Previous month:
April 2014
Next month:
June 2014

May 2014

Civil War Combat ~ in their own words


”It’s just like shooting squirrels, only these squirrels have guns.”
– A Federal veteran instructing new recruits in a musket drill.

“Bang, bang, bang, a rattle, de bang, bang, bang, a boom, de bang…whirr-siz-siz-siz–a ripping, roaring, boom, bang!”
– Confederate Sam R. Watkins describing a “fire fight.” Sam Watkins was twenty-one years old and from Columbia, Tennessee when he joined up to fight in the War. He kept a journal and recorded his experiences and thoughts during the conflict. His words give us great insight into the War.

“It was eyes right, guide center! Close-up, guide right, halt, forward, right oblique, left oblique, halt, forward, guide center, eyes right, dress up promptly in the rear, steady, double quick, charge bayonets, fire at will, is about all that a private soldier knows of a battle.”
– Confederate Sam R. Watkins.

“Our men are not sufficiently impressed with a sense of honor that it is better to die by fire than to run.”
– General William Hardee of the Confederacy.

“War is at best barbarism…Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”
– William Tecumseh Sherman. These words are from his June 19, 1879 address to the Michigan Military Academy.

“We made a bargain with them that we would not fire on them if they would not fire on us, and they were as good as their word. It seems too bad that we have to fight men that we like.”
– Words of a Union soldier.

The night they drove old Dixie down


This song’s lyric refers to conditions in the Southern states in the winter of early 1865 (“We were hungry / Just barely alive”); the Confederate states are starving and defeated. Reference is made to the date May 10, 1865, by which time the Confederate capital of Richmond had long since fallen (in April); May 10 marked the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the definitive end of the Confederacy. Ralph J. Gleason (in the review in Rolling Stone 1969 explains why this song has such an impact on listeners: "Nothing I have read … has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity."

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Continue reading "The night they drove old Dixie down" »

Confederate Veterans Gather in 1903 in Springville, Alabama

By: Robert Mestas

The local newspaper, The Springville Item, reported in part:

On Monday August 17, 1903, one of the most unique and interesting reunions was held by the "Old Ex-Confederate Soldiers" in the Baptist Church at this place. 

At 11 o'clock some sixty of the old veterans, living in, and around Springville, assembled in that church, singing, praying, and reading of the scriptures was engaged in, after which short talks were made by Rev. J. S. E. Robinson, A. W. Woodall, S. W. Henny, J. B. Robertson, J. H. Vandergrift and B. B. Cornelius, after which another old time song, "How Firm A Foundation", and then Maj. Harris spoke at length on "Religion in the Camp". During his talk men were seen weeping all over the church. He spoke feelingly and eloquently. 

Maj. Harris deserves the thanks of all our people for planning this gathering -- it was an object lesson that neither poets, nor painter, nor authors could describe; it simply defies description. Springville never has, and never will witness such a scene again.

Although the newspaper write up of the reunion makes no mention of Masons, Jon Paul describes it as a "gathering of Free Masons and Confederate Soldiers of Springville, Alabama made in 1903."

How Peanuts Fed the Confederacy


Before the Civil War, peanuts were not a widely cultivated crop in the United States—Virginia and North Carolina were the principal producers—and were generally viewed as a foodstuff fit for the lowest social classes and for livestock. When they were consumed, they were usually eaten raw, boiled or roasted, although a few cookbooks suggested ways to make dessert items with them. The goober pea’s status in the Southern diet changed during the war as other foods became scarce. An excellent source of protein, peanuts were seen as a means of fighting malnutrition.

In addition to their prewar modes of consumption, people used peanuts as a substitute for items that were no longer readily available, such as grinding them to a paste and blending them with milk and sugar when coffee was scarce. “This appreciation was real,” Andrew F. Smith wrote in Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea. “Southerners continued to drink peanut beverages decades after the war ended.” Peanut oil was used to lubricate locomotives when whale oil could not be obtained—and had the advantage of not gumming up the machinery—while housewives saw it as a sound stand-in for lard and shortening as well as lamp fuel.

Peanuts became ingrained in the culture, going so far as to crop up in music. For Virginian soldiers wanting to take a dig at North Carolina’s peanut crop, there was:

The goobers they are small Over thar!

The goobers they are small, And they digs them in the fall,

And they eats them, shells and all, Over thar!

The humorous song “Eatin’ Goober Peas” also surfaced during the war years. (You can hear the song in full as performed by Burl Ives and Johnny Cash.)

Just before the battle the General hears a row,

He says, “The Yanks are coming, I hear the rifles now,”

He turns around in wonder, and what do you think he sees?

The Georgia militia eating goober peas!

Read more:

From: The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

Wreck of Civil War ship thought to be located


Researchers think they have found the wreck of the noted Civil War vessel the Planter -- a Confederate ammunition ship commandeered in 1862 by the slave Robert Smalls who then steamed it out of Charleston and turned it over to the Union Navy.

Archeologists with the National Marne Sanctuary Program are releasing a report Tuesday outlining their research findings. They used maps and newspaper accounts to identify an area at Cape Romain where they think what remains of the Planter is buried.

They found metal items buried under about 15 feet of sand just offshore that is thought to be the Planter. There is probably not much left of the vessel which wrecked in an 1876 storm. Much of its equipment was salvaged at that time.

From The Associated Press

More at

This week in the Civil War for May 11, 1864


The New York Times reported on May 11, 1864, that Grant's Union army in Virginia was engaged in hard skirmishing at the Spotsylvania Courthouse. The dispatch said while no all-out battle had been fought, shooting was intense and wounded Union soldiers were being brought out via a supply train for medical care. The Times added in a subsequent dispatch two days later that Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac was in "superb condition and spirits — in fact, was never before in any such condition" amid the renewed fighting in Virginia. Added the pro-Union newspaper: "We are going on to Richmond, depend upon it; at least, some more formidable obstacle than has yet appeared will have to present itself to stop us." That obstacle would be a Confederate army with considerable strength to fight on for many months to come. Elsewhere, Union Gen. William T. Sherman marched out in early May 1864 from Tennessee toward northwestern Georgia with the ultimate aim of capturing the city of Atlanta.

From The Associated Press and Yahoo News

Stonewall Jackson Dies


May 10th, 1863

Lt. Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson dies from complications after an amputation - a result of his own troops accidentally firing upon him one week previously at the Battle of Chancellorsville, hours after his famous flank attack.

Prosthetic leg served in both the Confederate and Union armies


When Confederate Captain John Newton Ballard of Mosby’s Rangers lost his leg in battle in 1863 like many of his fellow officers he didn’t waste time fretting over his amputated limb. Instead, he acquired a second hand artificial leg and got back to war. Unfortunately, he was left literally without a leg to stand on near Halltown, Virginia, when his horse collided with a Union cavalry soldier’s mount and his prosthetic was crushed, making him the only Civil War soldier to lose the same leg twice.

However, he was about to have a stroke of luck. In March 1864, Union Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was killed near Richmond, Virginia, during a cavalry raid. He, too, had lost a leg in 1863 (in fact, the severed leg was given a military funeral and is still sealed within the wall of Building 28 in the Washington Navy Yard). Dahlgren’s body was found by 13 year old Confederate, who took his wooden artificial limb as a souvenir. The Yankee prosthetic made its way to John Ballard, who wore it in active service to the end of the war.
From CSA Today on Civil War Talk

Judge Roy Bean

Judge Roy Bean was born in 1825 in Mason County, Kentucky, the youngest of five (four sons and a daughter) of Phantly Roy Bean, Sr., and the former Anna Henderson Gore. The family was extremely poor, and at age sixteen Bean left home to ride a flatboat to New Orleans and possible work. After getting into trouble there, Bean fled to San Antonio, Texas to join his older brother Sam.

During the War of 1861, the Confederate Army successfully invaded New Mexico. During the Battle of Glorieta Pass in March 1862, however, the Confederates lost their supply wagons and were forced to retreat to San Antonio. Bean joined the retreating army. For the remainder of the war, he ran the blockade by hauling cotton from San Antonio to British ships off the coast at Matamoros.

From The Southern Gentleman on Face Book

Lincoln's pillow fight

When Leonard Swett first met Abraham Lincoln, the Springfield lawyer was engaged in a very serious pillow fight with judge David Davis.

Swett joined the Illinois court circuit in the 1850s, befriended Lincoln and became also a key organizer of the 1860 Chicago Republican National Convention and the 1864 presidential election.

When Leonard Swett had his first appearance on the circuit, he sought to introduce himself to Judge Davis, who at the time stayed at a small inn, along with other lawyers.

John C. Waugh in “One Man Great Enough” describes best what happened:

“Directed to Judge Davis’s room, he climbed the stairway of the hotel with some trepidation, being brought up to believe judges were men “of more or less gravity,” to be approached with “some degree of deference.” 

His timid, uncertain knock was answered with a “come in,” uttered almost simultaneously. Swett entered the room and saw Davis and Lincoln in their nightshirts engaged in a pillow fight.

Davis, low and heavy-set, was leaning against the foot of the bed puffing “like a lizard.”

Lincoln who looked to Swett, compared to Davis, to be eight feet tall, was “encased in a long, indescribable garment, yellow as saffron, which reached to his heels, and from beneath which protruded two of the largest feet I had, up to that time, been in the habit of seeing.” 
The only thing keeping the nightshirt from slipping off the tall angular frame was a single button at the throat. 

“Certainly,” Swett later wrote, “the ungodliest figure I had ever seen.””

From All things Lincoln on Tumblr