Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Engaging Confederate Guerrillas on the Tennessee River

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 10, 2012

One thing I like about Robert S. Critchell’s memoir, Recollections of a Fire Insurance Man, is how it details some aspects of naval life aboard aboard one of the U.S. Navy’s “tinclad” gunboats on the Western Rivers. There’s scads of material written about Hampton Roads, or the cruise of the Confederate raider Alabama, and lots on the blockade, as well. There seems to be relatively little, though, about less-glamorous, and generally less dramatic, operations of the small, lightly-armored and lightly-armed gunboats like Critchell’s boat, U.S.S. Silver Cloud. Even though the U.S. Navy claimed control of the entire length of the Mississippi from mid-1863 on, as a practical matter was never able to completely cut off communication between the two halves of the Confederacy. Part of their attempt to do that was to commission a large fleet of lightweight gunboats that could engage light forces and maintain at least some semblance of local control over a stretch of river. In many respects, the activities Acting Master’s Mate Critchell and his crew mates were engaged in was very similar to the Navy’s famous riverine operations in Vietnam, a century later.

Here, Critchell describes a typical, and ultimately unresolved, encounter with Confederate guerrillas on the Tennessee River.

It was the duty of the officer of the deck to be in uniform, wearing his sword, to communicate to the other officers, or the crew, all orders given by the captain or executive officer, which were written on a slate (or had been by the watch officer receiving them, and by him, turned over to the succeeding deck officer), to keep the “log,” a book which stated where we were, what boats passed up or down the river and any events of interest, noting drills, “quarters,” and other things showing the details of our daily occupation.
 
Our captain was an “acting master,” afterwards promoted to “acting volunteer lieutenant,” on account of bravery and good conduct in an action in which the boat he was on was engaged in Arkansas.
 
While slowly ascending the crooked waters of the Tennessee river, one morning, the quartermaster on “lookout,” who was stationed on the hurricane deck, over my head, I being officer on deck at that time, came down and reported “guerrillas ahead, on the shore.” He handed me the glass, and indicating the spot where he saw them, I looked through the glass and saw ahead a number of men who were evidently trying to conceal themselves behind logs, tree branches and brush. As several boats had been fired upon in this vicinity, we were keeping a sharp lookout. I at once reported to the captain and was ordered to give them a shell with the ten-pounder rifled gun, which was loaded with a percussion shell.
 
This was my first opportunity to use powder on the enemy, so I had the gun’s crew up at once and fired the gun, the shell hit a tree and exploded, which caused the “Johnnies” to get out of their hiding place in quick time and retreat back into the woods. We followed up this shell with another one; but, although we ran close to the shore, when we got to the place from which we had driven them, we could see no more signs of life. This little affair illustrates what the “tinclad” gunboats were for. With few guns and light iron protection for boilers, machinery and crew, they were terrors to the hands of Rebels who with muskets or small field pieces, could kill and wound pilots and crews of unarmed steamboats engaged in carrying troops or supplies in the rivers or engaged in peaceful occupations. The Mississippi and its tributaries had been opened up to navigation, but it was necessary to keep them open. Heavy and slow ironclads could not navigate the shallow river channels in which steamers had to go, and the light craft “tin-clads,” with no heavier armament than twenty-four pound howitzers, were a terror to these sharp-shooters. The twenty-four pound howitzer usually fired a shrapnel shell containing about eighty one-ounce musket balls, and the shell was filled with powder and sulphur, which would cause the shell to explode in from one to five seconds, according’ as its fuse was cut, the range of the gun being about one mile. These exploding shells were a source of fear to the enemy and set on fire any inflammable object they struck.

___________
Excerpt from Robert S. Critchell, Recollections of a Fire Insurance Man (Chicago: McClurg & Co., 1909). Image: “An Incident in the Defense of New Orleans,” by Allen C. Redwood (1844-1922).

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18 Responses

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  1. pedrog said, on August 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Well they do seem a friendly sort, except for the guns and all.

    sorry its Friday

  2. g2-132541380fdf5651404aa716e6ac486e said, on August 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    hey, isn’t that a black Confederate ™ at the far right!?!?!

    • Andy Hall said, on August 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Heh. The artist, Allen C. Redwood, was himself a former Confederate soldier, and wrote extensively on the war, in addition to his artwork. He had some strong things to say about African American cooks in the Confederate army, which I’ve been mulling over posting for months. On the one hand, it is (yet again) the words of an actual Confederate soldier about how those men were viewed by those in the ranks (and so, a contemporary perspective), but on the other hand, it’s a pretty unpleasant read.

      • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:06 pm

        In most cases they didn’t have much to work with!
        I once was told by my boss, a Major, when I was supervising about 30 workers that I didn’t have anything to work with and to just let it go and do the best I could with what I had. You academics just really don’t know how it was and you are boxed in by words instead of actions. Its what you DO not what you SAY. And that means all parties and not just the people you cherry pick to describe in your diatribes.

        • Andy Hall said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm

          I have no idea what this has to do with the post, or the preceding comment. But thanks so much for stopping by!

        • Woodrowfan said, on August 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

          “I once was told by my boss, a Major, when I was supervising about 30 workers that I didn’t have anything to work with….”

          I don’t think he was referring to your employees…

          • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

            woodrowfan proves what kind of rotten egg who people visit this site. I think he is one of those uncaring get away with anything they can types that have ruined our countries ethics. Just the type the Major was referring to, whew, so glad I didn’t have to supervise him!

  3. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    How could you not know when you slurred Redwood by your statement: “He had some strong things to say about African American cooks in the Confederate army, which I’ve been mulling over posting for months. On the one hand, it is (yet again) the words of an actual Confederate soldier about how those men were viewed by those in the ranks (and so, a contemporary perspective), but on the other hand, it’s a pretty unpleasant read”.

    Just bear in mind what I said in rebuttal when you get ready to post your versions of Redwood, the Artist. I dare to say that were he a black man these sketches would be admired and published all over the world with great acclaim.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      I’ve actually read Redwood’s article. Have you?

  4. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    The man Redwood of Virginia
    Web Results
    The Confederate In The Field
    http://www.civilwarhome.com/confederatesoldier.htm
    Feb 10, 2002 … Allen C. Redwood Fifty-fifth Virginia-Regiment, Confederate States Army. A question which is often asked of the survivor of the Civil War, when …

    History of the 55th Virginian Infantry
    http://jerarnold_derain.tripod.com/55thvirginiainfantry/id1.html
    Allen C. Redwood a member of company C, wrote many articles about his … In addition, Allen C. Redwoods Type III Richmond Depot uniform has been …
    File:Scuttling of the Richmond ironclads.jpg – Wikipedia, the free …

    Painting by Allen C. Redwood shwoing the sinking of CSS Virginia II, CSS Fredericksburg and CSS Richmond on April 3, 1865 during the American Civil War.

    Battle of Trent’s Reach – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trent's_Reach
    [edit] Aftermath. “The Blowing up of the James River Fleet, on the night of the Evacuation of Richmond.” By Allen C. Redwood. Three Union troops were known to …

    Battle of Gettysburg Civil War History Gettysburg
    http://thomaslegion.net/battleofgettysburg.html
    Confederates ford Potomac River. Confederates on the March.jpg. Drawn by Confederate veteran Allen C. Redwood (Battles & Leaders) …

    The Art Collection | University Libraries
    http://www.lib.ua.edu/williamscollection/art_collection

    The Civil War artists represented include Edwin Forbes and Allen C. Redwood. The collection holds a number of works by noted African-American and …

    The American Civil War Collection | University Libraries
    http://www.lib.ua.edu/williamscollection/civil_war

    The Collection is further enhanced by original art, including works by Allen C. Redwood and Edwin Forbes, prints and lithographs, including E.D.B. Julio’s “Last …
    Licensed Battlefield Guide Rich Kohr: The Bucktails on McPherson’s …
    http://www.gettysburgdaily.com/?p=6627

    Jan 25, 2010 … Allen C. Redwood was an artist for the Century Magazine/Battles and Leaders series, and a member of the 55th Virginia Infantry Regiment.
    Gettysburg: The Civil War In Its Third Year
    http://www.scienceviews.com/parks/gettysburgevents.html
    Confederates ford the Potomac River, drawn by Confederate veteran Allen C. Redwood. (Battles & Leaders) … A meal on the march, by Allen C. Redwood.

    Allen Redwood – Artist, Fine Art, Auction Records, Prices, Biography …
    http://www.askart.com/askart/r/allen_christian_redwood/allen_christian_redwood.aspx

    Allen Redwood: AskART art price guide for Allen Redwood and 96000+ American artists – Allen (Carter) Christian Redwood fine art prices, auction results , …

    • Andy Hall said, on August 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      I’m familiar with the man and his work, thanks.

      • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

        I assumed you were Andy, my point was that your readers were NOT and would NOT take the time to really know of him, they would just accept the slurred version and go on to the next hit on a Southerner. My post was not aimed at you, but at your readers to encourage them to teach themselves.

        • Andy Hall said, on August 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

          I didn’t “slur” Redwood; I said his article on cooks in the Confederate army is “a pretty unpleasant read,” which it is, because of the attitudes and views he expresses in it. There’s lots in it that’s offensive to modern readers, but that’s also very common to just about anything written about so-called “black Confederates” by real Confederates, like Redwood. Even Robert E. Lee reportedly poked fun at the pretensions of black cooks in the Confederate army to be soldiers. If it’s slurs you’re looking for, I suggest you look up that Redwood piece, because it’s full of them.

          I’m quite happy for my readers to “teach themselves,” and to read anything they want. Unlike make-believe Confederates like John Stones, I don’t advise my readers what they shouldn’t read, and what sites they shouldn’t visit.

          • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm

            Ok, I have no idea who John Stones is, but I find it offensive the things you say about people living and dead. I suppose that comes from the many slurs and lies that I heard and read about Catholics. Some of those old lies are still floating around, and there are still some people willing to spread them.. Why do you, corey, and kevin want to be known for just hate and untruths against the Southern people? I know you must have a purpose for your agenda.

            • Andy Hall said, on August 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm

              John Stones is an administrator over at SHPG, where you’re a member.

              I’m sorry if you’ve been offended by things someone, somewhere, has said about Catholics, but that has nothing to do with me. You need to address those concerns with the people who have offended you, and not take out your frustrations about that here.

              You say,

              I find it offensive the things you say about people living and dead.

              I’m offended at being called “dog crap.” Woodrowfan should probably be offended about being called a “rotten egg.” But neither one of us is going to lose any sleep over it. And as I’ve said before, my dealings with you have been for more civil and polite over the last two years than I’ve gotten in return from you. I don’t think you, specifically, are in much position to complain about being “offended” by anything I say about anyone.

              But beyond that, really, you will only be as offended as you choose to be. If you’re going to be upset because I said “things” that are critical of people — mostly people long dead and buried — then I can’t help that. If I get something factually wrong, then I want to know it. But if something I say happens to be something you dislike, then it just is.

              You ask:

              Why do you, corey, and kevin want to be known for just hate and untruths against the Southern people?

              First, you really ought to capitalize those names; someone might assume you were being intentionally insulting.

              Second, keep in mind that I am part of the “Southern people,” too. My ancestors fought for the Confederacy, too. The only people I know of who accuse me of “hate and untruths” are those who I’ve challenged in their own claims and interpretation. they’re unhappy because I’ve made a habit of calling them out on their BS, and go to the trouble to cite contemporary evidence to prove it. Same for other bloggers.

              I don’t know what to tell you, otherwise. Like I say, you’re only gong to be as offended as you choose to be.

              • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on August 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm

                Well, we are not ever going to agree as we are coming at these issues from opposite directions. The reference to the Catholic slurs was to show you that your slurs are just one and the same tactics; when they were hot and heavy we Catholics just simply ignored them and went on our way, which is just what true blue Southernors have done and most do now, and you come up with the same diatribes like “sticking their head in the sand” etc. Those same people called it BS and said Catholics worshiped statues, worshiped Mary and how holier than thou we are for calling them out. Contemporary evidence? what a hoot. You see you are just like those of old who wanted to get converts for their religion. You never did really answer my questions regarding your agenda and the purpose for your agenda.

              • Andy Hall said, on August 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm

                Well, we are not ever going to agree as we are coming at these issues from opposite directions.

                That’s certain.

                The reference to the Catholic slurs was to show you that your slurs are just one and the same tactics;

                Criticism is not a “slur,” nor is stating an unpleasant reality a “slur.” It is not a slur to say that the Deep South states seceded to protect slavery, when they thought it was threatened by the election of a “black Republican” administration. It is not a “slur” to say that white Confederate soldiers did not view African American camp servants and cooks as fellow soldiers, on a par with themselves. It is not a “slur” to point out that someone’s “research” is shoddy, when that person fabricates a quote to make her point. It is not a “slur” to point out that someone is soliciting donations while claiming non-profit status and that contribution are tax-deductible, when the available public record indicates that neither of those things is true.

                I’m sorry, Ms. Bass, but that fact that you don’t like something, or find it unpleasant, doesn’t make it a “slur.”

                You never did really answer my questions regarding your agenda and the purpose for your agenda.

                I can’t give you an answer that you would believe or accept, given that you’re convinced yourself that I am full of “hate and untruths against the Southern people.” I laid out the purpose of this blog and my efforts here. It’s been up for more than two years, so I’m sure you’re read it. Like I say, though, I don’t expect you accept that, and it’s not going to worry me much either way. My conscience is clear.

                You have a great day.

  5. Craig L said, on August 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    http://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=champ%20dickerson&source=web&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CEgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yourhoustonnews.com%2Fpearland%2Fsports%2Farticle_b18969c5-811a-5bd6-9111-de00162aa9cd.html&ei=QHcuUNmKEeHUmAXB74CwBg&usg=AFQjCNE_SktCOvWAjTXsnZV4Gm-hUq0uLw

    I lived in a Houston suburb for about two years, my last year of high school and my first year of college, and for about two years in inner city Houston before I moved back to the Pacific Northwest with the rest of my family. I could have stayed in Houston on my own for another year or two to try to finish my degree, but didn’t as I had come to the conclusion I wasn’t really a great fit with the local culture.

    The week we moved into our new house (first occupant and owner) in the Houston suburb my parents announced that my mother had been diagnosed with abdominal cancer and would be having major surgery a week or two after we were enrolled with our new school district. The surgery went well and for the next year or two my mother had extensive radiation and chemotherapy, resulting in a remission that lasted twenty-nine years. If we had moved anywhere but Houston my mother would probably not have survived her ordeal.

    While my mother was getting her radiation and chemotherapy treatments she found that she just didn’t have the energy and the strength to do the cleaning needed to keep the household (six kids with an age range from 2 to 18) running properly. So she hired a cleaning lady, a nice, fairly stout, middle-aged black woman who would come in once a week for a few hours to mop the floors in the kitchen and the bathrooms, scrub all the porcelain and then vacuum all the carpets. She was a good steady worker who would arrive on time and do her job slowly, but methodically. Her visits lasted about two or three hours and always included lunch as part of her compensation.

    I think my mother’s weekly lunch with the cleaning lady may have been the thing she enjoyed most about the years we lived in Houston. It gave her a little different perspective on things, even though she suspected that her employee secretly considered her the laziest person on the face of the planet. Mrs. Dickerson liked to talk about her son in middle school, Champ, who was going to be a football star at one of the local high schools.


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