Page 1

The Devil and Robert E. Lee, p. 18 | Black Men in Blue, p. 36 VOL. I, NO. 2

{ A N E W L O O K a t A M E R I C A’S G R E A T E S T C O N F L I C T }


The Rise and Fall of the Boy General

WINTER 2011 + $5.99



11/8/11 3:36:30 AM

CWM_FOB-TOC.indd 2

11/8/11 2:55:26 AM


“In heaven’s name, while we remember the dead let us not forget the living.” FEATURES


Custer and the End of Innocence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

2 . . . . . Editorial: . . . . . . Thanks…and a Contest

In little more than a decade, George Armstrong Custer—the “Boy General of the Golden Lock”—went from Civil War darling to Little Bighorn pariah. What went wrong? BY GLENN W. LAFANTASIE

Black Men in Blue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 A series of rare images highlights the story of the African-American volunteers collectively known as the Union army’s “Sable Arm.”  BY RONALD S. CODDINGTON

Hard Times Are Common Now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to push the Confederates from East Tennessee during the winter of 1863-1864 resulted in a sharp— and largely forgotten—fight on the frozen ground outside the small town of Dandridge. BY STEVEN H. NEWTON

Faded Glory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 As the rest of America moved on, the struggles of “old soldiers” became an uncomfortable reminder of the enduring costs of war.  BY JAMES MARTEN


3 . . . . . Dispatches: . . . . . . Letters to the Editor 4 . . . . . Salvo: Facts, Figures & . . . . . . Items of Interest TRAVELS: A Visit to Richmond VOICES: Christmas 1861 PRIMER: Getting to Know Civil War Canteens PRESERVATION: Gaines’ Mill in the Crosshairs FIGURES: Civil War Mortality Reconsidered IN FOCUS: Lee the Devil 20 . . . . Casualties of War: . . . . . . General Earl Van Dorn 22 . . . . Battlefield Echoes: Civilians . . . . . . and the Boundaries of War 62 . . . . Books & Authors: The Year in Civil War Books 72 . . . . Parting Shot: Winterizing . . . . . . Houses, Civil War-style

COVER PHOTOGRAPH: George Armstrong Custer, as he appeared during the Civil War. COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.



CWM_FOB-TOC.indd 1

11/8/11 1:03:23 PM

<;@KFI@8C <;@KFI@8C


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF . . . . . . . . .

Terry A. Johnston Jr. CONTRIBUTING EDITORS . . . . . . . . . . Laura June Davis

Angela Esco Elder

Thanks… and a Contest

EDITORIAL ADVISORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Berry

BEFORE I GET TO OUR (somewhat) big announcement, I want to thank you, our new community of readers, for the tremendously positive feedback on our premier issue. Your reactions and responses have poured in through emails and through Facebook and Twitter posts—and trust us, we’ve read every one of them. We’ve also read every posting in the Civil War blogosphere we could find (and there were many). If there’s a theme to the commentary so far, it’s that our initial instinct was right: There is indeed a readership out there for a new kind of Civil War magazine. Of course, among your many comments we do have a few favorites. One reader marveled that we weren’t “scared” to run footnotes in a popular magazine. (We aren’t.) Another commenter (at the blog All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac) thought the Monitor was “a Civil War magazine that rocks,” describing it as “a combination of smart, sophisticated, and hip.” My personal favorite tweet, courtesy of one of our social media friends, Ben Butina: “A good cigar, black coffee, and the first issue of The Civil War Monitor. This is what front porches are for.” We are deeply grateful for all of your enthusiasm and support. And please, keep the comments coming. Let us know what you like and don’t like about the magazine, as well as what topics you want to see us cover in future issues. We don’t just welcome your feedback, we’re counting on it.

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . Matthew C. Hulbert

NOW, FOR THE ANNOUNCEMENT. Matt Hulbert, our book review editor, recently thought up an idea for an essay contest, inspired by an anthology of essays edited by Steve Berry, one of the Monitor’s editorial advisors. The book, published earlier this year by the University of Georgia Press, is called Weirding the War—and, as its subtitle indicates, explores “stories from the Civil War’s ragged edges.” So, here’s the idea: We want to know if you have a “weird” Civil War story. Perhaps you have a strange tale to tell about a Civil War ancestor. Or maybe your research into the war has taken a bizarre twist. In short, we want your weirdest Civil War-related anecdote. Submissions should be between 300 and 400 words and emailed to The entry deemed by our staff to be the weirdest of all will win a copy of Weirding the War, signed by Berry and several other contributors. All submissions are due by January 21. We’ll announce the winner in our next issue and post the winning essay on our website. Happy writing!

Patrick Brennan John Coski Judith Giesberg Allen C. Guelzo Amy Murrell Taylor COPY EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jennifer Sturak ART DIRECTOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Patrick Mitchell

( DESIGNER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Melanie deForest Malloy ADVERTISING DIRECTOR . . . . . . . . . . . Zethyn McKinley (559) 492 9236 CIRCULATION MANAGER. . . . . . . . . . . . . Howard White WEBSITE . . . . . . . . . . DIGITAL HISTORY ADVISORS . . . . . . . . . M. Keith Harris

Kevin M. Levin Robert H. Moore II Harry Smeltzer SUBSCRIPTIONS & CUSTOMER SERVICE


Curtis Circulation Company The Civil War Monitor [ISSN 2163-0682/print, ISSN 21630690/online] is published quarterly (4 times per year) by Bayshore History, LLC (P.O. Box 428, Longport, NJ, 08403). Subscriptions: $21.95 for one year (4 issues) in the U.S., $31.95 per year in Canada, and $41.95 per year for overseas subscriptions (all U.S. funds). Postmaster: send address changes to The Civil War Monitor, P.O. Box 567, Selmer, TN 38375-0567. Views expressed by individual authors, unless expressly stated, do not necessarily represent those of The Civil War Monitor or Bayshore History, LLC. Letters to the editor become the property of The Civil War Monitor, and may be edited. The Civil War Monitor cannot assume responsibility for unsolicited materials. The contents of the magazine may not be reproduced in whole or part without the written consent of the publisher. Copyright ©2011 by Bayshore History, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.





11/8/11 3:16:42 AM

INTO THE CRATER The Mine Attack at Petersburg Earl J. Hess 352 pp., 45 illus., cl, $44.95



3213783*8,37)0-787%2(%*);3*8,)1 ;390(7-82)%68,)8343*2)%60=%00 %:-(388)67# '* ($("

+$,$,<;:;<;9<'3140)8)(%2()(-8)( &=32),6)2&%',)6ONQM-78,)-2 (-7498%&0)78%68-2+43-28*36%006)%()67 -28)6)78)(-28,);%6736-+-27209'-( )2+%+-2+4637)%2((-740%=-2+%2%7832 -7,-2+()48,3*-27-+,8%2(;-7(3132) 3*8,)+6)%8,-7836-%273*8,)8;)28-)8, ')2896=3E)67%2%&736&-2+%2(%68*900= &%0%2')(2%66%8-:)3*8,)89190893974) 6-3(*6318,))2(3*8,))<-'%2#%683 8,)):%'9%8-323*368918)6388)6-7 %8,-7&)78;,)28,39+,8*900=%77)77-2+   

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

-2-2+8,)%6+91)28746)7)28)(&=8,) ))4398,%+)287;,3&0%2/)8)(8,) !44)6398,(96-2+8,))')77-326-7-7 3*OLMPOLMO);92)%68,7;,-8)7398, )62)671378'3+)28'%7)*367)')77-32 J%8,)@2(7-7%2%78392(-2+*3'9732 %7-2+0)(31-2%280-2)3*6)%732-2+ 8,) 1%-28)2%2')3*6%'-%0(31-2%2'))')7 7-32%+)287;%62)(%+%-2%2(%+%-28,%8 79&1-88-2+83)49&0-'%2690);390( 1)%2)1%2'-4%8-32%2(;-8,-86%'-%0 )59%0-8=6%');%6%2(6%'-%01-<-2+%2( ()+6%(%8-32 ;338,)66)')28&33/7&6-2+% 136)*3'97)(,91%24)674)'8-:)838,) 74)'-@'%88-89()7()'-7-327%2():)287 3*8,)4)6-3()<4036-2+;-8,:-:-(2%6

6%8-:)A%-6%2(&6-00-%28-27-+,88,)*%7 '-2%8-2+43-28;,)6),-7836-'%0*36' )71)8-2(-:-(9%0-()%7%2(()'-7-327 #-00-%1#6)),0-2+7  ,,$)($,-, +$.'*#(-<;8:<;9<IPPQ8,)032+ %;%-8)( '32'097-32 83 ,-7 8;34%68 )4-'# )-) $,.($)(46)7)287 8,)&)78&63%(%''39283*8,)7398,)62 630)-28,);%6736-+-27-2+)2)6%8-327 (;%6( =)67(-# + , ( )!$( 

( '$ ,#  $/$&+$(-#  +-)! ' +$<;86<;95IPPH8%/)7%1-'63 '371-'033/%88;36)1%6/%&0=7-1-0%6 '31192-8-)732)-27398,)62)227=0 :%2-%8,)38,)6-22368,;)78)62"-6+-2 -%7)4%6%8)(&=.978IPP1-0)7%2(8,) -278-898-323*70%:)6= 3+)8,)66)),



MUSINGS OF A CIVIL WAR BIBLIOPHILE: RECENT BATTLE BOOKS ROBERT K. KRICK   -:-0#%6D8,)%9(- )2')*368,)&6%:)2);49&0-7,-2+:)2 896)-2;,-',8,-7-78,)@6787)6-%0D '31)838,)-674)'-%0-28)6)787*631):)6= '32')-:%&0)8%2+)28328,)834-'%0'31 4%77 ,)=-2'09())28,97-%787*3692- *3617%2(;)%4327%2(%''3986)1)287  *36,367)7%2(&%003327%2(74-)7%2( %68,%:)*6-)2(7;,374)'-%0->)-2)%', 3*8,37)79&" (+ ,%2(38,)67;,3*3 '97%6()280=32*36)-+2)67)%68,;36/7 7)<9%07,)2%2-+%274,383+6%4,=6%-0 63%(76)0-+-328%'8-'76%6)&33/7%2( 4%14,0)87*6%8)62->%8-32;-8,)2)1-)7 ;31)2-292-*361197-')74)'-%00=



I ENJOYED THE first issue. The space devoted to each article and depth of scholarship were impressive. I especially enjoyed the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Books & Authorsâ&#x20AC;? departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;so much more than the typical book review section. I will enthusiastically recommend your serial to my friends and colleagues. Again, great work and thanks to all. John Wendland Fincastle, Virginia A QUICK NOTE to say how much I enjoyed your premiere issue of The Civil War Monitor. The whole thing really is beautifully produced and aesthetically pleasing, making it something of a rarity in the historymagazine business. I look forward to subscribing. Alexander Rose New York City, New York

The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia C. L. Bragg, Charles D. Ross, Gordon A. Blaker, Stephanie A. T. Jacobe, and Theodore P. Savas 336 pp., 74 color and 50 b&w illus., cl, $44.95 Winner 2007 Lilla M. Hawes Award, Georgia Historical Society

â&#x20AC;&#x153;HIM ON THE ONE SIDE AND ME ON THE OTHERâ&#x20AC;? The Civil War Letters of Alexander Campbell, 79th New York Infantry Regiment, and James Campbell, 1st South Carolina Battalion Edited by Terry A. Johnston, Jr. 216 pp., pb, $21.95


SONS OF PRIVILEGE The Charleston Light Dragoons in the Civil War W. Eric Emerson 208 pp., 18 illus., pb, $19.95; cl, $24.95

A CITY LAID WASTE The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia William Gilmore Simms

SUCH EXCELLENT topics you have selected! Joan Wenner via email

Edited with an Introduction by David Aiken 152 pp., 16 illus., pb, $18.95; cl, $24.95

I FOUND YOUR magazine on the newsstand and I have enjoyed it thoroughly! Thank you for keeping a balanced perspective and for your vision in presenting something new. Your magazine is exciting and refreshing! Dallas Dorsey via Facebook

Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863

GATE OF HELL Stephen R. Wise 324 pp., 64 illus., pb, $21.95

UPCOUNTRY SOUTH CAROLINA GOES TO WAR Letters of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore Families, 1853â&#x20AC;&#x201C;1865 Edited by Tom Moore Craig


Introduction by Melissa Walker and Tom Moore Craig 224 pp., 21 illus., pb, $22.50; cl, $29.95


Sixty-seven Years of Publishing Excellence


11/8/11 3:16:47 AM

!"#$% Facts, Figures & Items of Interest




11/8/11 2:58:59 AM




Voices CHRISTMAS 1861 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Primer CIVIL WAR CANTEENS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Preservation GAINES’ MILL IN THE CROSSHAIRS . . . . . . . 14


In Focus LEE THE DEVIL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


☛ Southerners evacuate Richmond on the night of April 2, 1865, after the fall of Petersburg made further defense of the Confederate capital unsustainable. Rebel soldiers had set some of the city’s warehouses ablaze before retreating. The fires soon burned out of control, destroying large swaths of the abandoned metropolis. For more about Richmond, turn the page.




11/8/11 2:59:07 AM


Destination: Richmond FEW PLACES IN THE COUNTRY boast as rich a Civil War history as Richmond, Virginia. The designated capital of the Confederate States of America, Richmond quickly became the war’s strategic focal point in the east: Union forces hoped to end the war by capturing it; Confederate forces endeavored to protect it at all cost. And while much of Richmond burned at war’s end, a wealth of Civil War-related sites and activities still remain in and around the city. Interested in visiting Richmond? To help plan your trip, we’ve enlisted a handful of locals—individuals who live in, work in, or are otherwise intimately familiar with the historic city—to offer their personal suggestions for what to see and do. Ruth Ann and John Coski have

both worked at The Museum of the Confederacy— and called Richmond home—since 1988. BEST SLEEP: LINDEN ROW INN 1 offers a historic, central location at a reasonable price and even boasts a Civil War association (owned by the Pegram family before the war). BEST FAMILY ACTIVITY: MAYMONT PARK

, located a few miles west of downtown, is a free city park with a Victorian mansion (open for guided tours), extensive grounds with views of the James River, gardens, a zoo, children’s farm, a nature center, and family friendly special events. Located near the sites of the Confederacy’s Winder, Jackson, and Stuart hospitals. 2

BEST TIME TO BE HERE: AUTUMN, for the marvelous weather and fall colors (the best time of the year to stroll or bike down DREWRY’S BLUFF

LINDEN ROW INN Monument Avenue). There are almost too many special events on fall weekends, highlighted by several large Oktoberfest celebrations and the mid-October Richmond Folk Festival on the waterfront surrounding Tredegar Iron Works. CAN’T MISS: Since the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center has moved to the waterfront at Historic Tredegar, visitors are likely to miss the center’s former location: CHIMBORAZO HILL 3 and neighboring CHURCH HILL. The National Park Service maintains a Civil War medical museum at the Chimborazo site. Church Hill is Richmond’s oldest residential neighborhood, highlighted by Libby Hill, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and the view of the James that inspired the city’s name. BEST OF THE BATTLEFIELDS: Separated from the many other sites in the Richmond National Battlefield Park, DREWRY’S BLUFF is a hidden gem. It was one of Richmond’s most formidable defensive points (“our Gibraltar,” Mary Chesnut called it), site of two Confederate victories, and important to the Confederate army, navy, and marine corps. The earthworks are impressive, the site is evocative, and the RNBP historians continue to research and interpret more




11/8/11 2:54:19 AM

Br o

de lvi

1s t 2n d


th 14





PAMPLIN PARK home. And BEAUREGARDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S THAI ROOM 10 (yes, really) is an excellent Thai restaurant with the best patio dining in the city. Richard Lewis , public rela-

tions manager at the Virginia Tourism Corporation, is editor of Civil War Weakly (, an unconventional Civil War blog. BEST SLEEP: THE BERKELEY HOTEL 11 is a lovely boutique hotel in Richmondâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s


x Site of



Br oa



BEST BATTLEFIELD COMPANION: THE CIVIL WAR TRAVELERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S GUIDE TO CIVIL WAR RICHMOND (2005) is currently sold out, but an e-book version will be available soon. Especially in conjunction with audio tours and podcasts available on, the book is a portable and authoritative guide.

I-95 northbound, us for Civil War Visitor C


Site of Belle Isle Prison Camp

8th 9th

Ma y o







Virginia  State


Site of Tredegar Iron Works ar H O L LY W O O D eg Tre d BR O W NS C E M E T E RY

  1 JAMES   301



Richmond National Battlefield Park  Civil War Visitor Center






BEST EATS: LEGEND BREWING COMPANY 5 is a microbrew with the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best brown ale. It is located in Old Manchester, directly across the James from downtown with a good view of the city skyline. HILL CAFĂ&#x2030; 6 on Church Hill, near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the Chimborazo medical museum, offers a good, well-rounded menu and a friendly, pub-like atmosphere. If you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mind spending some money, treat yourself to the champagne brunch at the 5-star JEFFERSON HOTEL 7 downtown. CHEZ FOUSHEE 8 , close to Linden Row Inn, is a unique and stylish place with adventurous meals at reasonable prices. CAFĂ&#x2030; RUSTICA 9 is the classic â&#x20AC;&#x153;hole in the wallâ&#x20AC;? that offers unique meals that you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get at



Museum and  House of the White ConfederacyC lay St. Paulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Church




of its many facets.















Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site

3r d

Monroe  Park


 Site of Confederate Training Camp x

BEST-KEPT SECRET: As it was in the 1860s, the JAMES RIVER WATERFRONT 4 has again become the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart. The mile-long stretch from Brownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island to Tredegar Iron Works to Belle Isle to Hollywood Cemetery is rich in Civil War history, sublime views, and opportunities for urban hiking and biking.



ad G Fr rac e an kli

I-64 and I-95, use exits 76A and B for Maggie L. Walker NHS I-95 southbound, use 64 exit 75 for Civil War I-64 westbound, use Visitor Center 95 5th Street (downtown) e 33 W 64 .L for Civil War Visitor Cen eig 0#,!#(# h



M Av onu en m ue en t

Libby Prison


Confederate Soldie and Sailors Monume


BEAUREGARDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S THAI ROOM Shockoe Slip district, within easy walking distance of restaurants, shops and historic sites. BEST FAMILY ACTIVITY: The SCIENCE MUSEUM OF VIRGINIA 12 , housed in one of Richmondâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grand old train stations, is outstanding for kids. It also has an IMAX theater with movies especially good for children. BEST TIME TO BE HERE: The FALL season in Richmond is exceptional. Temp e r a t u r e s a r e â&#x2DC;&#x203A; {Cont. next page}




11/8/11 2:54:23 AM


mild and in a city full of trees, the foliage is lovely. CAN’T MISS: Without question, PAMPLIN HISTORICAL PARK is a must-see. It is about 30 miles south of Richmond, near Petersburg. It’s one of the best Civil War sites in America, containing an interpreted battlefield, three antebellum plantations, one of the best Civil War museums anywhere, guided tours and costumed living history programs. BEST OF THE BATTLEFIELDS: I particularly like MALVERN HILL. The interpreted walking trail gives you an excellent perspective from both the Union position and Confederate approach. With tree line restoration, the battlefield has an 1862 look to it. BEST-KEPT SECRET: THE MUSEUM AND WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY 13 should be on everyone’s list of places to spend a few hours. The White House contains many pieces original to the house when Jefferson Davis and family resided there, and the museum is a treasure trove of legendary artifacts such as Lee’s Appomattox uniform coat and “Stonewall” Jackson’s sword. BEST BATTLEFIELD COMPANION: For the Seven Days Battles, I like Stephen Sears’ TO THE GATES OF RICHMOND: THE PENINSULA CAMPAIGN (Mariner Books, 2001). Gordon Rhea’s book COLD HARBOR: GRANT AND LEE, MAY 26-JUNE 3, 1864 (LSU Press, 2002) is outstanding for the 1864 action leading up to and including that battle. BEST EATS: KITCHEN 64 has great food. Be prepared to take a doggie bag home. If you still have room, they also own the ice cream shop next door. PERLY’S RESTAURANT 14 is the best breakfast place in Richmond. Old-time feel to the place—though it has “only” been around for 30 years or so. Don’t miss the biscuits! BUZ & NED’S REAL BAR-

BECUE 15 is packed at lunch with good reason. Great pulled pork barbecue sandwiches and ribs. CITY DOGS 16 , located in Shockoe Slip, just down from The Berkeley Hotel, is a classic hot dog and hamburger joint with good food and service in a fun atmosphere. Don Pierce, a longtime Rich-

mond resident, is founder of Page One History Publications (whose titles include The Guide to Virginia’s Civil War and Civil War Traveler) and maintains the website

BEST SLEEP: LINDEN ROW INN, a historic hotel comprising a series of row houses dating from the 1850s. It’s downtown, within easy walking distance of the Capitol and Museum of the Confederacy. BEST FAMILY ACTIVITY: The JAMES RIVER. Too many people miss this historic waterway. Try the canal walk—great views, plenty of history. Plus, it’s free! BEST TIME TO BE HERE: FALL. I’m particularly fond of the Richmond Folk Festival, held on the city’s riverfront in October.

Richmond Navigator LODGING




100 E. Franklin Street; 804-783-7000

14th and Dock Streets; 804-788-6466



101 W. Franklin Street; 804-788-8000

THE BERKELEY HOTEL 1200 E. Cary Street; 804-780-1300 DINING

STRAWBERRY STREET CAFÉ 421 N. Strawberry Street; 804-353-6860

PERLY’S RESTAURANT 111 E. Grace Street; 804-649-2779


office: 200 South Third Street; 804-788-6466

BELLE ISLE Tredegar Street, under Lee Bridge 804-788-6466

TREDEGAR IRON WORKS 500 Tredegar Street; 804-780-1865

MALVERN HILL 8301 Wills Church Road; 804-226-1981

314 E. Grace Street; 804-649-1588



1201 E. Clay Street; 804-649-1861

411 N. Harrison Street; 804-864-5488



2201 Shields Lake Drive; 804-358-7166

321 W. 7th Street; 804-232-3446



2800 E. Broad Street; 804-648-0360

CHEZ FOUSHEE 203 N. Foushee Street; 804-648-3225

CAFÉ RUSTICA 414 E. Main Street; 804-225-8811

BEAUREGARD’S THAI ROOM 103 E. Cary Street; 804-644-2328


CHIMBORAZO HOSPITAL 470 Tredegar Street; 804-226-1981

BROWN’S ISLAND 7th and Tredegar streets;

HOLLYWOOD CEMETERY 412 S. Cherry Street; 804-648-8501

3336 N. Boulevard; 804-358-0064



2500 West Broad Street; 804-864-1400

1119 N. Boulevard; 804-355-6055



6125 Boydton Plank Road, Petersburg 804-861-2408

1316 East Cary Street; 804-343-3647




11/8/11 2:54:23 AM


CAN’T MISS: BELLE ISLE 17 . Located in the middle of one of the most spectacular parts of the James River falls, the island was home to a POW camp during the war. It’s also in easy striking distance of the Tredegar Iron Works. BEST OF THE BATTLEFIELDS: MALVERN HILL. Best preserved, beautiful setting, great stories and good walking trail. BEST-KEPT SECRET: THE MUSEUM OF THE CONFEDERACY. Terrific collection of artifacts, and the Confederate White House tour can’t be beat. A must-see.


BEST BATTLEFIELD COMPANION: Richard Lee’s GENERAL LEE’S CITY (EPM Publications, 1987). It might be hard to find a copy, and some of its info is outdated, but the book still holds up well. BEST EATS: STRAWBERRY STREET CAFÉ 18 , just a block off Monument Ave., might be known for its salad bar, but they also make a terrific chicken pot tie. PERLY’S RESTAURANT is great for breakfast; try the cinnamon raisin biscuit. Don’t miss the Red Door Special at THE RED DOOR RESTAURANT 19 —a pile of spaghetti, meat and cheese, and the best roll in town. EDO’S SQUID 20 offers great Italian food at decent prices.




11/8/11 2:54:24 AM

MF@:<J KI8M<CJ KI8M<CJ MF@:<J “Having distributed such poor Christmas gifts as I had to those around me, I have been looking for something for you. TRIFLES EVEN ARE HARD TO GET THESE WAR-TIMES, and you must not therefore expect more…. I send you some sweet violets that I gathered for you this morning while covered with dense white frost, whose crystals glittered in the bright sun like diamonds, and formed a brooch of rare beauty and sweetness which could not be fabricated by the expenditure of a world of money.”





“The boys had a fine time today…. There was no roast turkey with cranberry sauce and we all missed mother's mince pies, cake and doughnuts. But we bought some pies and cakes of the citizens here, which with our regular army rations made a good dinner and something like a square meal.” UNION SOLDIER ALEXANDER G. DOWNING, DECEMBER 25, 1861

“Our jolly German neighbors have begun upon their Christmas eve with such rolling choruses right behind my tent, that I must step out to see…. [T]hey have a row of Christmas trees through their “Tomorrow will be Christmas, and camp, all a-twinkle with candles, and the boys in all the camps are making hung with ‘hard-tack’ curiously cut into great preparations for the coming confectionary shapes, and with slices of event…. I hope they will not be dis- salt pork and beef. Sedate, heavy-beardappointed. Santa Claus is expected ed Teutons are sedulously making these here tonight with our Christmas din- arrangements, retiring a few paces to ners, but he may be delayed and not observe through severely studious spectacles the effect of each new pendant.” get here for a week to come.”







11/8/11 2:46:01 AM

Commemorating the Civil War Sesquicentennial

! â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . . an exciting story of Virginia fugitive slave Anthony Burns, his rising support particularly among Boston abolitionists, and his activism in the cause of freedom.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;James Oliver Horton, author of Free People of Color

â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . . a pleasure to turn the eye back to those magnificent images left behind by the photographers of the Civil War.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;William C. Davis, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech

â&#x20AC;&#x153;An extremely valuable. . . collection that balances the broad landscape of the Civil War era with the lives of the people who dotted it.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;The Journal of American History

â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . . a very human portrait of the hardships, feelings, beliefs, and hopes of the common German soldier during the war.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

March 2012

Civil War History

Vol. 58 No. 1

â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . .touches on the important themes of combat motivation, race, the end of slavery, the experience of captivity, and the competing stories of how the war was remembered.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Scott Reynolds Nelson, Legum Professor of History, The College of William & Mary

â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . . chronicles the actions of a military engineer whose performance from Knoxville and Atlanta to the Great Lakes earned him the gratitude of such luminaries as William T. Sherman, Ambrose Burnside, and others.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Christopher S. Stowe, U. S. Army Command and General Staff College

â&#x20AC;&#x153;. . . a recollection of the antislavery idealism that first motivated these young men to fight. This classic is virtually the only history of its genre that interrogated the meaning of the war for those who fought it.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Mark Elliot, author of ColorBlind Justice

Civil War Commemorative Plates Fort Sumter Plate: Item #1010-001 Dixâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Plate: Item #1010-002 www. KentStateUniversityPress. com/2010/plates

Civil War History The leading scholarly journal devoted to the American Civil War For more information or to subscribe: www. KentStateUniversityPress. com/journals/orderinginformation/

Books available from your local book store or 800-247-6553

The Kent State University Press øøøÿá&#x2030;ĄÄ˘Ä&#x203A;ÄŤÄ&#x161;čIJrÓŤÄ&#x17E;ħĭ á&#x2030;ąÄĄÄ˘Ä¨ÝÝÚÝÚáááø CWM_FOB-VOICES.indd 11

11/8/11 2:46:02 AM


Getting to Know: Civil War Canteens â&#x20AC;&#x153;IF YOU EVER GO INTO BATTLE, have your canteen full,â&#x20AC;? a young Union soldier wrote to his father shortly after his first combat. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was so dry at one time I could have drank out of a mud puddle.â&#x20AC;? Sweltering marches, furious battles, stifling wool uniforms: Soldiers on both sides had many reasons to seek the momentary relief of a quick drink of water (or occasionally other beverages). Here is a sampling of the many types of vessels in which they carried their refreshment. One of the more common canteens 

carried by Union soldiers was the SMOOTH-SIDED U.S. MODEL 1858. The tin vessel, which to some resembled two small dinner plates stuck together, was often covered in cloth in an effort to keep its contents cool. The resourceful New Hampshire soldier who carried this canteen fashioned its cloth strap from a pair of trousers.

Members of the 1st Connecticut Infantry carried these COMBINATION MESS KIT CANTEENS, which split in the center and were held closed by hooks, during the Bull Run campaign in 1861.

 A number of Union regiments imported this CLOTH-COVERED, FRENCH ARMY PATTERN 1858 TIN CANTEEN for use by their men. Note the two spouts: The larger permitted its user to take a full drink; the smaller allowed for quick sips while on the march.




11/8/11 3:01:25 AM

Soldiers had access to a number  of devices that purported to prepare dirty water for drinking. This particular gadgetâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; RUSSELLâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S PATENT DIRTY WATER FILTERâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; consisted of a mouthpiece, a length of rubber tubing, and a conical piece of pumice stone, through which the water was filtered. At least one Union soldier who tried it was underwhelmed, claiming it lacked â&#x20AC;&#x153;any practical value.â&#x20AC;? At the outbreak of the war, the

 U.S. government looked to improve upon the model 1858 canteen. The result was the so-called BULLâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S-EYE CANTEEN, whose stamped concentric rings lent strength to its sides. This bullâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s-eye belonged to George Lincoln Dow, a soldier in the 19th Maine Infantry.

 A shortage of metals contributed to

the production of WOODEN CANTEENS throughout much of the South. This Confederate-issue wooden canteen bears the name of its owner, Daniel J. Foster, a soldier in the 35th Arkansas Infantry who died of disease in prison in January 1865.

 Some soldiers put a great deal of effort into personalizing their canteens. A member of the 28th Wisconsin Infantry painted this CAPTURED WOODEN CONFEDERATE CANTEEN, making clear where its new carrierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s allegiances lay. The cleverly conceived  MONTGOMERY PATENT CANTEEN came equipped with a tin overlay, which, when reversed, served either as a funnel to assist in filling or, with the stopper in place, as a drinking cup.

SOURCES: John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, or The Unwritten Story of Army Life (Boston, 1888); Earl J. Coates, Michael J. McAfee, and Don Troiani, Don Troianiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War (Mechanicsburg, PA, 2002); Robert Jones, The Civil War Canteen (n.p., 2007); Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb (Baton Rouge, 1943) and The Life of Billy Yank (Baton Rouge, 1952). Images courtesy of the Military & Historical Image Bank (




11/8/11 3:01:31 AM


Gaines’ Mill in the Crosshairs President, Civil War Trust

OVER THE YEARS, the Civil War Trust has worked to save numerous acres of historically significant battlefield land—at Chancellorsville, Virginia; Franklin, Tennessee; Morris Island, South Carolina; and countless other locales—from the threat of development. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you our latest mission, one I consider among the three most important the Civil War Trust has ever tackled. What opportunity has me so excited? The purchase of 285 pristine acres at Gaines’ Mill, the site of Robert E. Lee’s first major victory as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. This large-scale acquisition would more than quadruple the amount of land protect☛ This field—which Longstreet’s Confederates advanced across on June 27, 1862—is among 285 acres of Gaines’ Mill battlefield land that the Trust hopes to preserve.

ed at Gaines’ Mill. (To date, only about 65 acres of this 3,000-plus-acre battlefield have been preserved.) The historic pedigree of this land is without question. It encompasses nearly all of the ground over which James Longstreet’s Confederates advanced to engage Dan Butterfield’s Union troops positioned on the south side of Boatswain’s Creek. An Alabama corporal who participated in the attack recalled it as follows: “Up to the crest of the hill we went at a double quick, but when we came into view on the top of the ridge we met such a perfect storm of lead right in our faces that the whole brigade literally staggered backward…. The dead lay in heaps…. Just for one moment we faltered … and we swept forward … over the crest and down the slope.” Moreover, this land is truly un-

spoiled. Aside from a few stray power line poles, it retains its integrity, allowing visitors to see the landscape as the soldiers who fought there did. In short, this land delivers exactly the transportive experience that battlefield preservation at its best makes possible. But here’s the downside: Saving this ground will cost $3.2 million. We’ve applied for $1 million in grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia. And the Trust believes so strongly in this project that it will commit $1 million from Campaign 150, the sesquicentennial preservation campaign we began this summer. But that still leaves $1.2 million to raise from private donations—and we need to do it by July 15, 2012! Still, the opportunity is too tempting to pass up, especially considering how much battlefield land in the fast-growing Richmond suburbs has already been lost to development. Indeed, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission considers Gaines’ Mill as one of its 11 highest preservation prior- ities. After all, the Confederates’ eve- ning assault at Gaines’ Mill involved almost 32,000 men stretched along a two-mile front, making it the largest Rebel attack of the war! Saving land like this is why the Civil War Trust exists. Please visit to learn more about this unique opportunity. EDITOR’S NOTE: Look for regular preservation news and updates from the Civil War Trust in future issues. To learn more about the organization and how you can help, visit






11/8/11 3:03:01 AM

The years 2011 to 2015 mark the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours will commemorate the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sesquicentennialâ&#x20AC;? with seminars in 2012 that correspond with events of 150 years ago.

April 20-22 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gray Ghosts, Raiders and Bushwhackers: Partisan Warfare 1861-1865â&#x20AC;? Hagerstown, MD Featuring tours, talks and panels with Mosby authority and author Horace Mewborn, premier Battlefield guide Ed Bearss, Union cavalry expert Marshall Krolick and many others. Saturday bus tour of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mosbyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Confederacy,â&#x20AC;? visiting sites such as Loudon Heights, Miskellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Farm, Mt. Zion Church where Mosby organized his command, the site of the famous â&#x20AC;&#x153;Greenback Raidâ&#x20AC;? and many other sites associated with the legendary â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gray Ghost.â&#x20AC;?

July 25-29 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Antietam: The Bloodiest Dayâ&#x20AC;? Four Points Sheraton, Chambersburg, PA Tours, talks, panels, exhibits, and demonstrations Featuring - Ed Bearss, Robert Krick, Ethan Rafuse, Ted Alexander, Tom Clemens, Richard Sommers, Dennis Frye, Susannah Ural, Steve Recker, John Schildt, Keven Walker and many others. Tours of Leeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s advance from Leesburg to Frederick, The Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg, Rodmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Advance from Snavelyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ford, Historic Farmsteads of the Battlefield and moreâ&#x20AC;Ś Dinner in the Historic Mumma Barn

September 28-30 â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Battles of South Mountain: September 14, 1862â&#x20AC;? Four Points Sheraton, Chambersburg, PA Talks, panels and bus tour with Ed Bearss, John Hoptak, Tom Clemens and others. Bus tour includes stops on private property not usually open to the general public.

A Division of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce Ď­ĎŹĎŹ>Ĺ?ĹśÄ?ŽůŜtÄ&#x201A;Ç&#x2021;Ä&#x201A;Ć?Ć&#x161;.Ĺ&#x161;Ä&#x201A;ĹľÄ?Ä&#x17E;Ć&#x152;Ć?Ä?ĆľĆ&#x152;Ĺ?7WϭϳώϏϭ 717-264-7101 Co-sponsor of Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours





11/8/11 3:03:01 AM

=@>LI<J =@>LI<J

DEATH RATES OF AMERICAN WARS (d ea ths p er 10 ,00 0 popul ation)

By the Numbers: Civil War Mortality Reconsidered HOW DEADLY WAS the American Civil War? For decades, historians have largely accepted the century-old estimate of 620,000 male deaths, a figure widely used to identify the Civil War as the “bloodiest” of all American conflicts. However, a recent study by Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker, published in the scholarly journal Civil War History, argues persuasively that this figure is likely woefully inadequate. Indeed, after extensive research in pre- and post-war census records, Hacker puts the total number of male wartime deaths at 750,000, a remarkable increase given the size of the country’s population at the time. The following graphics, based on Hacker’s findings, illustrate some of the ways in which the Civil War had a much greater human cost than previously imagined. CIVIL WAR DEATHS / MALE (a l l r ac e s )


REVOLUTIONARY WAR (1775-83) 116 WAR OF 1812 (1812-15) 24


DEATH IN AMERICAN WARS (t o tal d eat hs)







CIVIL WAR DEATHS (wh ite m e n o f m i li t ar y a g e)



1 IN 13

1 IN 10







WAR OF 1812
















(as of September 2, 2011)

SOURCE: J. David Hacker, “A Census Based Count of the Civil War Dead” Civil War History vol. 57, no. 4 (December 2011): 307-348. To learn more about Civil War History, visit the journal’s website (




11/8/11 3:12:18 AM

SPANISH-AMERICAN WORLD WAR I WAR (1898) (1914-18) <1 11

WORLD WAR II (1939-45) 30

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (1861-65) 208 MEXICAN WAR (1846-48) 6

KOREAN WAR (1950-53) 3

VIETNAM WAR (1955-75) 3


CIVIL WAR DEATH RATES, WHITE MEN AGE 10-39 / 1860 (b y st at e o f b i r th )

150+ PER 1000 (  100-150 PER 1000 (  50-100 PER 1000 (  0-50 PER 1000 (  INSUFFICIENT DATA (  WINTER 2011  THE CIVIL WAR MONITOR



11/8/11 3:12:19 AM

@E @E=F:LJ =F:LJ

The Devil and Robert E. Lee

Presented by the Center for Civil War Photography, a non-profit organization devoted to collecting, preserving, and digitizing Civil War images for the public benefit. To learn more about the CCWP and its mission, visit:


ON APRIL 20, 1865, famed photographer Mathew Brady took what might be his most iconic series of images. Somehow, he had convinced Robert E. Lee, fresh from his surrender at Appomattox, to pose for his camera. “It was supposed that after his defeat it would be preposterous to ask him to sit,” Brady would later recall, “but I thought that to be the time for the historical picture.” Lee invited Brady to his home in Richmond. There, Brady took six photographs—some of Lee alone, and some of the general with two members of his staff—outside the back door of Lee’s house. Until recently, this image of a solitary Lee—likely the most familiar of those taken by Brady that day—concealed a fascinating secret. As Lee stood for the camera, no one noticed that the word “Devil” had been scrawled on one of the bricks to the left of the back door, presumably by one of the many Union soldiers who occupied Richmond after its fall, perhaps even one of those posted outside the Lee home to guard it from vandals. Brady or someone on the scene must have discovered and removed the insult, which was probably scribbled in chalk, as a subsequent photo from the session bears no evidence of this anonymous message.




11/8/11 3:10:59 AM




11/8/11 3:11:04 AM


ENERAL EARL Van Dorn had just completed the last swoop of his signature when he heard the high crack of a parlor pistol behind him. When his adjutants burst in, they saw him sprawled across his desk, “his left arm was in his lap, blood was flowing from the back of his head…and he was convulsively shuddering.” Soon enough, he lay perfectly still.¹ As news of the murder rippled out, most concluded it “served him right.” Van Dorn had a fearsome reputation as a womanizer, and the assassin was said to have been an “indignant husband” “grossly wronged.” Union newspapers gleefully pounced on the story; the moral inferiority of the Rebels, always assumed, could now be underscored in a tale of a Confederate general killed by his own turpitude. Twisting the knife in Van Dorn’s memory, the St. Louis Re-

publican lamented only that he hadn’t been a better soldier. “As a rebel officer we liked Van Dorn,” the editor chortled, “for he never gave the federals half the trouble that almost any other would have.”² Van Dorn fared little better in the Confederate South. Losses at Pea Ridge, Corinth and Iuka had tarnished his reputation as a fighter; his reputation as a lover had preceded him. (He had fathered three illegitimate children while stationed in Texas before the war.) Embedded with the Army of Tennessee, Sir Arthur Fremantle noted that

“[Van Dorn’s] loss does not seem to be much regretted…. In such a case as Van Dorn’s…his life belongs to the aggrieved husband, and ‘shooting down’ is universally esteemed the correct thing.” Even the Richmond Enquirer glumly moralized in its eulogy: “He always sacrificed his business to his pleasure. He was never at his post when he ought to be. He was either tied to a woman’s apron string or heated with wine.”³ But the truth is, Van Dorn’s reputation greatly exceeded him. He liked women, certainly, and he liked to be liked by them, but he flirted and flattered far more than he philandered. A month before his death, a Nashville newspaper perceptively dubbed him “the terror of ugly husbands.” The author did not mean that Van Dorn slept with other men’s wives; he meant the greater terror—that other men’s wives wanted to sleep with Van Dorn. And this is the problem: The circumstances of his death have tended to reverse the polarity of Van Dorn’s magnetism, making him seem somehow repulsive. But clearly he had been enormously attractive in his time. “He was a knightly fellow to look at,” remembered one witness. “His hair was a clear golden color, and in natural ringlets it fell around his shoulders and neck and looked like a King Charles wig.” He was “the beau ideal of a cavalry officer,” said another, and had a windswept look that made it seem as if he had ridden down a Comanche war party moments before taking his seat at the piano. “[Van Dorn] was one of the few men in either army that could sing and play musical instruments with a sweet, rich voice and accomplished hand,” noted Louis Dupre in his memoir. “He wrote poetry. In his dress he was neat as a pin. As soon as




11/8/11 3:25:35 AM


he entered a household his bearing attracted, his address delighted, his accomplishments made the women worship him…. Wherever he went, they gave way.”⁴ The problem with being a soldier is not merely where you are—bored in camp or terrified on the battlefield— but where you are not: at home keeping an eye on things. This is why, even in the South, men were inclined to believe the worst of Van Dorn. He embodied their greatest fear—that they were losing their wives as they fought for their country. War is a change agent; war elasticizes. The unthinkable becomes all you think about: Where is she right now? What is she doing? And with whom is she doing it? In the paranoid soldier’s mind, every hometown is awash in Van Dorns—the sexual war profiteers. And male paranoia and possessiveness, it turns out, lay at the root of the Van Dorn murder. The account of his adjutant, unearthed in 1999, paints a persuasive picture not of a notorious roué but of a man who walked unwittingly into a marital minefield and became the subsequent victim of a national rush to judgment.⁵ The trouble began in mid-April 1863, when Van Dorn and his staff rode out to the Peters Plantation near Spring Hill, Tennessee, looking for a place to camp. The mistress of the plantation, Jessie Peters, turned out to be an attractive young woman who not only agreed to bivouac troops on the property but offered Van Dorn the use of a cabin for his headquarters. “This plantation belongs to me,” she said pointedly, “not my husband.”⁶ The subject of property was evidently just one source of friction in the Peters marriage. Jessie’s husband, Dr. George Boddie Peters, was an older man, twice a widower, with a sullen disposition. He had owned a plantation of his own before the war, but it had been captured by the Yankees. Now he was dependent on his wife for his support, and it rankled. She was young and sunny and wealthy, and she liked company. He was brooding, propertyless, and vengeful. Over the next weeks, Jessie and Van Dorn became friends. He loved company as much as she did, and they

took several carriage rides together. To neighbors they appeared to be flaunting themselves, and the stories that made it back to George, who was often in town seeing patients, were undoubtedly grist for his dark mental mill. George’s crime was meticulously crafted, especially the embellished motive. Before murdering Van Dorn in his headquarters, he had the fence rails taken down all along his escape route and arranged for horses to be waiting for him at relay points. He fled all the way to Union lines (on Van Dorn’s own pass—the very one he was signing when he was killed). Once among the Yankees, George told a story he knew would be believed: that the terror of ugly husbands had struck again. Van Dorn had been pulled from the bed and chased out of the bedroom; he had cow-

ered beneath the porch and been pulled out feet first. With a pistol to his temple, he had agreed to write out his confession. But when he refused to sign it, Peters had gunned the man down. The story was believed because it was every man’s perverse fantasy of what he would do in the same situation. But Peters was lying: He had murdered Van Dorn because his wife had insulted him for the last time, and because, having assassinated a Confederate general, he might get his property back from the Yankees (which he did). Mostly he had done it because he wanted he and his wife to be even again. Van Dorn had just been a prop in their marital drama and a victim of fate. It was a case, said his adjutant, of “one buggy ride too many.”⁷ The Civil War is rightly famous for the many letters of ☛ {Cont. on p. 66}

☛ Earl Van Dorn, Confederate general and “terror of ugly husbands.”




11/8/11 3:25:37 AM



URING THE first 18 months of the Civil War, the majority of U.S. military and political leaders believed that in order to restore the fractured Union, the contest needed to remain limited to a struggle between armies. Many worried openly about the consequences of extending the boundaries of the war to include southern civilians. After all, it was unclear how much support for secession existed within the new Confederacy, and more than a few northern leaders believed they could capitalize on loyalist sentiment if the Union proceeded carefully. Among the most vocal of these was Major General George B. McClellan, who repeatedly warned his soldiers against harming civilians or their property as they moved into the western counties of Virginia in May 1861. McClellan delivered a proclamation to the people

in that region, promising that his soldiers came as “friends and brothers,” and informing them, “[Y]our homes, your families, and your property are safe under our protection.”¹ More than a year later, despite an embarrassing push back from the outskirts of Richmond during the Seven Days Battles on the Virginia Peninsula, McClellan remained committed to keeping the southern people out of the war. In what would become a widely publicized letter to President Abraham Lincoln, written from Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, in July 1862, McClellan

claimed that the Union effort “should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people … it should not be at all a war upon population.”² And while McClellan was not the only Union leader who still embraced this message, those expressing similar views were becoming fewer by the day. What became increasingly obvious by the war’s second summer was that the southern people were tightly woven into the very fabric of the contest. Their farms provided food for the Confederate army. They cared for the wounded in their homes. They told the Rebels about the position and movement of Union forces. And, most notably, they often engaged in violent resistance to the Union presence, waging guerrilla warfare against the invaders. For these reasons, it became more and more difficult for Union commanders in the field to keep civilians on the sidelines. While the most renowned Union campaigns against civilian property (including William T. Sherman’s infamous march across Georgia) occurred during the war’s final year, examples of U.S. policies and actions against noncombatants were common well before. Upon assuming command of the Union forces in Missouri in November 1861, for example, Major General Henry Halleck appealed to Washington to authorize martial law in the state, stating that “the mass of the people here are against us.”³ At about the same time, a Union commander stationed near Wardensville in western Virginia declared that the local population would be held “strictly accountable” for any acts of violence in the area, and that “the only way to save their houses from conflagration was for them to defend their territory




11/8/11 1:20:59 PM


from incursions of all lawless bands of guerrillas.”⁴ It did not take long for U.S. units throughout the occupied South to make good on such promises of tough treatment for civilians. By the summer of 1862, confiscation and destruction of civilian property was becoming commonplace in many areas, such as the Mississippi Valley, where Sherman concluded, “All in the South are enemies of the North,” and took to burning towns along the river whenever residents fired on Union boats from its wooded banks. Meanwhile, U.S. troops in Missouri were setting fire to towns where civilians were suspected of supporting guerrilla activity.⁵ By the time that President Lincoln began to formulate his plans for emancipation in the late summer of 1862, the notion of conciliation was dead or dying in areas throughout the South. Viewed in retrospect, this relatively

rapid erosion of the boundaries of war is not surprising. The very nature of a civil war, where neutrality is often not an option, almost inevitably blurs the line between combatant and noncombatant. In 1861 and 1862, those living in the areas of the South where guerrilla warfare was prevalent were most likely to witness the hardening of the civil-military relationship. The occupying Union soldiers and their Confederate opponents learned, painfully, that hopes for keeping the hardship and destructiveness of war limited to the armies were outdated. The people would be—had to be— included in the contest. This enduring truth has been rediscovered time and time again over the past 150 years, right up to our current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the confiscation of property to the regrettable and tragic deaths of civilians, our counterinsurgency fights refuse to be confined to the conventional

☛ Secessionist-sympathizing Virginia farmers fire at unarmed Union soldiers attempting to cross the James River in this 1862 pencil sketch by Alfred R. Waud.

battlefield. Unlike our experience during the Civil War, however, our armed forces now attempt to maintain those boundaries to the best of their ability. There has been no Shermanesque campaign against civilian property, and it is highly unlikely that the American public would support one. And the limited, albeit unforgivable, intentional acts of violence against noncombatants by U.S. soldiers have been thoroughly investigated and those responsible prosecuted to the fullest extent of military law—an uncommon practice during the Civil War. Does this mean that the United States Army has evolved into an enlightened, self-restrained fighting force over the ☛ {Cont. on p. 66}




11/8/11 1:09:15 PM

a an nd d t th he e E En nd d o of f II n nn no oc ce en nc ce e

I N L I T T L E M O R E T H AN A D E CA D E , G E O R G E A R M S T R O NG C US T E R — T H E “ B O Y G E N E R A L O F T H E G O L D E N L O C K ” —W E N T F R O M C I V I L WA R D A R L I N G T O L I T T L E B I G H O R N PA R I A H . W H A T W E N T W R O N G ?






11/8/11 1:03:59 PM

☛ A young Custer, dressed in his West Point uniform, poses for the camera circa 1860.




11/8/11 1:04:07 PM

OMETIME IN THE LATE 1990s, I attended a parade of Civil War reenactors in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where one of the “living historians” stood out from the rest. He was mounted on horseback and obviously—at least to anyone who knew even a smattering of American history—was portraying General George Armstrong Custer, the Union cavalry officer who played a crucial role in defeating the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg. The only problem was this: Custer was only 23 when the famous Civil War battle was fought; indeed, he was only 36 when he died in the equally famous Battle of the Little Bighorn against the Sioux in 1876. But this reenactor was clearly in his fifties; he could not hide the lines in his face or his furrowed brow. Now, granted, this fellow otherwise looked like Custer, with his long, golden locks, flamboyant uniform shirt with wide lapels trimmed in gold, bright red neckerchief, and very bushy blond moustache—the spitting image of “the Boy General.”¹ But here’s the remarkable part: This Custer reenactor at one point dismounted because the parade had hit a bottleneck. He stood patiently, petting his horse’s neck, while he waited for the parade to advance. Then it happened. When the line got moving again, faux Custer took hold of the squat pommel of his McClellan saddle and, in one sweeping movement (without putting his foot in the stirrup), swung himself onto the horse with complete ease, like this was something anyone could do without thinking about it. So, despite the reenactor’s anachronistic age, I felt like I was actually witnessing George Armstrong Custer getting on his horse, for surely Custer never really needed a stirrup to gain his place in the saddle. Indeed, the real Custer was a master horseman. One of his officers remarked that he “sat his charger as if ‘to the manor born.’”² So that’s how I think Custer would have occasionally mounted his horse, even though I have no historical proof. Like most Americans, I hold a picture of Custer in my mind’s eye that is nine parts Hollywood and one part history. Custer is surely one of America’s most famous—and recognizable—figures. That’s not to say he’s one of the most popular. Since the 1950s and 1960s, when the nation’s sensitivity to racial stereotypes became more prevalent, Custer has rarely been hailed as a hero. Custer’s Last Stand, which refers to his final battle on the Little Bighorn River against an overwhelming force of Indians, is a phrase that has become synonymous with utter failure. Since 1876, countless books and movies have either turned Custer into a myth of epic proportions or vilified him so thoroughly, even to the point of reducing him to a object of derision or jest, that there seems little left to say about him or his death on the dusty slopes overlooking the Little Bighorn in Montana. Except for the handful of academic and military experts who have studied the man and his deeds in great detail, the American public regards Custer as the personification of ineptitude: an incompetent military shepherd who led his flock to slaughter.

PLENTY OF CUSTER’S CONTEMPORARIES held a low opinion of him, including a good number of his fellow officers, particularly those with whom he served in the West. Some of his troopers also despised him. In Texas during Reconstruction, one cavalryman described him bitterly: “He was only twenty-five years of age, and had the usual egotism and self-importance of a young man. He was a regular army officer, and had bred in him the tyranny of the regular army…. He had no sympathy in common with the private soldiers, but regarded them simply as machines, created for special purpose

☛ While he had his detractors, Custer— pictured here (reclining, at right) as a member of the staff of General Fitz John Porter in 1862—was widely liked and admired during the Civil War.




11/8/11 1:04:09 PM





11/8/11 1:04:10 PM

“No soldier who saw him in action, ever questioned his right to wear a [brigadier’s] star, or the gold lace he felt inclined to wear. He was a favorite in the Army of the Potomac.”

☛ Custer won fame on the battlefield during the Civil War, his bravery at times bordering on recklessness. In this 1863 image, Custer (mounted, left) poses with his mentor, General Alfred Pleasonton, who promoted the young captain to brigadier general in June of that year.




11/8/11 1:04:18 PM

of obeying his imperial will.”³ This was a damning indictment, but it was only the first of endless complaints about Custer that would be sounded by his subordinates—and even some of his superior officers—for the rest of his life and beyond. Even after Custer was killed, Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, the commander of the 7th U.S. Cavalry, could offer only faint praise for the young officer. Custer, he said, “was a brave man, but also a very selfish man.” When reporters asked him to elaborate, Sturgis did not hold back. Lieutenant Colonel Custer, he declared, was “insanely ambitious of glory,” displayed tyrannical tendencies as an officer “and had no regard for the soldiers under him,” and at the Little Bighorn he “made his attack recklessly, earlier by thirty-six hours than he should have done, and with men tired out from forced marches.” Another officer who served in the West, Colonel David S. Stanley, denounced Custer as “a cold-blooded, untruthful, unprincipled man…universally despised by all the officers of his regiment except his relatives and one or two sycophants.”⁴ Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan, two of Custer’s greatest admirers during the Civil War and afterward, condemned him after his death as rash and imprudent. But there’s a problem with all this condemnation, both by those who knew him and by modern Americans who associate Custer only with failure. For one thing, not everyone who met or served with Custer thought badly of him; indeed, his friends and supporters numbered well beyond family members and the “one or two sycophants” mentioned by Colonel Stanley. For another, during the Civil War, when he rose quickly in the Union cavalry from the rank of captain to brigadier general, his troopers considered him “a glorious fellow, full of energy, quick to plan and bold to execute, and with us he had never failed in any attempt he has yet made.” One calvaryman explained, “Fighting…was his business.” This horse soldier admitted that Custer was “eager for laurels,” but he was not “a reckless commander.” Even a rival Union general, Wesley Merritt, called Custer “intrepid.” He won so many victories in battle that people began to talk about “Custer’s luck”—a streak of good fortune that was never broken during the war. No soldier who saw him in action, asserted a Union officer, “ever questioned his right to wear a [brigadier’s] star, or all the gold lace he felt inclined to wear.” He was, said the officer, “a favorite in the Army of the Potomac.”⁵ It is true that his quick rise to rank and fame, combined with a long string of successes in fighting the Confederates, fed a good amount of jealousy. Fellow officers resented his quick promotion to brigadier general just before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, making him the youngest general in the Union army, and many in the rank and file regarded him as a pompous peacock for wearing a flashy velvet uniform trimmed in gold braid (the red neckerchief, though, was not an affectation—it helped his men identify him on the battlefield). Some of his troopers proclaimed him “the Boy General of the Golden Lock.” After Appomattox, resentment again flared when he received a commission in the regular army from captain to lieutenant colonel and then to brevet major general, largely because Major General (and later Lieutenant General) Philip H. Sheridan, under whom Custer had served in the war, pulled strings to get as high a rank for his favorite cavalier as he possibly could. Custer’s close friend, General Nelson A. Miles, summed up the starkly different opinions that the Boy General sparked among people who knew him well or from afar: “Custer had devoted friends and bitter enemies. His brothers and strongest friends died with him, while his enemies lived to criticize and cast odium upon his name and fame; but it is easy to kick a dead lion.”⁶

THE DIFFICULTY WITH CUSTER, then, is that one must try to make sense of both his brilliant performance as a Civil War cavalry officer battling Rebels in the East and his poor—or, at least, less than magnificent—showing as LIBRARY OF CONGRESS




11/8/11 1:04:26 PM

the field commander of the 7th Cavalry in the West. Some historians account for the difference between the Civil War Custer and the Indian Wars Custer by arguing that he struggled to find his true identity, first as a boy and then as a man. In the Civil War, he became a man out of the pressure of circumstances, but when the war was over the boy—the playful, irresponsible, and even reckless Custer—emerged again; throughout the course of his remaining 10 years, boy and man contested with no clear winner.⁷ This interpretation, in my opinion, successfully explains the inconsistencies and contradictions that made him so loved by some and so hated by others, not only 135 years ago but even today. What’s more, it is important to keep in mind that the war that Custer fought against the Confederates in the East was far different than the one he fought against Indians in the West. Indeed, the troops he led during the Civil War differed markedly from the ones he commanded in the Indian wars. These historical factors—realities beyond Custer’s or anyone’s control—help explain his path from Civil War triumphs to ignominious death at the Little Bighorn. To be sure, Custer loved war and excelled at fighting what military analysts today call “set-piece battles” or “conventional warfare.” Toward the end of the Civil War, he wrote: “I shall regret to see the war end. I would be willing, yes glad, to see a battle every day during my life.” The war gave him the opportunity to shine, fighting battles against an enemy he could understand while using tactics that both sides, Union and Confederate, accepted within the broad confines of the rules of war. Unlike many generals, Custer learned to develop his intuition in the maelstrom of battle and to trust it. His flamboyance appealed to newspaper reporters who were only too happy to splash his name in headlines and copy. After his marriage to Libbie Bacon in February 1864, the couple spent the rest of the war together—she followed her “Autie” (his family nickname) on every campaign, and her beauty and charm played no small part in enhancing Custer’s reputation in the army and among the northern public. In the final year of the war, Custer came under the command of Philip Sheridan, who proved to be an aggressive practitioner of slash-and-burn tactics against the Confederates and their resources—the “hard hand of war” favored by President Abraham Lincoln, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, and Major General William T. Sherman.⁸ Although Custer ably applied these new tactics of modern warfare in his clashes with the enemy, including using harsh means to quell guerrilla raids in the lower Shenandoah Valley conducted by the elusive Confederate John Singleton Mosby and his rangers, his war remained a conventional one fought between two armies that used essentially the same weapons and the same tactics on open fields of battle. Just how conventional the Civil War was became more than apparent at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee—who refused a subordinate’s suggestion to avoid capitulation by carrying on the fight as a guerrilla war—surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Grant. On the day of Lee’s surrender, Custer wrote a congratulatory letter to his men. “With profound gratitude toward the God of battles,” he said, “by whose blessings our enemies have been humbled and our arms rendered triumphant, your commanding general avails himself of this his first opportunity to express to you his admiration of the heroic manner in which you have passed through the series of battles which to-day resulted in the surrender of the enemy’s entire army. The record established by your indomitable courage is unparalleled in the annals of war.” Generals have often waxed poetic about their victorious troops, even to the point of Custer’s obvious exaggeration, but his sentiments were real and sincere. “Speaking for myself alone,” he continued, “when the war is ended and the task of the historian begins; when those deeds of daring which have rendered the name and fame of the Third Cavalry Division imperishable, are inscribed upon the bright pages of our country’s history, I only ask that my name be

☛ Custer (right), pictured here as a second lieutenant, sits with friend and former West Point classmate J. B. Washington, a Confederate officer taken prisoner at Fair Oaks in 1862. After the war, Custer would face a much different, and unfamiliar, enemy in the Plains Indians.

written as that of the commander of the Third Cavalry Division.”⁹ He could not know it then, but he would never again lead soldiers who were as dedicated, devoted, or willing to obey as the cavalrymen of the Third Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac were to Custer and his resourceful leadership. Northern volunteers (just like Confederate ones) were, for the most part, citizen soldiers




11/8/11 1:04:31 PM


“I shall regret to see the war end. I would be willing, yes glad, to see a battle every day during my life.”

who enlisted in the military for a wide variety of reasons, including patriotism, peer pressure, ideology, and even rage militaire against the enemy. Later recruits were drafted into service or were paid substitutes or “bounty men” who frequently deserted or proved to be such horrible soldiers that no one wanted to fight beside them. For the most part, though, volunteers like Custer’s men of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade

or the Third Cavalry Division were, by the final years of the war, committed veteran soldiers who took their duty seriously, even as they longed for the day when peace would arrive and everyone could go home. Within the ranks, the volunteers sometimes did not get along—there were cliques and rivalries just as in any organization. Custer had disgruntled fellow officers—rivals like Wesley Merritt and Judson Kilpatrick—but his relationship with his men, so far as the record shows, was consistently sound; the volunteers under his command admired and respected him, and he felt the same toward them. As a token of their fondness, many of his




11/8/11 1:04:35 PM

☛ To compensate for a lack of camaraderie in the 7th Cavalry, Custer surrounded himself with friends and family, including his brother Thomas (standing) and wife, Libbie (right).

troopers began wearing red neckties like the one he always sported after becoming a brigadier. “The command perfectly idolized Custer,” wrote a lieutenant of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. “The old Michigan Brigade adored its Brigadier, and all felt as if he weighed about a ton.”¹⁰ Custer understood how to command volunteers and knew that they could not be treated like regular soldiers. Perhaps he saw himself in them: loose manners, scornful of regulations, sometimes irresponsible without being insubordinate—and, most important—willing to ride into hell if necessary. The citizen soldiers of the Civil War, including the ones under Custer’s command, valued courage above anything. Even when the war dragged on, with no end in sight, Civil War volunteers persevered through weariness and growing cynicism. The courage of their leaders helped to raise their morale when the war threatened to grind them down. Under Custer’s leadership, there was never any doubt as to their general’s courage and determination. Yet citizen soldiers remained more citizen than soldier all through the war. Custer realized that his men could be led, but they could not be driven. That’s probably why they loved him so. One cavalryman wrote home that Custer “was not afraid to fight like a pri-

vate soldier…and that he was ever in front and would never ask them to go where he would not lead.”¹¹ Out West, much to his dismay, Custer learned that the regular troopers of the 7th Cavalry were nothing like the Civil War volunteers he had commanded. The regiment, consisting of 12 companies, was formed at Fort Riley, Kansas, in late 1866, when Custer was in Washington, D.C. Some of the recruits had gained combat experience during the war, particularly in the western theater, but for the most part the 7th was a hodge-podge of drunkards and outcasts drawn into the service by dreams of glory. Those illusions were quickly shattered by the tedium and harsh conditions of frontier postings, unfulfilled lust for gold and silver, or the failure to adjust to civilian life or find adequate employment back home after the war. Many of the troopers could not ride a horse or use a firearm effectively. A cavalry officer observed that “the men are never drilled at firing on horseback, and the consequence is that the horses are unused to fighting as the men themselves, and become unruly in action.” One trooper asserted that the 7th Cavalry consisted of “vile and wicked” men, “a set of thieves and gamblers yea murderers.”¹² Cavalrymen, including officers, routinely tried to drown their miseries in booze. As to the frontier regulars of the postwar U.S. Army, one general remarked: “The enlisted personnel consisted largely of the dregs of the Union and Confederate Armies and of recent immigrants from Europe.” Ten percent of the 7th’s recruits enlisted in the regiment under an alias. The 7th Cavalry, noted Libbie Custer in what might be considered an understatement, was “a medley of incongruous elements.” There was no cohesion as had existed in Civil War regiments drawn from a single state, with companies often recruited from a single village or city neighborhood. The men of Custer’s 7th Cavalry, including the officers, had nothing in common, nothing that bound them together, other than the fact that 32 percent of the regiment was Irish by birth (12 percent were born in Germany, 4 percent in England, and others came from Canada, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Spain, and Russia). Even the assignment of the 7th’s different companies to various posts and forts across the plains worked against unit cohesion. The campaign against the Sioux in the spring and summer of 1876 that ended at the Little Bighorn was the first time all 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry had been brought together to operate as a regiment. Nevertheless, some recruits did gain pride in their regiment over time. One German trooper proclaimed: “You felt like you were somebody when you were on a good horse,




11/8/11 1:04:37 PM


with a carbine dangling from its small leather ring socket on your McClellan saddle, and a Colt army revolver strapped on your hip; and a hundred rounds of ammunition in your web belt and in your saddle pockets. You were a cavalryman of the Seventh Regiment. You were part of a proud outfit that had a fighting reputation, and you were ready for a fight or a frolic.”¹³ Unfortunately, too few troopers were as enthusiastic as this trooper about army life on the Plains. Custer arrived at Fort Riley in December 1866 to take his place in the regiment, but from the moment he assumed field command of the 7th, he discovered that his leadership, which had almost never been questioned by subordinates during the Civil War, was now disputed by the officers under his command. Even Libbie realized that her husband would have his hands full bringing “that motley crowd into military subjection.”¹⁴ Discipline became Custer’s first challenge. Not only did the officers try to thwart him and his leadership, but they argued among themselves and vied, cut-throat fashion, for attention and advancement. Meanwhile, troopers in the ranks began deserting in droves. By the beginning of 1867, 90 soldiers out of 963 recruits had walked away from Fort Riley, never to return. This was not the U.S. Army that Custer had known. For the next 10 years, he demonstrated repeatedly that he never quite grasped how much the army had changed since the Civil War; as a result, he confronted those changes awkwardly and ham-handedly, even disastrously—more like a martinet than the competent and adored general he had once been.

AMONG HIS OFFICERS, two particular enemies emerged who successfully bewildered and bedeviled Custer. The man who most hated Custer was Captain Frederick W. Benteen, a brave and decorated veteran of the Civil War (he was a Virginian who remained loyal to the Union). Benteen criticized Custer’s every move. At the Little Bighorn, the captain played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the battle. Benteen was an acerbic, insolent, crusty malcontent who saw himself as nearly everyone’s superior. For the rest of his life (he would survive the Little Bighorn debacle), he never spoke a kind word about Custer. From his first meeting with his commanding officer, Benteen sized him up as a braggart. He didn’t much care for Mrs. Custer, either, whom he described as “about as cold-blooded a woman as I ever knew, in which respect the pair were admirably mated.”¹⁵ At first, Custer knew nothing of Benteen’s animus. When he reached out to the captain in friendship, Benteen belittled the effort as an indication of Custer’s desire

to improve his standing in the regiment. Over the years, Benteen spouted venom and vitriol whenever he spoke or wrote about Custer. His hatred for Custer amounted to a pathological obsession. One gets the impression, reading his endless tirades, that he suffered from an immense inferiority complex, triggered not only by Custer but also by every other officer under whom he served. Interestingly enough, Benteen was the source of nearly everything negative, and especially scurrilous, that’s been said about Custer—that Custer had illicit sexual relations with his black servant Eliza; that he fathered a child with the Cheyenne woman Monahsetah; that Libbie had an affair with another 7th Cavalry officer, Captain Thomas Weir; and so on. Poor Benteen never stopped talking; he apparently thought that the more he disparaged Custer, the more believable he appeared. Every time he opened his mouth, however, he sounded shrill and petty. He kept bad-mouthing the Custers until his death in 1898. Another Custer enemy among the officers of the 7th Cavalry was Major Marcus A. Reno, a West Pointer from Illinois and a Civil War veteran. During the war, he saw action in Virginia and received a brevet promotion from captain to lieutenant colonel. Before the war ended, he became a brevetted colonel in command of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He received another promotion to brevet brigadier general before he was mustered out of the volunteer service. At first, Custer held Reno in high regard. “Reno I know well,” he wrote Libbie, “[and] he is a finished gentleman and a most capable officer. He served in the Shenandoah and is a

☛ Custer (center) on one of the many hunting forays he took while posted in the Dakota Territory.




11/8/11 1:04:41 PM

good friend of mine.” Custer couldn’t be more wrong about Reno. Since the death of his wife in 1874, Reno had become withdrawn and sullen, unsociable and unpleasant. He took to the bottle, mostly drinking alone and wallowing in self-pity. Making friends required too much effort for him; as a result, his fellow officers disliked him intensely. He was assigned to detached service as an escort for the Northern Boundary Survey Expedition. When he returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln, the 7th Cavalry’s new home in the Dakotas, he found it difficult to fit in with his fellow officers, although he yearned to make a name for himself in the regiment. By the time of the Little Bighorn campaign, Custer’s opinion of Reno had hit rock bottom. When Reno failed to follow and attack a band of Indians while out on a scouting mission during the march to the Little Bighorn, Custer took the incredible step of writing an anonymous dispatch to the New York Herald castigating Reno for a “gross and inexcusable blunder” and for “violating his orders.”¹⁶ While Custer and Libbie spent the winter of 1875-1876 on leave in New York City, and then got quickly called back to Washington in March 1876 to testify before the House Committee on Expenditures in the War Department (which was investigating the corrupt policies of Republican President Grant’s secretary of war, William W. Belknap), Major Marcus Reno assumed field command of the 7th Cavalry. Custer’s time in Washington was onerous; he had become entangled in the corruption scandals that embroiled the Grant administration, not as a suspect, but as a witness to the fraud committed by Indian agents in the West. The Boy General overplayed his hand, however; his prominent associations with Democrats in New York and Washington came readily to Grant’s attention, and the president decided to punish Custer by depriving him of his command. (The fact that Custer had once arrested Grant’s son, Captain Fred Grant, for drunkenness could not have helped matters.) Although Custer perceived himself as handling politicians as skillfully as he handled Rebels and Indians, he lacked the good sense and discretion necessary to play the game of highstakes politics that prevailed in the nation’s capital. Republican newspapers rebuked Custer for his disloyalty to Grant, the savior of the Union. Meanwhile, Custer pleaded his case through Sherman and Sheridan. Just when he thought he had been restored to command of the 7th, he discovered that Grant still refused to allow his return to Fort Lincoln. Eventually Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry, who had been given overall command of the upcoming Dakota campaign against the Sioux, interceded on Custer’s behalf and won Grant’s approval. The news of Custer’s reinstatement nearly shattered Reno, who had assumed that the political mess Custer had helped create in Washington would keep him from participating in the approaching campaign. Reno was less vocal than Benteen in his loathing of Custer, but both men did their best to undermine their commander’s leadership and authority in ways that differed dramatically from the genial and convivial fellowship—the esprit de corps—that Custer had known at West Point or among his compatriots in the Army of the Potomac. To compensate for this lack of camaraderie in the 7th cavalry, Custer surrounded himself with family and friends at Fort Lincoln. By the spring of 1876, he had created a “royal family” at the fort that included his brothers Thomas (who had won two Medals of Honor during the Civil War) and Boston; his brother-in-law, Lieutenant James Calhoun, who had married Custer’s sister Margaret; Harry “Autie” Reed, Custer’s nephew; and several favored officers, including Captain George W. Yates (and his wife, Annie), Captain Myles Moylan (and his wife, Lottie), Captain Thomas B. Weir, Captain Myles Keogh, Lieutenant Algernon Smith (and his wife, Nettie), Lieutenant Donald McIntosh (and his wife, Mollie), and Lieutenant William W. Cooke, Custer’s adjutant. Those officers not invited into in the “family” resented their exclusion. “Custer is not making himself at all agreeable to the officers of his com-

“Stripped of the beautiful of noble red man.

mand,” wrote Lieutenant Charles W. Larned, one of the outsiders.¹⁷ Meanwhile, Custer and his cohort enjoyed themselves by holding dances, amateur theatricals, picnics, concerts by the regimental band, horseback riding excursions, horse races, baseball games, and hunting forays. On one occasion Custer escorted the Russian Grand Duke Alexis on a buffalo hunt. He never understood, however, how his creation of an insiders’ court enhanced his personal morale while lowering it for those officers and enlisted men debarred from the Custer club. Insiders look down on outsiders and vice versa. Custer also made sure that his most disagreeable officers received extended assignments away from Fort Lincoln. Captain Benteen, for instance, was posted at Fort Rice, 25 miles south of Fort Lincoln, and Major Reno at Fort




11/8/11 1:04:44 PM

eautiful romance, the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation man. We see him as he is…a savage in every sense of the word.”


☛ Indians swarm around dismounted troopers of the 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn. At the time of his death in this battle, Custer was only 36 years old.

Totten, about 130 miles to the northeast. In the end, Custer assumed that combat would forge cohesion and raise morale in the 7th Cavalry. Ironically, the opposite proved true. Combat between the cavalry and Indians did not happen often enough to bond the officers and enlisted men together or to satisfy Custer’s own urges. Campaigns against the Indians, which happened infrequently and might last months without any real fighting, could not match the nearly constant combat that fed Custer’s lust for battle during the final year of the Civil War. So Custer, who was “true as steel” and dependable as an officer in the Civil War, became in the West a tyrannical dispenser of strict discipline and cruel punishments. His temper tantrums were legendary. An officer grumbled that Custer was “making himself utterly detested…

by his selfish, capricious, arbitrary and unjust conduct.” John Burkman, Custer’s striker (horse handler), tried to excuse his commander’s behavior: “That’s the way he allus was, flyin’ off the handle sudden, maybe sometimes without occasion.” The troopers in the 7th called Custer “Hard Ass.”¹⁸ On one occasion, he ordered the heads of six men shaved because they had left their posts to buy fruit from a sutler (a merchant who traveled with the army or set up shop at a fort). Captain Albert Barnitz hardly could contain his anger over this punishment. “I am thoroughly disgusted with him!” he wrote of Custer. “He is the most complete example of a petty tyrant that I have ever seen.” Yet for all of Custer’s insistence on spit and polish and rough punishments, he found himself unable to muster the kind of discipline he expected from his officers and troopers. In the spring campaign of 1867, under the command of General Winfield Scott Hancock, Custer left his command behind and led a small cavalry escort to meet his wife at Fort Riley—a personal trip made without orders at the government’s expense. As a result, he faced a court-martial that found him guilty and suspended his rank and pay for one year. President Grant called the punishment too “lenient.” Custer was lucky not to have ☛ {Cont. on p. 67}




11/8/11 1:04:45 PM

PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF African Americans who served in the Union army from 1863 to 1865 are among the most transformative stories of the Civil War. ¶ Roughly 200,000 strong, they joined the fight for their independence from all parts of the continent. Some had escaped with no more than tattered rags on their backs from masters determined to keep them in perpetual servitude. Other slaves, displaced by invading federal armies, crossed into Union-controlled territories and enrolled in the army. Some soldiers had gained their release, either thanks to benevolent owners who glimpsed a future where freedom reigned, or from practical-minded individuals who saw the end of slavery in sight. And still more were sons of men and women who fled thralldom along the Underground Railroad and settled in the northern states and Canada during the decades before the war. ¶ The majority were illiterate. Some had been taught elementary reading, writing, and math skills by abolitionists or Christian charities. A precious few had attended college. ¶ These men experienced a fraction of the freedoms they fought to establish. The spirit of unity that prevailed during the war began to erode even as the Confederate armies disarmed. Flames of hatred and prejudice not extinguished after four years of bloody conflict soon burned bright. ¶ Those pictured on the following pages played an important though little remembered role during a critical period in which the fate of the disunited states was far from certain, and the future of freedom and democracy hung in the balance. RONALD S. CODDINGTON is the author of Faces of the Civil War and Faces of the Confederacy, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. His next book, to be released in the fall of 2012, profiles men of color. He writes for the New York Times series “Disunion” and “Faces of War,” a column in Civil War News.






11/8/11 2:33:24 AM

CHARLES MUDD CORPORAL, CO. C 108TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY Charles Mudd of Kentucky was one of five brothers, all slaves, who served during the Civil War. Known as Charlie, he joined the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry in the summer of 1864 without his master’s consent. Soon after, he fell seriously ill when measles swept through the regiment. He recovered after two weeks in the hospital, rejoined his comrades, and served with distinction until he mustered out of the army in 1866. Mudd made his way home to Kentucky and became a farmer. The following year he married a local woman. She died in 1872, leaving him to care for a three-year-old son. Mudd remarried later that year. He lived until about age 74, dying of influenza in 1915.




11/8/11 2:33:28 AM

WILLIAM WRIGHT PRIVATE, CO. H 114TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY On April 3, 1865, Private William Wright and his comrades in the 114th U.S. Colored Infantry numbered among the first Union troops to enter Richmond after the fall of the Confederate capital. A slave born of African and German descent, Wright was raised on a Kentucky farm. His owner, a unionist with a reputation as a humane master, gave Wright his freedom and escorted him to an army recruiting station in the summer of 1864. Nine months later Wright marched into Richmond. He mustered out of the army with his comrades in 1867 and returned to Kentucky. He later fled to Iowa after angry whites sought to reestablish their superiority. He died in 1901 at age 63. His second wife and several children survived him.




11/8/11 2:33:33 AM

GEORGE MITCHELL SERGEANT, CO. D 62ND U.S. COLORED INFANTRY Prior to his enlistment, Mitchell toiled as a slave south of St. Louis. Four different men owned him; the last, John Dean, freed him after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In the summer of 1863, Mitchell joined the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry. He enrolled as a private with the name George Dean, later changing to the surname of his first master, Mitchell. He advanced to sergeant in the autumn of 1864. About this time Mitchell and his regiment reported to Brazos Island in southern Texas. In May 1865, the 62nd and other troops fought at Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War. Mitchell and his company fired the final shots of the fight. Mitchell survived the war. He died in 1892.




11/8/11 2:33:37 AM

ABRAM GARVIN SERGEANT, CO. F 108TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY Abram Garvin, an enslaved farmhand and blacksmith in Kentucky, left home in the summer of 1864 to join the army with the consent of his master. He enlisted in the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry. That autumn, Garvin reported with his regiment for duty at the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Rock Island, Illinois. Frigid temperatures and heavy snows during the winter resulted in illness for numerous troops, including Garvin, who suffered a severe cold that settled in his lungs. Although unable to attend to his duties for large periods of time, he remained in the ranks until the end of his enlistment in the spring of 1866. He returned to Kentucky, where he died of consumption in 1879 at about age 37.




11/8/11 2:33:41 AM

HENRY C. GAITHER SERGEANT, CO. H 39TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY Henry Gaither and his comrades in the 39th U.S. Colored Infantry numbered among the last troops to enter the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. By the time they arrived, the mine detonation that had obliterated a section of Confederate earthworks along the Petersburg defenses left a gaping hole filled with trapped Union soldiers, both living and dead. The regiment marched into a hail of fire and held part of the line until forced back. Gaither survived, although 195 of his comrades became casualties. Gaither later participated in the capture of Fort Fisher and the Carolinas Campaign. After the war, he returned to his home and family in Baltimore, where he had worked before his army enlistment. He died in 1880 at about age 60.




11/8/11 2:33:45 AM

JAMES MONROE TROTTER SECOND LIEUTENANT, CO. G, 55TH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY When word spread to the 55th Massachusetts Infantry that they would receive a $10 monthly salary instead of the standard $13 promised by politicians (and paid to white soldiers), Sergeant Major James Trotter confronted the paymaster. He led a protest, refusing to accept any money until full pay was restored. The son of a white Mississippi planter and a slave, Trotter was an outspoken advocate for equal rights. Due in part to his efforts, all African-American soldiers eventually received full pay. Trotter served with distinction in South Carolina and Georgia. He became an officer in June 1865, shortly before the regiment ended its enlistment. Trotter was a political activist after the war. He died of tuberculosis at age 50 in 1892.




11/8/11 2:33:49 AM

JESSE HOPSON PRIVATE, CO. F 108TH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY Sometime in 1864, Jesse Hopson made his break for freedom. He disappeared into swamplands near his master’s 2,500acre farm in the western Kentucky town of Golden Pond. The master hunted him through the swamps for a week before giving up. Hopson made his way to Union-occupied Paducah, about 50 miles away. He soon enlisted in the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry and became a solid soldier. During his 21 months in uniform, he guarded captives at the Rock Island prisoner of war camp and helped to build a telegraph system in Louisiana. After the war, he worked as a day laborer near Golden Pond, where he might have crossed paths with his former owner.




11/8/11 2:33:53 AM


Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to push the Confederates from East Tennessee during the winter of 1863-1864 resulted in a sharp— and largely forgotten— fight on the frozen ground outside the small town of Dandridge.

☛ Union soldiers brave the elements during a winter march in this Alfred R. Waud sketch. The soldiers who campaigned in East Tennessee during the winter of 18631864 suffered similarly frigid conditions.




11/8/11 12:43:30 AM





11/8/11 12:43:37 AM

LOODY FOOTPRINTS TRAILED both Union and Confederate soldiers maneuvering for advantage in East Tennessee during the winter of 1863-1864. Only in those isolated mountains had the opposing armies not halted active operations for the winter. In November, Confederate general Braxton Bragg had dispatched James Longstreet’s corps, reinforced by two cavalry divisions, to East Tennessee to recover Knoxville from U.S. forces, while he besieged the enemy Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga. The results were not what Bragg had expected. Near month’s end, his army suffered decisive defeats outside Chattanooga at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, while Longstreet’s campaign against Knoxville, “widely held to be the Confederates’ poorest,” ended in defeat in mid-December, prompting southern diarist Mary Chesnut to observe, “what a horrible failure, what a slow old humbug is Longstreet.” Yet even after Longstreet ended his Knoxville operation, the presence of his ragged infantry and poorly shod cavalry forced the Union to retain significant forces in the area.¹ “Frozen edges of earth cut into naked feet,” the Charleston Courier reported about the South Carolina troops stationed that winter in East Tennessee, “until the path of the army may be almost said to have been tracked in blood.” “The whole corps is barefoot & in rags,” wrote Lieutenant William R. Montgomery of the 3rd Georgia Sharpshooters, “some of them wear mockersons made of rawhide.” Horseshoes were in such short supply that cavalrymen extracted shoes and nails from the hooves of dead horses, and pulled bloated equine corpses out of frigid rivers for salvage. Robert Coles of the 4th Alabama reflected that “this was the coldest winter the regiment experienced, and in which we suffered more hardships than during any other.”² Union troops posted in the area suffered almost as intensely. Colonel Samuel W. Price of the 21st Kentucky reported men with “feet lacerated for the want of shoes,” and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver van Tassell of the 34th Illinois Infantry complained that “a number of them were quite barefoot.” Major General John G. Foster, commanding the Army of the Ohio, the chief Union force in the region, admitted that “one-half the men were unfit for a march for want of shoes or clothing. The issue of bread or meal rarely came up to one-quarter of the ration.” One Yankee corporal philosophically informed his kin, “Last year I think I told you I had a mess of beans and pork for a Christmas dinner. This year I am not so fortunate.”³ Food, rather than grand strategy, kept drawing Longstreet and Foster into battle. Following Bragg’s defeat at Chattanooga, Longstreet found himself operating at the far end of an extremely tenuous supply line. His only rail connection to Virginia delivered bare essentials: ammunition, medicine, and occasionally shoes or clothing. For food, he had to forage in the foothills of the Clinch Mountains. Foster drew his supplies through Chattanooga, but the U.S. troops stationed there had nearly starved that fall and had needs of their own, and the railroads leading back to Nashville had not been repaired. Thus minimal supplies reached Chattanooga, just the leavings of which were available for Knoxville. Union supply officers also concentrated on forwarding ammunition, medicine, shoes, and clothing, leaving Foster to glean rations by whatever means available. East Tennessee’s most bountiful foraging area lay between Foster’s base at Knoxville and Longstreet’s Morristown headquarters, 40 miles up the Holston River. South of the Holston, in a quadrilateral roughly bounded by the run of the French Broad River to Bull’s Gap, were Strawberry Plains, New Market, Mossy Creek, and Dandridge, coveted so fervently by both armies that barefoot men marched through blizzards to fight for them. Longstreet waxed eloquent regarding the area’s largess: “Pumpkins were on the ground in places like apples under a tree. Cattle,

sheep, and swine, poultry, vegetables, maplesugar, honey, were all abundant.” As Brigadier General Samuel Sturgis, Foster’s cavalry chief, observed: “Breaking the enemy’s backbone is well enough, but I think it will do him equal injury to break his belly.”⁴

BONE-PIERCING COLD Temperatures plummeted on New Year’s Day 1864. “The whole idea of the ‘Sunny South’ is exploded,” groused one Pennsylvanian, and a




11/8/11 12:43:37 AM


☛ The Battle of Dandridge had its origins in recent Union victories at Knoxville (pictured here) and Chattanooga.

trooper wearing the Union blue of the 9th Kentucky Infantry experienced “a coldness that seemed to pierce the very bones.” Colonel Asbury Coward of the 5th South Carolina found his thermometer reading 8 degrees when Major General Ulysses Grant arrived in Knoxville on January 2. Currently commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi (virtually all Union troops between Virginia and the Mississippi River), and well aware that he was soon to be named general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, Grant came, determined that “if Longstreet is

not driven from Tennessee soil, it shall not be my fault.” The Illinoisan reluctantly authorized a 10-day postponement of operations to accumulate supplies, a period of inactivity broken only by small cavalry actions. Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones’ rebel brigade braved freezing temperatures on January 3 to surprise a Union garrison at Jonesville, just across the Virginia border, seizing nearly 400 prisoners, three cannon, and 27 wagons. Colonel William J. Palmer’s 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry returned the compliment on January 14, breaking up a raiding party out of North Carolina and capturing Brigadier General Robert B. Vance, brother of the Tarheel State’s governor.⁵ Grant’s insistence on a mid-winter offensive produced the war’s biggest fight of that dreary January. Setting a deadline of January 15, he ordered




11/8/11 12:43:37 AM

Foster to “drive Longstreet at least beyond Bull’s Gap.” Impatient at a continual lack of initiative in the Army of the Ohio, Grant specified the plan: The IX and XXIII Corps would advance to Mossy Creek, the IV Corps to Strawberry Plains, and Sturgis’ cavalry to Dandridge to “threaten Longstreet’s flank.” From those positions they would launch the attack, the IV Corps pushing two divisions to Dandridge as a preliminary gambit. Though his supplies remained inadequate, Foster moved on schedule—more than likely because he knew that Grant was on the verge of relieving him.⁶ By mid-January the Army of the Ohio’s three infantry corps and three cavalry divisions fielded just 23,000 poorly clad soldiers, controlled by a patchwork command structure. Foster had been incapacitated after a fall from his horse reopened an old wound, forcing him to turn over command to the IX Corps’ John Parke. Parke—a better staff officer than commander—remained at Strawberry Plains, directing operations by courier. Gordon Granger found himself too indisposed to accompany his IV Corps, leaving the advance—about 13,000 men—under the de facto control of the senior division commander, Phil Sheridan.⁷ Longstreet could have waited the Yankees out. With the forage around Strawberry Plains exhausted, that remaining near Mossy Creek sufficed for little more than the Union cavalry. Parke complained that “when over the river I am at a loss to know how to provision it [the advance], and when it reaches Dandridge the difficulty is as great, if not greater.” As William T. Sherman observed, Foster’s army was “bound to go ahead or fall back,” bringing on a battle before lack of food forced a retreat. Longstreet, on the other hand, could either sit in his defenses or fall back, drawing the Federals farther from their meager sources of supply.⁸ Nonetheless, Longstreet reacted aggressively when his cavalry relayed word of the U.S. advance. He ordered two divisions to march for Dandridge, and had three more brigades brought up by train from Bull’s Gap. Longstreet claimed that he simply did not want “to leave our shoe factory and winter huts and take up the tedious rearward move,” but contemporary evidence suggests otherwise. General Joseph Johnston, Bragg’s successor in command of the Army of Tennessee, had just complained to President Jefferson Davis from Georgia, “Longstreet has gone into winter quarters. If he has suspended active operations, I should like to have the cavalry belonging to this army.” Longstreet countered, “I am obliged to forage here or leave the country; without the cavalry cannot forage,” neglecting to mention that he had already suggested that East Tennessee should be abandoned. “I do not think we can do anything here or at Chattanooga,” he had recently written Robert E. Lee, arguing that his infantry should be transferred back to Virginia to “throw our forces behind General Meade and catch him in the mud.” This could be accomplished “if we could leave our cavalry here to destroy the railroad,” which meant retaining Johnston’s horsemen. Sitting quietly while the enemy penetrated his main foraging area would hardly convince anyone that he had not “gone into winter quarters.”⁹

UNPLEASANT SURPRISES Equally critical to Longstreet’s decision was his state of mind. The Knoxville misadventure had badly shaken the Georgian’s self-confidence; the troops, rumor held, had nicknamed him “Peter the Slow,” and even his headquarters staff became disillusioned. Frustrated, Longstreet lashed out at his subordinates, relieving longtime friend Lafayette McLaws and Texan Jerome Robertson, while creating an atmosphere of disaffection between Micah Jenkins and Evander Law, the senior brigadiers fighting each other for command of John B. Hood’s old division. Dimly perceiving how badly his reputation had tarnished, Longstreet had recently offered his resignation. When Richmond refused it, the Georgian decided to start his rehabilitation

on the battlefield. He needed a good fight.¹⁰ Though cavalry would play a critical role in the fighting during the next two days, neither side’s mounted leadership was particularly inspired. The 41-year-old Sturgis had earned his spurs as an Indian fighter: profane, bombastic, hard drinking, and ruthless. Pursuing Mescalero raiders in 1855, the then-lieutenant of the 1st U.S. Cavalry was faced with renegades attempting to surrender. “Well, men, I do not understand a word they are saying,” he shouted, “haul off and let them have it.” Commanding an infantry division through Fredericksburg, the Pennsylvanian became more famous for wit (“I don’t care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung!” he had remarked about one of his former commanders) than for fighting ability. Major General William T. Martin, a 40-year-old Mississippi lawyer, led a cavalry regiment in Virginia before being promoted to division command in Tennessee. Longstreet’s opinion was unequivocal: “Martin has not had experience enough to give him confidence in himself or his men. Without confidence a cavalry leader can have no dash, and without either he cannot be the leader we need.”¹¹ Sturgis set out on January 16 to seize Kimbrough’s Crossroads, a key road junction nine miles east of Dandridge, which would block Longstreet’s access to Bull’s Gap if the Confederates retreated, or threaten the Georgian’s rear if he engaged Foster’s infantry. Dangerously overconfident, Sturgis split his command on diverging roads, leading 2,000 horsemen on the Bull’s Gap road, while sending Colonel Frank Wolford and 1,000 cavalry several miles farther south on the Bend of Chucky road. Sturgis invited Sheridan, who had just arrived in Dandridge, to ride along and see him “whip the enemy’s cavalry.” “Little Phil” declined, preferring to supervise the construction of the pontoon bridge necessary for his divisions to cross the French Broad.¹² Frank Wolford, a Mexican War veteran and criminal lawyer, had raised the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, sparred with Rebel cavalryman John H. Morgan through 1862-1863, and participated in the chase that finally bagged the famed raider in Ohio. Confederate George Mosgrove paid him the ultimate compliment: “If there ever existed a body of Federal troops that the Kentucky boys dreaded to meet, it was gallant General Frank Wolford’s famous Kentucky command.” Sturgis believed that Wolford could easily handle any detachments of Rebel cavalry picketing the lower road. Neither officer expected the Kentuckian to run into all four Confederate cavalry brigades.¹³ Longstreet met Martin about mid-morning, five miles east of Dandridge, “having come forward to be assured that our cavalry had not mistaken a strong cavalry move for one by the en-




11/8/11 12:43:38 AM



















'* -,0%&. -,..-,". + 






Micah Jenkins

emy [infantry].â&#x20AC;? The Mississippian was â&#x20AC;&#x153;engaged with the enemy, both sides on strong defensive grounds and using their horse batteries, but no infantry was in sight.â&#x20AC;? Martin did not know how much Union cavalry opposed him, or how far back Yankee infantry might be found; he did know that Sturgis was flanking him on the Bullâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gap road. Longstreet, aware that Sturgis would collide with an infantry division at Kimbroughâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Crossroads, directed Martin to determine how many Federals held the hill in his front by throwing them off. Wolfordâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s skirmishers relinquished the hill, but bought their commander time to deploy on the next ridge, which he prepared to defend more tenaciously. Longstreetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s practiced eye gauged the



William T. Martin


















/-2 #--3)'+.

Bushrod Johnson






&', -"








In the wake of Union victories at Knoxville and Chattanooga, Grant launched a mid-winter offensive, ordering elements of John Fosterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Army of the Ohio to drive James Longstreetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Confederates at least beyond Bullâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gap, and preferably out of East Tennessee altogether. On January 15, U.S. forces began a three-pronged advance from Knoxville; on January 17, a day after Longstreet successfully beat back the lead Union elementâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;cavalry commanded by Samuel Sturgisâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;at Kimbroughâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Crossroads, the opposing forces, buttressed by reinforcements, clashed again, just outside of Dandridge.

Samuel Sturgis

Frank Wolford

Philip Sheridan

Union force to be much smaller than his own, and detected no evidence of infantry support. He ordered Martin to take the hill. The Mississippian demurred, saying â&#x20AC;&#x153;he thought it could not be done without infantry.â&#x20AC;? Irritated, Longstreet instructed the cavalryman to detach a brigade for his own use, and to keep the enemyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attention focused on the main Confederate line.š⠴ Noticing a patch of woods that would conceal his movement, Longstreet led 600 horsemen of the 3rd Arkansas, 6th North Carolina, and 8th and 11th Texas Cavalry around the Union left flank. In a clearing they dismounted, leaving behind one-quarter of their number as horse-holders, and one of the Confederacyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s senior generals formed 450 troopers into a single line and headed up the hill. Wolfordâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pickets fired a few shots at the attackers, alerting the Union commander that he was being turned; again, he ordered his division to retreat.š⠾ Sturgis discovered his own unpleasant surprise at Kimbroughâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Crossroads: two Rebel infantry brigades under Brigadier General Bushrod




11/8/11 12:43:44 AM

Johnson. Initially convinced that only a regiment on picket confronted him, Sturgis ordered Colonel Archibald Campbell’s lead division to dismount and seize the crossroads. Johnson’s division, having left hundreds of barefoot soldiers at Morristown, counted only about 1,000 muskets and four cannon, but the 46-year-old Ohio native who had followed his adopted Tennessee in 1861 was a West Pointer, a Mexican War veteran, and an excellent tactician. Not about to be hustled out of position by Yankee cavalry, Johnson calmly deployed behind his skirmishers, brought up his artillery, and prepared to move forward. Sturgis later convinced himself that he had never intended to capture the crossroads, just reconnoiter, and that “the object of the reconnaissance being accomplished,” it was time to withdraw. Johnson barely acknowledged the action, noting that Sturgis had “dashed on our pickets, then formed a line and skirmished for an hour.”¹⁶ Had Longstreet remained with the cavalry he might have destroyed Wolford’s division, seized Dandridge, and isolated Sturgis’ entire command. The Georgian, however, left to bring forward his infantry, and Martin reverted to his normal caution, following Wolford but not pushing him. Even so, leading his jaded division back from Kimbrough’s Crossroads, Colonel Campbell reported that “the enemy had driven Wolford’s division back in disorder”; Colonel Thomas Jordan of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry less charitably described “Wolford’s division in full retreat, galloping away from the enemy.” Campbell brought his troopers in on Martin’s right flank, brushing an unsuspecting brigade off a ridge about a mile outside Dandridge, which the Federals held until dusk ended the day’s fighting.¹⁷ Sturgis sent a panicky dispatch to Sheridan, insisting that he needed infantry support to hold the town. Sheridan reinforced the cavalry with some XXIII Corps infantry under Colonel Daniel Cameron. His own division and that of Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood he kept west of Dandridge, planning the next morning to erect his bridge over the French Broad, cross it, and place himself on the Confederates’ left flank. He also “deemed it advisable that the responsible commanders of the army should be present, and so informed them.” Parke and Granger, receiving Sheridan’s message, finally left Strawberry Plains, but would not reach Dandridge until the next night. Sheridan, fixated on his pontoons, left the defense of Dandridge in Sturgis’ shaky hands.¹⁸ Longstreet’s infantry spent most of January 17 struggling over ☛ Confederate forces under 10 miles of frozen roads, upon which Lieutenant General James Longstreet (right) engaged “bleeding feet left marks at every elements of the Union army comstep.” Nonetheless, by 4 p.m. the manded by Major General John Georgian had concentrated 3,000 G. Foster (below) at Dandridge. infantry, 1,500 horsemen, and eight guns outside Dandridge; seven miles to the rear were Major General Robert Ransom’s two thin brigades, whose men had packed their ruined shoes “with straw and leaves ... so that they could not be tracked through the snow by bleeding feet.” Sturgis deployed along the last ridge east of Dandridge, with Wolford on the left, Colonel Israel Garrard in the center, and Colonel Edward McCook (quitting a sickbed to supersede Campbell) on the right. Realizing that Wolford’s men were still demoralized, Sturgis picketed their front with an infantry regiment, the 93rd Ohio. The Pennsylvanian there-

fore fielded 2,500 cavalry, a few hundred infantry, and four cannon. Another infantry brigade, consisting of some 1,000 to 2,000 men, remained nearby in Dandridge, though Sheridan inexplicably stationed it there without either subordinating its commander to Sturgis or providing him with any clear orders.¹⁹ Longstreet planned to repeat the previous day’s turning movement. Jenkins’ brigades threaded their way through some woods on the Union left, the artillery following far enough behind that “the ringing of the iron axles of the guns might [not] give notice of our purpose.” With the infantry established on Sturgis’ flank, the batteries deployed to support the attack. Johnson spread his regiments across the front of the Union line, while Martin demonstrated on the far left. Delays in getting the infantry in place kept Longstreet from attacking until nearly dusk, but when he did, everything came off with clockwork precision.²⁰ Martin’s cavalry “drove back our pickets so rapidly that he was enabled to open a flank fire,” reported Colonel Oscar La Grange, whose brigade had to be shifted to counter the threat. Minutes later, Longstreet’s main attack tore into the 93rd Ohio; “they were driven in and pursued with great fury,” Wolford admitted. He reinforced the 93rd with 12th Kentucky Cavalry, and— as the fighting grew heavier—the rest of his division. Although Wolford later claimed to have “repulsed him, driving him back into the woods,” the truth wa s o t h e r w i s e . L a Grange, engaged with Martin’s diversionary attack, looked over his shoulder to see the Confederates driving Wolford’s command again: “The enemy’s infantry advanced on our line across an open field, disregarding our fire ... [and] passing heedlessly over the bodies of their fallen comrades.” La Grange made no apologies for pulling back: “without waiting [for] so hopeless a contest as must have taken place between dismounted cavalrymen and a superior force of trained infantry, our line was withdrawn.” McCook, sensing imminent disaster, summoned the infantry in Dandridge forward, only to be informed by the first regimental commander encountered that “he was placed there on picket and had no orders.”²¹ Darkness and a shift in the weather saved Sturgis from a complete debacle. By the time Jenkins’ men redeployed ☛ {Cont. on p. 70}




11/8/11 12:43:47 AM







John E. Stanchak, “Knoxville Campaign,” in Patricia L. Faust, ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York, 1986), 420-421 [hereafter cited as HTIECW]; Judith Lee Hallock, General James Longstreet in the West, A Monumental Failure (Fort Worth, TX, 1995), 79-94; Jeffrey D. Wert, General James Longstreet, The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier, A Biography (New York, 1993), 356-360; C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War (New York, 1981), 509; Lowell Harrison, “A Battle Beyond Knoxville,” Civil War Times Illustrated, vol. XXVI, no. 3 (May 1987): 16-21, 46-47; Bruce S. Allardice, “Longstreet’s Nightmare in Tennessee,” Civil War, vol. XVIII (June 1989): 32-43. James J. Baldwin III, The Struck Eagle, A Biography of Brigadier General Micah Jenkins and a History of the Fifth South Carolina Volunteers and the Palmetto Sharpshooters (Shippensburg, PA, 1996), 255; James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox (Secaucus, NJ, 1984; reprint of 1896 edition), 521, 526; George Montgomery Jr., ed., Georgia Sharpshooter, The Civil War Diary and Letters of William Rhadamanthus Montgomery (Macon, GA, 1997), 100; Edward Porter Alexander, Military Memoirs of a Confederate, A Critical Narrative (New York, 1993; reprint of 1907 edition), 491; United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records 129 vols. (Washington, 1880-1901), Series I, Vol. XXXII (part 1), 63, 94: 480; (part 2), 59 [herafter cited as OR; all references are to Series I unless otherwise noted]; J. Gary Laine and Morris M. Penny, Law’s Alabama Brigade in the War Between the Union and the Confederacy (Shippensburg, PA, 1996), 214; James K. Swisher, Prince of Edisto, Brigadier Micah Jenkins C. S. A. (Berryville, VA, 1996), 127. OR, XXXI (part 1), 286-287; (part 2), 499, 501; (part 3), 358, 392; XXXII (part 2), 45, 59; William Gilfillin Gavin, ed., Infantryman Petit, The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Petit (Shippensburg, PA, 1990), 132. Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 520; OR, XXXI (part 1), 630; LII (part 2), 581, 584. Baldwin, Struck Eagle, 257; Edward Carr Franks, “The Detachment of Longstreet Considered: Braxton Bragg, James Longstreet, and the Chattanooga Campaign,” in Steven E. Woodworth, ed., Leadership and Command in the American Civil War (Campbell, CA, 1995), 56; Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (New York, 1982; reprint of 1952 edition), 351; Gavin, Infantryman Petit, 182; Kenneth W. Noe, ed., A Southern Boy in Blue,

the Memoir of Marcus Woodcock, 9th Kentucky Infantry (U. S. A.) (Knoxville, 1996), 250-251; Blair, Politician Goes to War, 150; OR, XXXI (part 3), 479, 879, 881; XXXII (part 1), 60, 66-69, 71, 75; (part 2), 9, 19, 43, 52-53, 507, 510, 511, 516, 528, 537, 550; LII (part 2), 582; Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge, 1959), 313-314; Gary C. Walker, The War in Southwest Virginia, 1861-1865 (Roanoke, 1985), 71-72; John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia, Western North Carolina in the Civil War (Chapel Hill, 2000), 131-132. 6

OR, XXXI (part 3), 529, 571; XXXII (part 1), 33-34, 80; (part 2), 43, 63, 71-72, 82-83.


OR, XXXI (part 3), 548, 559, 889; Philip H. Sheridan, Personal Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan, General United States Army, one-volume edition (New York, 1992; reprint of 1888 edition), 179-180.


OR, XXXII (part 1), 41, 45; (part 2), 3, 146-147.


Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 526; OR, XXXII (part 2), 536, 541-542, 550; Michael West, 30th Battalion Virginia Sharpshooters (Lynchburg, 1995), 69.

10 Wert, Longstreet, 356-366; G. Moxley Sorrel, Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer (New York, 1905), 174-187.

14 Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, pp. 526-527; OR, XXXII (part 1), 93. 15 Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, pp. 526-527; OR, XXXII (part 1), 86, 88, 93. 16 OR, XXXI (part 3), 889; XXXII (part 1), 79-80; Robert D. Hoffsomer, “Bushrod Rust Johnson,” in HTIECW, p. 397; Charles M. Cummings, Yankee Quaker, Confederate General, The Curious Career of Bushrod Rust Johnson (Rutherford, NJ, 1971), 16; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 528; Janet B. Hewett, Noah Andre Trudeau, and Bryce A. Suderow, eds., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 100 vols. (Wilmington, NC, 1994-2000), VI: 215 [hereafter cited as SOR]. 17 OR, XXXII (part 1), 86-87. 18 Sheridan, Memoirs, 180; OR, XXXII (part 1), 79, 81. 19 Sorrel, Recollections, 183; OR, XXXI (part 3), 889; XXXII (part 1), 80, 81, 85, 91, 93; Sheridan, Memoirs, 180; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 528; West, 30th Virginia Battalion Sharpshooters, 69. 20 OR, XXXII (part 1), 93; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 528.

11 OR, XXXI (part 3), 559, 889; XXXII (part 1), 59; (part 2), 632; (part 3), 30; Stephen Z. Starr, The Union Cavalry in the Civil War, 3 vols. (Baton Rouge, 1985), III: 254, 344-345; Jeffrey D. Wert, “Samuel Davis Sturgis,” in HTIECW, 729-730; Robert M. Utley, Frontiersmen in Blue, The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865 (Lincoln, NE, 1967), 150-151; William Marvel, Burnside (Chapel Hill, 1991), 214; Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln’s Army (Garden City, NY, 1951), 6-7; Edward G. Longacre, “William Thompson Martin,” in HTIECW, 477-478; Edward G. Longacre, Mounted Raids of the Civil War (Lincoln, NE, 1975), 210.

21 OR, XXXII (part 1), 85, 90, 91, 93; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 528; Baldwin, Struck Eagle, 257.

12 Sheridan confuses dates and details in this portion of his memoirs to greater extent than elsewhere, placing the meeting with Sturgis on January 17 rather than January 16. When Sheridan does something like this, it is invariably to obscure some potentially embarrassing episode, in this case the farce with the pontoon bridge, detailed below. OR, XXXII (part 1), 79-80; Sheridan, Memoirs, 179-181.

25 OR, XXXII (part 2), 580, 594, 596, 597598, 609, 633.

13 James A. Ramage, Rebel Raider, The Life of General John Hunt Morgan (Lexington, KY, 1986), 167-168, 176; Bell Irwin Wiley, ed., Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie (Wilmington, 1987; reprint of 1957 edition), 96.

28 OR, XXXII (part 1), 134-135, 149; SOR, VI: 218-220; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 532.

22 Ibid. 23 OR, XXXII (part 1), 41, 45, 79; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 528; Sheridan, Memoirs, 181; John W. Rowell, Yankee Artillerymen: Through the Civil War with Eli Lilly’s Indiana Battery (Knoxville, 1975), 171. 24 OR, XXXII (part 1), 93; Montgomery, Georgia Sharpshooter, 100.

26 OR, XXXII (part 2), 127, 138, 140, 149150, 151, 194-195; Marvel, Burnside, 338; Merlin E. Sumner, ed., The Diary of Cyrus B. Comstock (Dayton, OH, 1987), 253254. 27 OR, XXXII (part 2), 151, 153, 177.

29 OR, XXXII (part 1), 43-44.




11/8/11 12:43:47 AM

FADED As the rest of America moved on, the struggles of “old soldiers” became a n unc

☛ Union veterans assemble for a Memorial Day review at the Santa Monica Soldiers’ Home, circa 1905.




11/8/11 1:48:58 AM


a n uncomfortable reminder of the enduring costs of war. BY JAMES MARTEN




11/8/11 1:49:02 AM

THE OLD SOLDIERS who lived in Benzonia, Michigan, “were men set apart,” according to Bruce Catton, who would become one of the village’s most famous native sons and a celebrated historian of the Civil War. “On formal occasions they wore blue uniforms with brass buttons and black campaign hats.” By the time Catton knew them, just before the First World War, most had long gray beards, which helped them project “an unassuming natural dignity.” They were “pillars…of the community; the keepers of its patriotic traditions, the living embodiment, so to speak, of what it most deeply believed about the nation’s greatness and high destiny.” Catton and the other young boys who saw them march on Memorial Day—the “pleasantest” holiday of the year, he believed—“looked at these men in blue, existing in pensioned security, honored and respected by all, moving past the mounded graves with their little flags and their heaps of lilacs, and we were in awe of them.” The “terrible names out of the history books—Gettysburg, Shiloh, Stone’s River, Cold Harbor—came alive through these men. They had been there...and now they stood by the G.A.R. monument in the cemetery and listened to the orations and the prayers and the patriotic songs, and to watch them was to be deeply moved.”¹ Most of Catton’s contemporaries, not to mention the two generations that preceded them, felt the same way, at least on occasions like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Old soldiers wearing uniforms designed for the Grand Army of the Republic (the largest organization of Union veterans), marching down city streets, and saluting their dead comrades in town cemeteries must have felt as though they were vital parts of the communities in which they lived. During the 1880s and 1890s, monuments to veterans were, of course, raised in town squares and cemeteries and other public places throughout the North, while baseball teams in at least two Illinois towns drew their names from the men living in local soldiers’ homes. The ballclub in Quincy— home of the state veterans’ home—was known as the “Old Soldiers,” while the Danville nine honored residents of the local branch of the National Home by calling themselves the “Veterans.” This should not be surprising, since military service was the most common denominator of northern men living during the Gilded Age. Forty-one percent of all northern white men born between 1822 and 1845 served in the Union army, and the numbers soared to 60 percent for those born between 1837 and 1845 and to over 80 percent for those born in 1843 and who turned 18 in the war’s first year. Integrating also went the other way, as veterans incorporated the civilian members of the communities in which they lived into veterans’ activities, too. Grand Army of the Republic encampments, for instance, always featured an evening of stories and army food (beans, coffee, hardtack) to which families and friends were invited. By the 1880s, the state and national encampments drew at least as many civilians as veterans. One of the largest annual meetings, the Ex-Union Soldiers’ Inter-State Reunion

in Baxter Springs, Kansas, attracted 50,000 veterans and non-veterans to a permanent “camp” of more than 100 acres that featured a number of buildings, a large amphitheater, running water and electricity, an electric launch for excursions on Spring River, and convenient railroad connections. Organizers offered free tents, wood, straw, and fire to veterans and widows. Local musical groups performed, nationally known speakers gave talks, and “half a mile of sideshows, restaurants, fakers, peanut roasters, juice racks, hot tamales, cider mills, lunch joints, Jew stores, cigar spindles, shooting galleries, knife racks, red lemonade, fortune tellers, faith healers, witch doctors, and a thousand other interesting, instructive and amusing features” appeared “to please the old and the young.” In addition, there were a carnival midway and a couple of dozen “shows, museums, exhibitions, vaudevilles, and spectacular sensations.” Obviously, much of this had nothing to do with veterans or with commemorating the war, yet the carnival-like atmosphere did encourage a certain connection between citizens and veterans that both no doubt appreciated.² In dozens of towns and cities throughout the North, state and federal homes provided places for veterans and civilians to meet and to commemorate the sacrifices the former had made to save the Union. A case in point was the Northwestern Branch of the federally funded National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Milwaukee. As many as 60,000 tourists visited each year, but the event that brought out the biggest crowds was Independence Day. By the 1870s the Home grounds, located about a halfhour buggy’s ride west of the city limits, had become the official site for the town’s celebration. The festivities included concerts by the Home band, military parades by the inmates, dances, hundreds of Chinese lanterns encircling the largest of the grounds’ four small lakes, and “picturesque and grand” illuminations scattered through the trees. Inmates and visitors competed in wheelbarrow and sack races, chased greased pigs, and played a mysterious game called “cutting down turkey.” A local newspaper described the 1879 event, attended by at least 15,000 Milwaukeeans,




11/8/11 1:49:02 AM


☛ OPPOSITE: Benzonia native Bruce Catton stands beside the town’s GAR monument, where as a younger man he watched local Civil War veterans (some of whom are pictured ABOVE, circa 1910) gather to commemorate their service on Memorial Day.

in detail: special trains unloaded their “human freight bedecked in gay dresses and black broadcloth” and “hundreds of wagons and omnibuses” wound out of the city toward the north entrance of the Home. “Flags fluttered from every tree,” the miniature lake sported small boats decorated for the occasion, and the grounds “fairly foamed with sight-seers”—some dressed in red, white, and blue—“like a choppy sea.” A 38-gun salute marked high noon, after which the Home band “struck up dancing music” for hundreds of couples swirling around the pavilion “at an American pace.” As afternoon gave way to evening, revelers sang patriotic and camp songs.”³ Soldiers’ homes and veterans’ organizations often invited civilians to attend plays, concerts, lectures, and other entertainments. The GAR post in Worcester, Massachusetts, not-quiteannually produced a patriotic tearjerker called

“The Drummer Boy,” a Civil War melodrama loosely based on the story of John Clem. Presented in five acts, 13 scenes, and four tableaux, the play featured a large cast of caricatures and plot lines that would later appear in any number of books and movies: a northern and a southern family whose ancient friendship is destroyed by the onset of war, an enthusiastic youngster determined to become a drummer boy, a kind “old darky,” a brave Yankee spy, a sinister South Carolinian, a mother who sacrificed three sons to the Union cause, a suffering prisoner at Andersonville, and a cruel guard at the infamous prison. Veterans, family members, and non-veterans would often play the same roles for years at a time. The play typically ran for a week; over the years, it raised $30,000 for the post.⁴ Civilians clearly relished these interactions with veterans. The applause and respect and gratitude with which the latter were showered on their special days must have made them believe that their years of marching and fighting—of having been “touched with fire,” as one of their compatriots famously declared in 1884—had been worth it. They were reminders of those dark days when the Union was threatened, living monuments to the nation’s victory and to individual sacrifice. They had merged comfortably and honorably back into the bosoms of their communities.⁵

BUT NOT ALL OLD SOLDIERS returned so easily. In fact, there were many Union veterans who helped Bruce Catton, the man and historian, see them in ways that would never have occurred to Bruce Catton the boy: “There was something fairly pathetic about these lonely old men who




11/8/11 1:49:03 AM

lived so completely in the past that they had come to see the war of their youth as a kind of lost golden age.” As Catton came to understand, although on the surface the old soldiers were considered valued members of the communities in which they lived, their relationship was not without ambiguity, and, during those long months between patriotic holidays, many veterans did not fit at all well into their towns. Scarred by both physical and emotional disabilities, separated from their non-veteran neighbors by a sense of having fallen behind their civilian neighbors in the boom times that followed the war, and resentful of the dwindling importance and influence that Catton intuited, many were isolated from the communities in which they lived.⁶ Most Americans would not have admitted any of this, but the evidence was certainly there. A short story published in Harper’s Weekly just after the war, despite its happy ending, showed how disabled veterans— men suffering from lost limbs, chronic disease, indeterminate but debilitating weariness, and countless other maladies—could feel isolated and alone. Captain Harry Ash was a well-to-do New Englander who had lost his left arm. Against his better judgment, he agrees to summer in Newport, and immediately feels as though his old life had vanished. The women had deserted pre-war propriety; they now talked loudly and boldly raced buggies along the beach. He is crushed when he spies his old flame, Edna Ackland, driving one of those speeding buggies. Harry withdraws from the company of these fast women and the young non-veterans who cluster around them. When he finally brings himself to confront Edna, he laments that his lost arm had left him “sadly altered—neither useful nor ornamental to the world.” Edna quickly assures Harry that she had not really changed, but had learned to drive only after learning of his amputation and because she hoped to resume the beach-side drives they had enjoyed during their pre-war courtship. Harry and Edna marry and live happily ever after, of course, but Harry’s poignant sadness and isolation was no doubt shared by many other maimed and sick veterans who did not come home to their own devoted Ednas.⁷ Indeed, a veterans’ newspaper called the Soldier’s Friend suggested a few years after the war that the sound of scratchy hand organs played by desperate one-armed veterans on the streets of New York was so common that, when a child asked about the source of the music being played down the block, an adult could say, “Only a soldier grinding an organ.”⁸ Veterans’ sadness could turn to despair and anger. In the early 1880s, a resident of a federal soldiers’ home testified before a congressional committee that the men with whom he lived “are all dissatisfied, every one of them.... We are not comfortable. We are unhappy. I would venture to say— in fact, I know it to be the case—that this petty persecution has caused men to commit suicide. I know this to be a fact, because I know my own feelings, and I can judge others by those. Often I wish I was in the penitentiary; that I was hanged or dead, or in some other place.” This unhappy old soldier was speaking about alleged mistreatment of veterans by thoughtless administrators, but his words described many thousands of other men who did not get the chance to tell their congressmen of their travails.⁹ The disaffection and bitterness—exasperated by pain and loneliness—led to a profound sense of isolation among some veterans. One symptom was a reliance on alcohol, which someone who knew veterans very well called “that great resource of veterans.”¹⁰ Indeed, every town or city with a soldiers’ home had a neighborhood or street known for cheap bars and even brothels frequented by the veterans. Outside the soldiers’ home near Leavenworth was a tiny village of only 30 one-story frame houses called Klondike; at least two-thirds were “whisky saloons, gambling houses, or dens of the grossest immorality”—at least according to a disapproving reformer. The equivalent row of dives and bars near the Togus, Maine, branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer

☛ Crowds line the streets of Washington, D.C., to view the GAR parade during the organization’s 26th Annual Encampment, September 20, 1892.

Soldiers (NHDVS) straggled down a road called “Hayseed Avenue.” Outside the Central Branch of the NHDVS in Dayton, the vast collection of bars and brothels were simply called the “west side.” By the 1890s, over 30 clustered near the northern and southern entrances of the Northwestern Branch in Milwaukee, with 17 crowded into a two-block stretch of National Avenue that came to be called “The Line.” Some had catchy




11/8/11 1:49:05 AM


names like “Lincoln,” “Sheridan,” and “Sherman.” One resident veteran wrote disapprovingly to his son that it was “filled with old Soldiers from morning to night,” while a Kansan complained that the Klondike drew “vile women and men” to “prey on these men, to drug them, thug them, and rob them.”¹¹ John Bettelon, the mayor of Dayton, testified in 1884 that the bars and saloons then spring-

ing up on the West Side were “as thick ... as the hair on a man’s head,” and because most were beyond the city limits, there was nothing the authorities could do about them. He agreed with a questioner’s statement that the saloon keepers “lay for the men and undertake to inveigle them into their places.” The owners of these “‘dives’ and saloons” could not make a living without the old soldiers: “If the soldier has any money they are certain to go for their share of it, and they go for it in any way they can get it.” Prostitutes also plied their trade on the west side, which was notorious for robberies and other crimes.¹²




11/8/11 1:49:06 AM

“IN HEAVEN’S NAME, WHILE WE REMEMBER THE DEAD LET US In addition to the crime and disorder brought to cities by businesses catering to the baser desires of old soldiers, the prevalence of such behavior affected how civilians saw all soldiers, further isolating them from the larger community. An 1883 Milwaukee Sentinel article highlighted one problem with the public perception of the inmates, who “If we are correctly informed ... are too much in the habit of over-indulgence in drink. If they are frequently seen intoxicated in the city, they will surely create the impression that rather strict discipline is needed at the Home,” and they will lose the support of the citizenry. “Every man of them who gets drunk brings disrepute upon associates,” demonstrating to the public “that the inmates of the Home are a hard lot, and to cause people to discredit reports that they are too severely dealt with.”¹³ The extent to which old soldiers earned reputaHenry Clinton tions as drinkers and abusers of other drugs—opium Parkhurst addiction, in fact, was often called the “soldier’s disease” in Gilded Age America—was the extent to which they became increasingly out of step with the rest of society. As the temperance movement gained steam in the 1870s and 1880s—it would culminate in the constitutional prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcohol in 1919—the emerging form of acceptable behavior by men did not include the hard-living, hard-partying lifestyle that was often criticized but nevertheless accepted by antebellum Americans. This kind of isolation was, ironically, lived out in very public ways. Yet untold thousands of Union veterans endured their pain and disaffection alone and in self-imposed isolation, despite being surrounded by hundreds of other old soldiers. “Who enters here leaves pride and self-respect behind,” wrote Henry Clinton Parkhurst, who lived for short periods in state soldiers’ homes in Iowa, California, and New York and in federal homes in Norfolk and Dayton. Parkhust had fought as a teenager with the 16th Iowa Infantry, spending several months at the Andersonville and Florence prison camps. Although he claimed that he had entered soldiers’ homes for personal convenience—they supported him while he finished up several writing projects—his peripatetic life, arch personality, and intolerance suggest that he might not have had many options. “Some men enter soldier-homes from necessity or for temporary convenience,” he wrote in August 1910, when he was a resident of the California soldiers’ home at Napam while “others find in a soldier-home a luxurious hotel—a glorious place where they can eat, sleep, play cards, blather by the hour, and wear

out clothes, without having to work.” He spent his time writing random but determinedly bitter thoughts about his fellow veterans.¹⁴ Parkhurst’s colorful and rage-filled outbursts in these apparently unpublished essay fragments made it clear that he hated soldiers’ homes and the old soldiers who lived in them. “It is not worth while complaining about soldiers’ homes or scribbling much about them,” Parkhurst wrote. “They are all alike— rotten with graft—and a man of intelligence who is forced to live in one of them is to be pitied.” He complained about the negligence and corruption of home officials and the shorttimers, militiamen, and out and out frauds who comprised most of the residents, whom he referred to as “cattle” and “human hogs.” He claimed that out of any 100, “not more than four or five would be worth talking to [for] five minutes. They are the utter scum of civil and military life—the ignorant refuse of jails, almshouses, insane asylums and penitentiaries.” Murderers paroled from San Quentin ended up in the Home. No more than one-third had actually performed “useful military or naval service.” Deserters from the regular army and navy, paupers who had worn out their welcome in county institutions, and “weak-minded persons” were “immediately shipped to the Veterans’ Home,” with only “the flimsiest pretence of military or naval service.”¹⁵ Parkhurst’s contempt stemmed from his own hard service and from his personal belief that “no man should be maintained for life at public expense, and be allowed a pension be-




11/8/11 1:49:09 AM


NOT FORGET THE LIVING.” sides, unless he could prove he had served six months at the front, in actual warfare.” Everyone else should be sent to the poorhouse. “To establish expensive places and call them ‘soldier homes,’ and then make them dumping grounds for the filth and scum of society—for professional paupers, army deserters, insane persons, tramps, jail-birds, men fresh from penitentiaries, men who have no shred or sign of military papers, or who have found or bought the papers of dead soldiers—to do this is a sham and hypocrisy and an imposition on tax-payers.” Moreover, inmates and administrators had committed and continued to commit a veritable catalog of crime and frauds. Men who had never been in the army purchased or stole discharge papers to prove their eligibility for admission; residents were appointed to positions of authority through bribery and blackmail; the sergeants who were in charge of the barracks and other areas at the Homes had, in civilian life, been pimps, gamblers, and brawlers. Murders were not uncommon but were almost always covered by Home officials, with the perpetrators hustled off to the insane asylum for veterans in Washington. After they were “cured”—usually in about a year—they were sent to another home, “to probably kill another man there.” “There are many good fellows, and many good soldiers in every soldier-home,” he reluctantly admitted, “but two-thirds of the inmates are low, dirty, lazy, ignorant, drunken, obscene European paupers and ‘dead beats’ whom it is a burlesque to call ‘old soldiers.’ ... They are simply human scum, and when the last one of them is dead, it will be a blessing to the country.”¹⁶ In a rare moment of self-reflection, Parkhurst conceded that, at a certain level, he was also a “fakir like these other dead beats”; he was not physically disabled and chose to live in the homes from time to time to save money while working on articles and books. But he refused to feel guilty.

“As long as government money hangs on limbs of trees, I feel justified in helping myself to some of it. I did the country real service in dangerous times.”¹⁷ While Parkhurst’s anger and self-loathing isolated him not only from his fellow veterans, but also from his fellow Americans, Charles Morehouse spent the last year of his life isolated by pain and self-pity. Apparently dying of a bladder ailment—for which he received excruciating treatments every few weeks—he also suffered from extreme loneliness and exhibited an absolute distaste for all elements of life at the Minnesota State Home in St. Paul. “God only knows the sad and sorry memory of the following days and nights,” he wrote in a pocket calendar for 1912, the last year of his life. “Oh the pain and the hunger for the touch of a home hand and the sound of a home voice,” he mourned on the first day at the Home.¹⁸ Morehouse hated the food, frequently recording his longing for a “home dinner” (meaning a dinner at home with his family), and felt nothing but contempt for his fellow residents, whom he considered noisy, rude, and uncouth. The visits from family members and friends seemed only to make his unhappiness and loneliness worse. Just after his son, daughter, and one or two other women visited during his second week in the Home, he reported that their departure left him “sad because it all seemed so different from what I expected—almost as [though] they do not care for me and my broken heart.”¹⁹ Morehouse was dying of a painful and embarrassing ailment, which

☛ Many veterans found soldiers’ homes uncomfortable places to live. BELOW, inmates of the Soldiers’ Home in Marion, Indiana, pack the facility’s sizable dining hall during mealtime. Others discovered they could easily indulge their desire for liquor and gaming, among other vices, while residing in such places. ABOVE, LEFT: the campus of the Soldiers’ Home at Leavenworth, Kansas, outside of which were located a number of popular saloons and gambling houses.




11/8/11 1:49:10 AM

obviously affected his response to the pitiful situation in which he found himself. He separated himself from the other veterans, refusing to refer by name to more than one or two of the others; he constantly tried to escape the confines of the Home grounds; he hated the surgeon, only barely tolerated the chaplain, and found the quartermaster “not congenial.” He described the Home in terms of what it wasn’t: his own home. He almost seemed to relish describing the “vile suppers” of weak soup and poor meat served to the old men.²⁰ It did not help that the other men seemed to like it at the Home. Morehouse’s descriptions make it sound like a nonstop party. The other men constantly played a phonograph or some other musical device: “the music box grinds on for those who can stand it.” Early in the spring he ventured to the “Falls.” (The Minnesota Soldiers’ Home was perched on a bluff over the Mississippi near Minnehaha Falls.) He complained that the “usual amount of booze was consumed which just makes me sick.” Morehouse hated it when other the old soldiers tried to be friendly; when “Old Andy” and “Bill” “jogged up” one evening, “they with others made the night hideous.” He complained on another occasion that the “gang are keeping up the jamboree.” It was even worse when the weather warmed up; a nice Sunday afternoon in June was ruined when “in the park there was a perfect mob which set me wild.”²¹ Morehouse criticized everything: The noise from the nearby streetcars kept him awake, there was nothing in the Home store that he wanted to buy, he found the amateur variety shows put on by the Ladies Relief Corps to be unimpressive, and he failed to be inspired by the pedestrian sermons and poor music at church services. By mid-April, Morehouse’s entries are dominated by day-by-day reports of the “exquisite” pain caused by his worsening bladder ailment and the excruciating and invasive treatments—called the “washing out process”— conducted every week or two by the Home surgeon or the slightly gentler doctor-friend in St. Paul (who also had the advantage of having a pretty receptionist that Morehouse talked to every visit). The pain kept him awake virtually every night, but the treatments, even when performed in town by the kindly Dr. Hedcook, were so frightful that he frequently reported not

having the nerve to go to them.²² Months before he reached the final medical crisis that eventually took his life, Morehouse remarked that “this isn’t life—it is just agony” and complained sadly that “I try hard to get the Christ Spirit into my mind and actions every day—but there is but little encouragement in this place. God help us all.” After an entry describing a long, cold weekend late in April that ended with him “roost[ing] on the ragged edge of despair and pain,” his diary entries got shorter and less frequent. A few months before his death in November, he wrote, “I never thought there could be such an unreal life as this is. Where, oh where are the sweet sincerities of the olden days?”²³

PARKHURST AND MOREHOUSE were hardly the sort of old soldiers that most Americans thought about on Memorial Day. Perhaps, in the two or three decades after the war, before pain and bitterness drove them into self-imposed isolation, they, too, had marched with their comrades, shared beans and hardtack at GAR campfires, and appreciated the thoughts and admiration of the public. For those men who were not wracked by pain or internal demons, the separateness may have occurred gradually and less dramatically, as both the veterans and their families and neighbors realized that there was an important part of their lives that they simply could not share. The writer Sherwood Anderson’s father had served in the Union army and was ☛ {Cont. on p. 71}


Bruce Catton, Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood (Detroit, 1987), 189-190.



Nathaniel Thompson Allison, ed., History of Cherokee County Kansas and Its Representative Citizens (Chicago, 1904), n. p.

10 The Investigation of the Soldiers’ Home at Leavenworth, Kans., 32; Joshua L. Baily, “Prohibition in Kansas,” Friends’ Intelligencer 57 (March 3, 1900): 174; George J. Crosby to George Crosby, March 1, 1903, George J. Crosby and Family Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Milwaukee Sentinel, July 5, 1879.


Franklin D. Tappan, The Passing of the Grand Army of the Republic (Worcester, MA, 1939), 99-111.


Mark DeWolfe Howe, comp., The Occasional Speeches of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (Cambridge, MA, 1962), 15.

11 Investigation of the National home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 118.

15 “The Bug House,” n. p., unpublished manuscript, Box 5 scrapbook, Henry Clinton Parkhurst Collection. 16 Ibid., n. p. 17 March 13, 1912, Charles Morehouse Diary, Minnesota Historical Society. 18 April 3, 1912, Ibid. 19 March 28-29, 1912, Ibid. 20 March 27 and 5, April 8 and 12, and June 9, 1912, Ibid. 21 April 9, 1912, Ibid.

12 Milwaukee Sentinel, September 28, 1883.


Catton, Waiting for the Morning Train, 190.


“The Empty Sleeve at Newport; or, Why Edna Ackland Learned to Drive,” Harper’s Weekly, August 26, 1865, 534.

13 Henry Clinton Parkhurst, “The Soldier Home Troops,” n. p. unpublished manuscript, Box 5 scrapbook, Henry Clinton Parkhurst Collection, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.


Soldier’s Friend, September 19, 1868.

14 Ibid., n.p.

22 April 11 and 14 and June 8, 1912, Ibid. 23 Quoted in Gerald F. Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (New York, 1987), 280. 24 Soldier’s Friend, July 25, 1868.



Investigation of the National home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, H. R. Report No. 2676, 48th Congress, 2d Sess., 264.




11/8/11 1:49:11 AM

☛ Two old soldiers, photographed at a GAR event in 1915.




11/8/11 1:49:13 AM

Books & Authors

THE YEAR IN CIVIL WAR BOOKS WITH THE END OF 2011 nearly upon us, we thought it a perfect time to take stock of the best Civil War books published in the last 12 months. To do so, we enlisted the help of five Civil War historians and enthusiasts, avid readers all. We asked them to share their favorites and tell us what’s next on their reading list. The group includes: ROBERT K. KRICK, chief historian (retired) at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and author of 18 books on the Civil War, including Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain (2001) and The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy (2004). KEVIN M. LEVIN, host of the blog Civil War Memory ( and author of the forthcoming book Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (University Press of Kentucky). GERALD J. PROKOPOWICZ, profes-

sor of history at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and host of the long-running podcast “Civil War Talk Radio” ( GEORGE C. RABLE, the Charles Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama whose most recent book is God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (2010). ETHAN S. RAFUSE, professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, whose books include McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union (2005) and Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-65 (2008).

The dramatic, desperate defense of Fort Gregg makes for a riveting story. George C. Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press). Rable somehow mastered the staggering task of examining religion-based attitudes during the war—across both sides—with style and grace. As always in a Rable book, prodigious research buttresses the thoughtful conclusions. Adrian G. Tighe, The Bristoe Campaign (Xlibris). I do not know Tighe— had never heard of him—and admit to feeling some surprise when I saw the quality of the research that went into this battle study, by an unknown author. LEVIN: George C. Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War. We’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of Civil War studies focused on religion, but this is by far the most comprehensive. Rable makes a convincing case that our understanding is incomplete if we ignore the extent to which Americans viewed the war’s causes, progress, and consequences through religious terms. Barbara A. Gannon, The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic (University of North Carolina Press). Gannon argues that, in contrast to previous studies, GAR posts were integrated and involved a great deal of interracial cooperation

OF THE RECENTLY RELEASED CIVIL WAR BOOKS YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR, WHICH HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVORITES? KRICK: John J. Fox, Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865 (Angle Valley Press). Accumulating every available source on a Civil War engagement, and parlaying that evidence into a tactical narrative, always impresses me when it is well done.




11/8/11 3:33:44 AM

that reflected the shared experience of war. Not only did these men share continued hardships owing to physical wounds, they also worked to keep the nature of their sacrifice alive even as the nation embraced reconciliation. Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press). McCurry offers a thorough analysis of the steps ordinary white southerners and elite slaveowners took to counter policies of the Confederate government.

The author spends considerable time placing the 1863 Richmond Bread Riot within a broader landscape of protests among dispossessed white women as well as resistance among slaveowners to Confederate slave impressment laws. PROKOPOWICZ: Mark W. Geiger, Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 (Yale University Press). Hidden behind a lackluster title is an original, insightful, well written example of historical

detective work that changes our understanding of Missouri during and after the war. I was fascinated to see how financial fraud was connected with guerrilla violence, and how both help to explain why modern Missouri is so much less Confederate than its neighbor border state Kentucky. Timothy S. Sedore, An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Confederate Monuments (Southern Illinois University Press). In second place is another wolf in sheep’s clothing, one that looked like

TOP-SELLING CIVIL WAR TITLES 2011 The following list represents the 10 best-selling Civil War titles of the year, as of October 2011. Sales figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred. SOURCE: NIELSEN BOOKSCAN



Killing Lincoln

1861: The Civil War Awakening

by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

by Adam Goodheart



Ë 149,600 Hardcover, $28

23,800 Hardcover, $28.95




11/8/11 3:33:45 AM

he was drunk. Not just a microscopic tactical history of what happened on July 1, 1863, this is a tale of dysfunctional leadership at the brigade and regimental level that explains why as well as how Iverson’s men were led to their doom.

a dry and detailed reference work but turned out to be a lot more. The author, a professor of English, has an eye for the poetry and pathos of the monuments’ inscriptions, which he conceptualizes as a single 10,000-word text spread across the state. In this text, supplemented with quotes from dedicatory speeches, you can see how Virginians recorded in stone the political and social meaning of the war that they hoped to pass on to future generations. Robert J. Wynstra, The Rashness of That Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confederate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson (Savas Beatie). My third favorite of the past year is a detailed, well written account of how Iverson’s brigade was nearly destroyed at Gettysburg, and it wasn’t because


RABLE: Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War (Harvard University Press), helps reminds us that preserving the Union was always the central northern war aim and remained so throughout the conflict. In all the arguments over whether Lincoln or the slaves did more to bring about emancipation, the central role of Union armies has often been lost. Gallagher’s work has considerable interpretative bite and is a wonderful companion volume to his The Confederate War (1997). William C. Harris, Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union (University Press of Kansas) offers the first comprehensive treatment of this important subject. A traditional political history focusing on the president, state political leaders, and the generals, this volume tells a complicated story in a clear way. Harris presents a cast of interesting characters with a nice narrative tension that should appeal to both Civil War historians and general readers. Joseph T. Glatthaar, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served

under Robert E. Lee (UNC Press) is not so much a book to be “read” (at least in a conventional sense) as to be consulted, and consulted repeatedly. Glatthaar presents a remarkable array of information about soldiers’ backgrounds and wartime experiences. The graphs and statistics in this volume are indispensable for understanding who served in the Confederacy’s most important army. RAFUSE: Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War. Though I have quibbled with his failure to do more with Stephen Douglas and George McClellan in dealing with the subject, Gallagher does his usual excellent job describing and explaining how important the Union, in and of itself, was to northerners. Brooks D. Simpson, The Civil War in the East: Struggle, Stalemate, and Victory (Praeger) stands out among military history titles, providing an effectively comprehensive, yet efficient, history of its subject that is distinguished by insightful and provocative (in the best sense of the word) analysis of men and events. Adam Goodheart, 1861: The Civil War Awakening (Knopf ). Though not completely comprehensive in its treatment of the subject, Goodheart produced a wide-ranging and engagingly constructed and executed study of the months prior to July 1861 that was both




Don’t Know Much About…

A World on Fire

The Fiery Trial

The Civil War: A Visual History

by Kenneth C. Davis

by Amanda Foreman

by Eric Foner










Audio, $14.99

Hardcover, $35

Hardcover, $29.95

Hardcover, $40




11/8/11 3:33:52 AM

informative and good reading. WHAT RECENT BOOK IS NEXT ON YOUR READING LIST? KRICK: The South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set published by Broadfoot Publishing Company delights me because it is committed to including thoroughly annotated rosters, illuminated by local sources—cemeteries, veterans organizations, obituaries, and the like. I cannot say that I’ll ever actually read one; but I relish the opportunity to use the rosters as a reference source for years to come. Ten volumes have reached print, and Broadfoot intends to persevere until all the state’s units have been documented. LEVIN: Mark W. Geiger, Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865. Geiger’s book was recently awarded the Tom Watson Book Prize, which is given annually by the Society of Civil War Historians. Any book that wins $50,000 is likely to be well worth reading. PROKOPOWICZ: If I don’t read a book as soon as it comes into the office, the odds are long that I’ll get to it any time soon. Drew Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf, 2009), an important book by a

fine author, is currently at the top of my must-read pile. To find out what Civil War books from 2011 I’m planning to read, ask again in another two years.

☛ Recently reviewed at For in-depth reviews of the latest Civil War titles, visit our website’s book blog, The Bookshelf ( Recently reviewed works include:

RABLE: Adam Goodheart, 1861: The Civil War Awakening. This book has gotten enormous attention and has sold very well. I know some Civil War scholars have expressed some reservations, so I want to see for myself and in any case am looking forward to enjoying what promises to be a good read.

The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America by William G. Thomas (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2011) Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America by James Marten (UNC PRESS, 2011)

RAFUSE: Brian Matthew Jordan’s Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory (Savas Beatie). My interest in the Maryland Campaign is obviously the main reason I regret not having gotten to this book yet, but I am also interested in comparing it with the very good treatment of the fighting at South Mountain by John Hoptak that was published earlier this year.

General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. by Samuel J. Martin (MCFARLAND, 2011) The Union War by Gary W. Gallagher (HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2011) 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart (ALFRED A. KNOPF, 2011)


Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia by Joseph T. Glatthaar (UNC PRESS, 2011)

KRICK: Rick Williams of North Carolina for years has been diligently accumulating and editing for publication the war diary of Oscar Hinrichs, an engineer who served on the staffs of Stonewall Jackson, Richard Ewell, Jubal Early, and others. Because he was an immigrant from

Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, and Survival by Matthew Warshauer (WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2011)




The New York Times Complete Civil War

The American Civil War

The Assassin’s Accomplice

Bloody Crimes

by John Keegan

by Kate Clifford Larson

by James L. Swanson









Hardcover, $40

Paperback, $16.95

Paperback, $16.99

Paperback, $16.99





11/8/11 3:33:53 AM

Europe (born and raised on the Baltic coast), Hinrichs affords an unusual perspective on the Confederate high command in Virginia. He steadily saw the most famous leaders in Leeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s army at close quarters, and described them vividlyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;sometimes humorously. The University of North Carolina Press has had the Hinrichs manuscript for quite some time, and presumably draws close to publishing it. The result will be a fascinating and valuable book. LEVIN: Andre Fleche, The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict (UNC Press). Americans suffer from an overly narrow understanding of the Civil War that gives little attention to broader political, economic, and social developments overseas. I am hoping that this book will further my own understanding of the war and provide me with ideas on how to teach the subject from a different perspective. PROKOPOWICZ: James Oakes, author of The Radical and the Republican, a study of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, is working on a political history of emancipation that promises to challenge the accepted view that ending slavery didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t become part of the Northâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s war aims until 1862 at the earliest. Although directly contrary to what Gary Gallagher argued in The Union War, it should share with Gallagherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s book the virtue of stimulating readers to consider why so many northerners fought so passionately for their cause. RABLE: Mark Neely, Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War (UNC Press). There has been little recent work on the constitutional history of the Civil War, a topic that I am sure to many seems hopelessly old school. However, I am looking forward to reading this book because Neely always has interesting and provocative things to say on most any subject. RAFUSE: If it is up to his usual high standards, Earl Hessâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; forthcoming book, The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi (UNC Press), should be outstanding.

Casualties of War

Battlefield Echoes

â&#x2DC;&#x203A; {Cont. from p. 21} love and longing sent by soldiers and their sweethearts. But time and pressure, distance and damage, rarely consolidate a marriage; they are more apt to expose its seams. How many â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dear Johnâ&#x20AC;? letters were sent during the war? How many other marital minefields were created? War is fought within an emotional landscape of sexual paranoia. And in every soldierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mental knapsack there is an unwanted piece of equipment: the fear that he is replaceable, expendable, even in the hearts of those he loves. This collective fear helped to murder Van Dorn and to mar his memory, and he too should be counted a casualty of war.

â&#x2DC;&#x203A; {Cont. from p. 23} past century and a half? Or does the armyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current policy against targeting noncombatants simply serve to illustrate the difference between the limited nature of our current conflicts and that of the Civil War? Can we say with any certainty that we would resist making war against civilians and their property if the very survival of our nation were at stake? Perhaps advancements in technology and the globalized media would serve as a corrective hindrance to such a regression. Or perhaps we would find that the boundaries of war still can be expanded to include civilians if the stakes are deemed high enough. We can only hope that we never need to find out.

STEPHEN BERRY is associate professor of history at the University of Georgia. He is the author or editor of four books on America in the Civil War era, including House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007).


CLAY MOUNTCASTLE, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, currently serves as the Professor of Military Science at the University of Washington in Seattle. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Duke University and is the author of Punitive War: Confederate Guerrillas and Union Reprisals (University Press of Kansas, 2009).


Arthur B. Carter, The Tarnished Cavalier: Major General Earl Van Dorn, C.S.A. (Knoxville, 1999), 187.


Farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cabinet (New Hampshire), May 28, 1863 (reprinting an earlier article from the St. Louis Republican).


Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June 1863 (Mobile, 1864), 75-76.


Louis J. Dupre, Fagots from the Campfire (Washington, D.C., 1881), 118-119.


Carter, Tarnished Cavalier, 181-82. In researching Van Dorn, Carter contacted descendents of his adjutants and discovered an account of Manning Kimmel, as relayed by his son, describing the events in the month leading up to Van Dornâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s murder. Carterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s final chapter, based in part on that account, is an exquisite piece of historical detection.


Ibid., 182.


Ibid., 192.




Major General George B. McClellan, Proclamation to the People of Western Virginia, May 26, 1861, in United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records 129 vols. (Washington, 1880-1901), Series I, Volume 2, 48-49 (hereafter cited as OR).


McClellan to Lincoln, July 7, 1862, OR, Ser. I, Vol. 11, pt. 1, 73-74.


Halleck to McClellan, November 26, 1861, OR, Ser. I, Vol. 8, 818-819.


Report of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen W. Downey, May 20, 1862, OR, Ser. I, Vol. 15, 457.


William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman (New York, 2000), 245; Clay Mountcastle, Punitive War: Confederate Guerrillas and Union Reprisals (Lawrence, KS, 2009), 75-76.






11/8/11 3:33:54 AM

Custer: The End of Innocence â&#x2DC;&#x203A; {Cont. from p. 35} received a dishonorable discharge. When he returned to service, his harsh treatment of his men continued, as did their rancor toward him.š⠚ As for his enemies, the Indians, his opinions about them were ambivalent. On one hand, he viewed the natives as savages: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Stripped of the beautiful romance [found in literature], the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation of noble red man. We see him as he isâ&#x20AC;Śa savage in every sense of the wordâ&#x20AC;Śone whose cruel and ferocious nature far exceeds that of any wild beast of the desert.â&#x20AC;? On the other hand, he found much in Indian culture to admire and praised â&#x20AC;&#x153;their rude interchange of civilities, their barterings, races, dances, legends, strange customs, and fantastic ceremonies.â&#x20AC;? He respected their skill as warriors, hunters, and horsemen. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If I were an Indian,â&#x20AC;? he wrote tellingly, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I often think that I would greatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the free open plains,

rather than submit to the confined limits of a reservation, there to be the recipient of the blessed benefits of civilization, with its vices thrown in without stint or measure.â&#x20AC;? Yet his job largely entailed rounding up Indians who refused to go to the reservations or who had left the agencies for one reason or another. All in all, Custer never could manage to think like an Indian, and his inability to do so severely limited his effectiveness in fighting them. Red Star, an Arikara scout, claimed that â&#x20AC;&#x153;Custer had a heart like an Indian.â&#x20AC;?²⠰ Custer certainly liked to think so, but when it came to comprehending Indians, he saw only the surface, never the core. Even though Indians were not like Confederates (a good number of whom were Custerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s close personal friends from his days at West Point), he nevertheless tried to fight them using the tactics he had learned so well in the Civil War. Unlike his experiences in that war, Custer found himself leading charges against Indian villages that contained noncombatants, and inevitably women and children became casualties or suffered great hardships as a result of these lightning raids. At the Washita River, where Custer and the

7th Cavalry attacked a Cheyenne village in November 1868, he tried his best to keep troopers from harming noncombatants; in the end, the 7th took about 50 women and children prisoner. Reflecting his own ambivalence toward his enemy, Custer, like other officers, later raped some the women he had worked to protect (if Benteen is to be believed). In Virginia, where Sheridan and Custer so skillfully burned farms and gristmills to deprive the Confederacy of foodstuffs grown in the Shenandoah Valley, they never conducted operations against Virginia villages or towns that purposely put noncombatants into harmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s way. The ability of Indians to move quickly and prevent an attack on their villages worked against the lessons Custer had learned in the Civil War about the necessity for good reconnaissance. One could well argue that Union victory was built on the solid foundation of effective intelligence. But when it came to Indians, Custerâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and other Indian fightersâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;discovered that if they sent scouts too far forward, if they tried to get a lay of the land before developing a tactical plan, they risked being seen by the natives, which â&#x2DC;&#x203A; {Cont. on p. 68}

Victors in Blue How Union Generals Fought the Confederates, Battled Each Other, and Won the Civil War !LBERT!#ASTEL!WITH!"ROOKS!$!3IMPSON â&#x20AC;&#x153;Stimulating and controversial, Victors in Blue provides a pleasing narrative that is at once a clear overview of the warâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s military operations and a fascinating examination of its great commanders.â&#x20AC;?â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Steven E. Woodworth, author of This Great Struggle: Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Civil War â&#x20AC;&#x153;A succinct account, by an accomplished historian known for his common sense and perceptive insight, that provides an outstanding view of the leading Union generals amid the high drama of our Civil War.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Wiley Sword, author of Confederacyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville â&#x20AC;&#x153;Insightfully written with eloquence and wit, Victors in Blue is a pleasure to read.â&#x20AC;?â&#x20AC;&#x201D;William C. Davis, author of Lincolnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Men and Jefferson Davis !PAGES !!PHOTOS !!MAPS !#LOTH! WINTER 2011â&#x20AC;&#x201A; THE CIVIL WAR MONITOR

University Press of Kansas 0HONE!  !s!&AX!  !s!WWWKANSASPRESSKUEDU

CWM-FEA-JUMP.indd 67


11/8/11 1:08:28 PM

Custer: The End of Innocence ☛ {Cont. from p. 67} would eliminate the element of surprise and could easily result in the Indians fleeing across the countryside before cavalry companies could be deployed. The 7th’s Lieutenant Edward Godfrey pointed out that the “attack must be made with celerity and generally without the knowledge of the numbers of the opposing force.”²¹ Successful surprise, he said, depended upon luck. After the disaster of the Little Bighorn, critics inside and outside the army blamed Custer for mistakes that had cost the lives of 262 of his men. President Grant condemned Custer for committing errors and behaving rashly (he could hardly censure himself for allowing Custer to resume command of the 7th or find fault with the army, since as president he was also the commander in chief ). “I regard Custer’s massacre,” Grant said, “as a sacrifice of troopers, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary—wholly unnecessary.”²² Among Custer’s many blunders, said his detractors then and now, was his failure to conduct a proper reconnaissance of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian village on the Little Bighorn before attacking it. Actually Custer hoped to scout the village on June 25 and make his attack on the following day, but events conspired against him. He received several reports that his column had been spotted by the Indians, convincing him not to delay the assault and let the Indians


Price list upon request. Want lists invited. Top Prices paid for quality material. Member: MSS, UACC, CSA, SCV, APS BRIAN & MARIA GREEN P.O. Box 1816, CWM Kernersville, NC 27285-1816 ψ*E\

Letter from General “Stonewall” Jackson pertaining to death of valued officer of Battle of Kernstown.

disappear from the banks of the river. Even though he had been told the Indian village was huge and contained hundreds of tepees (and, thus, probably thousands of warriors), he could have no real idea of its size or the number of warriors his men would face. Besides, Custer was confident that no Indian force could defeat the 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry, even if the cavalry column was outnumbered. Custer’s experience was that Indians did not stand and fight when attacked by a force of any considerable strength; he had never heard of Indians launching a counterattack against cavalrymen. Some who later denounced Custer for his actions at the Little Bighorn claimed that he had disobeyed orders and thrown his soldiers into battle recklessly, either because of his incompetency or to prove his military prowess to political opponents including Grant and the Republican press and to political supporters in the Democratic Party. Truth be told, Custer was ambitious. After Washita, Custer wrote Libbie: “In years long numbered with the past when I was verging upon manhood, my every thought was ambitious—not to be learned, but to be great. I desired to link my name with acts of men and in such a manner as to be a mark of honor, not only to the present but to future generations.”²³ By the time of the 1876 campaign, his biggest hope was that success against the Sioux would result in a promotion to brigadier general. Detractors voiced their belief that Custer actually wished to become the Democratic presidential nominee in that election year. That accusation has absolutely no basis, except for a single joke that Custer made to his Indian scouts. Custer was a soldier, not a politician. If he wanted anything, he craved a star on his shoulder straps. But he was also a good enough soldier, despite his earlier mishaps and missteps, to avoid disobeying orders during a campaign (his court-martial in 1867 had taught him some hard lessons). When Custer and his column approached the Little Bighorn, he had developed only a sketchy plan for the assault and knew, because he could not take the risk of running reconnaissance, that the details would have to unfold on their own. In other words, Custer meant to rely on his instincts, which had served

him so well in the past. Yet his instinct couldn’t tell him that several factors were working against him. High hills and deep ravines obstructed his view of the landscape, and impeded communication with two separate battalions under the command of Benteen and Reno. That he first divided his regiment into battalions before launching the assault (and into two additional wings as the fight developed) is something he was— and still is—criticized for, especially since it is a basic military tenet never to divide an advancing force in the face of a superior enemy. The problem was that Custer did not know how many Indians he and his men would be fighting. But even knowing that the numbers might be large, Custer continued to believe that the Indians would not stand and fight, no matter how numerous they might be. Dividing his force was bold, even risky, but Custer must have considered it a calculated risk, one that the situation warranted and, one could argue, demanded. His decisions turned out to be calamitous, not because he made bad judgments but because so much of what he could know—and so much that he could not reasonably anticipate—ended up working against him and his men. IF CUSTER SUFFERED from faults, as indeed he did, one can argue that his shortcomings were shared by many young men of his generation, and encouraged by a nation with new goals and values. His fame made him more visible, and his flamboyance and recklessness made him controversial, even in his own lifetime, but he was not an anomaly. The Civil War had changed America; it had not only sent more than 620,000 of its young men to their graves, it had also exposed the survivors to horrors they otherwise could never have imagined and ordeals that altered their lives—and the very sense of their inner selves—for the rest of their days. After the fighting stopped, what these men had seen and experienced in the war could not be readily translated into everyday life. On both sides, men fought in the war to preserve life as it existed before the first shots were fired; when the war ended, everyone saw that the Old America had been obliterated, and a New America, a strange land that valued different manners and mores, had



CWM-FEA-JUMP.indd 68

11/8/11 1:08:28 PM

arisen, phoenix-like, from the ashes. The new, postwar America valued progress and the spread of civilization, which was precisely why men like Custer became necessary to remove from the path of settlement and the spread of commerce the last true vestiges of the Old America—the Indians. Appropriately enough, the first reports about Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn reached the East just as festivities began in Philadelphia to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States. The entire exhibit stressed the significance of American progress, know-how, and optimism. When news arrived about the Little Bighorn, the buoyant mood of the exhibit collapsed in disbelief and grief, a sadness that gripped the entire nation as the telegraph lines hummed with the details of Custer’s fate. As the reality of Custer’s death set in, white Americans now saw even greater justification for waging a hard war against hostile Indi-

ans who no longer served a purpose in the new Gilded Age of utilitarian industry and progress. The U.S. Army, which sought to solve “the Indian problem” by driving the natives off their lands, relegating them to squalid reservations, or hunting them down and killing them, as the 7th Cavalry successfully did on the Washita and meant to do at the Little Bighorn, needed men like George Armstrong Custer who would be ruthless, relentless, and unforgiving. There was no longer a place in the army, given its task of policing the plains and the deserts, for a general like Robert E. Lee, who prided himself—despite his own proclivity for mowing down the enemy—on his noble demeanor, his aristocratic bearing, his selfless and genteel style of leadership. Even the model of Ulysses S. Grant, the get-the-job-done, pragmatic, plain-spoken general, no longer fit the military’s needs out West. Grant as president wanted a peace policy toward the Indi-

ans; the army, including his old friends Sherman and Sheridan, convinced him that peace could not be possible while hostile Indians roamed freely across the Great Plains. All of them—Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer (and the entire federal government)—became tools for the railroads, which sought and received generous subsidies from Congress, the War Department, and the Department of the Interior in the form of free land as rights-of-way for their tracks. The railroads pushed and procured political measures that enabled them to transport “civilization” on their rails, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, while also making astronomical profits on the backs of laborers and the Indians who stood in their way. In nearly every respect, Custer became the model of the modern military general. Unfortunately for him, he perfectly suited the army and its desire to run down Indians; but he could not adjust to the new ☛ {Cont. on p. 70}


James Donovan, A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Big Horn—The Last Great Battle of the American West (New York and Boston, 2008), 37.


Eric J. Wittenberg, ed., At Custer’s Side: The Civil War Writings of James H. Kidd (Kent, Ohio, 2001), 79.

3 Robert M. Utley, Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier (Norman, Okla., 1988), 38. 4

Ibid., 6; Evan S. Connell, Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Big Horn (New York, 1984), 234.


Gregory J. W. Urwin, “Custer: The Civil War Years,” in Paul Andrew Hutton, The Custer Reader (Lincoln, Neb., 1992), 17; Kidd, At Custer’s Side, 80; U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 129 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1880-1901), Series 1, 36, Part 1, 813; Jeffry D. Wert, Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer (New York, 1997), 110.

6 Wert, Custer, 85; Nelson A. Miles, Serving the Republic: Memoirs of the Civil and Military Life of Nelson A. Miles (New York, 1911), 191-192. 7 8

See, especially, Utley, Cavalier in Buckskin, 210-211. Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand: Custer,

Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big17 Robert M. Utley, “The Little Big Horn,” in Hutton, ed., Custer Reader, 245. horn (New York, 2010), 47; Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 39. On Sherman’s phrase, 18 Eric J. Wittenberg, ed., One of Custer’s “the hard hand of war,” see Mark Grimsley, Wolverines: The Civil War Letters of Brevet The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Brigadier General James H. Kidd, 6th Michitoward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 gan Cavalry (Kent, Ohio, 2000), 56; Louise (New York, 1995). Barnett, Touched by Fire: The Life, Death, and Mythic Afterlife of George Armstrong 9 Marguerite Merington, The Custer Story: Custer (New York, 1996), 239; Glendolin The Life and Intimate Letters of General Damon Wagner, Old Neutriment (Boston, George A. Custer and His Wife Elizabeth 1934), 143; Don Rickey, Jr., Forty Miles a (New York, 1950), 160-161. Day on Beans and Hay (Norman, Okla., 1963), 70. 10 Gregory J. W. Urwin, Custer Victorious: The Civil War Battles of George Armstrong 19 Robert M. Utley, ed., Life in Custer’s CavCuster (Cranbury, N.J., 1983), 48. alry: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, 1867-1868 (Lincoln, Neb., 1987), 50; 11 James Donovan, Custer and the Little BigJay Monaghan, Custer: The Life of George horn: The Man, the Mystery, the Myth Armstrong Custer (Boston, 1959), 303. (Stillwater, Minn., 2002), 41. 12 Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 121-122. 13 Ibid., 122; Elizabeth B. Custer, Tenting on the Plains 2I[=SVOӗӞӞӟ Ӛәә*VE^MIV Hunt and Robert Hunt, eds., I Fought with Custer: The Story of Sergeant Windolph, Last Survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn (New York, 1947), 53. 14 Custer, Tenting on the Plains, 434. 15 Connell, Son of the Morning Star, 206. 16 Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 93; New York Herald, July 23, 1876, quoted in W. A. Graham, The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana (Harrisburg, Pa., 1953), 237.

20 G. A. Custer, My Life on the Plains (New York, 1876), 12, 21, 18; Orin Grant Libby, ed., The Arikara Narrative of Custer’s Campaign and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1920; Norman, Okla., 1998), 6. 21 E. S. Godfrey, “Custer’s Last Battle,” Century, 43 (January 1892): 367. 22 John Y. Simon et al., eds., The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, 31 vols. to date (Carbondale, Ill., 1967- ), 27: 251. 23 Custer, Tenting on the Plains, 552-553. 24 Utley, Cavalier in Buckskin, 105. 25 Philbrick, Last Stand, 311.



CWM-FEA-JUMP.indd 69

11/8/11 1:08:29 PM

Custer: The End of Innocence ☛ {Cont. from p. 69} army, the regular army, that differed so greatly from the Civil War volunteer forces he had led so magnificently. Nor could he readily transpose the skills he had acquired fighting a conventional war against the Confederates to the fluid context of waging a frontier war against an enemy that used highly unconventional tactics, which usually involved guerrilla methods of stealth and surprise or that uncanny ability to vanish into thin air before a battle could even begin. At the same time, Custer found out that he could do nothing to stop his officers and troopers from grousing about him or among themselves, even when he attempted to discipline them with harsh measures and cruel punishments. To a certain extent, he finally gave up trying. Instead, he sought to refashion the new army back into the old army that he had so fervently loved by encircling himself with family and friends. After exiling his worst enemies in the officer corps to other posts, and learning to rely on Philip Sheridan to smooth any feathers he ruffled in the War Department, Custer managed to live a nearly dulcet and mirthful life at Fort Lincoln. He was a lucky man, and he knew it. In an 1869 letter to Libbie, referring to a promotion that ironically never came to pass, Custer wrote that “if everything works favorably Custer luck is going to surpass all former experience.”²⁴

The Battle of Dandridge

☛ {Cont. from p. 50} to face west and the artillery had been brought up, it was nearly 8 p.m., and a light drizzle had begun to winter. Rebel infantrymen soon found ground softened into mud less to their liking than a hard freeze. McCook located Cameron, who authorized his regiments to support the cavalry, while Sturgis’ men fell into another ragged line just outside Dandridge. As the Pennsylvanian waited to see if Longstreet planned a night at-

Custer’s luck, of course, ran out at the Little Bighorn. But his luck ran out not because he was a bad general or because he was irresponsible or because he was a reprobate or because he didn’t know what he was doing when he attacked the Indian village on the Little Bighorn. His luck, for all intents and purposes, ran out on April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered at Appomattox—the day America took a great leap forward into the modern age, flying through the air toward the Centennial Exhibition, and left George Armstrong Custer, the Plains Indians, and a good number of other Americans, in the dust. I find it striking and haunting that one observer reported seeing Custer dead on Last Stand Hill with “a smile on his face.”²⁵ Perhaps Custer realized in his final moments that his fondest dream—to be great—had come true and that his name would be remembered down through time. That’s why a smile also came to my own face when I remembered Custer and that nimble reenactor who, despite his inaccurate age and the surroundings of a modern town, captured the essence of Custer as he ably lifted himself in one motion into the saddle and rode his horse down the street, straight and proud, into the dusk—and, as I’d like to think, off to the sound of the guns. GLENN W. LAFANTASIE is the Richard Frockt Professor of Civil War History and Director of the Institute for Civil War Studies at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. His most recent book is Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground (Indiana University Press, 2008).

tack, Parke and Granger rode up.²² The Federals’ situation was not— or should not have been—that serious. Longstreet had attacked with 4,500 men, and could call forth another 800 to 1,200 during the night. Around Dandridge, Parke had 2,000 demoralized cavalry and 2,500 infantry. Southwest of the town, Granger’s two divisions, totaling 10,000 soldiers, had the potential to deliver a crushing attack on the Confederate left once Sheridan crossed the French Broad. “Little Phil” had worked his men all day to construct a bridge by driving wagons into the river and planking over their beds. Consuming 25 condemned wagons brought for that purpose and still short

of the far shore, he cannibalized his supply train to span the final distance. By late afternoon the first infantry tramped across, only to discover that Sheridan had built a bridge to a large wooded island, on whose far side remained several hundred yards of icy water. Foster spoke of Sheridan’s “great mortification”; Sheridan never filed a report, and baldly lied about the incident in his memoirs. Parke took this miscue as a decisive omen, retreating during the night. “The troops fell into column sullen and silent,” remarked one Indiana officer. “After all our marching & fighting all winter, everything was lost in one big blunder.”²³ “The retreat seems to have been made somewhat hastily and not in very good order,” Longstreet reported, riding into Dandridge at dawn. “[T]he enemy is much demoralized.” He ordered Martin to harass the retreating Federals, though his horses lacked shoes and the rain had turned back into snow. Longstreet’s infantry was in no condition to pursue anyone; wrote one Georgian, “we had a hard time but that is very common now with Longstreets corps.” Nonetheless, Longstreet’s spirits had been revitalized by two days of tactical success.²⁴ When Martin reported Parke withdrawing past Strawberry Plains, he demanded relentless pursuit: “If you press him vigorously it will become a panic.” Convinced that he might stampede the Federals out of the region, Longstreet requested a pontoon bridge from Virginia—“by rail; I need it quick”—because the unexpected receipt of 2,000 shoes allowed him to consider advancing infantry in support of his horsemen.²⁵ Parke’s retreat created a furor bordering on panic. Foster credited rumors that 15,000 Rebels had reinforced Longstreet from Virginia—errant nonsense, but Foster was too sick and Parke too timid to realize it. Foster ordered Parke to send his trains and wounded back to Knoxville, and “to winter back on that place with his whole force should the enemy advance.” He wired Grant that he was preparing for another siege: “I … can stand him out here for ten days quite comfortably and for ten days more on horse-flesh if necessary.” The Illinoisan, about to depart for St. Louis to visit his desperately ill son, canceled his leave to coordinate a relief effort. Foster, Grant confided to Major General



CWM-FEA-JUMP.indd 70

11/8/11 1:08:29 PM

☛ Major General John G. Parke (above), whose retreat from Dandridge created a furor bordering on panic among Union forces.

George Thomas, would have to go: “as I want Longstreet routed and pursued beyond the limits of the State of Tennessee, it is necessary to have a commander physically able for the task.”²⁶ The panic quickly blew over. As far as most of the troops were concerned there had never been anything to be panicked about. The infantry, aside from the 93rd Ohio, had seen no action before being countermarched at the inexplicable whims of its officers. Had they been privy to the fears of their generals, the soldiers would have been as bemused as Brigadier General Jacob Cox, who received “verbal inquires” on January 22 “in regard to the condition of my command.” Cox gently reassured Foster that the XXIII Corps “will most cheerfully undergo every hardship, and endure patiently every privation which a real military necessity may impose.” Foster recovered his aplomb in a few days (Parke and Granger had none to recover), wiring Grant on January 20 that he now discounted reports of Longstreet being reinforced, and was “doubtful of his intention to attack us here.” Grant left for St. Louis.²⁷ Longstreet maintained the facade of an attack on Knoxville for two weeks, though the only real fighting consisted of inconsequential cavalry actions. Sturgis thrashed Martin

in embarrassing fashion south of the French Broad on January 27. “General Martin had a severe cavalry fight,” Longstreet dryly informed Richmond. “He was driven back 4 miles, with a loss of 200 killed, wounded, and missing, and 2 pieces of artillery…. Do send me a chief of cavalry.” The following day Sturgis blundered headlong into Martin’s other division, more capably commanded by Frank Armstrong and supported by Johnson’s infantry. Armstrong ambushed the Federals south of Dandridge, shooting them up from the front as Johnson marched toward their rear. According to George Dibrell, one of Armstrong’s brigade commanders, Sturgis “retreated thirty-five miles before stopping ... and reported at Sevierville he had fought all of Longstreet’s Infantry.” Such claims usually represented hyperbole, but in this case Dibrell might have been reading over Sturgis’ shoulder.²⁸ Grant’s demands and Longstreet’s aspirations notwithstanding, neither side had the strength or the supplies to seize all of East Tennessee. They could only spar impotently, causing needless casualties and siphoning off resources better committed elsewhere. Foster summed up the situation on January 29, insisting, “We should avoid fighting a great battle in this section of the State. Large armies cannot be supported here for any length of time.”²⁹ Unfortunately, Major General John M. Schofield was already travelling to Knoxville to relieve him, and Grant was no longer listening. Soon, both Grant and Longstreet headed toward Virginia, to participate in the climactic showdown that would begin in the Wilderness a few months later. Most of Schofield’s troops would be sent to reinforce Major General William T. Sherman’s advance into Georgia. The sacrifices of barefoot soldiers on both sides around Dandridge and Knoxville that winter would become a nearly forgotten footnote of the war. Their bloody footprints literally marked a road leading nowhere. STEVEN H. NEWTON is Professor of History and Political Science at Delaware State University. He is the author of nine books, including Joseph E. Johnston and the Defense of Richmond (University Press of Kansas, 1998) and Lost for the Cause: The Confederate Army in 1864 (Savas Publishing, 2000).

Faded Glory

☛ {Cont. from p. 60} an enthusiastic participant in the GAR. He was also an amateur entertainer with a small reputation for telling usually fictional accounts of his own war service and singing (badly) war songs at ad hoc variety shows or veterans’ gatherings. In his memoir the younger Anderson harshly recounts the senior Anderson’s irresponsibility and emotional absence, yet he also reveals some empathy by admitting that his father’s desperate “veteranizing” reflected his realization that “he would never be a hero again” and that “all the rest of his life” would never measure up to those few years of his youth. The war, “that universal, passionate, death-spitting thing,” would have to last a lifetime. Perhaps, although veterans could not, obviously, forget that experience, even if they wanted to, it more easily faded from non-veterans’ consciousness.²⁴ A correspondent to a veterans’ newspaper a few years after the war recognized the irony that Americans could express their gratitude so easily and publicly to the dead with speeches and ceremonies and by strewing their graves with flowers, while they ignored the needy veterans who still lived all around them. Remembering the dead was well and good—they had, after all, made the ultimate sacrifice for the Union—but “let us also remember him who shared in the soldier’s toils, and lived, perhaps to eke out a life of hardship bereft of limb, perhaps of sight, and, maybe, reason…. [I]n heaven’s name, while we remember the dead let us not forget the living.” During the decades after the Civil War, many old soldiers no doubt thought that Americans had, indeed, forgotten them.²⁵ JAMES MARTEN is professor and chair of the history department at Marquette University and current president of the Society of Civil War Historians. He has written or edited more than a dozen books, including Sing Not War: The Lives of Union & Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (University of North Carolina Press, 2011). He is currently working on a biography of James “Corporal” Tanner, a Civil War veteran, double-amputee, and famed GAR speaker.



CWM-FEA-JUMP.indd 71

11/8/11 1:08:31 PM

Winterizing Houses, Civil War-style


In 1863, Charles B. Baker, a Philadelphiabased agent for Browne’s Metallic Weather Strips, found a creative way to push his wares, fashioning this clever—and attention-grabbing—advertisement in the style of military proclamations of the day.



In 1863, Charles B. Baker, a Philadelphiabased agent for Browne’s Metallic Weather Strips, found a creative way to push his wares, fashioning this clever—and attention-grabbing—advertisement in the style of military proclamations of the day.




11/8/11 3:28:28 AM









     $'&#             "


             * !          " $%#     )      











11/8/11 3:28:56 AM

The#++%0%#*+().of the #-#%) ))#*

â&#x20AC;&#x153;There is a wealth of information and ideas in this book. . . . Intellectually challenging and thought-provoking. . . . [It] will expand your understanding of America entering the Civil War.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;    #-#%) %(!

â&#x20AC;&#x153;The first inclusive history of Civil War diplomacy in more than four decades . . . An engaging, analytical, and compact assessment. . . . A most welcome account.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;American Historical Review

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Religion in the Civil War has been an understudied subject, but Rableâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s thorough study goes a long way toward rectifying the neglect. . . . A heroic feat of research.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;&*")*(' in The New York Review of Books

â&#x20AC;&#x153;A cogently reasoned intellectual history of a frequently misunderstood historical term. . . . Varon successfully weaves together political debates, contemporary journalism, literary fiction and nonfiction, sermons from pulpits of the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading churches and other sources of popular culture.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Civil War Times

â&#x20AC;&#x153;The finest Lincoln scholar in the country at his very bestâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and there is nothing better.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;)(%(%/)

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;     â&#x20AC;&#x201D; â&#x20AC;&#x153;An excellent overview of the Civil War in the western theater. Covering all significant campaigns and incorporating subjects either ignored or only lightly touched on in other operational histories, this is a book of unusual breadth and depth.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D;#%%#&", author of Pea Ridge and Fields of Blood

For more information or to subscribe, visit

 )** (&&&()+* +"+" ''#-)*).( +" #-#%)


The official journal of the Society of Civil War Historians

Most UNC Press books are also available as E-Books.

(,)*+*%%#'! #-#%) ARGE '.( (($*)%*(-#%%#' PRINT *.+()!)#'+ #+#('*

the university of north carolina press at bookstores or 800-848-6224 s


11/8/11 3:34:54 AM

Issue 2  

This is the second issue of The Civil War Monitor.

Issue 2  

This is the second issue of The Civil War Monitor.