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Archive for the month “November, 2016”

Some Interesting Trivia Questions from Shelby Foote

After many years writing Trivia questions for The Civil War Roundtable of St Louis I turned over the responsibility. But I still read a lot and enjoy finding facts and incidents that amaze me. I have been reading Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy and his narrative style is great because it causes me to fill in the blanks. Here are a few questions that I recently uncovered and wanted to share.

74. Why did Commodore Andrew Foote have serious concerns about employing the Eads’ gunboats against Island No. 10 and New Madrid when he had no such concerns at Forts Henry and Donelson?
Foote knew that had the South captured one of the gunboats it would be able to defeat all the riverine forces of the Union on the upper Mississippi and threaten all the cities and towns on the river. When the gunboats’ engines were damaged or had their steering out of action on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers they floated back into Union controlled territory due to the direction of the current. However, in the decent of the Mississippi, similar damage to steering would risk putting them in Confederate hands as they would float down into Confederate territory. Due to the river stage and current flow the gunboats’ could not hold station under reverse power even with the help of anchors which would not be able to hold them back as they could not get purchase on the river’s slimy bottom. The armor of the vessels was oriented toward the bow with little or no protection to the aft sides or stern. The curves of the river required the slowing of the vessels in the bends and made the unarmored portions extremely vulnerable.

75. Why did Commodore Andrew Foote refuse to order his ironclad gunboats to go down river to assist General Pope in his attack on Island No. 10?
Foote refused to order his officers to undertake a mission he considered impossible and foolhardy. He was, however, willing to allow a volunteer to make the run past Island Ten. Commander Henry Walke and the USS Carondelet volunteered to make the attempt on a moonless night with special preparations made to his boat. Upon his successful run Foote allowed the USS Pittsburg to make the run two nights later. The two gunboats escorted Pope’s transports across the river and captured the fortified island and its garrison, guns and provisions without the loss of a single man in combat.

76. What Union general was fond of smoking a long-stemmed meerschaum pipe and changed his smoking habit and trimmed his beard, which reached his second coat button, when he received a fast promotion?
US Grant began smoking cigars because he received many boxes after Ft. Donelson and he decided to improve his command image by the shorter beard.

77. What Union general went into action at Shiloh with a crutch strapped to his saddle like a carbine?
US Grant’s leg was injured when his horse fell on him due to the very wet ground. When the battle broke out at Shiloh Grant went directly to Pittsburg Landing accompanied by the crutch.

78. Who was the Confederate general who gave the order to end the fighting at dark on the first day at Shiloh just as a major push against Grant’s force might have ended the battle with a Southern triumph?
PGT Beauregard gave the order from the rear Headquarters without knowing the immediate situation at Dill’s Branch.

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Ft Craig, New Mexico and The battle of Valverde

The Battle of Valverde Crossing south of Albuquerque was the site of the 1862 clash between the Union garrison of Ft Craig and Confederate forces of Gen HH Sibley. The action occurred because Sibley, moving north along the Rio Grande River, had planned to capture supplies from the Union garrisons and outposts along his northward march. He had visions of taking for the Confederacy the gold fields of Colorado and eventually cutting his way through to California.
He launched his campaign from El Paso, Texas and having achieved success in capturing several Union posts in the early going planned to take Ft. Craig. But seeing the recently improved the log and earthen fort he decided to by-pass it. He knew he did not have sufficient strength to assault the works and was further dissuaded by the numerous Quaker Guns and soldiers’ caps filled with rocks placed along the fort’s outer defenses.
When the commander of the fort, Col ERS Canby, decided to come out and fight at the Valverde site, Sibley realized that he had a good chance at success.
The fight took place on and at the base of Black Mesa, now known as El Mesa Contadero which was so named because it was the base of a volcanic cone which was covered with the black lava from the last eruption. The top of the vent is still clearly visible today as a small rise in the center of the mesa.
Ft Craig was sited at the junction of the Rio Grande and the old 1000-mile Camino Real used as a major trade route from Mexico City and Santa Fe. There is a ninety mile section of the route that transits the desert stretch referred to as the Jornada del Muerto, or “journey of death” because of the lack of watering sites and the attacks of marauding Apaches, who could watch for the travelers from mountain peaks and then ride down on the unprotected groups. Ft Craig was placed to protect the travelers and played an important role in the Apache Wars of the late 1800”s
The site of the Battle of Valverde is now on private land belonging to the 1810 land grant of Pedro Armendaris 33 Ranch now owned by Ted Turner. The 385,000 acre ranch now is home to Turner’s personal bison herd and other species that he is raising for various reasons.
Should you ever be traveling on I-25, south of Albuquerque, a visit to the fort only nine miles East of the highway is worth the time.

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