Turning Points: Confederate Conscription Woes by Jeffry D. Wert
The Confederacy turned to conscription in early 1862 in order to maintain a large enough army to continue the fight. Many Confederate politicians were opposed to this suppression of States’ Rights, one of the reasons they had seceded in the first place. Necessity is the mother of invention, however, and the Confederates would not even be in the position to argue about States’ Rights without winning the war. This required a large army, which in turn was only possible through the conscription which States’ Rights advocates despised. For this reason, conscription went into effect on April 16, 1862, and required all able bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 to be eligible for three years’ service. Some professions were exempted and a substitution system was also put in place. Resentment over the loss of States’ Rights led some Governors such as Georgia’s Joe Brown and North Carolina’s Zebulon Vance to find ways to circumvent the draft. The Union followed in the Confederacy’s footsteps by instituting the draft in March 1863.
Gallery: A Brave Tarheel submitted by Berkeley Jones
John Campbell Van Hook, (Lt.) Colonel in the 50th North Carolina, is the subject of this issue’s “Gallery”. Hook was born on July 10, 1831 and grew up in North Carolina as a farmer. He was placed in charge of Co. A, 50th North Carolina in April 1862 and eventually rose to command the regiment. The 50th North Carolina was stationed around Richmond and later in North Carolina for the better part of 1862 and 1863. Transferred to the west in 1864, Van Hook and the 50th fought against Sherman’s Yankee hordes around Atlanta. By 1865, they were back in their home state, still trying to stop Sherman’s advance. Hook, who was a Mason, lived a long life after the war.
My War: Nancy Hill–Civil War Nurse, Pioneering Doctor by Edward E. Deckert and Constance R. Cherba
Nancy Hill was one of the first female doctors in the United States. Her family had a rich heritage, with all four great-grandfathers having fought at Lexington and Bunker Hill during the Revolution. Her great-grandmother served as a nurse during that conflict. Nancy herself became a nurse at Armory Square, a large hospital located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in early 1863. She served faithfully through September of 1865, and so impressed a doctor there that he encouraged her to become a doctor herself. She did, receiving a medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1874. Hill lived a long life, serving as a doctor in Iowa and opening a home for young unmarried mothers, which eventually evolved into Hillcrest Family Services, which serves the state of Iowa today with over 20 different health care programs.
Behind the Lines: Letter From Civil War Times
The Drive For War
The discussion for this issue involves the motivations of men who joined the fighting, including examples from the pages of this month’s magazine.
The Green and the Blue by Richard F. Welch
I read this article shortly after finishing William L. Burton’s Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union’s Ethnic Regiments, which covers not only the Irish but also other nationalities such as the Germans, Scandinavians, Scottish, Italians, and English. Richard Welch concentrates solely on the Irish experience in the Union armies in this article. In the 1840s and 1850s, the newly arrived Irish Catholic immigrants faced prejudice from native Americans, especially those in the short lived Know-Nothing party. Many Irish became affiliated to the Democratic party due to its mostly anti-Abolitionist stance and the way the Democrats welcomed and encouraged the Irish to join. The Irish did not like the idea of freed slaves possibly taking their jobs at lower wages. Despite this fear of abolition, many Irishmen fought for the Union, both in ethnic Irish regiments and in other non ethnic units. Some of the leading Irish personalities of the time, including Michael Corcoran, Thomas Francis Meagher, and James Mulligan raised Irish units. Corcoran raised and led the 69th New York at First Bull Run, but he was captured at that battle. During his captivity, Meagher managed to raise the famous Irish Brigade, originally consisting of the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Regiments, but eventually including the 28th Massachusetts and 116th Pennsylvania. These men fought bravely and lost heavily, especially at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. After Corcoran was released, he managed to raise four more New York Irish regiments, variously referred to as the Corcoran Legion, Irish Legion, or Second Irish Brigade. Both units fought on through the brutal campaigns of 1864. Welch writes that Irish enthusiasm for the war fell markedly after the Emancipation Proclamation, and was injured even more after the large losses in Irish units and the New York City draft riots. He also explores the typical Irish stereotypes such as fondness for fighting and drink.
Hell On The Mississippi: The Confederate Defense of Forts Jackson and St. Philip by Alan G. Gauthreaux
Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, located about 75 miles below New Orleans, were the last defenses of the city. If the Union navy broke through here, New Orleans was doomed. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, both forts were in dismal shape and prone to flooding. Brig. Gen. Johnson K. Duncan was placed in charge of the forts, and Captain John N. Mitchell commanded the small Confederate river fleet. The Union placed great emphasis on taking New Orleans, and they assigned Flag Officer David G. Farragut to command the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. He would lead the attack on New Orleans. After several days of bombardment, Farragut led his squadron against the forts in the early morning hours of April 24, 1862. Despite some losses, the Federals were able to defeat the Confederate river fleet and successfully bypass the forts. Duncan and his men held out four a few more days, but they were finally forced to surrender on april 28 when they discovered that New Orleans had surrendered.
Like A Fire With Heat But No Light: William C. Oates and the Perils of Command by Glenn W. LaFantasie
Colonel William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama is best known for his charge against Little Round Top and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s 20th Maine on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg. Glenn LaFantasie looks at his post Gettysburg experiences in 1863, concluding that Oates was deeply affected by his brother John’s death at that battle. Oates, known as a brawler as a young man, reverted to this same tendency in battle at Chickamauga, says the author. The 15th Alabama was accused of firing into the backs of the 19th Alabama on the first day, and Oates tried to take charge of some of the South Carolina regiments of Joseph Kershaw’s Brigade on the second day. He was too impetuous and imprudent according to LaFantasie, traits that came doubly to the forefront due to his trouble in dealing with his brother’s loss. In addition, Oates had to deal with a meddling Major, Alexander Lowther, who claimed that he and not Oates should be in command of the regiment. This despite the fact that Oates had successfully led the regiment into quite a few fights while Lowther was absent from the regiment for lengthy periods of time. Oates struggled with Lowther’s ambitions even though Oates was known and liked by several of his superior commanders.
Fire And Ashes In The Valley by L. VanLoan Naisawald
L. Van Naisawald writes am article severely criticizing General David Hunter for his treatment of civilians during his march up the Shenandoah Valley in late spring of 1864. Hunter faced almost no opposition after he won the Battle of Piedmont, and he took advantage of this. Hunter, an abolitionist with strongly held convictions on that subject, took out his feelings on the citizens of the Valley. Homes of citizens were burned, most of which had little or no military value. The common soldiers routinely foraged liberally along the march route. Hunter routinely burned the homes of prominent Confederates, in many cases leaving women and children to fend for themselves in the street. Hunter’s worst actions seemed to occur in Lexington, the home of VMI and Washington College. Both institutions suffered at the hands of the Federals, with many books and other educational items looted or burned. This path of destruction continued to Lynchburg, where Hunter was confronted by Early’s veteran Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Rather than fight a foe he outnumbered, Hunter turned tail and fled into the mountains of West Virginia, where the pattern of destruction apparently continued. Naisawald examines Hunter’s subordinates, many of whom deplored his actions and attempted to have some of his orders carried out only halfheartedly. His cousin and brother-in-law Colonel David Strother served as Hunter’s Chief of Staff. Strother kept a detailed diary during the war, and he was embarrassed and ashamed of much of Hunter’s behavior. In the end, says Naisawald, Hunter’s lack of military competence and his subordinates’ lack of aggressiveness combined to achieve very little other than to infuriate the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley for generations.
In Their Footsteps: Mobile by Jay Wertz
Jay Wertz leads readers in a look at the prominent Civil War sites around Mobile, Alabama. Places of interest include Fort Blakely, Spanish Fort, Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, the USS Alabama memorial, Christ Episcopal Church, and the town of Citronelle, where Richard Taylor surrendered all remaining Confederate land forces east of the Mississippi.
Civil War Times Album of the Late War
This issue’s Civil War Times Album of the Late War features a few paragraphs on Birkett Davenport Fry, displays an eagle drum from the 69th New York of Irish Brigade fame, talks about the sprigs of boxwood worn by those same Irish in their brave but futile charge against the Stone Wall at Fredericksburg, and a letter written by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to his mother.
Reviews: Books and Other Media
Books reviewed in this issue:
1. The Confederate Battle Flag by John M. Coski
2. Commanding the Army of the Potomac by Stephen R. Taaffe
1. Irish Green & Union Blue: The Civil War Letters of Peter Welsh edited by Lawrence Frederick Kohl and Margaret Cosse Richard
Frozen Moment: Holding The Lines
This month’s picture shows a steaming locomotive belching smoke from an oversized smoke stack. The picture is accompanied by a paragraph explaining the importance of railroads, a relatively new invention, in the war.
Leave a Reply