Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

An Unlikely Blockade Runner, cont.

Posted in Memory, Uncategorized by Andy Hall on August 24, 2014
Riverboats at the cotton docks at Mobile, c. 1900. The scene in 1863 would not have been much different, when boats like these were pressed into service as blockade runners. LoC image.


In the comments on my recent post about the river steamboat William Bagaley attempting to run the blockade, a regular reader asks:


Although I’m not very familiar with their capabilities, I wouldn’t have thought steamboats to be a very effective blockade runner. They would seem to have been too slow, from what little I know. Were Confederate officials simply hoping to sneak these types of ships through the blockade, or did they have the capacity to make enough speed to have a decent chance?


That’s a great question, and it underscores that in the last post I neglected to explain very well why Bagaley would be considered an unlikely candidate for a runner in the first place. Let me see if I can do that now.

Riverboats like William Bagaley were, by the 1850s, a very distinct and specialized type of vessel, optimized for work on the Western Rivers   (i.e., the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri and their tributaries). In the arrangement of their machinery, and particularly their hull construction, they were very ill-suited to make long passages on open water. They were generally of very shallow draft, and their hulls were of light construction, braced with wooden trusses and iron rods. The main deck of a fully-loaded riverboat was often barely above the level of the water. Western Rivers boats were generally built without external keels and, having lots of superstructure, would be prone to drift off to leeward in a strong wind. They could manage well enough on a calm day with a flat sea, but anything more unsettled than that could be a serious problem.

Not that riverboats didn’t ever make a passage in the open Gulf of Mexico; many of them did make relatively short runs along the coast. The large majority of the 200+ steamboats that operated in Texas on the Sabine, Neches, Trinity, Brazos and Rio Grande had been built on the Ohio or Mississippi, and made the transit to Texas from the mouth of the Mississippi through the Gulf of Mexico. But those were relatively short runs, and generally in sight of land. It’s a whole different thing, in my view, to set out on a three- or four-day passage across the Gulf from Mobile to Havana or another port in Cuba.

Fuel is another problem. Riverboats in the Deep South generally burned cordwood, which is enormously bulky. Boats generally stopped to wood at least daily, if not more frequently. Boats sometimes towed wood barges along behind them, or lashed alongside, but that would severely limit their speed, and doesn’t seem to have been done in this case. Carrying four days’ fuel would have taken up a LOT of space that otherwise might have been used for an outbound cargo. And it had to be enough fuel for the whole trip, since (unlike more conventional, seagoing steamers), these riverboats didn’t carry a rudimentary sail plan that could be used to help them get by when the wood started running low.

So, yeah, it’s just a little bit nuts to try something like this with a riverboat. But the fact that there was a fairly large-scale, coordinated effort to use riverboats in this way speaks both to the urgency of Confederate government officials in wanting to establish a viable blockade-running system out of Mobile, and a willingness on the part of boat owners, whose vessels had been largely idled by the war and the near-elimination of maritime trade in the Gulf of Mexico, to try just about anything to turn their fortunes around.

Here’s how Stephen Wise describes this effort in Lifeline of the Confederacy (170-72):


After the escape of the Florida, it took time for a blockade-running system to develop at Mobile. While Helm continued to stockpile munitions in Havana, officials at Mobile began to hire steamers for runs to Cuba. Two were the prewar coasting packets Cuba and Alabama; however, the majority of the contracted ships were flat-bottomed river steamers from the Tombigbee-Alabama River system. These vessels were not designed for use on the open sea, but their carrying capacity of hundreds of bales of cotton overruled any objections to their unseaworthiness.
At Mobile, agreements were worked out by the Quartermaster Bureau with the owners of the Alice Vivian, Crescent, Kate Dale, James Battle, Lizzie Davis, Planter, Warrior, and William Bagley [sic.]. The basic contract called for an appraisal of the steamer by two individuals, one appointed by the government, the other by the owners of the vessel. A set value for the vessel was then determined and, if the ship was lost, one-half of this amount would be to the owners by the Confederacy.
The expense of the expeditions was equally shared while the private owners provided the crew. The Quartermaster Bureau furnished cotton that would be carried to Havana and sold, and the profits were evenly divided between the two parties. The return cargo was also split, with the government half being provided by Helm. On return to Mobile, the ship would be reappraised and, if her value was found to be less than when she left Mobile, the difference would be paid to her owners by the government.
The contracts were eagerly sought by steamship owners. The greatest attraction was the fact that the Confederacy would supply the outward cargo of cotton, thus saving the owners the expense and trouble of gathering the staple. Though their profits were not as high as if they owned the entire cargoes, their risks were less and they would receive compensation if their ships were lost.
The vessels began running in late spring 1863, joining the Cuba and Alabama in challenging the blockade. None were very successful. By September all the river steamers, as well as the Cuba, had been destroyed
or captured, with the fast Union steamer De Soto accounting for five of the losses.


We know what became of Wiliam Bagaley and James Battle; they were captured on their first run out of Mobile for Havana. What about the others?


aliceVivianAlice Vivian was a 175-foot-long Alabama River sidewheel packet, built at New Albany, Indiana in 1856. In 1859 she was running a regular mail packet service between New Orleans and Memphis (right). She ran out of Mobile the first time around June 12, 1863, and returned safely from Havana around July 15. She was captured on her second run out of Mobile on August 16, 1863, by U.S.S De Soto and sold at Key West for $237,300.83 — almost all of which must have been for her cargo. Three attempts at the blockade, two successful.
Crescent was a 146-foot sidewheel steamer renamed Nita for the purposes of blockade-running. She made two successful runs out of Mobile to Havana, in April and June 1863, but was captured by De Soto on August 17, 1863 while on her second return voyage to Mobile. Four attempts at the blockade, three successful.
Kate Dale was a large sidewheel riverboat, 193 feet long and 428 tons burthen, built at New Albany, Indiana in 1855. She ran out of Mobile in July 1863 and was captured by the U.S.S. R. R. Cuyler on July 14 near the Tortugas. She was subsequently sold at auction to private buyers, who then sold or leased her to the U.S.  Quartermaster Department. She burned on Mobile Bay in May 1865. One attempt, captured.
Planter — not to be confused with the steamboat Planter stolen by pilot Robert Smalls at Charleston in 1862 — was a 156-foot sidewheeler built at Wheeling, (West) Virginia in 1860. She ran out of Mobile in mid-July 1863, and was captured on July 15 by U.S.S. Lackawana. She was sold by the prize court to the U.S.  Quartermaster Department, and sold again to civilian interests in 1866.One attempt, captured.
 Warrior was a 130-foor-long sidewheeler built at Mobile in 1857. She was captured by U.S.S. Gertrude on her first attempt to run out of Mobile, on August 17, 1863.One attempt, captured.


So out of these seven vessels (including Wiliam BagaleyWrong and James BattleWrong), only two — Alice Vivian and Crescent — successfully made a complete, round voyage (one each), Mobile-Havana-Mobile. Five were captured on their first run out. It’s a terrible record, particularly for that period of the war. The seven ships together made twelve one-way attempts to pass through the Yankee blockade, only five of which were successful (about 42%). Marcus Price, the historian who tallied up attempts by blockade runners throughout the war, calculated that during 1863 in the Gulf of Mexico, steamers made 99 attempts at the blockade, of which 73 were successful. On any given run, three out of four typically got through. In fact, the actual odds were probably better than that for the others, given that Price’s totals include these sad-sack cases out of Mobile.

The lesson, I suppose, is that riverboats make terrible blockade runners. Make a note.




New in the Civil War Monitor for Fall 2014

Posted in Memory, Uncategorized by Andy Hall on August 23, 2014

The Fall 2014 issue of the Civil War Monitor is available online now, and should be appearing on newsstands and in subscribers’ mailboxes soon. As always, Editor-in-Chief Terry Johnston and his crew have taken a little different angle on the conflict and its participants. This issue includes sesqui-stories on the Battle of Nashville, and a visitor’s guide to touring Franklin. An article by Craig Warren on the famous rebel yell is notable not only for its discussion of the yell on the battlefields of the Civil War, but its use and reputation after — during Reconstruction, at San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War, and later. Warren reminds us that, like that other iconic symbol, the Confederate Battle Flag, the rebel yell’s use and meaning didn’t end with the echoes of the last guns at Appomattox.

The article that’s really going to raise hackles, though, is the cover story by Glenn W. LaFantasie on Robert E. Lee, “Broken Promise.” LaFantasie cuts right to the core of Lee’s character, depicting him as a man fundamentally out of place in mid-nineteenth century America, “a rambunctious nation of go-getters and scramblers who sought to make their way in the world by whatever means might come along.” Lee, the FFV tidewater patrician, very consciously modeled his own demeanor on that of George Washington, an approach that served him well until the secession crisis of 1860-61. It was then that Lee, up to that point so unrelenting in his desire to emulate Washington and (to a much lesser degree) his own father, broke from their example and resigned his commission in the Old Army. LaFantasie goes on to detail how, after the war, Lee went to considerable effort to contort the well-known political philosophies of Washington and Light-Horse Harry — both men being strong Federalists by word and deed in their own lifetimes — into somehow justifying his own renunciation of the United States and taking up arms against it:


LightHorseHarryIt is, in fact, open to question whether Light-Horse Harry [right] was as die-hard as his son claimed in his loyalty to state over nation. The elder Lee had been a fierce nationalist during and after the War for Independence. If, after the ratification of the Constitution and Washington’s two terms as president, he had decided that his state was more important than the Union, it is a wonder that he did not shift his political allegiance to the Jeffersonian Republicans, the party that became the beneficiary of the Anti-Federalist legacy. Instead, Light-Horse Harry spoke passionately against the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of1798 (in which James Madison and Thomas Jefferson introduced the idea of state nullification of federal laws), denounced Jefferson and his presidency, and, like other Federalists, distrusted the public and feared the growing excesses of “wicked citizens. . . incapable of quiet.” If states could override federal laws such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, he predicted, insurrection and disunion would be the result. “If we love the Union,” wrote Light-Horse Harry, “if we wish peace at home, and safety abroad; let us guard our own bosoms from a flame which threatens to consume all reason, temper and reflection.”  He did not condone disunionism in his own time, so it was unlikely he would have approved the creation of the Confederate States of America or his son’s prominent involvement in fighting a bloody war for the southern nation. . . . These were the very things his father had warned his countrymen to avoid at all costs.


In short, Lee’s decision to take up arms against the United States went against the very things that Washington and his own father stood for. I told ya, it’s gonna raise some hackles.

LaFantasie’s manuscript will not be the last word on Lee, of course, but it does poke a sharp stick in 150 years of far-too-generous evaluations of Lee, the man. The Civil War Monitor was founded to be a new sort of CW magazine, one that challenges traditional ideas about the events and personalities of the war. It’s not the magazine you want to be reading if you’re looking for reassurance that what you always believed is The Truth. “Broken Promise” forwards those colors. Do yourself a favor and subscribe today.



A Marker for Lieutenant Colonel Carter

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on December 1, 2013


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.

Part 2 of the news story is here.


Carter portrait via user AUG351 at Civil War Talk.


How Val Giles Made Second Sergeant

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on July 2, 2013

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.


“One of them was a better soldier than I was.”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on September 16, 2012

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.


Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on July 8, 2011

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.

A Good Year

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on June 15, 2011

Dead Confederates went “live” a year ago today. Since then we’ve had 190 posts (inclusive of this one), over 70,000 page views, and over 1,300 comments. Thanks, y’all.


Image: “Off to War” by Walton Taber.

How Do You Organize Your Books?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on November 20, 2010

I’m sure most people who have enough to be worth organizing, group them by subject. But how to you manage when those groupings become unwieldy?

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?

“. . . and make our slaves fight for Southern slavery”

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on October 24, 2010

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.

Turret Awning

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Hall on October 11, 2010

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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 320 other followers