Monday, November 26, 2018

We Ride A Whirlwind - REVIEW

   I am always on the lookout for books about North Carolina and the War. The vast majority of the tomes I have written are on the subject, and I'm always looking for others to help increase awareness of what took place in the Old North State. Recently, I had a chance to pick up a copy of Eric Wittenberg's We Ride A Whirlwind: Sherman and Johnson at Bennett Place (Fox Run Publishing, 2017).

   Everyone who has studied the War is familiar with the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865. It is the subject of several books and the site of a National Park. The surrender of Joseph E. Johnson to William T. Sherman in North Carolina often seems to be a mere footnote, although Johnson surrendered more Confederate troops and a huge swath of territory. The literature of Johnson's surrender continues to grow, and might actually surpass that of the more famous episode in Virginia.

   We Ride A Whirlwind picks up the story following the battle of Bentonville. Following the March 1865 battle, Johnston moved his army back toward Raleigh, and eventually toward Greensboro. The victorious Federals moved on to Goldsboro for a brief rest and refitting. On April 13, 1865, Sherman's armies entered Raleigh. Jefferson Davis and the Confederate cabinet officers evacuated Richmond on the night of April 2, 1865, and moved to Danville, and then on to Greensboro, arriving on April 11, 1865. Davis and some of the cabinet met with Johnston and Beauregard in Greensboro and agreed to send a letter to Sherman, asking for a cease-fire so surrender terms could be worked out. Johnson and Sherman met at the Bennett Farm, outside Durham, on April 17 and 18, working out a set of terms that surrendered not only Johnson his army, but Davis and other civil officers as well. Copies of these terms were signed and sent to President Andrew Johnson in Washington, D.C., and to Jefferson Davis in Charlotte. Davis accepted the terms. However, Johnson rejected the terms, and Grant was sent to Raleigh to take over the negations. Sherman, thanks to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, was belittled by the press, a slight for which Sherman never forgave Stanton. Soon thereafter, Johnson and Sherman worked out new terms, based upon those Grant had given Lee at Appomattox. Despite the directives of Jefferson Davis, Johnson surrendered to Sherman at the Bennett Place on April 26, 1865.

   Unlike other volumes about the Confederate surrender at the Bennett Place, Wittenburg's goes into great detail about the Sherman-Stanton feud, outlining the missives that passed between Sherman, Grant, Stanton, and Union General Henry Halleck. He reprints letters and portions of memoirs completely, allowing readers to see for themselves the back and forth between top Federal commanders and their civilian handlers. Those letters are the book's greatest strengths, laying out the frustrations felt by Sherman as the capitulation of the entire Confederacy hung in the balance. But Andrew Johnston and Edwin Stanton were not interested in receiving the surrender of Jefferson Davis, believing to do so would have acknowledged the legitimacy of the Confederacy.

   My only real complaint would be the maps. There are four, three of which are really hard to read (maybe my eyes are getting old). There are numerous illustrations spread through the 292 pages. The book includes copious footnotes, a bibliography, and index. Overall, Eric Wittenburg's We Ride A Whirlwind is a fine, detailed edition to the literature surrounding the negotiations that led to the largest surrender of Confederate soldiers during the War. The events that transpired at the Bennett Place are just as important as those at Appomattox.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Jingling Hole

It is often said that there were 10,500 "battles, engagements, and other military actions" during the Civil War. That is somewhere around seven engagements per day, for those four years of the war. But at the same time, the war "happened" at tens of thousands of places. Troops mustered in front of courthouses, they boarded trains at depots and ship at wharfs. They were surprised and captured at sites where no shots were fired. As I have written before, the war happened locally, in my backyard, just like it happened at Chancellorsville and Chickamauga. Yet no one really ever talks about these minor events. While not on the same scale as say, Gettysburg, they were just as destructive to local communities.

The Johnson County-Ashe/Watauga County area from a 1865 map. 

Johnson County, Tennessee, is tucked up on the border of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. The 1860 census lists 5,018 residents. When it came time to vote on the secession issue, Johnson County voters voted 787 to 111 against secession. To my knowledge, no one has ever broken down the 1860 Johnson County census to examine who remained loyal to the Union, who joined to Confederacy, and who simply attempted to stay out of the conflict altogether. I will add that voting overwhelmingly to remain with the Union is not a good litmus test regarding military enlistment.  Neighboring Watauga County, North Carolina, voted 536 to 72 against calling a convention, yet sent 793 men (and one woman) to the Confederate army.

It is often written that Johnson County was a Unionist stronghold, and that might very well be true. The pro-Confederate clerk was reportedly forced to flee from the area. Captain Roby Brown supposedly led the Johnson County home guard (Confederate). He was a member of the group led by Col. George N. Folk who attacked a group of dissidents at Fish Springs on the Johnson-Carter County border. It was a group of Unionists or dissidents that raided into the Bethel Community of Watauga County in August of 1863, plundering the farms of George Evans, Paul Farthing, and Thomas Farthing. The latter was killed in the skirmish. Later, Levi Guy, the father of two of the raiders, was caught and hanged. John Hunt Morgan's men supposedly raided into Johnson County, burning the homes of thirty-seven Unionists. Bushwhacking was so bad that in 1864, local pro-Confederate residents petitioned Confederate officials for protection, writing that "our county is infested with several bands of bushwhackers, murders, and deserters, who are committing depredations upon the lives and property of Southern citizens to such an alarming extent that a great many of them had to leave their homes." (Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook)

One of the most famous stories about Johnson County and the war was published by Christopher Coleman in 1999. Coleman writes of a local geological feature known as "The Jingling Hole." The origins of the Jingling Hole are unknown. It could have been a natural formation, or an old mine worked by Native Americans or maybe even the Spanish (my speculation). Regardless, according to Coleman, an iron bar had been placed over the top, "just the right thickness for a man to wrap his hands around." "A prisoner would be taken to the Jingling Hole and at gunpoint made to grip the iron bar and hang suspended over the pit. At first they would just let the prisoner dangle there a while, laughing and making crude jokes as his hands gradually went numb. Then he would finally lose his grip and plunge into the blackness of the pit. After a time, though, this sport got a little dull, so they improved on it a bit. As the prisoner dangled over the abyss, the booted bushwhackers would proceed to stamp on his hands. First one hand, then the other, then back to the first. As they pounded their victim's hands with the boot heels, their spurs would jingle a sprightly rhythm punctuated by the occasional cry of pain from the poor prisoner. Hence the name Jingling Hole." (89)

Of course, this may all be just legend.  Coleman's book is entitled Ghost and Haunts of the Civil War: Authentic Accounts of the Strange and Unexplained. There is also a mention of the Jingling Hole in the 1970 book Tennessee Legends. There is also a Jingle Hole in Madison County, Kentucky, and a Jingle Hole near Stainforth, North Yorkshire, Great Britain.

We will probably never know if the Jingling Hole was really the site of nefarious deeds during the War years. As I have often said, there is probably some truth there someplace. The site, not far from Mountain City, is just one of thousands that have a war-time connection but that that don't exactly fit on the 10,500 list.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Revision: 1,500 Confederate regiments

I recently found the late Arthur Bergeron's Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865, on my own shelf. Not sure why I did not look at it when I made my initial post a few weeks back. Crute's Units of the Confederate States Army lists 77 infantry, cavalry, and artillery organizations from Louisiana. Bergeron lists 111. So, the new number of Confederate regiments, battalions, and batteries raised during the war stands at 1,500. I image this number will continue to rise.
A couple of days ago, I received this question through my contact form, from Edgar: "I found many union regimental histories/biographies on the Hathi Digital website when I was researching Sherman's march campsites (Goldsboro-Raleigh) last winter, but I can't find much about Confed. regiments there." So, why not more Confederate regimentals? That's a question. The reason that a person cannot find more Confederate regimentals on online databases like HathiTrust is probably because they were not written.

Using North Carolina as a guide, we find in Stewart Sifakis's Compendium 233 Confederate regiments, battalions, and batteries. Of those 233 organizations, only seven had histories written and published by the veterans themselves. Those seven are:

Harris, Historical Sketches of the Seventh Regiment North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865 (1893)
Smith, The Anson Guards: Company C, Fourteenth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers 1861-1865 (1914)
Mills, History of the 16th North Carolina Regiment in the Civil War (1901)
Carr, History of Company E, 20th N. C. Regiment 1861-1865: Confederate Grays. (1905)
Underwood, The 26th Regiment N.C. Troops, Pettigrew's Brigade, Heth's Division, Hill's Corps, A. N. V. 1861-1865 (1901)
Sloan, Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B 27th N. C. Regiment (1883)
Day, A True History of Company I, 49th Regiment North Carolina Troops (1893)

If my math is right, that is only 3 percent of North Carolina regiments, battalions, and batteries that had a book written about their service prior to the 1960s. To take this a step further, of the seven, only three are actually regimental histories. The others deal with companies. Now, to North Carolina's credit, the North Carolina Confederate Veterans Association, under the direction of Walter Clark, began to collect essays by veterans about their regiments at the turn of the 20th century. This was later published in 1901 in a five-volume set. To my knowledge, no other state has anything equal to this: a short history of almost every regiment, written by a veteran of that regiment. (By the way, all five of these volumes have been digitized and are online.)

   So to answer the question posed, the reason there is not more information on these regiments is because the veterans did not write down their histories. Union regimentals are plentiful. Confederates, not so much.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Examining new recruits.

Once a young man (or sometimes an older man) joined the army, he was supposed to be examined by a surgeon or doctor.

Turning back to the Confederate regulations and the recruiting service, new recruits were required to be examined. Article #1453 states: "The superintendent or commanding officer will cause a minute and critical inspection to be made of every recruit received at a depot, two days after his arrival; and should any recruit be found unfit for service, or to have been enlisted contrary to law or regulations, he shall assemble a Board of Inspectors, to examine into the case. A board may also be assembled in a special case, when a concealed defect may become manifest in a recruit, at any time during his detention at the depot." (Regulations of the Confederate Army, 1863, 394)

William M. Whisler, Asst. Surg. 1st SC (Orr's)
Article #1455 reads: "Recruits received at a military post or station shall be carefully inspected by the commanding officer and surgeon, on the third day after their arrival; and if, on such inspection, any recruit, in their opinion, be unsound or otherwise defective, in such a degree as to disqualify him for the duties of a soldier, then a Board of Inspectors will be assembled to examine into and report on the case." (Regulations of the Confederate Army, 1863, 394)

The latter requirement is reiterated elsewhere. Article #1194 states "As soon as a recruit joins any regiment or station, he shall be examined by the medical officer, and vaccinated when it is required, vaccine virus being kept on hand by timely requisition on the Surgeon General." (Regulations of the Confederate Army, 1863, 238)

Chisolm's A Manual of Military Surgery stated that new a recruit "before he is received undergoes a critical examination by the recruiting medical officer, who rejects all blemishes as well as those conditions showing a predisposition to disease..." (16)

Just what did that critical examination look like? Turning again to the Confederate Army Regulations, article #1192: "In passing a recruit, the medical officer is to examine him stripped; to see that he has free use of limbs; that his chest is ample; that his hearing, vision, and speech are perfect; that he has no tumors or ulcerated or extensively cicatrized legs; no rupture, or chronic cutaneous affection; that he has not received any contusion, or wound of the head, which may impair his faculties; that he is not a drunkard; is not subject to convulsions, and has no infectious disorder, nor any other that may unfit him for military service." (238)

Obviously, some surgeons faithfully did their jobs. There were 27 men rejected from the 37th North Carolina Troops. Not once do the compiled service records list why these men were rejected. Usually, it has their enlistment date, and simply that they were rejected. It is unclear if they were examined by a local doctor, or if they were rejected once they arrived at camp and were examined by a post surgeon. Many of these men later joined other regiments. Soldiers seldom wrote home about the process of being inspected by a surgeon.

Surg. Walter T. Adair 2nd Cherokee Mnt. Vol.
But there were obviously lapses in the inspection process. Sarah Malinda Blalock joined the 26th North Carolina Troops in March 1862, under the name of "Sam Blalock." She posed under the guise of her husband's younger brother. She was in the army for a month, apparently never examined by a surgeon. It was only her disclosure, after her husband's discharge, which led to her dismissal from the army.

As time went on, reason for being rejected decreased. In February 1863, orders informed examining officers that defects such as "general debility," "slight deformity," partial deafness, speech impediment "unless of a very aggravated character," functional heart trouble, muscular rheumatism, epilepsy-unless clearly proven, varicocele-"unless excessive," myopia, hemorrhoids-"unless excessive," "opacity of one cornea, or the loss of one eye," "loss of one or two finger," and "single reducible hernia" were "not deemed sufficient and satisfactory for exemption." (Cunningham, Doctors in Gray, 164)

It would be interesting to note (or track) any upticks in a regiment's members on a sick list, before and then after February 1863. Of course, new regiments suffered from measles, mumps, and a host of other calamities that ran rampant through the camps. Was there an uptick of new recruits (post February 1863) hospitalized for one of the ailments listed above? A more serious question would be: how did the revised regulations strain the Confederate hospital system?

I'll be watching for mentions of new recruits being examined as I continue my read through Confederate letters and diaries.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Becoming a Confederate soldier

The title of this post seems to have a simple answer: join the Confederate army, or, as the song says, "Jine the Cavalry." But it is a little more complicated. There were certain steps that had to be taken for a person to be recognized as a Confederate soldier. He had to enlist, be sworn in or take an Oath, and be read the Articles of War.

Confederate recruiting poster 
Several years ago, I was reading through the Federal pension applications for William M. "Keith" Blalock. Yep. That Blalock. He enlisted in the Confederate army (Company F, 26th North Carolina Troops) on March 20, 1862, and discharged by reason of "hernia" and "poison from sumac" on April 20, 1862. In that month, he had time to get from his home in the mountains of western North Carolina, all the way to Kinston, down toward the coast. In his pension application, Blalock states that he was never officially enrolled in the Confederate army. Now, Blalock might have been lying (he certainly stretched the truth regarding his war-time wounds, at least in the eyes of the pension board), but his statement regarding his enrollment shows that there was a process that had to be followed for an individual to be considered a Confederate soldier.

Step one in that process was to enlist or enroll. Early in the war, this was in a local company. Often, a member of the community would get permission to raise a company. When the company neared the number of required men, there were elections for officers. Usually (but not always), the person who had permission to raise the regiment was elected. Local men in the community volunteered to serve, or enlisted in the company. Usually, some type of sheet was signed, the volunteer agreeing to serve for a certain amount of days - six months, or a year. The man was then enrolled.

Step two was being mustered into service. When a new company had enough men, the captain wrote a letter to the governor or state adjutant general, stating that there were enough men present for the company, and offering their services to the state. Soon a letter would arrive, ordering the company to one of the training camps. The new soldiers would load up and march to the nearest railroad depot, then embark for a training camp. (Usually, but there are always exceptions). Once there were 10 companies at one of these camps, the company officers were authorized to get together and elect a colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major. The regiment was created and then men mustered into service. A company could spend two or three months in a camp before enough companies were present to create a regiment. Once this was finalized, the regiment was mustered into Confederate service.

During the mustering process, when the regiment was actually formed and then given to the Confederate States Army, the soldiers swore an Oath to the Confederacy. (Confederate regulation states the Oath had to be taken within six days of enlisting in Confederate service. Before this time, they still belonged to the state.) The Oath went:

The way the Northern Press viewed Confederate enlistment.
   "I ____ _____, do solemnly swear or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the Confederate States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the Confederate States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for government of the armies of the Confederate States." (From Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, 1863, 386.)

Step three  involved being read the Articles of War. The Confederate (and Union) army was governed by the 101 Articles of War. These rules governed the soldier and meted out punishments for those who broke these rules. These articles were supposed to be read to new recruits and to regular soldiers every month, "after the inspection." Parts of the articles that dealt with "the duties of non-commissioned officers and soldiers will be read to them every week." (From Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, 1863, 364.)

Once these three steps were completed, the new recruit was considered as having been "duly enlisted and sworn" into Confederate service. Information about the actual process, documented in the writings of Confederate soldiers, seems to be rather slim.  (From Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, 1863, 408.)

Back to old Keith Blalock. He wrote in his pension files that he was never officially enrolled in the Confederate army. He obviously volunteered and enlisted, but maybe he never swore that oath or was never read the Articles of War. While I do not think we can ever be sure, he obviously made that distinction. He did join the Confederate army, but he was never properly enrolled in the Confederate service.

Monday, October 08, 2018

1,466 Confederate regiments....

Company K, 4th Georgia Infantry. 

   Last night, during my facebook live Sunday Night History discussion, I mentioned about how we really don't know how many Confederate regiments or separate organizations there were during the war. In William Fox's Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, published in 1889, he advances the number of 1,069 regiments, battalions, or batteries of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Fox writes that there "were all troops of the line, and they served during the whole, or greater part of the war. The number does not include regiments which served a short time only; neither does it include disbanded or consolidated regiments, nor the State militia, Junior Reserves, Senior Reserves, Home Guards, Local Defense regiments, and separate companies."

   Looking at Joseph H. Crute, Jr.'s Units of the Confederate Army, I find 1,324 Confederate regiments, battalions, or batteries of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Crute does include, at least in North Carolina, the junior reserves, but not the senior reserve companies.

   Going a step further, Stewart Sifakis's Compendium of the Confederate Armies: North Carolina (the only volume I have), lists 233 Confederate organizations from North Carolina. That differs somewhat from Crute. He only listed 91 separate organizations from North Carolina (compared with 240 for Virginia). Crute lumped all of North Carolina's  artillery batteries into their respective regiments - i.e., ten batteries in the 1st North Carolina Artillery. The 1st North Carolina Artillery never functioned as a regiment. If we subtract 91 from Crute's 1,324, and add 233, we have 1,466 regiments, battalions, etc. I wonder if, after going through Sifakis's other volumes, what number we might come up with?

   None of these numbers includes the militia and home guard battalions. Should they be included? Both the militia and home guard were used to enforce Confederate Conscription law. And at times, they battled regular Federal forces, such as the skirmish in Boone, North Carolina, on March 28, 1865.

Will we ever know how many Confederate regiments, battalions, or batteries of infantry, cavalry, and artillery there were during the 1860s? Probably not, but I'd like to come close.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The Senator from Tennessee Accompanied Stonewall Jackson's Remains.

For the past few weeks, I've been spending a great deal of time reading deeply into the history of the Army of Northern Virginia. Most of that reading has centered around the staff of various high-ranking generals. I've perused the letters or reminiscences of Francis Dawson, Charles Marshall, Moxley Sorrel,Thomas Goree, Campbell Brown, Jed Hotchkiss, Walter Taylor, Henry Kyd Douglas, and maybe one or two others.

This past week, I've been reading Bean's biography on Sandie Pendelton. While I have read on Jackson and his death (and written about it on several occasions) something caught my eye and gave me pause. Pendleton was one of the officers who escorted Jackson's remains from Richmond to Lexington. Also in the party, according to Bean, are Jim Lewis, James Power Smith, Dr. Hunter McGuire, Governor Letcher, and Confederate Senator Gustavus A. Henry of Tennessee. (124) Why the Confederate Senator from Tennessee? Why not Allen T. Caperton or Robert M. T. Hunter, senators from Virginia, or maybe George Davis or William T. Dortch, senators from North Carolina? Mary Anna Morrison Jackson was from North Carolina, and the idea of burying Jackson in Charlotte was briefly considered. But why Henry?

Sen. Gustavus A. Henry
So I went looking into the biographies of Jackson. James I. Robertson only mentions Governor Letcher and his wife, and other "friends," but does not mention Henry. (728) Vandiver, in Mighty Stonewall, ends with his death and does not include burial. Neither does Farwell in his biography, nor Henderson in his. Burke Davis does, but not who escorted the remains. The same is true for Gwynne's Rebel Yell. Chambers writes that the party consisted of members of Jackson's staff, General Ewell, Governor Letcher and an aide, Col. S. Bassett French, "and a number of others boarded the train," but no mention of Henry. (2:455) Dabney simply states that the widow and General staff accompanied Jackson's remains, but makes no mention of anyone else. (731) Cocke makes no mention of who accompanied the remains to Lexington.

Bean gives two sources for this information. The first is an article from the Lynchburg Virginian, published May 12, 1863. I checked all three of my online sources, and apparently, that newspaper has not been digitized. The second is the diary of William M. Blackford, which also does not appear digitized. (It is held by the University of Virginia.) Online research can only take us so far.

Who was Gustavus A. Henry? First off, there does not appear to be biography of Henry. His papers are held on microfilm at the Southern Historical Society at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, as well as a few other institutions. Turning to Warner and Yearns' Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress, we learn that Henry was born in Scott County, Kentucky in 1804. Henry graduated from Transylvania University in 1825, studied law, and practiced in Georgetown, also serving in the Kentucky legislature. Later, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and became a leading member of the Whig party. Known as the "eagle orator of Tennessee," Henry served in the Tennessee Senate, and was twice defeated for the governorship by Andrew Johnson. Henry was one of the two Confederate senators from Tennessee, the other being Landon Carter Haynes. After the war, Henry retired from politics, died in 1880, and is buried in Clarksville. (116-117)

None of that gives any indications that Stonewall Jackson and Henry, or Mary Anna Morrison Jackson and Henry, had ever met. Yet one of those two war-time sources mentions that Gustavus A. Henry was along for the train ride from Richmond, at least to Lynchburg. Maybe the next time I get to Virginia, I can track down these two sources.

PS: Since Jefferson Davis and Henry were friends, did Davis ask Henry to be the Government's representative? Just a thought.