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.
West slope of the Little Round Top, Gettysburg, as seen from the plain along Plum Run. This is the view that presented itself to the Fourth and Fifth Texas Regiments late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. Photo by jwolf312, used under Creative Commons License.
Valerius Cincinnatus Giles — inevitably known simply as “Val” — was a twenty-one-year-old soldier in Company B of the Fourth Texas Infantry when that unit made its famous, unsuccessful assault on the Federal positions on Little Round Top, late on the second day during the Battle of Gettysburg. In his later years, Giles spent much of his free time compiling a memoir, but did not live to see its completion. Giles died in 1915; his writings, edited by Mary Lasswell, were finally published in 1961. That volume, Rags and Hope, has since become a classic first-person account of Texas soldiers during the war.It was nearly five o’clock when we began the assault against the enemy that was strongly fortified behind logs and stones on the crest of a steep mountain. It was more than half a mile from our starting point to the edge of the timber at the base of the ridge, comparatively open ground all the way. We started off at quick time, the officers keeping the column in pretty good line until we passed through a blossoming peach orchard and reached the level ground beyond. We were now about 400 yards from the timber. The fire from the enemy, both artillery and musketry, was fearful. In making that long charge, our brigade got jammed. Regiments lapped over each other, and when we reached the woods and climbed the mountains as far as we could go, we were a badly mixed crowd. Confusion reigned everywhere. Nearly all our field officers were gone. Hood, our Major General, had been shot from his horse. He lost an arm from the wound [sic.]. Robertson, our Brigadier, had been carried from the field. Colonel Powell of the Fifth Texas was riddled with bullets. Colonel Van Manning of the Third Arkansas was disabled. and Colonel B. F. Carter of my Regiment lay dying at the foot of the mountain. The side of the mountain was heavily timbered and covered with great boulders that had tumbled from the cliffs above years before. These afforded great protection to the men. Every tree, rock and stump that gave any protection from the rain of Minié balls that were poured down upon us from the crest above us, was soon appropriated. John Griffith and myself pre-empted a moss-covered old boulder about the size of a 500-pound cotton bale. By this time order and discipline were gone. Every fellow was his own general. Private soldiers gave commands as loud as the officers. Nobody paid any attention to either. To add to this confusion, our artillery on the hill to our rear was cutting its fuse too short. Their shells were bursting behind us, in the treetops, over our heads, and all around us. Nothing demoralizes troops quicker than to be fired into by their friends. I saw it occur twice during the war. The first time we ran, but at Gettysburg we couldn’t. This mistake was soon corrected and the shells burst high on the mountain or went over it. Major Rogers, then in command of the Fifth Texas Regiment, mounted an old log near my boulder and began a Fourth of July speech. He was a little ahead of time, for that was about six thirty on the evening of July 2d. Of course nobody was paying any attention to the oration as he appealed to the men to “stand fast.” He and Captain Cousins of the Fourth Alabama were the only two men I saw standing. The balance of us had settled down behind rocks, logs, and trees. While the speech was going on, John Haggerty, one of Hood’s couriers, then acting for General Law, dashed up the side of the mountain, saluted the Major and said: “General Law presents his compliments, and says hold this place at all hazards.” The Major checked up, glared down at Haggerty from his’ perch, and shouted: “Compliments, hell! Who wants any compliments in such a damned place as this? Go back and ask General Law if he expects me to hold the world in check with the Fifth Texas Regiment!” The Major evidently thought he had his own regiment with him, but in fact there were men from every regiment in the Texas Brigade all around him. From behind my boulder I saw a ragged line of battle strung out along the side of Cemetery Ridge and in front of Little Round Top. Night began settling around us, but the carnage went on. There seemed to be a viciousness in the very air we breathed. Things had gone wrong all the day, and now pandemonium came with the darkness. Alexander Dumas says the devil gets in a man seven times a day, and if the average is not over seven times, he is almost a saint. At Gettysburg that night, it was about seven devils to each man. Officers were cross to the men, and the men were equally cross to the officers. It was the same way with our enemies. We could hear the Yankee officer on the crest of the ridge in front of us cursing the men by platoons, and the men telling him to go to a country not very far away from us just at that time. If that old Satanic dragon has ever been on earth since he offered our Saviour the world if He would serve him, he was certainly at Gettysburg that night. Every characteristic of the human race was presented there, the cruelty of the Turk, the courage of the Greek, the endurance of the Arab, the dash of the Cossack, the fearlessness of the Bashibazouk, the ignorance of the Zulu, the cunning of the Comanche, the recklessness of the American volunteer, and the wickedness of the devil thrown in to make the thing complete. The advance lines of the two armies in many places were not more than fifty yards apart. Everything was on the shoot. No favors asked, and none offered. My gun was so dirty that the ramrod hung in the barrel, and 1 could neither get it down nor out. 1 slammed the rod against a rock a few times, and drove home ramrod, cartridge and all, laid the gun on a boulder, elevated the muzzle, ducked my head, hollered “Look out!” and pulled the trigger. She roared like a young cannon and flew over my boulder, the barrel striking John Griffith a smart whack on the left ear. John roared too, and abused me like a pickpocket for my carelessness. It was no trouble to get another gun there. The mountain side was covered with them. Just to our left was a little fellow from the Third Arkansas Regiment. He was comfortably located behind a big stump, loading and firing as fast as he could. Between biting cartridges and taking aim, he was singing at the top of his voice: “Now let the wide world wag as it will, I’ll be gay and happy still” The world was wagging all right-no mistake about that, but 1 failed to see where the “gay and happy” came in. That was a fearful night. There was no sweet music. The “tooters” had left the shooters to fight it out, and taken “Home, Sweet Home” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me” with them. Our spiritual advisers, chaplains of regiments, were in the rear, caring for the wounded and dying soldiers. With seven devils to each man, it was no place for a preacher, anyhow. A little red paint and a few eagle feathers were all that was necessary to make that crowd on both sides into the most veritable savages on earth. White-winged peace didn’t roost at Little Round Top that nightl There was not a man there that cared a snap for the golden rule, or that could have remembered one line of the Lord’s Prayer. Both sides were whipped, and all were furious about it. We lay along the side of Cemetery Ridge, and on the crest of the mountain lay 10,000 Yankee infantry, not 100 yards above us. That was on the morning of July 3, 1863, the day that General Pickett made his gallant, but fatal charge on our left. Our Corps, Longstreet’s, had made the assault on Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top the evening before. The Texas Brigade had butted up against a perpendicular wall of gray limestone. There we lay on the night of the 2d with the devil in command of both armies. About daylight on the morning of the 3rd old Uncle John Price (colored) brought in the rations for Company B. There were only fourteen of us present that morning under the command of Lieutenant James T. McLaurin. I felt pretty safe behind my big rock; every member of the regiment had sought protection from the storm of Minié balls behind rocks or trees. The side of the mountain was covered with both. When Uncle John brought in the grub, he deposited it by a big Hat rock, lay down behind another boulder, and went to sleep. Sergeant Mose Norris and Sergeant Perry Grumbles had been killed in our charge the evening before, and Sergeant Garland Colvin was wounded and missing. Somebody had to issue the grub to the men, and as an incentive to induce me to take the job, the Lieutenant raised me three points. He too was located in a bombproof position behind another big boulder just in front of me. “Giles,” he said, “Sergeant Norris always issued the rations to the men, but poor Mose is dead now and you must take his place. I appoint you Second Sergeant of Company B. Divide the rations into fourteen equal parts and have the men crawl up and get them.” Every time a fellow showed himself, some smart aleck of a Yankee on top of the ridge took a shot at him. I didn’t even thank the Lieutenant for the honor (or better, the lemon) that he handed me, and must admit that I undertook the job with a great deal of reluctance. A steady artillery fire was going on all along the line and a sulphuric kind of odor filled the air, caused by the great amount of black powder burned in the battle. Maybe it was the fumes of old Satan as he pulled out that morning leaving the row to be settled by Lee and Meade. We were comparatively safe from the big guns, but it was the infantry just above us that made things unpleasant. I crawled up to the camp kettle of boiled roasting ears and meal-sack full of ironclad biscuits that Uncle John had brought in, and began dividing the grub and laying it on top of a big flat rock. The Yanks on the hill became somewhat quiet, so I got a little bolder and popped my head above the rock. They saw my old black wool hat and before you could say “scat,” two Minié balls flattened out on top of the rock, making lead prints half as big as a saucer, and smashing two rations of grub. One roasting ear was cut in two, but the old cold-water ironclad biscuits went rolling down the hill, solid as the rock from which they flew. Cuss words don’t look well in print, but I don’t see how a fellow can tell his personal experience in the army without letting one slip in now and then. In this case I’ll let it pass! When those bullets struck the lunch counter, the newly-made Second Sergeant disappeared from view. The remark he made caused that grim old Lieutenant to laugh and say, “Let the boys crawl up and help themselves.” The range was so close that when those bullets struck the solid rock, it flew all to pieces, a small fragment striking me on the upper lip, drawing a few drops of blood and mussing up my baby mustache. Second Sergeant was my limit in the Fourth Texas Regiment.
_____________This post originally appeared on July 18, 2010.
Private Lawrence Daffan, Co. G, Fourth Texas Infantry, at Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862:
On the evening of the 16th we crossed the Antietam Creek, falling back from Boonsboro Gap. This occasioned some skirmishing and artillery duels across the creek, as we had taken a stand near Sharpsburg. We had orders the evening of the 16th to cook up three days’ rations, and to be ready to move at a moment’s warning. We were located nearly a half mile south of an old Dunkard church. There was heavy timber between us and the church; north and west of us there was a large stubblefield where wheat was cut. North of this stubble was a large cornfield of considerable dimensions. Corn there in September is as high as it is here in July; fodder was about ready to be gathered. By daylight the pickets commenced firing. By sunrise wer were ordered forward in line of battle. We stopped near the church in the heavy timber, the branches were falling on us, and many spent balls played around us. A short time after this we were ordered “forward.” We emerged from the timber into the stubblefield; some of it I think had recently been plowed. As we emerged from the timber, a panorama, fearful and wonderful, broke upon us. It was a line of battle in front of us. Immediately in front of us was Lawton’s Georgia Brigade. After we left the timber we were under fire, but not in a position to return the fire. As we neared Lawton’s Brigade, the order came for the Texas Brigade to charge. Whenever a halt was made by a command under fire, every man lay flat on the ground, and this was done very quick. Lawton’s Brigade had been on this line fighting some time before we reached them. Lawton’s Brigade attempted to charge, and did charge; their charge was a failure, because their numbers had been decimated; they had no strength. Then the Texas Brigade as ordered to charge; the enemy was on the opposite side of this stubblefield in the cornfield. As we passed where Lawton’s Brigade had stood, there was a complete line of dead Georgians as far as I could see. Just before reaching the cornfield General Hood rode up to Colonel [Benjamin F.] Carter, commanding the fourth Texas Regiment (my regiment), and told him to front his regiment to the left and protect the flank. This he did and made a charge directly to the west. We were stopped by a pike fenced on both sides. It would have been certain death to have climbed the fence. Hays’ Louisiana Brigade had been in on our left, and had been driven out. Some of their men were with us at this fence. One of them was a better soldier than I was. I was lying on the ground shooting through the fence about the second rail; he stood up and shot right over the fence. He was shot through his left hand, and through the heart as he fell on me, dead. I pushed him off and saw that “Seventh Louisiana” was on his cap. The Fifth [Texas], First [Texas] and Eighteenth Georgia, which was the balance of my brigade, went straight down into the cornfield, and when they struck this cornfield, the corn blades rose like a whirlwind, and the air was full.
_____________Lawrence Daffan was seventeen years old at the time. He survived this fight, the assault on Little Round Top at Gettysburg the following year, and the Battle of Chickamauga, only to be captured in late 1863 and spend the remainder of the war as a prisoner at Rock Island, Illinois. Passage from My Father as I Remember Him, by Katie Daffan. Image: “The Hagerstown Pike,” by Walton Taber.
I’m working on something and I need a list of several Confederate regiments — mostly infantry, but maybe a handful of cavalry and artillery, across the war geographically and chronologically, to get a general sampling of the CS Army. Unfortunately, there seems to be no “Random Confederate Regiment Generator” out there. (Is there an iPhone app for that?)
Please use the full, formal name and drop ‘em in the comments.
Update: Closing comments for now, as I think I have enough units to work with. Thanks for the suggestions.
Image: “Confederate Sharpshooter” by Walton Taber.
My favorite anecdote is from the late Alastair Cooke, who most people remember from hosting Masterpiece Theater on PBS. Back before World War II, Cooke came to the U.S. as a BBC correspondent, submitting a weekly segment on the United States for listeners in the U.K. He kept this gig for many years, and in the process, accumulated a huge personal library of books on the U.S. He had an enormous set of bookshelves, covering an entire wall, and sorted his books as if the shelves were a map — books on New England on the upper right, Texas at the bottom in the center, and California on the (cough!) far left. Classically simple, utterly practical.
So how do you organize your books?
In late March 1865 — a little over a week before Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox — the Galveston Daily News ran a long column by an editorialist calling himself “Scipio Africanus,” who argued that the Confederacy’s situation was so dire, so bleak, that there was only one sure way to save it — by invading the North. Again.
Scipio Africanus argues that “the states to be made to suffer first and most severely are Illinois, Indiana and Ohio,” and from there the massed Confederate armies should march east, sweeping across the Upper Midwest, the Great Lakes and into Pennsylvania. There is no doubt in the writer’s mind that, if executed properly, it cannot but be successful: “The Northern people will witness and feel the display of our strength and dread the renewal of such invasions. They will experience the horrors of war; become disgusted with the strife and yield us what we ask, our independence and peace.” Given the actual state of the Confederate military in the spring of 1865, the detachment from reality present in Scipio’s writing seems not so much disturbing as it is laughable. On that level, Scipio Africanus comes across as a butternut version of “Comical Ali.”
On a more serious note, though, Scipio suggests newly-enlisted slaves should form the backbone of this invading army, which itself would be several times the size of that which Lee took north into Pennsylvania in June 1863. Picking up on the Confederate government’s eleventh-hour efforts to enlist African American slaves, and the discussion about whether such service should bring with it it emancipation — either immediately or upon completion of military service — Scipio argues that such a move “would be rewarding them with poverty, vice and starvation.” Rather, he argues, slaves should be made to fight to preserve their permanent status as slaves, because God wills it:
To make this invasion efficient, 200,000 able-bodied negroes [sic.] ought immediately to be conscripted and drilled as soldiers, and put under the command of veteran officers.
But it is painful to me to hear the doctrine urged that, for such service as they may render they ought hereafter to be emancipated. If it is right to emancipate them for performing military duty, then they ought to be emancipated for making corn. In raising bread by working the soil for us, they fight for our freedom as efficiently as they will do in throwing up earthworks or firing muskets at our foe. The work they now do with the axe and hoe, is as deserving of emancipation as any they can perform with the spade or sword. I am sick of the philanthropy taught in Wayland’s Moral Science, and learned by our people from other Yankee schoolbooks. The Bible should be our moral guide. If it is right for us to hold slaves, we have the same right to make them fight the Yankees for us, as to kill the grass, snakes and wolves on our farms. Abraham, the father of the faithful, the father of the faithful, made 318 of his slaves fight for him; but he did not set them free after the campaign was over. Freedom would be but a poor compensation to our negroes for any service. It would be rewarding them with poverty, vice and starvation. I am willing that the Government should pension and place in asylums all of them who may be maimed and crippled in this war.
The argument of those who contend that, those we enlist should be emancipated after the war, have reference to the opinions of foreign Governments, and the sentiments of the abolitionists everywhere. But we should base our action upon the word of God, and make Him the arbiter of our cause. England and France are not hostile to us because. we are a negro slave people; for they are, and have been, not only friendly, but often in Alliance with Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Brazil — governments owning millions of African slaves. I base my hopes of success upon this foundation; God recognizes in His word our right to our slaves. He has commanded the Yankees and all others: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s man servant nor his maid servant.” They are permitted to buy “bondmen and bondmaids” of the heathen round about; but if they steal ours, and we find them in their hands, He commands us to put them to death. If we admit that, emancipation is right, we confess that our cause is wrong. We should fight, and make our slaves fight for Southern slavery, knowing that in this contest God is on our side. It is only one of our rights. The Yankees covet all that we possess, and we are not fighting for all. Let us invade them with our slaves, not to conquer or enslave them; not to rob them of an acre; but to get back our own property, to force them to make with us an honorable and permanent peace.
As sure as the sun shines, unless we do, they will continue the war while we have anything in our possession to excite their avarice. They will capture all our cities and desolate all our homes.
If we invade them as I propose, we will secure our independence in one year from the date of the entrance of our grand armies into their land.
Galveston Daily News, March 30, 1865
“Freedom would be but a poor compensation to our negroes [sic.] for any service.” Wow. There’s much underlying context in that assertion, but it does show a prevalent line of thinking in the Confederacy at the time. Just as there were some, like Lee, who argued for emancipation in return for military service, there just as many, and perhaps many more, unwilling to allow African Americans into military service at all under any circumstances, and those like Scipio who advocating forcing slaves into direct combat to preserve their own status as slaves, in perpetuity. When modern-day Confederate apologists argue speculative nonsense that the institution of slavery would have gone away on its own in a short time, they ignore the existence of people like Scipio Africanus, who argued that “God recognizes in His word our right to our slaves,” and continued to rationalize their vehement, Bible-driven opposition to emancipation even as the walls crumbled around them.
Ironclad warship were infamously hot, both because of their metal construction and because, compared to traditional wooden-hulled vessels, they were very poorly ventilated. It was said that Monitor‘s galley reached a temperature of 150° F at times. As a result, most of the crew off-watch spent as much time as possible out on deck, and canvas awnings were set up whenever circumstances allowed.
Therer renders are of the awning fitted to Monitor‘s turret.
It’s funny, and a little scary, how arbitrary the preservation of evidence of our history actually is. As a case in point is Monitor, that remarkable vessel that reportedly encompassed over a hundred new patentable inventions. No official authority bothered to preserve that ship’s construction drawings. They were preserved not by the Navy, which contracted for the ship’s construction, or by Continental Ironworks of New York, which did the actual building, or by John Ericsson himself. Rather, they were saved by Charles W. MacCord, the cantankerous Swede’s chief draftsman. MacCord later served as faculty at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where they would eventually be rediscovered decades later.
Several of these drawings are reproduced in Miller’s U.S.S. Monitor: The Ship that Launched a Modern Navy, including a scale drawing of the ship’s nine-foot, cast-iron propeller, or screw (above). Using this drawing as a guide, I’ve modeled the propeller in three dimensions, after the jump:
My copy of U.S.S. Monitor: The Ship that Launched a Modern Navy by Edward M. Miller, with illustrations by Alan B. Chesney, arrived Saturday. The book includes hull lines, profiles and other drawings in considerable detail, as I’d hoped. In addition, it provides a solid basic history of the ship, and an account of the search effort that found the wreck of the ironclad off Hatteras in 1973. The book’s been out of print for a long time, and that’s a shame — it’s a nice reference to one of the most famous and technologically innovative ships in American history.
Looks like more time in the digital shipyard for me!
Update: Here’s the rough of Monitor, alongside Virginia, to scale:
Image: Line drawing by Alan B. Chesney, Leeward Publications, Inc.