Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog


Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 23, 2017

Is the long-running and hella expensive H. L. Hunley Project going to get caught up in a South Carolina political corruption scandal? Could be:

This week The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported that the left-leaning University of South Carolina – another Quinn client – had turned over documents to Pascoe’s team of S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigators.

They aren’t the only ones …

According to our sources, documents have also been obtained from Clemson University – a government agency which has been intimately associated with Quinn’s most brazen fleecing of South Carolina taxpayers: The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.

Over the past two decades, tens of millions of tax dollars have flowed toward this Confederate submarine – which was raised from the floor of Charleston harbor on August 8, 2000.  Millions more have been spent on related Confederate memorabilia – and millions more on a government-run “Restoration Institute” run under the auspices of Clemson University.

Why would South Carolina taxpayers be placed on the hook for such non-core appropriations?

Easy: Because former S.C. lieutenant governor, longtime State Senate president and current College of Charleston leader Glenn McConnell (below) was pushing them.  And no one was about to stand up to the man who – at the time – was arguably the most powerful politician in the state.

McConnell – who fancies himself a Confederate general – is a longtime client of Quinn’s political consulting firm, which has benefited considerably from these state appropriations via its “Friends of the Hunley” organization.  In fact, McConnell’s alleged efforts to enrich Quinn using Hunley funding was originally exposed during his bid for the College of Charleston presidency – but no one ever followed up on the allegations.

They are most certainly following up now …

According to our sources, Pascoe and his team of investigators are not only poring through various Clemson University “Restoration Institute” documents, they are also investigating the allegation that McConnell conspired with Quinn’s firm to rig the bidding for various Hunley-related contracts.

As far as I can tell, suspicion at this point isn’t directed at the archaeologists, historians, and conservators themselves, the people who’ve actually done the work of investigating and preserving this remarkable artifact; this looks to be conventional political corruption case of the type that more typically involves road construction contracts or real estate development. Still, it’s troubling, and I hate the idea that the good work that’s been done over the last two decades might be tainted by pedestrian graft.

A few years ago, a well-known nautical archaeologist commented that we’re unlikely to see more very large-scale Civil War underwater archaeology projects in the near term, because “Monitor and Hunley broke the bank.” I think he’s (sadly) probably right about that, although the subsequent work on C.S.S. Georgia at Savannah might be an exception to his prediction. If it turns out that McConnell and Quinn were funneling dirty money into the Hunley project, it’s just going to make that situation that much worse.


Last One Home

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 21, 2017

On Monday evening, U.S. time, the last scull in the 2016-17 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge arrived at English Harbor, Antigua. Daryl Farmer in Rower’s Ark (UK), completed his transatlantic row with a total time of 96 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 5 seconds. Farmer was raising funds for two charities, East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service and Earthrace Conservation. Farmer’s dogged determination to complete the race, long after the other boats had finished, reflects the best spirit of the Atlantic Challenge and its participants. Congratulations!


For the Ferroequinologists, Sacramento Chapter

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 20, 2017

The Central Pacific Railroad’s 4-4-0 locomotive Success was built by Rogers in April 1869, and probably went into service with the CPRR shortly after completion of the first transcontinental railroad the following month. Success is seen here on Front Street in Sacramento. Image found online.

Here in 3D, as a red/cyan anaglyph:

Several of these buildings still stand today, and the locomotive is shown at the platform of what is now the California State Railroad Museum.



They Are Who You Thought They Were, No. 643

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 12, 2017

Why are Confederate Heritage™ authors actively promoting their material to the anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denier crowd?

No, that’s not a rhetorical question.

It’s been a while since we heard from Valerie “LadyVal” Protopapas Hughes, or Clint Lacy, who a few years back were two of the louder online voices promoting Confederate Heritage™ issues. (Hughes was last heard from comparing freed African Americans in 1865 to six-year-old-children, while Lacy ran a now-dormant blog subtitled, “Your Voice in the Sons of Confederate Veterans” and used it to complain about how non-white drivers were ruining NASCAR.) So I was surprised to see (via a posting at SHPG) them both pop up on an almost comically-rancid anti-Semitic website, andrewcarringtonhitchcock-dot-com, hawking their recent publications in between the host’s screeds about Jews, miscegenation, and white genocide. It’s easy — too easy — these days to throw around accusations of “racism” or “anti-Semitism,” but I’m not sure what else to call a site that hosts podcasts like these:

[Examples after the break, if you really want to see them.]


“Sponge, load, fire.”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 9, 2017
Today, Thursday, is the 155th anniversary of the famous battle between Monitor and Virginia in Hampton Roads. So it seems like a good occasion to repost this account of the action by the Acting Chief Engineer of the Confederate ironclad, Henry Ashton Ramsay (1835-1916), originally posted here five years ago.

Yesterday the Civil War Monitor presented another segment in the magazine’s “Voice from the Past” series, this one highlighting the account of Samuel Dana Greene, Monitor‘s executive officer, who commanded in that ship’s turret until forced to take over command of the ship when his captain, John L. Worden, was temporarily blinded by a shot from C.S.S. Virginia.

What follows here is another account of the action, this one from the Acting Chief Engineer of the Confederate ironclad, Henry Ashton Ramsay (1835-1916). Ramsay’s perspective on the action is unique; he probably knew the ship better than anyone else aboard, have spent most of the previous three years operating, maintaining, repairing and rebuilding the ship’s machinery. He’d joined U.S.S. Merrimac as Second Assistant Engineer at Panama in 1859, and sailed with her around Cape Horn. During this passage he reported to Merrimac‘s Chief Engineer, Alban C. Stimers. Engineer Stimers would later assist John Ericsson in constructing Monitor, and would serve as that ship’s Chief Engineer during the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Upon Merrimac‘s return to Norfolk, her engines were condemned and the ship laid up. There she remained until the spring of 1861, when she was burned to the waterline during the evacuation of the Navy Yard. When the war came, Ramsay cast his lot with the Confederacy, and soon found himself in Norfolk, working to convert the burned-out hull of Merrimac into a casemate ironclad.

While steaming out into Hampton Roads on the morning of March 8, Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, commander of the rebuilt ironclad, now rechristened Virginia, called Ramsey up to the pilothouse and asked him how secure the ship’s machinery was in the event of a hard collision. When Ramsay assured him that the boilers and engine well-braced, Buchanan replied, “I am going to ram the Cumberland.” Fifty years later, in an article for Harper’s Weekly, Ramsay  described what happened next:

The crux of what followed was down in the engine room. Two gongs, the signal to stop, were quickly followed by three, the signal to reverse. There was an ominous pause, then a crash, shaking us all off our feet. The engines labored. The vessel was shaken in every fiber. Our bow was visibly depressed. We seemed to be bearing down with a weight on our prow. Thud, thud, thud, came the rain of shot on our shield from the double-decked battery of the Congress. There was a terrible crash in the fire-room. For a moment we thought one of the boilers had burst. No, it was the explosion of a shell in our stack. Was anyone hit? No, thank God. The firemen had been warned to keep away from the up-take, so the fragments of shell fell harmlessly on the iron floor-plates.

We had rushed on the doomed ship, relentless as fate, crashing through her barricade of heavy spars and torpedo fenders, striking her below her starboard fore-chains and crushing far into her. For a moment the whole weight of her hung on our prow and threatened to carry us down with her, the return wave of the collision curling up into our bow port.

The Cumberland began to sink slowly, bow first, but continued to fight desperately for the forty minutes that elapsed after her doom was sealed, during which we were engaged with both the Cumberland and the Congress, being right between them.

We had left our cast-iron beak in the side of the Cumberland. Like the wasp we could sting but once, leaving the sting in the wound.

Our smoke-stack was riddled, our flag was shot down several times and was finally secured to a rent in the stack. On our gun-deck the men were fighting like demons. There was no thought or time for the wounded and dying as they tugged away at their guns, training and sighting their pieces while the orders rang out: “Sponge, load, fire.”

Virginia pulls away from U.S.S. Congress after setting her afire, March 8, 1862. Painting by Tom Freeman.

Virginia‘s score for the day included U.S.S. Cumberland, sunk, and Congress, abandoned and fully ablaze. Two more Federal vessels, St. Lawrence and Roanoke, had grounded themselves in trying to escape the guns of the ironclad. U.S.S. Minnesota had moved into shallow water where Virginia could not pursue, so the Confederate ironclad hauled off to her mooring at at Sewall’s Point. Ramsay continues:

All the evening we stood on deck watching the brilliant display of the burning [U.S.S. Congress]. Every part of her was on fire at the same time, the red-tongued flames running up shrouds, masts, and stays, and extending out to the yard arms. She stood in bold relief against the black background, lighting up the Roads and reflecting her lurid lights on the bosom of the now placid and hushed waters. Every now and then the flames would reach one of the loaded cannon and a shell would hiss at random through the darkness. About midnight came the grand finale. The magazines exploded, shooting up a huge column of firebrands hundreds of feet in the air, and then the burning hulk burst asunder and melted into the waters, while the calm night spread her sable mantle over Hampton Roads.

U.S.S. Congress explodes around midnight on the night of March 8-9, 1862. Battles and Leaders.

The Monitor arrived during the evening and anchored under the stern of the Minnesota, her lighter draught enabling her to do so without danger. To us the ensuing engagement was in the nature of a surprise. If we had known we were to meet her we would at least have been supplied with a solid shot for our rifled guns. We might even have thought best to wait until our iron beak, lost in the side of the Cumberland, could be replaced. Buchanan was incapacitated by his wound and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Jones.

Monitor arrives alongside U.S.S. Minnesota, late on the evening of March 8, 1862. Battles and Leaders.

We left our anchorage shortly before eight o’clock next morning and steamed across and up stream toward the Minnesota, thinking to make short work of her and soon to return with her colors trailing under ours. We approached her slowly, feeling our way cautiously along the edge of the channel, when suddenly, to our astonishment, a black object that looked like the historic description, “a barrel-head afloat with a cheese-box on top of it,” moved slowly out from under the Minnesota and boldly confronted us. It must be confessed that both ships were queer-looking craft, as grotesque to the eyes of the men of ’62 as they would appear to those of the present generation.

Virginia steams out into Hampton Roads, past the Confederate batteries on Craney’s Island. Battles & Leaders.

And now the great fight was on, a fight the like of which the world had never seen. With the battle of yesterday old methods had passed away, and with them the experience of a thousand years “of battle and of breeze” was brought to naught. The books of all navies were burned with the Congress, by a conflagration as ruthless as the torch of Omar. A new leaf had been turned, a virgin page on which to transcribe and record the art of naval warfare.

We hovered about each other in spirals, gradually contracting the circuits, until we were within point-blank range, but our shell glanced from the Monitor’s turret just as hers did from our sloping sides. For two hours the cannonade continued without perceptible damage to either of the combatants.

On our gun-deck all was bustle, smoke, grimy figures, and stern commands, while down in the engine and boiler rooms the sixteen furnaces were belching out fire and smoke, and the firemen standing in front of them, like so many gladiators, tugged away with devil’s-claw and slice-bar. inducing by their exertions more and more intense heat and combustion. The noise of the crackling, roaring fires, escaping steam, and the loud and labored pulsations of the engines, together with the roar of battle above and the thud and vibration of the huge masses of iron being hurled against us, altogether produced a scene and sound to be compared only with the poet’s picture of the lower regions.

Inside Virginia’s casemate during the action. From Blue Jackets of ’61: A History of the Navy in the War of Secession.

And then an accident occurred that threatened our utter destruction. We stuck fast aground on a sandbar.

Our situation was critical. The Monitor could, at her leisure, come close up to us and yet be out of our reach, owing to an inability to deflect our guns. In she came and began to sound every chink in our armor–every one but that which was actually vulnerable, had she known it.

The coal consumption of the two days’ fight had lightened our prow until our unprotected submerged deck was almost awash. The armor on our sides below the water-line had not been extended but about three feet owing to our hasty departure before the work was finished. Lightened as we were, these exposed portions rendered us no longer an ironclad, and the Monitor might have pierced us between wind and water had she depressed her guns.

Fearing that she might discover our vulnerable “heel of Achilles,” while she had us “in chancery,” we had to take all chances. We lashed down the safety valves, heaped quick-burning combustibles into the already raging fires, and brought the boilers to a pressure that would have been unsafe under ordinary circumstances. The propeller churned the mud and water furiously, but the ship did not stir. We piled on oiled cotton waste, splints of wood, anything that would burn faster than coal. It seemed impossible the boilers could long stand the pressure we were crowding upon them. Just as we were beginning to despair there was a perceptible movement, and the [Virginia] slowly dragged herself off the shoal by main strength. We were saved.

Before our adversary observed we were again afloat we made a dash for her, catching her quite unprepared, and tried to ram her, but our commander was dubious about the result of a collision without our iron-shod beak and gave the signal to reverse the engines long before we reached the Monitor. As a result I did not feel the slightest shock down in the engine-room, though we struck her fairly enough.

1886 chromolithograph of the Battle of Hampton Roads, by J. O. Davidson.

The carpenter reported that the effect was to spring a leak forward. Lieutenant Jones sent for me and asked me about it.

“It is impossible we can be making much water,” I replied,” for the skin of the vessel is plainly visible in the crank-pits.”

A second time he sent for me and asked if we were making any water in the engine room.

“With the two large Worthington pumps, beside the bilge injections, we could keep her afloat for hours, even with a ten-inch shell in her hull.” I assured him, repeating that there was no water in the engine and boiler rooms.

We glided past, leaving the Monitor unscathed, but got between her and the Minnesota and opened fire on the latter. The Monitor gallantly rushed to her rescue, passing so close under our submerged stern that she almost snapped off our propeller. As she was passing, so near that we could have leaped aboard her, Lieutenant Wood trained the stern-gun on her when she was only twenty yards from its muzzle and delivered a rifle-pointed shell which dislodged the iron logs sheltering the Monitor’s conning tower, carrying away the steering-gear and signal apparatus, and blinding Captain Worden. It was a mistake to place the conning tower so far from the turret and the vitals of the ship. Since that time it has been located over the turret. The Monitor’s turret was a death-trap. It was only twenty feet in diameter, and every shot knocked off bolt-heads and sent them flying against the gunners. If one of them barely touched the side of the turret, he would be stunned and momentarily paralyzed. Lieutenant Greene had been taken below in a dazed condition and never fully recovered from the effects. One of the port shutters had been jammed, putting a gun out of commission, and there was nothing for the Monitor to do but to retreat and to leave the Minnesota to her fate.

Captain Van Brunt, of the latter vessel, thought he was now doomed and was preparing to fire his ship when he saw the [Virginia] also withdrawing forward Norfolk.

It was at this juncture that Lieutenant Jones had sent for me and said: “The pilots will not place us nearer to the Minnesota and we cannot afford to run the risk of getting aground again. I am going to haul off under the guns of Sewall’s Point and renew the attack on the rise of the tide. Bank your fires and make any necessary adjustments to the machinery, but be prepared to start up again later in the afternoon.”

I went below to comply with his instructions, and later was astonished to hear cheering. Rushing on deck I found we were passing Craney Island on our way to Norfolk, and were being cheered by the soldiers of the battery.

Our captain had consulted with some of his lieutenants, and explained afterward that as the Monitor had proved herself so formidable an adversary he had thought best to get a supply of solid shot, have the prow replaced, the port shutters put on, the armor belt extended below water, and the guns whose muzzles had been shot away replaced, and then renew the engagement with every chance of victory. I remember feeling as if a wet blanket had been thrown over me. His reasoning was doubtless good, but it ignored the moral effect of leaving the Roads without forcing the Minnesota to surrender.

One of C.S.S. Virginia’s ensigns. This ensign was reportedly replaced with a variant with 11 stars during the March 9, 1862 action against U.S.S. Monitor. Time-Life, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy.

As the [Virginia] passed up the river, trailing the ensign of the Congress under the stars and bars, she received a tremendous ovation from the crowds that lined the shores, while hundreds of small boats, gay with flags and bunting, converted our course into a triumphal procession.

We went into dry-dock that very afternoon, and in about three weeks were ready to renew the battle upon more advantageous terms, but the Monitor, though reinforced by two other ironclads, the Galena and the Naugatuck, and every available vessel of the United States Navy, was under orders from Washington to refuse our challenge and bottle us up in the Roads. This strategy filled us with rage and dismay, but it proved very effective.


Locomotives Up the Turnpike, by Dave Bright

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 2, 2017


cover168I’m pleased to announce the availability of a new volume, Locomotives Up the Turnpike: The Civil War career of Quartermaster Captain Thomas R. Sharp, C.S.A., by my friend and colleague, Dave Bright. From the Amazon description:


When the Civil War began, the railroads of the Confederate States had the immense job of collecting the men, supplies and equipment needed to create a government and its armed forces. Railroads had never been used in the direct support of a war and the new nation soon learned that its railroad resources were far short of what would be needed. Thomas R. Sharp, a young Richmond-based railroad superintendent was tapped by the new government to haul to the Confederate railroads the cars and locomotives captured by the future Stonewall Jackson from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad near Martinsburg, Virginia.

Sharp hired dozens of men and hundreds of horses and wagons to haul the rolling stock south on the Valley of Virginia Turnpike, from Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry to Winchester to Strasburg. Seventeen locomotives and well over 100 cars were hauled over the country roads to intersections with the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad, then on to Richmond.

The locomotives had been burned before Capt. Sharp could begin to haul them, and he had to essentially take them apart to reduce the weight to be hauled. This led to Sharp being assigned to repair the locomotives, as well as haul them. While some repairing was accomplished in Richmond, most was done in the Confederate Locomotive Shop, in Raleigh, created and run by Sharp.

By the summer of 1863, Sharp had been assigned to be the superintendent of the Charlotte & South Carolina Railroad, a critical road in the supply chain supporting Richmond and the main Confederate army. Later, Sharp was given responsibility for coordinating the railroad transportation of all of central and western South Carolina. As Gen. Sherman approached, in 1865, Sharp assisted in the evacuation of Columbia, and then worked to improve the railroads between Charlotte and Salisbury, N. C. Capt.

Sharp’s story has never been told before and is a unique adventure.




Dave is the creator of the Confederate Railroads website, that is a unique and valuable reference for anyone interested in rail transportation in the South. I was pleased and honored to be asked to contribute illustrations and maps (a section of the Richmond map, above) to Locomotives Up the Turnpike, and I hope others will enjoy this unusual and, until now, untold story.




Strange Bedfellows

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 26, 2017

One of my readers passes along this story from Selma, Alabama:


The mayor of Selma refused to back down Friday in a fight that has united unlikely allies — black civil rights marchers and white Civil War re-enactors who refuse to pay thousands in fees to hold their events.

Both groups say the city is squeezing them with demands for thousands of dollars in up-front payments to stage annual events that bring tens of thousands of visitors to an otherwise sleepy community where unemployment is high and boarded-up homes and businesses are a common sight.

Plans for next month’s Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march of 1965, are up in the air over the city’s demand. And the re-enactment of the 1865 Battle of Selma, involving hundreds of history buffs in Civil War garb, has been canceled because organizers couldn’t afford the tab.


Like many small towns in the Deep South, Selma has been in a gradual economic decline for generations. People who had the wherewithal to leave, mostly did. The city’s broke. It’s a hard story, but not remotely unique or unusual.





American Oarsmen Skipper to Speak on Transatlantic Race

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 24, 2017

The Charles E. Hawkins Squadron in Galveston will host a presentation on Thursday, March 2, by Mike Matson (above, right), who recently led a three-man team from Houston in a rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean. The presentation will be held at Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant on Harborside Drive in Galveston, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The American Oarsmen completed the 2016-17 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a rowing race across the Atlantic. Twelve boats competed this year, with one-, two-, three-, and four-member crews.

The Oarsmen — Matson, David Alviar, and Brian Krauskopf — set out from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 14, and arrived at English Harbor, Antigua, the early morning hours of February 2, with a passage time of 49 days, 14 hours, and 4 minutes. They covered a total distance of 2,789 nautical miles. They finished fourth in the race overall, and first among three-man crews.

The event will begin with a meet-and-greet and cash bar at 6:30 p.m., with dinner and the presentation beginning at 7:30. Attendees can order from the regular Fisherman’s Wharf menu, and will be responsible for their own food and drinks. Those wanting to attend should RSVP to Adm. Butch Spafford, (409) 239-3182 or by e-mail to admspafford-at-gmail-dot-com

The Texas Navy Association helped sponsor the Oarsmens’ effort, that was used to raise funds for charitable causes. Matson, Alviar, and Krauskopf were appointed by Governor Abbott as Admirals in the Texas Navy, and they carried a Texas Navy Association pennant aboard their specially-designed rowing scull, Anne.

The Texas Navy Association is a private, 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to preserving and promoting the historical legacy of the naval forces of the Republic of Texas, 1835-45. In Galveston, the Charles E. Hawkins Squadron was organized in the fall of 2016, and meets on the first Thursday evening in odd-numbered months at Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant.



Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler, Y’all

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 18, 2017

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.



New, Comprehensive H. L. Hunley Report Released

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 18, 2017

HunleyCutawayWhite01 720

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.