Monday, August 29, 2011

Gracious, What A Blunt Comment!

Earlier in the summer, I read Ovando J. Hollister’s book Colorado Volunteers In New Mexico: 1862 first published (under a different title) in 1863. Hollister’s account is straightforward and does not shy away from discussing some of the more unsavory elements of soldier’s life. Included in the book is one of the most negative comments about Texans that I have ever seen. Of course, one must bear in mind and take into account that Hollister was a Union soldier. He is writing of the battle of Glorieta in the following:

“On turning a short bend we entered the canon proper and came full on two howitzers, less than two hundred yards off. These were attended by a company of mounted men, displaying a saucy little red flag emblazoned with the emblem of which Texas has small reason to be proud. San Jacinto expresses all the glory of that arrogant, impotent State, while language is inadequate to describe the narrowness and insolence of her public policy or the moral and intellectual degradation of her outcast society” (p. 98-99).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"'...the magnificent fighting of the Eleventh Missouri'"

Major General William S. Rosecrans praised the 11th Missouri Infantry’s fighting at the battle of Iuka in his words above. The 11th Missouri Infantry (USA) may have been extremely small as to numbers, but it compiled an exceptional fighting record. At first these trans-Mississippians fought in some skirmishes in Missouri, then the men went on to serve on such fields as Corinth, Iuka, the siege of Vicksburg, Nashville, and Spanish Fort. Colonel William F. Fox wisely selected the unit as one of his featured “Three Hundred Fighting Regiments” in his Regimental Losses In The American Civil War, 1861-1865 (1898), and his brief history of the regiment is below.

For further information about the regiment see the following:

The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry website: Compiled by Dennis Belcher, this website contains a roster, images of flags, biographies of important officers, and much other information.

“Mower's Brigade — Tuttle's Division--Fifteenth Corps.

1) Col. Joseph B. Plummer, W. P., R. A.; Brig.-Gen., U. S. V.

3) Col. Andrew J. Weber (Killed).

2) Col. Joseph A. Mower, B. A.; Bvt. Major-Gen., U. S. A.

4) Col. William L. Barnum.

5) Col. Eli Boyer; Bvt. Brig.-Gen., U. S. V.



En. Men.


Killed or mortally wounded




Died of disease, accidents, in prison, etc.








Total enrollment, 945; killed, 104; percentage, 11.0.






Dallas, Mo., Sept. 2, 1861




Fredericktown, Mo.




Farmington, Miss.




Siege of Corinth, Miss.




Iuka, Miss.[3]





Corinth, Miss.[4]





Holly Springs, Miss.





Jackson, Miss.





Vicksburg, Miss. (assault May 22




Siege of Vicksburg, Miss.




Michanicsburg, Miss.



Richmond, La.



Tupelo, Miss.




Abbeville, Miss.



Nashville, Tenn.




Spanish Fort, Ala.



















Notes.--This regiment was recruited in Missouri and Illinois during the summer of 1861, and organized at St. Louis in August. On the 6th of August, it moved to Cape Girardeau, Mo., where it went into camp and remained until March, 1862, having been engaged in the meantime in several expeditions, reconnoissances, and skirmishes in Missouri, in some of which there was some brisk fighting, with several men killed or wounded. The regiment joined Pope's army, in March, 1862, and was engaged in the operations about New Madrid and Island Number 10. It moved thence to Corinth, where it took an active part in the siege. The gallantry of the Eleventh at Iuka, elicited special mention from General Rosecrans in G. O. No. 130, in which he calls attention “to the magnificent fighting of the Eleventh Missouri, under the gallant Mower.” The regiment was also honorably mentioned in the official report of Corinth. The Eleventh led the charge of Mower's Brigade in the grand assault on Vicksburg, May 22, 1863. In that desperate struggle it was the only entire regiment of the Fifteenth Corps that reached the fort, and the only regiment in that corps that planted its colors on the parapet. Colonel Weber was killed in the trenches at Vicksburg. The Eleventh was also hotly engaged in the battle of Nashville--then in Hubbard's (2d) Brigade, McArthur's (1st) Division, Sixteenth Corps--after which it accompanied the Corps to Mobile, Ala.

1Includes the mortally wounded.

2Includes the captured.

3Official Records; the United States Volunteer Register gives different figures.

4Official Records; the United States Volunteer Register gives different figures" (Fox, 413).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogs About The Trans-Mississippi

Occasionally I have mentioned other blogs in my postings, but I thought it was about time that I highlight blogs relating to the trans-Mississippi in one posting. Other than my own, there are three active blogs that I am aware of that either deal with soldiers from the trans-Mississippi or relate to events in the trans-Mississippi during the Civil War. They are:

Arkansas in the Civil War—Dale Cox started this blog in January 2008. Photography is an important element on his blog, and the postings tend to be done as part of a series. There is much useful information on this blog.

Louisiana in the Civil War—Stuart Salling started blogging in January 2010 and has written almost 200 postings. Lots of primary accounts (mostly relating to military service and events) are featured on his interesting blog.

Line Bred Rebel—The newest blog in the group, Jim Morris began posting in January 2011. His blog focuses on the Courtois Hills region of Missouri; so far, the emphasis has been on primary accounts relating to the war in that region. Welcome to the world of blogging, Jim!

There is one trans-Mississippi related blog that appears to be inactive. It is

Jayhawkers and Red Legs—Matt M. Matthews began posting in August 2009, but there have been no postings since December 2010. Hopefully, Matt will begin posting again!

If you know of any blogs whose primary focus is the trans-Mississippi, then please let me know as I like to follow them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"...the faithfulness of its sentinels..."

Last weekend, while visiting the Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, I happened to see the book below shelved behind the counter.

After looking through The Military History Of Wisconsin: A Record Of The Civil and Military Patriotism of the State, In The War For The Union, I made a quick decision and purchased it. Normally, I don’t engage in “impulse” buying, but this is a quick purchase that I have not regretted. Written by E. B. Quiner and published in 1866, this huge volume has short histories of essentially all of the units raised in Wisconsin during the war. There are also sections on recruiting, draft calls, legislative actions, economic matters and many other topics. The fact that the State of Wisconsin published this book so soon after the war ended is rather remarkable; a State would be hard pressed today to produce such a data packed book in such a relatively short time. As a bonus, a large map that had come apart at the horizontal creases, was tucked into the front of the book. This turned out to be a colorful map of the “seat of war” that accompanied a book written by Horace Greeley soon after the war ended. I am hoping to have the map conserved as it would look attractive on my office wall.

While thumbing through the book last week, I read the short sketch of the 13th Wisconsin Infantry; unless you had an ancestor that served in this regiment, chances are that you have never heard of the unit. For it served in no battles during its four years of duty, but instead did garrison duty, guarded communication lines, and engaged in other work in Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas. Since the regiment participated in no combat service to speak of, does this mean that the 13th Wisconsin Infantry was unimportant? I thought that E. B. Quiner’s assessment of the regiment was well worth including in my blog. Here are his words:

“Though the Thirteenth has not been called to take part on the field of battle, yet the duties which it has performed have been just as important, for it is to the faithfulness of its sentinels, that an army owes much that it achieves on the battle-field. With its supplies cut off, its communications closed, an army is often defeated. It is then that the faithfulness and vigilance of the regiment, who guards the trains and keeps the enemy at a distance from the highways, by which supplies reach the army in an enemy’s country, begins to be appreciated. The Thirteenth held many important positions, on which the success and welfare of Sherman’s whole army depended. Ceaseless vigilance and stern fidelity characterized the operations of the regiment, and while others may pride themselves upon achievements in the field, this regiment may point with pride to its four years of service, as being one of the material elements in the success of the armies of the Union, whose communications and flanks it was called upon to protect” (p. 597).

Although our attention is often riveted by units that suffered high casualties during the war, it is worth noting that the great majority of units on both sides had relatively modest casualty lists. Certainly, deaths by disease outweighed battle deaths in practically every Civil War unit. And, as evidenced by the 13th Wisconsin, a small number of battle deaths did not necessarily mean that the unit had an insignificant role in the war.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

150 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Wilson's Creek

The battle of Wilson’s Creek, fought near Springfield, Missouri, was a vicious affair. The Union “Army of the West” suffered approximately 24.2% casualties, one of the higher percentage losses for an army during the conflict; Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, the army’s aggressive commander, was one of the killed. The Confederate “Western Army” suffered approximately 10.1% casualties at Wilson’s Creek, or Oak Hills as it is sometimes designated. The percentage of casualties at Wilson’s Creek was higher than at the battle of Bull Run fought less than a month earlier.

A couple of eyewitness accounts follow:

Eugene F. Ware, 1st Iowa Infantry:

“On the edge of the meadow toward us, and between us, was a low rail fence; the enemy rallied under the shelter of it, and, as if by some inspiration or some immediate change of orders, they broke it down in places and started for our artillery. As they got nearer to us, their own artillery ceased to fire, because it endangered them. When they got close the firing began on both sides. How long it lasted I do not know. It might have been an hour; it seemed like a week; it was probably twenty minutes. Every man was shooting as fast, on our side, as he could load, and yelling as loud as his breath would permit. Most were on the ground, some on one knee. The enemy stopped advancing. We had paper cartridges, and in loading we had to bite off the end, and every man had a big quid of paper in his mouth, from which down his chin ran the dissolved gunpowder. The other side was yelling, and if any orders were given nobody heard them. Every man assumed the responsibility of doing as much shooting as he could…

The boys were highly pleased that they had got through with the day alive, and there was no idea that the day had gone against us…We were so hoarse from yelling that we could hardly talk. The reiterated kick of ‘U. S. 1861’ made my shoulder feel as if I had the rheumatism. We did not get into Springfield until after sundown. There was absolutely no pursuit, and we felt no apprehension of danger” (Ware, The Lyon Campaign In Missouri: Being A History Of The First Iowa Infantry. Topeka, KS: Crane & Company, 1907; reprint ed., Iowa City: The Camp Pope Bookshop, 1991, p. 318-319, 327).

William Watson, 3rd Louisiana Infantry

“We soon afterwards received orders to go back to camp; the battle was over, and we had gained the victory. This announcement was received with loud cheers, and we started back to camp highly pleased with the day’s work, everyone, of course, recounting the deeds they had done—some of the boys having slain half-a-dozen generals or put a squadron of horse to flight.

When we got to our camp we found the ground torn up in some places with shot, and strewn with fragments of shells, but not much damage done. (The enemy, in their report of the battle, said they had destroyed the camp.) But there was but little to damage; one or two tents had been burned by the shells, and one or two waggons damaged, but the horses and mules and the greater part of the waggons had been got behind a hill, out of range of the shot. In our bivouac the coffee was standing over the cold fires, just as we had left it in the morning (it seemed an age since that time)… We were very hungry and tired, and soon made a hearty breakfast and dinner all in one...

Whether there was anything in the air (which was strongly impregnated with the smell of powder, as there was not a breath of wind) I do not know, but I think I enjoyed the sweetest night’s rest I ever enjoyed in my life” (Watson, Life In The Confederate Army Being The Observations of an Alien in the South During the American Civil War. London: Chapman and Hall, 1887; reprint ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995, p. 225, 228).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Go To The Source

I’m particularly fond of websites that make available digital images of primary sources (letters, diaries, newspapers, etc.). I’ve featured the Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks website before, and it is well worth a visit. The Springfield-Greene County Library District, in cooperation with several other entities, has made available a number of diverse primary documents on the website. Here are just a few of the collections on the website:

1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regimental Order Book

Benjamin Fullager Papers—He documents service in Arkansas and the Indian Territory as a soldier in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry.

Captain Maxwell Phillips Order Book—Phillips served in the 3rd Regiment Indian Home Guards, and his order book concerns activities at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory.

George Falconer and Albert Ellithorpe Diary—Falconer was a Confederate soldier in Colonel J. J. Clarkson’s Missouri Cavalry, and he, along with his diary, was captured at the Locust Grove skirmish in the Indian Territory. Ellithorpe, part of an Indian Home Guards unit, appropriated the diary and penned his own entries in it.

Moses J. Bradford Collection—Bradford, a member of the 10th Missouri Infantry (CSA), was captured at the battle of Helena, Arkansas.

Elizabeth Thompson Papers—She and her husband owned a general store in Missouri.

The collections on the website are the kinds of collections historians use in researching and writing their journal articles and books; at least they should be the type of sources that historians use! Dig in, and check out the “raw materials” of historical research and writing.

Keep an eye on this website; according to a recent article in Hallowed Ground, the publication of the Civil War Trust, “The Trans-Mississippi Virtual Museum and Digital Photo archive” will soon be posted. An artifact gallery and hundreds of photographic images from the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield’s collections will be made available for the general public to view.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Importance of the Colorado Gold Rush

I returned on Sunday from a bicycling tour in western Michigan. The tour, organized by my friend Leann, was based in Onekama, and for five days our group bicycled in various areas near Lake Michigan. If you have never been to that part of the country, then I encourage you to visit sometime! The many lakes of the region are beautiful, the beaches are grand, the summer weather is delightful, and the folks are friendly. During the week, I bicycled about 180 miles and encountered no rude motorists or angry dogs—what a great experience.

A few days before I left for Michigan I finished reading The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado by Elliott West, a history professor at the University of Arkansas. It is true that this book is not directly related to the Civil War in the trans-Mississippi, but it provides a great deal of valuable background material as well as a smattering of information more directly linked to the war. The Colorado Gold Rush occurred in 1859, just a short time before the conflict started, and about 100,000 people engaged in the “Rush” to the Colorado gold fields. This gold rush was far larger than the more famous California Gold Rush that occurred just ten years before. West argues that the Colorado Gold Rush profoundly altered the Great Plains environment and the nomadic Native Americans of the area. Even before the Colorado Gold Rush, the Plains Indian tribes were involved in a great deal of conflict among themselves as tribes vied for control of the Great Plains. West states that “a family among the horse nomads was three or four times more likely to lose a husband or son to fighting in the mid-1850s than a corresponding white family during its own tribal war several years later” (p. 256).

This thoughtful and well written book won many prizes when it was published in 1998, and I learned much of value from it.