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timschochet

The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

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One of the Vicksburg books I read was comprised of diary entries from the besieged civilians in the town. It was a very interesting read.

That sounds interesting. What was the name of it?
Vicksburg - 47 Days of Siege by AA HoehlingThe book itself encapsulated numerous diary entries but approached it from a human perspective - not a tactical, military perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thanks! Going to grab it off Amazon tonight.

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The Sand Creek Massacre, Part 1

The history of the United States and native Americans is one of sorrow and tragedy, and its sad story is not meant to be part of this narrative. But the worst massacre on American soil does need to be examined in detail, because it never would have happened if not for the American Civil War. Because the Union Army was occupied fighting in the east, military control in the west was left to militia forces which were supposed to be professional soldiers and actually were brutal thugs. Here is some background:

By the terms of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie between the United States and seven Indian nations, including the Cheyenne and Arapaho, the US recognized that the Cheyenne and Arapaho held a vast territory encompassing the lands between the North Platte River and Arkansas River and eastward from the Rocky Mountains to western Kansas. This area included present-day southeastern Wyoming, southwestern Nebraska, most of eastern Colorado, and the westernmost portions of Kansas.

In November 1858, however, the discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, then part of the Kansas Territory, brought on the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. There was a flood of European-American migrants across Cheyenne and Arapaho lands. They competed for resources and some settlers tried to stay. Colorado territorial officials pressured federal authorities to redefine the extent of Indian lands in the territory, and in the fall of 1860, A.B. Greenwood, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, arrived at Bent's New Fort along the Arkansas River to negotiate a new treaty.

On February 18, 1861, six chiefs of the Southern Cheyenne and four of the Arapaho signed the Treaty of Fort Wise with the United States, in which they ceded most of the lands designated to them by the Fort Laramie treaty. The new reserve, less than one-thirteenth the size of the 1851 reserve, was located in eastern Colorado between the Arkansas River and Sand Creek. Some bands of Cheyenne, including the Dog Soldiers, a militaristic band of Cheyenne and Lakota that had evolved beginning in the 1830s, were angry at the chiefs who had signed the treaty. They disavowed the treaty and refused to abide by its constraints. They continued to live and hunt in the bison-rich lands of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, becoming increasingly belligerent over the tide of white migration across their lands. Tensions were high particularly in the Smoky Hill River country of Kansas, along which whites had opened a new trail to the gold fields. Cheyenne who opposed the treaty said that it had been signed by a small minority of the chiefs without the consent or approval of the rest of the tribe; that the signatories had not understood what they signed; and that they had been bribed to sign by a large distribution of gifts. The whites, however, claimed that the treaty was a "solemn obligation." Officials took the position that Indians who refused to abide by it were hostile and planning a war.

The beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the organization of military forces in Colorado Territory. In March 1862, the Coloradans defeated the Texas Confederate Army in the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. Following the battle, the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers returned to Colorado Territory and were mounted as a home guard under the command of Colonel John Chivington. Chivington and Colorado territorial governor John Evans adopted a hard line against Indians, whom white settlers accused of stealing livestock. Without any declaration of war, in April 1864 soldiers started attacking and destroying a number of Cheyenne camps, the largest of which included about 70 lodges, about 10% of the housing capacity of the entire Cheyenne nation. On May 16, 1864, a force under Lieutenant George S. Eayre crossed into Kansas and encountered Cheyenne in their summer buffalo-hunting camp at Big Bushes near the Smoky Hill River. Cheyenne chiefs Lean Bear and Star approached the soldiers to signal their peaceful intent, but were shot down by Eayre's troops.This incident touched off a war of retaliation by the Cheyenne in Kansas. Colonel Chivington then made a public statement, which was published in the local newspapers:

Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! ... I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians.

Chivington was a man who relished his title as colonel, but who certainly did not want to be transferred back east where he might have to get involved in real warfare. He and his men preferred the easier task of fighting native Americans warriors, and, as we shall see, their innocent women and children.

As conflict between Indians and white settlers and soldiers in Colorado continued, many of the Cheyenne and Arapaho, including bands under Cheyenne chiefs Black Kettle and White Antelope, were resigned to negotiate peace. The chiefs had sought to maintain peace in spite of pressures from whites. They were told to camp near Fort Lyon on the eastern plains, and that their people would be regarded as friendly.

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But the worst massacre on American soil does need to be examined in detail

I'm curious how this is considered the worst massacre on American soil. There are at least 2 others that I can think of, Wounded Knee and Bear River, that had more deaths.

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But the worst massacre on American soil does need to be examined in detail

I'm curious how this is considered the worst massacre on American soil. There are at least 2 others that I can think of, Wounded Knee and Bear River, that had more deaths.
It's debatable. Dee Brown considered it the worst, so did James Michener (his novel Centennial was the first time I read about it.) All three were awful events and I don't want to make light of any of them. I suppose I could have discussed Bear River as well, because it also has bearing on the Civil War. But this one is more infamous and we have more of the details.

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The Sand Creek Massacre Part 2

Black Kettle, a chief of a group of around 800 mostly Northern Cheyenne, reported to Fort Lyon in an effort to establish peace. After having done so, he and his band, along with some Arapaho under Chief Niwot, camped out at nearby Sand Creek, less than 40 miles north. The Dog Soldiers, who had been responsible for many of the raids on whites, were not part of this encampment. Assured by the U.S. Government's promises of peace, Black Kettle sent most of his warriors to hunt, leaving only around 60 men, and women and children in the village. Most of the men were too old or too young to hunt. Black Kettle flew an American flag over his lodge, since previously the officers had said this would show he was friendly and prevent attack by U.S. soldiers.

Setting out from Fort Lyon, Colonel Chivington and his 800 troops of the First Colorado Cavalry, Third Colorado Cavalry and a company of First New Mexico Volunteers marched to Black Kettle's campsite. On the night of November 28, soldiers and militia drank heavily and celebrated their anticipated victory. On the morning of November 29, 1864, Chivington ordered his troops to attack. Two officers, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, commanding companies D and K, respectively, of the First Colorado Cavalry, refused to follow Chivington's order and told their men to hold fire. Other soldiers in Chivington's force, however, immediately attacked the village. Disregarding the American flag, and a white flag that was run up shortly after the soldiers commenced firing, Chivington's soldiers massacred many of its inhabitants. Later, from the testimony of eyewitnesses:

I saw the bodies of those lying there cut all to pieces, worse mutilated than any I ever saw before; the women cut all to pieces ... With knives; scalped; their brains knocked out; children two or three months old; all ages lying there, from sucking infants up to warriors ... By whom were they mutilated? By the United States troops ...

Fingers and ears were cut off the bodies for the jewelry they carried. The body of White Antelope, lying solitarily in the creek bed, was a prime target. Besides scalping him the soldiers cut off his nose, ears, and ####-the last for a tobacco pouch ...

The numbers vary depending on the historians, but a generally agreed figure is 133 killed, 105 of them women and children. Before Chivington and his men left the area, they plundered the tipis and took the horses. After the smoke cleared, Chivington's men came back and killed many of the wounded. They also scalped many of the dead, regardless of whether they were women, children or infants. Chivington and his men dressed their weapons, hats and gear with scalps and other body parts, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia. They also publicly displayed these battle trophies in Denver's Apollo Theater and area saloons. Three Indians who remained in the village are known to have survived the massacre – George Bent's brother, Charlie Bent, and two Cheyenne women who were later turned over to William Bent.

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It is a significant point to emphasize that one captain and lieutenant refused to carry out Chivington's order. The two men were both regular army. Most of Chivington's troops were not. The Sand Creek Massacre has historically been used in order to criticize the United States Army, similar to the massacre in My Lai 100 years later. It is a prominent part of leftist critiques against the United States, both abroad and here (for instance, A People's History of the United States.) But what is usually left unmentioned in these critiques is that, if not for the Civil War, this massacre likely never would have happened. Prior to the war, the frontier of the United States was governed by some of the greatest soldiers in American history, who ended up fighting for North and South. The Indians were doomed to lose right after right, but not by bloody massacre.

It was only when these soldiers left that the dregs who were left behind committed such atrocities as this one and the massacre at Bear River.

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Andersonville Part 1

As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. "Can this be hell?" "God protect us!" and all thought that He alone could bring them out alive from so terrible a place. In the center of the whole was a swamp, occupying about three or four acres of the narrowed limits, and a part of this marshy place had been used by the prisoners as a sink, and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating. The ground allotted to our ninety was near the edge of this plague-spot, and how we were to live through the warm summer weather in the midst of such fearful surroundings, was more than we cared to think of just then

The battles of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor created a prisoner of war problem which the Confederacy was simply unable to deal with. There were too many to sustain, and the majority were sent to the largest POW camp in the South, officially known as Camp Sumter, located near the town of Andersonville, Georgia. There the conditions were horrific:\

At Andersonville, a light fence known as "the dead line" was erected approximately 3 feet inside the stockade wall. It demarcated a no-man's land that kept prisoners away from the stockade wall, which was made of rough-hewn logs about 16 feet long. Anyone crossing this line was shot by sentries located in the pigeon roosts.

Andersonville Prison was frequently undersupplied with food. Even when sufficient quantities were available, the supplies were of poor quality and poorly prepared. During the summer of 1864 Union prisoners suffered greatly from hunger, exposure and disease. Within seven months, about a third of them died from dysentery and scurvy and were buried in mass graves, the standard practice by Confederate prison authorities at Andersonville. Dorence Atwater, a soldier in the 2nd New York Cavalry, kept a record of deaths at the camp.

The guards, disease, starvation and exposure were not all that prisoners had to deal with. A group of prisoners, calling themselves the Andersonville Raiders, attacked their fellow inmates to steal food, jewelry, money and clothing. They were armed mostly with clubs and killed to get what they wanted. Another group rose up to stop the larceny, calling themselves "Regulators". They caught nearly all of the Raiders, who were then tried by a judge (Peter "Big Pete" McCullough) and jury selected from a group of new prisoners. This jury, upon finding the Raiders guilty, set punishment that included running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks, ball and chain and, in six cases, hanging.

I am going to post some stories from Andersonville, and then close this terrible chapter of the Civil War with a discussion of its commander, Henry Wirz, and the ethical questions involving his trial and execution which followed the war. I'm hoping that when I get to that part legal types still reading this thread might make some comment.

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Sorry for the threadjack. It's out of sequence but not entirely off-topic.

I just picked up a free reader's copy of James L Swanson's new book Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse. I didn't read his earlier book Manhunt, so I'm curious about what you guys think of Swanson as a writer and Civil War era historian.

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Andersonville Part 1

tim, I've personally never read anything on Andersonville, but I've heard others talk about it. Maybe in your discussion you can address a couple of the things I've heard.

#1 - food supplies were so low that the guards were starving too.

#2 - the CSA attempted to prisoner swap with the Union to relieve the problem, but this was refused.

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Andersonville Part 1

tim, I've personally never read anything on Andersonville, but I've heard others talk about it. Maybe in your discussion you can address a couple of the things I've heard.

#1 - food supplies were so low that the guards were starving too.

#2 - the CSA attempted to prisoner swap with the Union to relieve the problem, but this was refused.

I'm going to try. Both statements are somewhat true. But:

1. The guards were hungry, but were not starving, from what I've been able to learn. They weren't living skeletons like the Yankee soldiers were. Those soldiers were indistinguishable from concentration camp survivors. Still, it's true that the South simply didn't have the resources to deal with so many prisoners, especially when its own population was starving.

2. Of course the CSA would have loved to swap, and of course the North refused. The final decision came from Lincoln himself, but not without agreement from the upper echelons of the Union Army. To swap forces would have lessened one of the main advantages the North had over the South: the ability to renew manpower seemingly at will. From a military point of view, it would have been absolutely foolish for the Yankees to allow Confederate POWs back to the South before they surrendered. From a humanitarian view, however, people question this decision.

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Andersonville, Continued

"The Raiders of Andersonville"

As in any society or social order there was good and bad at Andersonville. Good men tried to help others, shared their meager rations with friends and nursed fellow prisoners when they were ill. On the other side was a band of people who would have been bad in any society, but due to the shortage of food these people pillaged, beat and murdered their fellow prisoners for their food and material goods. These people were known as the "Raiders". Their activity was reported in the diary of John Ransom of the 9th Michigan Cavalry, on April 28, 1864 "Raiders do about as they please, and their crimes would fill more paper than I have to my disposal." The majority of these men had been attracted to military service by the rewards of bounty-jumping and had been captured before they could collect their bounties and find an opportunity to desert. On June 20th, Michael Daughtry of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry wrote, "It is reported that the remains of a man was found in a tent buried. The tent belongs to a bunch of Raiders. It appears they killed him, robbed him and then buried him in their tent and slept over the body." According to diary entries the Raider rendezvous point was at the southwest end of the prison.

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The Raider's standard of living was far superior to the rest of the prisoners in the stockade, and fear of punishment, which in organized society may be a deterrent to crime, was non-existent within the walls. There were hundreds of Raiders and they were broken down into detachments led by so-called Chieftains, such as "Collin's Raiders", "Curtis' Raiders", etc. The chieftains were Charles Curtis, John Sarsfield, Partick Delaney, William Collins, Cary Sullivan, and A. Munn, (Muir). According to John Ransom, at the beginning of July the Raiders were getting more bold. They pounced on new prisoners, right out in the open, with no attempt to concealment. About 2,000 prisoners that arrived in May provided excellent pickings for the robbers. Captured at Plymouth, North Carolina, they had just been paid and had full knapsacks. They were known as the "Plymouth Pilgrams," and they were an easy mark for the Raiders, who victimized the 'fresh fish', attacking, robbing, and if need be, murdering them. The Raiders had many advantages over their victims. They were better fed and carried better weapons, such as larger clubs, brass knuckles, and knives. Also these ruffians were used to brawling while their victims were not. Pvt. John Northrup of the 76th New York Infantry wrote in his diary on June 29th, "Steps are taken to organize a police force. An order came from Captain Wirz that if we wished to take them, (the Raiders), outside, he would furnish a guard, we to point them out, and he would "clear the stockade", bully for the Captain." The real orgainizer of this body, known as the Regulators, is Sergeant Leroy L. Key of an Illinois regiment. The organization was made up of western men, from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.

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On June 30th General John H. Winder issued the following order: General Orders No. 57, Camp Sumter, Andersonville, Georgia, June 30, 1864. A gang of evil-disposed persons among the prisoners of war at this post having banded themselves together for the purpose of assaulting, murdering, and robbing their fellow-prisoners, and having already committed all of these deeds, it becomes necessary to adopt measures to protect the lives and property of the prisoners against the acts of these men, and in order that this may be accomplished, the well-disposed prisoners may, and they are hereby authorized to establish a court among themselves for the trial and punishment of such offenders. On such trials the charges will be distinctly made with specifications setting forth the time and place, copy of which will be furnished the accused. The whole proceedings will be properly kept in writing, all the testimony will be fairly written out as nearly in the words of the witnesses as possible. The proceedings, findings, and sentence in each case will be sent to the commanding officer for record, and if found in order and proper, the sentence will be ordered for execution. By order of Brig. Gen. John H. Winder, W. S. Winder, Assistant Adjutant General.

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One of the prisoners reported, "the Regulators, as they call themselves, are headed by a stout fellow whom they call Lumber Jim. He is an Artillery Sergeant and wears a fancy red shirt, a sailor cap and has a lurid red stripe on the pants." On July 4th, John E. Warren from the 7th Wisconsin Artillery, wrote in his diary, "So far as I know the idea that brought about the overthrow of the murderous Raiders came from Wirz himself; and it is certain that the efforts of 'Lumber Jim', (James Laughlin), Key, Corrigan, Larkin, Johnson, and others, of the 'law and order' organization, and of the police force, all of whom deserve great credit in arresting the 'Raiders' would have been fruitless but for the cooperation of Wirz." Throughout the beginning days of July the Raiders were rounded up and sent to the outside of the prison for either punishment or trial. On July 5th, Lessel Long of the 13th Indiana Infantry reported, "Feeling some reluctance to proceeding against the Raiders they were about to release them without punishment, otherwise than a few kicks, when a Corporal of Company G, the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, familiarly known in prison as 'Big Pete', came into the crowd, and taking the Raider fearlessly in hand, inflicted summary punishment upon him by shaving half of his head and face, giving no heed to the desperado's savage gnashing of teeth and threats of vengeance, except to thump his head at each beginning and repetition of them. After dealing out justice in this off-hand manner, and an administrative reminder, (in the rear), from a pair of the heaviest of cowhides, the thief was released, with admonitions to sin no more." "This, I believe, was the first instance of formal punishment for such misdemeanors; and thereafter Big Pete, by virtue of these services, became the terror of evil-doers. Pete exhibited so much courage at this time, and subsequently so much good sense and natural judgement, that he gradually became the administrative power for the punishment of the offenses committed. He performed for us the services of shaving, and in a dignified, impartial manner gave the culprit a trial...hearing the statements of both sides before pronouncing judgement and inflicting punishment, both of which, however, were often condensed into the last act. Few exceptions were taken to his rulings, for who could object to the persuasive arguments of one who wore such heavy boots?"

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Some prisoners helped with the arrest of the Raiders and in doing ransacked their quarters, the hunt yielding quantities of blankets, greenbacks, and jewelry. They tore down the Raider's shebangs to be used for their own convenience. Those Raiders who were the followers of the "Chieftains" who were found guilty were made to run the gauntlet, where several of them were killed. The prisoners formed two lines and the guilty had to run in between the lines through a barrage of stones and clubs. Others were sentenced to wear balls and chains, while still others were set in the stocks or strung up by their thumbs. For the leaders' trial, Captain Wirz picked out 22 Sergeants who would be the jury for all six of them. On July 10th, Private John Northrup of the 7th Connecticut Infantry wrote in his diary, "It is announced tonight that six Raiders have been convicted and condemned to death, and are to be hanged tomorrow in the prison shortly after noon. The names of these convicts are Cary Sullivan, of the 76th New York, William Collins alias Moseby, of the 88th Pennsylvania, Charles Curtis of the 4th Rhode Island Artillery, John Sarsfield of the 144th New York, Patrick Delaney of the 83rd Pennsylvania, A. Muir alias Jack the Sailor of the United States Navy. Sullivan's given name, announced by the Regulators is Terrance, was carried on the Company roles as Cary. To carry out this grim project, Sergeant Keys and immediate assistants have got the use of timbers and tools and secured a few carpenters to build a scaffold." (*This is a diary quote and the units identified may be in error).

General Winder approved the executions and according to the history of Andersonville by Ovid L. Futch, "On July 10th Father Whelan visited the condemned men in the stocks. Five of them were Catholics and received the consolations of their religious from the priest." Only July 11th, according to John Northrup, Wirz said: "Prisoners, I deliver these men to you in as good condition as I found them. I have had nothing to do in convicting them of crime of which they are accused except to lend my assistance for their and your protection; nor do I charge them or believe them guilty, and shall have nothing to do with the execution of your sentence. You have tried them; I have permitted it. You have convicted and sentenced them; if they are hung, you, not I, will be responsible for it. I deliver them to you; do with them as you please, and may God be with them and you. Guards about face; forward march." All but the priest moved out and the gate closed. This address was delivered from a paper in his hand said to have been prepared by Lt. Davis or some officer of the post. Intense excitement gripped the stockade. There was a densely packed crowd, including prisoners, teamsters, negroes and men and women outside the prison on a rise which commanded a view of the prison. There were rumors of a rescue attempt by the Raider's friends or an escape attempt by the prisoners. The guard was doubled and the artillery was pointed inward from all directions. On the afternoon of July 11th, the sentence was carried out and according to the writing of Sergeant Darus Starr of the 3rd United States Sharpshooters, "Six murderers mounted the scaffold at 4 1/2 o'clock p.m. One broke loose as he was mounting, but was recaptured and taken back. The trap fell at 5 o'clock, when one rope broke; the others held and then men were launched into eternity. The man who fell was immediately hung up again."

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Lessel Long, of the 13th Indiana Infantry wrote, "All six were lined up and meal sacks were put over their heads and knotted ropes were adjusted around their necks. At a signal, planks were pulled from beneath their feet. Five of them died instantly but the weight of the 6th, Collins, was too heavy for the rope and it broke. The unconscious man had water thrown in his face, pleading for his life they hung him again." Lessel Long was also to report, "After the hanging of the six men, it was apparent to all that it was necessary to have a regular police force to preserve order, so the regular system was organized. Key was made Chief of Police, but owing to the active part he had taken in the hanging of the six Raiders, it was thought best that he would take a parole and be put out on detail duty, as the Raiders were determined to avenge the deaths of their leaders. Key sought and obtained a parole outside. Sergeant A. R. Hill, of the 100th Ohio, was made Chief in his place. Hill first came to notice on Belle Island, where he had an altercation with one Jack Oliver, of the 19th Indiana, Jack was a powerful man and thought it was his duty to thrash everybody on the Island. He got into a fuss with one of Hill's mess, and as usual, proceeded to give him a thrashing, when Hill interfered and knocked Jack down, giving him a tremendous thrashing. Ever after this Hill was considered one of the best men in the prison."

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The six graves, set off from the honored dead, are still there. These six graves are the only ones in the Andersonville National Cemetery that are not decorated with an individual American flags each Memorial Day. The six were dishonorably discharged as a result of their crime against their fellow prisoners. On all of their military records the cause of death was noted as "asphyxia".

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Andersonville, Continued

Henry Wirz was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1822. He graduated from the University of Zurich, later obtaining an M.D. degree from the medical colleges of Paris and Berlin. After practicing medicine for a time, he immigrated to the United States in 1849, establishing a medical practice in Kentucky. In 1854 he married a widow, Mrs. Wolfe, and became stepfather to her two young daughters. The family moved to Louisiana, and in 1855 his own daughter, Cora, was born. At the beginning of the War For Southern Independence Dr. Wirz enjoyed a lucrative medical practice and was fluent in English, German, and Dutch.

When the war opened, Dr. Wirz enlisted in Company A. Fourth-Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers. This regiment fought bravely at the Battle of Seven Pines, where Sergeant Henry Wirz was severely wounded in his right arm by a minie ball. The arm was almost useless to him thereafter. On June 12, after returning to his unit, Wirz was promoted to Captain "for bravery on the field of battle." However, his wound rendered him unfit for battle, and he was detailed as acting adjutant-general to General John H. Winder, Provost Marshall in charge of Confederate prisoner of war camps.

Because of his nationality and education, Captain Wirz was summoned to Richmond in the summer of 1863 and sent on a secret mission, President Jefferson Davis made Captain Wirz a Special Minister and sent him to Europe carrying secret dispatches to the Confederate Commissioners, Mister Mason in England and Mister Slidell in France.

Captain Wirz returned from Europe in January 1864 and reported back to Richmond, where he began working for General Winder in the prison department After serving at prisons in Richmond and Tuscaloosa , Captain Wirz was ordered to take charge of the interior of Andersonville Prison in April of 1864. He assumed his duties there the same month, and remained at Andersonville with his wife and family until April of 1865, when he was included in the surrender of General Johnston and his forces to General Sherman. Shortly before the end of the war, Wirz was promoted to the rank of Major.

Wirz retired to civilian life until taken into custody by Union forces of General Wilson. He was taken to Macon, Georgia where he was questioned at length about the prison, then released to return to his family at Andersonville. While waiting for the train, he was arrested by Wilson's soldiers. A few days later he was transported to Washington, where he was placed in the Old Capitol Prison on May 10, 1865 to await trial on charges of war crimes.

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I'm going to conclude the Andersonville narrative over the next couple of days with a description of Wirz's trial after the war. This is important for several reasons: Wirz, an unknown figure in the South, became the ultimate villain, the representative of all evil things southern, and for a time was the most hated man in America. Secondly, Wirz's trial was the first famous "war crimes" trial and set the stage for Nuremberg, My Lai, etc. And like My Lai (and perhaps like Nuremberg depending on your POV) it was a political trial, and Wirz may have been unfairly convicted and made to suffer for the entire Confederacy.

Hopefully as I provide a narrative of this trial some of the legal minds here will give some input on what was surely one of the most significant trials in American history. (Yankee23fan? Christo? Anyone?

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The Trial of Henry Wirz Part 1

From the earliest days of Camp Sumter, the Northern press wrote grossly embellished articles about the cruelties being inflicted on the hapless captives which brought about a hue and cry across the land for vengeance and retribution. The man most responsible for the treatment of the Union prisoners held in the Confederacy was Brigadier General John Winder, the commander of all Confederate prisons east of the Mississippi. Indeed, through much of the short life of Camp Sumter, Winder's headquarter were located at Andersonville. In all likelyhood, Winder would have been tried and executed by the North had not he succumbed to a fatal heart attack in February of 1865. It then came to pass that the North was to take its vengenace on the man who held the command of the prisoner stockade at the Andersonville complex, Major Henry Wirz.

Major Wirz, a native of Switzerland, had practiced medicine in both Kentucky and Louisiana prior to the war, but enlisted as a Sergeant in the Fourth Louisiana Infantry. He served with this unit until he was seriously wounded in the right wrist at the Battle of Seven Pines. The wound was considered to be incurable, and was a continuous source of pain for Wirz until he died. After he recovered somewhat from his wound, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned to the staff of General Winder. He commanded several different prison facilities in the Richmond area. In order to facilitate his treatment by European doctors, he was given a mission as a plenipotentiary of the Confederate government for a mission to Paris and Berlin. He returned from Europe in 1864, and was assigned to the command of the interior stockade of the Andersonville prison on March 27, 1864.

Wirz remained at Andersonville, except for a sick leave in August of 1864, until his arrest on May 7, 1865 at the prison by Captain H. E. Noyes, of General James H. Wilson's staff. He was transported to Washington, D. C., and there stood trial before a military tribunal on a variety of charges. His trial began on August 23, 1865, and continued until October 23, 1865, at which time he was convicted of virtually all of the charges and sentenced to hang. He was hanged on November 10, 1865 at Old Capitol Prison, and he was buried next to George Azterodt, one of the executed Lincoln conspirators.

The trial and execution of Henry Wirz has been decried by most historians who have carefully evaluated the available evidence as a farcical affair. Robert E. Lee called the proceeding a "judicial lynching." Careful evaluation of the facts surrounding the case show that if this case had been tried in a proper manner, that being a fair trial with an impartial jury, he probably would have been acquitted, and certainly would not have been executed. The case of the United States Goverment was flawed by a lack of sufficient evidence, a questionable jurisdiction over the case, and well as outright tampering with evidence, and selective use of evidence to include only that which tend to incriminate, rather than exonerate Wirz.

Wirz was tried on two charges. The first charge accused him of "combining, confederating, and conspiring together with Jefferson Davis, Howell Cobb, John H., Richard B, and W. S. Winder, Isaiah H. White, R. Randolph Stevenson, and others to impair and injure the health and to destroy the livesof large numbers of Federal prisoners at Andersonville." Of this first charge, testimony was given to describe vividly the horrible conditions at the compound. Evidence of the alleged conspiracy, which could reasonably be expected to included telegraph messages, diary entries, and other written indications of the evil intent of these men, were not included in the testimony. Wirz was convicted of this charge.

Major impetus behind the conviction on this charge is just the sheer disbelief by the members of the court martial board that the deplorable conditions at the camp could have been as a result of anything other than an insidious plot by virtually the entire Confederate government. Further doubt is cast upon the conspiracy conviction by the fact that not one other person listed in the indictment was ever charged, tried, or convicted of the same offense. John Winder was dead, and Cobb had received a Presidential pardon, but noone else was judged for their participation in the alleged conspiracy.

The second charge against Wirz was composed of a total of 13 specifications, and dealt with numerous cases where Wirz was alleged to have ordered or personally committed acts of assault or murder on several different Union prisoners. Over 150 Union prisoners from the camp testified to having witnessed these events. As former prisoners of the camp, their testimony could hardly be considered non-biased. The specifications, and their respective flaws and lack of credibility are as follows:

Specification 1: That he shot a prisoner on July 8, 1864 with his own hand, the prisoner dying the following day. Despite having a pool of over 30,000 potential witnesses, the Court-Martial was unable to determine the name of the prisoner who was shot.

Specification 2: That Wirz maliciously stomped, kicked, and bruised a prisoner on September 20, 1864. Again despite having a pool of tens of thousands of potential witnesses, the Court-Martial was unable to determine the name of the prisoner who was assaulted.

Specification 3: That Wirz shot a prisoner with his own hand, on June 13, 1864. Again despite having a pool of tens of thousands of potential witnesses, the Court-Martial was unable to determine the name of the prisoner who was shot.

Specification 4: That Wirz shot a prisoner with his own hand on May 30, 1864. Again despite having a pool of tens of thousands of potential witnesses, the Court-Martial was unable to determine the name of the prisoner who was shot.

Specification 5: That Wirz placed a prisoner in stocks for punishment on August 20, 1864. Wirz was on sick leave during the month of August 1864, and was not even present at the time of the alleged event. Also the board was unable to determine the name of the prisoner. Furthermore, the use of stocks was an acceptable punishment in the U. S. Army at the time for commanders to employ against their own troops.

Specification 6: That Wirz caused a man to be placed in stocks, which resulted in his death on February 1, 1864. First, it is likely that there were no prisoners at Andersonville at this time, the first reported as having arrived on February 17, 1864. Second, Wirz was not even present at Andersonville until his arrival on April 12, 1864, nearly eight weeks after the alleged event.

Specification 7: That Wirz, on July 20, 1864, chained several prisoners together and made them carry around large iron balls fastened to their feet. The result was that one of the prisoners died. Again, none of the names of any of these several individuals were determined by the court.

Specification 8: That Wirz, on May 15, 1864, ordered a sentry to shoot a prisoner, which resulted in the prisoners death. This shooting was described as having occurred in broad daylight, in front of thousands of witnesses. Nevertheless, the board could not determine the name of the prisoner. Further, the prisoner shot had crossed the dead line, a line 18 feet from the prison walls that the men were forbidden to cross. The standing order was known to all prisoners, and everyone knew that crossing the line was subjecting oneself to being shot without warning. Dead lines were standard features in virtually all War Between the States prison camps, both in the North and South.

Specification 9: That Wirz, on July 1, 1864, ordered a sentry to shoot a prisoner, which resulted in the prisoner's death. Ditto, Specification 8.

Specification 10: That Wirz, on August 20, 1864, ordered a sentry to shoot a prisoner, which resulted in the prisoner's death. Ditto, Specification 8, but further, Wirz was not present at Andersonville on this date, as he was on sick leave.

Specification 11: That Wirz , on July 1, 1864, allowed bloodhounds to attack and wound a prisoner which resulted in his death six days later. Despite a pool of 30,000 potential witnesses, and the fact that the man survived for six days being cared for by his fellow prisoners, no name was determined by the board.

Specification 12: That Wirz, on July 27, 1864, ordered a sentry to shoot a prisoner, which resulted in the prisoner's death. Ditto, Specification 8.

Specification 13:That Wirz, on August 3, 1864, beat a prisoner with his pistol to the extent that the prisoner died the following day. Despite a pool of over 30,000 potential witnesses, the board could not determine the prisoners name. Further, Wirz would have had to have conducted this particularly difficult murder with only one hand, since he was physically incapable of raising his right hand high enough to strike anyone.

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The Trial of Henry Wirz Part 2

At the trial of Major Wirz, there were over 150 witnesses from among the former prisoners, men who had an obvious reason to detest Wirz, and anyone else associated with the camp. But the main prosecution witness was a man named Felix de la Baume, from whom a great deal of testimony was elicited. De la Baume must have been everywhere simultaneously in the compound, for little that Wirz did escaped his attention. He obviously had no trouble navigating quickly through the overcrowded prison yard to always be in position to observe Wirz commit every atrocity he was accused of. The testimony of de la Baume was believed without question.

But who was Felix de la Baume? A former Union soldier, de la Baume had been appointed to a position in the Department of the Interior even before the trial began. On November 21, 1865 he was identified as a deserter whose real name was Felix Oeser, formerly of the 7th New York Volunteers. Since Wirz had been hanged eleven days prior to his identification, he was quietly dismissed from his position and dropped from view.

Another witness upon whose testimony a great deal of weight was placed was Dr. Joseph Jones, a Confederate medical director who made an inspection tour of Andersonville. The report was filled with graphic descriptions of the appalling conditions of the camp. Upon learning of the existence of his report, he was ordered to testify at the trial. The prosecution then selectively gleaned the key tidbits from his report that tended to incriminate Wirz. Jones protested how his testimony was being used, but was not allowed to elaborate, explain, or mitigate any of his testimony in any manner that might have been favorable to Wirz. Nor was any evidence ever introduced that Wirz, or any of the men under his command had done anything to alleviate the terrible conditions at the camp, which they had indeed tried vigorously to do from the very beginning of the troubled camp.

Evidence was given as to the hateful vindictive nature of Wirz, but never were any of his efforts to help the prisoner brought to light. A possible witness who might have testified to Wirz's effort was Lieutenant General Richard Taylor. Taylor, on an inspection tour of Georgia in late 1864 passed through Andersonville by train. Wirz, with great determination, but probably little tact, confronted Taylor, the departmental commander on the train to complain at great length about the difficulties that he was having in caring for the prisoners. He complained of the lack of guards, and supplies. He specifically mentioned to Taylor that the prisoners were destitute of blankets, and that he did not have wagons to haul fuel for them to have fires. He presented copies of his many requisitions and appeals for help. Taylor said, "I know nothing of this Wirtz, who I then met for the first and only time, but he appeared earnest in his desire to mitigate the conditions of his prisoners. There can be little doubt that his execution was a 'sop' to the 'many-headed.'"

Wirz's participation in the destruction of the despicable group of prisoner called "The Raiders" was not mentioned during the trial. This group of prisoners was killing, beating, and robbing their fellow prisoners of food, clothes, and blankets. When the group was discovered by Wirz, he had the ringleaders brought to him, and he removed them from the compound. He wired his superiors for the authority to have the prisoners conduct trials for the men and conduct appropriate punishments. This authority was granted, trials were held, and six Union prisoners were hanged by their fellow prisoners. Many others were dispensed lesser punishments. If Wirz were truly the monster he was painted to be, dedicated to the deaths of his prisoners he would more likely have (1) allowed the Raider to continue to run amok, for they were killing far more prisoners than the Confederates were, and greatly degrading the ability of the other prisoners to survive, or (2) have merely shot the men down himself, or ordered it to be done, and dispensed with the niceties of the trial. But Wirz did neither. His handling of the Raider incident is well-documented in all of the contemporary accounts of events in the prison.

Nor was evidence introduced about the sickness and malnutrition which affected the Confederate guard force. The guard force, composed mainly of Georgia Reserve units, generally had half of its men on the sick list at any given time. This corresponds closely with the percentage of sick prisoners both in the prison hospital and within the compound. The shortage of medicines plagued the guard force as badly as it did the prisoners. This fact would have seriously impeded the government's contention of the massive conspiracy to kill Federal prisoners since the shortages resulting from the "plot" in this case were also decimating the Confederate guard force.

There is also some question as the validity of the Federal governments decision to claim that this case, as well as the cases of most of the Lincoln assassination conspiritors fell properly under the jurisdiction of a military tribunal. Recently, a mock trial was conducted at the University of Richmond Law School to argue the case of Dr. Samuel Mudd, in an effort to argue the validity of his conviction for aiding and abetting the escape of John Wilkes Booth from Washington. Mudd's case was argued by F. Lee Bailey and Candida Ewing Steel (a descendant of Dr. Mudd) before Judges Edward D. Re, Robinson O. Everett, and Walter T. Cox, III, all judges of considerable reputation. In the mock trial, all three judges elected to overturn the appeal of Dr. Mudd, with two judges citing a lack of proper jurisdiction. Their opinions contain legal precedents and constitutional opinions which may well have been valid in question the validity of Wirz's trial by military tribunal.

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no person may held to answer for a capital crime unless upon indictment by a Grand Jury. The only exception is in cases arising in the land and naval forces when in service or time of actual danger. Major Wirz was never a member of the United States military, only a member of an "enemy force." Thus he should not be considered for exception. At no time was Wirz ever heard or seen before, or indicted by a Grand Jury.

One other explanation which might have been considered by the government was the presence of martial law, both in Georgia (the scene of the crime), and in Washington (the scene of the trial). The case of Ex Parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2 (1866) established that military jurisdiction over civilians is predicated only on cases of public danger or absolute necessity. The Milligan arose from a civilian who was tried by military tribunal in Indiana, where civilian courts were still in operation. His conviction was overturned, ruling that there was no necessity for Milligan to be judged by the military, since he could have been tried in the then-operating civilian courts.

Had the government of the U.S. elected to hold Wirz's trial in Georgia, their case would have been valid, since no U. S. civilian courts were operating in the state at the time. However, the removal of Wirz to Washington removed the necessity for judging Wirz in a military tribunal. Although under martial law since the early days of the war, Washington did have operating civilian courts, which would have been the proper arena to judge Major Wirz, who was not and had never been a member of the U. S. military.

The use of military tribunals is an accepted practice as set forth by contemporary documents such as A Treatise on Military Law by Benet (1862), and the use of military tribunals to rule occupied territories has been used in many countries occupied by U.S. military forces, i.e. Mexico, the former Confederate States, the Phillipines, Germany, and others. However, a different interpretation of these accepted rules may be called for when a case clearly within military jurisdiction is removed to a locale where such a jurisdiction is not appropriate.

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The Trial of Henry Wirz, Concluded

It is clear to most historians that the case of Henry Wirz was at best "a rush to judgement." It has also been called a "Witch Hunt," with good reason. Despite being named as only one of many "conspirators," Henry Wirz was the only man ever called to answer for what happened at Andersonville. Wirz was probably only brought to trial because of the death of General John Winder, who would likely have been the target of the vengeful North had he survived. His trial featured a variety of things that would have sent appellate judges into fits of apoplexy: insufficient evidence, tampered evidence, disreputable witnesses, questionable legal jurisdiction, and period from the end of trial to the hanging of less than three weeks. The trial of Wirz was probably not so much a search for justice as a search for a scapegoat to salve the American public that had been whipped to a frenzy by irresponsible jounalists writing about the "atrocities" which occurred at the camp.

Henry Wirz would not be properly painted as a saint. His contemporaries often described his as irascible, pertually angry, and exceptionally profane. His personality, which became well-known to the men in his charge, was likely induced by the intense pain caused by his unhealed wound and continued ill health. But nothing about him justified hanging him, and him alone, among all of the men who administered Northern and Southern prison camps. The victor not only writes the history, but gets to judge those who commit "atrocities."

There is no indication that commander of Camp Douglas, Illinois was called to account for why 12% of his prison population died in one month in February of 1863. The Union jailers who robbed their prisoners of their blankets were never recommended for trial. The lack of firewood at Point Lookout and Elmira, New York was never looked into. The boast by the surgeon at Elmira that he "had killed more Rebels than any soldier at the front" was never investigated. None of the Union guards or commanders were ever called to account for the many Southerners who were shot while crossing the "dead line" in their camps in the North. In response to press reports of the conditions at Andersonville, the commander of Rock Island Barracks ordered the prisoner's rations cut, and forbade them to utilize the barracks buildings, forcing them to sleep outside in makeshift shelters exposed to an Illinois winter. As a result of his order, 1,922 out of 2,484 of his prisoners, died of starvation and exposure. The death rate of the Southern prisoners was 77.4 percent. (The death rate at Andersonville was 24 percent.) There is no indication that he was even so much as reprimanded for his actions by Union authorities.

While Andersonville has been called "a stain on the honor of the Confederacy," It should more properly be considered a stain on the entire United States. The decisions of the United States to halt the prisoner of war exchanges unfortunately coincided with the beginning of the collapse of the tattered Southern railway net. The decision of Grant to force the thousands of mouths to feed on the Confederacy did have a telling effect on the lives of many Union prisoners. Nowhere is the legacy of that decision more visible than in the Andersonville National Cemetery where over 13,000 white marble markers testify to the brutal pragmatism of his decision.

Henry Wirz was killed in what General Robert E. Lee described as, "a judicial murder." While credible evidence existed at the time, and still exists today that he did everything in his power to care for the men in his charge, and the evidence linking him to the so called atrocities is flimsy at best, he alone was held to account for the shortcomings of the entire Confederacy in meeting the logistical challenge of caring for the prisoners in his charge. Convicted in a hasty and flagrantly unfair trial, he was executed in a brutally quick execution with no chance to have an appeal heard or to mount a credible defense.

The continual judging of Confederate heroes by today's standards nowhere leaves foes of the South more vulnerable than in the case of this executed officer. For if his trial had been heard in anything approaching a fair setting he certainly would not have met his end at the end of a hangman's noose, and possible would never have even been punished given the weakness of the government's case.

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The Henry Wirz trial took place after the American Civil War, but I posted it at this point of the narrative because of its connection with Andersonville. I find this story fascinating, because it raises so many questions about war crimes in general. The article that I posted was strongly in defense of Wirz. Other historians are more critical.

There has always been a political element to war crimes. One of the most troubling instances (to me) at Nuremberg was the case of Juilus Streicher. Streicher was an insane anti-Semite, who helped Hitler rise to power and published a remarkably ugly hate-filled anti-Jewish magazine called Die Sturm. But at Nuremberg no evidence was ever given that he played any direct part in the Holocaust. Indeed, his magazine suggested that he was unaware of the details of the Holocaust, since in 1944 he cursed Russian and Polish Jews long after most of them had been exterminated. Streicher ranted and raved at Nuremberg and accused the judges of being "Jewish". And he was hung by the U.S. military for being an infamous anti-Semite. At the same time, some Japanese Generals were also hung, not for ordering any war crimes, or even being aware of war crimes, but on the charge that they "should have known" about war crimes.

Back to Wirz, what is ironic is that he was hung while a real war criminal which I described earlier, Chivington, survived to live to an old age and was never charged for superivising the deaths of innocent men, women, and children.

Next up: the story of the C.S.S. Hunley.

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The C.S.S. Hunley Part One

This is a unique Civil War story in terms of this thread because the conclusion occurred only a couple of years ago. The best summary I was able to find was a long article from U.S. News and World Report in 2007 (I will add some commentary toward the end):

In a war filled with amazing stories, the H.L. Hunley's is one of the standouts. An invention born of desperation, the Confederacy's secret weapon was the first submarine ever to sink an enemy warship. The craft was an example of tremendous creativity and engineering under tremendously difficult circumstances.

The Hunley is also one of the biggest Civil War mysteries left. Since the conflict ended in 1865, an estimated 50,000 books have been published on nearly every aspect of its politics, strategies, tactics, daily life, combat, and civilian experiences-at least a book a day for a century and a half, or one for every 10 men killed in America's most costly war. But in that avalanche of words, the complete story of the Hunley submarine has never been told.

That started to change in August 2000 when the submarine was raised from the bottom of the Atlantic near Charleston, S.C. Since then, researchers have been pulling together the story of the Hunley's final moments from the artifacts and remains preserved inside. "It's a true time capsule, preserved intact from the Civil War," says Maria Jacobsen, the archaeologist in charge of the Hunley project run by South Carolina. "It's the entire crew, with everything they carried with them that day. It's a treasure for illuminating Civil War history and maritime archaeology."

Hunleytized. Today, that time capsule sits in a tank of near-freezing fresh water. It's not exactly on the beaten path for any of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Charleston each year. Located on a decommissioned naval base 5 miles north of the city's famed waterfront, the Hunley can be viewed by visitors only on weekends. And yet thousands manage to find it, crowding the walkway above the tank to stare down at its debris-encrusted hull. "When you stand over that tank and look at her, she speaks to you," says Glenn McConnell, a South Carolina state legislator and the head of the Friends of the Hunley nonprofit. "We like to say that's when you've been 'Hunleytized.'"

This isn't the first time the people of Charleston have been Hunleytized. When the sub arrived on a railcar in 1864, rumors of the new secret weapon flew through the besieged city like wildfire. Three years into the war, the Confederacy's situation was dire. Economically reliant on cotton exports and imported manufactured goods, the South depended on its ports. From the war's first days, the Union targeted Southern cities such as Charleston and Savannah with naval blockades dedicated to starving the rebel states out of resistance. With these ports hemmed in by Union warships, trade was impossible. The Southern populace was struggling just to stay alive, let alone wage war.

Into these desperate straits waded Horace Lawson Hunley, a New Orleans inventor and investor. Hunley and his partners saw lifting the blockades as a combination of patriotic duty and business opportunity. With the Confederacy offering bounties for each Union ship sunk, Hunley and his partners decided a submarine could bring in big bucks. A prototype was tested in 1862 near New Orleans; a more advanced machine called the American Diver was launched in January 1863 near Mobile, Ala., but it soon sunk during a storm.

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There is no indication that commander of Camp Douglas, Illinois was called to account for why 12% of his prison population died in one month in February of 1863.

I've visited the Camp Douglas burial mound. Very moving.

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The C.S.S. Hunley Part One

A few personal side notes on the Hunley:

I have a distant relative that was part of the second crew lost on the Hunley.

I was the webmaster for the website detailing the calendar of events for the Hunley Crew burial.

I have pictures from the day the Hunley was brought in and from the burial of the crew. I'll dig them out and set up a link.

Yes Tim I have been to see it and yes it is worth the visit. When you see how small it really is and attempt to comprehend what it must have been like to crawl into that thing and go under water, it boggles the mind. It also gives you an idea of the bravery that it took.

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The C.S.S. Hunley Part One

A few personal side notes on the Hunley:

I have a distant relative that was part of the second crew lost on the Hunley.

I was the webmaster for the website detailing the calendar of events for the Hunley Crew burial.

I have pictures from the day the Hunley was brought in and from the burial of the crew. I'll dig them out and set up a link.

Yes Tim I have been to see it and yes it is worth the visit. When you see how small it really is and attempt to comprehend what it must have been like to crawl into that thing and go under water, it boggles the mind. It also gives you an idea of the bravery that it took.

That's great. Anything you can add would be terrific. Personally, I can't imagine the terror. Das Boot was frightening enough, and the Hunley was a submarine in its infancy. It's a fascinating story, and I think it is great that they brought it ashore.

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After the Hunley Funeral I wrote the following letter to Confederate Veteran Magazine. It wasn't published. I though I would share it here.

My Day at the Hunley FuneralTo the Editor:Saturday, April 17th dawned to a forecast of 80 degrees and clear skies. Even Mother Nature knew this was going to be a day to remember. I dressed in my suit and tie and my son actually put on a tie for the day. This was a very important day, it was his 16th birthday and this was the day that the South paid respects to eight of its bravest heroes. The word “hero” is used too frequently in modern times, but no other word can best describe the men of the H.L Hunley.I have lived my entire life in Charleston, and I learned the tale of the Hunley at an early age. This amazing submarine sank 100 years before I was born. The bravery required to undertake their adventure is something that can only be imagined. To be able to see these men brought back to Charleston from the sea, and actually attend their funeral is something I never imagined, but I knew if given the opportunity I would not miss it.To begin my story, I must back up to Friday. I work at the Veterans Administrations Medical Center in Charleston. I was informed on Friday morning that several groups of re-enactors would be coming to the hospital to visit with the veterans; evidently they had been invited by the VA. I was asked if I would be willing to escort one of these groups around the hospital and I, of course, was thrilled to do so. I met four gentlemen that were in town from Mississippi and Louisiana. We proceeded through the facility, visiting with veterans in their rooms and in clinics. We came upon one gentleman that was from ‘down their way’, and they had a conversation about things ‘back home.’ We visited with a veteran that was on the USS Bunker Hill during World War II and heard a story about his ship being attacked by Japanese Kamikazes. These gentlemen were happily received by veterans both black and white. We even had one black veteran ask about the truth of blacks in the Confederate Army. He probably learned more on the subject in that five minute conversation than he had learned his entire life. He thanked the group for coming and for answering his questions.On to Saturday. We arrived at White Point Gardens on the Battery at 8:00 am, over one hour before the services were to begin. The Battery was covered in a sea of people. Everywhere you looked, you could see men and women dressed for the funeral, re-enactors in military dress, and widows in mourning dress. As time passed the crowd just kept getting larger and larger. An announcement was made for everyone to report to their designated areas for the ceremony. We immediately began looking for some sign of where SCV members were gathering. It was about this time that I saw Michael Givens, the newly elected Commander of the South Carolina Division. He had a small group of people around him and was gathering the South Carolina group to his location. Before long, the South Carolina contingent moved as a group to our place in line for the procession.The procession line became so long that our starting place was several blocks from where the Hunley Crew’s bodies were lying and the ceremony was to occur. Occasionally the Procession Marshall would go down the line of SCV participants to make sure each state was in place. He would call out South Carolina and the crowd would roar! He would then go down the line and call out each state, the answers were soon lost in the distance as he went through each of the THIRTY SIX states represented by SCV members. We were in place and ready to go nearly two hours prior to the beginning of the march to the cemetery. This time was spent in an amazing fellowship with my SCV Compatriots. My son and I met the Scarboroughs, a wonderful couple from Conway that had driven down that day for the proceedings. {I see the Scarboroughs now once a year at the Memorial Day Service in Columbia. When we see each other it's like seeing friends you've know all your life.} We spent the next two hours talking with them and others, and the conversations ranged from politics to religion, but always came back to the Hunley and her men. The day was getting hotter and we knew we had a long way to go. Everyone was in good spirits, and nobody was complaining. What was there to complain about? We were among SCV Compatriots gathered to honor the Confederate Dead, we were Living the Charge.Before the ceremony started (way up in the front) the drummer with the South Carolina Color Guard turned to face our group. He then proceeded to play The Bonnie Blue Flag and led us in singing. This was immediately followed by Dixie. This was becoming a fine day to be in Charleston. A few minutes after 10:30 our drummer started a cadence, and with a roar of excitement we started forward. Then we stopped. Again, nobody complained, they just went back to their friendly conversations. After several false starts we started moving for good.It wasn’t long before we approached The Battery and saw the crush of spectators. The conversation died down as everyone was silenced by the amazing site of thousands upon thousands of people lining the roadway to pay their respects to the men of the Hunley. It was truly an inspiring time to be with my compatriots and see that so many people cared enough to spend their day with us, honoring these brave men. As I walked the miles to the cemetery, I’m sure I was not the only person whose thoughts turned to their own Confederate ancestors. Here we were walking in comfortable shoes, suits made of light modern fabrics; our feet were beginning to hurt, backs were starting to ache and we were not even carrying guns and other equipment. It brought me closer to an understanding of the difficulties our ancestors endured while fighting the war. They earned even more of my respect that day.After two hours of walking, we finally came into site of Magnolia Cemetery. Here the crowd was nearly as thick as at the beginning. Once through the gates, Commander Givens dismissed the South Carolina contingent. As we broke off to find our own vantage points for the rest of the day farewells were exchanged with hopes of meeting again in a couple of weeks in Columbia for Confederate Memorial Day. The ceremony at Magnolia was appropriately solemn and was a fitting burial for the eight men of the Hunley. I can only imagine the reactions of these men if they were to see the honors being bestowed upon them one hundred and forty years after their mission.There are those within the SCV that did not have a high opinion of the events of this day. Those gentlemen surely missed out on a one time event. I can truly see no downside to the grand exposure that not only was given to the crew of the Hunley, but the high light that the re-enactors, the UDC and the SCV were presented in. I can imagine that the number of new members to our organization will increase after so many people saw that they are not alone in their love of the South and Pride in their Confederate ancestry. Sunday February 17th, 2064 will be the 200th anniversary of the Hunley’s sinking of the Housatonic. I hope that on that day the events surrounding the commemoration will be larger than those of this past weekend. I imagine in the crowd there will be a 76 year old man explaining to his grandchildren that on his 16th birthday his father brought him to the actual burial for the Hunley crew. I hope he inspires that generation with the story of that glorious gathering of Confederate descendants. Then again, I plan on being there myself … I’ll only be a week past my 100th birthday.

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The C.S.S. Hunley Part 2

Hunley's team quickly applied the lessons learned from the first two subs-hand-cranked propulsion worked better than a steam engine, for example-to the construction of the Hunley, finishing it in July 1863. After a quick test in Mobile, it was shipped north to Charleston. The city's military commander, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, skeptically referred to it as "the fish torpedo boat." Once thought to be a converted steam boiler, the sub was actually quite sophisticated. Nearly 40 feet long but just 4 feet high, it had 10 sealed portholes, two narrow hatches, and a smooth, flat, streamlined shape that resembles a World War II-era German U-Boat. It used a snorkel system for piping air into the vessel, possibly using bellows for pumping. With seven men cranking a propeller shaft, the Hunley could cruise at 3 knots, or 3.5 miles per hour. The craft's commander sat in front, steering with a primitive joystick. Water tanks at either end could be filled and emptied with hand pumps to move the ship up and down. Even the exterior rivets were ground down to make the sub's skin smooth as a fish's scales. "It represents a quantum leap to the modern 20th-century submarine," McConnell says.

Despite all of these technological advances, operating the sub involved a lethal learning process. Shortly after its arrival in Charleston, the sub sank during a test run due to a crewman's error, killing five of the sailors on board. A few months later, Hunley himself was on the ship when it sank a second time, killing everyone inside. The sub-and its dead crew and inventor-remained at the bottom for days before the Confederate Navy salvaged it.

Despite the reservations of Beauregard and others, Charleston's situation was desperate enough to organize one more try. The target was the Housatonic, an 11-gun Union steamship stationed at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. The plan was simple: The crew would crank its way more than 5 miles out to the Housatonic, ram a barbed bomb into the ship's wooden hull, and detonate it. On a cold night in February, the Hunley set out on the attack.

Just before 9 p.m., lookouts on the Housatonic spotted something slipping through the water nearby. Within minutes, an explosion ripped the Housatonic in half and killed five Union sailors. It was the first time a submarine sank a warship. "That night, she changed forever the way war was fought in the water," McConnell says.

It's what happened next that remains shrouded in mystery. After the Housatonic exploded, the Hunley surfaced long enough to send up a blue flare. Then it disappeared without a trace. For more than a century, Charlestonians and others obsessed over the demise of the Hunley. At one point, circus impresario P.T. Barnum offered a $100,000 prize to anyone who could find the ship. But it wasn't until 1970 that someone succeeded, when underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence plotted the ship's location with a compass and maps. Then it took another 25 years before permission was granted by South Carolina to salvage the wreck. Divers feeling their way through murky water exposed part of the sub's hull. In 30 feet of water and beneath 3 feet of fine silt lay an almost perfectly preserved craft, listing at a slight angle.

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The C.S.S. Hunley, Part 3

Inside, excavators knew, artifacts and human remains would be suspended in a soup of mud. Disturbing the contents would erase volumes of information about the sub's final moments. Even the metal exterior of the craft was tremendously fragile. Project organizers had to throw out the rule book. "Normally when you have a shipwreck, you do the excavation underwater," Jacobsen says. "There was no way we could conduct a standard forensic excavation underwater and still gather the data we would need down the road."

So on Aug. 8, 2000, after years of planning, the Hunley was carefully lifted whole from its resting place and moved to a specially prepared tank. The effort was unique in the history of under water archaeology, involving 40 divers working around the clock and millions of dollars in equipment.

But the hull's corrosion also meant the researchers couldn't relax once it was out of the water. "Once you bring it up to the surface you have a ticking time bomb on your hands," says Jacobsen. "In a water-filled tank, you could have more corrosion in one year than in 140 years on the bottom." To deal with the challenge, the tank was constructed and filled with chilled water. A mild electrical current runs through the water, slowing the corrosion of the metal.

In 2001, researchers started to remove the iron plates from the top of the submarine. The ship's interior was filled with mud and sediment, some of which had hardened over time to the consistency of concrete. Everything inside-the crew's bones, the ship's controls, and any artifacts the sailors had brought aboard with them-had to be chipped out of this cement-like layer. As excavators pulled out artifacts, each item's location was plotted on a three-dimensional diagram of the Hunley's interior, creating a map of thousands of separate objects, including more than 1,600 bones.

The story the artifacts revealed has dramatically changed the way historians see the sub-and the society that sent it on its final mission. Though excavators still don't know for certain why the sub sank, the distribution of the bones inside shows that the men made no move to escape. "Each was found more or less where that individual would have been stationed," says forensic genealogist Linda Abrams, who is researching the Hunley's crew. "Either it happened so fast they were unable to react in time, or it happened in such a way that they were unable to react. Maybe they were unconscious."

Genealogy. To flesh out the backgrounds of the dead sailors, forensic experts were brought in to analyze the sub's interior as though it were a crime scene. Historians had long assumed the Hunley's crew would fit a certain mold: "We thought they'd be young-expendable, in other words-shorter than average, naïve," Jacobsen says. But the bones told a very different story. All were taller than average, and two topped 6 feet; the ages ranged from 20 to late 40s. Says Jacobsen: "These men were a hand-picked, crack team."

While the archaeologists worked their way through the sediment inside the sub, Abrams delved into archives and history books on two continents to figure out who these sailors might have been. Piecing together everything from crew manifests to English immigration re cords to European census lists, Abrams discovered that half the crew was foreign-born. Abrams has tracked two-Arnold Becker and J.F. Carlsen-all the way to Germany. "How do you explain four foreigners volunteering for what they knew was probably a suicide mission?" asks Abrams. "It's almost like those who became involved in the Confederacy had different motivation than those in the North."

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The C.S.S Hunley, concluded

The researchers were even able to confirm an old legend. Thesub marine's final commander, Lt. George Dixon, was already a veteran of several battles by the time he squeezed through the hatch of the Hunley. At the battle of Shiloh, Dixon was shot in the hip, but the bullet was stopped by a gold coin he was carrying. Excavating the ship's prow, Jacobsen found a $20 gold piece from 1860, badly bent. "My life preserver" was engraved on the back. "When we started the project, that was historical legend," McConnell says. "When we went to lift the remains out, historical fable became fact."

Now that the sub's interior has been cleared, researchers intend to go to work on the hull, which is still covered in a hard layer of sand, silt, and rust. When they start removing this concretion later this year, Jacobsen hopes they'll find the answer to the Hunley's biggest secret: What sank the sub on that February night? "It's a forensic site 140 years old," Jacobsen marvels. "People died, and we don't know how."

That sense of enduring mystery is part of the sub's magnetism. Since the project began more than a decade ago, tens of millions of dollars have been donated to fund the excavation and research. Organizers hope to open a museum in 2013, showcasing a conserved submarine. "Never when we started the project did we think we'd find it with that little corrosion and with that kind of preservation inside her," McConnell says. "The Hunley has all the history and romanticism of something lost at sea like the Titanic."

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Back to the narrative...

Summer of 64 Part 1

The horrors of Cold Harbor, added to those of Spotsylvania, created something of a syndrome in the Army of the Potomac. Men in the ranks had learned what European armies on the Western Front a half-century later would have to learn all over again about trench warfare. "The men feel at present a great horror and dread of attacking earthworks again," was how one officer put it. So Grant devised a new three part strategy to cut Lee's supply lines and flank him out of his trenches. He ordered the army in Shenandoah Valley, now led by David Hunter, to renew Sigel's aborted effort to move up the Valley (southward) and destroy its railroads, cross the Blue Ridge to smash the Confederate supply depot at Lynchburg, and continue east toward Richmond, wrecking the railroads and the James River Canal.

At the same time Sheridan was to take two calvary divisions westward on a raid to lay waste the same railroads from the other end and link up with Hunter midway for a grand climax of demolition before rejoining the Army of the Potomac somewhere south of Richmond.

Finally, while all this was going on, Grant planned to disengage from Cold Harbor, march swiftly to cross the James, seize Petersburgs with its hub of railroads linking Richmond to the South, and force Lee into the open.

Federal units carried out handsomely the first step in each part of this intricate plan. But thereafter the vigorous Confederate responses plus failure of nerve by subordinate Union commanders brought all three efforts to a halt. We will examine each of these three simultaneous actions, and the overall results, before turning to the campaign for Atlanta.

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Summer of 1864 Part 2

Out in the Valley, Hunter's 15,000 men constituted his first field command since he had been wounded at Bull Run in 1861. His main distinction in the war stemmed from his abortive attempt in 1862 to abolish slavery along the south Atlantic coast and to raise the first black regiment there. He was eager to achieve a military success. On June 5 at Piedmont, Virginia- halfway between Harrisonburg and Staunton- his men got him off on the right foot by overrunning a smaller rebel force, killing its commander, and capturing more than 1,000 prisoners. Hunter moved on through Staunton to Lexington, home of the Virgina Military Institute.

Along the way his soldiers destroyed a good deal more than military property. Many of them had spent the war fighting guerillas in western Virginia. The foremost of such enemies was John Singleton Mosby. A diminutive but fearless man who a decade earlier had been expelled from the University of Virginia and jailed for shooting a fellow student, Mosby studied law in prison, received a pardon from the governor, and became a lawyer. After serving as a cavalry scout for Jeb Stuart, Mosby raised a guerilla company under the Partisan Ranger Act of April 1862. His fame spread with such exploits as the capture of a northern general in bed 10 miles from Washington in March 1863. Never totalling more than 800 men, Mosby's partisans operated in squads of 20 to 80 and attacked Union outposts, wagon trains, and stragglers with such fury and efficiency that whole counties in northern Virginia became known as Mosby's Confederacy. No Union supplies could move in this area except under heavy guard.

Southerners lionized Mosby's partisans and numerous other guerilla bands in Virgina for their boldness and dash. Northern soldiers considered them as today we consider al-Qaeda: ruthless killers and terrorists. Yankees were not likely to treat with kid gloves any guerillas they caught or the civilian population that helped them. During Hunter's advance up the Valley, guerillas swarmed over his supply wagons. The farther from his base he marched, the more vunerable became his communications. For a month after May 20 only one wagon train got through. Getting angrier as they grew hungrier, Hunter's men foraged savagely from civilians and burned what they did not take. By the time they reached Lexington on June 12 the soldiers were in a foul mood. Looting escalated to terrorizing of citizens; destruction of military property escalated to the burning of V.M.I. and the home of the current governor- who had recently called on civilians to take up arms as guerillas. Justifying their behavior, one Union soldier wrote:

Many of the women look sad and do much weeping over the destruction that is going on. We feel that the South brought on the war and the State of Virginia is paying dear for her part.

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Summer of 1864 Part 3

Short of ammunition because none could get through, Hunter left Lexington in flames and moved on toward Lynchburg. Lee regarded this threat to his rear as most serious. To meet it he sent Jubal Early with Jackson's old corps back to the vicinity of their great achievements 2 years earlier. Though reduced by casualties to 10,000 men, Early's veterans brought Confederate strength at Lynchburg equal to Hunter's 15,000. Hunter tapped at the Lynchburg defenses on June 17-18, learned of Early's arrival, pondered his shortage of ammunition, and decided to retreat. And he did so westward, into West Virginia, rather than risk a movement back down the Valley with guerillas on his flanks and Early in his rear. This path of retreat left the Valley open to the Confederates. Believing that Early would draw more strength away from Grant by staying there than by returning to the Richmond front, Lee authorized him to emulate Jackson by using the Valley as an avenue to threaten Maryland and Washington. Hunter spent the rest of the war rationalizing his decision to retreat into West Virginia, but he soon lost his command as well as his reputation.

Sheridan's raid fared only slightly better than Hunter's expedition. Lee sent 5,000 of his calvary to head off Sheridan's 7,000. The rebel horsemen were now commanded by Wade Hampton, a South Carolina planter reputed to be the richest man in the South, who had already been wounded 3 times in this war. Catching up with the Federals 60 miles northwest of Richmond, the gray troopers slugged it out with Sheridan's men for 2 days near Trevilian Station on June 11-12. With casualties of 20% on each side, this was the bloodiest calvary action of the war. On the Union side a Michigan brigade commanded by George Armstrong Custer did the hardest fighting. Sheridan managed to keep the graybacks at bay while he tore up the railroad, but he abandoned the plan to link up with Hunter, and the southerners soon repaired the railroad.

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Summer of 1864 Part 4

While all this was going on, the whole Army of the Potomac withdrew from Cold Harbor on the night of June 12-13. While one corps went around to the James by water, the other 4 marched overland, screened by the one calvary division Sheridan had left behind. So smoothly was the operation carried out, with feints toward Richmond to confuse Lee, that the Confederate commander remained puzzled for several days about Grant's intentions. Meanwhile Union engineers built perhaps the longest pontoon bridge in military history, 2,100 feet. Bluecoats began crossing the James on June 14 and next day 2 corps approached Petersburg, which was held by Beauregard with a scratch force of 2,500. Grant had borrowed a leaf from his Vicksburg campaign and gotten in the enemy's rear before his opponent realized what was happening.

But the result was different from Vicksburg, because Grant's corps commanders failed him here and because Beauregard and Lee were not Pemberton and Johnston. The first Union troops to reach Petersburg were the 18th Corps, commanded by William F. "Baldy" Smith. Smith became cautious as he approached Petersburg and surveyed the formidable defensive line: 10 miles of 20 foot thick breastworks and trenches fronted by 15 foot ditches and linking 55 artillery redans bristling with cannon. Having witnessed Cold Harbor, Smith paused, not realizing that Beauregard had only a handful of men. The Union forces finally went forward near sunset and easily captured more than a mile of line and 16 guns. One of Smith's 3 divisions was composed of black troops who tasted here their first combat and performed well. As a bright moon lighted the captured trenches, Smith heard rumors that Lee had arrived and failed to push on. Beauregard wrote after the war:

Petersburg at that hour was clearly at the mercy of the Federal commander who had all but captured it.

More such missed opportunities crowded the next 3 days. On the night of June 15-16, Beauregard's survivors desperately entrenched a new line while 2 rebel divisions from north of the James came to bolster it. Next day another 2 Union corps arrived and in late afternoon 48,000 bluecoats seized more of Beauregard's lines but did not achieve a breakthrough. By June 17, Lee recognized that Grant was bringing almost his whole army south of the James. Although the Union forces that day missed a chance to turn the Confederate right, their disjointed attacks did force Beauregard to pull his whole line back at night almost to the outskirts of Petersburg while proclaiming, melodramatically, that "the last hour of the Confederacy had arrived." At dawn on June 18 some 70,000 Federals stumbled forward but overran nothing but empty trenches. By the time they got into a position again for an attack on the new rebel line, Lee with most of his troops had arrived to defend it.

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Summer of 1864 Part 5

The Cold Harbor syndrome inhibited Union soldiers from pressing home their attacks. Corps commanders executed orders sluggishly, waiting for other units on their left or right to move, so nobody moved at all. Meade finally called off the futile attacks because "our men are tired and the attacks have not been made with the vigor and force which characterized our fighting in the Wilderness; if they had been, I think we should have been more successful." Grant concurred: "We will rest the men and use the spade for protection until a new vein has been struck."

Thus ended a 7 week campaign of movement and battle whose brutal intensity was unmatched in the war. Little wonder that the Army of the Potomac did not fight at Petersburg with "the vigor and force" it had shown in the Wilderness- it was no longer the same army. Many of its best and bravest had been killed or wounded; thousands of others had left the war or were unwilling to risk their lives during the last few weeks before their enlistments expired. Some 65,000 northern boys were killed, wounded, or missing since May. No army could take such punishment and retain its fighting edge.

Could the northern people absorb such losses and continue to support the war? In the long run, to be sure, Lee and the South could not withstand Grant causing a siege of Richmond, as looked inevitable. But in the short run- 3 or 4 months- time was on the Confederate side., for the northern presidential election was approaching. Lee had halted Grant. If Joe Johnston and Atlanta could do the same to Sherman, perhaps the peace Democrats would yet prevail and the South could survive. All Johnston had to do was hold out a few months more...

Next up: the campaign for Atlanta

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Atlanta Part 1

While Grant and Lee sought to destroy or cripple each other's army, Sherman and Johnston engaged in a war of maneuver seeking an advantage that neither found. While Grant continually moved around Lee's right after hard fighting, Sherman continually moved around Johnston's left without as much fighting. Unlike Lee, Johnston by temperament preferred the defensive. Like his prewar friend McClellan he was reluctant to commit troops to all out battle; perhaps for this reason Johnston was idolized by his men as McClellan had been. But in the spring of 1864 Jefferson Davis prodded Johnston to make some move against Sherman before Sherman attacked him. Johnston, however, preferred to wait in his prepared defenses until Sherman came so close that he could not miss.

Sherman refused to oblige him. Despite his ferocious reputation, "Uncle Billy" had little taste for slam bang combat. He wrote:

Its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentation of distant families.

Sherman's invasion force consisted of three "armies" under his single overall command: George Thomas's Army of the Cumberland, now 60,000 strong; James B McPherson's 25,000 man Army of the Tennessee; and John M. Schofield's 13,000 man Army of the Ohio. This composite army was tied to a vunerable single-track railroad for its supplies. The topography of northern Georgia favored the defense even more than in Virgina. Steep, rugged mountains interlaced by swift rivers dominated the landscape between Chattanooga and Atlanta. Johnston's army of 65,000 took position on Rocky Face Ridge flanking the railroad 25 miles south of Chattanooga and dared the Yankees to come on.

Sherman declined to enter this "terrible door of death." Instead, like a boxer he jabbed with his left- Thomas and Schofield- to fix Johnston's attention on the ridge, and sent McPherson on a wide swing to the right through mountain gaps to hit the railroad at Resaca, 15 miles in the Confederate rear. Through an oversight by Johnston's cavalry, Snake Creek Gap was almost unguarded when McPherson's fast marching infantry poured through on May 9. Finding Resaca protected by strong earthworks, however, McPherson skirmished cautiously, overestimated the force opposing him (there were only 2 brigades), and pulled back without reaching the railroad. Alerted to this threat in his rear, Johnston sent additional troops to Resaca and then retreated with his whole army to this point on the night of May 12-13. Sherman's knockout punch never landed.

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Atlanta Part 2

For 3 days Sherman's whole force probed the Resaca defenses without finding a weak spot. Once again part of McPherson's army swung southward by the right flank, crossed the Oostanaula River, and threatened Johnston's railroad lifeline. Disengaging skillfully, the southerners withdrew down the tracks, paused briefly 15 miles to the south for an aborted counterpunch against the pursuing Yankees, then continued another 10 miles to Cassville, where they turned at bay. The rebels wrecked the railroad as they retreated, but Uncle Billy's repair crews had it running again in hours and his troops remained well supplied. In 12 days of marching and fighting, Sherman had advanced halfway to Atlanta at a cost of only 4,000-5,000 casualties on each side. The southern government and press grew restive at Johnston's retreats withouth fighting.

Johnston's most impatient subordinate was John Bell Hood. The crippling of Hood's left arm at Gettysburg and the loss of his right leg at Chickamauga had done nothing to abate his aggressiveness. Schooled in offensive tactics under Lee, Hood had remained with the Army of Tennessee as a corps commander after recovering from his wound at Chickamauga, where his division had driven home the charge that ruined Rosecrans. Eager to give Sherman the same treatment, Hood complained behind his commander's back to Richmond of Johnston's "Fabian strategy."

At Cassville, Johnston finally thought the time had come to fight. But ironically it was Hood who turned cautious and let down the side. Sherman's pursuing troops were spread over a front 12 miles wide, marching on several roads for better speed. Johnston concentrated most of his army on the right under Hood and Leonidas Polk to strike 2 of Sherman's corps isolated 7 miles from any of the others. On May 19, Johnston issued an inspirational order to the troops:

You will now turn and march to meet his advancing columns...Soldiers, I lead you to battle!

But confidence soon gave way to dismay. Alarmed by reports that the enemy had worked around to his flank, Hood pulled back and called off the attack. The Union threat turned out to have been only a cavalry detachment. But the opportunity was gone; the rebels took up a defensive position and that night pulled back another 10 miles to a line (constructed in advance by slaves) overlooking the railroad and the Etowah River through Allatoona Pass.

THis latest retreat proved a serious blow to morale. Johnston's chief of staff blamed Hood. Mutual recrimination among Johnston and his corps commanders began to plague the army wiht the same factionalism that had nearly wrecked it under Bragg. Opinion in the government and press was similary divided: Davis's supporters criticized Johnston, while the anti-Davis faction censured the government for fostering intrigue against the general. In northern Georgia people voted with their feet and took to the roads as refugees. There were no stores to feed them. In Atlanta a note of apprehension began to creep into the newspapers, though most of them continued to praise Johnston as a "masterful" strategist who was luring Sherman ever deeper into a trap to make his destruction more certain.

But Johnston could not spring the trap at Allatoona, for Sherman never came near the place.

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Because the Atlanta campaign bears heavily on Grant's actions at Petersburg and on the presidential election of 1864, I am going to include discussion of these in the narrative so as not to disrupt the timeline. We are getting down to the end now and crucial moments in the Civil War lie just ahead...

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Atlanta Part 3

Sherman's objective was a road junction in the piney woods at Dallas, 20 miles in Johnston's rear and not much farther from Atlanta itself. But Johnston's cavalry detected the move in time for the rebels to fall back on the inside track and entrench another line before the Yankees got there. Sharp fighting took place on May 25 and 27 near New Hope Church before both armies settled in for weeks of skirmishing and sniping (in which Leonidas Polk was killed) as each vainly sought an opening for attack or maneuver. The two armies gradually moved their lines eastward until both were astride the railroad just north of Marietta, where the Confederates entrenched a formidable position along Kennesaw Mountain.

Sherman chafed during this impasse. His concern focused not only on the rebels in his front but also on others 300 miles to the rear. Any significant interference with his rail supply line through Tennessee would cripple Sherman's campaign as decisively as a defeat here in Georgia. And with Nathan Bedford Forrest loose in Mississippi, anything might happen. This hard-bitten cavalryman had mauled the Yankees so often that- as Forrest himself would have said- he had "put the skeer on them." Forrest's most recent exploit had been the destruction on April 12 of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River, where some of his men had murdered black soldiers after they surrendered.

I am quoting here from McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, and the last sentence regarding Fort Pillow seems to suggest that Forrest himself was not involved in this infamous massacre, in which up to 500 black soldiers were murdered after they surrendered. Other historians lay the blame clearly on Forrest himself. Forrest's own official report on the battle closes with an illuminating sentence:

The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.

Military historian David J. Eicher concluded, "Fort Pillow marked one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history."

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Forrest's most recent exploit had been the destruction on April 12 of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River, where some of his men had murdered black soldiers after they surrendered.

I am quoting here from McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, and the last sentence regarding Fort Pillow seems to suggest that Forrest himself was not involved in this infamous massacre, in which up to 500 black soldiers were murdered after they surrendered. Other historians lay the blame clearly on Forrest himself. Forrest's own official report on the battle closes with an illuminating sentence:

The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.

Military historian David J. Eicher concluded, "Fort Pillow marked one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history."

This isn't something I ever looked into but is there some reason to give the founder of the KKK the benefit of the doubt about his responsibility for this?

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Forrest's most recent exploit had been the destruction on April 12 of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River, where some of his men had murdered black soldiers after they surrendered.

I am quoting here from McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, and the last sentence regarding Fort Pillow seems to suggest that Forrest himself was not involved in this infamous massacre, in which up to 500 black soldiers were murdered after they surrendered. Other historians lay the blame clearly on Forrest himself. Forrest's own official report on the battle closes with an illuminating sentence:

The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.

Military historian David J. Eicher concluded, "Fort Pillow marked one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history."

This isn't something I ever looked into but is there some reason to give the founder of the KKK the benefit of the doubt about his responsibility for this?
First, Nathan Bedford Forrest was an early member of the Klan and one of its spokesman. But there is no clear evidence that he was the founder. He joined the Klan to defy Northern subjugation of the South during the years of occupation. But other evidence indicates he did not share the Klan's views on race:

Forrest's personal sentiments on the issue of race, however, were quite different from that of the Klan. Forrest was invited and gave a speech to an organization of black Southerners called the "Jubilee of Pole-Bearers" in 1875. In this speech, Forrest espoused a radically progressive (for the time) agenda of equality and harmony between black and white Americans.

At this, his last public appearance, he made what the New York Times described as a "friendly speech" in which he called for reconciliation between the races and called for the admission of blacks into the professional classes from which they had heretofore been excluded.

Second, we will never know based on the evidence we have, which is slim, if Forrest (a) ordered his troops to massacre the soldiers at Fort Pillow (b) watched as his troops lost control and did nothing to stop them © became aware of the incident after it occurred and chose to do nothing. Legally, according to our uniform code of military justice, it doesn't matter. We executed a Japanese general for war crimes committed that he was unaware of, but which we believed he should have known about. But there was never any question of trying these men or Forrest, just as the soldiers who committed the massacre at Sand Creek were never made to answer for their crimes. Blacks, like Indians, were not considered the equal of white men. So while the commander of Andersonville, as previously noted, was tried and executed for crimes he did not commit, Forrest was allowed to go free. The men who died at Andersonville were white.

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Atlanta, continued

When Sherman began his campaign in Georgia, Johnston urged "the immediate movement of Forrest into Middle Tennessee" to cut the railroad. To prevent this, Sherman ordered the garrison commander at Memphis, Samuel D. Sturges to send out 8,500 men to chase Forrest down. The Federals marched into Mississippi, where they found Forrest leading a force of 3,500 men at Brice's Crossroads. The battle ended in a rout of the Union forces and cemented Forrest's reputation as one of the great cavalrymen. This battle remains a textbook example of an outnumbered force prevailing through better tactics, terrain mastery, and aggressive offensive action. Here's how it happened:

Receiving news of the Federal movement, General Forrest began a forced march from Tupelo, with 3,500 men to intercept the Yankee invaders. Torrential spring rains made travel on the muddy roads and swollen streams arduous and difficult, but Forrest had a plan to use the conditions to his advantage. Forrest stated:

I know they greatly outnumber the troops I have at hand, but the road along which they will march is narrow and muddy; they will make slow progress. Their cavalry will move out ahead of the infantry, and should reach the crossroads 3 hours in advance. We can whip their calvary in that time...It is going to be hot as hell, and coming on a run for 5 or 6 miles over such roads, their infantry will be so tired out we will ride right over them.

It all would happen just as Forrest predicted. Dismounting his troopers and fighting them on foot with 6-guns, carbines, and shotguns, was devastating to Sturgis's men. Forrest gave orders to his artillery commander John Morton to drive his guns close to the enemy without support and load with double-shotted canister fire. After a number of hours the Federal line gave way. Sturgis stated, "Orders soon gave way to confusion, and confusion to panic." In a frantic race to the rear, Federal soldiers threw down their arms and equipment with wild-eyed screaming Confederates at their heels. For over the next 40 hours, Forrest and his men chased the remnants of General Sturgis's army.

This battle was the most one-sided defeat of any force in the American Civil War. The news of the defeat stunned General Grant's headquarters in Washington. Secretary of War Stanton said, "Forrest is the Devil."

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Atlanta, Continued

Brice's Crossroads, though a great tactical victory for Nathan Bedford Forrest, actually was a strategic defeat for the South in that it did divert Forrest from the railroad in Tennessee. Nevertheless, an angry Sherman ordered another and larger expedition out of Memphis with orders to:

...follow Forrest to the death, even if it costs 10,000 lives and breaks the Treasury. There will never be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead.

This time 14,000 Federals lured half as many rebels into an attack at Tupelo, Mississippi, on July 14 and repulsed them at a high cost in southern casualties, including Forrest himself who was wounded.

This enabled Sherman to breathe easier about Tennessee- for the time being. The guards he had dropped off along the railroad between Chattanooga and Marietta also managed to keep Johnston's cavalry under Joe Wheeler from doing much damage. But the main rebel force at Kennesaw Mountain appeared to have him stymied as Lee had stalled Grant at Petersburg. Another flanking move on the muddy roads seemed impossible- it was hard enough to move supplies only 6 miles from the railhead to the Union right wing. Reasoning that Johnston expected another turning movement, Sherman decided to feign on both flanks and assault the center. He stated: "It may cost us dear but in results would surpass an attempt to pass around."

It cost him dear, but the results were nil. On June 27 several Union divisions assaulted the southern spurs of Kennesaw Mountain near the points where small streams divided Johnston's center from his 2 wings. As the temperature rose toward 100 in the shade, Yankees recoiled from breastworks that rivaled those at Petersburg. By early afternoon Sherman recognized failure and called off the operation. He had lost 3,000 killed and wounded- small numbers compared with battles in Virginia, but the largest for any engagement so far in Georgia- while inflicting only a fifth as many on the enemy.

Perhaps worse, from the Union viewpoint, the battle of Kennesaw Mountain bolstered southern morale and increased northern frustration. After two months of fighting and 90,000 casualties on all fronts, Union armies seemed little if any closer to winning the war than when they started. An Atlanta woman wrote in her diary that she was confident the Yankees would soon be "whipped and their armies cut to pieces" if they came any closer; even though they were now only 20 miles away. And while Democrats in the North blamed the administration and were sure it would soon be removed from office, Republicans seemed discouraged, weary, and faint-hearted. A New York diarist put it best-

Why don't Grant and Sherman DO something?

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Atlanta, Continued

Atlanta! That was the prize that Sherman wanted, even more than the destruction of Johnston's army. Atlanta was indeed a great prize. Its population had doubled to 20,000 during the war as foundries, factories, munitions plants, and supply depots sprang up at this strategic railroad hub. The fall of Atlanta, said Jefferson Davis, would "open the way for the Federal Army to the Gulf on one hand, and to Charleston on the other, and close up those rich granaries from which Lee's armies are supplied. It would give them control of our network of railways and thus paralyze our efforts." Because the South invested so much effort in defending the city, Atlanta also became a symbol of resistance and nationality second only to Richmond. As the Petersburg front stabilized to trench warfare, concern in the Confederate capital shifted to Georgia, where mobile warfare resumed as the rains ceased.

Slaves had prepared 2 more defensive positions between Kennesaw Mountain and the Chattahoochee River, which flowed from northeast to southwest only 8 miles from Atlanta. Johnston had told a senator who visited his headquarters on July 1 that he could hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee for 2 months. By the time Davis received word of this assurance on July 10, the Yankees had crossed the river. Once again Sherman had sent McPherson swinging around Johnston's left, forcing the rebels to fall back 6 miles on July 3 and another 6 to the river on the 4th. Sherman now reached deeper into his bag of tricks.

Having always moved around the enemy's left, Sherman now instructed McPherson and a cavalry division to make a feint in that direction while another cavalry division and Schofield's infantry corps moved secretly upriver several miles above Johnston's right for a surprise crossing against a handful of cavalry pickets. At one point Yankee troopers swam the river naked except for their cartridge belts and captured the bemused pickets. At another ford, blue horsemen waded dismounted through neck deep water with their Spencer carbines. Recalled a Union officer:

As the rebel bullets began to splash around pretty thick, we discovered that we could pump the waterproof metal cartridges into the Spencer's chamber underwater; hence, all along the line you could see the men bring their guns up, let the water run from the muzzle a moment, then take quick aim, fire his piece and pop down again. The rebels yelled out, "Look at them Yankee sons of #####es, loading their guns under water! What sort of critters be they, anyhow?"

The pickets surrendered to this "submarine" assault; Sherman had part of his army across the river on Johnston's flank by July 9. The Confederates pulled back to yet another fortified position behind Peachtree Creek, only 4 miles from downtown Atlanta. Civilians scrambled for space on southbound trains. Newspapers in the city still uttered defiance, but the packed their presses for a quick departure.

Edited by timschochet

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Atlanta, Continued

In Richmond, consternation grew. Emergency meetings of the cabinet produced nothing but "a gloomy view of affairs in Georgia." Davis cast about for some way to avert calamity. In an unwise move he sent Braxton Bragg- whom he had appointed as his military advisor after Bragg's resignation as commander of the Army of Tennessee- to Georgia on a fact-finding mission. Bragg was no more popular than he was earlier. As a troubleshooter he seemed to cause more trouble than he resolved. He consulted mainly with John Bell Hood, who was clearly angling for command. Hood insisted to Bragg:

We should attack. I regard it as a great misfortune to our country that we failed to give battle to the enemy many miles north of our present position. Please say to the President that I shall continue to do my duty cheerfully and strive to do what is best for our country.

Bragg urged Davis to appoint Hood in Johnston's place. Davis had already pretty much made up his mind to do so, even though Lee advised against it on the grounds that while aggressive, Hood was too reckless. "All lion," said Lee of him, "none of the fox." Davis decided to give Johnston one last chance: on July 16 he telegraphed the general a request for "your plan of operations." Johnston replied that his plan "must depend upon that of the enemy...we are trying to put Atlanta in condition to be held by the Georgia militia, that army movements may be freer and wider. This hint of an intention to give up Atlanta was the final straw. Next day the 33 year old Hood replaced Johnston.

This action stirred up a controversy that has echoed down the years. Like Lincoln's removal of McClellan, the removal of Johnston was supported by the cabinet but condemned by the opposition and deplored in the army. For his part, Sherman professed to be "pleased at this change." As he wrote after the war:

The Confederate Government rendered us a most valuable service by replacing a cautious defensive strategist with a bold fighter. This was just what we wanted, to fight on open ground, on any thing like equal terms, instead of being forced to run up against prepared intrenchments.

Sherman wrote this with benefit of hindsight. But Davis, like Lincoln, preferred generals who would fight. To have lost Atlanta without a battle would have demoralized the South. And whatever else Hood's appointment meant, it meant fight.

This is a fascinating subject to me. It seems unlikely that, at this point in 1864, the South could have won the war. But suppose Johnston had stayed on and managed to save his army and, possibly, Atlanta as well. Suppose this had led to the election of George McClellan? What happens then? The what ifs in this situation are immense.

It seems interesting to me that, faced with a similar situation decades earlier, George Washington had opted to avoid combat and save his army, reasoning that the war could never be lost no matter how many cities fell if the army stayed intact. Yet it seems that again and again in this war, at Gettysburg, at Atlanta, the South chose the opposite approach, to confront the North even when the odds were against them. There is an old adage in war: He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Washington realized this, but perhaps John Bell Hood did not.

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Atlanta, Continued

As predicted, 2 days after taking command Hood tried to squash the Yankees. As events turned out, however, it was the rebels who got squashed. After crossing the Chattahoochee, Sherman had again sent McPherson on a wide swing- this time to the left- to cut Atlanta's last rail link with the upper South. Schofield followed on a shorter arc, while Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, separated by Schofield by a gap of 2 miles, prepared to cross Peachtree Creek directly north of Atlanta. Hood saw his chance to hit Thomas separately, but the attack on July 20 started several hours too late to catch the bluecoats in the act of crossing the stream. 5 Union divisions drove an equal number of rebels back after the bloodiest combat in the campaign thus far.

Not succeeding at first, Hood tried again. On July 21 he pulled the army back into elaborate defenses ringing the city. After dark Hood sent one corps on an exhausting all-night march to attack the exposed south flank of McPherson's Army of the Tennessee on July 22. They did, but found the flank less exposed than expected. After recovering from their initial surprise the bluecoats fought with ferocity and inflicted half as many casualties on Hood's army in one afternoon as it had suffered in 10 weeks under Johnston. But the Confederates exacted a price in return: the death of McPherson, shot from his saddle when he refused to surrender after riding blindly into Confederate lines while trying to restore his own.

Though grieved by the loss of his favorite subordinate, Sherman wasted no time getting on with the job. He gave command of the Army of the Tennessee to Oliver O. Howard, a transplant from the Army of the Potomac. The one-armed Christian general from Maine took his profane midwesterners on another wide swing around the Confederate left and headed south to tear up the one remaining railroad out of Atlanta. Hood sent a corps to stop them and readied another to follow up with a counterattack. But the Federals handled them so roughly at the Ezra Church crossroads 2 miles west of the city on July 28 that the rebels had to entrench instead of continuing the attack. Nevertheless, they kept the bluecoats off the railroad.

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Atlanta, Continued

In 3 battles during the last 8 days Hood's 15,000 casualties were 2 and 1/2 times Sherman's 6,000. But southern valor did seem to have stopped the inexorable Yankee advance on Atlanta. Union infantry and artillery settled down for a siege, while Sherman sent his cavalry on raids to wreck the railroad far south of the city. One division of northern horsemen headed for Andersonville to liberate Union captives at the notorious prison, but rebel cavalry headed them off halfway. Confederate cavalry and militia prevented other Union detachments from doing more than minimal damage to the railroad.

Civilians continued to flee the city; some of those who remained were killed by northern shells that rained down on their streets. "War is war, and not popularity-seeking," wrote Sherman in pursuance of his career as Georgia's most unpopular visitor. The defiant courage of Atlantans who stayed raised the spirits of southerners everywhere. Much of the Confederate press viewed Hood's attacks as victories. A Richmond newspaper predicted:

Sherman will suffer the greatest defeat that any Yankee general has suffered during the war. The Yankee forces will disappear before Atlanta before the end of August...Sherman's army is doomed. Georgia will soon be free of the foe...

Opinion north of the Potomac reflected the other side of this coin of southern euphoria. A Boston newspaper expressed "much apprehension" that Sherman seemed bogged down. In New York, it was feared that both Grant and Sherman were on the eve of disaster.

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Interlude: Early's raid on Washington

Grant's siege of Petersburg seemed even less successful during those dog days of summer than Sherman's operations against Atlanta. Soldiers on both sides burrowed ever deeper in the trenches to escape the daily toll exacted by sharpshooters and mortars. Grant did not cease his efforts to interdict Lee's supply lines and break through the defenses. During the latter half of June the rebels turned back an infantry drive and a cavalry raid that tried to cut Richmond's remaining 3 railroads, though the Yankees managed to break all 3 temporarily. But then Grant was forced to send away his best remaining unit, the 6th Corps.

This happened because Jubal Early's 15,000 rebels, after driving David Hunter away from Lynchburg in June, had marched down the Shenandoah Valley and crossed the Potomac on July 6. They bowled over a scratch force of Federals at the Monocracy River east of Frederick on July 9 and marched unopposed toward Washington. This seemed a stunning reversal of the fortunes of war. Nothern hopes of capturing Richmond were suddenly replaced by fears for the safety of their own capital. The rebels appeared in front of the Washington defenses 5 miles north of the White House on July 11. But the fortifications ringing the capital were immensly strong, and Grant, in response to frantic appeals from the War Department, quickly sent the 6th corps to Washington. These hardened veterans filed into the works just in time to discourage Early from assaulting them.

During the skirmishing on July 12 a distinguished visitor appeared at Fort Stevens. Despite warnings, President Lincoln in stovepipe hat repeatedly stood to peer over the parapets as sharpshooters' bullets whizzed nearby. A 6th Corps captain named Oliver Wendall Holmes noticed this without recognizing who Lincoln was. He shouted, "Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot!"

With the 6th Corps in his front and other Union troops in his rear, Early wisely decided that it was time to return to Virginia, and he did so with only a few scratches. But the propaganda result was immense. The London Times commented that "The Confederacy is more formidable than ever!" Most Yankees agreed. The war seemed endless. On July 18, Lincoln issued a new call for 500,000 more men, who would be drafted just before the election. Learning this, a Democratic editor wrote jubilantly:

Lincoln is deader than dead.

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The Crater, Part 1

Angered by the inability of fragmented Union forces to run Early down, Grant cut through the Washington red tape and put Phil Sheridan in charge of a newly created Army of the Shenandoah consisting of the 6th Corps, several brigades from David Hunter's former Army of West Virginia, 2 divisions recently transferred from Louisiana, and 2 divisions of Sheridan's own cavalry. Grant ordered Sheridan to go after Early and "follow him to the death." Sheridan was just the man for the job, but it would take him time to organize this composite army. Meanwhile Grant suffered another frustration in his attempt to break Lee's lines at Petersburg.

This was the famous Battle of the Crater. In conception it bid fair to become the most brilliant stroke of the war; in execution it became a tragic fiasco. A section in the center of the Union line at Petersburg held by Burnside's 9th Corps lay within 150 yards of an enemy salient on high ground where the rebels had built a strong redoubt. One day in June, Colonel Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania, a Schuykill County regiment containing many coal miners, overheard one of his men growl:

We could blow that damn fort out of existence if we could run a mine shaft under it.

A prewar mining engineer, Pleasants liked the idea, proposed it to his division commander, who submitted it to Burnside, who approved it. Pleasants put his regiment to work excavating a tunnel more than 500 feet long. They did so with no help from the army's engineers, who scoffed at the project as "claptrap and nonsense" because ventilation problems had limited all previous military tunnels in history to less than 400 feet. Meade consequently put no faith in the enterprise.

Nevertheless, the 48th Pennsylvania improvised its own tools and found its own lumber to timber the shaft. Burnside borrowed an old-fashioned theodolite from a civilian so Pleasants could triangulate for distance and direction. Pleasants also rigged a coalmining ventilation shaft with a fire at the base to create a draft and pull in fresh air through a tube. In this manner the colonel confounded the skeptics. His men dug a shaft 511 feet long with lateral galleries at the end each nearly 40 feet long under the Confederate line in which they placed 4 tons of gunpowder. Reluctantly converted, Meade and Grant authorized Burnside to spring the mine and attack with his corps through the resulting gap.

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