Here Come the Yankees

The citizens of Vicksburg knew the Federal troops were drawing closer and closer to the river port town over the early months of 1863. On May 18, it became clear just how close the Yankees had come. On that day, the folks of Vicksburg gathered on the hill-tops of the town with their spyglasses. They were watching a black object upriver advance toward the town. Suddenly, a shell came rattling toward the town. The citizens retreated to their homes as the gunboat acquired a better range and began to shell the town. The Yankees were announcing their arrival. The shelling on the town continued into the night.

The next morning, the shelling resumed. Women and children were seen running out of town by all available roads. Mrs. Gamble, who lived on the edge of town, was killed just as she passed through her gate. No apparent reason prompted the Union shelling. The Confederate forces were dug in outside the town.

A.A. Hoehling, Vicksburg: 47 Days of Siege (Penn.: Stackpole Books 1996), p. 15.

World War I Memorial Arch Defaced

A World War I Memorial in New Orleans has been defaced. Three other statues were also recently defaced in New Orleans. But, the other three had some connection, however distant, to the Confederate States of America. See news reports here. The assault on the World War I memorial did not attract news interest from any news source. BLM appears to have inspired the assaults.

The George Washington statue in New Orleans – outside the main library – was also defaced by BLM. See WWL news report here.

Irish Forming Social Groups

How did the early Irish immigrant share his ethnic identity? The earliest Irish immigrants came in the 1820’s and 1830’s. They were generally more prosperous than the famine immigrants. Many were refugees from the 1798 rebellion. From early on, the Irish in the Old South celebrated both their Irish identify and St. Patrick’s Day. In Charleston, the Irish formed the Charleston Hibernian Society. The members met every fourth Thursday for “sentiment, song and supper.” Reflecting an ecumenical approach, they rotated the presidency with a Protestant president one year and a Catholic president the next year. In 1833, the Society toasted both to the king’s health as well as and the death of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet. By 1841, the Charleston Hibernian Society had built a magnificent “Hibernia Hall” on Meeting Street.

In 1831, the Louisville Irish met and toasted St. Patrick’s Day. The toasts of James Price, Clement Kennedy and others were published in the Louisville Courier.

In New Orleans and Savannah, the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations grew larger each year. The Catholics and Protestants joined in the same celebrations. In 1824, the Savannah Hibernian Society followed a requiem Mass with a parade to the City Hotel lead by Father Robert Browne and the pastors of the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. At four p.m., the mayor of the city, along with the Spanish and British consuls awarded Charleston Bishop John England, an Irish native, with honorary membership. Then the crowd retired for dinner and watched the unveiling of a “transparency:” a female figure clothed in green with a wreath of shamrocks, intended to represent the “genius of Ireland.” Then came tunes and toasts honoring Ireland, Georgia and the United States.

The Natchez Hibernian Society had its annual celebration in a local hotel. The members enjoyed an evening of “song, sentiment, wit, and sociability.” Some less prosperous laborers collected near the market house on St. Patrick’s Day and enjoyed liquid refreshment. The became inebriated and fought any passerby. The local sheriff came and arrested two or three of the miscreants.

The more well-off Irish formed the Hibernian societies. These societies charged dues that tended to deter the laborers from joining. But, the middle class Irish set a different sort of example and encouraged the working class to avoid trouble.

Louisville Courier, March 21, 2831, p. 2

David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South, 1815-1877 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press 1995), p. 60-63.

A New Congressman Castigated Anti-Immigration Forces

In 1861, the Democratic party had wide support across the South. Even today, some people believe erroneously that the Democratic party alone supported slavery. But, certainly, the Democrats largely supported the extension of slavery. Yet, the Democrats also generally embraced the Irish and German immigrants in the decades leading up to the Civil War. In the decades prior to the Civil War, the German and especially the Irish immigrants were seen as repugnant by many native Anglo Americans. A young Congressman, Jefferson Davis, was friends with prominent Irish immigrants in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His plantation was near Vicksburg.

The future president of the Confederate States of America earned a measure of fame among immigrants everywhere when he attacked the nativist members of Congress and their attempt to restrict immigration. As a freshman Representative in 1844-1845, he castigated the nativist members for their “sordid character [and] their arrogant assumption.” Those nativists were invariably Whigs – the future Republicans. He argued that instead of restricting immigration, Congress should make becoming a citizen easier. It was one of the ironies of American history that a well-known supporter of immigrants was also a large slave owner.

David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South (Univ. of North Carolina Press 2001), p. 102.

Civil War Soldiers, North and South, Motivated by Patriotism

Why did the Southern and northern soldiers fight? If we could survey both sides, what would be the results? We cannot survey those soldiers now. They are long gone. Dr. James McPherson conducted a survey of sorts. In For Cause and Comrade by James McPherson (Oxford Univ. Press 1997), Dr. McPherson did the next best thing to a survey. He looked at personal letters and diaries of both Union and Confederate soldiers to ask the fundamental question, what motivated them to join, and then to say in a very harsh military service.

Dr. McPherson reviewed the personal letters and diaries of some 400 Confederate soldiers. He looked at the contemporary correspondence and diaries of some 647 Union soldiers and 429 Confederate soldiers. In his career, he explains that having looked at perhaps 25,000 such records, he believed this was a representative sample. For Cause, p. viii. Dr. McPherson is a well known Civil War historian. He received a Pulitzer for his book, Battle Cry of Freedom.

As a combat veteran I can attest that the willingness to endure hardship and danger is not an easy choice. As Dr. McPherson mentions, once the choice is first made, the typical combat soldier is forced to re-examine his choice at least two more times, once after his first battle and then again when/if he re-enlists. So, the average Confederate soldier had to choose to risk his life and the lives of his family (because life in a rural society without the men was extremely hard) not once, not twice, but three times.

According to Dr. McPherson’s study, some 57% of Confederate soldiers espoused patriotic fervor for the South. That is, their service was motivated by patriotism. For Cause, p. 102. Some 20% of Confederate service members espoused pro-slavery views during the war. For Cause, p. 110. The number of Union soldiers who espoused anti-slavery views was much higher. As the author explains, slavery was a political issue among the Union army. It was discussed and debated more. It was not such an issue among the Confederate army. So, perhaps, if there was more actual debate, then the pro-slavery view might have bene higher among Confederate soldiers. But, the point remains, if they fought to maintain slavery, as some suggest, they did not discuss it much.

Compare that result to some 62% of union soldiers who mentioned a sense of patriotism as their motive for serving.

That gibes with my family’s experience. One ancestor, Luke Hart, Irish Catholic, served in Hobby’s Regiment in Galveston, which saw little combat. He left after some months, deserted. Later, he raised his own cavalry company and went off to the war, making it as far as Louisiana before the war ended. Luke Hart made the choice to serve at least twice, once at his expense. Yet, in 1860, his home, San Patricio County, only had some 100 slaves. Their economy was ranching, not cotton.

Many Southerners fought to avoid enslavement by the North. They believed the North sought to subjugate the South in some way. For Cause, p. 21. Many enlisted to defend their home from the invading Yankees. For Cause, at p. 22.

John Mitchel, the Irish rebel and editor for a time of two Richmond newspapers during the war, insisted the North was seeking to subjugate the South as Great Britain had subjugated Ireland. The Republican party was the heir of the remnants of the Know Nothing Party. Most Irish suspected the Republican party of harboring anti-Irish and anti-immigrant sentiment at the time.

One million Confederate soldiers did not fight solely for the right to maintain slavery. That would be a big stretch. Yes, some contemporary documents make it clear that several states seceded to maintain slavery, among many other listed reasons. But, it is doubtful any soldier actually read those documents. Soldiers don’t contemplate these things. Serving your country – or state – is not a political act.

On May 18, 1865, one 1LT William T. Mumford went to the home of my ancestor’s aunt in New Orleans. Entertained by the ladies, likely, including my GGG grand-mother, the lieutenant spoke the words all veterans would like to utter when s/he first returns home, “we could not have received a warmer reception. . . . The New Orleans ladies shall long be remembered for their devoted patriotism.” My GG grandfather likely met his future wife that day.

Consider the persons likely present at that gathering. William Agar and his wife, Theresa. Their cousin, Dick Price, was a captain in the First Louisiana Heavy Artillery Regiment. This author’s ancestor, 1LT George P. Crane served in the same regiment, as did 1LT Mumford. Theresa was sister to Anastasia Crane Chism. The Crane/Chisms lived next door to the Agars. Living a block away was Theresa’s other sister, Katherine and her husband, Edward Rice. George P. Crane likely met his future wife, Katherine Judson, at this gathering. Katherine Judson was daughter to Mills Judson, a well-known and well-love merchant and banker in New Orleans. Mills was a native of Connecticut. Cyrus Chism, husband to Anastasia, was born in Maine.

William Agar and Edward Rice were both commission merchants. They sold crops for a commission. They were heavily dependent on rice, sugar and some cotton crops. Cyrus Chism sold bags and ties, often for rice crops. Mills Judson was deeply involved in general New Orleans business. By the time of 1LT Mumford’s visit, all the men and their families had gained considerable wealth from the slave based economy. William Agar, Edward Rice, and the three sisters, Theresa, Anastasia and Katherine were Irish born. Everyone present for that gathering were looking at economic ruin. Everyone present were likely to lose everything they had gained. Yet, Mumford records in his diary no whining about the loss of slavery and the slave based economy. Instead, his one mention is the of the “patriotism” of the ladies.

Folks claim the confederate memorials represent Jim Crow and an attempt to intimidate blacks. But, that was not the case in San Antonio. At the dedication of the Confederate memorial in 1900, John H. Reagan spoke. Judge Reagan had been the Postmaster General of the Confederacy. After the war, he urged reconciliation between the North and the South. They called him the “Old Roman” for his efforts to make peace between the two regions. Later, he became the first head of the Railroad Commission in Texas and was noted for his opposition to the unbridled power of the railroad.

If the Confederate soldiers fought to maintain slavery, they never expressed that motive – not in their letters, not in their diaries, not in their first gathering after the war, and 40 years later, not when they erected their memorials.

Old Relationships, Part 8

What of the slaves who served the McHattons faithfully for years? Cuba and Spain had outlawed slavery long before the Mchattons arrived. Zell and Martha were free once the McHattons arrived in Mexico. The McHattons then moved to Cuba and purchased the sugar plantation that became their home. Zell and Martha were free in Cuba, as they were in Mexico. At the Cuba plantation, the family encountered bandits, a violent uprising by Chinese “coolies,” a hurricane and the more mundane hard work necessary to start a plantation in a strange country. Through all those adventures, Zell was right there, bravely defending the family.

James and Eliza tried to teach Zell to read and write. But, he resisted. Yet, Zell learned to speak Spanish better than James or Eliza. He became their interpreter. When Zell became a young man, Eliza noticed he was looking at women differently. She suggested he open a bank account, if he wanted to marry. She wanted to help Zell safeguard the money he had accumulated. Zell married and started a family. After some ten years in Cuba, James and Eliza returned to the United States. They came to miss the company of others who they could understand better and they missed their “fatherland.”

But, Zell stayed in Cuba with his family. Eliza and James helped him reach an agreed contract with the new owners of the plantation. Zell sent the McHattons letters every year, always written by one of the Spanish workers at the old plantation. He relayed news of the neighborhood and the plantation. And, he always signed his letters “Your devoted and faithful slave (esclavo).” Even then, the common expression was “Your devoted and faithful servant (serviento).” Eliza assumed the word “servant” did not express enough for Zell.

Zell died a few years later. Eliza was not shy in her book. She insisted he was no slave, but their faithful friend.

In the U.S., the McHattons helped Martha apply her accumulated savings to buy a house in Virginia, close enough for the McHattons, then living in New York, to visit Martha every year. Eliza would say after Martha’s passing that she was no slave but a companion who was a tender, faithful soul. And, she was their last connection to a long ago way of life.

Eliza McHatton-Ripley, From Flag to Flag (United Kingdom: Dodo Press 2009) (reprint), pp. 187, 189.

Be Safe.

Confederate Memorials Remember Those Who Fell

Cary Clack, usually a careful and thoughtful writer, penned a piece recently regarding Confederate memorials. His piece betrays a superficial understanding of Confederate memorials. See his opinion piece here in the San Antonio Express News. Mr.  Clack argues that the Civil War was primarily caused by slavery, as though someone disagrees with him. Not even Pres. Trump has claimed the civil war was not about slavery.

The Confederate memorials were largely erected by women. According to Kelly McMichaels’ book, “Sacred Memories,” of the 65 Confederate memorials which used to stand in Texas, about 50 were erected by women. A couple of those were started by male veterans of the war, but they could not get it done. The women had to step in and raise the necessary funds. Why were women so successful at a project the men could not accomplish? Dr. McMichaels suggests women were the “rememberers.” They were the ones most likely to safeguard the small things of a lost loved one.

The money for these memorials was raised ten, twenty-five, and fifty cents at a time over years. Mr. Clack engages in stereotypes to suggest the memorials were erected in the early 1900’s when Jim Crow laws were becoming common. Mr. Clack essentially suggests all white folks were trying to diminish the black man. So, these statues must share the same motive. Mr. Clack does not mention that this was also a time when many Civil War veterans on both sides were dying. The union veterans erected their memorials about the same time. Both sides generally purchased their memorials and statues from the same sources.

Neither does Mr. Clack mention that in a time when women could not work, could not vote, and often could not own property, they were raising the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money.

These memorials sometimes depict generals, sometimes the common soldier. Yet, they always call on the viewer to recall those who fell. This veteran cannot forget those who fell in any war. Mr. Clack looks at the statues with no notice of the message at the foot of the statue.

During the Civil War, armies did not collect and bury the dead. There were no funerals back home. There were no honor guarded processions. There were no gifts of a flag to the grieving family. After the war, hundreds of families, North and South, wandered these battle fields looking for lost loved ones. One historian estimated there were 35,000 dead, lying unburied, unmarked between Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. That was just one small corner of the war.

Mr. Clack conflates respect for those who fell with respect for secession. He suggests the cause was unjust because contemporary documents pointed to slavery. I deployed to Iraq in 2005. I did not consult the Congressional Resolution that authorized the war. It is very unlikely any Confederate soldier reviewed Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech” before enlisting. Soldiers don’t do that. They just serve.

Mr. Clack never addresses the words which actually appear on every memorial: “Lest we forget.”

Mr. Clack ends his piece by asking where is the statue that honors his enslaved ancestor? Indeed. Where are the memorials to our country’s enslaved ancestors? Why remove Confederate memorials, when Mr. Clack could just as easily raise the funds for a memorial to his enslaved ancestor? Removal is relatively easy. Erecting is much the harder task. Those Southern women who could not vote and could not work, however, showed it can be done.

July 4 in Vicksburg

For decades, Vicksburg, Mississippi did not celebrate July 4, at all. In 1945, as part of a wave of patriotism washing across the country, they held a “Carnival of the Confederacy.”  That celebration lasted a couple of years. Then in 1947, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower spoke in Vicksburg on July 4. And still, July 4 remained a subdued holiday in Vicksburg, through the late 1990’s.

On July 4, 1863, Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. For 47 days, the small city of 5,000 endured the Yankee siege. Although reduced to eating rats and mules, the Confederates believed they could have held out another week. But, Gen. Pemberton, a native of Pennsylvania, believed Gen. Grant would offer better terms on July 4. Although from the North, Pemberton had sided with the Confederacy during the war. His two younger brothers both served in the union army. But, the career US Army officer had married a woman from Virginia and had spent much of his career in the south.

The siege was tough on both the Confederates and on the Federals. But, it was devastating for the civilians. Much of the town is situated high on hills and a bluff overlooking the Mississippi river. Vicksburg was a thriving river port before the war. See the picture above. Because the town was situated high atop hills, the Union forces, dug into the low lying areas, was always shooting up hill. The town became the inevitable target of Union shot and shell.

Mary Longborough, a resident of Vicksburg, kept a diary that was later published as My Cave Life in Vicksburg. Her eyewitness accounts attest to many poignant incidents that occurred during the siege of the city:

“One afternoon, amid the rush and explosion of the shells, cries and screams arose—the screams of women amid the shrieks of the falling shells. The servant boy, George…found that a negro man had been buried alive within a cave, he being alone at that time. Workmen were instantly set to deliver him, if possible; but when found, the unfortunate man had evidently been dead some little time. His wife and relations were distressed beyond measure, and filled the air with their cries and groans.”

The families pitched tents in the ravines for protection. One family and their Negro servant (to use the contemporary term) pitched a tent a couple hundred yards from their house in one such ravine. In the morning, as young Lucy McRae woke, she watched as a spent artillery ball rolled into their tent. She screamed. The mother shouted to Rice, the negro servant, to take down the tent. The mother, the various children and Rice dashed to a wooden bridge to get back to town. Rice dropped the tent. The mother dropped the basket with their meager provisions. They tried to stay beneath a dirt embankment. Jumping behind trees, fences, diving into trenches, shells exploding over their heads. The children were crying, the mother praying. They finally approached the Glass Bayou bridge, indicating the edge of town. A mortar shell landed on the far end of the bridge. Mother shouted, “run!” The children all ran to their cave, where they felt safer. Finding their home later, they saw it had been struck several times, but remained intact. A minie ball had creased their father’s whiskers while he sat in the hallway of the house, but he was otherwise unhurt. This was day 34 of the siege.

That was the siege for the civilians. Today, the Vicksburg July 4 celebration is larger, but these sorts of memories endure.

For more information and a picture of the cave homes, see the Abbeville Institute website here.

“Lee to the Rear!”

In the annals of military warfare, it was so extraordinary. There is no record of this happening to Julius Caesar, Hannibal or Napoleon. In May 1864, in a Battle known as the Battle of the Wilderness, Gen. Robert E. Lee tried to lead the charge of the Texas Brigade. Commanding generals do not typically attempt to lead a charge themselves. It just is not done. The commanding general has to keep the entire battle in mind. He has to forecast chess moves three or four moves in advance. He must respond to aides hurrying back and forth with urgent messages seeking aid, warning of supply shortages, and he must press recalcitrant commanders. The heat of battle is “prime time” for a commanding general. Yet, when the Texas Brigade moved up to block a penetration by Union General Winfield Scott’s forces, he knew the moment was dire. He knew too that the Confederates were being pressed in ways they had never been pressed. He wanted to be sure the charge succeeded.

Gen. Lee cheered as the Texans moved into position to plug the gap created by Gen. Scott. The Corps Commander, Gen. Longstreet planned to move one brigade into the gap, followed by a second brigade and then a third. When the Texans first arrived, Gen. Lee urged them, “We must drive these people back.” A man not given to frequent displays of emotion already showed more emotion than his soldiers were used to. “The Texans always drive them,” he added.  The commander of the Texas Brigade, Gen. Gregg, told his men, “The eye of Gen. Lee is on you.” The Texans responded with cheers. With a shout of “Forward,” the Texans and Arkansans started forward with a yell.

Immediately, the men noticed Gen. Lee was moving with them. Capt. Bedell noticed the general advancing with them well into the enemy fire. Dozens would later insist they were there and they held the reins of Traveller, pulling Lee back to the rear. Traveller was the name of Lee’s horse, named after the horse used by Gen. Washington during the American revolution. Gen. Washington was Gen. Lee’s step-grandfather.

Capt. Bedell had been wounded twice in prior battles. He was one of the original recruits into Co. “L” of the Texas Brigade. Co. “L” came from Galveston. Capt. Bedell implored Lee to stop. Gen. Lee responded, “I want to lead the Texas Brigade in this charge.” From commander to his men, bypassing three or four layers of command was unusual in itself. But, the overall commander was negotiating with his men. He could have simply told them to shut up and let him do his job. But, he was negotiating, asking them to let him do what he thought he needed to do ensure success.

It is hard for civilians to understand this remarkable military relationship during war. There is an unspoken understanding that each person, male or female, will do his/her best at all times to ensure success of the military unit. That principle is a sacred duty. It stays with you all your life. In this instance, the Commanding General was asking his men to let him do what he believed he had to do to plug this gap. His men were telling him, “no.” They were assuming the responsibility for the success of this charge. They were saying, “sir, we got this.” They were not just assuring him they would ensure the success of this charge, they were insisting. They were telling their boss, “no,” in terms that did not allow for negotiation.

The tender feeling in that moment cannot be overstated. They were also saying the possibility of losing Gen. Lee was too high a price to pay for the success of one charge. That is an extraordinary honor, one probably never made to a general of Robert E. Lee’s caliber. Napoleon’s soldiers respected the general, but they did not love him. I am happy to say my soldiers generally liked me. But, I am very doubtful they would have insisted I minimize risk. It just isn’t done.  

Other soldiers joined in. “You will get killed dad[d]y.” “We won’t go forward until you go back,” said another. One soldier watching this unheard of display remarked years later, “I would charge hell itself for that old man.” One soldier in a friendly way kicked at Traveller, saying, “Get out of the Wilderness with General Lee, you old looney!” That alone would merit court martial in today’s army. In the Confederate army, assaulting the general’s horse in other circumstances would have resulted in lashes or worse.

The general finally turned toward the rear, as the Texas Brigade surged forward into the fire. Dozens of Texans fell. But, Gen. Lee lived.

See more about the Battle of the Wilderness here.

Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (LSU Press 2017), pp. 212-213.