Battle of Stones River – 150th Anniversary

Today is the 150th anniversary of the sanguinary Battle of Stones River. This tragic battle occurred just north of the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee when the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General Braxton Bragg, attacked the Federal Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General William S. Rosecrans. The battle would rage for three days, with the heaviest fighting taking place on December 31 and January 1. Bragg would eventually retreat south after receiving word that Rosecrans army had been reinforced on January 3. All told, nearly 25,000 combined casualties were reported at Stones River, making it the eighth most costly battle of the Civil War.

To learn more about the Battle of Stones River, please read my narrative on the battle:

The Battle of Stones River

You can also view my photo essay of the Stones River battlefield by clicking on the following link:

Mike’s photo essay on Stones River National Battlefield

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Battle of Kennesaw Mountain – 148th Anniversary

Today marks the 148th anniversary of the sanguinary Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Part of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, the fight at Kennesaw Mountain was forced on US Major General William T. Sherman as he continually pushed the Confederate Army of Tennessee back towards Atlanta. While Sherman’s constant strategy of flanking had caused the Confederate field commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, to regularly pull back towards the Georgia capital, Sherman was to learn, at Kennesaw Mountain, that Johnston, and the Army of Tennessee, had plenty of fight left in it. Situated northwest of Atlanta, Kennesaw Mountain is one of the highest mountains in northern Georgia. Determined to take the fight to Johnston, Sherman attacked his well entrenched troops on June 27. The heights proved too much for the Federal armies and the Confederate line would hold. Total casualties for the battle would be nearly 4,000 killed, wounded and missing – 3/4 of which were sustained by Sherman’s troops.

After the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Johnston would continue his retreat – to the very gates of Atlanta. He would be relieved from command on July 17 – not even three weeks after his victory at Kennesaw Mountain. The troops of the Army of Tennessee would be in for many more weeks of hard fighting, under acting full general, John Bell Hood.

For more information on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, click HERE.

For a Mike’s photo essay on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, click HERE.

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Battle of Fort Donelson – 150th Anniversary

Today is a significant day in American history. 150 years ago today, US Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant received the surrender of CSA Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner’s Confederate garrison at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. This was one of several significant turning points in the Civil War and would thrust the little known Grant into the national spotlight. With the capture of forts Henry (February 6) and Donelson, the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers were open to Union gunboats and the incursions that would soon follow. While the Battle of Fort Henry was largely won by the U.S. Navy, Fort Donelson would require both the naval and land forces to work in concert with each other. The casualties were high on both sides:

Union Casualties = 2,700 (507 killed, 1,876 wounded, 208 missing/captured)

Confederate Casualties = 13,800 (327 killed, 1,126 wounded, 12,392 missing/captured)

The Federal killed and wounded was significantly higher than the Confederate numbers because they were required to attack prepared fortifications – most of which were uphill. Federal gunboats were also seriously damaged, with many sailors killed and wounded, by the heavy sea based artillery crowning the river side of the fort.

As mentioned earlier, Grant, earned notoriety, north and south, after the battle. Early on the morning of February 16, Buckner would send Grant a letter seeking an armistice in hostilities while a surrender was negotiated. Ironically enough, Grant and Buckner were old friends from their days in the Regular Army. Grant wasted no time sending his reply, “Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” While Buckner considered Grant’s demands ungracious, he was forced to meet Grant at the Dover Hotel where he would formally surrender his forces. Grant would go on to capture two more armies during the Civil War – the only general on either side to do so.

For more information on the battles of forts Henry and Donelson, check out the following articles I have previously published:

Fort Henry is Surrendered – February 6, 1862

Fort Donelson Surrenders – February 16, 1862

Fort Donelson – 149th Anniversary of its Surrender

You can also view my photo essays on the Battle of Fort Donelson by clicking HERE.

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Remembering Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 203d birthday of our 16th U.S. president – Abraham Lincoln. I have been fascinated with Lincoln for as long as I can remember and have read extensively about his life, presidency and death. This past week I was in the Nashville area for work and was able to take a late afternoon detour to Franklin to meet friend, author and historian, Eric Jacobson. While we enjoyed an adult beverage, Eric said something which caught me somewhat off guard and continues to make me think…. “Maybe Abraham Lincoln was what we needed and was given to the country through some sort of divine intervention.” While I am paraphrasing what Eric said, his message was clear to me – maybe there was some sort of godly intervention. Let’s face it, there were several other strong Republican candidates vying for the 1860 nomination – two of which may have been able to win the presidency if nominated – William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. Both of these men were much more outspoken abolitionists than Lincoln and may have caused a more virulent secession crisis if elected president. Would either of these men been able to fight the inevitable Civil War to conclusion and preserve the Union? I rather doubt it. Perhaps Eric was correct. Lincoln was the glue that kept us together and may very well have been destined to be in place to see our country through to a “new birth of freedom.”

Lincoln was perhaps the greatest communicator our country has ever had. Several of his speeches really speak to me. In remembrance of his birthday, I will leave you with one of his shortest and perhaps his most well known – the Gettysburg Address. Happy Birthday Abe!

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.

But in a large sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who have struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take an increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

For more on Abraham Lincoln, check out my article, “What Abraham Lincoln Means to Me.”

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Review: The Confederate Heartland, by Bradley R. Clampitt

I recently received a review copy of the new book, “The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy.” The author, Bradley R. Clampitt, is an assistant professor of history at East Central University in Oklahoma. Based on a cursory search of Amazon.com, this is Clampitt’s first full length book. Published by one of my favorite university publishers, LSU Press, the book has a handsome cover and is as well made, as one would expect for a $40 book. It should be noted, this book covers the period of time from January 1864 through the time right after the cessation of hostilities.

Being a longtime student of Civil War in the Western Theater, I am always interested in learning more about the armies, soldiers, civilians and press coverage in the heartland. Having received this book prior to the Christmas, I looked forward to diving into it after the holidays. The wait was worthwhile. Clampitt has created a real gem in this book. His research is impeccable and he obviously spent a great deal of time uncovering the huge quantity of letters, diaries and newspaper accounts he references throughout the entire book. Like most scholars, the author retains the punctuation, misspellings and slang the writers used in their journals, diaries and letters. This makes the read quite enjoyable and I found myself chuckling, more than once, as I read the solders’ accounts of life in camp.

I found Chapter 6, “November-December 1864: Sunset at Franklin,” particularly interesting. This chapter covers the events in central Tennessee that culminated in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. Clampitt makes a great case for this two month period of time, and the Battle of Franklin in particular, as being the death knell of the Confederacy. More than any other battle, Franklin destroyed the Army of Tennessee and, for the most part, permanently removed the threat that army posed to U.S. generals George H. Thomas and William T. Sherman’s forces. While the morale, confidence and support of the western Confederacy remained high throughout much of the war, the Franklin-Nashville Campaign caused a deterioration in support for the war effort in the heartland.

For any of my readers interested in learning more about the final eighteen months of the war in the Western Theater, I highly recommend this book. It is a quick paced read and is very enjoyable. Congratulations to Mr. Clampitt on a wonderful book.

Details about “The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy”
Written by: Bradley R. Clampitt
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: LSU Press
Date of First Edition: December 12, 2011
ISBN-10: 0807139955

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ThisMightyScourge is back online!

I wanted to let everyone know that my blog has been repaired. The malware has been removed, the database repaired and WordPress updates have been applied. Over the coming days, I will return to publishing regular posts and reviews. Thank you to all of my loyal followers for their patience.

Mike Noirot
Saint Louis, Missouri
January 31, 2012

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Why no posts?

Dear friends,

I am sure you are probably wondering why I have not posted recently. It is not due to a waning interest in writing. It is due to the fact that my blog was hacked a couple of months ago. I am working with several WordPress security consultants to clean this blog, protect my content and secure it from future hackers. Please be patient with me as I work to get my blog’s health improved. Contact me via email if you have any comments, etc.

I pray you had a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or wonderful Holiday Season!

Mike Noirot
Saint Louis, Missouri
December 27, 2011

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Fort Fisher State Historic Site – a photo essay

Early in the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina was recognized as an important port by the Confederate government. To protect the port, CSA Major Charles P. Bolles began construction of Fort Fisher in the spring of 1861. The original plans for the fort were approved by Lieutenant General Theophilus H. Holmes and Major General W.H.C. Whiting. After Bolles was transferred to Oak Island, Captain William L. De Rosset was assigned to man the fortifications at Fort Fisher. With him was the Wilmington Light Infantry – the first company to garrison the new fort. De Rosset supervised the strengthening of Battery Bolles – the first armed redoubt at the fort.

Later, Colonel Seawell L. Fremont was assigned to Fort Fisher with the 1st North Carolina Volunteer Artillery and Engineers. New Inlet, the entrance to the Cape Fear River, was the focus of much of his attention. Under Fremont’s guidance, several new artillery batteries were built on what became known as Federal Point at Fort Fisher.

In July 1862, Colonel William Lamb was assigned command of Fort Fisher. He immediately recognized the importance of the fort and set to work constructing the remainder of the fort. “I determined at once to build a work of such magnitude that it could withstand the heaviest fire of any guns in the American Navy,” – William Lamb. Lamb’s design incorporated huge earthen walls that would ultimately stretch from Sheperd’s Battery, near the Cape Fear River, to the Atlantic Ocean. A sea facing wall would be built and stretch south to Battery Lamb – a forty-three foot tall earthen work near New Inlet. For the next 2 1/2 years, the fort commanded the inlet to the Cape Fear River and was so formidable that no major Federal attacks occurred. That would change in December 1864.

The United States government, and military command, recognized the importance of Wilmington’s port. Throughout the war, the U.S. Navy was able to close all of the major ports of the Confederacy – with the exception of Wilmington. Blockade runners were able to enter the port and bring valuable supplies to the Confederate forces. While the U.S. Navy was able to sink many of the blockade runners, they were unable to close the port due to Fort Fisher’s commanding presence. US Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant also knew the importance of the port and assigned Major General Benjamin F. Butler to command an amphibious assault against the fort in December 1864. Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, a Grant confidant, was assigned to command the naval forces tasked with transporting Butler’s infantry. The plan, as devised by Butler, was to shock the Confederate fort with the explosion of the USS Louisiana near the works. Laden with 200 tons of powder, it was hoped that the explosion would destroy a portion of the sea wall and allow the infantry to storm into the fort’s interior. While well conceived, the plan would ultimately fail when the ship was exploded, too far from the wall, on December 23. The explosion did not damage the fort and the preceding bombardment caused only small amounts of casualties. Butler, still convinced that a land attack might succeed, landed a division north of the fort on Christmas morning. Butler soon lost his nerve and called the attack off, ending the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

Undeterred, Grant ordered a second assault to capture Fort Fisher. Planned for mid-January 1865, it would include the entire North Atlantic Blockading Squadron – 52 ships – again commanded by Porter. US Major General Alfred H. Terry was in command of the ground forces – a provisional corps of 9,000 troops divided among six infantry brigades and siege artillery. An additional naval landing party of marines, commanded by Captain Kidder R. Breese, would be used as a landing party to secure the beach for Terry’s infantry.

Fort Fisher, still under the command of Colonel Lamb, would be reinforced and would reach of strength of 1,900 soldiers. CSA Major General Robert F. Hoke’s division of 6,400 troops were located further north of the peninsula, bringing the entire Rebel force to a combined strength of slightly more than 8,300 troops.

On January 13, Terry would land his provisional corps on the beach north of Fort Fisher – between Hoke’s division and the garrison at Fort Fisher which was now commanded by Whiting himself. Concerned about opening the route to Wilmington, Hoke made no attempt to prevent the landing of Terry’s forces. On the morning of January 15, Porter’s gargantuan naval flotilla opened a devastating bombardment of Fort Fisher and by noon had silenced the majority of the sea facing batteries. Hoke, hearing the distant shelling, detached 1,000 soldiers from his command to reinforce Whiting. However, with Terry’s much larger command blocking much of the way, only 400 men would ever reach the fort.

Lieutenant Commander Kidder’s landing force attacked the section of the fort where the land and sea sides connected – known as the Northeast Bastion. While this assault would be repulsed, it would pull critical troops away from the point which Brigadier General Adelbert Ames’ division attacked on the land side of the fort. While Kidder’s attack was in progress, Ames ordered his first brigade to attack the fort. It was 2:00 p.m. The first brigade was able to storm through the abatis and reach the first traverse. Wanting to keep the momentum going, Ames ordered his second brigade against the works near the river side gate at the western edge of the fort. With his first brigade stalled near the fourth traverse, Ames ordered his third brigade into action. By this time, the Confederate defenders at Battery Buchanan, located at the south edge of the fort, near New Inlet, turned their heavy guns on the north wall. Additionally, Whiting led a counterattack against the Federals and was severely wounded after receiving several demands for his surrender.

Porter’s attack squadron was also busy, taking out numerous gun placements as the Federal infantry continued to swarm along both walls of the fort. Ordering all of his troops to counterattack again, Colonel Lamb was severely wounded and taken, along with Whiting, towards Battery Buchanan. Department commander, General Braxton Bragg, never realized how untenable the situation at Fort Fisher had become. Tiring of repeated calls for reinforcements from Whiting, Bragg ordered Brigadier General Alfred H. Colquitt to the fort to relieve Whiting. He arrived at Battery Buchanan as Whiting and Lamb were being evacuated. The situation Colquitt found himself in proved untenable and General Terry knew this to be true. With his forces inside the fort, and the artillery on both faces haven fallen silent, he determined to capture the rest of the fort that evening. Ames, in command of the forces in the fort, sent a portion of his command in a flanking movement to the rear of the Confederate position. Colquitt would leave the fort before the surrender in a rowboat. Left behind, the soldiers in the fort, now commanded by Major James Reilly, would be forced to surrender. Around 10 p.m., General Terry would ride to Battery Buchanan and receive the official surrender from General Whiting.

The fall of Fort Fisher was a terrible blow to the dying Confederacy. With no other Atlantic ports available for the blockade runners, it became a matter of time for the Rebel armies as supplies quickly began to dwindle. Little more than three months later, CSA General Robert E. Lee would surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.

Today, Fort Fisher State Historic Site stands near the original land wall of the fort. Much of the land wall fortifications have been rebuilt to look much as they did in 1865. The trail leading from the visitors center winds through the position of the west river gate. Shepard’s Battery has a large cannon on its precipice. Battery Buchanan still sits over New Inlet – albeit with no cannon. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Wilmington, North Carolina, I would encourage you to make the drive to Kure Beach to visit this wonderful historic site.

To view my photo essay from my visit to Fort Fisher State Historic Site, click on the following link.

Mike’s Photo Essay on Fort Fisher State Historic Site

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Arlington National Cemetery Redux -a photo essay

Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for many of our nation’s most cherished HEROES. Its history dates back to the Civil War when the U.S. Government foreclosed on the estate of CSA General Robert E. Lee. Overlooking Washington City, and the Potomac River, the estate was built as a tribute to George Washington by his step grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. Custis’ daughter, Mary, would wed Lee, and after Custis’ death, in 1857, Lee and his wife would inherit the sprawling estate. After the foreclosure, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs petitioned to have Union casualties of war buried there. Arlington National Cemetery, as it was to be known, was created in 1864 to ease the demand for graves for Union soldiers killed in the line of duty. Meigs’ son, Lieutenant John R. Meigs, would be interred near the Custis mansion after being killed in a small skirmish at Swift Run Gap, Virginia, in October 1864. The senior Meigs would also be buried there with his son. A postbellum lawsuit, settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, United States vs. Lee, would declare that the foreclosure was illegal and the property was to be returned to Lee’s oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. With thousands of dead Union soldiers buried around the mansion, Lee sold the property to the government for $150,000 ensuring that the soldiers’ graves remain undisturbed. Encompassing over 600 acres of ground, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 300,000 soldiers and their immediate families. With its rolling hills, manicured lawns, gardens and huge trees, many of which predate the Civil War, this national treasure is a “must see” for anyone visiting our nation’s capital.

This past September, I was able to visit Arlington National Cemetery, as I do on many occasions when I am in Washington D.C. I never tire of the serenity and beauty of the place. With so many Civil War soldiers to visit, I always plan my trip ahead of time. On this visit I was able to pay my regards to several Civil War notables: William F. “Baldy” Smith, John P. Hatch, Frank Wheaton, George Crook, Samuel D. Sturgis and Philip H. Sheridan. Some lesser known soldiers were also part of my itinerary and included: Joseph A. Mower, Stephen G. Burbridge, Thomas T. Crittenden and Green C. Smith. To view my photo essay click on the following link:

Mike’s September 2011 Arlington National Cemetery photo essay

To view more photos of Arlington National Cemetery, click on the following link:

Mike’s Flickr Collection of Arlington National Cemetery graves

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Hunter H. McGuire – Chief Surgeon 2d Corps Army of Northern Virginia (Soldier Profile Series)

C.S.A. Chief Surgeon Hunter H. McGuire

Birth Date: October 11, 1835
Birth Place: Winchester, Virginia

Date of Death: September 19, 1900
Location of Death: Richmond, Virginia

Education: Winchester Medical College

Military Experience: United States Civil War

Major Battles: Served as a surgeon in the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the Civil War

Awards/Medals/Promotions: Enlisted as a private Company F, 2d Virginia Infantry regiment (1861), brigade surgeon (1861), chief surgeon, 2d Corps, Army of Northern Virginia (1862)

Biography:

Hunter Holmes McGuire was born on October 11, 1835 in Winchester, Virginia. The third of seven children born to Hugh and Ann McGuire, young Hunter was known to spend much time with his father who was a prominent eye surgeon. Inevitably this made a strong impression on the son who would study medicine at Winchester Medical College, graduating in 1855. Moving to Philadelphia, to continue his medical education, he would return home when hostilities became inevitable during the secession crisis.

After returning to Winchester, McGuire would enlist as a private in the Winchester Rifles. Upon mustering into Confederate service, in April 1861, his unit would be designated Company F, 2d Virginia Infantry regiment. Assembled in Charles Town the regiment was quickly moved to Harper’s Ferry where it would be brigaded with four other Virginia infantry regiments and the Rockbridge Artillery. The brigade was commanded by a relatively unknown brigadier general, Thomas J. Jackson. With the growth of the Confederate army, surgeons were highly sought after and McGuire would quickly be promoted full surgeon on July 15, 1861, reporting directly to Jackson. His services would be needed quickly as Jackson’s brigade, which was part of the Army of the Shenandoah, would be sent to reinforce Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Manassas, Virginia. There, on July 21, 1861, the first major battle of the Civil War fought. The First Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in the North) was a deadly affair resulting in nearly 4,900 combined casualties. This would keep McGuire, and his team of surgeons, busy for an extensive period of time.

Over the next twenty-two months McGuire would command the medical department assigned to Jackson’s command. With Jackson’s promotion to lieutenant general, commanding the 2d Corps Army of Northern Virginia, prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg, McGuire would receive promotion to chief surgeon of the corps. Ironically, McGuire would become most well known for amputating Jackson’s left arm after the general was wounded by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 – an injury which would ultimately lead to Jackson’s death on May 10. McGuire remained with Jackson until his death, recording Jackson’s last words, “Let us cross over the river and rest beneath the shade of the trees.”

McGuire continued his service with the 2d Corps for the remainder of the war, serving under generals Richard S. Ewell and Jubal A. Early. He would witness the destruction of battle first hand and would suffer the anguish of losing his close friend, Lieutenant Colonel Sandie Pendleton (Third Winchester, September 22, 1864) and his brother, Hugh, who was mortally wounded in 1865. On March 2, 1865 McGuire was captured at Waynesboro, Virginia with the majority of Early’s 2d Corps. Federal Major General Philip Sheridan would parole him for his generous treatment of Union surgeons captured while tending to their patients. He would return to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and would surrender to US Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.(i)

After the Civil War, McGuire settled in Richmond, Virginia and continued to practice medicine – often treating Confederate soldiers for no cost. A lifelong admirer of Stonewall Jackson, he would often give speeches about his commander and published several articles about his times serving with the legendary commander. Besides his practice, McGuire also chaired the surgery department at the Medical College of Virginia. He was active in many organizations and was president of the American Medical Association. Recognizing the need for quality nurses he founded St. Luke’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses. McGuire would marry Mary Stuart and father ten children, one of which, Stuart, followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a noted physician. McGuire died on September 19, 1900 from complications of a cerebral embolism.

I leave you with a couple of quotes regarding McGuire which appear on Jennifer Goellnitz’s site, Stonewall’s Surgeon:

“When people needed to talk, he listened. Those who knew him said Dr. Hunter McGuire made you feel like the most important person in the world.” – John W. Schildt, from his biography on McGuire

“Make not patients of your friends – but friends of your patients.” – Hunter McGuire

(i) See Jennifer Goellnitz’s wonderful biography on McGuire: http://www.huntermcguire.goellnitz.org/biography.html

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