March 6, 1865: Last Confederate Victory

 

Although the Confederacy would win some skirmishes after March 6, 1865, the Battle of Natural Bridge in Florida was the last significant Confederate victory, and ensured that Tallahassee would end the Civil War as the only unconquered Confederate state capital east of the Mississippi.

 

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The Confederate defenders consisted of the odds and ends of a  few small Confederate military units, elderly volunteers and teenage cadets from the Florida Military and Collegiate Institute.  About a thousand all told, this motley, but sturdy, force held the bridge against unimaginative Union assaults for the entire day.  The Union expedition, consisting of the 2nd and 99th Union Colored Infantry, sustained 148 casualties to 51 Confederates.  They withdrew to the Union fleet at the end of the day from which they had landed, the Union offensive to take Tallahassee ended.  Florida State University Army ROTC remembers the cadets who fought there that day with a battle streamer on their flag, one of four Army ROTC programs nationally to have a battle streamer for a Civil War action.

Published in: on March 6, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Leonard Nimoy: Requiescat in Pace

 

(I posted this on the day of Nimoy’s death at The American Catholic, and I thought the Star Trek mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

A sad day.  Leonard Nimoy has departed this Vale of Tears.

Leonard Nimoy, the legendary actor who played Mr Spock in Star Trek, has died at the age of 83.

The star, who was first cast in the science-fiction series in the mid-1960s, suffered from COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center after a 911 call on February 19.

His wife Susan Bay Nimoy and son Adam confirmed he passed away at his Bel Air, Los Angeles, home on Friday morning.

Nimoy’s final tweet from his hospital bed urged fans to ‘live long and prosper’.  (more…)

Published in: on March 5, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 4, 1865: God, Lincoln and the Second Inaugural

lincoln_second-inaugural

Hands down the most moving  inaugural address in American history is the second inaugural address given by President Lincoln, little over a month before his death.  It is short, to the point and powerful.  It is also the most important theological document written by any American President.  Here is the text:

(more…)

Published in: on March 4, 2015 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 3, 1865: Lincoln Signs Bill Creating Freedmen’s Bureau

One of the chief instruments of Reconstruction, the Freedmen’s Bureau, formally known as The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, had a broad area of responsibility as set forth

in the Act creating it:

An Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby established in the War Department, to continue during the present war of rebellion, and for one year thereafter, a bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands, to which shall be committed, as hereinafter provided, the supervision and management of all abandoned lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen from rebel states, or from any district of country within the territory embraced in the operations of the army, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the head of the bureau and approved by the President. The said bureau shall be under the management and control of a commissioner to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, whose compensation shall be three thousand dollars per annum, and such number of clerks as may be assigned to him by the Secretary of War, not exceeding one chief clerk, two of the fourth class, two of the third class, and five of the first class. And the commissioner and all persons appointed under this act, shall, before entering upon their duties, take the oath of office prescribed in an act entitled “An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes,” approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and the commissioner and the chief clerk shall, before entering upon their duties, give bonds to the treasurer of the United States, the former in the sum of fifty thousand dollars, and the latter in the sum of ten thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful discharge of their duties respectively, with securities to be approved as sufficient by the Attorney-General, which bonds shall be filed in the office of the first comptroller of the treasury, to be by him put in suit for the benefit of any injured party upon any breach of the conditions thereof.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of War may direct such issues of provisions, clothing, and fuel, as he may deem needful for the immediate and temporary shelter and supply of destitute and suffering refugees and freedmen and their wives and children, under such rules and regulations as he may direct.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President may, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an assistant commissioner for each of the states declared to be in insurrection, not exceeding ten in number, who shall, under the direction of the commissioner, aid in the execution of the provisions of this act; and he shall give a bond to the Treasurer of the United States, in the sum of twenty thousand dollars, in the form and manner prescribed in the first section of this act. Each of said commissioners shall receive an annual salary of two thousand five hundred dollars in full compensation for all his services. And any military officer may be detailed and assigned to duty under this act without increase of pay or allowances. The commissioner shall, before the commencement of each regular session of congress, make full report of his proceedings with exhibits of the state of his accounts to the President, who shall communicate the same to congress, and shall also make special reports whenever required to do so by the President or either house of congress; and the assistant commissioners shall make quarterly reports of their proceedings to the commissioner, and also such other special reports as from time to time may be required.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioner, under the direction of the President, shall have authority to set apart, for the use of loyal refugees and freedmen, such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned, or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise, and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid, there shall be assigned not more than forty acres of such land, and the person to whom it was so assigned shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of the land for the term of three years at an annual rent not exceeding six per centum upon the value of such land, as it was appraised by the state authorities in the year eighteen hundred and sixty, for the purpose of taxation, and in case no such appraisal can be found, then the rental shall be based upon the estimated value of the land in said year, to be ascertained in such manner as the commissioner may by regulation prescribe. At the end of said term, or at any time during said term, the occupants of any parcels so assigned may purchase the land and receive such title thereto as the United States can convey, upon paying therefor the value of the land, as ascertained and fixed for the purpose of determining the annual rent aforesaid.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts and parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this act, are hereby repealed.

Congress would reauthorize the Freedmen’s Bureau each year until 1872 when it was dissolved.  We shall follow its activities in future posts.

Published in: on March 3, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 2, 1865: End of the War in the Valley

 

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It had been a long and grueling War in the Shenandoah Valley with some towns changing hands some seventy times between Union and Confederate forces.  On March 2, 1865 it came to an end.  Jubal Early’s force, stripped over the winter to shore up Lee’s thin ranks holding the lines at Petersburg, was now reduced to 1500 men.  Sheridan was moving South, initially under orders to move into North Carolina and link up with Sherman advancing into North Carolina.  Not wanting to leave Early in his rear, Sheridan sent twenty-five year old Brigadier General George Armstrong with a division of cavalry, 2,500 men, to find Early.

Custer had graduated dead last in his class at West Point in 1861, making him the class goat.  The “goat” had a spectacularly successful War, rising in rank from Second Lieutenant to Major General of Volunteers. (He had been promoted from Captain to Brigadier General of Volunteers, passing over the intervening ranks, in 1863.)  Daring and combative, Custer had helped transform Union cavalry from lackluster to an able strike force.

Early posted his small force on a ridge due west of Waynesboro, Virginia.  Arriving at 2:00 PM on March 2, Custer quickly saw that Early had fortified his position and that head on attacks would probably not work, but that Early’s left could be turned.  (Early had thought that a thick wood adequately protected this flank.)  Sending one brigade to turn the Confederate left while he attacked frontally with two brigades worked  to perfection.  Virtually the entire Confederate force was taken prisoner with Early and fifteen to twenty Confederates escaping.  Here is Sheridan’s account of the battle from his Memoirs: (more…)

Lee Ponders the Coming Campaign

Lee Ponders Defeat

One hundred and fifty years ago, Winter still held the nation in its grip, but all knew that Spring was coming, and with Spring an inevitable push by Grant against Lee to end the War.  In a letter of February 22, 1865 to Longstreet, Lee considers the options of the Army of Northern Virginia in the coming campaign.  Like a master chess player who is losing a game, all the moves are clear to Lee, but a path to victory for the Confederacy is not.  At best Lee can contemplate his Army either striking Grant or Sherman’s army but leaving unsaid what Longstreet already knew:  that either Grant or Sherman’s forces were strong enough to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia in open battle.  Here is the text of Lee’s letter: (more…)

Published in: on March 1, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Church’s One Foundation

 

Something for the weekend, The Church’s One Foundation.  Written by Church of England minister Samuel J. Stone, it is sung to the tune Aurelia by Samuel S.Wesley.  I have always enjoyed this hymn and I have cherished the memory of Stone for it, and for this poem The Soliloquy of a Rationalistic Chicken: (more…)

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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James Forrestal and his Prophecy

Flag Raising Iwo Jima

 

The last cabinet level Secretary of the Navy, and the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal was not content to remain in Washington.  As Secretary of the Navy during World War II he often visited the sites of active combat operations.  Thus it was that he was present on Iwo Jima when the flag was raised on Mount Suribachi.  What he said then has entered the lore of the Marine Corps:

The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.

Appointed the first Secretary of Defense in 1947, Forrestal fought against budget cuts proposed by President Truman that he thought endangered the nation’s security.  He also opposed the proposal to unify the services which would gut the Navy and eliminate the Marine Corps.  On March 31, 1949, Harry Truman, angered over Forrestal’s opposition to his policies, fired him.  Tragically, Forrestal, who had worked non-stop on Defense issues since he joined the Roosevelt administration in 1940, had a nervous breakdown.  While undergoing psychiatric treatment he committed suicide by jumping from the 16th floor of the National Naval Medical Center.  He left behind a note with a quotation from Sophocles’ Ajax:

Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar,

Wander around thee yet,

And sailors gaze upon thy shore

Firm in the Ocean set.

Thy son is in a foreign clime

Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,

Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,

Worn by the waste of time–

Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save

In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….

Woe to the mother in her close of day,

Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,

When she shall hear

Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!

“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–

No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail

Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale– (more…)

Quotes Suitable for Framing: William Manchester

 

He was a thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform. Flamboyant, imperious, and apocalyptic, he carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks. Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect. Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at arms- this nation has produced.

William Manchester in a great one paragraph description of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar

One sure way to get a fight started among American students of military history is to mention Douglas MacArthur.  About 40% will regard him as a vastly overrated egotistical incompetent, and another 40% will regard him as perhaps America’s greatest general.  Twenty percent will try to say that both sides have their points, just before a heated debate begins.  My own perspective is that we are still too close to MacArthur’s stormy time to render a judicious verdict on his career.  MacArthur is both the hero and villain of his biography and it will take generations to sort him out.

Published in: on February 26, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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February 25, 1865: Lee Will Not Give Up the Texas Brigade

 

 

 

..”Attention Texas Brigade” was rung upon the morning air, by Gen. Gregg, “the eyes of General Lee are upon you, forward, march.” Scarce had we moved a step, when Gen. Lee, in front of the whole command, raised himself in his stirrups, uncovered his grey hairs, and with an earnest, yet anxious voice, exclaimed above the din and confusion of the hour, “Texans always move them.”
…never before in my lifetime or since, did I ever witness such a scene as was enacted when Lee pronounced these words, with the appealing look that he gave. A yell rent the air that must have been heard for miles around, and but few eyes in that old brigade of veterans and heroes of many a bloody field was undimmed by honest, heart-felt tears. Leonard Gee, a courier to Gen. Gregg, and riding  by my side, with tears coursing down his cheeks and yells issuing from his throat exclaimed, “I would charge hell itself for that old man.”

 

Private Robert Campell, 5th Texas Infantry

The fighting erupted early on the second day of the Battle of the Wilderness.  Grant assumed that Hill’s corps had been fought out on the first day and could be overrun with a strong attack.  At 5:00 AM Hancock attacked with three divisions, with two in support.  By 6:00 AM Hill’s corps was in full retreat and disaster loomed for Lee.  At that time the 800 man Texas Brigade, perhaps the elite fighting unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the vanguard of Longstreet’s corps arrived and saved the day.  Longstreet launched a two division counterattack up the Orange Plank Road, with the Texans, who suffered 650 casualties, leading the attack on the north side of the Road.

This action by the Texan Brigade, and similar actions on many other fields, caused Lee to treasure the unit as his shock troops.  This caused Lee to deny a request by the Governor of Texas in February of 1865.  The request and the denial are contained in this letter from Jefferson Davis to the Governor of  Texas: (more…)

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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