Sunday, January 15, 2017

Generals in Blue Missouri - Henry W. Halleck

Henry Wager Halleck replaced Fremont as commander of the Department of Missouri on November 9, 1861. Halleck was a military theorist and able administrator and quickly sorted out the chaos of corruption, fraud and disorder left by his predecessor. Seldom close to either superiors or subordinates, throughout his career he strove to ensure that credit for good work came to him but that blame for bad fell on others.

While administering the department from St. Louis, Union troops won victories at Pea Ridge, Belmont, Island Number 10 and New Madrid under field generals Samuel Curtis, Ulysses Grant, and John Pope.

Halleck was leery of the talents of his most successful subordinate, Grant. Being risk-averse, Halleck viewed Grant as overly pugnacious, unreliable and carrying a reputation for alcoholism. Grant’s victory at the small battle of Belmont allowed Halleck to give him a bit more leash in Tennessee, after which both their careers pointed south and then east.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Generals in Blue Missouri - John Charles Fremont

John C. Fremont is the most famous man to become a general in Missouri. Famous western explorer, first Republican presidential candidate and controversial adventurer, he was appointed commander of the Department of the West, headquartered in St. Louis, on July 1, 1861.

While Lyon operated in the field, Fremont organized the far-flung federal forces in Missouri and Illinois. Many men were enlisted, but they were short of arms, food and other supplies. Fremont’s manned his staff with friends and family and his requisitioning and purchasing practices came under scrutiny and he was accused of graft and corruption.

With Lyon moving through Missouri, Fremont appointed Ulysses S. Grant to command the post in Cairo, Illinois, train the troops there and prepare for operations in southeast Missouri.

After Lyon’s death in the defeat at Wilson Creek, Fremont collected 40,000 green troops, moved toward Springfield, declared martial law in the state and issued an edict freeing the slaves of disloyal Missourians. He retook Springfield, but President Lincoln, opposed to such a bold move early in the war, reversed the emancipation declaration and removed Fremont from command.

Fremont transferred east, served desultorily and was removed from active service in mid-1862.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Generals in Blue Missouri - Nathaniel Lyon

Nathaniel Lyon was born in Connecticut in 1818 and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1841. He fought in the second Seminole War and the war with Mexico. After the Mexican War he served in California and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, where the political climate predicted the coming sectional conflict. A strict, perhaps severe, disciplinarian he was considered impetuous and hot-headed by some.

In February 1861, after the secession winter but before open hostilities, Nathaniel Lyon was assigned to command the federal weapons arsenal in St. Louis. Tension was high for Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson was an avowed southern sympathizer and secessionist. When war began in April and Lincoln called for troops, including 4 regiments from Missouri, Jackson refused. Rather, he assembled the state militia outside at the fairgrounds outside St. Louis in anticipation of fighting for the south.  On May 10, Lyon sent troops to surround and subdue the militia. After capturing the militia and while marching them through St. Louis, pro-southern citizens began to riot. Lyon ordered the troops to defend themselves and they fired into the crowd, killing 28.

A week later, Lyon was given command of all Union troops in Missouri. Shortly­ after, in a fiery meeting, he and Congressman Francis P. Blair met with Governor Jackson and General Sterling Price in peace negotiations. The meeting failed as Lyon stated, “Rather than concede to the state of Missouri the right to dictate to my government in any matter however unimportant, I would see you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and buried. This means war.”

Forcing the Missouri State Guard, their leaders, Price and Gov. Jackson, west, Union forces captured Jefferson City, won the first battle of Boonville on June 17th, gained control of the Missouri River and secured most of northern Missouri.

After refitting, recruiting and reorganizing, and uniting with soldiers under Col. Franz Sigel, Lyon’s troops attacked Price, the Missouri State Guard and Confederate regular army troops just south of Springfield at Wilson Creek on August 10. While rallying his outnumbered men, Lyon was shot through the heart and died instantly, the first Union general to die in the conflict.

Lyon’s efforts kept Missouri in the Union. Ironically, the efficiency in clearing northern Missouri of the Guard and regular CSA troops left many pro-southern men behind Union lines and laid the groundwork for the deadly guerilla war that lasted the rest of the war.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gettysburg photo mysteries

A few years ago, John Cummings discovered the previously mysterious position of a famous Gettysburg photograph usually titled 'Harvest of Death'. His notes are here. His research also reveals ways in which that era's photographs were artistically manipulated and don't necessarily record reality.

His work leads me to identify the position of another Gettysburg photograph, conjectured to be on the Confederate right in the 2nd day's battlefield near the Rose farm, but whose actual location is also unknown. No one else has made this leap.

In this photo of partially buried Confederate dead, several landmarks appear: the scraggly trees in the background, the up-sloping topography and the pile of white-washed fence boards.

I have highlighted the most interesting element, the pile of fence boards.
In the photograph whose location John has identified, a similar board pile is revealed in the middle distance, highlighted here.
Other than the landmarks, small gnarly trees and up-sloping terrain, there are several ideas regarding this position.
Concerning the currently theorized position being on the CSA right: there are no other photos of Confederate burials in the area; it  was an active combat zone on the evening of the 2nd and the CSA withdrew from it on the night of the 3rd. It's doubtful that exhausted, front-line troops would have engaged in graves operations.
Now, about my conjecture: This zone was behind Confederate lines from the afternoon of July 1st until the evening of July 5th. The troops in the area were not engaged in fighting after the 1st and conducted extensive graves operations until they left the Gettysburg area. The photographer was in the area on the 6th and it's unlikely they would have limited their photo-taking to a few plates on the ridge near where Reynolds was killed.
I believe the photo was taken in he swale in the left middle distance, perhaps near the trees just over the ridge.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Soldier Ages - Mythical Company Musters Out

Our mythical company of 100 originally enlisted for 3 months and then re-upped for 3 more years.

Now the time to muster out and return to homes and occupations has at last arrived.

Through more then 3 years of warfare, with discharge, disablement, disease, desertion and death thinning the ranks, the 100 soldiers count only 35.

Their ages at the last muster are :

age              number
18 or under    1
19                 2
20                 8
21                 4
22-24           12
25-27            7
over 28          1

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Soldier Ages - some references

'"44 and over" adjutant report' 
turned up the following in a newspaper and a journal. 

They obviously reference the same 'report' and give 1909 as the published year .

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 1 1911:

From the Society of the Army of the Potomac, Report of the Thirty-Eighth Annual Reunion (the same text appears in the Reports of the 35th and the 40th) printed in 1908:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sodier Ages - Mythical Company

Let's use the Adjutant General's data and recruit a mythical 100-soldier infantry company.

At the first drill, the company lines up by age.

As we inspect the ranks, the first 4 'men' are 15 or younger!

Walking the line of soldiers, we see:
age        number
16            4
17           22
18           11
19-21      37
22-24      20
25-43        1

finally, last in line is an old greybeard over 43!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Soldier Ages - the full text

Here is the transcribed text from the booklet, with words replacing the actual ditto, double-quote, marks :

Grand Army of the Republic

The veterans’ organization was founded by Dr. Stephenson, in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866.  The final encampment was in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1949.

Number of men, by age who served in the Union (from the Adjutant General’s report)
Age 10 and under: 25
Age 11 and under: 38
Age 12 and under: 225
Age 13 and under: 300
Age 14 and under: 1,525
Age 15 and under: 104,987
Age 16 and under: 231,051
Age 17 and under: 844,891
Age 18 and under: 1,151,438
Age 21 and under: 2,159,798
Age 22 and over: 618,511
Age 25 and over: 46,626
Age 44 and over: 16,071

TOTAL . . . . . . 2,778,304 [actually 2,778,309 ]

Friday, July 22, 2016

Soldier Ages - rebuttal

Before continuing an analysis of the 'soldiers ages', let's acknowledge some issues with them.

1) the 'Adjutant General's Report' is an elusive one. I've not seen an original form.  The same text I posted can be found in only 3 or 4 places on the web, but strictly as cut'n'paste. Is it in the official records? Is it the GAR AG or the War Department AG, or someone else?

2) The figures *are* somewhat mind-bending. Most sources use 2.1 million as the number of Union servicemen. The 2.7 million may be double-counting multiple enlistees? Many men would have enlisted for 3 months and then for 3 years.

3) Some numbers are problematic. Only 46,626 servicemen were 25 or over. This number seems way low.

4) many reputable historians use 26 as the average soldiers age. That number is impossible given this data. From where did these writers obtain *their* figure?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Soldier Ages

Earlier this year I commented on another blog that 40% of Civil War soldiers were 18 or younger and 75% were 21 and under. These are numbers that stuck with me from a lecture sometime last century. Politely challenged, I was unable to find *any* backup for my figures.

This surprised me given the massive Official Records and census data readily available and the web on all topics Civil War.

Browsing randomly (as I tend to) through the booklet "Civil War Union Monuments" published in 1978 by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, I found this page:

Some quick math reveals that 41% of Union soldiers were 18 or under and 78% were 21 and younger. Only 2 in 9 were 22 and older..

Naturally, one source does not a solid conclusion make.

However, my primary thesis is that movies, battle reenactments and living history has instilled in us the idea that Civil War soldiers were old, well-fed and graying.

These numbers tell us that 3 in 4 weren't even eligible to vote.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunset for the confederate flag?

Southern life has too long been shackled (literally and figuratively) to fealty to the CSA and the flag.

Art, culture, politics, literature, heritage, history, education, architecture - anything brushing up with the Confederacy's 4-year life has to pass a test of 'Confederate-correctness'.

 It's been a case of WWJDD, 'what would Jefferson Davis do?'. Virtually everything 'southern' has been viewed through the lens of confederate memory. Anything in conflict with that memory is discarded and the purveyor derided. Now, in a new era, ideas can stand or fall on their own merits.

 The flag should have been lowered when the last CSA veteran was buried

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where is it #2

That first one was pretty easy, as Jeff says it's Fort Davidson .

This one may be more difficult, depends on what you're smokin':

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