Civil War on the Block

by Fred Ray on November 4, 2018 · 0 comments

Cowan’s Auctions just completed a massive auction of Civil War items of all kinds. The catalog is fun to look through, even if you can’t afford to buy any of it. Three items I found particularly interesting were:

A letter from General Lee to Virginia Senator Andrew Hunter in January 1865 about the enlistment of Negro troops in the Confederate army.

we should employ them without delay. I believe that with proper regulation, they can be made efficient soldiers.” He outlines some regulatory measures for the use of African American troops, noting: “But it is certain that the best foundation upon which the fidelity of any army can rest. . . is the personal interest of the soldier in the issue of the contest. Such an interest we can give our negroes, by granting immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully. . .We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom, when they can secure it at once by going to the enemy.

A letter from Confederate private Warren Ward about the state of his unit, the 1st Georgia Sharpshooters, when he returned to duty in August 1864.

I found the Battalion of Sharpshooters to which I formerly belonged disbanded there was so few of them left that the command was ineffectuall [sic].

And finally a collection of watercolors by a Confederate prisoner, John Omenhausser, of conditions at Point Lookout POW camp.

Point Lookout POW Camp was established following the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and would grow to become the largest POW facility in the North. Confederate prisoners were held within a wooden walled pen and had only tents as their shelter. Like most Civil War prisons, conditions at the camp became increasingly deplorable as more and more prisoners filled its confines, far exceeding intended capacity. It is believed that because Omenhausser had relatives in the North, he had access to supplies including paper, brushes, and inks. The artwork he created with these supplies would ultimately ease the difficulty of his imprisonment as he used his creations to barter with other soldiers for much sought after items including money, tobacco, crackers, etc. In creating these depictions of camp life, Omenhausser meticulously documented not only the extreme hardship faced by the prisoners, but also encapsulated race relations, the prison economy, and everyday moments that characterized the citizen-soldier’s POW experience.

One of the things he documents is the daily humiliations that the Confederate soldiers had to endure at the hands of the African-American guards, which included things like riding them on their backs, kneeling to curse Jeff Davis, and much more.

 

 

{ 0 comments }


***

Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

President Trump has designated Camp Nelson in Kentucky as a national monument to honor the black volunteers who mustered there for service in the Union army. It also illustrates the limitations of the Emancipation Proclamation.

According to the National Park Service, Camp Nelson, which is located just outside Nicholasville, began as supply depot and hospital for the Union Army in 1863. When the ban on African-Americans serving in the Union Army was lifted in June 1864, recruits began to flood into Camp Nelson to join up. By December 6, 1865, 10,000 formerly enslaved African-Americans and freedmen had enlisted at the Camp.

But Kentucky was a complicated place during the Civil War, and Camp Nelson embodied the fraught politics of the border slave state, which neighbored three free states.

While Kentucky had hoped to remain “armed but neutral” during the conflict, when Confederate forces began to move into the state in 1861, the legislature sided with the Union, and federal troops moved in. But that didn’t change the lives of the enslaved. When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, freeing African-Americans in states in rebellion, it did not apply to Union states that allowed slavery, which meant that border states like Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri did not have to legally abolish the institution of slavery until the 13th Amendment became part of the Constitution in December of 1865.

That situation was reflected in Camp Nelson. While any African-American man accepted for military service there was automatically granted freedom, their family members who often accompanied them to the camp were not, and they were expected to leave the camp and return to enslavement. Many, however, stayed, turning the camp into a refugee site. In November 1864, those refugees, mainly women and children, were ordered out of the refugee cabins into freezing conditions. As a result, 100 of them died, creating a national outcry. Camp Nelson then reversed course, building a “Home for Colored Refugees” which opened in January 1865. That March, the U.S. Congress passed legislation granting freedom to the wives and children of U.S. Colored Troops. Though the Home was closed down in the summer of 1865 with the conclusion of the war, some refugees stuck around, creating the village of Ariel.

In somewhat related news in Oklahoma, descendants of black slaves who were removed there with their Creek masters in the Trail of Tears are suing for tribal membership. This is a hot button issue not only with the Creeks but with the Cherokee and Seminole as well.

In August 2018, Solomon-Simmons – the lead attorney representing six named plaintiffs, including his grandmother – filed a lawsuit against the Muscogee Creek nation and the interior department to fully restore the citizenship of black Creeks.

As a result, a minority group is suing another minority group for inclusion in the indigenous minority group – and to settle this peculiar case, one has to go back nearly 200 years.

During the Civil War the Cherokee supported the Confederacy (one, Stand Watie, remains the only Native American general officer in an American army), while the Creek split into two factions, one pro-Union and the other pro-Confederate.

The Cherokee lost a similar suit last year.

 

{ 0 comments }


***

Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Civil War Book Review: A Campaign of Giants: The Battle for Petersburg, Volume 1: From the Crossing of the James to the Crater by A. Wilson Greene

by Brett Schulte October 13, 2018

Greene, A. Wilson. A Campaign of Giants–The Battle for Petersburg, Volume 1: From the Crossing of the James to the Crater. (University of North Carolina Press: June 2018). 728 pages, 34 maps, notes, bibliography, index.  ISBN: 978-1-4696-3857-7. $45.00 (Cloth) With A Campaign of Giants–The Battle for Petersburg, Volume 1: From the Crossing of the James […]

Read the full article →

Desecrating The Dead

by Fred Ray October 9, 2018

The History Vandals are at it again. When all this started I predicted that it would not stop with the Confederate generals and it gives me no pleasure to be right. This time it’s a grave marker. The city council in Madison, Wisconsin, has voted to remove a marker with the names of Confederate prisoners […]

Read the full article →

Died Of A Broken Heart?

by Fred Ray October 6, 2018

It’s no uncommon in Civil War literature to see someone’s death ascribed to broken heart after losing or breaking up with a loved one, homesickness, or “melancholia.” There might have been more to it than we might think now. It’s not a heart attack, but so-called “broken heart syndrome” still puts patients at high risk […]

Read the full article →

Peninsula Campaign Animated Map

by Fred Ray September 26, 2018

Very nice animated map of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. If you’d like a short and concise campaign summary, check it out—it’s well done.

Read the full article →

Manassas Soldiers Laid to Rest

by Fred Ray September 19, 2018

Previously I mentioned that the remains of two unfortunate soldiers killed at Second Manassas had been found in a surgeon’s pit on the battlefield. I am happy to report that they have been decently interred at Arlington National Cemetery after all these years. The two Union soldiers buried Thursday at Arlington with full military honors […]

Read the full article →