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March 2014

This week in the Civil War for March 16, 1864

The New York Times reported on March 21 that African-Americans freed from the yoke of slavery by federal forces in control of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana consituted a "new success" for the Union government. The Times noted that many of those liberated by the advance of the federal army could not read or write previously.

But in New Orleans alone, some 1,900 young African-Americans were already attending day schools and learning both reading and writing. The Times added that adults freed by the Union had also begun finding paid work. "Facts furnish the best proof of the success of any system; and, when we compare the condition of fifty thousand negroes in this State last year with their condition now, we need hardly allude to a thousand particulars," The Times said.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

Saint Patrick's Day March 17, 1863

Charles Goddard and Matthew Marvin visit the Irish Brigade on

Saint Patrick’s Day March 17, 1863

Charles Goddard of Company K, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry attended the festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 17, 1863 at the headquarters of the Irish Brigade near Falmouth, Virginia.  Young Goddard, 18 was drawn to danger when he was off duty.  Charles Ely, his comrade in arms, said of Goddard, “the only thing he did better than getting into scrapes, was getting out of them.” Matthew Marvin’s diary entry for March 17 indicates he also attended this event. His view of the celebration offers a contrast to Goddard’s.

Notices of the upcoming celebration including a Military Mass, a horse race, and other festivities, no doubt captured many soldier’s interest including Goddard and Marvin. The crowd at the brigade’s headquarters in Falmouth was estimated at over 20,000 people including General Joseph Hooker, Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Under the flamboyant leadership of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, the Irish Brigade was one of the most colorful units of the Army of the Potomac. The Irish Brigade reflected the characteristics of its leader; it was ferocious in battle and rambunctious between campaigns. 

Matthew Marvin’s diary account of the event.

Tuesday March 17

St. Patrick’s day is a big one in the Army of the Potomoc
Horse-racing and steeple chases is the program lots of
whiskie & lots of fun most all the Gen in this part
of the army are present here  Heavy firing up the river
Weather pleasent mud knee deep.’s_day__1863.htm

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

James William Boyd

James William Boyd
Disappeared Circa February 1865

As a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, James William Boyd was captured by Union forces in 1863. His wife died while he was imprisoned, so he petitioned for freedom to return home and care for his seven children. On February 14, 1865, the US Secretary of War approved his release. He never returned home.

It was certainly not altogether uncommon for men to go missing during wartime, but Boyd’s case emerged as particularly mysterious. He had the unfortunate luck to closely resemble a famous actor of the time. Some believe that, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth ended with the killing of look-alike Boyd instead. 

Booth was buried in an unmarked grave and three cervical vertebrae were taken out of his body during his autopsy. These are on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington DC, which is overseen by the US Army. Some descendants of the Booth family have asserted that their notorious ancestor escaped justice and have recently demanded that his remains undergo a DNA test, but they have been denied the right to exhume the body on the basis that they do not know its exact location and could disrupt other remains. The Army also refuses to let them experiment on the vertebrae, even though a DNA test would do little damage to the specimen. For now, the mystery remains.

From The Southern Gentleman on Face Book

Barefoot Confederates

Barefoot Confederates? -Hardly - Shelby Foote’s Favorite Civil War Photograph

Ephraim Blevins, John Baldwin and Andrew Blevins (Ephraim’s father), left to right, posed for a photo by Matthew Brady after they were captured at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

In one of the most famous photographs of the Civil War, three captured Confederate soldiers, likely from Louisiana, pose for Mathew Brady on Seminary Ridge following the Battle of Gettysburg. The extraordinary clarity of the image allows viewers to study the soldiers’ uniforms and accoutrements, but the historian Shelby Foote has focused more on their body language.

“You see something in his attitude toward the camera that’s revealing of his nature,” he told the filmmaker Ken Burns, “… as if he is having his picture made but he’s determined to be the individual that he is.” Other scholars have challenged this romantic view.

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The Iron Brigade

Was It Bravery? 

Echoes From The Marches Of The Famous Iron Brigade : Unwritten Stories Of That Famous Organization-By Cullen B. Aubery 1902

An Irishman in Co. D of the Sixth when lying on the ground at the battle of Gettysburg happened to look up and saw a fuse shell coming along, bounding on the ground, fuse still burning. The boys around him began to scatter, making ready for the results, when he scraped up some mud from the ground and with this expression, “Boys, ten to one it don’t bust,” put out the fuse by throwing the mud upon it. Was that bravery ?

The stories of the Iron Brigade were compiled in 1900 by Cullen Bryant Aubery, who had been a newsboy during the Civil War. Aubery rode out between pauses in the action at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, to sell newspapers about the first day of the battle to soldiers. He was attached to the Iron Brigade and was later captured and confined in Libby Prison. This unit history of the Iron Brigade gives a chronological summary of the Brigade’s actions, as well as many humorous accounts of camp celebrations, camaraderie among soldiers, and tales of bravery.

Cullen B. Aubery’s Echoes from the marches of the famous Iron Brigade-Wisconsin Historical Society


From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

This week in the Civil War for March 9, 1864

On March 10, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed papers promoting Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, formally handing Grant command over the entire Union army.

The promotion by Lincoln allowed a key distinction that Grant was in charge as general-in-chief of the armies of the United States. By this time in the Civil War, Grant had won fame for victories in western Tennessee and triumph at Vicksburg, Miss., cutting the Confederacy in two. The Union victories around the same time in July 1863 at Vicksburg and Gettysburg would mark a turning point in the war.

In the weeks ahead, Grant would send forces to drive through the South while he sought to crush Confederate Robert E. Lee's forces with the Union's Army of the Potomac. The New York Times, in reporting March 15 on the promotion of Grant, said the Army of the Potomac was expected to be reorganized for fighting ahead by being remade into three corps. "The country will look anxiously for speedy and happy results as the consequence of these fundamental changes in command," the newspaper said.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press


William T. Sherman And The American Term “Bum”- WAR SLANG

The term “bummers” refers to General Sherman’s foragers during the March To The Sea and the Carolinas Campaign and is possibly deriving from the German Bummler, meaning “idler” or “wastrel.” Many soldiers, who believed it struck terror in the hearts of Southern people, embraced the name.

Bummer. (1) A deserter. See also hospi- 
tal bummer. (2) An individual more in- 
terested in the spoils of war than in good 
conduct; a predatory soldier. (3) A ge- 
neric name for the destructive horde of 
deserters, stragglers, runaway slaves, and 
marauders who helped make life miser- 
able in the war-torn South. Bummers 
robbed, pillaged, and burned along with 
General Sherman and his army in Geor- 
gia. These men were known far and wide 
as Sherman's bummers. The term was not 
shortened to "bum" until after the war 
(c. 1870). It is almost certainly a mod- 
ification of the German Bummler 


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The Rebel Yell!

Tumblr_n1zx1tTSU61rd3evlo1_500Origins Of The Rebel Yell- Co. E, 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry, 1919 Reunion-

“They Came with Barbarian Yells and Smoking Pistols” Units were nicknamed for their apparent ability to yell during battle. The 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry ”White’s Cavalry” were given the nom de guerre of “Comanches” for the way they sounded during battle.

The Confederate yell was intended to help control fear. As one soldier explained: "I always said if I ever went into a charge, I wouldn’t holler! But the very first time I fired off my gun I hollered as loud as I could and I hollered every breath till we stopped." Jubal Early once told some troops who hesitated to charge because they were out of ammunition: “Damn it, holler them across.” ” — Historian Grady McWhiney (1965) Origins: The yell has often been linked to Native American cries. Confederate soldiers may have imitated or learned the yell from Native Americans, many of whom sided with the Confederacy.

Continue reading "The Rebel Yell!" »

This week in the Civil War for March 2, 1864

Hugh_Judson_Kilpatrick_-_Chancellorsville_CampaignCartoon from Harper's Weekly (1863 May 30, p. 348). "Colonel [Hugh Judson] Kilpatrick's late cavalry raid through Virginia"

Some 4,000 Union fighters led by Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick and Col. Ulric Dahlgren conducted a brazen raid on Richmond, Va., capital of the Confederacy, this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. Hundreds of cavalry at the head of the Union force opened the way while columns coming from behind ripped up the tracks of the Virginia Central Railroad as they headed south to the James River.

The raiders led by Kilpatrick reached the outskirts of Richmond on March 1, 1864, and there fierce skirmishing erupted near the city's defenses. But when Dahlgren's reinforcements failed to arrive in time, the Kilpatrick raiders were compelled to retreat by Confederate cavalry. Dahlgren's cavalry couldn't penetrate the city either, owing to the opposition, and thus withdrew northward only to be ambushed by Confederate enemies. Dahlgren was killed and many of his unit captured.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press