Right now we’re in the throes of Mardi Gras, so here’s an obligatory post regarding that — actually a fun one.
Over at Civil War Talk, user 18th Virginia has been posting a series of illustrations for costumes from the 1873 Krewe of Comus ball in New Orleans. The theme that year was “The Missing Link of Darwin’s Origin of the Spiecies,” and all the costumes were fantastical, garish blends of humans and animals designed to mock the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin.
Then as now, current events and politics found their way into Mardi Gras festivities, with prominent figures coming in for a lot of deliberate ridicule — in this case, by associating them with unpleasant creature or pest. In that light, I present the 1873 Krewe of Comus costume for “the Tobacco Grub:”
If that one looks familiar, you won’t want to miss “The Hyena.”
Image via the Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane University.
Via Phil Gast’s Civil War Picket blog, the Navy has released a comprehensive, 348-page report on the vessel — its origins, operational history, the search, recovery, conservation, and experimental investigations — titled H. L. Hunley Recovery Operations, A Collaborative Project of: Naval History and Heritage Command, South Carolina Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley. It’s an impressive reference, and should be in the collection of anyone interested in Civil War naval operations. It’s available for free download here.
A reader passes along this story, that you had to know was coming:
Citing growing hostility and a lack of safe spaces where it can roam freely without fear of retaliation, the City of Jasper declared earlier this week that it is now officially a “sanctuary city” for Confederate flags.
After watching helplessly as the Stars and Bars were ripped from flagpoles across the country, the residents of Walker County have taken the necessary steps to provide protection to the controversial symbol.
Ray Corbin, a member of Protect our Southern Heritage, a local Facebook group that specializes in genealogy and memes, said he believes flying the Confederate flag is a constitutional right that no government can take away from him.
“Our forefathers gave their lives to establish a government that protects our right to free speech,” explained Corbin. “All I want to do is fly the flag of my southern ancestors who fought for their independence from that government.”
It’s satire, of course, but like all good satire, it contains a core of reality:
Protect our Southern Heritage, a local Facebook group that specializes in genealogy and memes. . . .
Y’all have a good weekend.
Good Heavens, I may start a GoFundMe drive to buy these folks a spell-checker.
Update, February 18: I’ve been requested to remove this blog post in deference to the person who put it up on Facebook. While I’m not inclined to remove the post entirely, I have removed that person’s name from it, and deleted the link to the original.
In Missouri in the early 1860s, a “Snowflake” was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery—the implication of the name being that such people valued white people over black people. The Snowflakes hoped slavery would survive the country’s civil war, and were contrasted with two other groups. The Claybanks (whose name came from the colorless color of the local terrestrial clay) wanted a gradual transition out of slavery for slaves, with eventual freedom accompanied by compensation to slave owners; the Charcoals—who were also called Brown Radicals—wanted immediate emancipation and for black people to be able to enlist in the armed forces.
The available evidence suggests that this particular use of snowflake never moved much beyond the borders of Missouri or the era.
Here’s a really superb talk by Gary Gallagher on Robert E. Lee, and the deeply-conflicted loyalties he had — to Virginia, to the United States, to the slaveholding South, and to the Confederacy.
Update, January 23: Civil War Talk user Thomas Aagaard challenged what I wrote about the Danish Jylland‘s armament being all rifled guns, saying that most of them, like those of the Austrian ships, were relatively small smoothbores. And he’s right — Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905 gives Jylland‘s original armament as forty-four 30-pounder smoothbores, with the all-rifle armament coming at some later date. The ship’s data in the game simply appears to be incorrect for 1864, giving Jylland a much longer-range, harder punch than she actually had..
The Danish squadron (upper left) turns to intercept the Austrians (lower right).
Sunday afternoon the group I game with fought out a scenario based on the Battle of Heligoland in May 1864. The action was fought between the Danes and a squadron of Austrian ships, acting on behalf of their Prussian allies, with three ships to a side. The real battle essentially ended in a draw, with both sides (of course) later claiming victory. The battle is famous for allegedly being the last major action that did not involve armored warships. It’s interesting from the perspective of the American Civil War because it’s a good example of what could happen when traditional wooden ships faced modern, heavy rifled artillery and exploding shells.
For this scenario we used the old Yaquinto game Ironclads (1979), along with its expansion set that brings in non-US ships and scenarios. Ironclads leans heavily toward the simulation end of the spectrum; it’s definitely not a beer-and-pretzels game. on Sunday there were six of us playing, with our host acting as game master, navigating the myriad charts and tables required in keeping track of the detailed bookkeeping. In Ironclads, every single shot is tracked and damage accounted for; the six of us would all be considered novice players, so we were slow, but even so it took us four hours or more to get to the middle of turn seven. Ironclads is a good example of tactical game design as it was in the late 1970s, when there was no end to the amount of fine-grained detail that designers tried to shoehorn into their games, even if the final product was damn near unplayable (e.g., Air War).
Every turn included a vigorous discussion about firing arcs. Every. Single. Turn.
With six of us playing, each player commanded one ship. Mine was the Austrian screw frigate Radetsky, second in the Austrian line. The Danish ships were bigger and more heavily armed than the Austrians, but more important, they had heavy guns that could outrange the Austrians. My teammates and I recognized that our only chance was to get in close, where we could use the small, 30-pounder smoothbore guns that comprised most of our armament. (In the game, the Danish screw frigate Jylland is entirely fitted with 6- and 8-inch rifles, with up to four times the range of the craptastic Austrian 30-pounders.) It didn’t go well for the Austrians; the flagship, Schwarzenberg, was set afire early in the action and I got pummeled in Radestky as I tried to close the range to the Danish line. Radestky came under fire from all three Danish ships, and was very quickly reduced to a floating wreck in the space of just three turns — which represents maybe ten minutes of real time. One lucky shot took out my steam plant, shutting down the propulsion, and in the next turn my steering was disabled, leaving Radetsky dead in a water and on fire, surrounded by Danish ships at close range. We were getting beat so badly that my friend playing the admiral quipped to our host, “if you ever run this scenario again, you need to give the Austrians a safe word.”
My ship, the screw frigate Radetsky (center), dead in the water and ablaze. This will not end well.
While this recreation of the Battle of Heligoland was not particularly fun for those of us playing the Austrian side, it did provide some insight into how devastating naval artillery had become over the preceding few decades, and in particular the deadly combination of rifled artillery and explosive shells when used against unarmored, traditional wooden warships. if this had been a real fight, it would have been a bloodbath, with both of the larger Austrian ships destroyed in short order and the third, a small paddle steamer, having to make a run for it.
Ironclads is a solid game, but it’s also a high-friction design that wears out the players pretty quickly, given the necessity of cross-referencing eleventy-four different tables every time a ship fires a gun. It would be hard to imagine fighting out a big action like the Battle of Mobile Bay using this game, although I know it has been done many times. On the plus side, for the naval buff it includes all sorts of granular detail that is appealing. I think we may do this again soon, although someone else can play the Austrians next time.
h/t Civil War Talk user CMWinkler.
The Camden Expedition
and Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry, Arkansas
Considered a part of the overall Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864, with the invasion of Texas by Union forces as one of the key objectives, the Arkansas portion of the campaign also is known as the Camden Expedition. It became a failed attempt by Union troops in Arkansas to converge on Shreveport and link up with General Banks’ forces advancing northward through Louisiana and then toward Texas. Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele’s Union forces retreated from Camden after being mauled in fierce engagements at Poison Spring and Marks’ Mills. On the afternoon of April 29, 1864 the Union troops reached Jenkins’ Ferry to begin crossing the Saline River, which was swollen by heavy rain. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate army caught Steele’s men and launched a succession of Confederate attacks on April 30. Many of the soldiers (including Texans) had fought at the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana only 22 days earlier. The Federals repulsed the attacks and finally crossed with all their men and supply wagons, many of which they were compelled to abandon in the swamp north of the Saline. The Confederates missed the opportunity to destroy Steele’s army, which after crossing the river, regrouped to the north at Little Rock. Their failure at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry cost the Confederates any chance they may have had to capture the Union army or retake Little Rock.
Edwin C. Bearss authored the in-depth book documenting Steele’s part of the ill-fated Red River Campaign (Steele’s Retreat from Camden & The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry). Ed Bearss will speak about the events and impact of this expedition and its final battle on the Trans-Mississippi theater and Texas.
Reservations required for both dinner ($30) and lecture only ($10)E-Mail Reservation is Preferred; Email Don Zuckero at drzuckero-at-sbcglobal.net, or call (281) four seven nine-one two three two by 5 p.m. Monday, January 16.
Photo by David Grubbs, Billings Gazette.