Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bench-Clearing Civil War Brawl. . .?

Robert Grandchamp, the hands-down, go-to guy for all things related to Rhode Island in the Civil War, recently sent me the following little snippet concerning a rather forgettable incident concering the 48th Pennsylvania. The story comes to us from Captain J.W. Grant's short work, The Flying Regiment: Journal of the Campaign of the 12th Rhode Island Volunteers, published by Sidny S. Rider & Bro., Providence, R.I., in 1865. The 12th was brigaded with the 48th following the battle of Antietam, although this incident occurred in March 1863. For some reason, it did not appear in either of the 48th's two regimental histories. I wonder why???
"The camp of the Twelfth Rhode Island Volunteers. . .was the finest looking camp on the ground. The streets were well laid out, and were kept swept clean. The tents were new, and presented a neat, uniform appearance.
There was a great improvement in the regiment after coming here. We were well clothed, and as finely equipped as any regiment in the field. We also had the Springfield rifled musket, which is considered the best in the service.
While at this place, we had a fray in camp, which came near being a serious affair. I was in the qautermaster's tent the evening of the 5th of March, when at eight o'clock our orderly came in, telling us our company had received a visit from the 48th Pennsylvania, a regiment adjoining, who came provided with clubs and stones, to settle some difficulty which had occurred between them and some of our boys.
We had some rough fellows in our company, and upon the Pennsylvania boys making their appearance, at it they went. After a few rounds the intruders retreated. No one of our company was dangerously wounded; a few slight cuts about the head and ears included the whole list of casualties. Soon after this affair, I returned to my quarters and turned in, hoping to have a good night's rest. In about half an hour we were apprised of another visit from our neighbors. Out our boys rushed, crying Turn Out! Turn Out! Drive 'em! Drive 'em! At the same time, we could hear the clubs strike against the sides of our tents. Immediately after I heard Captain Hubbard rush along, and soon after the report of a pistol, one, two, three, followed by the report of a rifle, assured me that it was time to pull on boots and prepare for battle. Upon coming from my tent I found the tumult had subsided. Our lieutenant-colonel came along, we were all ordered to our quarters, and the guard being called upon, this fray, which promised something serious, was finally quelled. I did not hear that any one was seriously hurt.
The next morning, as I lay in my tent, looking out upon the street, a party of three or four stopped in for a talk. Soon one of them began to show symptons of a strange nature, and directly over he went upon his back. In connection with the affair of the past night, I began to think things were coming to a crisis. However, the man, who to all appeared dead, by dint of hard rubbing, applied by those gathered around him, was at length brought to and carried off."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some South Mountain Snapshots. . .

Yesterday, fellow ranger and fellow blogger Mannie Gentile and I took a short trip up to South Moutain, an excursion we planned last week. What a perfect day weatherwise to tramp around some Civil War battlefields! It was rather cool and blue skies overhead.
I met Mannie in Boonsboro and we followed one another to Turner's Gap. The plan was to leave one vehicle there, while we hopped in the other, drove down to Fox's Gap and hiked back to the Appalachian Trail parking lot at Turner's. So I left my car--and jumped in his.
We reached Fox's Gap and journeyed first to the Reno Monument on the summit. . .
Major General Jesse Reno, commanding the Federal 9th Corps, was struck down near twilight on September 14, 1862, while encouraging his men to advance. . .There is some whispers still persisting that Reno was shot by friendly fire, but most today discount this idea.
Mannie and I next hiked several hundred yards to the south, and visited the recently dedicated (October 2003) monument to North Carolina soldiers. . .
North Carolinians in Brigadier Generals Samuel Garland's and George B. Anderson's Brigades were heavily engaged at the battle for Fox's Gap, suffering high casualties.
Turning around we hiked across the very same ground as the soldiers in the 48th PA, all the while I was explaining their movements and experiences (ad naseaum) to Mannie. . .who was, as always, a good sport about it. The photograph below is of the field over which the 48th advanced.
Captain James Wren, of Company B, led his men as skirmishers across this field and upon reaching the distant treeline, came under fire from Confederate soldiers in John Bell Hood's division.
We hiked along the Appalachian Trail, northward back to Turner's Gap, and my vehicle. I was struck at just how sheer the slopes of South Mountain are here, and found it difficult to imagine troops manuevering along these slopes and through the trees.
As Joe Hooker, commanding the Federal 1st Corps in its attacks up South Mountain and toward Frostown Gap, wrote: "In front of us was South Mountain, the crest of the spinal ridge of which was held by the enemy in considerable force. Its slopes are precipitous, rugged, and wooded, and difficult of ascent to an infantry force, even in absence of a foe in front."
A narrow path connects Fox's and Turner's Gaps.
Here's my colleague Mannie atop the very spine of South Mountain.
We at last arrived back at Turner's Gap and I grabbed a quick photograph of the Old South Mountain Inn/Mountain House, where Confederate general D.H. Hill made his headquarters.

We then hopped back in my car and. . .after a little setback driving toward Middletown, don't ask. . .we headed on down to Crampton's Gap and to Burkittsville, where the 48th's Schuylkill County neighbors in the 96th Pennsylvania were heavily engaged. . .

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pottsville Mural to Feature Biddle, Reid. . .

A "Welcome to Pottsville" mural, to be painted at the intersection of Centre and Nichols Streets, will feature two Schuylkill County Civil War figures: Nicholas Biddle and Sergeant Robert Reid of Company G, 48th Pennsylvania.
You can read the full story here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

48th Pennsylvania Casualties at Cold Harbor: June 1-4, 1864

The Battle of Cold Harbor, Alfred Waud. . .
I am a little behind with this posting. I originally intended to post it earlier this week to coincide with the 144th Anniversary of the battles near Cold Harbor, Virginia. The 48th Pennsylvania was heavily engaged in this battle, especially on June 3, 1864, in attacks against the Confederate left flank. The following is the list of casualties sustained by the 48th Pennsylvania in action at Cold Harbor. . .
The Battle of Cold Harbor, Kurz & Allison
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Killed/Mortally Wounded (16)
Patrick Farrell (Co. C)
Sergeant Thomas Tosh (Co. E)
David Williams (Co. E)
Daniel E. Reedy (Co. E)
Edward G. Pugh (Co. F)
William Smith (Co. F)
James Bradley (Co. F)
Corporal Alexander Govan (Co. G)
James Allison (Co. G)
Joseph Alexander (Co. H)
Jeremiah Willoner (Co. I)
John Clark (Co. I)
William J. Price (Co. I)
Benjamin B. Kershner (Co. I)
George Dresh (Co. I)
Jacob Lauby (Co. K)

Corporal Alexander Govan, Company G, was among the killed at Cold Harbor

Wounded (55)

William Koch (Co. A)
George Betz (Co. A)
John Hegg (Co. A)
Simon Snyder (Co.A)
Elias Lins (Co. A)
Corporal Monroe Heckman (Co. A)
J.D. Ash (Co. A)
Samuel Eckroth (Co. A)
Israel Britton (Co. A)
Sergeant Samuel Strauch (Co. B)
Sergeant Robert Campbell (Co. B)
1st Lieutenant P.C. Loeser (Co. C)
2nd Lieutenant William Clark (Co. C)
John Dolan (Co. C)
Thomas Boyle (Co. C)
Daniel Boyer (Co. E)
John Clemens (Co. E)
Robert Beverage (Co. E)
Patrick Brennan (Co. E)
Charles Quinn (Co. E)
Albert Cummings (Co. E)
Abraham Sigmund (Co. E)
Sergeant James Easton (Co. F)
Corporal Robert Padden (Co. F)
George H. Jones (Co. F)
Jacob Kuhns (Co. F)
William E. Duffy (Co. F)
Cyrus Haines (Co. F)
James Hoult (Co. F)
Sergeant C.F. Kuentzler (Co. G)
Corporal John Hutton (Co. G)
William Martin (Co. G)
John Benedict (Co. H)
Sergeant Henry Burnsteel (Co. H)
Corporal Henry Matthews (Co. H)
Corporal William Lloyd (Co. H)
Joseph Hayes (Co. H)
Anthony O’Donnell (Co. H)
James Welsh (Co. H)
William Davis (Co. H)
Edward Metz (Co. H)
1st Sergeant Oliver A. J. Davis (Co. I)
Sergeant Jacob Ongstadt (Co. I)
Corporal Elias C. Kehl (Co. I)
Peter Keller (Co. I)
William Owens (Co. I)
John H. Cooper, Jr. (Co. I)
Isaac Beltz (Co. I)
Charles Gould (Co. I)
Martin Dooley (Co. I)
Thomas J. Reed (Co. I)
H.W. Hass (Co. K)
Milton Nagle (Co. K)
William G. Keiser (Co. K)
Thomas Hudson (Co. K)

Friday, June 6, 2008

DISSED: The Best of the Worst in Civil War Nicknames

The generals of the American Civil War sure had their fair share of nicknames.

Most of the time they were complimentary and affectionate--i.e. "Stonewall" Jackson, "Uncle John" Sedgwick, "Uncle Billy" Sherman etc--but oftentimes they were not; indeed, some were downright insulting.

I thought I'd take a look today at some of the less than flattering nicknames of some of the war's Union and Confederate leaders.

Vote for your favorite in the comments section, or add your own to the list. I am sure there are scores I forgot. . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There were so many officers given derogatory sobriquets for their perceived caution and lethargy in bringing troops to the front. . .

Take George Sykes, for example. He was known as "Tardy George."
"Yeah, yeah. . .I'm getting there. Just let me finish the funnies."
* * * * * * * * * *
Or how about George Thomas? Sure, he had several, more famous, nicknames such as "Pap" or "The Rock of Chickamauga," but he was also known in some circles as "Slow Trot."

"I dare you to come over here and call me Slow Trot to my face."
* * * * * * * * * *
Henry Warner Slocum was a steady, reliable officer. . .it's too bad his last name could turn easily into "Slow Come."
"Oh yeah, REALLY funny, you guys. Did you think of that all by yourselves?"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Poor old Abner Doubleday's surname gave fodder to his critics.
He was "Old Forty-Eight Hours."
"Wait, what do they call me? Old Forty-Eight Hours? I don't get it."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Like George Thomas, even some of the more illustrious--and more brilliant--generals of the Civil War had their detractors and their own nasty nicknames.
While Robert E. Lee was known by many complimentary sobriquets, he was, at least early in the war, sometimes referred to as "The King of Spades," or "Granny Lee."
"Granny. . .? Well of all the nerve. Can you believe these young whippersnappers these days?"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Thomas Jonathan Jackson had perhaps the most famous nickname of the Civil War: Stonewall. But in his younger days, he was sometimes called "Tom Fool" by his students at VMI, or by some of his soldiers as 'That Crazy Old Presbyterian Fool."

"If you put as much energy and effort into your schoolwork as you do in coming up with nicknames for me. . . Now go study the Bible and see what that has to say about making fun of people."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Winfield Scott orchestrated one of greatest campaigns in American military history during the Mexican-American War. . .but by the Civil War, he was simply "Old Fuss-n-Feathers."
"Whatever. Whose the one who has all this bling? I rule, critics drool."
* * * * * * * * * *
Ulysses S. Grant. Well, of course there was "Unconditional Surrender" Grant and, more affectionately "Sam" Grant. But there was also "Useless" Grant and "Grant the Butcher."
"The name's Hiram, thank you very much."
* * * * * * * * * * *
I'm not sure if George Gordon Meade had any nicknames, but one detractor famously labeled him as that "damned old, goggle-eyed, snapping turtle."
"Hey! Hey! You get over here! Come on, Brady, hurry up. I need to deliver an old school lesson in respect to that clown."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There were many other nicknames worthy of honorable mention. . . .
John Bell Hood. . ."Old Wooden Head"
William Lowther Jackson. . .unlike his more famous cousin, William was known as "Mudwall."

Apparently, William E. Jones loved to gripe and moan and complain. Hence his nickname: "Grumble." Another Jones, David Rumph Jones, of no relation, was much more affectionately referred to as "Neighbor."

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick? More like Hugh Judson "Kill Cavalry."

Ben Butler was an ardent abolitionist and is thus alright by me in my books. But he was vilified throughout the South as "Spoons," for his penchant for stealing exquisite silverware and china from Southern homes, and the "Beast."

Poor Old William Henry French had a habit of incessantly batting his eyes when he spoke. He was known thus as "Old Blinky."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

These are just some of the less-than-flattering Civil War nicknames I can think of. If you have any for me to add. . .let me know.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Storm Ravages Antietam National Battlefield. . .

Click over to my buddy Mannie's blog to see photographs of the devastation left behind at the Antietam National Battlefield following severe storms that swept through the area yesterday:

More information about the storm and its wreckage can be found on the Hagerstown Herald Mail website:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Live Civil War Artillery Shell. . .in Pottsville?

My good friend--and fellow Schuylkill County Civil War historian--Tom Shay brought the following story to my attention.

As it turns out, the son of the late Leo Ward, the long-time head of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County who passed away two weeks ago, donated several items of Leo's personal collection to the society including an unexploded Hotchkiss shell. . .

3" Federal Hotchkiss Shell (flatnose), missing sabot.

Here is the complete story as reported in yesterday's Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald:

Bomb squad removes Civil War-era shell from Schuylkill County Historical Society
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2008 9:32 AM

"A bomb squad from Fort Drum, N.Y., removed a Civil War-era artillery round Saturday from the county historical society.

The unexploded Hotchkiss shell filled with black powder and made to fit a 3-inch ordinance rifle, was donated to the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, 305 N. Centre St., Pottsville, this week by the estate of Leo L. Ward.

Ward was a longtime president of the historical society who died May 17, according to David Derbes, acting president of the society.

Ward’s son, David, cleaned out Ward’s apartment on the 600 block of Mahantongo Street and donated historical items to the society, Derbes said. Among them was the antique round.
'It’s like a tin can, three inches in diameter and seven inches long. It contains powder and little shots,' Derbes said.

Markings on one end of it stated it was made in 1862.

While visiting the society Friday, J. Stuart Richards, Orwigsburg, a Civil War historian, encouraged Derbes to get rid of it.

'As soon as I picked it up, and saw it was a Hotchkiss with the date of 1862 on it, I wasn’t sure if it was an active round or what they call a canister round. But rather than be safe than sorry, we contacted Pottsville police,' Richards said.

Derbes contacted Pottsville police Chief Joseph H. Murton V and Murton made the arrangements to have the bomb squad remove it.

Sgt. Ryan Jaminet of the 725th Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Fort Drum walked to the second-floor storage room, where the round was sitting in a cardboard box. Jaminet picked up the unexploded shell with his bare hands and carefully placed it in an ammunition can.

'That will at least stabilize it,' Derbes said.

The round probably wouldn’t ignite if dropped, he said.

'Black powder is not as sensitive to friction as other things. More so to flame. While it’s a little bit more stable, it’s a little bit more dangerous than some other things,' Jaminet said.

A spark would probably set it off, Jaminet said.

The round was taken to Fort Drum.

'We’ll probably dispose of it on the range,' Jaminet said.