Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Soldier Author

Andrew Fuller Sperry enlisted with no hoopla in the 33rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry on 5 August 1862. He was 23 years old and about to embark on an adventure that would carry him through the battle of Helena, the Little Rock campaign, the Camden campaign, and fighting in the closing stages of the war near Mobile, Alabama. He ended the war along the Texas coast, a place he commented on in unfavorable language. Remarkably, his History Of The 33d Iowa Infantry Volunteer Regiment, 1863-66 was published only one year after the war ended making it one of the earliest of regimental histories. As a side note, the 33rd Iowa did not muster out until August 1865, and Sperry’s book appeared in print a mere eight months later. If books truly reflect an author’s personality, then I would say that Sperry was a direct, honest, and unpretentious man. His book is straightforward and easy to read with none of the flowery language that characterizes some books written by Civil War veterans. His focus is on his regiment, but he was intellectually curious enough to include his impressions of the people and regions where he campaigned. The best edition of the book is the one edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin and Cathy Kunzinger Urwin and published in 1999 by the University of Arkansas Press. There is much of interest in this book plus it’s a fun read!

Friday, May 28, 2010

More Revival News!

Vicki Betts kindly sent me this week a newspaper article that she transcribed about missionary work in Walker’s Texas Division in the summer of 1864. It fits so well with my last posting, that with her permission I have posted the article:

GALVESTON WEEKLY NEWS, August 8, 1864, p. 1, c. 2

Walker's Division, Waterhouse's Brigade,
17th Regt. Inf. Camp Fiacon, La., July 12, '64.

Ed. News.—I desire, through the columns of your invaluable paper, to convey to our friends, some information of our "whereabouts," health and condition.

At present this brigade is in camp on Bayou Fiacan, about 15 miles East of Alexandria. Our time is principally occupied in drilling, grumbling about poor beef and furloughs. The general health of the troops is very good, better than it has been for several months, but they are poorly clad, many of them are without necessary articles of raiment, others have on their only suit. To remedy this, several officers from the different brigades have been detailed to go to Texas to procure clothing, with what success is yet to be seen. But probably the most important item of news with us at this time, is a revival of religion now in progress under the supervision of Elder W. A. Mason, Missionary to the army from the Baptist State Convention. He arrived in this brigade about the 4th May last, and was welcomed by a hearty reception from the soldiers. Since that time he has been laboring night and day with much zeal and fervency, doing much good, and receiving many souls for his hire. The meeting has been progressing several weeks, and some twenty five or thirty have confessed and put on Christ in Baptism.

Elder Mason has also organized the "Christian Association of Waterhouse's Brigade," composed of the members of the different denominations, who, laying aside all sectarian prejudices, have convened at the altar to worship God, and do all they can for the promotion of the much neglected cause of Christ. Committees are appointed from the different regiments, whose duties are to visit the sick and procure every possible comfort for them. Its works, up to this time, promise much good.

Elder Mason has had no assistance whatever, indeed, the soldiers have been much neglected, there having been only one chaplain in the brigade—Elder Hay, who has no superior as a chaplain. He has been promoted to the rank of Brigade Chaplain for his gallantry on the field at the late battles, and for his attention to and efforts in behalf of the sick and wounded. He is now absent trying to procure clothing for his old regiment, the 16th.

Elder Mason is, by resolution of our association, an authorized agent to procure religious literature for the army, which is very much needed and desired. Any one having pocket Testaments, hymn books, or any other benefit for the sick and wounded, which they can spare, and wish to contribute, will confer much good, and for which many soldiers will thank them, by sending them to Elder Mason, who will soon return to Texas for the purpose above named, and to attend the Baptist State Convention.

Most respectfully, I remain your obd't serv't,
B., Co. A, 17th Regt. Inft.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trans-Mississippi Revival

Religious revivalism reached a peak in Walker’s Texas Division in the winter of 1863-1864. At the same time, soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee also attended frequent revivals. A former captain in the 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted), Martin V. Smith, became one of the most important preachers in the revivals that attracted men of Walker’s Texas Division. The Eastern Baptist Convention of Texas petitioned in support of Smith’s request to resign his commission to become a “missionary” to Colonel Horace Randal’s brigade (the 28th Texas was part of this unit). His resignation request was also accompanied by a petition signed by a number of brigade officers; they contended that his preaching “will satisfy the desire of the religious part of the Command and have a good effect in restraining many from vile practices which soldiers are liable to engage in….” Authorities approved his resignation, and Martin V. Smith joined several other ministers in the evangelizing effort. The revivals reached a peak in late November; by then, Smith had baptized ninety-two men. As the revivals strengthened, card playing and the use of profanity dropped in the division. Interestingly, the division was actively campaigning in Louisiana through much of this time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Regimental Histories

Regimental histories are one of my favorite Civil War genres, and this explains in part why I selected the 28th Texas Cavalry as my dissertation topic. Many years ago, one of my favorite columns was Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr.’s The War In Words that appeared in Civil War Times Illustrated. His column often featured regimental histories, and I learned much about Civil War books and their authors from reading his informative pieces.

Civil War veterans penned the first wave of regimental histories soon after the conflict ended, and some of the best in this first group were written about trans-Mississippi units. I have included a listing below of some of these early trans-Mississippi regimentals listed in the order that they were published, but please be aware that some of these have been reprinted more than once. The information in brackets are the major campaigns that the unit was involved in, and, as you will see several of these units ended up campaigning east of the Mississippi River.

Sperry, A. F. History Of The 33d Iowa Infantry Volunteer Regiment, 1863-6. 1866. Reprint ed., Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1999. [Helena, capture of Little Rock, Camden Expedition, siege of Spanish Fort]

Tunnard, W. H. A Southern Record. The History Of The Third Regiment Louisiana Infantry. 1866; Reprint ed., Dayton, OH: Press of Morningside Bookshop, 1988. [Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Iuka, Corinth, Vicksburg]

Sprague, Homer B. History Of The 13th Infantry Regiment Of Connecticut Volunteers, During The Great Rebellion. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Co., 1867. Reprint ed., Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company, 1998. [Georgia Landing, Irish Bend, Port Hudson, Red River campaign, Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek]

Anderson, Ephraim McD. Memoirs: Historical And Personal; Including The Campaigns Of The First Missouri Confederate Brigade. St. Louis: Times Printing Co., 1868. Reprint ed., Dayton, OH: The Press of Morningside Bookshop, 1972. [Lexington, Pea Ridge, Iuka, Corinth, Vicksburg, Atlanta campaign, 1864 Tennessee campaign, Fort Blakely]

Blessington, Joseph P. The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division. New York City: Lange, Little & Company, 1875. Reprint ed., Austin, TX: State House Press, 1994. [Milliken’s Bend, Bayou Bourbeau, Fort DeRussy, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, Jenkins’ Ferry]

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Oklahoma Connection

Well, I have been perusing my copy of Ezra Warner’s Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders again and found another general with an Oklahoma connection. Edward Lloyd Thomas, a Georgian, graduated from Emory College in 1846 and then served in the Mexican War. Following that conflict, he returned to his plantation and then raised the 35th Georgia Infantry in the fall of 1861. A young nephew, Henry Andrew “Heck” Thomas, accompanied his uncle to Virginia where he had some exciting adventures. Edward Lloyd Thomas’ first combat action appears to have been at Seven Pines and then “he was wounded at Mechanicsville, and after his recovery, fought in every major engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia with the exception of Sharpsburg” (p. 305). He served from November 1862 as a brigadier general and was paroled at Appomattox. Thomas returned to his Georgia home after the war, but in 1885 President Grover Cleveland appointed him “to an office in the Land Department and subsequently in the Indian Bureau” (p. 305). One year later his nephew “Heck” Thomas was appointed as a U. S. Marshal and worked for Judge Isaac Parker of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Heck Thomas became one of the most famous law enforcement officers in Oklahoma State history and is buried in Lawton, Oklahoma. Edward Lloyd, meanwhile, lived in South McAlester, Indian Territory, until his death in 1893; he is buried in Kiowa, Oklahoma.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dateline: Little Rock, Arkansas: February 1, 1863

Vicki Betts recently sent me an email about a letter that she discovered in the Confederate Citizens collection that is available on After reading her transcription of a portion of the letter, I asked her permission to post the excerpt on my blog. Vicki graciously agreed, and what follows is an excerpt from a letter written by Philip L. Anthony to Honorable Robert W. Johnson, an Arkansas congressman. The letter was written somewhere near Little Rock on 1 February 1863; as Vicki pointed out in her email to me the letter is a good illustration of the expression “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

“One thing more:

From all I can see & learn whenever the army is near a town, the officers, high & low desert the camps & crowd the hotels, boarding houses & even private homes, (if they can get in,) leaving the soldiers almost without restraint, who commit many depredations on private property, & live in all sorts of filth & nastiness, often easing themselves within a few feet of where they eat & sleep. One consequence is that the hospitals are crowded with sick. When on the march soldiers are permitted to straggle along the roads for miles & to turn off the highways. They generally have a story that they have been left behind sick, & are either begging their way or paying their expenses out of their pay, & if their demands are not complied with, be they ever so unreasonable, they generally do some ill-natured trick in retaliation. There are instances in my own knowledge where they have killed numbers of hogs near their camps, burned up the rails around the wheat fields of poor widows & others, & one soldier told me he had seen the last hog of a poor widow killed by the soldiers. I should think that a law of congress requiring the officers to lay in camps at all places & holding them responsible for the conduct of soldiers would be salutary.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Temporary Break

Some of you have noticed that I have not posted in well over a week. Final examinations will be given next week, and I have been quite busy with end of the academic year matters. In addition, a family emergency has occurred this week, and I have needed to deal with personal matters relating to that. I will be definitely continuing this blog, but it could be ten days or so before my next posting.