Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Professor Hill’s Southern Algebra

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 25, 2015

In 1857, future Confederate general Daniel Harvey Hill was a mathematics and civil engineering professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. That year he published a mathematics textbook, Elements of Algebra. Lest one assume that a mathematics text would be dull, fear not — Hill went to some length to make it a primer on the evils of Yankeedom. Here are some of the actual word problems from the book:


A Yankee mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him 1/4 cent apiece, with a quantity of real nutmegs, worth 4 cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44; and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs were there?

In the year 1692, the people of Massachusetts executed, imprisoned, or privately persecuted 469 persons, of both sexes, and all ages, for alleged crime of witchcraft. Of these, twice as many were privately persecuted as were imprisoned, and 7 17/19 times as many more were imprisoned than were executed. Required the number of sufferers of each kind?

In the year 1637, all the Pequod Indians that survived the slaughter on the Mystic River were either banished from Connecticut, or sold into slavery. The square root of twice the number of survivors is equal to 1/10 that number. What was the number?

The field of battle at Buena Vista is 6½ miles from Saltillo. Two Indiana volunteers ran away from the field of battle at the same time; one ran half a mile per hour faster than the other, and reached Saltillo 5 minutes and 54 6/11 seconds sooner than the other. Required their respective rates of travel.

A man in Cincinnati purchased 10,000 pounds of bad pork, at 1 cent per pound, and paid so much per pound to put it through a chemical process, by which it would appear sound, and then sold it at an advanced price, clearing $450 by the fraud. The price at which he sold the pork per pound, multiplied by the cost per pound of the chemical process, was 3 cents. Required the price at which he sold it, and the cost of the chemical process.

At the Women’s Rights Convention, held at Syracuse, New York, composed of 150 delegates, the old maids, childless-wives, and bedlamites [lunatics] were to each other as the number 5, 7, and 3. How many were there of each class?



The first testimonial endorsement in the front of the book — what we would now call a “blurb” — was from a Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute, named T. J. Jackson. The endorsement didn’t mention that Jackson was Hill’s brother-in-law.

H/t user CSA Today at Civil War Talk.

The Notorious RBG Steps Up for the SCV

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 23, 2015

RBG Blank

Lyle Denniston, the dean of reporters covering the Supreme Court, offers a recap of this morning’s oral arguments at SCOTTUSblog. Not surprisingly, almost the entire session was taken up with back-and-forth on whether the license plates in question are government speech, or individual speech, or something in-between. On the whole, it doesn’t sound like it went well for the State of Texas, given that even the perceived liberal justices like the Notorious RBG saw a First Amendment issue in the case: Blank

But [Texas Solicitor General Scott A. Keller] had hardly finished his opening sentences when members of the Court began acting as if the First Amendment did apply to that system. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the state used a “nebulous standard” for disapproving plate designs — which, of course, would be beside the point if the state had absolute freedom to choose; it would not need any standard at all, and could act on whimsy.

 Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., quickly offered a hypothetical about government billboards that contained the state’s message, but left room at the bottom for people to put up a message of their choice. He was, of course, hinting at a hybrid display: some government, some private. Keller responded that, if the government had final approval authority, it still would be government speech.

 Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that, “almost anything that the government does, it has final authority over,” but that would not be true if the government had not created the words — in other words, if some of the speech was privately initiated. She, too, was talking about a hybrid situation and that, again, would seem to bring the First Amendment at least partly into play.​

Blank Denniston concludes: Blank

[SCV attorney R. James George, Jr.’s] entire time at the lectern, like Keller’s, was taken up with explorations of where free expression stopped and state regulation could begin — a line-drawing problem that would not even arise if the First Amendment did not apply at all.

 What was evident, by the close of the argument, that Texas had made no significant impression with its core argument, but the Court was left with a very challenging task of deciding what constitutional regime should be put in place to monitor the potential censorship of the messages that roll down Texas’s highways.​


The audio recording of this morning’s session should be released Friday, the same day that the justices will meet in conference. If they follow their usual practice, they will vote on the case then and divvy up the assignments for writing the ruling, dissent, and any concurring opinions among the justices. Public announcement of the decision likely will not come until June.

__________ GeneralStarsGray

William Watson Runs Pelican Into Galveston

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 23, 2015

From the book:


Through the first four months of 1865, steam blockade runners continued to arrive at Galveston at the rate of about one a week—at least twenty arrivals in all. A few ships, like Denbigh and Lark, made multiple round voyages between Havana and Galveston during that period. Mostly these ships ran in and out again without being spotted, but it was becoming a much more hazardous game  than it had been before. In addition to the ordinary perils of navigation, as exemplified by the loss of Will o’ the Wisp and Acadia, the number of Federal warships assigned to the blockade grew steadily as other Confederates ports fell, freeing up gunboats assigned there to be moved to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

William Watson made one final trip into Galveston in the closing days of the war. In March 1865 he was in Havana, having recently sold his schooner Rob Roy, when he was recruited to sail aboard the new runner Pelican, under contract to Houston merchant Thomas W. House. The master who had brought Pelican across the Atlantic had stepped down, not wanting to run the blockade, and the new captain “had not much experience at sea, and knew nothing of navigation.” Watson agreed to go along and serve as navigator and pilot for getting in and out of Galveston. Watson looked over the ship, a twin-screw steamer, and assessed Pelican to be “tolerably well found” to the task. Her master’s charts were badly out of date, though, so Watson brought his own, which he had extensively annotated during his own voyages.

While the twenty officers and crew seemed capable enough, only two men besides Watson had ever run the blockade before. Their inexperience revealed itself almost immediately after leaving Havana, when the master sent a ship’s boy around to light the ship’s running lights for the night. The master seemed genuinely dumbfounded at Watson’s insistence that this was a case where the regulations had to be ignored, but he complied and had the lights extinguished.

On the third evening out, when approaching the Texas coast, Pelican was sighted and chased briefly by a Union gunboat, but Watson employed a standard runner’s trick, opening the furnace dampers to produce a huge volume of black, greasy smoke in the ship’s wake. Then, cutting off the smoke suddenly, Watson made a sharp change in Pelican’s course, leaving the Union ship to continue steering for the dark smudge on the horizon. Pelican later resumed her original course, making landfall several miles southwest of Galveston, and began creeping slowly along the shore, headed for the Southwest Channel that ran along the Galveston beach. Eventually Watson spotted the signal light atop Hendley’s Row, “not far off, but dim, probably from the scarcity of oil.”

Watson was worried that Pelican, light-draft as she was, would still find herself aground in the shallowest part of the channel, as the water was now at ebb tide. His concern proved to be correct, and  Pelican grounded not far from the battery at Fort Point. At this point, they were well inshore of the blockaders, and with the tide rising, the ship floated free again in about an hour. Pelican continued slowly on her way up the channel and by 2:00 a.m. was anchored near the Confederate guard boat, waiting for the boarding officer to inspect the ship’s papers.


In his 1893 memoir, The Adventures of a Blockade Runner, Watson identifies this ship as Phoenix, but no steamship of that name is known to have run the blockade. Watson’s description of the vessel and its voyage closely matches the runner Pelican, and David Asprey, a researcher in the United Kingdom, was able to reconstruct Pelican’s activities in late 1864 and early 1865 using Lloyd’s List (a daily newspaper) and the Annual Index of Ship Movements in Lloyd’s Collection, Guildhall Library, London. The details of Pelican’s career match Watson’s description of Phoenix very closely, including the description of the ship as a screw steamer (there was only one known to have run into Galveston during that period), as well as her arrival at Havana from London in January and a change of masters shortly before running the blockade.



How the Irish Became American

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 17, 2015

This past Sunday was the annual Dick Dowling Statue Ceremony in Houston. It’s one of the central events for the Irish community in the area, and very well attended. The weather this year was just about perfect.

Sunday’s keynote speaker was Brady Lee Hutchison, a member of the History Department at San Jacinto College. Reproduced here with permission.


“How the Irish Became American”

by Brady Lee Hutchison

First of all, let me say that you for inviting me here to speak to you today. It is quite an honor for this Irish-American. It is fitting that we are gathered here, with Houston’s own Irish hero, to mark what promises to be a fun week for those of us who’s families hail from the Emerald Isle. Historical remembrance is important. If ever we stop passing that legacy down to the next generation, then the deeds of the brave men and women who have come before us will disappear from our collective conscious and that is something that we must strive to avoid.

Ireland and America have long shared a bond of friendship brought on by shared blood. Today, three times more people claim Irish ancestry than live in Ireland, so it is understandable that the two countries would have so much in common. On March 17th, the day set aside for our Patron Saint, Patrick, it is easy to get lost in the revelry and forget the difficult and dangerous road that our ancestors traveled down so that we could live in the kind of country that now celebrates the very heritage that it once scorned. But how did that happen? How did we get to where we are today? Like the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty that says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”, Ireland did just that, helped along by the English. Indeed, the Irish would transition from huddled masses to heroes. For every Dick Dowling, who we honor here today, there were hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands more who also came over from the Old Country who fought and died for their adopted home, be it North or South. They shed their blood and often sacrificed their lives so that future generations of Americans of Irish descent could find the acceptance that their ancestors so desperately wanted. The Civil War, friends, was more than just a battle for the soul of a nation. For the Irish, it was a battle for acceptance. And that is what I will say a few brief remarks on today.

If you will permit me a brief interlude first, I would like to explain how I came to know Dick Dowling. I grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, just a few miles from Sabine Pass where Dowling and his intrepid band of Irishmen performed a feat, rarely paralleled in the annals of military history. We first learned about him in third grade when I was a young student at Robert E. Lee Elementary. We also had a Dick Dowling Elementary, but alas, I lived in Lee’s attendance zone. That same year my parents took me to the annual Dowling festival and reenactment at Sabine Pass. That gave me my first glimpse at Civil War reenacting. Eleven years later, as a 19 year old college student, I would participate in my first reenactment at that same spot. I have long been aware of my Irish heritage. With Fitzgerald blood in my veins, it is hard not to be. As a child, it gave me quite a thrill to know that merely a few miles and one hundred and twenty years (at that time) separated me from men with blood the same as mine who so bravely stood their ground and defended the very spot where I lived. From that moment on, I think that it was almost inescapable that I would gravitate towards the study of history and though I took a circuitous route, end up teaching it. So long as we are aware of where we came from, I think the bonds of time do not seem so significant. Which is why we should know not only the glorious triumphs, but also the toils and struggles that our ancestors faced.

The reasons why so many Irish men, women, and children immigrated to the United States in the 1840s and 50s is well known to all here. During the years of the Great Hunger, though specific numbers are hard to pin down, roughly a million people died and an equal number crossed the Atlantic on the coffin ships. In a ten year period, the overall population of Ireland dropped significantly. In Connaught, for example, the population loss from 1841-1851 was close to 30%. What I find interesting is that the destination of the ship leaving Ireland would later determine which side of the Civil War the men fought on. My ancestors boarded a vessel bound for New Orleans, as did Dowling’s family. Indeed, New Orleans received the third largest number of Irish immigrants during these years, trailing only New York and Boston. This transformed the Crescent City to one that in the late 19th Century would be identified as being thoroughly Irish. If Dowling’s family had boarded a different boat, he might very well have been commanding troops in the Northern Army during the War. Such is the fickle nature of history. However, when the Irish arrived in the United States, they found a nation that shared the same deeply rooted prejudices against Catholicism that also existed in England and thus rather than welcoming them with open arms, the Irish faced a struggle for survival which would also transform into a struggle for the soul of a nation. But I have yet to meet and Irishman yet who is not up for a challenged.

The Irish have been in the Americas for quite some time, but it wasn’t until large numbers of them arrived in a short time period that any problems really existed. In the 1850s, a new political party emerged which we today call the Know Nothing Party, though active for only a short time, the party reflected the views of many in American society who saw the poverty and Catholicism of the Irish immigrants as a threat to the establishment. A series of riots occurred across the country in the 1840s and1850s. 22 people were killed in a Know Nothing riot in Louisville, Kentucky in 1855 when Irish voters going to the polls to elect a mayor were attacked by Nativist mobs. In Maine, a Catholic priest was tarred and feathered. Mobs attacked Catholic Churches in places like Philadelphia and Baltimore in the mid 1840s. After learning of a church being burned in Philadelphia and the deaths of twelve people, the Bishop of New York, “Dagger” John Hughes placed armed guards around the Catholic Churches in the city and said “if a single Catholic Church is burned, this city will become a second Moscow” (in reference to the Russians burning Moscow in advance of Napoleon’s Army). A single church was not burned in that city, at least. I mention all this not to dredge up the past or to reopen old wounds, but it is important for those of us of Irish descent to understand that things were not always the way they are now. This is what makes that struggle for acceptance all the more important. Here in the States, the Irish were routinely portrayed as monkeys in newspaper cartoons, just as they were in England. Though some stereotypes still do persist in the media, by and large we don’t get compared to monkeys these days and so I think we have moved in the right direction. But how does the Civil War factor into this?

When war came to the United States, the Irish eagerly volunteered to fight. An estimated 150,000 Irishmen served in the Union armies, including seven who reached the rank of general. Who can forget the heroic charge of the Irish Brigade up Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg where they suffered 40 percent casualties in the space of a few minutes. Their gallantry was cheered by their Confederate foes, who included a number of Irish among them as well. Consider the words of General Pickett “Your soldiers heart almost stood still as we watched those sons of Erin fearlessly rush to their death. The brilliant assault on Marye’s Heights of the Irish Brigade was beyond description.  Why, we forgot they were fighting us and cheer after cheer went up along our lines.” The states which would make up the Confederacy, with the exception of Louisiana, did not receive near the same number of Irish immigrants, but that did not stop those who did live in the South from embracing the war just as their northern countrymen did. New Orleans sent several regiments to the Confederate cause which were made up of large numbers of Irish Immigrants. Groups like the Louisiana Tigers, who would later give their name to LSU as a mascot, and the 6th Louisiana Infantry. Had our friend Dowling not made his way to Houston, he no doubt would have been serving in one of those regiments. Historians like to look back in time and ascribe grand motives to the reasons why people did the things they did. I am not one of those historians. Each Irishman who enlisted in either army did so for his own reasons that, absent written evidence to the contrary, we will never know. North and South, Irish troops were well known for the gallantry. General Lee’s Chief of Artillery, Edward Porter Alexander said “They problem with the Yankees is that their cavalry can’t ride and their infantry, except the Irish, can’t fight.” And when we discuss the brave Confederate Irish who stood against overwhelming odds at Sabine Pass, so too should we mention that there were Irishmen in those Union vessels as well. How tragic it is that men who fled oppression in their own country ended up shooting at each other in this country, but history is full of such tales.

Though Irish support for the war in the North waned as it dragged on, the men who followed the green flags into battle did not waver from the course. After the war, they returned home, some broken in body, others in mind, but all changed by the experience that they had lived through. Did all anti-Irish feeling disappear as soon as the war was over? Certainly not. You can still see anti-Irish cartoons well into the 1880s, but public perception had softened somewhat, particularly in the North where the once scorned immigrant group had proven themselves every bit as American as the next by their courage under fire. In the post war United States, Irishmen built the Transcontinental Railroad headed west as Chinese immigrant labor built it headed east. Irishmen policed the streets of New York, Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans. They fought the fires. They and their descendants continued to fight for the country that took them in and still do to this day. Though as years passed, they may have dropped the “O” or the “Mc” prefix from their last name, they remained Irish. Perhaps it is because of the forced separation from their home which led Irish Americans to hold so strongly onto those connections. But over time, Irish immigrants came to find something in America that they so desperately wanted back home. Liberty. Freedom. The right to be judged based on your character rather than your ethnicity or your religion. All of these things were, and perhaps are still, dear to the Irish people whether here or in Ireland. The Civil War provided the perfect avenue for them to strive to achieve it. Over time, the rest of American came to understand this as well. Those sacrifices on oft forgotten fields one hundred and fifty years ago still resonate with Irish-Americans today as that is the reason why we are able to gather and celebrate our heritage as we are doing now. Our ancestors paid for that right of acceptance with their blood. Though St. Patrick’s Day is, and should be, a cause for celebration, we must also remember that we are but a few generations removed from a time in which to be Irish was to be scorned. So if you are hoisting a pint on Tuesday, please drink a toast to the spirits of those who came before us. If Guinness is scarce in heaven, which I don’t think it is, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

I’ve never met an Irishman, myself included, who did not have the gift of gab, so I will now bring this to a close. The moral of my story today, dear friends, is that the history of the Irish in America is a triumphant one because we had to overcome great hardships to be where we are today, not in spite of it. The United States did not simply decide on a whim that Irishness was something to be celebrated. The Irish had to fight for it and they paid a very high price. To be frank, this is the same struggle that immigrant groups have faced ever since the Irish arrived be they Italian, Russian, Vietnamese, or Mexican. Though many of our families have been in this country for a long, long time, we must always remember that they too came here seeking a better life. Each successive wave of immigrants has had to fight its own battle for acceptance and its own battle to become American. Today you’d be hard pressed to find a group more proud of their heritage than the Irish-Americans but you’d also be hard pressed to find one more patriotic as well. A scan of the list of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines over the past ten years yields quite a few Irish surnames, proof that the spirit of Dowling, Meagher, and Cleburne lives on today. Thank you for having me speak to you today. May God Bless America and May God Save Ireland.




More Misrepresentation from Defending the Heritage

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 14, 2015

Over at Defending the Heritage, Robert Mestas offers us a damning indictment of the Gettysburg Address:




The statement purportedly carries special weight because (Mestas tells us) it’s an assessment made by an esteemed American psychologist, Lewis R. Goldberg, backed by his academic credentials and decades of psychological research. The only problem is that Lewis R. Goldberg wasn’t the person who wrote this — it was Lewis J. Goldberg, editor of now-defunct PlanetGoldberg website, in August 2000. Lewis J. Goldberg’s quote has been circulating ever since, mostly on SCV and southern nationalist websites. As far as I can tell, Professor Goldberg has never written or said anything about the Gettysburg Address.

It’s unfortunate that Mestas sees the need to attribute this quote falsely to a respected academic to give it some additional heft. Seriously — if your heritage requires this sort of outright falsehood to support it, is it really worth defending?



Defenders of Confederate Honour, Ctd.

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 10, 2015



I honestly don’t know how these people could have made themselves look worse.


h/t: dmf



Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 8, 2015



A hundred fifty years ago this weekend, the British blockade runner Denbigh was here in Galveston, loading cotton and waiting for a dark night to slip again out of the harbor. Her destination, as usual, was Havana. I’ve never been to Cuba, but I’d sure like to go.



Got any more? Put ‘em in the comments.




Are Plantations Slave Labor Camp Museums?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 2, 2015

Over at the Freedmen’s Patrol blog, there’s a discussion of a new plantation museum in Louisiana, and how it contrasts explicitly with the way such sites are traditionally presented to the public:


We marvel at the luxury. Docents tell us about the paint on the walls. [At Monticello] they point out where Jefferson knocked a hole in the floor of his foyer so the weights for his clock could go down as far as they needed to. You spend a few dollars to get in and a few more at the gift shop, making your offering at the patriotic shrine. . . . I think that the [subject of] slaves came up in passing at Monticello, with the docent waving off vaguely toward their quarters, but one goes to such a place to learn about the white dead president rather than the black dead slaves that gave them the wealth to fund their careers. Less famous plantations run to much the same experience. You can rent them out for weddings or parties. . . .

We take it for granted that the Holocaust Museum in Washington looks like a murder factory on the inside. We do just the opposite for plantations.


Powerful stuff that’s well worth your time.



“Sporting Guide” for GAR Louisville Encampment, 1895

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 1, 2015

LouisvilleA friend passed along this gem, a guide to “sporting” houses in Louisville for attendees of the 1895 Grand Army of the Republic Encampment. A typical entry:

Strangers Cordially Invited.

Mary Edwards
732 Green Street.

To the people that pay this city periodical visits Miss Mary needs no introduction, as those that visit her beautiful palace are so highly entertained that they are sure to pay her a return visit as often as they come to the city. She has a host of beautiful ladies who are excellent entertainers to assist her in making life well worth living to visitors to the Encampment and Races.

Finest brands of Wine and Beer. ​

I honestly can’t improve upon this.



Maritime Program: Purging the Seas

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 27, 2015

This should be interesting:


KiddPurging the Seas: Government Reaction to Piracy, 1600-2015

Governments have had a conflicting and complicated relationship with piracy through the centuries.  When pirates attacked a rival nation’s merchant or naval fleets, governments turned a blind eye.  Diminution of an enemy state’s commerce or navy could only be a positive affair – increased trade opportunities, markets for stolen goods, and a militarily weakened adversary. Yet, when pirates gazed away from enemy states and directed their attentions to the commerce or navy of their own nation, governments cast pirates as “enemies of all mankind” and engaged in naval and legal anti-piracy campaigns.  Join Dr. Kim Todt and Dr. Elizabeth Nyman, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, as they explore government responses to piracy from the Golden Age through today’s arresting headlines.

Tuesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. Houston Maritime Museum, 2204 Dorrington, Houston, Texas 77030 (near the Texas Medical Center)

Kim Todt is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette whose work focuses on the history of Early America.  She is currently working on a book on the trading networks of Early America.

Elizabeth Nyman is the Anthony Moroux/BoRSF Endowed Professor of Political Science I at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is currently working on a book on international maritime conflict.


It’s always been interesting to me, the idea that modern pirates (e.g., off the Horn of Africa) are considered among the worst sort of criminals, but their counterparts from 300 years ago were suitable subjects for Disney. I’m as afflicted by that particular cognitive dissonance as anyone, I’m afraid.



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