Gen Sheridan - Battle of Cedar Creek

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, on October 19, 1864. As future US President, Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes looked to the south, he saw an appalling sight. Out of the fog, driving a disorganized throng of half dressed Union stragglers before it - came a solid gray line of Confederates. These were General Gordon' s men advancing.

It was a strange retreat. The men were not frantic, remembered Captain S.E. Howard of the XIX Corps, "only stolidly, doggedly, determined to go the rear." A few units here and there paused to shoot back, but US General Crook's command had come completely undone. "The broad plain was a scene of rout," one of Crook's staff officers recalled, "wagons, ambulances, artillery, soldiers without commanders, commanders without soldiers, every fellow for himself, moving backwards in sullen discouragement in the faces of the yelling victors".

21009 - Major General Philip Sheridan; 'Little Phil' [LC-DIG-cwpbh-01009]21009 - Major General Philip Sheridan; 'Little Phil' [LC-DIG-cwpbh-01009]On October 19, 1864, General Phillip Sheridan's journey from Winchester to the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia is one of the most famous rides in military history and contributed to the re-election of President Lincoln.

Returning to his Cedar Creek headquarters, "Just as we made the crest of the rise above the stream," Sheridan recalled, "there burst upon our view the appalling spectacle of a panic stricken army - hundreds of slightly wounded men, throngs of others unhurt but thoroughly demoralized, and baggage wagons by the score, all pressing to the rear in hopeless confusion."

Sheridan barked out some orders, selected some men to ride with him to the field. Sheridan, on his big black gelding Rienzi, took the road at a rapid clip. As he went, Sheridan waving his cap and pointing to the front yelled, "Come on back, boys! Give 'em hell, God d___ 'em! We'll make coffee out of Cedar Creek tonight! The fleeing men saw him, stopped, cheered, turned around and began to follow him toward the front.

On the field, Sheridan spent two hours organizing the men into a solid line facing the Confederates. Preparations complete, Sheridan rode down the entire two mile front, cap in hand, showing himself to every soldier on the line. "I'll get a twist on these people yet," he yelled. we'll raise them out of their boots before the day is over!"

"Cheers seemed to come from throats of brass, and caps were thrown to the tops of the scattering oaks", recalled Major Walker.

At almost 4:00 p.m. an ominous silence fell over the field. "Even the batteries were still. The suspense was terrible", recalled Col James Kidd. In the awful quiet the rival armies - 45,000 men in all - waited for the inevitable.

Then the order came - "Attention! Shoulder arms! Forward! March! And with martial tread and floating flags the line of battle is away," recalls Major Forsyth. Confederate cannon erupted, Federal guns replied and musketry began to ripple down the lines.

What began as a rout, Sheridan turned into a Union victory, driving the Confederates permanently out of the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan's dramatic role in the victory, along with the readings of Thomas Buchanan Read's poem, "Sheridan's Ride", gave the North hope that the War could be won. Horace Greeley's influential New York Tribune called it "a magnificent lyric" and ran the seven stanzas of "Sheridan's Ride" on page one. A grateful government rewarded Sheridan with permanent promotion to the rank of major general in the Regular Army.

Gen Lawrence Sullivan Ross - Battle of Hatchie's Bridge

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge, Tennessee, on October 5, 1862. "After a few irregular volleys, they broke and ran a gauntlet of death trying to renegotiate the bridge", wrote one Union soldier describing the retreat.

After the Battle of Corinth, Confederate General Dorn's army had crossed the Hatchie River with stragglers still crossing when Union General Ord's forces caught up. During the confusion some men dived in the river to escape, abandoning artillery. Others charged back over the bridge to fight off the Union troops, creating a blockage on the bridge. Acting brigade commander, 24 year old Colonel Ross, gave the retreat order. Despite the confusion and carnage Ross' order saved most of his command and the bulk of Dorn's army was able to evade capture. This action led directly to Ross’s promotion to Brigadier General.

11004 - General Lawrence Sullivan Ross11004 - General Lawrence Sullivan RossDuring his service in the war, General Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross took part in 135 battles and engagements and had 5 horses shot under him. First as major and then as colonel of his regiment, Ross took part in numerous western campaigns, including those of Pea Ridge, Corinth, and Van Dorn’s Tennessee. He was promoted to Brigadier General in December 1863 and commanded the Texas Cavalry Brigade.

Ross, unlike other Civil War Generals, had not attended West Point. He graduated from Wesleyan University but spent the summer of his junior year with the United States Army fighting the Comanche. In December 1860, he took part in the Battle of Pease River, in which Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been kidnapped as a child, was recovered. This exploit won the praise of the regular army officers for his skill and courage and popularity in the state of Texas.

Ross was a consistently effective General. For example, the Battle of Nashville was fought in bitter cold on Dec. 15-16, 1864. Ross was at Murfreesboro when General George Thomas attacked Hood’s Army of Tennessee. Ross’s Texans captured a Federal supply train, took 150 prisoners, then set the boxcars on fire after removing much needed sugar, coffee, hardtack, clothing plus other badly needed supplies. Hood was soundly defeated and retreated. Ross provided the retreating Army of Tennessee with a rear guard.

After the war Ross took up farming, was elected Governor twice and served as the President of Texas A&M. Within weeks of Ross's death in 1898, former cadets at Texas AMC began gathering funds for a statue.

In more recent years, students began the tradition of placing pennies at the feet of statue before exams for good luck. School legend states that Ross would often tutor students, and as payment would accept only a penny for their thoughts. At exam time, his statue, located in Academic Plaza, is often covered in pennies.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow - Confederate Spy, with daughter "Little Rose" at Old Capitol Prison

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the October 1, 1864 drowning death of Confederate spy and unofficial diplomat, Rose Greenhow. When asked about this unusual appointment, civil war historian James McPherson replied, "Not only would Davis not have worried about sending a woman to Europe on a diplomatic mission, Davis would have been convinced that this particular woman was the best person for the job because her imprisonment in a Union 'Bastille' had evoked indignation and sympathy abroad, especially among the upper classes in Britain and France , where it was seen as an example of Yankee oppression and vulgarity. Sending Greenhow was a stroke of genius by Davis."

Rose O'Neal Greenhow - Confederate Spy, with Daughter 'Little Rose', at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C., 1862 -04849Rose O'Neal Greenhow - Confederate Spy, with Daughter 'Little Rose', at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C., 1862 -04849Rose O'Neale Greenhow - leader of Washington Society, passionate secessionist and renowned Confederate spy. Her secret messages to General Beauregard was the basis of his victory at the 1st Battle of Bull Run. Beauregard used the information to send for General Joseph E. Johnston's army guarding the Shenandoah Valley sixty miles away. Johnston loaded his army onto trains, marking the first use of trains to rush troops to a battlefield during the Civil War, to support Beauregard. As the result, General McDowell had two armies to face at Manassas and lost.

How did Greenhow become a dedicated fighter for the South? As a child, a family slave was hanged for causing Greenhow's father's death. A few years later, the teenager and her sister moved to Washington D.C. to live at the home of her aunt, the proprietor of the Hill's Boarding House. The residence was favored by Southern Supreme Court Justices, power brokers and Congressmen, including John C. Calhoun. Greenhow considered Calhoun a second father and became an astute political strategist due to his tutelage. She demonstrated her skill by encouraging her friend, James Buchanan, to run for President and formulated the strategy that enabled him to win the office. Years later, Greenhow spent weeks nursing Calhoun on his deathbed at the Boarding House.

Greenhow used her political connections not only to acquire information for the Confederacy, put to petition Secretary of State Seward for promotions for her son-in-law in the Union Army. When it became clear that Greenhow was a spy, the Union hoped to quietly arrest her and capture any possible conspirators who visited her home. The plan was foiled when "Little Rose" climbed a backyard tree to yell to the neighbors, "Mother has been arrested. Mother has been arrested."

Under house arrest, Greenhow's home became a tourist attraction. While raising a fuss over being under constant guard, Rose still managed to send information to the Confederates. Lincoln, himself, ordered her moved to her former home, Hill's Boarding House, which had been turned into the Old Capitol Prison.

On arrival, eight year old "Little Rose" told the prison superintendent, "You have one of the hardest little rebels her you ever saw. But if you get along with me as well as Lieutenant Sheldon (commander of the Greenhow house guard), you will have no trouble."

After months imprisoned, Greenhow was exiled to the Confederate States. In Richmond, Jefferson Davis asked Greenhow to travel to Europe to woo the elite to recognize the Confederacy. There, Greenhow published her memoir, My imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington, which became a best seller. She was granted an audience with Napoleon III and met with highest British and French government officials.

After a year abroad, Greenhow boarded the Condor, a British blockade runner to return home. It was run aground by a US gunboat. Greenhow, fearing a return to prison, fled in a rowboat which capsized. She was drowned by the weight of gold from the royalties for her book. To honor her, the Confederacy gave her a military funeral in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Ladies Memorial Association, in 1888, marked her grave with a cross that read "Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow. A Bearer of Dispatches to the Confederate Government."

Capt. George Custer and Gen Affred Pleasonton on horseback

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It used to be that only the wealthy could afford to have a portrait of themselves or their family made. By 1862, Oliver Wendell Holmes noted photography has become, "the social currency, the green-backs of civilization". The affordability of photographs resulted in soldiers taking pictures wearing their uniforms, with their loved ones, and in the case of cavalry officers - with their horses.

04041 - Capt. George A. Custer and Gen. Alfred Pleasonton on horseback04041 - Capt. George A. Custer and Gen. Alfred Pleasonton on horseback"Custer was a splendid horseman - fearless, graceful, and dashing." Gen Alfred Pleasonton

During an August 17, 1880 interview for "The New York Times", Pleasonton was asked, "How was Custer?"

"He was a splendid leader, and when he was upon my staff he did some wonderfully brilliant things. The trouble with Custer was that he would not see that his whole force was available. He would rush in and lead a regiment in a charge and let a whole brigade look at him."

"What was he on your staff?"

"He was Captain A.D.C., but I had him promoted to Brigadier-General. He would have licked the Indians on the Little Big Horn if he had kept his command together."

Sgt. Johnny Clem - "Drummerboy of Chickamauga"

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19 -20 1863. Johnny Clem, the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga", was 12 years old. Chickamauga is the Indian word meaning blood river. "The Chickamauga lived up to its name that day", said Colonel Thomas Berry, one of General Nathan Forrest's cavalry officers. "It ran red with blood."

Sgt. Johnny Clem - 34511Sgt. Johnny Clem - 34511It being Sunday, May 24, 1861, and the great rebellion in progress, Johnnie said at the dinner-table: “Father, I’d like mighty well to be a drummer boy. Can’t I go into the Union army?” “Tut, what nonsense, boy!” replied father, “you are not ten years old.” Yet when he had disappeared it is strange we had no thoughts that he had gone into the service recalled his sister Lizzie.

The family feared that Johnnie had drowned in a nearby canal and mourned for him for two years. Instead Clem had joined the 22nd Michigan as a drummer boy. He was in many battles and was captured in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Clem said that the rebels stole about all that he had, including his pocket book, which contained only twenty-five cents. “But I would not have cared for the rest,” he added, “if they hadn’t stole my hat, which had three bullet holes in it, received at Chickamauga.”

Clem became famous in both the North and the South as the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga". The Confederate newspapers used his age and celebrity status to claim, "what sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babies out to fight us."

A daughter of Chief Justice Salmon Chase presented him with a silver medal inscribed, “Sergeant Johnnie Clem, Twenty-second Michigan Volunteer Infantry, from N. M. C.,” which he wore in at least one of the many pictures taken by photographers hoping to profit from the young boy’s newfound celebrity.

When he was exchanged as a prisoner he came home for a week. He was wasted to a skeleton. He had been starved almost to death. He seemed like as if he was done up in a mass of rags. There were no soldier clothes small enough to fit him, and he was so small and wan and not much larger than a babe, about thirty inches high, and couldn’t have weighed over sixty pounds according to his sister.

For his heroic conduct, Clem was made a sergeant by General Rosecrans, who placed him upon the Roll of Honor, and attached him to the headquarters of the Army of the Cumberland. At the age of 13, Clem became the youngest non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army ever. He rose to the rank of Colonel and became the last soldier of the Civil War to retire from active duty in 1916. Upon his retirement he was promoted to Brigadier General. He died in 1937 and is buried at Arlington.

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