “spectacle” as reported by Scott. Here is a photograph of the open field looking from the Confederate position toward the Union lines:

It is not difficult to imagine a cavalry charge across that field!

According to the interpretive walking trail brochure, the Confederate force suffered approximately 1,160 casualties (260 estimated killed, 300 estimated wounded, and 600 estimated captured) out of about 7,000 men present. Some Confederate prisoners were executed by Union troopers because they were wearing Union uniforms. The Union force numbered about 2,800 men and suffered a grand total of 90 casualties (8 killed, 80 wounded, and 2 missing).

The main source for this battle remains Lumir F. Buresh’s book, October 25th and The Battle Of Mine Creek, first published in 1977 and reprinted by the Mine Creek Battlefield Foundation in 2000.

Note: The quotes from William Forse Scott are from his book, The Story Of A Cavalry Regiment: The Career Of The Fourth Iowa Veteran Volunteers: From Kansas to Georgia, 1861-1865 (1893; reprinted Iowa City: Camp Pope Bookshop, 1992).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Disease and Helena, Arkansas

If Camp Nelson was one of the worst places for Confederate soldiers in the trans-Mississippi, then Helena, Arkansas, must have been close to the equivalent for Union soldiers. One of my favorite Union memoirs is Leander Stillwell’s, The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (1920). Stillwell spent some time at Helena, and here are some of his comments about conditions there:

“We [the 61st Illinois Infantry] arrived at Helena, Arkansas, on July 31st [1863], debarked and went into camp near the bank of the river, about two miles below the town. There were no trees in our camp except a few cottonwoods; the ground on which we walked, sat, and slept, was, in the main, just a mass of hot sand, and we got water for drinking and cooking purposes from the Mississippi river….I never understood why we were not allowed to camp in the woods west of the town. There was plenty of high, well-shaded space there, and we soon could have sunk wells that would have furnished cool, palatable water. But this was not done, and the regiment remained for about two weeks camped on the river bank, in the conditions above described. A natural result was that numbers of the men were prostrated by malarial fever, and this time I happened to be one of them (p. 150).” Stillwell then wrote about his severe illness and concluded “…the situation in those Helena hospitals was unusual and abnormal. The water was bad, our food was no good and very unsatisfactory, and the conditions generally were simply wretched. I am not blaming the military authorities. They doubtless did the best they could” (p. 154).

Andrew McIlwaine Bell in Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course Of The American Civil War notes that two Union regiments in particular had a rough time at Helena. The 6th Minnesota Infantry left Cairo, Illinois, in June 1864 with “900 healthy soldiers” but “by September only 144 men were fit enough to fight” (p. 93). The men were afflicted mostly by malaria as well as dysentery as they wasted away in Helena. Altogether 165 of the 6th Minnesota died of disease, but I do not know how many of these men perished at Helena; by contrast, 12 men of the 6th Minnesota died as a result of combat. But the most appalling record of deaths by disease regards the 56th U. S. Colored Infantry. This regiment was organized in the spring of 1864 and spent most of their career in the Helena area. Altogether 649 soldiers of the 56th U. S. Colored Infantry died of disease and 25 died as a result of combat. These are shocking numbers—it would be interesting to know why officials did not pull these units out of the area.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Latest Threat at Gettysburg

Rarely do I get on the proverbial soapbox or drift from the main theme of this blog, but I am concerned about a developer’s plans to construct a casino only one-half mile from the Gettysburg National Military Park. The battlefield is truly one of the most hallowed places in American history for a number of reasons; earlier this year I was one of 278 American historians who signed onto a letter sent by the Civil War Preservation Trust to Gregory Fajt, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, urging the rejection of the casino proposal. The Civil War Preservation Trust has an excellent nine minute video about the casino threat on their website. This film, with its all-star "cast," does not just focus on Gettysburg but also explains the rationale for preserving our nation’s historic places.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jennison's Jayhawkers

I received Jennison’s Jayhawkers: A Civil War Cavalry Regiment and Its Commander by Stephen Z. Starr as a Christmas present from my parents in 1990. For twenty years it lingered unread on my bookshelves until I pulled it down three weeks ago and started reading it. Are there any Civil War books that have sat unread on your shelves for years? If so, what are they?

Jennison’s Jayhawkers, a study of the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, was published in 1973 but reads like a much more “modern” study. Starr devotes much attention to colorful characters such as Charles Rainsford Jennison, Daniel Anthony, John Brown, Jr, and “Buffalo Bill” Cody that served in the unit, but he also places an unusual emphasis on the home front. The 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry mirrored its turbulent home in many aspects and was decidedly radical in the devotion of its soldiers to abolitionism. Indeed, the regiment was merrily freeing slaves long before that became government policy. The men also had a decided propensity for plundering—particularly if it involved taking items from Missourians. Jennison’s Jayhawkers became so notorious and troublesome that authorities transferred them to the western theater where it served well in Tennessee and Mississippi. The Kansans were returned to the trans-Mississippi, though, to help defend against Price’s Raid in 1864.

A hallmark of Starr’s writing is an undercurrent of humor with some occasionally pithy comments. For example, here is a gem from Starr: “The governor’s reasons for selecting Jennison for this distinction [to raise a regiment of cavalry] were a puzzle to their contemporaries and are a puzzle to this day. [Governor] Robinson’s explanation is well below the generally low credibility level of official statements intended to explain the inexplicable” (p. 50).

My favorite “Starr-ism” is from volume one of The Union Cavalry In The Civil War: “Among the eternal verities is the tendency of the official mind to ignore inconvenient realities: the higher the post of the official and the farther removed he is from the point at which the facts can be determined by direct observation, the greater the tendency becomes” (p. 128).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grants Awarded by the American Battlefield Protection Program

The National Park Service recently announced the awarding of several grants through its American Battlefield Protection Program. Of the thirteen grants awarded for projects relating to Civil War battlefields, three are for trans-Mississippi sites. The descriptions of these three grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program’s website are:

$82,000 awarded to the Arkansas State Parks, Department of Parks and Tourism:

“The Battle of Prairie Grove (1862) was the last time two armies of equal strength fought for control over northwest Arkansas. With archeological investigation and GIS mapping, this project will delineate the locations and extent of major battlefield features within Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.”

$41,000 awarded to Northwestern State University of Louisiana:

“During the Red River Campaign of 1864, a fierce engagement occurred between Adm. David Dixon Porter’s fleet, the Confederate land batteries, and several hundred sharpshooters on Deloach’s Bluff Battlefield. This project will identify the location of subsurface resources and the extent of the historic battlefield through a cultural resource survey, GIS/GPS fieldwork, remote sensing, and minimal archeology testing.”

$47,000 awarded to the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association (Minnesota):

Wood Lake was the final battle of the U. S. Dakota War of 1862. Preoccupied with the Civil War, the U. S. Government violated treaties with Minnesota’s Dakota Indians, leading to hardships for these tribes. Building on the work of a previous ABPP grant, a comprehensive preservation plan will be developed for the Wood Lake Battlefield.”

Also available on the same website are several recent reports titled Update to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields. These include reports about Civil War battlefields in Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas; they are well illustrated and include a number of present-day photographs plus maps showing the extent of the battlefields.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Army dying up like rotten sheep."

So stated Dr. Edward W. Cade of the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) in reference to the deplorable situation at Camp Nelson near Austin, Arkansas, in November 1862. This encampment ranked as one of the most dangerous places to be in the trans-Mississippi in the late summer and fall of 1862. Apparently first called Camp Hope, the site was then named Camp Holmes in honor of Theophilus Holmes, and then renamed as Camp Nelson in memory of Colonel Allison Nelson of the 10th Texas Infantry who succumbed to disease there. The site near Austin was a gathering point and training area for thousands of soldiers mostly from Texas and Arkansas. Perhaps as many as 20,000 soldiers spent at least some time at Camp Nelson in 1862.

Lieutenant Theophilus Perry of the 28th Texas Cavalry was one of the many soldiers stationed there. His regiment arrived at the camp in early September 1862, and initially he commented “The health of the Army has been much improved since it came to this place from Crystal Hill on the Arkan[sas] River. There was scarce anything to equal the sickness up there. We have as good water here as ever run out of the ground. This is a red oak country, with no pines & but few other trees. The soil is tolerable but it is thinly settled & mostly by poor people” (Johansson, M. Jane, ed., Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Letters of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862-1864 [Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000], 23). Yet in the same letter written on 4 September, Perry observed two graves being dug, harbingers of the horrors to come. A host of factors led to a biological nightmare in the wooded valley of Camp Nelson that year.

A poor diet, bad weather, insufficient clothing, poor sanitation, and a lack of immunity led to widespread illness among the troops gathered at Camp Nelson. Measles and pneumonia appear to have been the major culprits at this depressing and sad campsite. What happened in the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) was probably little different than in the other regiments at Camp Nelson; by November 1862, only 150 men in the 28th Texas were fit for duty. By 19 December 1862, 78 men had died (some before their arrival at Camp Nelson), and 46 men had been discharged from the service. Or to put it another way, the 28th Texas lost 124 men before they even fired a single shot in battle.

How many men died at Camp Nelson? Dr. Richard Lowe in Walker’s Texas Division C. S. A. : Greyhounds Of The Trans-Mississippi extrapolates “that at least 1,290 men of the division either died or were discharged due to illness between September 1, 1862, and April 30, 1863. In view of the sometimes incomplete evidence on which these extrapolations are based—the military service records for individual soldiers—it is quite possible that 1,500 of the Texans were buried in Arkansas that winter. Another 326 men left the division for other reasons from September to April” (38-39). Those are the records for one of the divisions at Camp Nelson; the death rate may have been just as high for the other units stationed there.

A small part of Camp Nelson is preserved today as the Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery where there is a monument and markers in memory of the dead.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Misery in the Trans-Mississippi

Diseases killed far more men than bullets did during the American Civil War, but historians tend to focus their attention on dramatic events such as battles. Disease, though, could have far more impact on a military unit than a battle. Recently, I read an interesting book by Andrew McIlwaine Bell titled Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, And The Course Of The American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010). According to Bell, “mosquito-borne disease posed the greatest threat to military personnel serving west of the Mississippi River. In fact, the two states where mosquitoes were the most troublesome were both within the region the Confederacy dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Department. For the Union the Department of Arkansas held the ignoble distinction of being its most malarious. Between 1863 and 1865 there were an astonishing 1,287 cases of malaria each year for every 1,000 northern soldiers assigned to the state. Texas experienced more yellow fever outbreaks than any other state in the Confederacy. Southern soldiers stationed in port towns such as Galveston, Lavaca, and Sabine City burned with fever and spewed black vomit before drawing their last breath. But west of the Mississippi malaria was a far more pervasive problem” (p. 101). Trans-Mississippi soldiers also struggled with many other diseases such as measles and dysentery. I will focus on some of the most disease ridden places in the trans-Mississippi in some of my upcoming postings.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Conclusion: The Medal of Honor

This post marks the end of my multi-part series about the men who earned the Medal of Honor for bravery in trans-Mississippi actions. The two men who earned the Medal of Honor for actions in 1865 were:


Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company K, 3d Wisconsin Cavalry. Place and date: At, Ark., 14 January 1865. Entered service at: Little Rock, Ark. Birth: England. Date of issue: 8 March 1865. Citation: Remained at his post after receiving three wounds, and only retired, by his commanding officer's orders, after being wounded the fourth time.


Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 3d Michigan Cavalry. Place and date: At Brownsville, Ark., 27 January 1865. Entered service at: Victor, Mich. Birth. Oakland County, Mich. Date of issue: 4 April 1865. Citation: Successfully defended himself, single-handed against 7 guerrillas, killing the leader (Capt. W. C. Stephenson) and driving off the remainder of the party.

Some of the information below was presented in an earlier posting, but I felt it made for a useful conclusion as well. As an aside, overall many Medals of Honor were presented for the capture of an enemy banner, but not a single trans-Mississippi citation specifically mentions the capture of an enemy flag. Admittedly, some of the citations are worded vaguely, but it is an interesting contrast to the citations for actions east of the Mississippi. Also, citations for acts of bravery in the Navy were generally more detailed than those for the Army--does anyone have documentation for why this was the case?

The total number of soldiers and sailors who received the Medal of Honor for actions in the trans-Mississippi totaled 68; that equals approximately 4.5% of all the Medals of Honor issued during the war. Not a very big percentage is it? By contrast, 59 Medals of Honor were awarded for acts of bravery at the battle of Gettysburg.

Of the 68 Medals awarded, 48.5% were given to those who served in the Army and 51.4% were given to members of the Navy.

The trans-Mississippi action that resulted in the most Medals of Honor awarded were the twenty issued to sailors for their actions at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. Six sailors received the Medal of Honor for their actions aboard the U. S. S. Signal while fighting against a Confederate battery above Fort DeRussy on May 5, 1864. Five were issued for actions during the battle of Wilson’s Creek, and four were issued for acts of bravery during the battle of Pea Ridge.

The number of Medals of Honor awarded by year:


The number of Medals of Honor awarded for action in a specific state or territory (if a state or territory is not listed then no Medal of Honor was awarded for action in that place):

Arizona Territory=1

Three army units had three Medal of Honor recipients each. They were:

37th Illinois Infantry
3rd Iowa Cavalry
3rd Wisconsin Cavalry

Two sets of brothers received Medals of Honor in the trans-Mississippi. They were:

William C. Black and John C. Black of the 37th Illinois Infantry

James B. Pond and George F. Pond of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry

Friday, August 6, 2010

More Deeds of Bravery

Eighteen men received the Medal of Honor for deeds of bravery that occurred in 1864 in the trans-Mississippi. They were:


Rank and organization: Ordinary Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1845, Frankfort, Pa. Accredited to: Pennsylvania. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Fort Hindman during the engagement near Harrisonburg, La., 2 March 1864. Following a shellburst at one of the guns which started a fire at the cartridge tie, Duncan immediately seized the burning cartridge, took it from the gun and threw it overboard, despite the immediate danger to himself. Carrying out his duties through the entire engagement, Duncan served courageously during this action in which the Fort Hindman was raked severely with shot and shell from the enemy guns.


Rank and organization: Landsman, U.S. Navy. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Birth: Chicago, Ill. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Fort Hindman during the engagement near Harrisonburg, La., 2 March 1864. Badly wounded in the hand during the action, Johnston, despite his wound, took the place of another man to sponge and lead one of the guns throughout the entire action in which the Fort Hindman was raked severely with shot and shell from the enemy guns.


Rank and organization: Ordinary Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1832, Illinois. Accredited to: Illinois. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Fort Hindman during the engagement near Harrisonburg, La., 2 March 1864. Following a shellburst which mortally wounded the first sponger, who dropped the sponge out of the forecastle port, Molloy jumped out of the port to the forecastle, recovered the sponge and sponged and loaded the gun for the remainder of the action from his exposed position, despite the extreme danger to his person from the raking fire of enemy musketry.


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Company A, 11th Missouri Infantry. Place and date: At Vicksburg, Miss., 22 May 1863. At Fort DeRussey, La., 14 March 1864. Entered service at: Illinois. Born: 30 April 1830, Ireland. Date of issue. 11 September 1897. Citation Voluntarily joined the color guard in the assault on the enemy's works when he saw indications of wavering and caused the colors of his regiment to be planted on the parapet. Voluntarily placed himself in the ranks of an assaulting column (being then on staff duty) and rode with it Into the enemy's works, being the only mounted officer present, was twice wounded in battle.


Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company A, 119th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Pleasant Hill, La., 9 April 1864. Entered service at: Quincy, Ill. Birth: England. Date of issue: 19 September 1890. Citation: During an attack by the enemy, voluntarily left the brigade quartermaster, with whom he had been detailed as a clerk, rejoined his command, and, acting as first lieutenant, led the line farther toward the charging enemy.


Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 3d Massachusetts Cavalry. Place and date: At Natchitoches, La., 19 April 1864. Entered service at: Boston, Mass. Birth: Concord, N.H. Date of issue: 20 November 1896. Citation: Seeing a Confederate officer in advance of his command, charged on him alone and unaided and captured him.


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Ordnance Department, U.S. Army. Place and date: At Cane River Crossing, La., 23 April 1864. Entered service at: Thompson, Conn. Born: 14 February 1841, Ithaca, N.Y. Date of issue: 30 June 1897. Citation: Voluntarily led a successful assault on a fortified position.


Rank and organization: Quarter Gunner, U.S. Navy. Born: 1834, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Accredited to: Illinois. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the Federal ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Although on the sick list, Q.G. Asten courageously carried out his duties during the entire engagement.


Rank and organization: Gunner's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: Rome, N.Y. Accredited to: Ohio. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Although entered on the sick list, Butts courageously carried out his duties during the entire engagement.


Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy. Born: 1819, Ireland. Accredited to: Illinois. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Signal which was attacked by field batteries and sharpshooters and destroyed in Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Although wounded, Hyland courageously went in full view of several hundred sharpshooters and let go the anchor, and again to slip the cable, when he was again wounded by the raking enemy fire.


Rank and organization: Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 1833, Ireland. Accredited to: Illinois. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as boatswain's mate on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning the fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Serving as gun captain and wounded early in the battle, McCormick bravely stood by his gun in the face of the enemy fire until ordered to withdraw.


Rank and organization: Seaman, U.S. Navy, Born: 1841, Rochester N.Y. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as boatswain's mate on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning the fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Serving as gun captain, and wounded early in the battle, O'Donoghue bravely stood by his gun in the face of enemy fire until ordered to withdraw.


Rank and organization: Pilot, U.S. Navy. Entered service at: Indiana. Born: 6 June 1830, Indiana. G.O. No.: 45, 31 December 1864. Citation: Served as pilot on board the U.S.S. Signal, Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the U.S.S. Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was ordered raised. Acting as pilot throughout the battle, Wilkes stood by his wheel until it was disabled in his hands by a bursting enemy shell.


Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 3d Wisconsin Cavalry. Place and date: At Drywood, Kans., 15 May 1864. Entered service at. Fairwater, Fond du Lac County, Wis. Birth: Lake County, Ill. Date of Issue: 16 May 1899. Citation: With 2 companions, attacked a greatly superior force of guerrillas, routed them, and rescued several prisoners.


Rank and organization: Private, Company C, 3d Missouri Cavalry. Place and date: At Benton, Ark., 25 July 1864. Entered service at: Mt. Sterling, Brown County, Ill. Birth: Adams County, Ill. Date of issue: December 1864. Citation: Pursued and killed Confederate Brig. Gen. George M. Holt, Arkansas Militia, capturing his arms and horse.


Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company B, 2d New York Veteran Cavalry. Place and date: At Alabama Bayou, La., 20 September 1864. Entered service at:------. Birth: Broome, N.Y. Date of issue: 17 August 1894. Citation: Swam the bayou under fire of the enemy and captured and brought off a boat by means of which the command crossed and routed the enemy.


Rank and organization: Private, Company D, 3d Iowa Cavalry. Place and date: At Osage, Kans., 25 October 1864. Entered service at: Davis County, Iowa. Birth: Decatur County, Ind. Date of issue: 4 April 1865. Citation: Gallantry in capturing Gen. Marmaduke.


Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company L, 3d Iowa Cavalry. Place and date: At Osage, Kans., 25 October 1864. Entered service at: Hopeville, Clark County, Iowa. Birth: Washington County, Ohio. Date of issue: 4 April 1865. Citation: Gallantry in capturing Gen. Cabell.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mr. Catton of Michigan

You never know what you will discover when you’re on vacation. At least that was my experience while visiting friends recently in Onekama, Michigan. One day while my friend and I were driving through nearby Benzonia (on a cloudy but delightfully cool morning), I looked over and saw

I shrieked (no doubt unnecessarily startling my friend) and told her that we had to stop and read the sign. Bruce Catton helped inspire my interest in the Civil War. In particular I remember taking Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road, and A Stillness at Appomattox to my junior high classes where I read them at every opportunity. There is really no telling how many times I read them; his emphasis on the common soldier and their regiments was fascinating to me. One of my great regrets is that I never wrote a fan letter to him. Next to the historical marker is a building that once housed the Benzonia Academy where Catton’s father worked as principal; the Catton family lived in this building. Now it houses, among other things, a public library.

After the library opened that day, my friend and I entered the hallowed halls and discovered the Michigan Room that has a photograph of Catton as well as a display of his books. The librarian soon sensed that I had an interest in Catton—perhaps taking multiple photographs gave it away? She kindly directed me to the room that Catton and his brother, Robert, lived in during the academy years. For those interested in Catton's youth in Michigan, I highly recommend his Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood.

While growing up in tiny Benzonia, Catton knew many veterans who had served in the Army of Potomac. As Catton explained “they were grave, dignified, and thoughtful, with long white beards and a general air of being pillars of the community. They lived in rural Michigan in the pre-automobile age, and for the most part they had never been fifty miles away from the farm or the dusty village streets; yet once, ages ago, they had been everywhere and had seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much” (Mr. Lincoln’s Army, xi). These men had a profound influence on Catton and inspired his interest in the Civil War. He dedicated his book Never Call Retreat “To the one-time members of E. P. Case Post Number 372, Grand Army of the Republic, who now sleep in the village cemetery at Benzonia, Michigan, this book is affectionately dedicated.” The following monument erected by Post 372 stands in the Benzonia Cemetery:

According to a woman at the Benzonia Public Library, Catton was cremated but there is a headstone in his memory at the Benzonia Cemetery. Of course, my friend and I had to locate this, and we did! Unsurprisingly, but rather poignantly, Catton’s headstone is not too far from the very men who inspired him. The flags mark the graves of Union veterans near the Catton family plot:

And Catton’s headstone:

A fan had left a handwritten note in June 2010:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Acts of Bravery in 1863

I returned last night from visiting friends in Michigan and had a great time bicycling, kayaking, and just enjoying some cool weather. As always I was on the look out for anything relating to the Civil War, and sure enough what I stumbled across will be the subject of an upcoming blog posting.

The following entries list the men who received a Medal of Honor for acts of bravery in 1863 in the trans-Mississippi. As I mentioned in the first posting of this series, I included the first three men on this list because I believe their actions occurred during the attack on Arkansas Post in early January 1863.


Rank and organization: Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 1838, Ireland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 11, 3 April 1863. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Louisville. Carrying out his duties through the thick of battle and acting as captain of a 9-inch gun, Bradley consistently showed, "Attention to duty, bravery, and coolness in action against the enemy."


Rank and organization: Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy. Born: 1838, Ireland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 11, 3 April 1863. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Louisville. Carrying out his duties through the thick of battle and acting as captain of a 9-inch gun, Brynes consistently showed "Attention to duty, bravery, and coolness in action against the enemy."


Rank and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 1835, Ireland. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 11, 3 April 1863. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Louisville during various actions of that vessel. During the engagements of the Louisville, Sullivan served as first captain of a 9_inch gun and throughout his period of service was "especially commended for his attention to duty, bravery, and coolness in action."


Rank and organization: Captain of the Forecastle, U.S. Navy. Born: 1812, Maine. Accredited to: Massachusetts. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1865. Citation: Served as captain of the forecastle on board the U.S.S. Louisville at the capture of the Arkansas post, 10 and 11 January 1863. Carrying out his duties as captain of a 9_inch gun, Talbott was conspicuous for ability and bravery throughout this engagement with the enemy.


Rank and organization: First Sergeant, Company H, 8th Vermont Infantry. Place and date: At Bayou Teche, La., 14 January 1863. Entered service at: Townshend, Vt. Birth: Jamaica, Vt. Date of issue: 29 January 1894. Citation: Voluntarily carried an important message through the heavy fire of the enemy to bring aid and save the gunboat Calhoun.


Rank and organization: Quartermaster, U.S. Navy. Born: 1826 Rochester, N.Y. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 32, 16 April 1864. Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Albatross during action against Fort De Russy in the Red River Area on 4 May 1863. After the steering wheel and wheel ropes had been shot away by rebel fire, Brown stood on the gun platform of the quarterdeck, exposing himself to a close fire of musketry from the shore, and rendered invaluable assistance by his expert management of the relieving tackles in extricating the vessel from a perilous position, and thereby aided in the capture of Fort De Russy's heavyworks.


Rank and organization: Sergeant Major, 25th Connecticut Infantry. Place and date: At Irish Bend, La., 14 April 1863. Entered service at: Canton, Conn. Birth: ------. Date of issue: 25 February 1899. Citation. Displayed great gallantry, under a heavy fire from the enemy, in calling in the skirmishers and assisting in forming the line of battle.


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Company C, 3d Wisconsin Cavalry. Place and date: At Baxter Springs, Kans., 6 October 1863. Entered service at: Janesville, Rock County, Wis. Birth: Allegany, N.Y. Date of issue: 30 March 1898. Citation: While in command of 2 companies of Cavalry, was surprised and attacked by several times his own number of guerrillas, but gallantly rallied his men, and after a severe struggle drove the enemy outside the fortifications. 1st Lt. Pond then went outside the works and, alone and unaided, fired a howitzer 3 times, throwing the enemy into confusion and causing him to retire.


Rank and organization: Wagoner, Company G, 8th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Chiricahva Mountains, Ariz., 20 October 1863. Entered service at:------. Birth: Dover, Del. Date of issue: 14 February 1870. Citation: Gallantry in action.


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 2d Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery. Place and date: At Grand Coteau, La., 3 November 1863. Entered service at:------. Born: 11 March 1839, Andover, Mass. Date of issue: 16 February 1897. Citation: After having been surrounded by the enemy's cavalry, his support having surrendered, he ordered a charge and saved the section of the battery that was under his command.


Rank and organization: Colonel, 13th Maine Infantry. Place and date: At Matagorda Bay, Tex., 29-30 December 1863. Entered service at: Maine. Born: 10 December 1833, Bangor, Maine. Date of issue: 2 March 1895. Citation: In command of a detachment of 100 men, conducted a reconnaissance for 2 days, baffling and beating back an attacking force of more than a thousand Confederate cavalry, and regained his transport without loss.