Tuesday, July 22, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - The Battle of Atlanta

In my recent posts I have focused on the soldiers' stories, and rightly so, they after all put it all on the line whether in combat in camp or on the march. But, I think it is also important not to forget that soldiers were not the only ones affected by the war's course.

Civilians, too, felt the hard hand of war, especially Southerners who lived in the army's paths and or had family members fighting as soldiers.

One such civilian caught up in the waves of war was Sarah Huff, a young girl, who had fled with her family from nearby Marietta. Sarah remembered:

"It was on July 22, the day after we left home because the fighting was so near, that my younger brother John's keen ears caught the sound of distant fighting.

Before that fiery July sun had set, thousands of as brave men as ever joined battle, were numbered among the dead. And I saw thousands more brought into the city in ominous black-covered ambulances which made their slow, pain-laden way up Decatur Street to several improvised hospitals where Dr. Noe D'Alvigny and Dr. Logan, as well as many of Atlanta's most prominent ladies, waited to try to ease their suffering.

As the battle, raging to the east and southeast of us, grew more fierce, the line of ambulances creeping up Decatur street increased. The dismal-looking vehicles had their side curtains lifted to let in the air, for the heat was intense.

We could see from our viewpoint, in front of the old-time residence of Charles Shearer, Sr., the blood trickling down from the wounds of the poor helpless victims of one of the war's most terrible battles.

Men were clinging to sides of the hospital vans trying to fan away the terrible swarms of flies which hovered over the wounded. My young brother John went into action, as he usually did when he saw a chance to be helpful. Noticing that a fly brush had just fallen from the hands of a man on one of the ambulances, and had been crushed the heavy wheels, he grabbed the slit-paper fly brush that mother handed him, and leaping to the side of the slow-moving ambulance, became one of the most efficient fly-fanners in the procession. He was less than 12 years old."

Hood's desperate attacks continued that July 22, 1864 day that Sarah Huff remembered. Like at Peachtree Creek two days before, the Battle of Atlanta cost the Confederates dearly and added to their already growing lists of killed, wounded, and captured since Hood had assumed command. On July 22, the determined Confederate attacks proved damaging to Sherman's troops (about 4,000), but hurt the Southerners more (about 5,000).  Unfortunately for all, more was to come.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Peachtree Creek

Gen. John Bell Hood wasted little time once in command of the Army of Tennessee. He immediately went to work on offensive plans. Hood desired to make an attack near Peachtree Creek, just north of Atlanta, in attempt to throw back Sherman's Union forces.

Originally planned for 1:00 p.m. on July 20, 1864, the Confederate attacks actually began about 4:00 p.m. The Southerners met rough terrain, uncoordinated organization, and a stubborn enemy, and were forced to withdraw late in the day. They lost about 2,500 in killed, wounded, and missing.

One of those making the attacks was Lt. Robert M. Collins of the 15th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) of Gen. Hiram Bronson Granbury's (pictured) Brigade, Cleburne's Division. Most of Cleburne's men were held in reserve during the Peachtree Creek attacks, but some units, such as Collins's, were sent forward. Collin wrote:

"In front of our brigade was an open field about 400 yards across. About 4:30 o'clock the command was given, 'Forward, march!' We quit the [earth]works and moved out into the field. The Federals greeted us with terrific fire of shot and shells, but as we were moving down the hill they passed over our heads, doing no damage except that of making a fellow feel like he was very small game to be shot with such game.

On we go, now the lines come to the fence of a farm, the line halts and the men take hold of it and just bodily lift it and throw it down. Just at this moment a blinding flash right in our front and shell explodes. It seemed to be filled with powder and ounce balls. It laid a good many of the boys out, and among the number was Capt. Ben Tyus and myself.

Capt. Tyus was wounded in the ankle while I received an ounce ball in the upper third of my left thigh. As I fell I noticed that about two inches of my gray Georgia jeans pants had gone in with the shot; this was conclusive that a piece of shell had passed through my thigh and had necessarily cut the femoral artery, and that therefore I would be a dead Confederate in just three minutes, as my understanding was that the femoral artery cut would let all the blood in a man out in that time.

However, I made a grip on the wound with my right hand, intending to stop the blood as much as possible, and thereby hold on to life long enough to give my past history a hasty going over and to repeat all the prayers I knew. Four big stout fellows picked me up on a litter and started back to the line of breastworks. We had to pass through a galling fire of minies, shot and shell; I was not alaramed at all at this, because my mind was made up to quit the earth and I was now only waiting, as the saying goes, for death to strike me square in the face.

I finally ventured to inquire of one of the men carrying me if I were bleeding much. He was a witty Irishman, and replied, ' Not a drap of rudy current to be seen, Lieutenant.'

These words brought back my hope that had already gone over the hills out of sight, and made me remark that an improvement in gait would soon land us out of reach of these Yankee bullets. Then I chuckled in my sleeve when the thought occurred that maybe this wound will win a good furlough, and if it does won't I have fun with those Georgia girls. This may all sound like a strange line of thoughts to run through one's mind in so short a time and under such circumstances, but all this is sound common sense compared to some things we are guilty of doing during our natural lives."

Collins received immediate medical attention, and fortunately his wound had indeed missed his femoral artery. He recuperated in Georgia hospitals for about four months, returning to his regiment in November.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A 'Stampede' for Freedom

Since I spend a great deal of time sharing various Kentucky Civil War stories here on Random Thoughts, I thought I'd share a great piece written by Dr. Aaron Astor of Maryville College (Tennessee), which was written for the New York Times and their "Disunion" series. It is titled "A 'Stampede' for Freedom," and tells the intriguing story of Kentucky's African American enlistments in the Union army in the the spring of 1864, a story I have referenced often in past posts.

You may remember a couple of years back that I high recommended Dr. Astor's book, Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri. If you have not yet read Rebels on the Border, find a copy, you will not be disappointed.

Along with being an excellent writer, Dr. Astor is a great speaker as well. Last summer he assisted in the National Endowment for Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Grant that was hosted by the Kentucky Historical Society, which examined Kentucky and the border states in the Civil War. His ability to make a sometimes confusing and contentious topic like Reconstruction understandable to an audience is a true talent.

Dr. Astor's Disunion piece will surely bring additional national interest to Kentucky's often overlooked emancipation story and inspire those both inside and outside of the state to learn more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bully Civil War Photograph


Unidentified Union soldier with enlisted man's dress hat (Hardee hat) and frock coat.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Monocacy

On July 9, 1864, a Union force under the command of Gen. Lew Wallace and Confederate force led by Gen. Jubal Early clashed on the Monocacy River near Frederick, Maryland.

One of the combatants that day was Private George W. Nichols, a member of the 61st Georgia Infantry, which belonged to the brigade of Gen. Clement A. Evans (pictured).

Writing his memoirs, which was published in 1898, Nichols wrote of that day:

"It made our hearts ache to look over the battle-field and see so many of our dear friends, comrades and  beloved officers, killed and wounded. Our loss was terrible, while the Yankees lost but few. I only saw three dead Union soldiers and I did not see one that was wounded, though I did not go over the field. We could not see a Yankee on our part of the line during the whole advance. All that we could shoot at was the smoke of their guns, they were so well posted. It was called our victory, but it was a costly one, for it cost Evans' Brigade over five hundred men, in wounded and killed. It was said that it was raw troops that we were fighting, but I never saw old soldiers shoot better. The Sixty-first Georgia Regiment went into battle with nearly one hundred and fifty men, and after the battle was over  we could not stack but fifty-two guns by actual count. . . .

It looked like half of the Twelfth Georgia Battalion were killed or wounded. Company D had the sad misfortune of getting Lieutenant James Mincy severely wounded. He was carrying our battle flag. He had picked it up after the fifth man had been shot down while carrying it in this battle and he was likewise shot down at once. He had already been wounded at Manassas and severely wounded at Gettysburg. Here he was shot through the left lung, the ball just missing his back bone. Bloody froth from his lungs would come out of his mouth an nose, and in the front and back where the ball passed through. He has since told me that the Yankee doctors drew a silk handkerchief through him and treated him very kindly. . . .

Here I saw one of Company A of our regiment, Thomas Nichols, (though no relative of mine) with his brains shot out. When I saw him he was sitting up and wiping brains from his temple wit his hand. I went to try to render him some assistance and did so by giving him some water. He seemed to have some mind, for he said that he wanted to go back to Virginia and get a horse and try to get home and never to cross the Potomac again. He lived twelve hours before death came to his relief."

While Wallace retreated from Monocacy, Early continued on toward Washington D.C., leaving his dead and wounded behind. Wallace's delay allowed troops from the Army of the Potomac to strengthen the capital's defenses, and thereby making Early's attempt virtually moot.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Yankee on Hood

Steven Vincent Benet once wrote that General John Bell Hood was "All lion, none of the fox." Indeed, Hood was a fighter of the most gallant stripe, but as the quote indicates, not the most tactically sharp knife in the drawer. He again and again demonstrated his preference for offensive action. At Gaines' Mill in 1862, it had succeeded. At Antietam in the "bloody cornfield" he drove the Yankees. However, at Kolb's Farm, at the battles around Atlanta, and dreadfully at Franklin, Hood's dash proved disastrous.

When Hood was given command of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864, not only his charges took notice, the enemy did as well. Sergeant Fenwick Y. Hedley of the 32nd Illinois Infantry wrote about the Northerners reaction to the Confederate change in command:

"There was a camp story to the effect that, on receiving the news of Hood superseding Johnston, General Sherman called a council of officers, who had known the new Confederate commander personally, in order to learn something of his character. Several officers, who had been classmates with General Hood at West Point, expressed themselves in various ways, pertinent and otherwise; but the climax was reached when an old Kentucky colonel remarked that he 'Seed Hood bet twenty-five hundred dollars, with nary a p'ar in his hand!' This anecdote convinced all that such an exhibition of nerve was good evidence of the fighting qualities of the new commander. However this may be, Sherman was satisfied that the change of commanders betokened more vigorous measures, and made his dispositions accordingly, sending notice of the fact to every part of the army, and notifying his subordinates to be prepared, at all times, for sharp and unexpected battle. The troops grasped the import of Hood's appointment with as quick intelligence as the officers, and expressed great satisfaction with the assignment, regarding Hood as a hot-headed fellow, who would butt his brains out against their entrenchments, thus shortening the campaign and the war."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Inching on Atlanta

As the guns fell silent at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27th, 1864, Sherman was already looking for ways around the Confederate defenses. Federal generals Schofield and McPherson began to move around the Confederate left, which once again forced Johnston to withdraw and move south toward the Chattahoochee River, only about six miles from Atlanta.

During these movements Lt. Hamilton Branch took time to write home to his mother. Branch was a member of the 54th Georgia Infantry, which was part of Gen. Hugh Weedon Mercer's Brigade in William Henry Talbot Walker's (pictured) Division.

"In Reserve of Walker's Division
1/2 Miles of Chattahoochee River
July 6th 1864
My Very Dear Mother
After writing to you on yesterday we were moved one mile to the left and placed in position behind a portion of the stockade erected by Genl Shoop Genl Johnston's chief of Artillery this was the strangest sight we have seen since we have been here, it put me in mind of the fortifications I have read of in the account of the first American settlers lives, it was made thus on every little rise and commanding every little valey there were built redouts and block houses and all between these there were rails and logs about 12 feet in length stuck up in the ground close together, the whole forming (as some of the men remarked) a wall between the cornfeds and wheatfeds, and I would have liked it better if the wall had been 1/2 mile in height and had been built farther north, we remained at that place doing nothing until dark when Bill arrived and we went to work with good will, after eating we were ordered to pull down the stockade and build a breastwork instead, this we did working all night and until 9 oclock this morning when we were ordered to stop work and fall in this we did and were moved back into the woods about 200 yds where we dined immediately after dinner (or in fact before Capt. Anderson had finished for he had to eat as he was marching) we were ordered off an marched about 1 mile to this place and were put in reserve of our division, as soon as we stopped I put for the river and took a nice bath and put on my clean clothes. I then went back and just as I had arrived and was sitting down writing to you, we were ordered off again and are now (after having marched 1/2 mile to the left) in the trenches, and ready for a fight, we do not know how long we will stay here, and would not be at all surprised if we were moved in five minutes--thus it is we work all night and march all day and rest all the other time therefore we soldiers have plenty of rest and time to spare. We have not had a gun fired at us now for thirty-six hours in fact there is very little firing along the lines now, the enemy are shelling our pontoon bridges both on the right and left, and we are now putting some in the center. I do not know whether we will cross the river or not. Old Joe [Gen. Johnston] knows what he is at and will take care of us and do what is best. Praying for Gods blessings on you I remain your devoted son
Hammie"

President Jefferson Davis quickly grew tired of Johnston's continued retreats and on July 17 replaced him with battle-battered and amputated Gen. John Bell Hood. The highly offensive-minded Hood would strike at Sherman's legions time after time around Atlanta to great destruction of his army and to little to no gain. Regardless of defending commanders, Atlanta fell in the opening days of September, which was yet another body blow to the Confederacy, and a massive boost for Lincoln's reelection chances.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

150 Years Ago This Week - The Valley

Often overlooked due to actions going on at the same time in the Petersburg/Richmond region and over in northern Georgia, the Shenandoah Valley was also the scene of army movements and deadly fighting in the summer of 1864.

One of the men in Confederate General Jubal Early's army, and in William Terry's brigade (pictured) was Lt. John H. Worsham. A member of the 21st Virginia Infantry, Worsham had fought in the Valley two year earlier under Stonewall Jackson. Now, in 1864, he once again found himself in familiar confines as Early pushed on north toward Washington D.C. Worsham wrote the following about this week 150 years ago:

"On the 28th [June 1864] we resumed our march down the valley [northward] and felt perfectly at home, since nearly all of the valley from Staunton to the Potomac river was familiar to us, and many of its inhabitants old acquaintances. We stopped regularly at night and continued the march each day. On the afternoon of July 3d we reached Martinsburg, running in on the Yankees who were there, so suddenly, that they did not have time to move any of their stores. They were making big preparations to celebrate the Fourth, and many of the men had received boxes of good things from home and friends. The depot and express office were filled with articles of this kind. A guard was placed around these buildings and their storehouses. The express office was put in charge of a quartermaster who was an old friend of mine. At night I went there and inquired of the guard for him and and he let me into the building. He was very glad to see me, as he had only one man to help him get these articles in shape, and asked me to help him; this I consented to do, if he would give me a barrel of cakes. He said 'all right.' I found one and carried it out and turned it over to my company . . . who were profuse in their thanks for the cakes, and soon fell asleep,--dreaming of little cakes, big cakes, and a mountain made of cakes.

The next morning was the Fourth of July, 1864! Gen. Early did not move us at the usual early hour, but issued to the men the good things captured the evening before. They were divided among the men as fairly as possible, F Company getting a few oranges, lemons, cakes and candy, and a keg of lager beer. We certainly enjoyed the treat, and celebrated the day as well as we could for our hosts, and regretted they did not stay to preside for us. We drank their health with the wish that they would not do the like again. This was the biggest Fourth of July picnic celebration we enjoyed during the war. We took up our march and crossed the Potomac river at Shepherdstown."

Less than a week later Worsham and the rest of Early's army clashed with Gen. Lew Wallace's Federals at Monocacy, Maryland (July 9), then pushed on to the outskirts of Washington D.C.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kennesaw Mountain Aftermath

The Union attack at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864, produced about 3,000 in killed, wounded, and missing. The following two days saw a series of ceased firing to gather those that had fallen for treatment or burial. The scene on what became known as Cheatham's Hill, was witnessed by David P. Conygham, a newspaper man serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp for the Union army. Conygham seemed surprised to see the soldiers from both armies using the truce time to talk with each other, catch up on old times, and seek news. He wrote:

"Next day General Johnston sent a flag of truce to Sherman, in order to give time to carry off the wounded and bury the dead, who were festering in front of their lines.

A truce followed, and Rebels and Federals freely participated in the work of charity. It was a strange sight to see friends, to see old acquaintances, and in some instances brothers, who have been separated for years, and now pitted in deadly hostility, meet and have a good talk over old times, and home scenes, and connections. They drank together, smoked together, appeared on the best possible terms, though the next day they were sure to meet in deadly conflict again.

Even some of the generals freely mixed with the men, and seemed to view the painful sight with melancholy interest.

I saw Pat Cleburne [pictured], with that tall meagre frame, and that ugly scar across his lank, gloomy face, stand with a thoughtful air, looking on the work his division had done; for it was his troops that defended the line of works in the centre, and committed such fearful havoc on Newton's and Davis' divisions. He looked a fit type of the lean Cassius. He was certainly to the western army what Stonewall Jackson was to the eastern. . . .

There were Generals Cleburne, Cheatham, Hindman, and Maney in busy converse with a a group of Federal officers, whom they had formerly known. Cheatham looked rugged and healthy, though seemingly sad and despondent. He wore his fatigue dress--a blue flannel shirt, black neck-tie, gray homespun pantaloons, and slouched, black hat. At first he was very taciturn; but this wearing off, he made inquiries about old friends, particularly about those from Nashville."

Cleburne would survive the upcoming battles around Atlanta, only to be killed in the futile attack at Franklin, Tennessee, almost exactly five months from Conygham's eyewitness account.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Frankfort Black Barber Marketed to Legislators


During my research I have assumed that a good deal of the customers for Frankfort's black barbers came from the state's body of legislators. The state House of Representatives had 100 members and the Senate was composed of 38 men. And, although they came in and out of session during the year, they added significantly to the population pool of potential customers who needed shaves, haircuts, baths, and other services offered by the capital city's barbers when they were in town. However, until recently, I had not located an advertisement where a barber marketed directly to the state's legislators. 

Edmund Spillman operated a barber shop below the Mansion House hotel on the northwest corner of St. Clair and Main Street in Frankfort. In an advertisement (above) in the June 22, 1848 (which also apparently ran earlier) edition of the Frankfort Kentucky Yeoman, a Democratic Party sheet, Spillman invited the "members of the Legislature, and the community at large" to stop in. Spillman explained he was "prepared to Shave, Trim Hair, and do all things in his line of business, in the most expeditious and agreeable manner, and the most reasonable terms." Spillman also ran a similar advertisement in the Frankfort Commonwealth, a Whig Party sheet, the same year.


According to an 1846 Yeoman advertisement, Spillman had previously operated his barber shop on Broadway Street, although the ad doe not state exactly where. I'm left to wonder for what reasons Spillman moved his shop. Did he desire to increase his business by being in a hotel that catered to legislators and thus made his services more convenient that in his old location? Or, was the reason for his removal more practical, such as finding a lower purchase or rent rate?

Regardless, Spillman showed a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit in his target marketing to the state's legislators. Not only did he mention them specifically in his advertisement, but by advertising in a medium used by those men,and in both main political parties' papers, he increased his chances of reaching those potential customers.   

Friday, June 27, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Kennesaw Mountain

When Sherman attacked at Kennesaw Mountain on the morning of June 27, 1864, a major focus of the assault was a salient in the Confederate line on the brow of a ridge that was manned by Benjamin F. Cheatham's Division. This part of the line became known as the "Dead Angle" due the massive casualties inflicted on the attackers.

One of those making the assault was Private S. M. Canterbury of the 86th Illinois Infantry Regiment, which was included in Colonel Daniel McCook's Brigade (pictured). During the attack McCook was grievously wounded and died a couple of weeks later. Canterbury, though, somehow made his way up to the Confederate earthworks. He wrote:

"At the creek at the foot of the hill I was in the rear, but got to the works as soon as any of the boys. I caught up to the front line as we reached the works. I found the brigade all mixed up in one line. In the space I was in I could not tell what was being done very far on the right or left of me. The rebel musketry fire was terrific; to stand still was death.

I realized the safest place was at the works. Col. Dan was in the lead. He said, "Forward with the colors!" When I first reached the works I fell or laid down, and hugged the works as close as I could for protection and to rest, as in running the distance we did, combined with the intense heat, I was about played out. Col. Dan climbed up the works. For a moment my attention was taken with a rebel on the opposite side from me who was trying to fire under the headlog. When I looked up, Col. Dan was standing on the headlog above me. I heard him say, "Bring up those colors!" I don't know whose colors they were. He grabbed the colors in his left hand, holding them aloft and using his saber in his right hand, parrying the rebels on the other side of the breastworks who were trying to bayonet him. I reached up and took hold of the skirt of his uniform coat and said to him, "Colonel Dan, for God's sake get down, they will shoot you!" He turned partly around stooping a little, and said to me, " G-d d--n you, attend to your own business." Then the gun was fired; they put the gun almost against him. I know the gun was not more than one foot from his hip when they shot him. I could not tell where he was shot. Had I not pulled on his coat I believe he would have fallen inside the rebel works. Some comrades took him back to the rear; that was the last I saw him."

McCook retrieved a promotion to general on July 16, the day before he died of his wounds received on the Confederate earthworks at Kennesaw Mountain.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congess.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kentucky's Black Barbers, Politics, and Newspaper Advertisements


When I became interested in researching antebellum Kentucky's black barbers I wondered if these men would only advertise in newspapers of particular political parties. More specifically, I was curious to see if they would support Whig/Opposition newspapers over Democratic Party newspapers. While neither political party in Kentucky could be called anti-slavery, the Democratic Party seemed to take a firmer stance and support slavery's expansion more than the Whigs/Opposition, whose members often tended to be more in favor of colonization.

Well, there appears to be no such correlation. The above advertisement by George W. Tucker ran in the Western Luminary, a paper that described itself as "A Family Religious Newspaper." And, while not a political paper per se, it shows that black barbers were probably more interested in promoting their business than in limiting their chances for revenue by supporting any particular party or faction newspaper.


Tucker advertised, too, in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette (above in 1836), a Democratic Party paper, and as the ad obviously shows, also in the Lexington Observer and Reporter, a Whig Party paper 


Tucker ran the above ad, as well, in the Kentucky Gazette in 1834.


Likewise, Frankfort barber Henry Samuel advertised his shop and bathhouse in the Frankfort Kentucky Yeoman (above), a Democratic Party newspaper in 1848, and in the Frankfort Commonwealth (below), a Whig paper, the same year.


After thinking about it, advertising in both political parties printed voices only made good business sense on the part of the barbers. Except for a slim difference in principle on the slavery issue, why would they limit their reach to potential paying customers? By advertising in both political parties' papers in the cities in which they were located barbers only increased their exposure and customer base, which in turn made for greater revenue and profit. Profits, of course, could be used to buy additional property or real estate and provide comforts and opportunities for their families in an occupation that most whites refused to do until well after emancipation.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Kolb's Farm

On June 22, 1864, Sherman's attempt to flank the Confederates off of Kennesaw Mountain caused an engagement at Kolb's Farm. Johnston ordered Kentuckian Gen. John Bell Hood to block 20th Corps division commander Alpheus S. Williams (pictured) troops' movement. Hood, apparently seeking a smashing defeat, instead attacked, which resulted in great Confederate loss. Williams wrote about the day's fighting:

"We had just begun to pile rails when the heavy skirmish line of the enemy poured out of the woods all along the open and advanced at a run. Three columns, massed, followed close and deployed in three and four lines. The infantry columns opposite of Knipe and Ruger's left moved forward, but as they reached the brow of a ravine which ran parallel to our front, the whole line opened with a withering volley. Some Rebs. went back, some scrambled down into the deep ravine, but none ever passed beyond it. One heavy column got hold of the woods in front of Knipe's left and upon it I turned twelve pieces of artillery, sweeping it with canister and case shot until the devils found sufficient employment in covering themselves behind trees and logs.

Farther toward our left a huge mass of Rebels moved out to attack Robinson's brigade, but three rounds from the rifled guns set the whole mass flying in the greatest disorder. They never reached the fire of our infantry. The attack was kept up from 4 P.M. until near dark. The numbers were formidable, but the attack was indeed feeble. The Rebs. had been badly shaken by our artillery fire before they left the woods. All the prisoners say this. Indeed, after the first half-hour the men considered the whole affair great sport. They would call out to the Rebels who had taken shelter in the woods and in the deep ravines in our front, 'Come up here, Johnny Reb. here is a weak place!' 'Come up and take this battery; we are Hooker's paper collar boys.' 'We've only got two rounds of ammunition, come and take us.' 'What do you think of Joe Hooker's Iron Clads?' and the like. . . .

Altogether, I have never had an engagement in which success was won so completely and with so little sacrifice of life. Considering the number of the enemy sent against my single division, the result is indeed most wonderful and gratifying. Dory Davis (T.R.) has been here making a sketch of the ground for Harper's [Weekly]; but he says that Harper's don't put in half he sends and those are bunglingly and incorrectly copied. He sketches beautifully and the pictures he has sent give a most correct idea of the filed of fight, so far as landscape is concerned. We are now lying in the woods and have possession of the ground the enemy charged over. They have strong works not a mile in our front and our pickets keep up the usual popping of small arms."

In less than a week the tide would turn in the Confederates' favor when Sherman decided to attack them on Kennesaw Mountain on June 27. The Confederate defenders had the advantage of breastworks and the high ground to inflict terrible causalities on the attackers. It would be a lesson Sherman would remember. Hood, however, apparently did not take away much from the tough lesson of Kolb's Farm. He would go on to make the same mistakes in the July and August battles around Atlanta, and at Franklin, Tennessee, in November.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bully Civil War Photograph


This rare photograph shows a Union army camp scene where soldiers are entertained by a group of African American minstrel performers. Touring minstrel groups were typically composed of whites who performed in blackface, but some were made up of blacks. It would interesting to know if the group members here were free blacks - either from the northern or slave states - or if they were so-called contrabands.

The group is made up (from left to right) of a bones player, two guitarists, a banjoist, and a tambourine player. They seem to be missing a fiddle player. The group appears to be sitting especially for the photographer in a typical minstrel pose, as they are framed on each end by the raised arms of the bones player and tambourine player (see below).

    

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the Kennesaw Line

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week, but I was busy forwarding the flag of history in College Park, Maryland, at the National History Day competition. If you are not familiar with this great program, which teaches students the skills of "doing history," check it out at www.nhd.org.

Mid-June 1864 saw the Confederate defenders in Georgia holding off Sherman near Kennesaw Mountain, under 30 miles from targeted Atlanta. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston used the region's geography to his advantage, tempting Sherman to attack the formidable earthworks, which due to constant close combat, were becoming as common in Georgia as in Virginia.

Corporal Benjamin F. McGee of the 72nd Indiana Infantry Regiment of Gen. John Thomas Wilder's (pictured) Brigade wrote about the imposing Confederate defenses at Kennesaw.

"On emerging from this forest we could see, for the first time during our service, nearly the entire field of strife. The panorama was terribly grand and awe-inspiring. Had we the time, and the power of Homer, we should like to describe it. What was most repugnant to our feelings, and made us shrink back a little on emerging from the dark woods, was to see on the north end of Kenesaw [sic] an eight-gun battery, of largest calibre, which seemed within a stone's throw of us, and ready to drop death and destruction amongst us. The battery was really four miles away, but so clear was the air that the grim guns seemed very near. The truth is, as we swept our eyes over the scene, horrible with devices and enginery of death, the prospect for a speedy termination of the conflict was not at all encouraging. Every mountain and hill, in front and away to the right, fairly bristled with artillery and swarmed with rebels, Never before had we seen so many rebels at one time."

One June 22, Sherman attempted yet another flanking movement in effort to avoid a direct confrontation at Kennesaw Mountain, but was met at Kolb's Farm by John Bell Hood's Corps. Although Hood's counterattack was bungled, it proved partly successful in that it returned Sherman's attention directly on Kennesaw Mountain. There, a week later, a desperate Union attack was met with an even more desperate and successful Confederate defense.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Abe Buford, Kentuckian


Other than horses and basketball, Kentucky is best known for its bourbon whiskey. Whiskey has been distilled in Kentucky longer than Kentucky has been Kentucky. Much like the horse industry, the bourbon industry claims that the land makes all the difference in a great product. Central Kentucky's fertile soil grows great corn and the limestone springs provide a type of water distillers consider perfect for bourbon production.

I, of course, had heard of Abraham Buford when I came across the above advertisement in an 1867 edition of the Lexington Observer and Reporter, but I never realized he dabbled in the distillery business. A quick peek into his life detailed a tragic story.
  

Abraham Buford was born in Woodford County, Kentucky, in 1820. He was named for a Revolutionary War great uncle, so it only made since he would end up having a military career. After studying at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, Abe attended West Point, graduating in 1841. After participating in the Mexican-American War he stayed in the west for a time before resigning his commission in 1854.

During the Civil War he belatedly joined the Confederacy in the fall of 1862, when the Southerners invaded his native state. He led Confederate cavalry as a brigadier general until the end of the war when he returned to Woodford County and his horse farm, called Bosque Bonita. The Bufords, like so many Kentucky families, were divided by the war. Cousins John and Napoleon Bonaparte Buford made considerable names for themselves in the Union army. 

Buford's career in thoroughbreds pre-dated the Civil War when he was part of a four-party purchase of the famous race horse "Lexington." "Lexington" was later sold exclusively to neighboring horse breeder Richard A. Alexander at Woodburn Farm. The horse brought the highest price ever up to that time, $15,000. 

The 1870s proved to be devastating to Buford. That decade witnessed the loss Bosque Bonita Farm to creditors, the death of his son, Willliam, and the death of his wife, Amanda. Buford's brother, Thomas, a Kentucky judge, killed another judge in 1879, and was committed to an insane asylum. When Thomas escaped from confinement and made his way to Indiana, where he was exempt from extradition, Abraham when to visit Thomas's son Benjamin in Danville, Indiana, for consolation. While there, on June 9, 1884, a depressed Abe Buford took his own life. His body was returned to Kentucky and interred in the Lexington Cemetery.      

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Confederate Soldier Life on the Front Lines

Like Richmond, Atlanta, too, was a hard road to travel - for both those on the offensive, and those on the defensive. One of those defending was young Lieutenant John W. Comer of the 45th Alabama Infantry Regiment. The 45th was in Lowrey's Brigade of Cleburne's Division and had already seen some serious combat. Comer was not yet twenty years old in the summer of 1864, but he had experienced things men three times his age had not seen. With Comer in his soldering adventure was his slave Burrell, who attended to camp duties.

On June 14, 1864, Comer wrote home to Barbour County, Alabama, explaining his army trials.

"I am glad to say I am still safe & well. I never enjoyed better health in my life, I have a few soars on one of my feet, caused I think from such hard and continual marching. We have been on pad since we left Montivallo the 5th day of May. When we lie down at night we do not know how long we will be permitted to sleep, all the principal manuvers are made at night. I never think of pulling off my clothes or shoes when I lie down. I have not pulled off my Pants or Shoes to lie down more then twice since the 5th of May. I sleep with my belt around me & my sword & haversack under my head so as to be ready to move in a moment when called upon. Local service is a paradise compared to active service. I do not believe that there is a Soldier in this army but what has got lice (Body lice I mean). I have my clothes boiled but to no purpose. it is useless to try to get rid of them as long as we have to fare as we do, they plague me half to death, keeping me scratching & feeling . . .While I am writing our Pickets are fighting in front & the Enemy are cannonading heavily. But I have become accustomed to the sound and it does not bother me at all. We are ready and anxiously awaiting the attack of the Enemy. The army is in fine spirits and confident of success in the end. . . .

Burrell is now with the wagon train. I sent him to the rear to wash some clothes. one of our men has just in from the train [and] says he is well & will come to the Regt. in a few days. If Burrell holds out just full to the end & stick[s] to me as well as he has done heretofore & I come out safe, a mint of money could not buy him. There are very few negroes in the army that are not worth anything to their masters at times like this. Burrell is not afraid of anything, he came to use the other day while we were on Picket & borrowed some of the boys guns & shot at the Yankees. said he wanted to kill one Yankee before the war ended."

More tough times for both sides were just about a week away when the belligerents clashed at Kennesaw Mountain.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Black Barbers and the 1860 Kentucky Census


Back in April, I provided some findings from the 1850 census on Kentucky's black barbers. Well, I finally wrapped up 1860 and thought I would do the same for it.

There were not a whole lot of surprises, but the analysis was informative nonetheless. One slight surprise was the lack of increase in barbers from 1850 to 1860. In 1850, there were 102 African American barbers listed, and in 1860 there were 109. I suppose I was expecting a larger increase.

The oldest was the well known Lexington barber Samuel A. Oldham, who was 66. Conversely, the youngest was 10 year old John Black in Louisville's 6th Ward. However, the average age was 32, which means that most of the barbers were probably born in the 1820s and 1830s. There were a number of young barbers. For example, in Oldham's Lexington household were: 19 year old Henry Scrogins, 16 year old Diadamus Scrogins, 16 year old John Mason, 15 year old Patrick Mason, and 19 year old Hezekiah Morison. In Lancaster, 17 year old H. M. Morris served patrons. In Henry Simmend's Louisville household, along with the aforementioned youngster John Black, was also Charles Black a 13 year old, and Ed Goins, who was only 12 years old. Surely most of these boys and young men were apprentices, but most all were listed as "barber."

Almost half of Kentucky's black barbers in 1860 worked in Louisville. There were 52 listed living there. Lexington had the next most at 16. Frankfort's total of black barbers dropped from 12 in 1850 to five in 1860. I am not quite sure why for the decrease. Maysville had the same number as Frankfort. Owensboro had four. Other towns included Paris (2), Catlettsburg (1), Danville (2), Princeton (1), Winchester (1), Mayfield (1), Cynthiana (2), Henderson (2), Covington (2), Richmond (1), Lebanon (2), Harrodsburg (1), Bardstown (1), Georgetown (1), Shelbyville (2), Bowling Green (2), and Midway (1). Although none were listed in Paducah in the census, there were two in that city's 1859-60 directory, but perhaps they were enslaved barbers.

A couple of the state's black barbers in 1860 were doing quite well financially. Louisville's well known Washington Spradling had $25,000 in real estate, while also in that city was David Straus, a 60 year old "mulatto," who owned $10,000 in real estate. Peter Smith in Frankfort owned $3700 in real property. Albert Mackey of Richmond owned $3000 in personal property, a great deal of which was 5 slaves, possibly his family. Charles Anderson of Owensboro owned $5000 in personal property.

The barbers owned a total of $27,330 in personal property. Divided among the 109 barbers that is an average personal property wealth of $250.73. If one takes into consideration only the 53 barbers that actually owned personal property, each averaged $515.66. The barbers also owned a total of $55,550 in real estate for an average of $509.63. But only 19 of the 109 barbers actually owned real estate, so if only factoring those, their real estate average rises to $2923.68.

In 1850, 45 barbers were listed mulatto and 57 were black. But in 1860, there was slight reversal of complexion figures with 46 black, 60 mulatto, and 3 with color not noted (but confirmed as African American by city directory). There appeared to be some market mobility from 1850 to 1860. For instance, Wallace Cowan left Danville for Louisville, Q. B. Jones left Frankfort for Louisville, as did Johnson Buckner.

If I had the time, it would be interesting to see how things changed in 1870 (after emancipation), but that's a future project at best.    

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Civil War Soldiers and Practical Jokes


With so much down time in camp Civil War soldiers naturally looked for various diversion to pass the hours. Some played cards, some formed singing groups, some read everything they could find, some gravitated toward camp revivals, and some played practical jokes.

And,while contrabands in the Union army (above photos) and camp slaves in the Confederate armies came in for fair share of the victims, comrades were most often on the butt end of the joke.

Pennsylvanian Private Sidney M. Davis of the 6th US Cavalry wrote about some to the tomfoolery that he witnessed:

"During these days of wild soldiering the men were addicted to playing practical jokes upon each other. Sometimes when a party would be lying asleep around the campfire, with their boots out and their bare feet stretched out towards the welcome coals, a comrade would move a blazing branch closer to the glistening soles. Presently the sleeper would move uneasily and draw up his pedal extremities. Then the branch would be moved closer, followed by a similar movement, and this programme would be followed up until the sleeper had gradually travelled over considerable ground.

When at last the sleeper awakened, he would look about him with a bewildered stare, until the laughs of his comrades brought him to a realization of the pranks that had been played upon him.

There was another mode of dealing with soldiers accustomed to sleep with their mouths open. A long train of paper would be made and laid, with one end in his mouth, and the other off some distance. The end farthest away would then be lighted, and the paper would burn gradually up towards his face, and presently awake him with its light and heat. On such occasions it was a comical sight to observe the curious emotions displayed upon his face--the uncertainty for a time, and then the sudden consciousness that brought him to his feet with startling suddenness."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Miscegenation


The racism of the mid-nineteenth century never ceases to amaze me. However, in my opinion, why it was that way is important to try to understand. 

I found the above article in the May 12, 1870, edition of the Cynthiana News, a Kentucky newspaper. The changes that the post-Civil War constitutional amendments meant for Kentucky were frightening to many of the state's whites, who had previously only dealt with most African Americans through the social control of slavery. Now, there was no more slavery, blacks were to be considered citizens and received the attending rights, and of course - and maybe scariest - black men had gained the right to vote.  

While those amendment changes help in explaining the racism presented in this article, its logic is difficult to figure. Abraham Lincoln had argued back in 1858 in the debates he held with Stephen A. Douglas, that just because a man (or party) believed that African Americans were created equal, that did not necessarily mean - or lead - to a white man wanting to marry a black woman. 

However, I suppose there is no logic needed when it comes to propaganda, which is what this article is to me. There is no solid evidence backing up its claims and its only intent was to prevent whites from voting for the Republican Party. Apparently strategies such as this worked well in Kentucky; where a Republican governor was not elected until 1895, and former Confederates dominated politics in the state into the 20th century. In addition, many of those white Kentuckians who had fought for the Union in the Civil War held no favor for the Republican Party and fused with former Confederates in the Democratic Party.