Letters to the Editor
Al Nofi’s Knapsack
by Al Nofi
Al Nofi’s Knapsack is a regular column in North & South that features vignettes and other reminiscences of the late War Between the States. In this issue, Al discusses topics ranging from the attempted destruction of the CSS Shenandoah in Melbourne, Australia near the end of the war, to a hidden national cemetery in Washington, D.C., to President Lincoln’s many “gifts” he received and used throughout the war.
Do You Know?
Thunder In The Ozarks: The Battle of Prairie Grove
by William L. Shea
Shea, the co-author of the best book out there on the Battle of Pea Ridge, here covers the Battle of Prairie Grove. Brigadier General John Schofield though the campaign season was finished in northwestern Arkansas in November 1862. He therefore pulled back the Missouri divisions of the Army of the Frontier to Springfield, Missouri, leaving only James Blunt’s Kansas Division in the area to keep an eye on Thomas C. Hindman’s Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Blunt, an aggressive commander, attacked Marmaduke’s Confederate Cavalry Division at Cane Hill on November 28, and stayed in the vicinity of Boonsboro after the fight. He was tempting Hindman to attack, and Hindman decided to do just that, heading north on December 1. Blunt telegraphed Herron to join him, but rather than retreating in Herron’s direction, the Union general decided to stay put at Cane Hill. In one of the great marches of the entire war, Heron marched his two divisions between 105 and 120 miles in only three and one half days (Dec. 3-Dec.7). Every bit of this speed was needed, because by the morning of December 7, 1862, Hindman had moved in between Blunt at Cane Hill and Herron at Fayetteville. Herron ran into Hindman’s solid position on a dominant ridge north of Prairie Grove Church that morning, and he decided to attack to attempt to save Blunt. These attacks in the early afternoon did not go well, however. As this was occurring, Blunt heard the sounds of battle to his northeast and took a roundabout route north to Rhea’s Mill and then east to the battlefield. Blunt added the weight of his forces to the assault, but darkness ended the battle in a hard fought, bloody draw. Hindman lost 1,500 men out of a total force of 11,000 while Blunt and Herron lost 1,250 men out of 9,000. Although the battle was a tactical draw, strategically it was a Northern victory. Hindman was forced to retreat, and his withdrawal meant that the flood of men and material to Grant’s Army of the Tennessee near Vicksburg would continue. If Hindman had won at Prairie Grove, St. Louis would have been threatened, and men would have been needed to defeat this threat.
Civil War Society News
Vikings of the South: The Confederate Privateer Fleet of 1861
by Mark Weitz
A poem by Edward C. Bruce written in the days before Gettysburg celebrated the “Sea-Kings” of the South, the Southern privateers of 1861. These “Vikings of the South”, led by the CSS Jeff Davis and the CSS Sumter, managed to take quite a few prizes. In addition, they put the legality of the Union blockade into doubt, called into question the status of the Confederacy as a possible nation, and instilled fear in the Northern populace and the nation’s ports. There were still shortcomings in 1861, however. Many nations, England, France, and Spain among them, refused to allow Confederate privateers to claim prizes in their ports. In addition, some Confederate captains were unwilling to sink enemy ships, even when it would have made sense militarily to do so. Confederate privateers faced the possibility of being tried as pirates in Northern courts if captured in the early days of the war, and some were. Eventually, however, privateer crews were treated as regular prisoners of war, and many were quietly exchanged in 1862. The Confederates had succeeded beyond their wildest expectations with the privateer experiment, and many of these early privateer captains such as Raphael Semmes would go on to even greater fame in the years to come.
Fateful Encounter: Jim Jackson and Elmer Ellsworth
by David Detzer
Elmer Ellsworth and James W. Jackson had a fateful meeting over a flag one May morning in 1861. David Detzer describes the backgrounds of each man, and the events that led to their deaths in a confrontation at Jackson’s hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth, a man who had come from extreme poverty, had through his own personal charm become a rising star. He had raised the 11th New York “Fire Zouaves” in late April, and he led these men across the Potomac River to Alexandria on the morning of May 24, 1861. His orders were to secure the telegraph office, cut the telegraph lines, and block the railroad tracks leading out of town. Ellsworth’s men landed around 5 in the morning, and he took a group of several men with him, including a newspaper reporter, to find the telegraph office. Once there, Ellsworth saw a large Confederate flag flying from the top of James Jackson’s hotel. Jackson, somewhat of a bully according to Detzer, had vowed to protect the flag with his life. Ellsworth marched to the top of the multiple story hotel and tore down the flag, intent on sending it back to New York as a prize. He never reached the ground floor alive. James Jackson had been awakened by a servant, and in a hand to hand fight with Zouave Corporal Francis E. Brownell, Jackson’s shotgun went off, hitting Ellsworth in the chest and killing him instantly. Brownell and Jackson then fired at each other, Brownell’s shot finding the mark and passing through Jackson’s eye. Brownell and Ellsworth became heroes for the North, Jackson a martyr to the South.
Civil War Round Tables
Jay’s Mill: The Opening Action at Chickamauga
by Larry J. Daniel
Larry Daniel, author of books on such subjects as Shiloh and the artillery of the Army of Tennessee, here covers the opening fight near Jay’s Mill on September 19, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga. Fighting began when Col. Dan McCook led two brigades of the Reserve Corps, his own and that of Colonel John Mitchell, southeast toward Reed’s Bridge on Chickamauga Creek. This touched off some severe fighting between two thirds of George Thomas’ XIV Corps on the Union side versus half of Forrest’s Cavalry and several brigades of Walker’s Reserve Corps for the Confederates. Eventually, around 9,300 Federals faced 7,500 Confederates in fierce fighting in the thick woods between the Reed’s Bridge Road and the Brotherton Road.
Grant’s Rise From Obscurity
by Carl R. Schenker, Jr.
The author uses two paintings, one from 1861 and the other from 1865, to show how Grant moved from thirty-second in seniority to the man who led the victorious Union war effort. The Courier & Ives print “The Champions of the Union” contains the likenesses (a misnomer in the case of Grant, whose picture was based on a photograph of another man) of 34 generals and naval officers. In this print, Grant is almost an afterthought, peeking over the head of Nathaniel Banks as one of the last three or four men represented. In fact, in an earlier version of the print, Grant and eight other men are not even present. After discussing Grant’s contributions to the Federal war effort, Schenker contrasts this print with the 1865 painting “Grant and his Generals” by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. The difference is obviously striking. Grant is front and center of course, as the title of the painting obviously suggests. He is surrounded by his leading generals. Interestingly, none of the six other men at the front of the photo (Kilpatrick, Sheridan, Meade, Sherman, Terry, and Schofield) were even present in the 1861 print. The author asserts that taking a look at the two prints “in this fashion exaggerates somewhat the degree of discontinuity between 1861 and 1865.” However, the author has shown that it does give the reader an idea of how difficult Lincoln’s task of sifting through generals was and could be. Interestingly, Henry Halleck was omitted from “Grant and his Generals”, even though he was still active as Chief of Staff at the end of the war.
Manufacturing A War: The Ames Company and Chicopee, Massachusetts
by Jacqueline T. Lynch
The author, a resident of Chicopee, Massachusetts, takes a look at the history of the town during the Civil War. No history of the town at that time can neglect prominently mentioning the Ames Manufacturing Company, one of the leading Federal suppliers of swords and also a supplier of other arms. Run by Nathan P. Ames and his brother James T. Ames before the war, the company was not adverse to supplying anyone with arms, whether they were free-soilers, slavers, or even Santa Ana! Nathan died a painful death after accidentally being poisoned during a dental procedure, and James was the sole proprietor at the outbreak of war in 1861. Abolitionist John Brown also called Chicopee his home briefly before the war before he left for Kansas. Several other citizens are briefly detailed as well. These include Charles H. Tracy, who won the Medal of Honor during his service with the 37th Massachusetts Infantry; Reverend Eli B. Clark of the First Congregational Church, who was instrumental in raising recruits for the Federal war effort; George Robinson, a future Governor of Massachusetts, and Melzar Mosman, who served in the 46th Massachusetts, a nine-month regiment, during the middle of the war.
Guns of the Keokuk
by Derek Smith
Derek Smith, the author of several books on the war, here takes a look at the loss of the USS Keokuk during the ill-fated April 7, 1863 bombardment of Ft. Sumter by Admiral F. Du Pont’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. After being pummeled by the Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor, the Keokuk managed to limp out of range, but the ironclad monitor sank on the morning of April 8 around 1,300 yards south of Confederate-held Morris Island. In an enterprising and ingenious salvaging operation, Adolphus LaCoste and his brother James managed to retrieve two massive Dahlgren smoothbores that were then used in the Charleston batteries. For Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, this was the last straw. He replaced Du Pont with Andrew H. Foote, but Foote died before taking over. Eventually John Dahlgren took over the position with mixed results. As for the Keokuk, she never was retrieved. The Federals had hoped to raise her in 1864, but the timber making up the framework of the boxing that was to lift the ship had been destroyed by worms, causing the Northerners to scrap the whole operation. One of the two Dahlgrens is still on display in Charleston Harbor at White Point Gardens.
Books reviewed in this issue:
1. “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar”: Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro by Mark A. Smith and Wade Sokolosky
2. A Revolution in Arms: A History of the First Repeating Rifles by Joseph G. Bilby
3. Whatever You Resolve to Be: Essays on Stonewall Jackson by A. Wilson Greene
4. Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography compiled by Marie Ellen Kelsey
5. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History by Margaret S. Creighton
6. My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Confronts Her Roots by Thulani Davis
7. Vicksburg’s Long Shadow: The Civil War Legacy of Race and Remembrance by Christopher Waldrep
8. Fort Pillow, A Civil War Massacre, and Public Memory by John Cimprich
9. The Thirty-Third New Jersey in the Civil War: The Mutinous Regiment by John G. Zinn
10. Tennessee’s Radical Army: The State Guard and Its Role in Reconstruction, 1867-1869 by Ben H. Severance