Bridge on the Boonsboro Pike; Middle Bridge - Antietam, MD

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the Battle of Antietam, on September 17th, 1862. Whereas, studies show that commuters using the 5 Freeway in California have the worst commute to work, it can be argued that General Ambrose Burnside had it worse. His orders were to cross the river and fight Lee's men. Burnside led his men to what is today known as "Burnsides' Bridge". On the opposite side of the river the Confederates waited on a bluff 100 feet high overlooking the bridge. The road leading to the bridge was parallel to the river and allowed the Confederates to begin targeting the Union troops.


It took repeated assaults for Burnside’s men to capture the bridge. The Union troops suffered more than 500 casualties compared to less than 160 Confederates. The Confederates were so well fortified that they were only driven off by running out of ammunition. Once the bridge was captured it presented its own set of problems. At only 12 feet wide it was a bottleneck for thousands of troops trying to cross and greatly slowed the army. Afterwards, Burnside had to replenish his ammunition before getting to his job site - the battlefield.

00271 - Bridge on the Boonsboro Pike; Middle Bridge - Antietam, MD, 1862 (LC-DIG-cwpb-00271)00271 - Bridge on the Boonsboro Pike; Middle Bridge - Antietam, MD, 1862 (LC-DIG-cwpb-00271)"Remember, General, I command the last reserve of the last Army of the Republic." General Fitz John Porter of V Corp.


On September 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, a misunderstanding of orders resulted in the Confederate line being overrun at the Sunken Road. "In this road lay so many dead rebels that they formed a line which one might have walked upon as far as I could see," a New Hampshire soldier wrote.


General McClellan witnessed the Sunken Road fighting. He was less than a mile away at the headquarters of Fitz John Porter's V Corps, which were being held in reserve, close to Middle Bridge. Instead of seeing an opportunity to attack and destroy Lee's army, McClellan decides to consolidate his forces against an enemy he believes has a considerable numeric advantage.


In this image, Alexander Gardner captures the Newcomer Farm and Mill along with the Middle Bridge. As a result of the Battle of Antietam:


· Newcomer was unable to financially recover from the damage to his property, which he sold.

· McClellan lost his job commanding the Army of the Potomac.


· The Union lost the best opportunity to defeat General Lee until Appomattox.

· General Lee lost the offensive into the North.


· Over 22,000 Americans lost their lives, were wounded or missing after the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.


Judah Benjamin, Sec of War, C.S.A.

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering Judah P. Benjamin, the first Jewish cabinet member in North America and the first Senator to acknowledge being Jewish in the US Senate. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of Benjamin, "He rose to the top of the legal profession twice in one lifetime, on two continents, beginning his first ascent as a raw youth and his second as a fugitive minister of a vanquished power."

Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis's Secretary of War - 05642Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis's Secretary of War - 05642At the end of the War, Judah P. Benjamin was hunted by every Yankee wanting the big pay day of $40,000 the Federal Government was offering. Between his Jewish religion and having sent John Surratt (son of hanged Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt) on a covert mission to Canada, Benjamin believed he may not survive Federal capture.


Benjamin served as the first Jewish cabinet member in North America and the first Senator to acknowledge being Jewish in the US Senate. He has been referred to as "the brains of the Confederacy". Benjamin served as the Confederate Attorney General, Secretary of War & State. As Secretary of State, he arranged for the Erlanger "Cotton Loan" to buy military supplies, which were delivered by blockade runners. It is only appropriate that Benjamin's image appears on the Confederate two dollar bill.


Benjamin's harrowing escape sounds like an adventure tale. He parts from Confederate President Davis and Cabinet members in Abbeville, South Carolina on May 2nd. He begins his escape disguised as a Frenchman seeking to make a land purchase. He speaks broken English like a Frenchmen as he made his way to Sarasota Bay, Florida. Benjamin travels by open boat the 600 miles to the Bahamas surviving squalls. After that he boards a sloop carrying sponges. When the boat leaks, the sponges expand and the sloop explodes. He and the crew are fortunately rescued by a British warship. He then takes a steamer to England which catches on fire after five hours and has to return to port to have the fire extinguished. Two days later, Benjamin sets out again and finally reaches England on August 30, 1865.


A man who two US Presidents nominates (and he declines) to be a Supreme Court Justice, restarts his career by reading law for three years before building a very successful law career in London. This enables him to support several friends in the former Confederacy during the Reconstruction era with sizeable financial gifts. Per his doctor's advice, Benjamin retires in 1883 and moves to Paris, where his family lives. On May 6, 1884, Benjamin dies in Paris. His Catholic wife has the last rites administered to him and buries Benjamin in a Catholic cemetery. His grave did not bear his name until 1938, when a plaque was placed by the Paris chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.


Gen Edmund Kirby Smith, C.S.A.

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky on August 29 - 30, 1862. It was one of the most decisive and complete Confederate victories of the war. Kirby Smith accomplished a tactical victory by picking the ideal battle location against a larger, inexperienced army.


Both sides were aware that over 2,000 raw recruits had joined the Union army in Lexington a few days earlier. Out of town, General "Bull" Nelson ordered an immediate retreat when informed of the approaching Confederate forces. Despite being 2:30 AM, Nelson jumped out of bed to rush to the field. He rallied the troops but was unable to prevent the rout. Nelson was barely able to escape with some of his men.


The victory opened the way north towards Lexington and Frankfort for the Confederates.

06080 - Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith; Trans-Mississippi Department, C.S.A. [LC-DIG-cwpb-06080]06080 - Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith; Trans-Mississippi Department, C.S.A. [LC-DIG-cwpb-06080]"Surrender" wasn't in Edmund Kirby Smith's vocabulary. He is the only officer to both refuse to surrender to the Confederates while serving as a Union officer and refuse to surrender to the Union while serving as a Confederate officer.


As a Major, Edmund Kirby Smith refused to surrender the 2nd US Cavalry at Camp Colorado, Texas to secessionist forces at the start of the war. It wasn't until his home state, Florida seceded, did Smith resign to join the Confederacy.


In 1863, Smith took command of the Trans-Mississippi Department. With the capture of Vicksburg & Port Hudson by US forces, the Confederacy was split in two. Smith became, in effect, governor of the western Confederacy. Despite lacking manpower & supplies, he successfully defended “Kirby-Smithdom” from several Union attacks.


The surrender of Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston in the spring of 1865 didn't impact Smith's actions. He continued to resist with his small army in Texas. Smith insisted that Lee and Johnston were prisoners of war and decried Confederate deserters.


On May 26, 1865, General Simon Buckner, acting for Smith, met with Union officers in New Orleans to arrange the surrender of Smith's force under terms similar to Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. Smith reluctantly agreed, and officially laid down his arms at Galveston on June 2, 1865. His Confederate troops were some of the last in the field.


US Gen Winfield Hancock - Second Battle of Ream's Station's

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We are remembering the August 25, 1864, Second Battle of Ream's Station, fought as part of the Siege of Petersburg. "I do not care to die, but I pray God I may never leave the field." Winfield Scott Hancock, during the Battle of Reams's Station, the "blackest of all days" in the history of II Corps.


Facing disaster at Reams's Station, Hancock ignored personal safety. "Hancock had his bridle-rein cut by a bullet," wrote a soldier, "but was continuing galloping along the front urging the stragglers to resume their places in the lines and do their duty."


Suddenly his horse dropped under him. Hancock left the animal for dead, but a few minutes later it clambered to its feet, unharmed by a glancing blow to the spine that had temporarily paralyzed it. Hancock remounted and continued the fight. "We can beat them yet" he bellowed. "Don't leave me, for God's sake!"


Despite Hancock's best efforts his men deserted their entrenchments and fell back. Hancock gave the order to pull out after dark. The II Corps lost 12 battle flags, 9 guns and had 2,747 causalities.


Although the Confederates won a victory, Grant was satisfied that eight miles of Weldon Railroad track had been destroyed before the attack. The ability to get supplies to Petersburg were being weakened. Lee's lines were being stretched even thinner. The Siege of Petersburg would continue until March 25, 1865.

05828 - Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock; Hancock the Superb [LC-DIG-cwpb-05828]05828 - Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock; Hancock the Superb [LC-DIG-cwpb-05828]“Hancock was superb today", General McClellan, in a telegraph sent to Washington during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. From that point “Hancock the Superb” was born. Sadly, while Hancock may have been superb, McClellan did not take advantage of the opportunity that Hancock had given him and lost an opportunity to have a major victory early in the war.


As the Commander of II Corps, Hancock's men became known as "Hancock's Cavalry"; they stopped marching only while the staff officers got fresh horses.

At Gettysburg, on July 3rd, Hancock was on the receiving end of Pickett’s Charge. Hancock rode his horse along the line to ensure that his men knew he was there and provide moral support. When one of his officers tried to persuade him to move to the rear Hancock replied "There are times when a corps commander's life does not count." Shortly after he was wounded when a round struck his saddle and pierced his thigh. For his gallantry and bravery he was awarded the “Thanks of Congress”. While he continued to command troops, the effect of this wound affected him the rest of the war.


Horace Greeley - The Prayer of 20 Millions

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

In 1862, British and French textile workers were clamoring for Southern cotton as factories became increasingly idle. Lincoln had to come up with a strategy that would deter Britain and France from aiding the Confederacy while keeping the Border States in the Union.


The opportunity to test the water came on August 19, 1862 in the New York Tribune. Influential editor Horace Greeley wrote an open letter to Lincoln urging him to free the slaves to weaken the Confederacy. The editorial called, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions", resulted in one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous letters.


Lincoln states, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, & is not either to save or to destroy slavery." His response was a classic statement of Lincoln's constitutional responsibilities and prepared the public for the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.

Horace Greeley - 4190190617Horace Greeley - 4190190617Horace Greeley was one of the most interesting and eccentric figures in American history. Even in appearance Greeley sparked comment; he wore a full length coat on even the hottest days and always carried a bright umbrella.


As the founder & editor of the most influential US newspaper from the 1840's to the 1870s, the New York Tribune, he was involved in almost every political and social issue of his era, ranging from election reform to spiritualism and phrenology.


On August 19, 1862, Horace Greeley, wrote an open letter to Lincoln to free the slaves to weaken the Confederacy. The editorial called, "The Prayer of Twenty Millions", resulted in one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous letters. Lincoln states, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery." His response was a classic statement of Lincoln's constitutional responsibilities & prepared the public for the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.

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