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February 2014

Powder Boy James Johnston

“Powder Boy” James V. Johnston, 1864. Young Jimmie Johnston was aboard the U.S. gunboat Forest Rose with his mother when it was attacked by a Confederate force in Feb. 1864. When the gunboat’s regular powder monkey, who carried powder to the gunners, was killed early in the battle, Jimmie took his place until the Confederates were repelled. The crew presented this uniform to the six-and-a-half-year-old boy they called “Admiral Johnston” for his bravery. Missouri History Museum.

From Peer into the past on Tumblr

African-American Savannah woman takes her place among United Daughters of the Confederacy

Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News United Daughters of Confederacy member Georgia Benton.
A Savannah native, Georgia Benton grew up hearing about the Civil War service of her great-grandfather, a slave from Sumter, S.C., who followed his master to the battles of Sharpsburg, Gettysburg and Petersburg, and then brought his body home for burial when he was struck down by artillery fire and slain during the conflict’s final days.

“He was fighting for his land and his people,” Benton said of George W. Washington, who was 16 when he entered Confederate service in 1862 as the body servant of Lt. William Alexander McQueen, who was 22.

To honor Washington and his three years of wartime service, Benton took an audacious step: She decided to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“I have every right to membership in the UDC, which along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, remembers and recognizes the men who fought for and rendered service to the South during the Civil War,” said Benton.

Continue reading "African-American Savannah woman takes her place among United Daughters of the Confederacy" »

March 1874 ~ Maj Gen Hugh Judson Kirkpatrick


Mark Morgan
Commander Emaratus
Lt. George E. Dixon Camp 1962
Sons of Confederate Veterans

February of 1864 marked the only Leap Year ever observed in the Confederate States of America, but it proved a good one, particularly during the transition from February to March. Confederate forces managed to repel yet another Yankee attempt to take Richmond and, other than the initiation of a major campaign in Louisiana, Northern leadership otherwise concentrated on reorganization.

The first event initiated on 29 February, when a Union cavalry commander, Maj Gen Hugh Judson Kirkpatrick (known as “Kill Cavalry” by his troops) started on the road to Richmond with 4000 men, flanked by a brigade commanded by Col Ulric Dahlgren. One reference stated Kilpatrick was “…aggressive, impulsive;” the same source referred to Dahlgren as having “…little experience and even less judgment.” Besides taking Richmond, they intended to release all of the Union prisoners held at Libby Prison and Belle Isle.

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Emilie Todd Helm

Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930) “Rebel In The White House”

 “The child has a tongue like the rest of the Todds.” —

Abraham Lincoln

Emilie Todd was Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-sister. In 1856 she married Benjamin Helm, a Confederate general. After Helm’s death in 1863 Emily Helm passed through Union Lines to visit her sister in the White House. This caused great consternation in the Northern newspapers. Emily Helm took an oath of loyalty to the Union and was granted amnesty.

As one of Robert Smith Todd’s younger daughters, Emilie was a beautiful debutante from a wealthy and influential Kentucky family when she married Ben Hardin Helm in 1856.  Widowed when General Helm, the last commander of the “Orphan Brigade,” fell at Chickamauga, Emilie and her daughter Katherine accepted the offer of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln to stay with them in Washington during the winter of 1863-64. 

While there, even though she kept a very low public profile, Emilie was labeled the “Rebel in the White House” with her presence causing the Lincolns some political discomfort.  Lincoln’s comment was made to a complaining General Daniel E. Sickles, after Sickles had baited Emilie by stating that the Confederate soldiers were“scoundrels [that] ran like scared rabbits” at Chattanooga.  Emily retorted that the Confederate soldiers had only “followed the example the Federals had set them at Bull Run and Manassas.”  Later in her life, Emilie was appointed postmistress of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and became known as the “Mother of the Orphan Brigade” for her continued support to the survivors in the years after the Civil War.  Additionally, Emilie became an inveterate letter writer, genealogist, and raconteur, as evidenced by her collection of papers held in the Kentucky Historical Society. 

Source: Kentucky Historical Society Collections

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This week in the Civil War for February 23 1864


Image from National Geographic

On a moonlight night 150 years ago this month in the Civil War, the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sailed from its moorings on the South Carolina coast and into the history books. It was to become the first submarine ever to sink an enemy warship. On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley sank the Union ship Housatonic as the Confederates desperately tried to break the Civil War blockade then strangling Charleston.

While the Housatonic sank, so did the Hunley. The combat saw the submarine crew set off a black powder charge at the end of a 200-pound spar, sinking the ship before the sub itself went down. The remains of the eight-member Hunley crew would be recovered more than a century later.

In April of 2004, thousands of men in Confederate gray and Union blue — as well as women in black hoop skirts and veils — walked in a procession with the crew's coffins from Charleston's waterfront to a cemetery in what was called the last Confederate funeral.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

Camp Asylum

In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, crews excavate the site of “Camp Asylum,” the Civil War-era prison that once held 1,500 Union officers on the grounds of the state mental hospital in Columbia, S.C., in the waning days of the Civil War. Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development. (AP Photo/Susanne Schafer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development.

The researchers have been given four months to excavate a small portion of the 165-acre grounds of the former South Carolina State Hospital to find the remnants of what was once known as "Camp Asylum." Conditions at the camp, which held 1,500 Union Army officers during the winter of 1864-65, were so dire that soldiers dug and lived in holes in the ground, which provided shelter against the cold.

The site was sold to a developer for $15 million last summer, amid hopes it becomes an urban campus of shops and apartments and possibly a minor league baseball field.

Chief archaeologist Chester DePratter said researchers are digging through soil to locate the holes — the largest being 7 feet long, 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep — as well as whatever possessions the officers may have left behind.

"Almost everybody lived in holes, although the Confederacy did try to procure tents along the way, as they could obtain them," said DePratter, a research archaeologist with the University of South Carolina's Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Her struggles to reconcile being the sister of a Confederate soldier and the wife of a Union officer.

Septima Levy Collis was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1842. She married Charles H. T. Collis of Philadelphia in 1861.  He joined the 18th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment at the start of the war and returned to Philadelphia to form a company known as the Zouaves D’ Afrique.  

"I have no hesitation in calling what I am about to write a "war record," for my life was "twice in jeopardy," as will be seen later on, and I served faithfully as a volunteer, though without compensation, during the entire war of the Rebellion. It is true I was not in the ranks, but I was at the front, and perhaps had a more continuous experience of army life during those four terribly eventful years than any other woman of the North. Born in Charleston, S. C., my sympathies were naturally with the South, but on December 9, 1861, I became a Union woman by marrying a Northern soldier in Philadelphia. The romance which resulted in this desertion to the enemy would perhaps interest the reader, yet I do not propose to tell it; for I am sure sure the very realistic life which it enabled me to experience for three winters in camp at army headquarters will interest him more. My first commander was Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, to whom I reported on December 11, 1861, at Frederick, Md., where my bridegroom was then a captain of an independent company, which he named and equipped as "Zouaves d’Afrique."

Despite her southern sympathies, Collis supported her husband and accompanied him throughout the war.  Her memoir, A Woman’s War Record, recounts her experiences at the front lines as well as social life away from camp, including the time she met President Abraham Lincoln. Of particular note are her struggles to reconcile being the sister of a Confederate soldier and the wife of a Union officer. She wrote:

"My brother, David Cardoza Levy … was about this time killed at the battle of Murfreesborough …This was the horrible episode of the civil war to me, and although I had many relatives and hosts of friends serving under the Confederate flag all the time, I never fully realized the fratricidal character of the conflict until I lost my idolized brother Dave of the Southern army one day, and was nursing my Northern husband back to life the next."

Collis’ experiences were far from unique. During the war, families were divided from loved ones for a myriad of reasons – whether ideological disagreements, geographical separations, or the strain of war itself. Numerous accounts, both published and private, document the distress, helplessness, and emotional turmoil that families often felt as the result of these challenging circumstances.

Essence Of Coffee In The Civil War

Essence Of Coffee In The Civil War- That’s Right, Not Coffee But The Essence Of It!

Two preservation experiments from the Civil War: condensed milk and essence of coffee. Condensed milk was milk that had been dried out into a liquid paste. One could add water to it and reconstitute it, then add it to coffee. Since the milk was pasteurized in the thickening process, this worked out rather well. Then, there was essence of coffee… they tried to do the same thing, by drying out huge vats of coffee into a thick brown sludge for canning. This was not quite as successful. In theory, one would take a bit of the essence-goo, mix it with water, and have instant coffee. In practice, the “essence” was so foul that most soldiers refused to drink it.

Information from The Mariners’ Museum Civil War Collections

The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

This week in the Civil War for February 16 1864

Photo source:

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and his forces were closing in on the vital rail nexus at Meridian, Miss. Sherman had had his eyes on Meridian as a key juncture, hoping to take an important Confederate supply line and possibly head deep into Alabama.

But fierce fighting erupted on Feb. 14, 1864, before Sherman's forces prevailed. The Union troops overran Meridian and began ripping up the train tracks. That destructive work by Union fighers continued for days until the 19th. Sherman ultimately was unable to continue his hoped-for advance into Alabama. In search of Confederate forces, Sherman withdrew his forces from Meridian and eventually returned to Vicksburg, Miss.

From ABCNewsGo and the Associated Press

Mary Todd Lincoln Cake

"The Way To A Man’s Heart Is Through His Stomach"

Mary Todd Lincoln cake is “courtin’ cake” — the very cake that the future first lady served in the mid-1800s to win over Abe Lincoln. 

She served the cake to Lincoln as he came courting, and it was his favorite. 

The story is told that Mary Todd’s aristocratic family was introduced to the cake when a French dignitary came to visit their Lexington, Ky., home and brought his own chef. The Todd family requested the recipe, and later Mary Todd took the recipe along when she moved to Springfield in 1839.

Some say the first lady continued to bake the cake when the Lincolns lived in the White House from 1861 to 1865, but White House chefs found it too plain for important guests. They made it into a layered cake with rich vanilla frosting instead of the traditional powdered sugar topping.

Mary Todd Lincoln Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar. 1 cup butter. 1 teaspoon. vanilla 2 1/4. cups cake flour. 1 tablespoon baking powder. 1 1/3 cups milk. 1 cup almonds, finely chopped. 6 egg whites, stiffly beaten. White Frosting. 1 cup sugar. 1/3 cup water. 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. 1 dash salt. 2 egg whites. 1 teaspoon vanilla.
1 Cake:.
2 Cream sugar, butter and vanilla.
3 Sift together cake flour and baking powder three times.
4 Add to creamed mixture alternatively with milk.
5 Stir in almonds.
6 Gently fold in the egg whites.
7 Pour into two greased and floured 9 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pans.
8 Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
9 Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
10 White Frosting:.
11 Bring to boiling, sugar, water, cream of tartar and salt. Boil until sugar dissolves.12 Put egg whites in mixing bowl. Start beater and while egg whites are beating, very slowly add hot syrup.13 Beat until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.14 Beat in vanilla for one more minute.

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