Montgomery, Alabama -a photo essay

This past July I was in Montgomery, Alabama for work meetings. Besides being the state capital, Montgomery is also the county seat for Montgomery County. Today, the city has a population slightly more than 200,000 -a significant increase from the 1860 census which listed its population as 8,800 which was a 400% increase over its 1840 population. The current state capitol building is the second building built for this purpose in Montgomery. The first capitol building burned to the ground and the new building was built on the same foundation. It was completed in 1851.(i) Built on Goat Hill, the state capitol would serve as the First Confederate Capitol after the original six Confederate states adopted their constitution on March 11, 1861. On February 18, 1861 Jefferson F. Davis was inaugurated the first Confederate president on the steps of the capitol building. Montgomery would remain safely in Confederate control until US Major General James H. Wilson captured the city on April 12, 1865 – three days after the surrender of CSA General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. The capitol, and its grounds, are beautifully maintained. Walking through the grounds, one can nearly feel they are back in Alabama during the 1860′s. There are many monuments scattered across the manicured lawns including one of Jefferson Davis. The inside of the capitol building provides an amazing step back in time. The senate and house chambers look much like they did in the 1860′s when the state was debating secession. There are plaques today, in both capitol wings, commemorating the secession conference.

After touring the capitol complex, I visited historic Greenwood and Oakwood cemeteries. I was very fortunate to have a personal guide at Oakwood Cemetery. Cemetery maintenance foreman, Phillip Taunton was gracious enough to guide me to all of the grave sites I had on my list – plus several which he recommended I would be interested in. Besides knowing the locations of all of the famous soldiers, officers and politicians, Mr. Taunton is a solid historian on all things Montgomery – especially the soldiers who fought for the independence of the Confederacy. I was able to pay my respects to several well known individuals including: William Lowndes Yancey,  James T. Holtzclaw, Birkett D. Fry, William C. Oates and John C.C. Sanders. Other notables were: Colonel Jack Thorington and brigadier generals Tennent Lomax and James H. Clanton. Many thanks to Mr. Taunton for providing me a tour of beautiful Oakwood Cemetery.

If you find yourself in Montgomery, Alabama with some time on your hands, make sure to visit its historic cemeteries, the capitol complex and the First White House of the Confederacy.

To view my photo essay on Montgomery, Alabama, click HERE.

(i) See Captials of Alabama at Alabama Department of Archives and History.


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Chicagoland Civil War Era Graves -a short photo essay

This past May I was in the Chicago area and found myself with some extra time on a couple of evenings. I was able to visit several historic cemeteries during this trip including: Graceland Cemetery and Rosehill Cemetery. To say that there are a lot of significant Civil War soldiers buried in the Chicagoland area would be an understatement. While Chicago was quite small during the 1860′s, it would grow significantly during the latter part of the 19th Century. Inevitably many soldiers and officers from the Civil War would put down roots in the area after the war.

During my short visit I was able to pay my respects to several famous officers: William Sooy Smith, John McArthur, Thomas E.G. Ransom and Milo S. Hascall. Others were not so famous: Robert W. Healy, Edward Needles Kirk and James Adelbert Mulligan. Two earned their fame through heroic actions on the battlefield and would receive the Medal of Honor: James Dunne and Hugh Molloy. These men all served their country and several would pay the ultimate sacrifice. They all deserve our unending gratitude. God bless the U.S.A. and all the men and women who serve so we can be free.

To view my photo essay from my trip to Chicago, click HERE.


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Battle of Chickamauga -148th anniversary

Today is the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga. This was the second most costly battle, in terms of casualties (34,000+ killed, wounded, missing and captured), during the American Civil War. Fought for two days in northwest Georgia, it pitted US Major General William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland against CSA General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. It would be a bitter defeat for the Federal forces and the only major battlefield victory for Bragg. It would also be one of the only times during the war when the Confederates held an advantage in battlefield strength to their Federal adversaries.

To learn more about the Battle of Chickamauga, click HERE.

To view my collection of photos from Chickamauga National Military Park, click HERE.


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Battle of Antietam -149th anniversary

Today is the 149th anniversary of the single bloodiest day in American history -September 17, 1862. On this day two armies met near the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. One was intent on protecting his escape route over the Potomac River while the other was intent on making him use it without suffering too much damage to his army. The resulting action was the Battle of Antietam. It would result in approximately 23,000 casualties. To learn more about the Battle of Antietam check out my my previous articles on this sanguinary fight by clicking HERE.

To view my photo essays on the Antietam National Battlefield Park, click HERE.


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Bennett Place -a photo essay

I visited the historic Bennett Place, in Durham, North Carolina, this past July. Run by the state of North Carolina, it is a historic site that you need to visit if you are in the area. I was fortunate to arrive at the Bennett Place right when they were opening. I introduced myself to Diane Smith and Jeremiah Degennaro, both historic interpreters at the site. Diane was scheduled to provide a tour to a group of youths, but arranged for Kent Hinkson to provide me a tour. While I had some knowledge of the Bennett Place, the tour was much more interesting with my personal tour guide. I quickly learned that Kent is an expert on the Bennett Place and the historic conferences held in the Bennett’s small house between CSA General Joseph E. Johnston, Major General John C. Breckinridge and US Major General William T. Sherman.

With the surrender of CSA Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to US Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, the only remaining hostilities in the Eastern Theater were in North Carolina. While Grant was battling Lee at Petersburg, Johnston’s Army of Tennessee was desperately trying to hold Sherman’s armies at bay in North Carolina. Much was at stake as Johnston wanted to contain the Federal armies and keep them from uniting with Grant in Virginia. Sherman’s pursuit of Johnston was essentially a two front affair and resulted in the battles of Averasborough (March 16) and Bentonville (March 19-21). After these battles, Johnston’s headquarters was near Greensboro and Sherman’s was near Raleigh. After Lee’s surrender on April 9, Johnston knew the end was drawing near. Sending a courier to Federal troops at Morrisville, Johnston requested a meeting with Sherman, between the enemy lines, to discuss a truce. They would converge on the Hillsborough Road at the Bennett farm on April 17. Much of their first day’s conference was colored by Sherman’s disclosure that President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated two days before. Sherman was prepared to offer similar terms to what Grant provided Lee little more than a week earlier. However, Johnston was insistent “to arrange the terms of a permanent peace.”(i) These terms included items which were considered “political” in nature. Ultimately wanting peace, Sherman would agree to much of what Johnston proposed the next day. The two generals signed the memorandum and sent it to their governments.

When President Andrew Johnson and the U.S. government received the surrender terms cheer in the surrender turned to outrage. There were cries through Washington City, and the North, that Sherman was a traitor for negotiating such liberal terms with Johnston. Several items were at the center of the firestorm: 1) Arms and ammunition were to be returned to the southern states after being reported to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington City; 2) The states and their officers were to be recognized by the Federal government; 3) The reestablishment of all Federal courts in the southern states; 4) The southern peoples rights to property as defined the the U.S. Constitution; and 5) General amnesty for southern soldiers and officers.

These items, rightfully so, were viewed by the U.S. Government as political items to be determined by the legislature and approved by the president. Simply put, Sherman overstepped his authority as a military officer to negotiate anything beyond the surrender of Johnston’s army.

Ulysses Grant was quickly dispatched to North Carolina where he met with Sherman. He explained to Sherman that he was only to negotiate the surrender of the Confederate army on terms mirroring the surrender he had negotiated with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. If Johnston would not agree to such terms, Sherman was to attack Johnston immediately. On April 26 Sherman met again with Johnston at the Bennett Place. Johnston, being instructed by president Jefferson F. Davis, was to accept no such surrender. Wanting to end the war, Johnston went against his instructions and accepted the agreement. The surrender was signed the same day. With the surrender of the Army of Tennessee, all hostilities ceased in the Eastern Theater. While there were still pockets of Confederate forces, the Civil War was essentially over.

The Bennett Place is a wonderful historic monument. North Carolina has done a terrific job restoring the site. It is a national treasure. When you find yourself in the area of Raleigh-Durham, make sure to plan a trip to the Bennett Place. Site manager, John W. Guss, and his staff, are friendly and will make your visit a memorable one.

(i) See the Bennett Place website for more information.


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Battle of South Mountain -149th Anniversary

Today, September 14, is the 149th anniversary of the Battle of South Mountain. Part of the 1862 Maryland Campaign, it is more often than not overshadowed by the Battle of Antietam which followed three days later. With nearly 5,000 combined casualties, it is nonetheless a very significant battle.

Within days of CSA General Robert E. Lee’s victory over US Major General John Pope, at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), Lee would cross his Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland. Lincoln had just placed Major General George B. McClellan in command of the armies at Washington City (Potomac and Virginia). Lee, unable to strike a deadly blow to Pope’s retreating army after the Battle of Chantilly, believed it essential that he maintain the momentum his army achieved after the Seven Days battles and Second Manassas. His plan called for a movement to the Frederick area where he could await the Federals on a field of his own choosing. Unfortunately, US Colonel Dixon S. Miles’ garrison at Harper’s Ferry posed a threat to the rear of his army. Additional Federal troops near Martinsburg, Virginia (present day West Virginia) could sever his supply line – effectively crippling the entire campaign. With roughly 60,000 soldiers in his army, he was severely outnumbered by whatever combined army the U.S. War Department sent to pursue him. Simply put, Lee found himself in a very precarious position.

In an audacious move, believing the Union troops would be slow in pursuit, Lee separated his army sending Major General James Longstreet’s command through Boonsboro to Hagerstown, Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s command to capture Harper’s Ferry and leaving a portion of his cavalry, and Major General Daniel Harvey (D.H.) Hill’s division, to guard the passes in South Mountain, just west of Frederick. Putting his plan in motion, Lee issued Special Order 191 sending copies to Jackson, Longstreet, two division commanders (Lafayette McLaws and D.H. Hill) and cavalry commander, Major General J.E.B. Stuart. The armies were to move at first light on September 10.

McClellan would arrive in Frederick with the Army of the Potomac on September 13. His army would be met with cheers from the largely loyal population of central Maryland. While resting near the Monocacy River, a misplaced copy of Lee’s Special Order 191 would be found wrapped around three cigars by a soldier in the 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Believing it significant, the soldier passed it to his commander where it would make its way to McClellan.

While McClellan would immediately notify President Lincoln of his find, explaining “no time would be lost” in taking advantage of the most important intelligence of the war, it would take time to get his massive army through Frederick. Orders were issued to his senior lieutenants, major generals Ambrose E. Burnside and William B. Franklin, to move with alacrity at first light, September 14. Burnside was to push towards the northernmost gap, Turner’s, on the National Road. He was to clear the gap and push after Longstreet’s command. Mclellan’s orders to Bill Franklin were explicit and detailed, believing his role crucial to rescuing Miles’ garrison at Harper’s Ferry. He was to waste no time pushing through Burkittsville before first light, and using the Gapland Road, force his way through Crampton’s Gap. Once the gap was cleared he was to enter Pleasant Valley and march south toward’s Maryland Heights, relieving Miles. Unfortunately, the timing was not achieved and precious time would be lost reaching the gap.

The Battle of South Mountain was crucial for each army commander. Lee needed to delay any incursion into Pleasant Valley to provide Jackson time to consummate the capture of Harper’s Ferry. If McClellan did not push through the gaps quickly, Harper’s Ferry would eventually fall and any hope of defeating Lee piecemeal would vanish. The fate of both armies hinged on the defense which D.H. Hill could muster at the gaps. Lee’s Maryland Campaign and the future of the Union hung in the balance.

To read my complete essay on the Battle of South Mountain, click HERE.

To listen to a recent interview I had with Dr. Tom Clemens, editor of “The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Vol. 1: South Mountain,” click HERE.

To view a short photo essay on South Mountain, click HERE.


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Georgia Civil War Era Graves -a photo essay

Over the past several weeks I have found myself in Georgia for two separate trips. Besides hosting the Battle of Chickamauga, Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea, Georgia is the final resting place for many of the Confederacy’s most prominent and accomplished officers. Interestingly, these two trips took me in opposite directions, allowing me to visit cemeteries in several cities: Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Washington and Savannah.

In 1860, Georgia had a population of slightly more than 1 million men, women and children. During four years of unrelenting war she would send over 100,000 men to serve in all branches of the Confederate military. Her soldiers would die on battlefields from Vicksburg to Charleston and Gettysburg to Olustee. Early in the war the state of Georgia did not host any significant battles. That would change in September 1863 when US Major General William Starke Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland was attacked by CSA General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Nearly 35,000 soldiers would become casualties in Georgia’s first major battle: Chickamauga. Over the next eighteen months over 500 actions would take place in the state. Some of the battles would be epic in nature (Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta and Jonesborough) while others would be much smaller affairs (Griswoldville, Columbus and Waynesboro). Officers and soldiers from Georgia would be killed in battle in far flung locales and near their homes. The more fortunate of her sons would return home to lead a productive life. This photo essay is dedicated to the men from Georgia who fought four hard years for what they believed in.

Some of the officers I paid my respects to are well known: John Brown Gordon, Ambrose R. Wright, E. Porter Alexander, Alfred Iverson, Jr. and Lafayette McLaws. Others you will not know as well: James P. Simms, Dudley M. Du Bose, Marcellus A. Stovall and Jeremy F. Gilmer. All served for what they believed in and a few were killed in action: Francis S. Bartow, Thomas R.R. Cobb and W.H.T. Walker.

Take some time and view my photo essay on these brave men who served bravely for a cause they were sworn to. You can view my collection by clicking HERE.


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Battle of Chantilly -149th Anniversary

Today is the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Chantilly. It was the final engagement of the Second Bull Run Campaign – and a very costly battle for the Federal forces. While not considered a Union defeat, it is considered a strategic victory for the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee.

After suffering a terrible defeat after the Second Battle of Bull Run, US Major General John Pope pulled his Army of Virginia back towards Centreville. His army was spread out to protect the approaches to Washington City, where the majority of US Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was garrisoned. Lee wanted to inflict more damage on the Union army before they had a chance to join up with McClellan. He devised a flanking movement that would send CSA Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Left Army Wing around Pope’s right flank. They would be preceded by Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Division which would scout the approach and provide warning to Jackson of the enemy’s dispositions. Meanwhile, US Army General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck had ordered Pope to attack Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately for Pope, Lee attacked first.

By 3:00 p.m., Jackson had reached Ox Hill near the junction of the Warrenton Turnpike and Little River Turnpike. US Brigadier General Issac I. Stevens’ IX Corps Division was situated east of the hill. Severely outnumbered, Stevens decided to attack before the III Corps Division of Major General Philip Kearny, Jr. was on the battlefield. While initially successful, Stevens’ attack, during a driving rainstorm, was doomed. The topography was not in his favor – nor was his battle strength. Marching uphill, he ran directly into the center of the Confederate line and the division of CSA Brigadier General Alexander Lawton. Stevens led from the front and would be killed by a bullet wound to his head. It was 5:00 p.m.

Federal reinforcements were at hand, with the arrival of General Phil Kearny’s III Corps Division. Arriving about the time of Stevens’ death, he deployed Brigadier General David B. Birney’s brigade on the left of Stevens’ demoralized troops. Running headlong into CSA Major General A.P. Hill’s Division, the fighting devolved into a hand-to-hand struggle. Kearny would accidently ride into the Confederate lines and would also be killed. With the arrival of the remainder of the Kearny’s brigades, Birney pulled back and the fighting ended.

While a small battle compared to Second Bull Run, it was still costly. Federal losses were 1,300 combined casualties of all types, including the deaths of Stevens and Kearny. Confederate losses were 800 combined casualties of all types. During the overnight hours the Union forces would pull back to the area of Fairfax Court House and combine with McClellan’s forces. Lee, concerned that he could not successively attack the forces at Washington City, decided the the time for bold action was at hand. On September 4, 1862 he would cross the Potomac River into Maryland. New battlefields awaited him which would be covered with the blood of both armies.

To see my photo essay on the Chantilly Battlefield click HERE.


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Historic Selma, Alabama -a photo essay

Over the years, I have visited Selma, Alabama on several occasions. The county seat of Dallas County, Selma was incorporated in 1820. Originally inhabited by the Creek Indians, the city got its name from the poem, The Songs of Selma. Selma means “high seat” or “throne.”(i) During a trip to Alabama, in July of this year, I once again had the opportunity to visit this historic city. During my short stay, I was able to visit historic Old Live Oak Cemetery and several significant Civil War era homes. I was fortunate to meet John Coon while I was in town and he served as my unofficial guide. Many thanks to John, and Old Live Oak Cemetery custodian James Safford, for their hospitality.

Originally named West Selma Graveyard, Old Live Oak Cemetery is a study in contrasts – beautiful trees and historic graves with a major city road, King Street, bisecting the old and new portions of the cemetery. Opened in 1829 it was declared a public nuisance in 1856. With the area being prone to flooding, the land was purchased by the City of Selma in 1877. It officially became Live Oak Cemetery in 1879 when local resident Colonel N.H.R. Dawson arranged to have eighty live oaks and eighty magnolia trees planted on its grounds. Today the majestic trees are over 140 years old and create a beautiful canopy over the cemetery grounds.(ii)

Thanks to the wonderful tour Mr. Coon provided me, I was able to visit several significant graves while visiting the cemetery: Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, CSA Naval Commander Catesby ap Roger Jones and brigadier generals Edmund W. Pettus and John T. Morgan. Buried near Hardee is one of the more interesting Alabamians: Benjamin S. Turner. Turner was born in Halifax County, North Carolina in 1825. His parents were slaves. He moved to Alabama when he was a toddler and managed to receive a clandestine education. Turner remained in bondage until the Emancipation Proclamation freed him after the Civil War. He would be elected tax collector in Dallas County in 1867 and Selma city councilman in 1869. Turner would become the first black representative from Alabama to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, being elected in 1870 and serving two terms.

A visit to Selma is not complete without visiting some of the historic residences and buildings in the city. Once again, Mr. Coon was my tour guide. Our first stop was at the home of General William J. Hardee. Built in 1865, the home has since undergone significant remodeling to restore its postbellum look. Next, we visited Fairoaks. This Greek revival mansion was originally the home of William B. King, nephew of U.S. vice president William R. King. During Wilson’s Raid, in April 1865, it was used as a Union field hospital and was occupied by US Major General James H. Wilson’s raiders. Next, my tour guide took me to Sturdivant Hall. Completed in 1853, this structure is considered one of the finest examples of neo-classic architecture in the South. A short distance away from Sturdivant Hall is the home of General John Tyler Morgan. Purchased by Morgan after the war, it served as his primary residence for many years after the Civil War. Our last stop was at the Mabry-Jones home. Built in 1850 by Dr. Albert Gallatin Mabry, it would later be the residence of Mabry’s stepdaughter, Gertrude Tartt Jones and her husband, Captain Catesby ap Roger Jones. The home’s history is widely varied. Built in 1847, it would serve as a Confederate hospital, Dallas County Court House and Vaughn Memorial Hospital. It was purchased by the city of Selma in 1969 and was restored to its original splendor. It is now called the Joseph T. Smitheran Historic Building in honor of mayor Smitherman who was instrumental in the city’s purchasing of the building.

If you ever find yourself in central Alabama, I highly recommend that you take time to visit Selma. Selma is two hours from Birmingham and one hour from Montgomery. It is a beautiful city and its residents, including Mr. Coon, will show you what true southern hospitality is all about.

(i) See “The Faces of William R. King” by Daniel F. Brooks by clicking HERE.
(ii) For more information on Historic Live Oak Cemetery see “Old Live Oak Cemetery” by clicking HERE.

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RIP: American Civil War Battlefields Facebook Group

Many of you have followed my blog articles via the Facebook group, American Civil War Battlefields. I started this group around four years ago when I first signed up for Facebook. The group had grown to over 6,000 members and thousands of conversation threads. A couple of months ago Facebook notified me that it was going to archive the group. The notification stated the group could not be converted to the new format because there was not enough recent activity. This is pure rubbish as the group had significant daily activity. I checked this morning and the group is totally gone! Facebook stated that all of the posts, pictures, videos, etc. would be retained after the archive but all members would be deleted. That has not happened. Everything appears to be gone.

With the passing of the American Civil War Battlefields Facebook group, a new Facebook group has been born as of today: This Mighty Scourge – An American Civil War Discussion Group. I hope you will consider joining this new group. I’m certain we will have fun just as we did on American Civil War Battlefields!


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