Shot Pouch’s Eighth Shot

whtwalkerTo say that Major General William Henry Talbot “Shot Pouch” Walker was a difficult man is an understatement. Known for his quarrelsome personality, he was a West Point classmate of Braxton Bragg and Joe Hooker and had demonstrated personal bravery on many fields and in many wars. His nickname of “Shot Pouch” came from being shot so many times in the Second Seminole War and the War with Mexico (he was wounded in the battle of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, five times alone). After Mexico, he spent time recruiting and then as commandant of cadets at West Point before becoming one of the first United States officers to resign his commission during the Secession crisis, doing so on December 20th, 1860, to offer his services to his native state, Georgia.

Walker took a commission as a colonel in the Georgia Militia and, shortly thereafter, was made a major general for the state. He soon transferred to Confederate service with the rank of colonel and then brigadier general, only to resign seven days later in disgust over lack of significant assignments. Walker returned back to state service as a general. Continue reading

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The Death of Francis Marion Walker

FMWalker

Col. Francis Marion Walker

It seemed that the slow bleeding of the Confederate officer corps reached its zenith on July 22. Throughout the campaign, in the nearly continuous fighting from Dalton to the Gate City, the Army of Tennessee was slowly losing its best and brightest. Now as Hood launched the battle for the city, the losses continued to mount at an even faster rate.

As Frank Cheatham’s Tennessee Division rolled over the open space toward the works of the veterans of MacPherson’s Army of the Tennessee, Col. Francis Marion Walker was in the forefront urging his men forward, “his good sword swept in glittering circles above his head.” Walker was on the verge of being promoted to general; indeed, he had commanded Gen. George Maney’s Brigade at the Dead Angle fight at Kennesaw. However, he was now back with his regiment. Continue reading

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“I want the American flag!”—Manning Force and the Battle of Atlanta

Conclusion of a two-part series

After their hard fight the previous day, the men of Manning Force’s brigade still had a lot of work to do when they awoke on Friday, July 22. They had slept amongst the casualties from the day before and there had only been a few scattered thunderstorms to breakup the intense heat that also took effect on the fight’s corpses.

As the soldiers stirred, they returned to unfinished business. Yesterday the men had started to reverse the Confederate trenches that had been manned by Patrick Cleburne. Now, in the early morning hours, Illinoisans and Wisconsinites returned to that work. Using the available shovels, the soldiers also used their bayonets, plates, and hands to dig trenches and ditches that faced towards Atlanta. By the time they were finished, they would be able to stand in their own works and fire towards Atlanta, but still have the rebels’ old works to their rear. Though no one knew it at the time, that fact would become crucial for the battle of Bald Hill in just a few hours. Continue reading

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Death of an Army Commander

Brady-GeneralMcPherson

150 years ago today at 11 AM, the U.S. Army lost its first-ever Army Commander to die at the head of his troops, Major General James B. McPherson of the Army of the Tennessee.

General McPherson grew up in Ohio and graduated first in the Class of 1853 at West Point. Classmates included John M. Schofield and John Bell Hood, one a fellow army commander under Sherman and the other commanding the army opposite. After supervising the construction of Fort Delaware and Alcatraz Island, he quickly rose from a staff position to become one of U.S. Grant’s most trusted subordinates. By early 1864, he was Sherman’s choice to take over the Army of the Tennessee. Continue reading

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“Did great honor to themselves and the cause for which they fought”—Manning Force and the fight for Bald Hill

Bald Hill from the southeast; Manning Force’s brigade would have looked up this hill on the morning of July 21. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 24, 1929.

Bald Hill from the southeast; Manning Force’s brigade would have looked up this hill on the morning of July 21. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 24, 1929.

Part one of a two-part series

Resaca, Pickett’s Mill, Kolb’s Farm, Dallas, Kennesaw Mountain—a road of bloody encounters that all led to here. Numerous battles that paved the way to the Gateway to the South: Atlanta.

With its convergence of railroads in the center of the city, Atlanta was vital to both Federal and Confederate leadership, and through two months of campaigning the armies had battled and maneuvered to the city’s doorstep.

William T. Sherman eyed the railroads that all converged at Atlanta—if he could capture the train stations, he would cleave the Deep South into nearly irreparable pieces. His counter-part, the newly promoted John Bell Hood, looked to defend the city and together the two armies maneuvered to Atlanta’s doorstep. Continue reading

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Deconstructing Reconstruction

The table below summarizes Federal Tax revenues and spending for twenty years following the Civil War. For clarity, the total period is separated into four discrete five-year intervals. As may be observed, more than half of Federal tax revenues were applied to three items: (1) Federal debt interest, (2) budget surpluses, and (3) veterans benefits. Although compelled to pay their share of taxes to fund them, Southerners derived no benefit from the allocations. They essentially represented a form of reparations for being on the losing side. Nor were they the only form.

CW JPGTax

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Battle of Rutherford’s Farm, Carters Farm or Stephenson’s Depot

Map depicting the Battle of Rutherford's Farm drawn by Jedediah Hotchkiss, L.O.C.

Map depicting the Battle of Rutherford’s Farm drawn by Jedediah Hotchkiss, L.O.C.

Today we welcome back guest author Kyle Rothemich.

Following his victory at Cool Spring on July 18th, Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early started to withdraw deeper into the Shenandoah Valley. On July 19th he sent Confederate Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur and his division west to Winchester. Early feared Union forces would arrive from the north via Martinsburg, West Virginia. Early told Ramseur explicitly not to bring on an attack; and to occupy the fortifications around Winchester.Accompanied by cavalry under Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn, Ramseur, marched west arriving in Winchester that evening.

On the morning of July 20th, Ramseur and his command found themselves two miles north of Winchester. Vaughn’s troopers galloped north to feel out the oncoming Union force. The Union force advancing south on the Valley Turnpike was a division under the command of Brig. Gen. William Averell. Averell’s command contained both Union cavalry and infantry. Many of Averell’s men had been serving in the Shenandoah Valley or West Virginia throughout the war. Union skirmishers met Vaughn’s cavalry north of Winchester between noon and two o’clock. Vaughn requested a battery and asked how far he should drive back the enemy. Ramseur obliged and sent him artillery, confident he could whip Averell’s command. Continue reading

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Biggest Federal Blunder

One morning in September 1942 Colonel Leslie Groves was walking in an empty hallway of the House of Representatives office building when he met General Brehon Somervell who almost immediately transformed the Colonel into “the angriest officer in the United States Army.”

“About that duty overseas,” said the General, “you can tell them no.”

“Why?”

“The Secretary of War has selected you for a very important assignment and the President has approved the selection.”

“Where?”

“Washington.”

“I don’t want to stay in Washington.”

“If you do the job right, it will win the war.”

“Oh,” sighed Groves, “That thing.”
Continue reading

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Battle of Cool Spring—July 18th

Colonel Joseph Thoburn

Colonel Joseph Thoburn

Today we welcome back guest author Kyle Rothemich.

Following Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s withdrawal into the Shenandoah Valley in early July 1864, thousands of Union soldiers followed in pursuit. Many of them were part of the Union 6th Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright. Early’s retreat west was not met without resistance.

The Army of West Virginia was a conglomeration of Union soldiers from West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and other ‘western’ states. Leading these men in the field was Brig. Gen. George Crook. Attempting to cut off Early’s retreat, Crook was ordered to move towards Harpers Ferry. Earlier in the summer, Crook’s men suffered defeat at the hand of Early at the Battle of Lynchburg and fled into the Allegheny Mountains. Resupplied and ready for a fight, the Army of West Virginia joined forces with Wright in the pursuit of Early.

By July 17th, Early returned to the Shenandoah Valley crossing the Shenandoah River near Berryville at Snickers Gap. After some skirmishing with Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. Alfred Duffie on the 17th, Early began to strengthen his position on the west side of the Shenandoah River near the Cool Spring Farm. At the same time, Union soldiers under Crook began to march towards this position readying for an attack the next day. Continue reading

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ECW Weekender: In the Footsteps of Nullification with John C. Calhoun

CalhounStatueMany historians have traced the roots of the Civil War back to the Nullification Crisis of 1832, triggered by South Carolina’s Ordinance of Nullification. The ordinance contended that a state had a right to ignore a Federal law if it felt the law was unconstitutional. The figure most often associated with that controversy was Vice President John C. Calhoun, easily South Carolina’s most important politician ever. (For more on Calhoun’s role, read “John C. Calhoun: He Started the Civil War” by Ethan S. Rafuse in the October 2002 issue of Civil War Times.)

While there’s much Civil War-related history to explore in Charleston, one option would be to explore the many Calhoun-related sites in the city.  Continue reading

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