Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog


Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 5, 2013

As a frequent Amazon customer, I get regular recommendations for books on subjects they think I might be interested in. Here’s the recommendation list I got last week:




I really cannot deny that those topics are of interest to me. Also this week I got a statement from the publisher on the steamboat book, that it’s crossed the threshold for generating royalties. Given the very narrow subject matter, I’m glad it’s officially in the black.

I also have three more speaking engagements lined up for the next few months, on Buffalo Bayou steamboats in Galveston on June 23 and in Liberty on July 15, and at the Brazoria County Historical Museum on October 17 for Texas Archaeology Month. Scheduling details to follow soon.

In other news, some of it CW-related and some not:



Got any more? Put ’em in the comments below.



23 Responses

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  1. Rob Baker said, on May 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    It’s funny, I’ve heard people recently talk about the controversial cannibalism at Jamestown, and that it has been a topic of debate. But I’ve never heard historian lecture on it any other way. It is taught as fact everytime due to the numerous documents indicating such.

  2. freedmenspatrol said, on May 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Wow…um… I clapped like a little boy. 🙂 Thanks, Andy!

  3. Pat Young said, on May 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I’ve been researching immigrant motivation for joining the Union army for the last two years. Robert Mestas is part of a chorus of nativists who assume that immigrants did not know what the war was about. Immigrants had reasons for joining that often matched those of the native-born, for example, a desire for excitement, not wanting to let down other young men from the same neighborhood, desire for regular pay, etc. They also had some reasons that were peculiar to their status as immigrants. The following comes from an article I wrote a couple of years ago:

    -James McKay Rorty, who joined the Fighting 69th New York regiment, wrote in 1861 to his father that he enlisted because of his “attachment to, and veneration of, the Constitution, which urged me to defend it at all risks.” As with many other Irish volunteers, he also insisted that he joined for the sake of his homeland, saying that he hoped “that the military knowledge or skill that I acquire might thereafter be turned to account in the sacred cause of my native land.”

    Rorty also said he fought for future immigrants, writing to his father that a Southern victory would “close forever the wide portals through which the pilgrims of liberty from every European clime have sought and found it. Why, because at the North the prejudice springing from the hateful and dominant spirit of Puritanism, and at the South, the haughty exclusiveness of an Oligarchy would be equally repulsive and despotic…Our only guarantee is the Constitution, our only safety is the Union.”

    The Irish revolutionary Thomas Francis Meagher, who would later command the Irish Brigade, sounded similar themes of joint loyalty to the United States and Ireland when explaining his reason for joining the Union Army. “Duty and patriotism prompt me,” he said. “The Republic, that gave us an asylum…—that is the mainstay of human freedom the world over – is threatened with disruption. It is the duty of every liberty-loving citizen to prevent such a calamity at all hazards. Above all is it the duty of us Irish citizens, who aspire to establish a similar form of government in our native land. It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material aid of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”

    English support for the Confederacy was a further spur to Irish enlistment. The leading men of the United Kingdom were believed by many immigrants to be secession’s biggest backers. The French Compte de Paris visited the US and wrote that the Irish “looked upon the war…as a favorable opportunity for preparing to crush England.”-

  4. Pat Young said, on May 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Robert Mestas wrote “In the case of German immigrants, there were whole Regiments that could not even speak english” as though this fact meant they could not understand the war’s cause. This ignores several facts:
    1, The United States did not have an “English-Only” policy. Our immigrant ancestors spoke many languages quite freely and often learned English much more slowly than their modern counterparts. Some states published laws in German to accommodate the large non-English speaking population.German-speaking units not only existed, they formed roughly a third of the Union armies fighting in Missouri and Arkansas, and made up large parts of every Union army. Orders at every level were given in German from corporal to brigadier general.
    2. Not knowing English should not be confused with not being able to think.
    3. There were vibrant German-language presses in every city where German regiments were raised. These newspapers discussed political issues of the day in a sophisticated way. The German immigrant was often better educated and more liberal politically than his native-born neighbor.
    4. Most immigrant regiments were raised by immigrants.
    5. The word is spelled “IMMIGRANT” not “IGNORANT”
    6. There were Confederate regiments from Louisiana whose language of command was French.

    Many Americans are unaware of the lives of their immigrant ancestor.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      They don’t complain much about the German or Irish immigrants who fought for the South, do they?

      • Pat Young said, on May 5, 2013 at 10:05 pm

        Nope. And how many Confederate units are more famous than the original Louisiana Tigers, a mostly Irish battalion?

    • Mike Musick said, on May 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      To add to what Pat says, I was surprised to find that the official unit record books (order books, letter books, etc.) of a number of Union volunteer regiments were written entirely in the German or Spanish languages. It strikes me as remarkable that such a practice could be found within the U.S. Army. And I’ve also seen Confederate general orders printed for distribution in Texas in German with Fraktur type. Fascinating stuff.

      • Andy Hall said, on May 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm

        The cotton gin that I visited a couple of weeks back is in Burton, just about halfway between Houston and Austin. It’s a German community, and the gin was a co-op built by the townspeople and area farmer. It remained in operation from 1914 until, I think, 1974. They have all the gin record books for its entire operating history. For the first few ginning seasons, about half the records are written in German, and half in English. The German-language entries stop dead in April 1917 — all in English after that.

        • Pat Young said, on May 9, 2013 at 12:23 am

          One of the lies we tell ourselves is that immigrants in the past arrived speaking English, having no doubt learned it on the ship when they were coming over! In visiting the Lackawana coal mine and museum in Pa., I noticed that warning signs for the miners were written in 6 languages. Similarly, one can look at Hine’s photos of the Lower East Side from 100 years ago and see that every sign is in German, Yiddish, or Hebrew. As I remind my Long Island audiences, the Yiddish Theater thrived because immigrant Jews spoke YIDDISH not English. The politics of forgetting leaves modern immigrants at a disadvantage compared to the romanticized vision of the easily assimilated immigrant of the “Golden Age.”

          • Mike Musick said, on May 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

            From the wry recollections of James Cooper Nisbet, 21st Ga. Inf., “Four Years On The Firing Line” (1914, reprint 1963), pp. 18-19: “There were many….commands encamped on the New Fair Grounds [at Richmond, Va.]. One of these was a regiment of Creoles, commanded by Colonel Camille J. Polignac. He was a thorough military man. His troops, always addressed in French, were very admirably drilled, moving like clock-work.

            My country boys had never been far from their valley homes before. They didn’t realize there were so many people, un-American people at that, in the world. Nor did they dream that any language but English was in working use in the United States. To them the sight of soldiers who understood French was a spectacle. They listened in wonder to Colonel Polignac on battalion drill.

            ‘That-thur furriner he calls out er lot er gibberish, an them-thur Dagoes jes maneuvers-up like Hell-beatin’-tan-bark! Jes’ like he wuz talkin’ sense!’ said one of my mountaineers.’ “

            • Pat Young said, on May 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

              We forget that in 19th Century America, one could be both native-born and a non-English speaker.

    • Billy Bearden said, on May 11, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I am only recently beginning to delve into the German ’48ers’ and the failed revolutionaries that came to America. Having read this thread has inspired me to pay more attention. Thanks Y’all

      • Andy Hall said, on May 11, 2013 at 11:49 am

        You would be making a very serious mistake to lump all German immigrants of the 1840s and 50s into some simplistic, toxic stew as “failed revolutionaries” and Marxists. Nonetheless, I expect you’ll do exactly that.

        • Pat Young said, on May 12, 2013 at 11:39 am

          As far as I know, the only Communist who played an important role in the Union military was August Willich, although he was actually an opponent of Marx. The other 48ers were essentially constitutionalists and republicans. Marx was not an inspiration to them at all. Jefferson and Jackson are much more likely to appear in their writings than Marx. In addition, it should be recalled that there was great diversity in German immigration, and that Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, and Freethinkers could have very different points of view. The regions the different streams of Germans came from as well as the places they settled strongly influenced their analysis of American life.

          • Andy Hall said, on May 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

            One of the minor characters in my book is a man named E. B. H. Schneider, at Rhinelander who came to Texas with that same influx of Germans in the late ’40s, who organized a militia company before the war and went on to command a company in the First Texas Heavy Artillery. He was maimed at the Battle of Galveston on New Year’s Day 1863, but served through the remainder of the war as a recruiting officer. While there’s reason to question Schneider’s judgement as an officer, for circumstances I detail in the book, there’s no reason to doubt his commitment to the Confederacy.

      • Mike Musick said, on May 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

        If Mr. Bearden wishes to explore the subject of Germans in the Confederacy, he needs to read Andrea Mehrlaender’s “The Germans of Charleston, Richmond, and New Orleans during the Civil War Period, 1850-1870: A Study and Research Compendium” (2011). Although intimidatingly priced, it should be available from a library near him through interlibrary loan. The depth of Dr. Phil. Mehrlaender’s research is astonishing.

  5. Brian Schrock said, on May 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    This is Brian Schrock, from the blog Google Earth Time Machine. I noticed I was generating page views from your blog so I went to check it out. I appreciate the recognition! This blog is very interesting and I intend to explore it a bit further as my Civil War knowledge is probably lacking in many areas!

    And yes, Texas is a very dynamic place with lots of aerial imagery to sift through! It makes it a great location to explore the changes over time. Plus, as a born and raised Texan, of course I would feature it very prominently as a true Texan always does!

    • Andy Hall said, on May 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      Hey, Brian, thanks for stopping by. You’ll find several map- and Google Earth-related posts ’round these parts.

  6. Brooks D. Simpson said, on May 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Concerning the Mestas quote: in the “I couldn’t have made this up if I tried” category, the venerable Gary Adams announces:

    “It is from a 1947 movie titled “They Won’t Forget” it is about a yankee school teacher in a small Southron town who is lynched when wrongly accused of killing a local girl. The most important scene to me are the Confederate veterans sitting on a park bench discussing they are to be the stars in veterans parade; but what is poignant are the comments about them themselves being remembered. Gary.”

    Now, the photo comes from the 1913 Gettysburg reunion … but here we have to make an interesting choice: either Gary or Robert is lying, period. Of course, option “C” is “both of the above.”

    I know this is not news to you, but it’s well worth highlighting.

    • Brooks D. Simpson said, on May 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      BTW, the movie was made in 1937, and it deals with a slice of southern history Mr. Adams seems to have … misremembered.'t_Forget

    • Andy Hall said, on May 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      I’m sure Mestas wrote it, just as he said he did. It was presented in a way that made it look like a quote from an actual veteran. He could have made exactly the same points any number of ways, making the authorship clear, but instead made up a faked quote that’s exactly the sort of checklist whinge the True Southrons make today. It doesn’t read like anything a veteran of 1861-65 would say or write, but I doubt Mestas’ intended audience knows or cares otherwise. Mestas himself probably wouldn’t have owned up to it, had Gary not been insistent that it came from the movie — which he continued to claim even AFTER Mestas said he wrote it.

      • Brooks D. Simpson said, on May 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm

        I doubt that many people over at TGTKOG actually read before responding or comprehend what they are reading (and, in some cases, writing).

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