Question of the Week 8/31-9/6

This week’s Question of the Week was suggested by ECW Contributor Ryan Quint who asks:

What is something you’ve always wondered about the Civil War or something you may have recently come across that the historians here at ECW could help with?

19 Responses to Question of the Week 8/31-9/6

    1. When Grant was elected president in 1868, the former Confederate states of Georgia and Louisiana voted for Horatio Seymour, Grant’s opponent. GA and LA were joined by former Border State Kentucky, which also sent its electoral votes to Seymour. The states of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas were still unreconstructed and were thus barred from the elections. It’s hard to say for certain that the other states of the Confederacy voted overwhelmingly for Grant because 1868 was the first presidential election that had black male suffrage, which carried many districts into the Republican camp. The Election of 1872 saw former Confederate states vote hugely for Grant, again because of black voters. However, Democrats and their Redemption process was already chipping away at Republican holds throughout the South, using violence and terror to cower blacks away from future voting booths.

      All of this to say that using the word “Southerner” isn’t going to lead to a single answer, because Southerner was not a homogeneous term meaning white, pro-Confederate. But when those white, pro-Confederates could regain power, they did so, fighting against Grant and even requiring Grant to issue the 1870/71 Enforcement Acts, putting some southern counties under martial law.

    2. Both Longstreet and Mosby became friendly with Grant. Grant appointed Mosby to a federal post, and Longstreet became a Republican. That may explain the southern historians (such as Douglas Southall Freeman) blaming Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg

  1. I have asked this question to several eminent CW historians, but no one has had an answer.  Buford’s Cavalry Div. at Gettysburg held off the Confederates for a length of time, but their carbine cartridge boxes only contained 30 rounds each.  So how many rounds were they carrying in their saddle bags, or on the average carried?  It may seem trivial, but considering the sharps could fire 6 rounds per minute or more, they would have exhausted their ammo in a few minutes.  One historian told me no ammo was allowed to be carried in the saddle bags, as these were only for things used to care for the horse, such as curry combs.  I don’t ut it may be true? The best answer I have had so far, was from a re-enactor friend (not even in the cavalry) who theorized that only a portion of each regiment was actually on the firing line, and their Coronel rotated them back to the reserve ammo wagons to refill their boxes and pockets.  Of course, if the above is true, then even fewer troopers were holding off  Heth’s Div.!Looking for a good answer—-Ron Vaughan     

  2. It may be more of a political science question, but…how much of the war resembled the civil wars we’re more accustomed to today, in which highly intermixed populations kill one another for being different, rather than over secession? The experience of conflict in the border states reminds me more of the wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (currently), Syria, etc. in which there weren’t really clear lines between friend and foe, than it does of those that involved large armies maneuvering against one another.

    1. The short answer is that you’re right. Missouri, East Tennessee, parts of Middle Tennessee, and much of Kentucky all went through the kind of local violence you’re describing. A lot of it was over Unionism vs Secession, but old rivalries came up again. Western NC also saw a lot of violence.

  3. This may be an odd question but I am doing a project on animals in the Civil War for 4-H. I’ve done quite a bit of research and I found that the topic is quite interesting. My question is, what is your favorite story of a Civil War mascot or animal? I am just asking because I am looking for any extra information to bolster my project. I am getting my project judged at the Minnesota State Fair on Wednesday so any response could be a great help.

    1. Sallie, a brindle bull terrier was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania, who were on the extreme right of I Corps line of battle on the first day at Gettysburg. When the regiment retreated from their position at the base of Oak Hill, Sallie remained with the dead and wounded who could not fall she remained with the fallen of the 11th, and on the day after the Union victory was still with them when the Confederates began their march back to Virginia. Her loyalty was rewarded by her likeness in stone being placed at the foot of the monument to the 11th Pennsylvania on Doubleday Avenue on the Gettysburg National Battlefield.

  4. Mr. Vaughn, my understanding is that they each had 60 rounds, and that additional ammunition was available to re-fill from the division’s wagon train.

  5. How did men, both Union and Confederate, react when they found out that there were sometimes females disguised as soldiers in their ranks? What sort of reaction did they garner?

    1. I can only recall one instance – when a soldier in the Army of the Potomac gave birth in winter quarters in March 1863 (thus outing her as a female). The response seemed to be amusement, although a LOT of soldiers noted it in their diaries and letters since it was so exceptional.

      1. I was reading the book “They fought like devils” which follows the lives of a few different women who fought both North and South. The author recounts a story of a private stumbling upon an officer (I can’t remember the rank) have sex with the private’s tentmate, who it turns out, was a women. He also was amused and kind of confused…Thanks for the insight!

  6. I’ve often wondered where the Union Army was getting its horses. Was the army purchasing them from farmers? Was there an army horse breeding facility? Just one of those historical details that I’ve wondered about…

    1. The short answer is yes – the U.S. Cavalry Bureau, later the U.S. Remount Service provided horses for the United States Army until 1948 (Google it for a good short history).

  7. My questions concern secession. In 1860, was secession by a state or group of states prohibited the U.S. Constitution, by U.S. Code, or judicial review? If secession was not prohibited by either the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Code, or judicial review; was secession then a legal act?

  8. Question. I seem to remember seeing, don’t remember where, the recorded rifle accuracy results for target practice by a northern regiment. This was in a drill field situation, so nobody was shooting at them. Low stress level. I remember coming to the conclusion that the accuracy was very poor. The actual figures were astoundingly bad. The students in my Civil War class were amazed and the question was how many shots actually resulted in a casualty?

    1. Terry,

      The rifled musket is an amazingly accurate weapon. I have live fired a number of them over the years. The poor accuracy falls mainly on the shoulders of the enlisted men. One colleague found a post war study that said it took an average of 140lbs of lead to kill one man in the war. That is a lot of shooting for not a lot of impact.

      Many people have the misconception that all of these guys were out in the woods hunting squirrel and were dead-eyes at 500 yards, the reality is that many had never fired a gun before, due to the fact they were city boys.

      Folks also need to keep in mind that the soldiers had a tendency to aim high. There are numerous accounts of commanders admonishing their men to aim low. When the regiment leveled their muskets, the men in the rear rank were firing over the shoulder of the man in front. The natural inclination is to not blow the ear or face off of your file partner in front of you.

      Now, the Federals especially undertook target practice. Units were graded on quality of movements and drill competence prior to being released to the front, something that impacted the artillery branch the most. During the winter of ’62-’63 the Federals had live fire ranges set up in the camps of Stafford County, which aided in getting the more recent additions in the army up to snuff. Due to shortages in the Confederate Army, target practice was not always readily available to Southern units.

      Looking at post battle reports, Gettysburg comes to mind as a great case study. When the battlefield was policed the clean up crews found something like 12,000 muskets that had two or more rounds lodged in the barrel. Men’s guns had fouled and they had no idea that they were not firing on the enemy.

      A bit of useless information: Jumping to WWII GI’s and German’s agreed that many times the accuracy of the German soldier was much high that the American GI’s. The reason they claim was that the German bolt action rifles forced them to reload an re-aim after every shot, while the M1 Garand, for example, could fire its magazine as quickly as you could pull the trigger. The will give you fire superiority, but hampers accuracy.

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