Sunday, June 30, 2019

Yankee Prisoners

My last two posts were about African American soldiers who served in the Army of the James and were wounded in fighting north of the James River during Gen. Grant's Fifth and Sixth Richmond-Petersburg Offensives. Those Sixth Offensive actions included fighting in October along the Darbytown Road.

While searching through period newspapers about captured Union soldiers a while back I located the above short article in the October 29, 1864 issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch. It claims that the fighting on the 27th and 28th (sometimes called the Second Battle of Fair Oaks) netted 575 Union prisoners, which included 6 captains and 7 lieutenants.

Giving the names and the regiments of these officers allows the researcher to see what corps, divisions, and brigades these men served in and thus find out who was likely heavily engaged.

The officers listed here served primarily in the XVIII Corps, and mainly in the divisions of Gilman Marston and the brigades of John Raultson (13th New Hampshire); Edgar M. Cullen (10th New Hampshire, 96th New York, 118th New York, 5th Maryland). Others were in the division of Charles Heckman and Edward Ripley's Brigade (8th Maine), and Harrison Fairchild's Brigade (19th Wisconsin, 148th New York).

It appears that, at least for the officers captured, that Cullen's Brigade saw especially hard service in that fight. I'll have to re-consult secondary sources such as Hampton Newsome's Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 to gain a clearer picture of the action.

Primary sources such as this one are key in leading me toward finding individual soldier accounts of their capture experience during the 1864 Richmond and Petersburg fighting, which will hopefully fill a void in the campaign's scholarship. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dying Far From Home: Pvt. Augustus Cook, Co. H, 4th USCI

In yesterday's post, I shared the story of Pvt. William Nellis, of the 29th Connecticut Infantry (an African American regiment), who was wounded in the north of the James fighting during Gen. Grant's Sixth Richmond-Petersburg Offensive. Only 34 gave spaces separate Nellis from another black patriot, Augustus Cook, who gave his life so that this nation might be a "more perfect Union."

Pvt. Augustus Cook's story is as remarkable as his grave stone is nondescript. Cook was 23 years old when he enlisted on August 11, 1863, in the 4th United States Colored Infantry in Baltimore. His service records list his pre-war occupation as that of "laborer," an apt label for one who was enslaved and born in Carroll County, Maryland. Cook stood 5 feet 8 3/4 inches and was described as "mulatto" in his complexion.

Augustus Cook achieved his freedom through his enlistment. Included among his numerous service records are several documents that relate to that process. Cook's owner was Benjamin W. Bennett of Carroll County. Bennett is showing as owning three slaves in the 1860 census: one 22 year old female, one 20 year old male (likely Cook), and one 16 year old male, who all lived in one slave dwelling. Bennett, a farmer, appeared to be quite wealthy, claiming $20,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. He was 50 years old and was joined by wife Margaret (44) , daughters Sarah (17), Margaret (11), and son Binkney (13) in the household.

One of the documents in Cook's service records is a claim by Bennett seeking compensation for Cook's enlistment, and thus Bennett's loss of a laborer. It states that "In proof of my loyalty to the Constitution and Government of the United States, I present the accompanying oath, which I have taken, signed, and acknowledged . . . ." Bennett was paid $300.00 for freeing Cook and allowing him to enlist.

Another document provides the actual deed of manumission it states in its opening: "Whereas my slave Augustus Cook has enlisted in the service of the United States, in consideration thereof, I, Benj. W. Bennett of Carroll County State of Maryland do hereby, in consideration of said enlistment, manumit, set free and release the above named Augustus Cook from all service due me; his freedom to commence from the 11th of August 1863 the date of his enlistment as aforesaid in the 4th Regiment of Colored Troops in the service of the United States." Another paper, an "Evidence of Title" states that Bennett "became possessed of him [Cook] by birth, in the month of October, eighteen hundred forty one."

Other than an episode of sickness in May/June 1864, Pvt. Augustus Cook was always present for duty. The 4th USCI participated in the initial attacks on Petersburg on June 15, 1864, and then again, leading the charge during the horrific combat at the Battle of New Market Heights on September 29, 1864. From his service records it is not for certain that Cook endured the wound that would eventually kill him at New Market Heights, but it appear highly probable in that the 4th USCI did not participate in active combat operations in those Sixth Offensive (October) actions that killed Pvt. William Nellis. Unfortunately, his records do not provide more information, they only state that he "Died Oct. 29, 1864 at Point of Rocks [hospital], Va. of wounds received in action." The hospital was the 18th Corps base hospital. Other papers state that he died at that hospital on October 27. An inventory of Cook's personal effects claimed he had "No Effects."  Cook was paid while attempting to recover in the hospital, so one wonders why he did not have at least some pocket money. He was indebted to the the regimental sutler, W. C. Cooper, for $2.00.

Regardless of where Cook received the wound or wounds that ultimately caused his death, he gave his life for a cause he believed in. Becoming a soldier transformed him from an enslaved individual to a free man, and his fighting and death helped abolish slavery and gain citizenship and voting rights for his fellow black men. It is only right and fitting that we take a few minutes to research and learn about the lives of men like Pvt. Augustus Cook, who paid the ultimate price for their service.

*If you found this "Dying Far From Home" post edifying, please search for others on this blog.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Dying Far From Home: Pvt. William Nellis, Co. B, 29th Connecticut Infantry

Last Friday, I searched through City Point National Cemetery in Hopewell, Virginia, to locate the graves of a handful of men who are buried there. This past Tuesday I shared their stories with a few of the volunteers from work when we visited. I found these men while searching an online database of interments. I had to choose soldiers whose service records were available on to tell their histories. While browsing through the alphabetical lists, I came upon Pvt. William Nellis, Company B, 29th Connecticut Infantry. The 29th was one of the few African American regiments that kept their state designations instead of United States Colored Troops numbers.

I knew this little fact because at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum, one of the soldier comrades incorporated in the "Duty Called Me Here" exhibit was also in the 29th Connecticut; Sgt. Maj. Alexander Heritage Newton , who served in Company E.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find Nellis in the 1860 census, although he appears to have been born free in . . .  wait for it . . . Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His service records state that he was almost 22 years old when he enlisted in the 29th on December 3, 1863 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Apparently, Nellis worked as a farmer before enlisting. He is described as 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, with a "black" complexion.

Another thing that Nellis's service records show is that he was always present for duty from the time he enlisted until October 27, 1864. That fateful day found Nellis and the 29th fighting outside of Richmond on the Darbytown Road. The 29th was part of  Col. Ulysses Doubleday's brigade in Gen. Joseph Hawley's division of the X Corps, Army of the James. Nellis, fighting as a skirmisher was struck in the elbow while battling near the Kell House. His wound was described as "severe." Taken to the X Corps base hospital near Jones' Landing, Nellis received treatment for his wound. His records do not say if his injury required amputation or not. Nellis remained there for over a month attempting to recover when he died on December 6, 1864.

An inventory of Nellis's personal effects are included in his service records. All that is claimed is one blouse, one pair of "trowsers," and $ .15. The same company muster roll card that relates Nellis's wounding also indicates that he was charged for: one knapsack, one haversack, and one canteen. Previous to that, back in March and April 1864 he was charged for one haversack. Included in Nellis's final papers is one showing these deductions along with "one half shelter tent," for a total of $5.55. One would think that a man who gave his life for his country would be cleared of these debts.

Nellis was first buried at Jones' Landing and then reinterred in gave #1700 at City Point National Cemetery. May he rest in peace for his service to the United States of America.

*If you found this "Dying Far From Home" post edifying, search my blog for others.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

On the surface, the idea of members of one marginalized group enslaving members of another marginalized group is a bit difficult to comprehend. However, since reading Tiya Miles's The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story, I've been intrigued with the relationship between American Indians in the former slave states and their enslaved property. Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South by Barbara Krauthamer examines the slavery dynamic among the Choctaw and Chickasaw people. This looks to be a fascinating read.

While at the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute last weekend one of the panel discussions focused on various aspects of the Civil War's material culture and what these items meant to those of that period. The panel consisted of several of the contributors to the recently published War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era, edited by Joan E. Cashin. This book contains ten essays by some of the top scholars in the field who seek to better understand the complexity of the conflict by looking at various items that citizens placed value upon and injected with symbolism. I was so fascinated by the panel discussion that I decided to buy a copy there. I've noticed a rather strong trend among scholars in recent publications to include aspects of material culture into their studies (see Peter Carmichael's The War for the Common Soldier and James Broomall's Private Confederacies). I've learned a lot from considering this particular perspective, and I'm sure this promising book will only contribute more. 

Today is the anniversary of the event that A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad: The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864, by David Faris Cross chronicles. During Gen. Grant's second Petersburg offensive (June 22-23, 1864) the II Corps and the VI Corps in their attempt to cut the Weldon Railroad suffered a tremendous Confederate counterattack that resulted in thousands of Union soldiers being captured. With my ongoing research into prisoners of war taken during the Petersburg Campaign, this book will be a important resource.

Continuing my book purchasing trend of the past year, I've found yet another collection of soldier's letters. This one comes from a member of the famed Texas Brigade, Joseph B. Polley, and is part of the University of Tennessee Press's Voices of the Civil War series. A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie, edited by Richard B. McCaslin is likely a familiar title to Civil War enthusiasts who have come across Polley's name in their Army of Northern Virginia readings. There is a reason it appears so frequently as a primary source.

David Silkenat's Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War is a recent publication that is receiving significant buzz. Yet another formerly unexplored topic, this book promises to provide a better understanding of how soldiers viewed the act of surrender and what it meant as a challenge to one's manhood and honor. This book should also be a big help in clarifying some of my thinking while researching prisoners of war during the Petersburg Campaign.

Virginia's Civil War, edited by Peter Wallenstein and the late Bertram Wyatt-Brown, is another book that had somehow previously slipped by my acquisition radar. It offers readers twenty diverse essays covering Virginia's experience in the conflict. Topics ranging from Robert E. Lee to religion to gender to postwar issues and memory are all covered. Again, these essays, from many of the field's top scholars, ensure that this volume, published in 2005, will provide unique perspectives in better understanding "Virginia's Civil War."

Friday, June 21, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Huts and History

We know much about what life was like for Civil War soldiers in their semi-permanent (most often winter-season) shelters due to the many references they made about them in their letters, journals, diaries, and memoirs. However, we have gained additional knowledge about them because of the work of archaeologists.

In Huts and History: The Historical Archaeology of Military Encampment During the American Civil War, edited by Clarence R. Geier, David G. Orr, and Matthew B. Reeves, ten impressive essays explore a number of different facets of extended-duration Civil War military camps. Like several of the books that I've purchased in the last six months or so, I came across this title in the bibliography of Peter Carmichael's The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies. Working at a historic site that not only contains extensive winter camps, but also interprets them, I was happy to learn more from these essays.

Huts and History is divided into five parts. The first part offers two insightful essays that offer an "Introduction and Background" into military camps. Of particular interest was "Blueprint for Nineteenth-Century Camps: Castramentation, 1778-1865." This article explains Von Steuben's legacy on camp layout, which in many ways carried over into the Civil War.

Part II, "Survey and Management of Civil War Encampments has two essays, too. "Finding Civil War Sites: What Relic Hunters Know, What Archaeologists Should and Need to Know" is an intriguing appeal for archaeologists to learn from those who seek the soldiers' material culture through metal detecting. While the relationship between the two groups has largely been antagonistic due to their often competing end goals, the authors submit that archaeologists can learn a lot from relic hunters, particularly in how to locate encampment sties. Both groups also share a common ground of limiting development and destruction of the sites of encampments.

One of Part III's, "Encampment Plan and Layout," articles is "Civil War Housing Insights from Camp Nelson, Kentucky," authored by site experts Stephen and Kim McBride. Camp Nelson's grounds have offered up amazing evidence of the evolution of this location from that of largely a quartermaster depot to that of a USCT recruiting and training station and refugee location.

Part IV, "Encampment Architecture and Material Culture," gives us four essays, most of which cover archaeological locations in Virginia. "Right Nice Little House(s)" by Dean E. Nelson, in my opinion, could have been included earlier in the book in that it is so informative on the subject of various types of winter quarters that soldiers constructed. One that also piqued my interest in this part was an examination of Confederate General Samuel McGowan's brigade winter quarters in Orange County, Virginia in the winter of 1863-64. McGowan's brigade made winter quarters the following winter where Pamplin Historical Park is today, so I was naturally interested in it. Another is a historical look at Gen. Grant's headquarters cabin at City Point (Hopewell), Virginia.

Part V gives a conclusion that suggests collaboration between academics, public historians, and amateur historians to continue to make gains in understanding the lives of Civil War soldiers.

Like many books I read, I wish I had come across this one much earlier. It turned out being helpful to my work and provided me with a much better appreciation for what we can learn from the underground remnants of Civil War soldier encampments. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2019 Gettysburg College Civil War Institute

My sincere apologies for the lack of posts the past week. I was quite busy tying up loose ends at work at the end of last week before spending the weekend and first of this week in Gettysburg and visiting family in the area.

Last year was my first time attending the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute conference. I was so impressed with the whole operation that I made it a priority to attend again. And this year, I brought a colleague. I believe this year's edition was just as satisfying, if not more so, than last year's. Great sessions, great tours, great food, great people, and excellent conversations were in abundance; so what's not to like?

The Friday afternoon and evening sessions' highlight was the interview of Gary Gallagher by his former student Peter Carmichael. Lots of personal stories, laughs, and honest academic and public history challenges and experiences were shared.

Saturday's full day of sessions were all top-notch, too. However, Amy Murrell Taylor's talk about her recent book and research on Civil War refugee camps was particularly amazing. Peter Carmichael's talk on the letters of Hooiser soldier David Beem and his wife Mahala was also impressive. The "Artifacts of the Civil War" panel emphasized the importance that soldiers and their families placed on the relics of the conflict, and prompted me to purchase the book War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era, edited by Joan Cashin.

That evening, tours about different aspects of the Gettysburg battlefield were offered to the over 300 conference attendees. I had the great good fortune to land on my first-choice tour of "Honor, Cowardice, and Lore on Oak Ridge: Iverson's July 1 Attack."

This tour was led by Gettysburg College Civil War Institute's Assistant Director Ashley Whitehead Luskey. Ashley provided a thorough tour that not only vividly described the tactical movements of the Gen. Iverson's assault, but also shared a number of primary source document quotes from both soldiers in Iverson's brigade and their Union soldier counterparts. These accounts added an extra dimension to the learning experience that helped remind us that the regimental blocks on our battle maps were in fact people struggling with life and death situations on that July 1 afternoon.

One of the regiments opposing Iverson's North Carolina Brigade was the 88th Pennsylvania Infantry. I've read quite about the 88th due to a collection of letters at work by one of its members, so it was especially gratifying to get to see their Gettysburg monument up close and personal.

On Sunday, I took a brief early morning break from the conference and did a little bit of battlefield exploring. As many times as I've been to Gettysburg, I had not spent much time at East Cemetery Hill or Culp's Hill. I tried to remedy that a little.

The Evergreen Cemetery gatekeeper's house (above) looks much like it did during those July 1863 days of combat. The only significant change is the porched addition to the right.

Across the road, an equestrian statue honors Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. Known often as "Hancock the Superb," the Army of the Potomac's II Corps commander was wounded on the third day's fighting.

Not too far from Hancock's statue is that of Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard. This Maine native's XI Corps suffered rough handling at both Chancellorsville and during Gettysburg's first day of fighting, but Howard help stabilize the army's defensive line at Cemetery Hill. Howard would go on to have better fortune in the western theater as part of Sherman's force as they marched to Atlanta and through Georgia.

On my way from Cemetery Hill to Culp's Hill, I encountered this little fellow crossing the road. I stopped the car to make sure no one hit him as he ambled across and I made a quick joke about that "goggle-eyed snapping turtle" Maj. Gen. George Meade, who received command of the Army of the Potomac on the eve of the Gettysburg fight.

On Culp's Hill the statue of Gen. George Sears Greene stands pointing. Greene's impressive defense of this significant topographical location on July 2 proved to be a key to ultimately winning the battle.

On the way down Culp's Hill a great vista shows the difficult terrain that Louisiana and North Carolina troops encountered in their assaults on East Cemetery Hill. The Evergreen Cemetery gatekeepers hours is seen in the center distance.

Standing near the base of Culp's Hill is the equestrian statue of XII Corps commander Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum. During the "council of war" called by Meade on the evening of July 2, Slocum advised to "stay and fight it out."

Returning the conference sessions, I had the pleasure of taking in excellent talks by Ed Ayers, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, and James Broomall. However, I especially enjoyed Stephen Berry's "Private Voices: The Corpus of American Civil War Letters." In it, Berry focused largely on his digital project which examines letters of soldiers with literacy limitations. Some of the letters used in the talk were written by the soldiers' barely literate comrades, and others by soldiers who themselves struggled to write properly. However, these challenges did not stop them from wanting to communicate with friends and family, who were often separated great distances by the conflict. This online repository and its search capabilities is a welcomed feature for scholars and casual learners alike.

After spending some time with my wife's family on Sunday evening, Monday, and Tuesday morning, we came back through Gettysburg. I saw the above historical marker for onetime Gettysburg resident Thaddeus Stevens and had to have a picture.

For me, no trip to Gettysburg is complete without a stop by the 26th North Carolina monument near Willoughby Run. It was likely near here that my ancestor, Pvt. Hardy Estep's, life was lost on July 1, 1863. Despite all the enjoyment that I experienced at the conference, and with friends and family, a moment here always reminds me of the high costs of the conflict and why we need to learn from it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Private Confederacies

Since reading Stephen W. Berry's All that Makes a Man: Love and Ambition in the Civil War South, way back in 2003, I've been drawn to studies that explore similar subjects. One of the most recent works to examine Southern manhood is Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers by James J. Broomall. Following a chronological track from the antebellum years to Reconstruction, Broomall shows the important yet sometimes contradictory nature of emotions as expressed in the private thoughts of Southern men.

As Broomall explains in his introductory chapter: "The forces of war transformed and then underpinned Southerners' notions of manliness and emotional lives." Thus, he "seeks not only to write the life stories of these veterans but also to interrogate the ways in which civil war and reconstruction were personal processes that shaped gender, emotions, and Southern identity in the mid- to late nineteenth century." To do so Broomall uses six chapters, often examining the diaries (to get at the subjects' true emotions) of Southern men who comment on a variety of issues and thus express their inner feelings. In a world where elite slaveholding young men were expected to feel and behave in a certain manner to reflect their set and accepted gender and social spheres, the upheaval of war threatened to challenge those established mores.

Chapter 2, "Soldiers," is a particularly brilliant look into the transition for Southern men moving from a civilian world to a military one. Using uniforms, "camp culture," and "messmates," Broomall shows that Confederate soldiers adapted to army life by substituting comrade relationships for those held by family and friends before the war. The military experience required one to give up certain aspects of one's independence for the good of the fighting unit and thus the new nation. Hardships were viewed as a path to self-improvement and self-denial was viewed as an admirable trait.

The experience of battle also challenged the emotions of Southern men. Expected by Southern society to be cold and detached in going about their death-dealing work, soldiers were usually anything but that in relating their battle experiences. Seeing comrades being killed and viewing the vast carnage of the battlefields tested even the most veteran of soldiers. Often struggling to describe what they had witnessed, even in their diaries, soldiers strengthened their messmate networks and tried to reaffirm their commitment to the cause. When defeat came it again tested their manhood.

Solders who surrendered at Appomattox broke down and wept like children. Putting up with so much sacrifice for so long and then losing their goal of independence was soul-crushing emotionally. And while some came to grudgingly accept their military defeat, they often resisted the social and political changes that the war wrought.

During Reconstruction, former soldiers found emotional outlets in veteran reunions, and some found a way to continue the fight by joining para-military groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations to curb the political and social advances by African Americans, who challenged white supremacy. George Anderson Mercer summed up so many white Southern men's self-doubt: "I did not realize in advance that my nature was hard enough to live through such an ordeal, but great grief stuns and stupefies rather than destroys. The bruises sooner or later disappear from the surface, where they are seen, and sink into the soul, where they are felt."

Private Confederacies is an important addition to this field of study that is well researched and expertly written. It truly makes us reconsider the importance of examining not only observable behaviors, but also sometimes hidden emotions. I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Arrival of Rebel Officers

Although it does not seem that Union newspapers published articles about their battlefield captures quite as readily as their Confederate enemies, I found the above short one in the Washington National Intelligencer in its August 25, 1864 issue.

After two previous days of fighting (Aug.18 and 19), on August 21, Gen. William Mahone's Division launched furious assaults against the newly entrenched Union soldiers of Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren's V Corps during the Battle of Weldon Railroad. In the desperate attempt to drive the bluecoats away from their bulldog grip on the railway near Globe Tavern, Gen. Johnson Hagood's and Gen. Nathaniel Harris's brigades, along with others, dashed themselves against the works enduring heavy casualties. Hagood's Brigade lost over half its men killed, wounded, or captured.

Among the captured in Hagood's Brigade was Lt. Col. Julius A. Blake of the 27th South Carolina. Blake's service records show he was previously wounded, possibly in the Battle of the Wilderness, and admitted to the Episcopal Church Hospital at Williamsburg, Virginia, on May 7 for a slight injury to the forehead. He was then transferred to the South Carolina Hospital in Petersburg. He returned to duty on May 10.  By June 17, he was back in a Petersburg Hospital for an intermittent fever, but returned to his unit by July 3. After his capture at Globe Tavern, he was sent to Fort Delaware prison. He was exchanged in November 1864 and received a 30 day furlough, spent in Savannah and Charleston. Apparently some controversy arose about overstaying his leave and Gen. Hagood requested his removal from the military rolls. Blake received a court martial on March 4, 1865, and the board recommended Blake be reinstated to his regiment. Blake's name does not appear with those who received paroles at Appomattox. One wonders what happened to him.

Another Confederate lieutenant colonel captured in the battle, and noted in the article, was Seneca McNeil Bain of the 16th Mississippi of Harris's Brigade, commanded this day by Col. Joseph M. Jayne. Bain enlisted early in the war, May 1861, as a lieutenant. He worked his way up the chain of command to be second in charge of the regiment by the time of his capture. Interestingly, although not noted in the article, the colonel of the 16th, Edward C. Councill, was also captured after being wounded in the right knee. Councill died while in confinement on September 10 and was buried in Alexandria, Virginia. During the fight, the 16th suffered tremendous causalities, particularly those captured. In fact, one source stated that the 16th lost "6 field officers, 5 line officers, and 101 enlisted men." Quite a loss of one battle.

As the article notes, Major James R. Bell of the 12th Mississippi was also gobbled up in the action. Bell joined up in April 1861, a very early war enlistment. He received his promotion to major in the spring of 1864, before the meatgrinder of the Overland Campaign. Bell, too, ended up being sent to Fort Delaware prison. He was released in June of 1865, presumably after taking the oath of allegiance. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Conquered: Why the Army of Tennessee Failed

Over the last 150 years or so, many theories have been offered about why the Army of Tennessee (AOT) did not find more success on its battlefields. Most of those studies focus on the western army's commanders and their deficiencies. While leadership infighting certainly played a significant role in its struggles, author Larry J. Daniel offers a number of additional thought provoking ideas in his recently published Conquered: Why the Army of Tennessee Failed.

Off the bat, Daniel identifies several primary issues that emerged soon after the western Confederate force was established; at the time under the name the Army of the Mississippi. A primary disadvantage was a lack of professionally trained leaders. Few of the divisional, brigade, and regimental officers had significant military experience before 1861. Another unfavorable early factor that developed in the army was an internal sectionalism. Those men from the Deep South had some reservations about their comrades from the Upper South, who were often perceived as less committed (whether they ultimately were or weren't) and more cautious about secession and mobilization. Both of those sections were even more suspect about those men from Appalachian mountain regions. This lack of intra-army trust seems benign on the surface, but Daniel shows that it contributed to the erosion of the all important esprit de corps of the army.

Another primary hindrance that Daniel and other historians have figured prominently into the AOT's lack of success was the vast geographical area, and its unfortunate (for the Confederates) features (rivers) that the AOT was expected to defend. Not gaining more men after 1861-62 from border states, especially Kentucky, also hurt the AOT in terms of man power. In fact, Daniel states that "The need for raw numbers created a vicious cycle--men's reluctance after 1861 to volunteer led to poor-quality conscripts, which led to rising rates of desertion that frequently resulted in brutal forms of coercion and increased executions." All of which zapped army morale, reduced effectiveness on the battlefield, and thus continued to spread disillusionment. Daniel is fairly damming of the AOTs cavalry, especially Joseph "The War Child" Wheeler. This branch of service, other than Nathan Bedford Forrest's sporadic parts, was a constant hindrance.

In the preface to the book, Daniel states that he models his study in "topical and narrative approach" to Joseph Glatthaar's General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. One area that Glatthaar covers and that I wish Daniel had done so, too, is a statistical sample of soldiers who came from slaveholding families. Glatthaar found that about 44% of Lee's men came from slaveholding families, it would have been interesting to see the AOT's numbers in comparison.

Where I found Conquered at its best was Daniel's examination of its soldiers' experiences, largely derived from his previous work, Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee: A Portrait of Life in a Confederate Army. Subjects such as punishments, religion, furloughs, training, camp life, logistics, arms and ammunition, and even camp slaves are found throughout the book and all have ties to why the AOT experienced the war as it did.

Of course, as one would expect, the actions and decisions of the AOT's leaders: A. S. Johnston, Bragg, Joseph E. Johnston, John Bell Hood, and Joe Johnston again, receive a significant amount of critical examination.

The book's thorough endnotes and bibliography provide evidence of Daniel's depth of research. His writing style makes this study a true pleasure to read. The only pesky drawback I found in the book were a few small errors, particularly in reference to individual's names: Stephen Hulbert instead of Hurlbut, William Helm instead of Benjamin Hardin Helm, and Edwin Ruffin instead of Edmund Ruffin. Regardless, Conquered: Why the Army of Tennessee Failed is a worthy and welcome new addition to the literature concerning the Confederacy's primary western theater fighting force. I recommend it.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Recapture of Yankee Prisoners

The number of articles published in Richmond newspapers during the Petersburg Campaign (although usually quite brief) that mention captures of Union soldiers point toward the importance of that news to Confederate citizens. It seems that stories such as the one above tried to buoy the fragile hopes of Confederate men and women as the tide of war was rapidly rising against them.

What was particularly intriguing to me about this article was not only the news that Union soldiers had been captured, thus putting them out of their work in attempting to destroy the Confederacy, but that two were recaptured, after a brief escape, and to top it all off, recaptured by an enslaved man!

As this August 29, 1864, Richmond Daily Dispatch article describes, a group of Union soldiers held on Belle Island prison attempted escape across the James River. Two were killed, three wounded (and thus apparently immediately apprehended), and two others making good their escape, for a time.

Moving south into Chesterfield County the absconding soldiers came to the residence of Mrs. H. W. Fisher. The men apparently took shelter in her farm's sheep pen. The soldiers were soon discovered and arrested by Jesse (called a servant in the article), but most likely enslaved, who "was armed with a loaded gun."

Thus, with this brief article, the newspaper provided three instances of Southern superiority. 1. The Union soldiers were captured by Confederates in battle, probably during Grant's Fourth Offensive actions; 2. Although the Union soldiers escaped captivity, they were killed, wounded, or recaptured; 3. The Union soldiers were not only recaptured by a perceived Southern inferior, but an inferior that proved loyal to the Confederate cause, which strengthened their belief in the institution.

I have no reason to doubt the truth of this historical episode. However, for every one instance of an enslaved person demonstrating his or her loyalty to their owner or the Confederate cause, there are multiple more accounts that show enslaved people either working to undermine that cause by running away to the Union army to enlist, provide labor, or help escaped Union soldier prisoners attempting to make their way back to Union lines. It comes down to whether one wants to take the time and energy to weight the body of evidence or apply this instance to the whole. And while this article does provides yet another important perspective, it must be measured against others that counter its narrative.