Wednesday, June 30, 2021

"It looked as though mortal could advance no further"

Printed in the October 13, 1864, issue of the Cleveland Morning Leader, Capt. Ellery C. Ford, Co. F, 5th United States Colored Infantry wrote in and shared his account of the Battle of New Market Heights, fought on September 29, 1864.

"Our division advanced in 'column by division' through a shower of shells and 'minnies.' We drove in their pickets.- Our work was just but commenced. We were separated from the rebels by a thick tangled mass of briers, weeds, and bushes.

Col. Shurtleff was the first officer wounded, receiving a minnie ball through the arm. Not disheartened nor willing to go to the rear unless it became absolutely necessary, he urged the boys on, to be steady and firm.

While speaking of our Lieutenant Colonel, allow me to say a braver officer or better man cannot be furnished than Lt. Col. Giles W. Shurtleff.

Captains Cock, Marvin, and Fahrion fell wounded about this time. Men Dropping on either hand.

About the time we were entering the tangled mass which intervened between us and the Johnnies, Col. Shurtleff received another wound in the thigh, which compelled him to give up all hope of enjoying with us the victory so near at hand.

The boys rushed on, determined to avenge the death of their comrades. The brigade on our left wavered for an instant. It looked as though mortal could advance no further, but the brigade, consisting of the 5th, 36th, and 38th colored regiments, kept steadily on, and the first men to scale the works were some of Ohio's colored boys--the 5th Regiment. The division advanced, capturing some prisoners, a long line of breastworks and a four gun battery on New Market hill.

It was hard for the 'poor deluded brethren of the South' to be compelled to submit to an 'inferior race' of men. . . .

The loss of the 5th in this engagement was one Lieutenant Colonel, four Captains, and one Lieutenant wounded, and about one hundred thirty men out of five hundred and thirty, killed or wounded."

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Portrait of the Rebel General Early

I happened upon a story from a Rome, Georgia, newspaper that was copied in the Cleveland (Ohio) Morning Leader in October 1, 1864. I found it quite humorous, so I'd though I'd share it. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Rufus Dawes on the Emancipation Proclamation

When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, it was received with a mixture of emotion among the soldiers of the United States Army. Many, especially those men from the border states and southern parts of the free states, found the proclamation distasteful socially and an unneeded additional war measure militarily.

However, others saw it less thorough an emotional lens and more from a logical perspective as a way of ending the war. One such soldier was then Maj. Rufus Dawes, 6th Wisconsin Infantry. Granted, Dawes was probably more progressive at this time than his comrades, but his shared thoughts show a gradual change toward accepting emancipation as a war aim. In a speech in Marietta, Ohio, while on a brief furlough in March 1863, Dawes expressed his thoughts and observations on a number of issues, including the Emancipation Proclamation. 

He said, "If there remains any one in the army, who does not like the Proclamation, he is careful to keep quiet about it. We are hailed everywhere by the negroes as their deliverers. They all know that 'Massa Linkum' has set them free, and I never saw one not disposed to take advantage of the fact. The negroes will run away if they get the chance, whenever they are assured of their freedom, and that the the Proclamation places it beyond the power of any military commander, however disposed, to prevent. Slavery is the chief source of wealth in the South, and the basis of their aristocracy, and my observation is that a blow at slavery hurts more than battalion volleys. It strikes at the vitals. It is foolish to talk about embittering the rebels any more than they are already embittered. We like the Proclamation because it lets the world know what the real issue is. We like the Proclamation because it gives a test of loyalty. As governor Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, says: 'If you want to find a traitor North, shake the Emancipation Proclamation or the writ of habeas corpus at him and he will dodge.' We like the Emancipation Proclamation because it is right, and because it is the edict of our Commander in Chief, the President of the United States."

Dawes mustered out of service in the summer of 1864 and went on to father a vice president of the United States. He died 1899 and is buried in Marietta, Ohio. 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

With a steep increase in work responsibilities, which in turn impacted my level of physical and mental energy, my reading pace slowed significantly this past month and a half. That is also probably evident from the fewer number of posts. Not being able to read as many books slowed my purchasing, too. However, I was still able to pick up three titles recently to add to my personal library.

I found William Barney's The Making of a Confederate: Walter Lenoir's Civil War (2007) a fantastic read, so when saw he had a new release Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy, I added it to my wishlist last year. It is now being offered on the secondary book market at a very reasonable price, so I snatched up a copy. I'm always interested in seeing how historians cover the secession crisis, and although that event has received significant attention in the last decade or so, new sources and interpretations continue to emerge that give us a clearer understanding of that pivotal moment in American history. I look forward to reading Professor Barney's take.


One of things that I enjoy most about leading a Civil War roundtable is being able to meet the historians that I line up as speakers. Our roundtable normally purchases several copies of the speakers' books to sell to our members and attendees. Dr. Christian B. Keller, who teaches at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was the May 2021 speaker for the Petersburg Civil War Roundtable. Although a last minute schedule conflict prevented Keller from making an in-person appearance, I thoroughly enjoyed his talk about his recently published book, The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy. Being intrigued with the talk, I purchased a copy. I'm sure reading it will benefit my knowledge of these two men and their working relationship.


A 2021 book that is getting quite a bit of coverage is Joshua D. Rothman's The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America. Rothman's work focuses heavily on the partnership of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who formed what was probably the largest and most powerful domestic slave trading firm in antebellum America. These men helped transform the South by moving thousands of enslaved people from Upper-South states to locations in the "Cotton Kingdom." and thus helped create a society that led to war when the "peculiar institution" became threatened. If this book is anything like Rothman's previous study, Flush Time and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson (2012), I'll certainly be satisfied and a better person for reading it.