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September 2014

This week in the Civil War for September 28, 1864


The Associated Press reported on Sept. 28, 1864, 150 years ago during the Civil War, that relative calm prevailed for a few days amid a longstanding Union siege at Petersburg, Virginia, not far from the Confederate capital of Richmond. "Quiet still prevails in front of Petersburg, broken only by the usual picket firing and occasional artillery duels, the effect of which is to consume a large quantity of powder."

The AP dispatch added that heavy firing could still be heard in bursts from the area around the James River and there were reports of large groups of Confederate cavalry on the move, their war aims unclear. The Union besieged Petersburg as crucial Confederate supply point 25 miles to the south of Richmond. The siege would drag on nearly until the end of the war before Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant would cut through and hasten the end of the war in 1865.

From Yahoo News and The Associated Press

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson- A Name Lost To History

Colorized photo by Stacey Palmer thecivilwarparlor

Civil War Era-
 Orator, Abolitionist, Women’s Advocate, Author, Playwright And Actress

  •  First woman to speak before the United States Congress
  •  First white woman on record to climb Colorado’s Longs Peak in 1873.

One newsman wrote that she “could hold her audience spellbound for as much as two hours.  She gave the impression of being under some magical control.” Averaging a speech every other day, she earned as much as twenty thousand dollars annually – an amazing amount for that era.

In 1861 she held a position at the U.S. mint in Philadelphia, but she was fired for publicly accusing General George B. McClellan of treason in the loss of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Thereafter she devoted herself to the speaker’s platform.

She addressed venereal disease in a lecture titled “Between Us Be Truth” and spoke on polygamy in “Whited Sepulchers.”  Her most popular talk was about Joan of Arc, and some people referred to her as the “Civil War’s Joan of Arc.”  She also published several books, the most radical of which was a novel sympathetic to interracial marriage, What Answer? (1868).

By 1891, showed such signs of paranoia that she was involuntarily committed to a Pennsylvania hospital for the insane.  She filed lawsuits upon her release, was adjudicated sane, and recovered damages from newspapers – but the experience shook her self-confidence and ended her career. Fame arguably had come too easily, too early in her life.  Although she was a genuine celebrity and an asset to the Union in the Civil War, Anna Dickinson lived the next forty years in the households of friends, unnoticed and unwanted by the public.  She died just days before her ninetieth birthday.

Colorized photo by Stacey Palmer thecivilwarparlor

Lucy Mina Otey

Lucy mina otey 2
Lucy Mina Otey 
would eventually lose three sons and a son-in-law in the Civil War. At age 60 and a widow, she organized a group of ladies in Lynchburg, Virginia to make bandages and uniforms. With the expansion of the war, women became hospital nurses and matrons.

Due to the opposition of women in hospitals by the local military chief, Dr. William Otway Owen, Mrs. Otey was turned away at a hospital with official orders, "No more women, no more flies." Dr. Owen believed that women had no place in hospitals and should stay home and sew uniforms. He would not allow them to have anything to do with patients. So, Mrs. Otey traveled to Richmond and petitioned President Jefferson Davis to allow her to set up an Independent Ladies' Relief Hospital with beds for 100 patients. The Ladies' Relief Hospital was set up in the old Union Hotel and staffed by the organization of 500 women, with Mrs. Captain Otey as its president. Despite receiving the worst casualties, Mrs. Otey's hospital had one of the lowest mortality rates among military hospitals.

During the first difficult winter, Mrs. Otey requested that women who staffed the hospital be accorded the ability to purchase supplies from the commissary as officers. Her request was denied.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Colorized photo by Stacey Palmer thecivilwarparlor

Nathan Bedford Forrest 
"The Wizard Of The Saddle” His tactics on the battlefield are still studied by military academies today

“I wish none but those who desire to be actively engaged. Come on boys, if you want a heap of fun and to kill some yankees” 

  •  29 horses shot from under him, killed or seriously wounded at least thirty enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, and had been himself wounded four times.
  • In the motion picture Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’s character Forrest Gump states that he was named after a “General Forrest”
  • Forrest’s victory at Brice’s Cross Roads became the subject of a class taught at the French War College by Marshal Ferdinand Foch before World War I. 
  • His mobile campaigns were studied by the German general Erwin Rommel, who as commander of the Afrika Korps in World War II, emulated his tactics on a wider scale, with tanks and trucks.

Not only did he lack formal military training, but had very little formal education in his youth. Forrest was the eldest, and the head of seven brothers and three sisters. His father, a blacksmith, died while Forrest was still a young man, necessitating that he forego a formal education and help to raise the family. As a young business man, Forrest overcame his lack of schooling, entering the war as a private with an estimated wealth of a million and a half. During the war, he was an avid reader, scanning the newspapers daily to keep abreast of military information.

Years after the war, General Sherman said, "I think Forrest was the most remarkable man the civil war produced on either side. His opponents were professional soldiers, while he had no military training. He was never taught tactics yet he had a genius for strategy that was original and to me incomprehensible. I couldn’t calculate what he was up to, yet he always knew my intentions."

His lack of education became most noticeable in his poor spelling and punctuation of personally written dispatches and reports. The words such as “skeer,” “git” and “thar” were some examples. Described as urbane and polished in his mannerisms, most of the grammatical distortions in his speech were products of his staff officers and their leg-pulling tales of Forrest. However, in anger or excitement, his no nonsense approach to the English language would become evident. Once, having received a soldier’s repeated request for leave, Forrest responded in writing: “I have told you twict goddamit No!” 

He continued to be surrounded by controversy for the remainder of his life. He continued to be active in civic and political events until his health declined prior to his death. On May 14, 1875 he presence was conspicuous at a reunion of the Seventh Cavalry in Covington. Requested to make a speech, he did so from horseback. “…Comrades, through the years of bloodshed and weary marches you were tried and true soldiers. So through the years of peace you have been good citizens, and now that we are again united under the old flag, I love it as I did in the days of my youth, and I feel sure that you love it also….It has been thought by some that our social reunions were wrong, and that they would be heralded to the North as an evidence that we were again ready to break out into civil war. But I think that they are right and proper, and we will show our countrymen by our conduct and dignity that brave soldiers are always good citizens and law-abiding and loyal people.”

Colorized photo by Stacey Palmer thecivilwarparlor

This week in the Civil War for September 21, 1864


Confederate forces recently defeated at the Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia, erected defensive works at Fisher's Hill in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. And yet another battle was fought Sept. 21-22, 1864, with the Union taking the offensive against Southern cavalry before breaking through the surprised Southern infantry lines. Thus Confederate Jubal A. Early was forced to retreat with his troops further southward down the Shenandoah Valley. Meanwhile, the news of a Union victory at Winchester was embraced by Northerners.

The Associated Press reported on Sept. 20, 1864, that there was a raucous celebration among Union troops of the Army of the Potomac when they got word of developments in Winchester. Said AP: "The news of the victory in the Valley was read to the troops along the lines this afternoon, and was received with unbounded enthusiasm and repeated cheering. A salute of one hundred shotted guns will be fired tomorrow at daylight, in honor of the victory."

AP added that Confederate desertion appeared to be on the rise. It added that some Confederate deserters told had they had recently obtained fresh beef from captured herds. The report also said some rebel pickets close to Union forces were offering to trade their fresh beef for Union coffee and other supplies.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

Last Bloomington Civil War veteran

On Aug. 7, 1940, the Rev. Loyal M. Thompson of First Methodist Church, Bloomington, offered a prayer over the casket of Benajah Brigham, Bloomington’s last Civil War soldier, who had passed away two days earlier.

Joseph W. Fifer and Benajah Brigham, believed to be the last two living Civil War veterans in Bloomington, died in 1938 and 1940, respectively. Coincidentally, both men served together in Company C of the 33rd Illinois Infantry Regiment.

In March 1936, the closing of Bloomington-Normal’s last Grand Army of the Republic post signaled the imminent end of the Civil War generation. The GAR was a fraternal organization of Union veterans that wielded impressive political power in the decades after the war.

Ninety-five-year-old Bloomington resident Joseph Fifer, the local GAR post commander and former Illinois governor, was the only veteran able to attend the rather bittersweet ceremony. The three other remaining Bloomington-Normal veterans, including Benajah Brigham, were unable to be there.

Seventy-three years earlier, during the spring and summer of 1863, Fifer and Brigham were part of Ulysses S. Grant’s epic campaign to take Vicksburg, Miss., the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

Bill Kemp Archivist/historian McLean County Museum of History

Read the full article at the

Union code machine

Turning Circles Around The Confederates

Maj. Albert J. Myer, a U.S. Army Surgeon, created this cipher disk to further protect Union Army communications. This disc functioned by aligning the letters on the upper two disks with the numbers on the two lower disks. In this image the letter “A” would be sent as 81. The No. line would be completed with a number to help account for the device.

National Archives, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer

From The Civil War Parlor on Tumblr

This week in the Civil War for September 14, 1864


Confederate units often had ranged freely up and down the Shenandoah Valley in mountainous areas of Virginia but fought a bruising fight against Union forces at Winchester in that state 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Both the Union forces under Philip Sheridan and Confederates led by Jubal A. Early saw high casualties in the Third Battle of Winchester, which was waged on Sept. 19, 1864.

The fighting that led to thousands of casualties on both sides was fierce. It resulted in a Union victory and marked the beginning of the decline of the Confederate threat along the strategic corridor running from south to north. Elsewhere in Virginia, The Associated Press reported in a dispatch dated Sept. 14, 1864 that Robert E. Lee's Confederate army was reportedly being reinforced.

"It is stated by deserters that Lee's army has been strengthened by reinforcements from various points and by large numbers of conscripts." AP also reported that shelling continued around Petersburg, Va., this week 150 years ago in the civil war: "The Confederates have kept up a brisk artillery firing ... The result of is that five or six Federal soldiers are brought into the hospital every day."

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press