Thursday, October 16, 2014

Female Bushwhackers

Here is another story I found in an old book, this time Frank Moore's The Civil War in Song and Story 1860-1865, which I have used in the past. This tale comes from page 423 and offers a few interesting, even brash,  comments on some of the southern women the author had encountered.

Female Bushwhackers 

The women of the South are the goads that prick the men to action. I should have said first that there are female as well as male bushwhackers. When a woman takes one of these creatures to her home or heart, as the case may be, she becomes a partner to his guilt, according to the common law. She thus recognizes his vocation, and applauds him in his robberies. She is the receiver, and the receiver is as bad as the thief. All the country is infested by these guerrillas and bushwhackers; they have certain haunts, where they make their headquarters and store away their plunder. These haunts are invariably presided over by that creature (God help her, after all) of modern growth and the off-spring of the miseries of war - the "war widow." They are, without exception, bitter and inveterate secesh. Usually, indeed in all cases, ignorant and wholly uneducated, they are entirely controlled by passion. Being in destitute circumstances, and lonely, they gladly become the accomplices of this herd of robbers prowling about. I am not to be understood as saying that all the women of the South who unfortunately have lost their husbands in this war, are of this class known as "war widows." Far be it from me. I have found many such women as intelligent, refined and pure as any I have ever known. But everybody knows, or is supposed to know, what the real "war widow" is, and it is of her I write. She makes a good home bushwhacker; aids and abets freely and voluntarily in all the depredations of her  accomplice. She feeds and clothes him, secretes him when hunted down, encourages him in his bad work,  and does all she can (and women are all-powerful for good or evil) to make him a reckless and depraved outlaw. There is a certain sort of superstitious poetry of innocence stitched to woman's being, which has been handed down to us since the time Adam beheld the beautiful image of Eve in the clear, crystal water. While I would regret to despoil woman any of the romance of her nature, I must say that, as far as regards women  bushwhackers, there is nothing in their natures except poetical depravity - a license in licentious liberty, which mars and blackens her nature. As liars, they cannot be excelled in the universe. Actually, they would lie anything or anybody out of existence. And they do it with such brazen impudence - such a shameless air of innocence. Their little hearts are awfully corrupt. While out with scouting parties,  I have repeatedly asked for various kinds of information from these frail creatures, and, looking into my face as innocent as an unwooed maiden, they have told lie upon lie, yes, mountains of them. Their moral perception of right and wrong is very blunt, while their perceptive faculties are quite acute in judging of the relative value of a ring, a blanket, a watch, or other article brought them by their bushwhacking lords." - "Dr. Adonis, in the Louisville Journal"

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Few Book Summaries

Here are a few other books I read in spring and summer. I enjoyed them all, but didn't take notes to do full reviews, but will add a few thoughts on each.

Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins
This book, made famous by Ken Burns' PBS series on the Civil War, was recommended to me when I was on a public hike at Perryville and imam glad I finally read it. It is a fun read, with good descriptions of what Watkins saw at many battles, including Perryville, where some of his lines are on museum displays and are commonly repeated in other books about that battle. It is Watkins' story, written tests after the war, so keep in mind how human memory works when writing so long after an event, but it is still an enjoyable read and a good look at what private soldiers in that wsr witnessed.

The Battle of Mill Springs Kentucky by Stuart Sanders
I still have not visited this battlefield, and am almost ashamed by that. This is a good book from the History Press and gave me a lot of good information on this early Union victory. I like how the author writes, as I also enjoyed his works on Perryville as well as this one. It is a good read

Lincoln's Melancholy:  How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness
By Joshua Wolf Schenk
I had heard about this work years who, but never got around to reading it. I am glad I finally did. I found it to be a fascinating look at another side of  Lincoln's life and personality. His moodiness was not a new revelation to me, but it's depth and how often Lincoln struggled with it did add to my knowledge and perspective of this man. The Sutton seemed to have a good grade of psychological concepts and explained them in easy to understand ways.

Morgan's Great Raid: the Remarkable Expedition from Kentucky to Ohio by David Mowery
This is not a long look at the details of every confrontation during this 1863 raid, but is a good overview of the emtire raid and provides a nice look at how much ground Morgan, his men and his pursuers covered during these weeks. Mowery's writing is easy yo follow and I enjoyed how he described the challenges that those in and against the raid faced. 

Liddell's  Record by St. John Richardson Liddell, edited by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr.
If you like honest and blunt assessments from soldiers, this is a book you should read. Hughes Jr. cobbled together Liddell's records and molded them into a fine story in Liddell's own words. Like the Watkins book, this was written after the war, but is still a valuable read due to Liddell's honest accounts of battles and Confederate leaders he experienced or encountered during the war? He was not afraid to offer criticism of his superiors. He was another fascinating character I am glad I discovered. He may not be in the same class as Daniel Sickles in terms of being a "different" personality,, but is still another interesting individual, though not very well-known.

1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood
I found this book when looking for additional sources for my upcoming(January 8, 2015) talk on Abraham Lincoln, and I am fortunate to have found it. It offers a terrific account of what proved to be perhaps the most important year of the Civil War, and how Lincoln dealt with the many issues, including his re-election, that popped up throughout these 12 months. I found several new ideas and thoughts to incorporate into my talk, and a few details as well. It is a well-written, easy-to-read book about a crucial year.

Decided  on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and the Election of 1864 by David Alan Johnson
This is another book I found to help me understand the happenings of 1864 and it was another valuable reference. It focuses on the presidential election of 1864 and how battlefield events influenced the results of that voting. It is another well-written narrative and look at the last full calendar year of the war. This is another fine book.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Soldier's Offering

I recently posted an entry with a  poem called The Palmetto and the Pine from the introduction of an old book Under Both Flags.

In the same section of that book is another brief poem, A Soldier's Offering that I had overlooked but that I do think is worth posting since it continues the theme of reconciliation and seems to explain the title of the previous piece of verse I shared here. George M. Vickers is listed as the author of the following lines

The laurel wreath of glory,
That decks the soldier's grave,
Is but the finished story,
The record of the brave;
And he who dared the danger,
Who battled well and true,
To honor was no stranger,
Though garbed in gray or blue.

Go, strip your choicest bowers,
Where blossoms sweet abound,
Then scatter free your flowers,
Upon each moss-grown mound;
Though shaded by the North's tall pine
Or south's palmetto tree,
Let sprays that soldiers' graves entwine,
A soldier's tribute be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Perryville Commemoration Event October 4-5

The 152nd anniversary of the battle of Perryville is coming up soon and the state historic site will be having a commemoration for it this weekend. I probably will not be able to mpattend, though I hope that changes, but I encourage others to go.

Please see the following link for more information on the event. It s a beautiful park and imam sure it will be another well-run event

Perryville Battlefield

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Palmetto and the Pine

I just acquired an old book Under Both Flags  edited by C. R. Graham, published in 1896. It's title page describes it as an "unprejudiced representation of the issues that divided our country, as told in the personal recollections of those who participated in the campaigns, marches, sufferings, anecdotes, and instances of dauntless heroism which glorified send ennobled this gigantic struggle for the supremacy of the Union."

Of course, it does not note that such recollections rarely, if ever, are "unprejudiced" but that at least was the object of this oversized book or at least its editor. I have not looked through it all to judge its success at meeting that lofty  ambitionbut the book's introduction certainly claims a theme of reconciliation and togetherness as its goal.

Included in this section is a poem called The  Palmetto and the Pine which I am publishing below. It's pulse obviously matches what the book itself wished to accomplish and I thought it was worth reading.

While the months to years are fleeting like a river's ceaseless flow,
And the landmarks old grow dimmer in the distant long ago,
Let us glance once more behind us, where our battle days were seen, 
Where our blood, like holly berries, sprinkled thick the grassy green.

There, in rifle pit, on rampart, or upon the open field,
Come the visions of battalions that would rather die than yield - 
Come the stately forms of vessels with their crews of sailors brave,
Whose memorial crests of glory are the white caps of the wave.

Once these men were happy, peaceful, till that bloody war, and then -
When it ended they returned homeward from their dead to peace again.
Why the fought, why lost, who triumphed, who was wrong, or who was right,
Matters not ; there our brothers, and we're not afraid to fight.

'Neath the fairest flag that flutters under Heaven's azure dome
Dwell these warriors and their children in sweet Freedom's chosen home.
In his heart each holds a welcome for the soldier at his door,
And he never stops to question which the uniform he wore.

We were soldiers, only soldiers of the nation let us be.
Let us meet and greet as comrades though we fought with Grant or Lee;
Let us form a noble order with sweet Freedom for our shrine,
And for each enwreathe a token - the Palmetto and the Pine.

After these verses, the introduction continues: 

The sons and daughters of the North and South will always honor the gallantry of their American sires. No moral attainder should dim the path of a soldier's child; and it is to bind together fraternally the millions yet unborn that these truths be recognized and held aloft now.

In this spirit it is hoped that Tales of the Civil War as Told by the Veterans will be accepted and read, never forgetting that the proudest tribute we can pay to the memory of the brave men of both armies, is they were Americans.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Very old Veteran Bullies a Very Young Girl?

So much for a post a week, huh? Sorry about my absence last week. I do have a couple of posts I'm trying to perfect, or at least finish :), but here is another story I found in the newspaper about a Civil War veteran i his post-war life

Could this be considered an example of bullying from almost 100 years ago?

Cincinnati Enquirer May  2, 1920

Charles Williams, 98 years old, veteran of the Civil and Indian Wars, residing at 918 Front st, Dayton, Ky filed suit  in Campbell Circuit Court yesterday, against Dorothy Worthington, 9 years old, and her guardian James Worthington, to recover $2,000.

Plaintiff alleges that in 1905  Isabell Plunkett, a relative of the defendants, contracted with him that if he would move into her home and take general charge of her  property, she would devise it to him at her death. He says that in accordance with this agreement, he moved into her home in March 1905. He says that she died in August 19, 1919, whereupon, he says, he ascertained that she had left him only a life estate in the realty and had devised the remainder in fee to her grandniece, Dorothy Worthington, the infant defendant in the case.

H alleges that during his incumbency as caretaker he rendered service to Isabella Plinkett, did housework and nursing, so that there is now due him from the estate the sum of $2,000.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Exchanged Prisoners: a Youth's Companion article from 1865

This Youth's Companion article and illustration come from the January 5, 1865 edition of that newspaper.

No more touching scene has occurred during the war than that which was exhibited on the deck of the dispatch boat, when the first of our exchanged prisoners in the last exchange that was made, found themselves once more under the protection of the stars and stripes. A terrible record of suffering was written upon their livid faces, gaunt, skinny limbs and tattered clothes. No words can describe the exultation of these poor sufferers a their release. With shouting and cheering, in almost an ecstasy of happiness, they greeted the old flag, singing

"Rally round the flag, boys, 
From near and from far,
Down with the traitor, 
and up with the star!"

The condition of the released prisoners is thus described by a correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer: One poor fellow showed me his limbs. They were not larger toward the ankle than a man's thumb. It was touching as well as amusing to the bystanders to here their remarks as they came off the boat. One man, jumping up and stamping with this feet, uttered the exclamation as though it came from his very soul, "God bless the piece of land that I'm now on." Another: "Thank God I'm in His country once more." Others would utter like exclamations of joy and gratitude, such as, "O, what a blessed hour is this!" ; "Hurrah for the Union, I'm once more in it!"  "Fourteen months in Dixie, but never a day more!" An Irishman, as he walked off, said, "Sure this is the happiest day since iver I came to Ameriky." 

The information which these men give concerning their sufferings and the cruelty practiced toward them by the rebel authorities almost staggers belief. At Camp Sumter, which is the prisoner camp where they were confined at Andersonville, thirty odd thousand were held during the summer. Very few of these had any shelter from the rain or burning sun.

Their only resort was to dig holes in the ground, and at each end excavate or scoop out the earth from under, so as to afford a partial shelter. Here two would creep for a little relief. 

Their food we need not describe. It is the same old story which we hear from every one who has ever been subject to the tender mercies of the authorities in the South. Their rations were seldom, if ever cooked. Peas and corn meal, or corn meal with an occasional bit of bacon, and in very small portions, were the only articles furnished them.

The sufferings they endured can never be imagined. As I have gone around and sat by their beds in the different wards, and heard their statements of the conditions of the poor fellows who were at Camp Sumter, and at Andersonville, and Camp Lawton, at Millen, Ga., my very heart has ached, and I have had to leave that I might hear no more.

Illustration from the National Park Service