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Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Answers to January Quiz St Louis CW Roundtable

St. Louis Civil War Roundtable

January 2014

1. What two notable roles did the river steamer J. C. Swon play in Missouri Civil War history?

The Swon delivered the crates of “Tamaroa Marble” to the Missouri Volunteer Militia at Camp Jackson from the Baton   Rouge Arsenal and it carried Lyon and his Federals, along with the steamer Iatan,  into the state to seize control of Jefferson City and on to The Battle of Lexington.

2.  What was the largest ironclad warship built by the Confederacy?

CSS Mississippi for the defense of New Orleans was burned on 25 April 1862 to avoid capture. She was to mount 18 guns and be powered by three engines by two boilers.  Three feet of armor at the bow and two on the sides would be her protection for the 260 ft length.

3.  What was the only warship in the Civil War captured by land forces?

The USS Isaac Smith was captured on the Stono River near Charleston on 30 January 1863.  She was caught in a cross fire by masked batteries losing 8 dead and 17 wounded and Captain C. H Davis surrendered the ship.  She served the Confederacy until June 1863 when she wrecked attempting to run the blockade near Ft. Moultrie with a load of cotton.  The is another Union ship the USS Columbine, a side-wheel tug that was captured by Confederate cavalry after the small Battle of Horse Landing Florida on 22 May 1864.  Acting Ensign Frank Sanborn surrendered the tug but it was burned by the Confederates to prevent recapture.

4.  On 9 January 1861 what ship was fired upon by the Citadel Cadets on MorrisIsland as it entered CharlestonHarbor in a vain attempt to re-supply Ft.Sumter?

The unarmed steamship Star of the West.  In April 1861 she was captured by Gen Earl Van Dorn near Galveston.  Her name was changed to CSS St Philip and she served as a hospital ship and naval station until Farragut captured New   Orleans.  She sailed up river transporting bullion and currency to Vicksburg.  She was used as a blocking battery near ft Pemberton on the Yazoo River and was sunk.  Her owners collected $175,000 in damages from the US after the war.

5.  Captain Raphael Semmes was reported as saying that in the CSS Alabama he feared being overtaken by only two Union ships?  What were they?

USS Vanderbilt and the USS Niagra.  Niagra had the speed of a clipper ship and the armament of a frigate.  Vanderbilt was built to be fast as a transatlantic passenger and mail steamer and was donated to the US Navy by Cornelius Vanderbuilt.  He served as her captain.

6.  What was the first iron-hulled US warship and where was her area of operation?

USS Michigan and she sailed the Great Lakes out of Erie,Pennsylvania. Launched in December 1843 she was an objective of a Confederate plot to launch attacks on the US from Canada led by Lt. Willam Henry Murdaugh, CSN in 1863.

7.  The USRC Harriet Lane was transferred to the US Navy with a glorious history and was eventually captured by the Confederates at Galveston, TX.  For who was the ship named?

The niece of Senator, later President James Buchanan, who served as his First Lady since he was a bachelor. The ship is credited with firing the first naval cannon shot of the Civil War on 11 April 1861 off Charleston and was captured by Confederates off Galveston on 1 January 1863.

8.  What was the name of the US Navy steam frigate that captured Mssrs. Mason and Slidell, Confederate emissaries to England aboard the Trent on 8 November 1861?

The USS San Jacinto, named for the San Jacinto River, site of the famous Texas Revolution battle.

9.  What US warships were sunk by the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads?

The USS Cumberland and the USS Congress.  The USS Minnesota was damaged and run aground.

10. What was the name of the ironclad warship built by James Eads that became the flagship on the Mississippi River Squadron throughout the Civil War, sometimes known as the Western Gunboat Flotilla?

USS Benton was not so much built as converted from being a snagboat into a warship. By the end of the war it was one of the heaviest armed vessels on the Mississippi River. The Benton remained the squadron flag ship because of its size and firepower throughout the Civil War.  Six commanders relied on her as their flag ship:John Rodgers, Andrew Foote, Charles H Davis, David D. Porter, Alexander H. Pennock and Samuel E Lee.  The squadron was discontinued 14 August 1865. 

Copyright© 2014 John A. Nischwitz


General Braxton Bragg

Braxton Bragg is not one of my heros.  It is interesting, however, how often he appears at critical points in the conduct of the Civil War.  He was at both the first and last Confederate Cabinet meetings.  He fell heir to the command of the Southern forces at Shiloh because of the untimely death of AS Johnston and the location of Gen Beauregard way back at headquarters when the battle needed some hands on command leadership.  He was winning the battle of Perryville when he decided to withdraw.  What if he had chosen to stay?  He had a sound plan for defeating Gen. Rosecrans at Chickamauga but for a number of reasons, all of which were not his fault, the Confederates won but allowed “Old Rosey” to escape.  He had Thomas bottled up at Chattanooga but could not figure out how to seal the deal.

Yes, we all know about his prickly command style but what results could he have achieved with good team players?

Now the coup d’grace.  I recently was reading an article about Peryville in the Civil War Times and I read the words “only Confederate multi- army offensive of the war” and I got to thinking.  Right on!!  All of the other Confederate offensives were made by solitary armies:  Lee at Antietam and Gettysburg, Early in Maryland (1864, Price in Missouri (1864) and Hood at Franklin and Nashville.  Wow!!  Could it be true?  Well yes it is and it involved the longest strategic rail movement of troops and a long relocation of cavalry and artillery from Tupalo, Missisippi to Chattanooga; 30000 troops over 776 miles in two weeks using six rail lines.  Bragg was a great organizer. 

It is well known that Bragg received preferential treatment from President Jefferson Davis due to Bragg’s  artillery battery’s support of Davis’ Mississippi Rifle Regiment in Mexico.  His loyalty was remarkable but he may have seen in Braxton Bragg a remarkable man who was almost always close to victory.  

January Roundtable Quiz

St. Louis Civil War Roundtable – Ships

January 2014 

1.  What two notable roles did the river steamer J. C. Swon play in Missouri Civil War history?

2.  What was the largest ironclad warship built by the Confederacy?

3.   What was the only warship in the Civil War captured by land forces?

4.   On 9 July 1861 what ship was fired upon by the Citadel Cadets on    MorrisIsland as it entered  Charleston Harbor in a  vain attempt to re-supply Ft.Sumter?

5.  Captain Raphael Semmes was reported as saying that in the CSS Alabama he feared being overtaken by only two Union navy ships.  What were they?

6.  What was the first iron-hulled US warship and where was her area of operation?

 7.  The USRC Harriet Lane was transferred to the US Navy with a glorious history and eventually captured by the Confederates at Galveston, TX.  For who was the ship named?

 8.  What was the name of the US Navy steam frigate that captured Mssrs. Mason and Slidell, Confederate emissaries to England aboard the steamer Trent on 8 November 1861?

 9.  What US warships were sunk by the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads?

 10. What was the name of the ironclad warship built by James Eads that became Commodore William D. Porter’s flagship on the Mississippi River? 

Copyright© 2013 John A. Nischwitz

General John Fulton Reynolds, A special Kind of Hero

John F. Reynolds was born in Pennsylvania .  He had two brothers with Civil War roles.  Captain William Reynolds served the nave and after the war rose to the rank of Rear Admiral.  His brother James Lefevre Reynolds served Pennsylvania governor Curtin as Quartermaster-General of Pennsylvania.

John Reynolds was appointed to West Point by Senator James Buchanan and he graduated in 1840 in the middle of the class.  He was commissioned artillery into the 3rd US Artillery Regiment.  He served in the 3rd Seminole War and in Mexico.  He was brevetted captain for gallantry at Monterey and major for his actions at Buena Vista.  His battery commander, Captain Braxton Bragg at Buena Vista and fellow lieutenant George H Thomas supported the 1st Mississippi Rifle Regiment of Col. Jefferson C. Davis.  Davis never forgot the actions of Battery C and his loyalty to Bragg during the Civil War is legend. 

John Reynolds was well regarded by the officer corps and he was considered for the command of the Army of the Potomac when Lincoln became disinchanted with Gen Hooker.  Reynolds was not offered  the opportunity with strings and so he refused the command.  President Lincoln was leary of commanders with political aspirations particularly before his second term.

Reynolds pushed his I Corps to Gettysburg to aid the horsemen of Gen John Buford and deserves credit for establishing the advantageous position the Union force obtained.  He was killed by a sniper on the first day.  The army was keenly sorrowful for the loss of this up front leader.  His command passed to Abner Doubleday.

John Reynolds was secretely engage to Miss Katherine “Kate” May Hewett, a Catholic.  They had met on a boat returning from California.  She had promised that if anything happened to him she would enter a convent.  Eight days after his death Kate applied to the Sisters of Charity Convent in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  She became Sister Hildegardis and taught school in Albany, New York.  Without explanation on September 3. 1868 she left the order.  She never remarried and died in 1895.

General Alexander Stewart Webb-MOH 1891 for Gettysburg

General Webb caught my attention becauseof a wound he suffered at the Wilderness in 1864.  But this rather unknown hero has a remarkable history that I wanted to record for my own recollection.

Webb graduated from West Point in 1855 and was commissioned in the Artillery due to his high class standing (13/34).  He sewrved in the Third Seminole War in Florida.  He was then posted to West Point as a mathamatics instructor (some of my favorite people).

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Webb took part in the defense of Fort Pickens, Florida with Lt Slemmer and was at the First Battle of Bull Run. He was aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. William F. Barry, the chief of artillery of the Army of the Potomac, from July 1861 to April 1862. During the Campaign on the Peninsula, he received recognition for his assembling an impregnable line of artillery defense during the Battle of Malvern Hill.  Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield wrote that Webb saved the Union Army from destruction which was quite a compliment at the time.

Webb as promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and found himself in a serious of staff assignments including Chief of Staff for Porter’s V Corps.  He was give temporary command of a brigade at Chancellorsville and performed so well he was cited in General Meade’s report.  On 23 June 1863 he received his first star.Three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, Brigadier John Gibbon arrested the Philadelphia (a.k.a. California) Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Joshua T. Owen, and Webb was given command of the brigade (the 2nd Brigade, Gibbon’s 2nd Division, Hancock’s II Corps). Initially, the brigade resented having the meticulously groomed and well-dressed Webb as their commanding officer, but he soon earned their respect through his attention to detail, his affability, and his discipline. 

 His brigade was posted on Cemetery Ridge with the rest of the II Corps on the morning of 2 July 1863. The brigade repulsed the assault of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright’s brigade of Georgians as it came over the ridge  in the  late afternoon, chasing the attackers  back as far as the Emmitsburg Road, where they captured about 300 men and reclaimed a Union battery. Soon after, Webb sent two regiments to assist in counterattacking the assault of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s division on Cemetery Hill.

The following day it was Webb’s fortune to be stationed in front of the “copse of trees” and take the brunt of Armistead’s assault as part of Pickett’s Charge.  He was wounded in the thigh and groin by a minie ball but kept with his command until the tide was turned back.  It was for this action and that of the previous day that he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

At Spotsylvania Court House he took a bullet in the corner of his right eye that exited his right ear.  He returned to duty in January as Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac and served until June 1865. He stayed in the Army until 1870 when he was appointed as the second President of City College of New York from 1869 to 1902.

Another officer who did his duty faithfully that is not very well known.  Salute!!


A Unknown General to Me-How Did I Miss Hearing His Name??

Did you ever hear of General Kenner Garrard?  I discovered this vacuum in my knowledge while researching the 2nd US Cavalry which to get what I wanted had to be searched as the %th US Cavalry.  Go figure, right?  But that is how our information base expands.

Kenner Garrard was born 30 September 1827 in Bourbon County, Kentucky. His grandfather, James Garrard,  was the second Governor of Kentucky.  He was the brother of fellow future Civil War generals Jeptha Garrard and Israel Garrard.   A first cousin, Theophilus T. Garrard, also became a Union general. He attended Harvard for a little over a year, then transferred to West Point graduating 8th in the class of 1851. He initially was assigned to the artillery but transferred to the cavalry. He had been a first lieutenant in the 2nd US Cavalry since 3 March 1855, was adjutant to AS Johnston and RE Lee, and was promoted to captain on 27 February 1861. He was serving on the frontier in Texas when the secession crisis resulted in civil war.

When Texas seceded Garrard was taken prisoner by southern sympathizers in San Antonio in April 1861. Some sources put the date of capture as 23 April 1861. Although immediately paroled Garrard could not actively campaign until exchanged. He spent the time before his 27 August 1862 exchange in the Commissary General’s office and at West Point. When he was released he brought with him $20,000 of Federal funds he had secreted from Texas, returning the money to the U.S. Treasury. He was a cavalry instructor and the Commandant of Cadets at the Military Academy. from 1861-1862.

Once properly exchanged Garrard was made colonel of the 146th New York Infantry on 23 September 1862 and commanded the regiment at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He succeeded to command of the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division V Corps upon the death of brigade commander, Stephen H. Weed, killed defending Little Round Top at Gettysburg on July 2 . Garrard was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 23 July 1863 and commanded the brigade during the Rappahannock and Mine Run campaigns.  

Following a brief stint as Chief of the Cavalry Bureau in Washington DC in December 1863 and January 1864, Garrard was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland in command of the 2nd Cavalry Division. He commanded the division during the Atlanta campaign. He next was assigned to command the 2nd Division in the XVI Corps which saw action at Nashville for which he was brevetted major general of volunteers on 15 December 1864 and during the assault on Mobile Bay. Garrard was also brevetted both brigadier general and major general in the regular army on 13 March 1865. He was instrumental in the capture of Montgomery, Alabama 12 April 1865 as part ofGen.  James H. Wilson’s Cavalry force and at the end of the war he served as military commander of Mobile.

He resigned from the US Army on 9 November 1866. He settled in Cincinnati, Ohio and made a living in the real estate business. Garrard died 15 May 1879 in Cincinnati. He devoted his later life to civic affairs and historical studies. He served as Director of the Cincinnati Music Festival for several years. He never married.

The above with few additions came from  I just moved it pretty much as is because I thought it was very comprehensive.

The Forgotten Union General

In my last post I wrote about Lanning’s Civil War 100.  I was pleased that in his number 11 spot was a Union General that was consistantly successful. He had a twenty year prewar career that included service service in Mexico and against the Seminoles in Florida.  In Mexico as a lieutenant with Lt. John F. Reynolds both serving under Battery Commander Braxton Bragg  in E Battery 3rd US Artillery they supported the 155th Infantry Regiment (Mississippi Rifles) under Col.  Jefferson Davis at Palo Alto.   He was promoted to major based on a recomendation of his old commander Braxton Bragg in 1855.  He served as a cavalry instructor at West Point based on another letter from Bragg and became friends with the Superintendant, Col. Robert E. Lee. 

When Secretary of  War Jefferson Davis organized the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas with Col. Albert Sydney Johnston as commander, he was posted there as a staff officer and spent a considerable amount of time serving on courts-martial boards with the deputy commander, his old friend from West Point, Col. Robert E. Lee.  The 2nd Cav. was stacked with officers of great potential by Davis including  Earl VanDorn, William J. Hardee, George Stoneman, E. Kirby Smith, Fitzhugh Lee, Nathan G. Evans, Kenner Garrard. 

He suffered a serious jaw wound from an Comanche arrow and spent one year on recuperative leave.  In 1861 he took command of the 2nd Cav and moved them to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania where they were redisignated the 5th Cavalry.

In the Civil War he led a brigade at First Bull Run.  He commanded the first major land victory for the Union at Mill Springs, Kentucky.  His commands performed well at Shiloh, Murfreesboro and Atlanta.  His heroic performance at Chickamauga earned him the sobriquet “Rock O Chickamauga” as he doggedly covered the withdrawl of the defeated Union Army.  His army drove Bragg off Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga.  He commanded the Army at Nashville that decisively defeated John B. Hood. 

Yet he was not completely trusted by Gen Grant and others because of his Virginia origins and his thoroughness in preparation for battle.  His family never talked to him again after he chose to stay loyal to the Union and when the end of war parades were held in Washington he was not invited to stand on the reviewing stand.  The only Army commander so treated.

So is the story of George Henry “old Pap” Thomas, certainly one of the best generals of the Civil War.  

Michael Lanning’s Book-The Civil War 100

I recently saw Lanning’s book on the bookshelf of my local library and decided to give it a “look see”.  Well it is full of surprises and clues to interesting trivia, and you know with Civil War trivia I’m like Garfield on lasagna.  Anyway, the book has an interesting strategy.  The author listed the top 100 most influential battles, people and events in rank order.  He explains at the end of each item why this person or event ranks as he did. 

I eagerly opened the book to see what he ranked first and was surprised to find his choice agreed with what I would have chosen-The Battle of Antietam.  His synopsis and conclusion support his ranking and I was impressed.  His top ten included after Antietam, Abraham Lincoln, US Grant, Gettysburg, RE Lee, William T. Sherman, Vicksburg, Phil Sheridan, Jefferson Davis and First Bull Run.  Wow!!  You can argue the merits if the placing of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, I guess, but he has the rest nicely documented.

His inclusion of George Thomas (11), Farragut (14), Battle of Franklin (15), Nathan Bedford Forrest (21) indicates he looks at the entire war, which I find refreshing.  He rates Pea Ridge above Petersburg and that is greatly appreciated by those of us who deplore the fact that the Trans-Mississippi Department is largely overlooked and considered by many as if they did not matter at all.

A negative of the book is the not infrequent misspelling of common names and other errors that are almost inexcusable.  Sherman is buried in Calvary Cemetery not Cavalry!!  President Buchanan’s first name is James not Andrew.  Franklin, Tennessee is on the Harpeth River not the Halpeth.  But aside from these the book is a treat to read.  In this one volume, Michael Lanning summarizes the guts and character of the war. 

I recommend this book to novices as well as enthusiasts.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center-Cincinnati, Ohio

On a weeklong visit to Cincinnati just before Christmas we had the pleasure of discovering the Freedom Center.  It is a magnificant and imposing structure located between the football and baseball stadiums along the Ohio River which during the era of the “Infernal Institution” of slavery was called by the enslaved as the River Jordan in remembrance of the biblical reference as the border of salvation. 

The Center is a tribute to the desire and sacrifice of all men for personal freedom.  It tells the parallel stories, in one theater, of Solomon Northrup of Twelve Years A Slave movie fame and a very recent man from Thailand who was sold into modern day slavery until rescued.  The desire to be free to somehow govern ones own personal destiny is the core message of the Center.

Although we spent the better part of a day at the Center, I still was not able to read and absorb all the spectacular historical displays.  I am so pumped about this memorial and surprised that I was not aware of its existance considering how broad my knowledge of the Civil War and its causes. 

I had an impromptu opportuntunity to chat all to briefly with Mr. Carl B. Westmoreland, the Senior Historian at the Center, who is a delightful man and clearly dedicated to telling this important story.  He is a decendent of Westmoreland Virginia slaves and is rightfully proud of his heritage.  Now on the surface many would say that a slave herritage is not something to be celebrated, but, I have come to the same conclusion as Mr Westmoreland that it truly is.  Shamefully these people were badly, nay horribly treated in the basic sense that they were considered chattel, mere positions to be used up just as a tool or farm animal.  But isn’t it time for them as well as all of us caucasians to celebrate there contributions to this great nation.  The United States would not be what it is today had these enslaved not labored on our roads, canals, structures and agricultural institutions.  We rarely hear any thought as to the great results they achieved in building railroads, roads, bridges etc by the force of their muscles and little else.  We owe a debt to the enslaved and they should be justifiably proud of the accomplishments of there forebearers.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Freedom Center it is a well deserved investiment that will pay dividends.  

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