Small stories that don’t warrant full posts of their own:
- Stephanie McCurry, author of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, will be giving a 10-week online course beginning in January called “History of the Slave South” (above). Registration is free.
- The SCV has committed $25,000 to help keep the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site in Irwinville, Georgia open to the public. Kudos to them for stepping up.
- The contentious dispute over the Confederate monument at Reidsville may be effectively over, with the installation of a replacement statue atop the restored monument at the UDC plot in Greenview Cemetery. The usual suspects are furious, but given (1) the city’s flat (and repeated) refusal to restore the monument in its original location (which they own), and (2) the fact that the core legal challenge to the UDC’s plans went nowhere, this is not a bad outcome. Glass half full, etc.
- Four Civil War battlefields may soon be rolled into the National Park System. Most of the property is currently held by the Civil War Trust, which should facilitate the process.
- Finally, everyone’s favorite Confederate heritage beard showed up in Florida to protest the possible renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School.
Both desertion and men running from conscription was a big problem in Texas, as it was in other parts of the South during the war. I recently came across this account of using “Negro dogs,” bred and trained to hunt runaway slaves, to track deserters in East Texas. The place mentioned, Winter’s Bayou, runs through the Sam Houston National Forest, southeast of Huntsville. From the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, December 21, 1864, p. 1:
A cut from the new album, Divided and United: The Songs of the Civil War, produced by Randall Poster. Divided and United offers more than 30 (!) tracks of period songs, re-interpreted by modern artists, including well-known performers like Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Taj Mahal, Lee Ann Womack and Dolly Parton. Some of the best, though, are from less-familiar artists like Shovels & Rope and Pokey LaFarge (right). There’s a neat NPR story on the new album here.
From the interview:
The collection features lesser-known songs of the Civil War, some by a songwriter named Henry Clay Work. According to [project historian Sean] Wilentz, Work was a key member of a group of composers that wrote the history of the era through song. “Henry Clay Work was part of a sort of diffuse Tin Pan Alley that produced a lot of the songs that we think of as iconic Civil War songs,” Wilentz tells NPR’s Melissa Block. “We think of them kind of drifting up out of the campfires in the trenches of the war itself, but they were composed by commercial songwriters, much as we have commercial songwriters today. To make a hit in the 1850s and ’60s meant you were selling a lot of sheet music, which is what they did.” Some of the songs written by Work and other composers became popular through minstrel-show performances. One of the songs revamped in the new collection — “Kingdom Come” sung by — tells the story of slaves celebrating after their master has run away to escape from armed forces sent by Abraham Lincoln. Wilentz says the tune was a “pretty edgy song” at the time it was created. “It was written before the Emancipation Proclamation, so it’s prospective of all of that,” Wilentz says. “It was actually being sung on the blackface minstrel stage. So, you have white guys in blackface, celebrating the end of slavery and the skedaddling of the master, who they make fun of. This is a great thing about American culture, particularly in this period. The inversions of race, of politics, of what’s going on, all sung to a very rousing tune, is remarkable.”
I’ve known this song for years, but I never heard this verse:
- The overseer he makes us trouble, and drive us ’round a spell, We locked him in the smokehouse cellar, with the key thrown down the well. The whip is lost, the handcuffs broken, but the massa’ll have his pay, He’s old enough, big enough, ought to known better than to try an’ run away!
Amid the tributes and commentary on the passing of Nelson Mandela, I didn’t have anything particular to add. But then I read this, by my friend Emily L. Hauser, that cuts like a clarion bell through all the well-intentioned hagiography that’s filling the airwaves right now. I hope she will forgive me for repeating it here in toto:
Mandela strove for nonviolence, yet when forced, resisted violently. He refused to renounce the right of the oppressed to violent resistance, yet after being released from prison, Mandela worked closely with former enemies. His work was fundamentally political, both radical and practical. We should be made uncomfortable by Mandela’s example – not just celebrate it, but study it. We make assumptions, and cherry-pick, and want to file off edges we don’t like, but the work of the righteous should always make us uncomfortable.
_____________Nelson Mandela in 2009 Photo by Media24/Gallo Images/Getty Images.
James Morris Morgan (right, 1845-1928) was a 17-year-old Acting Midshipman in the Confederate Navy, serving aboard the ironclad Chicora at Charleston, when he received orders sending him abroad, where he would later join the crew of the commerce raider C.S.S. Georgia. First, though, he had to get safely out of the Confederacy. One of his fellow passengers on the run to Bermuda was the celebrated naval officer and oceanographer, Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-73). As Morgan would recall decades later in his memoir, Recollections of a Rebel Reefer, Maury’s presence aboard the runner would prove to be a fortuitous circumstance.[George Alfred] Trenholm owned many blockade-runners — one of them, the little light-draft steamer Herald,  was lying in Charleston Harbor loaded with cotton and all ready to make an attempt to run through the blockading fleet. Commodore Maury, accompanied by his little son, a boy of twelve years of age, and myself, whom he had designated as his aide-de-camp for the voyage, went on board after bidding good-bye to our kind friends. About ten o’clock at night we got under way and steamed slowly down the harbor, headed for the sea. The moon was about half full, but heavy clouds coming in from the ocean obscured it. We passed between the great lowering forts of Moultrie and Sumter and were soon on the bar, when suddenly there was a rift in the clouds, through which the moon shone brightly, and there, right ahead of us, we plainly saw a big sloop-of-war! There was no use trying to hide. She also had seen us, and the order, “ Hard-a-starboard,” which rang out on our boat was nearly drowned by the roar of the warship’s great guns. The friendly clouds closed again and obscured the moon, and we rushed back to the protecting guns of the forts without having had our paint scratched. Two or three more days were passed delightfully in Charleston; then there came a drizzling rain and on the night of the 9th of October, 1862, we made another attempt to get through the blockade. All lights were out except the one in the covered binnacle protecting the compass. Not a word was spoken save by the pilot, who gave his orders to the man at the wheel in whispers. Captain [Louis M.] Coxetter, who commanded the Herald, had previously commanded the privateer Jeff Davis, and had no desire to be taken prisoner, as he had been proclaimed by the Federal Government to be a pirate and he was doubtful about the treatment he would receive if he fell into the enemy’s hands. He was convinced that the great danger in running the blockade was in his own engine-room, so he seated himself on the ladder leading down to it and politely informed the engineer that if the engine stopped before he was clear of the fleet, he, the engineer, would be a dead man. As Coxetter held in his hand a Colt’s revolver, this sounded like no idle threat. Presently I heard the whispered word passed along the deck that we were on the bar. This information was immediately followed by a series of bumps as the little ship rose on the seas, which were quite high, and then plunging downward, hit the bottom, causing her to ring like an old tin pan. However, we safely bumped our way across the shallows, and, plunging and tossing in the gale, this little cockleshell, whose rail was scarcely five feet above the sea level, bucked her way toward Bermuda. She was about as much under the water as she was on top of it for most of the voyage. Bermuda is only six hundred miles from Charleston; a fast ship could do the distance easily in forty-eight hours, but the Herald was slow: six or seven knots was her ordinary speed in good weather and eight when she was pushed. She had tumbled about in the sea so much that she had put one of her engines out of commission and it had to be disconnected. We were thus compelled to limp along with one, which of course greatly reduced her speed. On the fifth day the weather moderated and we sighted two schooners. To our surprise Captain Coxetter headed for them and, hailing one, asked for their latitude and longitude. The schooner gave the information, adding that she navigated with a “blue pigeon” (a deep-sea lead), which of course was very reassuring. We limped away and went on groping for Bermuda. Captain Coxetter had spent his life in the coasting trade between Charleston and the Florida ports, and even when he commanded for a few months the privateer Jeff Davis he had never been far away from the land. Such was the jealousy, however, of merchant sailors toward officers of the navy that, with one of the most celebrated navigators in the world on board his ship, he had not as yet confided to anybody the fact that he was lost. On the sixth day, however, he told Commodore Maury that something terrible must have happened, as he had sailed his ship directly over the spot where the Bermuda Islands ought to be! Commodore Maury told him that he could do nothing for him before ten o clock that night and advised him to slow down. At ten o’clock the great scientist and geographer went on deck and took observations, at times lying flat on his back, sextant in hand, as he made measurements of the stars. When he had finished his calculations he gave the captain a course and told him that by steering it at a certain speed he would sight the light at Port Hamilton by two o clock in the morning. No one turned into his bunk that night except the commodore and his little son; the rest of us were too anxious. Four bells struck and no light was in sight. Five minutes more passed and still not a sign of it; then grumbling commenced, and the passengers generally agreed with the man who expressed the opinion that there was too much d___d science on board and that we should all be on our way to Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor as soon as day broke. At ten minutes past two the masthead lookout sang out, “Light ho!”; and the learned old commodore’s reputation as a navigator was saved.
Back in 2010 I started this post about Lt. Colonel Benjamin Franklin Carter of the Forth Texas Infantry, but never finished it. Carter started out as commanding officer of Company B. He was promoted to Major in late June 1862, and advanced to Lieutenant Colonel two weeks later, on July 10, 1862, and commanded the regiment at Sharpsburg. Carter was grievously wounded during the Texas Brigade’s assault on Little Round Top at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, struck by shell fragments in the face and legs. He lingered for almost three weeks, dying on July 21. My post was occasioned by a June 2010 news story, describing the placement of a marker at his gravesite.
In an interesting two-part story from the North Texas Herald Democrat, an officer of the 4th Texas Infantry killed at Little Round Top gets a grave marker in Pennsylvania:
[Lieutenant Colonel] Carter asked the doctor if there might be some gentleman in town to whom he could appeal for a Christian burial. When the doctor told McClure the story, McClure went to the hospital to visit Carter. Within days Carter died and McClure asked that he be buried in the Presbyterian burial grounds. The request was unanimously denied by the church members. Every other church in town also refused to allow Carter to be buried in their cemeteries. Finally, with help from a member of the Methodist Church, a burial plot was allowed in the Methodist Cemetery and Carter received a Christian burial there. For 33 years Carter lay in that grave with a granite headstone until the cemetery was sold, along with the Methodist Church, to the Brethren congregation. When the church decided to enlarge its facilities, the only way it could build was into the burial grounds. Forty-seven graves of people who had no one to claim their bones, including Carter’s, were disinterred and taken to the Cedar Grove Cemetery and buried in a single grave with no head stone. It was said that Carter’s stone probably was used as ballast when the concrete was poured for the new section of the church.
Benjamin F. Carter was born in Tennessee in 1831. At the time of the 1850 census, eighteen-year-old Carter was teaching school in Giles County, Tennessee. After completing Jackson College, he relocated to Austin, where he worked as an attorney. He served a term two consecutive one-year terms as Austin’s mayor in 1858 and 1859. In the 1860 census, he is listed as 29 years old, with a wife Louisa and two daughters, ages 1 and 3. He reported owning $2,000 worth of real estate, but did not report any personal property. He is not listed that year as a slaveholder.
With the coming of the war he organized a company called the Tom Green Rifles, that ultimately became Company B of the 4th Texas Infantry. Van C. Giles, a member of Carter’s company, noted years later that the entire regiment was teeming with members of the bar:
Of the ten original captains who went to war in Virginia with the Fourth Texas regiment in 1861, six of them were lawyers, two merchants, one a farmer and one a stockman. Of the thirty lieutenants, nearly one-third were lawyers. Of the fifty sergeants, fifteen were lawyers, and of the 1500 men who served in that old regiment from the beginning to the finish, there was no end to lawyers and law students. Of course there were not enough offices in the regiment for all of them. Lawyers in war are like lawyers in peace, they go for all that’s in sight. They held the best places in the army and they hold the best places in civil life. It’s a mighty cold day when a lawyer gets left if chicken pie is on the bill of fare.
Even among the lawyer-soldiers of the 4th Texas, though, Carter stood out:
Captain B. F. Carter of Company B was far above the average of men as you meet them. Intellectually, he had no superior in the regiments. A fine lawyer, a natural born soldier, he was a strict disciplinarian, but practical and just in all things. He possessed the gift of knowing how to explain every maneuver set down in Hardee’s Tactics so thoroughly that the biggest blockhead in the ranks could understand them Physically he was not strong and the long marches used to weary him very much. On those occasions, to help him along, the boys would divide up his luggage, one taking his sword and belt, another his haversack and canteen another his blanket, and so forth. By this means we managed to keep him up. . . . There was not an officer in Hood’s Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia who was more universally loved and admired by the soldiers of that old command than Lieutenant Colonel Ben F. Carter of the Fourth Texas Regiment, whom I have mentioned earlier. He was the very soul of honor, full of the milk of human kindness, yet at times he appeared harsh and cruel, especially to those who did not know and understand him. . . . After our arrival at Richmond [Virginia] in the summer of 1861, many of the men were sick from exposure and change in climate. They were sent to various hospitals in the city. Captain Carter would send someone every day to see how his boys were getting along, but would never go in person to see them. He would buy and send them little delicacies, and to some of the prodigal fellows who never had a cent he often sent money.He manifested the greatest interest in his men and nothing the quartermaster could issue was too good for old Company B — but he strictly avoided coming in contact with the sick and wounded. He often spoke of this peculiarity, or apparent indifference, explaining it by saying that he could not bear to see any one suffer, and that he had a perfect horror of a sick room.
Giles was writing long after the war, of course, so his profile of Carter undoubtedly includes a certain nostalgia, along with the knowledge that Carter did not survive the war. Nonetheless, it offers a vivid portrait of the man, and evinces affection and respect.
_________Carter portrait via user AUG351 at Civil War Talk.
The new issue of the Civil War Monitor magazine went out to subscribers this week, and is available online now. In this issue:
- Travels: “Destination: Boston” by Kevin M. Levin
- Voices: “Homesick”
- Preservation: “Thank a Teacher” by O. James Lighthizer
- Disunion: “From Battlefield to Ballfield,” by George B. Kirsch
- Salvo: “Revisiting Confederate in the Attic,” by Jenny Johnston
- In Focus: “Christmas in Camp,” by Bob Zeller
- “Laurence Massillon Keitt,” by Stephen Berry
- “The 25 Most Influential Politicians, Civilians, Inventors, Spies & Soldiers of the Civil War (That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)”
- “Mystery of the Confederate Deep” by Andrew W. Hall with Michael Crisafulli, Kimble Johnson, Barry Rogoff and Cary Mock
- “War at the Door,” by John C. Inscoe
- Books and Authors: “The Best Civil War Books of 2013,” with Kenneth W. Noe, Andrew Wagenhoffer, Robert K. Krick, Ethan S. Rafuse, Brooks D. Simpson, Harry Smeltzer and Kevin M. Levin
Through the generosity of the Monitor‘s editor, Terry Johnston, blog readers can access the entire Winter 2013 issue online for the next few days:
http://www.civilwarmonitor.com/issue-library/i10 username: dead password: confederates
It’s a great magazine. Remember, the holidays are just around the corner, and you know at least one person who’d love to have a subscription!
I meant to post this back in July, when user Shadow9216 over at CWT put up a series of posts (in sesquicentennial real-time!) of long-lost text-messages sent between military commanders during the Battle of Gettysburg. You can read the series here. Here’s the chatter between the Confederate high command on the evening of July 1:
BobLee: : -) Longstrt: srsly tho, how U fight in morning? BobLee: dunno, but best men scouting now Longstrt: Stuart back? Didn't kno that... BobLee: Not Stuart. Longstrt: cuz U sed best so I guess that wuz Stuart BobLee: Give it a rest dude Longstrt: U shud like totes courtmartial his srry @zz
BobLee: ZZZZ Longstrt: fine do wat u want. Picketts here Longstrt: later boss dude. BobLee: l8r P33T. C U in morning.
Salliesboy1863: PICKETT IN DA HOUSE! Salliesboy1863: Rollin up w/my boyz from viginia Lo: There's an R george. Salliesboy1863: do wut now? Lo: There's an R in Virginia Salliesboy1863: wut-evr dude. thats why i hav U. Lo: um hmm. btw, salliesboy1863= srsly lame jimkemper_spkr.va: srsly Lo, U tell him Salliesboy1863: riiiiight Jim URs is soooo better fremantle_a_mil.uk: I say what is the proper format for fremantle_a_mil.uk: one who wishes to have a decent, that is fremantle_a_mil.uk: an acceptable means of identifying oneself fremantle_a_mil.uk: on these devices? Salliesboy1863: OMFG! Lo: dude, R U ever a n00b! jimkemper_spkr.va: WTF? Who brought in this l00zr? Longstrt: dudes, chillax. he's a bro from the UK aight? BobLee: anyone seen my cavalry?
Other bloggers have mentioned the dispute over a proposed monument to the Union soldiers that fought at the Battle of Olustee in 1864. There are three Confederate monuments on the site, but none that memorialize as a group the Federal troops that fought there. (There is, apparently, a marker where Union troops who fell were buried in a mass grave.) Initially I though that this was strictly a local issue, then Simpson posted a call to action sent out nearly a month ago on the official SCV blog, by that group’s commander-in-chief, Michael Givens. Typeface and spelling (“Darth Vadar,” “hallowed grown”) are as in the original:
A new heritage attack has been launched at Olustee (near Lake City, Florida), and your help is needed. In anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the battle that protected Florida’s capital from falling, the Sons of Union Veterans has obtained approval from the State of Florida Parks Department for a special monument to invading Federal forces. The plan calls for a large black Darth Vadar-esque shaft that will disrupt the hallowed grown where Southern blood was spilled in defense of Florida, protecting Tallahassee from capture. We fear the State may have a legal right to do so. Therefore, in order to stop this we must win the war through citizen objection. Confederate Forces won the Battle in 1864 - but will we win the 2nd Battle of Olustee and prevent this menacing monument from disrupting this hallowed Southern soil?
Rational people can have legitimate disagreement on the design or placement of this new monument, but labeling the the SUVCW’s desire to put up a monument as an “attack” on “the hallowed grown where Southern blood was spilled” makes clear the intent is to prevent any monument being placed at all.
Then comes Tim Manning, a well-known figure in the Confederate heritage/Southern nationalist/secessionist movement, pouring gasoline on the fire as only he can. His post is nominally about Vicksburg, but it’s done in response to a news story about the Olustee dispute, in which the local SCV camp commander, Jim Shillinglaw, compares Union soldiers to fanatical jihadists. Manning describes Shillinglaw as “a personal friend of mine” whose “message [should] go viral to every Southerner.” Here are some excerpts:
VICKSBURG & THE SCV: RETHINKING USA MONUMENTS TO THE U.S. GENOCIDAL WAR ~ EVERY U.S. MONUMENT to the U.S. Soldiers who fought the Southern States and people is a maniacal celebration of anti-Southern race-hatred and should be removed from every Southern State. These people want us to think that the men who killed our families to keep us in “their” subjugation are heroes of the USA and the Southern people. This is absurd. I call it stinkin’ thinkin’. Only a pathological or psychopathic bully would approve and celebrate the killing of a persons family and then erect a monument to the genocidal violence committed on the property of the same people they violated. This is like building a monument in Nagasaki and Hiroshima celebrating President Truman and the crew of the plane that bombed these cities. Our Stockholm Syndrome has kept many from “seeing” things like this in the past, but it is time to wake-up and from the shackles of the merchants of death. The man interviewed in the news clip below is a personal friend of mine. Help this message go viral to every Southerner. A few years ago I visited Vicksburg Battlefield after someone had damaged dozens of Illinois monuments. It looked like they had shot the monuments with buck shot and then beaten on the monuments thousands of times with a sledge hammer. The huge Greek-godlike monument to Lincoln smelled like urine and there was feces on some of the smaller Illinois monuments. Most of these monuments were just unveiled. To think that the people of Illinois today would build new monuments to the men who did what was done in the Siege of Vicksburg is a symptom of a psychotic society in Illinois and the USA. . . . Sadly, the National Sons of Confederate Veterans repeatedly, decade after decade, refer to the invaders of the South as “honourable men who fought bravely for their country.” There is NO HONOUR to any man who fights for a totalitarian dishonourable cause! Anyone who thinks these men were honourable to invaded the Southern States has a mind that is totally uninformed by the Holy Bible and the Will of God. The best that can be said of a person who would honour the USA invaders is that he is a spiritual inebriate. . . . Those who will honour U.S. Veterans now living need to know that they are honouring men and women who are doing to foreign nations what the USA did to the South during the 1860s through the Period of Reconstruction in the 1870s. We must at least stop celebrating the American Holocaust committed against the Southern people of the Confederate States of America ! ! !
He goes on to compare the Union to Nazis (and not favorably). It’s funny how they scream in righteous indignation when anyone makes a Nazi analogy to the Confederacy, while doing the reverse is a routine part of defending Confederate heritage. (“Abraham Hitler,” really?)
These people are clowns. Under their leadership, the Confederate heritage movement is marginalizing itself as fast as it possibly can, and it’s words and positions like these that lie at the core of the problem. Shillinglaw, Givens, and Manning would, I’m sure, gets lots of applause for saying this stuff at an SCV meeting, but most other folks will read posts like that and ask, “what the fnck is the matter with you people?” They can run their movement however they want to, but from where I sit it looks like they’re doing more harm to their own cause than all the shadowy, conspiratorial forces of “political correctness” they’re always carping about ever could hope to.
The other day, Kevin asked if the Lost Cause had actually been lost. It’s a fair question. If people like Shillinglaw, Givens and Manning are going to be the face of what passes for Confederate heritage, it’s doomed, and the cause of death will be suicide.
UPDATE, November 13. The current talking point of SCV opposition to the proposed SUVCW monument is that the latter would be placed “in front of” existing Confederate monuments. At the same time, there is general carping that the SUVCW hasn’t been open enough in publicly sharing the details of its plan with the SCV. The Confederate heritage group seems to be saying, in effect, “we are opposed to the specific details of the plan for which we don’t know the specific details.”
In fact, suggestion that the SCV is merely objecting to the placement “in front of” the existing Confederate monuments is a red herring. As Michael Givens’ public call to action above makes clear, the SCV is opposing placement of the marker anywhere near the others. Now comes a statement from the Florida SCV Division Commander, Jim Davis, arguing explitly that it should be nowhere on the 3-acre tract originally deeded to the state for a battlefield park by the UDC. Instead, he argues, it should be on the opposite side of the road, in an uncleared area off by itself. This is Davis’ proposal:
You know, separate but equal.
Davis also tells a flat-out falsehood, saying that “the 1912 monument is dedicated to the memory of the men who fought for the Union and the Confederacy.” The is a blatant untruth; this is the text of the dedication on the monument:
To the men who fought and
Triumphed here in defense
of their homes and firesides.
This monument is erected
by the United Daughters
of the Confederacy aided
by the State of Florida.
In commemoration of their
devotion to the cause of
Liberty and State Sovereignty
This is not a dedication to the memory of any soldier in a blue uniform.
Davis’ assertion is not a mistake; it’s flat-out misrepresentation. As I said in the original post, reasonable can have a rational disagreement over the position of an historical marker. But if you need to resort blatant falsehoods to make your case, as the Florida Division of the SCV does here, you damn well deserve to lose.