October 26, 1864: Bloody Bill Anderson Killed

LeBoeuf: The force of law! This man is a notorious thumper! He rode by the light of the moon with Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson!
Rooster Cogburn: That men was patriots, Texas trash!
LeBoeuf: They murdered women and children in Lawrence, Kansas.
Rooster Cogburn: That’s a G-d d—-d lie! What army was you in, mister?
LeBoeuf: I was at Shreveport first with Kirby-Smith, then…
Rooster Cogburn: Yeah? What side was you on?
LeBoeuf: I was in the army of Northern Virginia, Cogburn, and I don’t have to hang my head when I say it!
Rooster Cogburn: If you had served with Captain Quantrill…
LeBoeuf: Captain? Captain Quantrill indeed!
Rooster Cogburn: Best let this go, LeBoeuf!
LeBoeuf: Captain of what?
Rooster Cogburn: Good, then! There are not sufficient dollars in the state of Texas to make it worth my while to listen to your opinions. Our agreement is nullified.
LeBoeuf: That suits me!

Charles Portis, True Grit



Our Civil War was a relatively clean war in that the mass murder  of civilian populations that are often a feature of civil wars was mercifully absent from that conflict.  However, some atrocities did occur, and many of them were in the ferocious fighting that raged in Kansas and along the Kansas-Missouri border.  There the Civil War had begun in 1854, with a brief truce in 1859-60.

Anderson, born in 1839, came from a family of horse thieves.  Residing in Agnes, Kansas in March 1862, his father was shot by a local Judge in regard to a stolen horse.  Bloody Bill and his brother Jim took revenge by shooting to death the Judge and his brother-in-law.   Bloody Bill left Agnes, Kansas with his family and moved to Western Missouri.

By the spring of 1863 Bloody Bill and Jim had joined up with William Quantrill and his Confederate guerillas.

Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr., the commander of the military district which comprised Kansas and Western Missouri, ordered the arrest of relatives of the members of Quantrill’s band.  12 women among those arrested were housed in a three story house in Kansas City, Missouri.  The house collapsed on August 14, 1863, killing four of the women.  Anderson’s sister Josephine was killed in the collapse and his sister Mary was rendered a permanent cripple.

Anderson went crazy with grief and rage when he heard the news.   In retaliation, Quantrill raided Lawrence, Kansas on August 21.  200 men and boys were murdered by Quantrill’s men, with Bloody Bill living up to the nickname by which he is known to history. (more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (9)  
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The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Something for the weekend.  The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  Not period music of course, but few songs better evoke the despair of Confederates in the aftermath of defeat.  The above version is the original one sung by The Band.  Here is the version that became the signature song of Joan Baez.


Published in: on October 23, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 19, 1864: Battle of Cedar Creek


The last major battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley in the Civil War, it was fitting that the topsy turvy nature of the battle of Cedar Creek reflected the see-saw fights waged by the Union and the Confederacy for control of the Valley since the start of the War.

After his victories in the Shenandoah Valley in September, and his destruction of the most valuable agricultural regions in the Valley, Sheridan assumed that the War was at an end in the Valley for the winter, at least as far as major battles were concerned.  Delploying his 31,000 Army of the Shenandoah along Cedar Creek northeast of Strasburg, Viriginia, Sheridan felt secure enough, even with Early’s 21,000 Army of the Valley in the vicinity, to attend a conference with Grant in Washington on October 18.  On the evening of October 18 he slept at Winchester, eleven miles from his army.

Sheridan of course did not know that Early had received a letter from General Lee on October 12 urging him to attack.  Examing the Union position carefully, Early decided that an attack on the Union left, which relied for its security on natural obstacles might succeed, Early assuming correctly that the Union commanders would be more concerned about an attack from the west which was free of such obstacles.

The Confederates on the evening of October 18 in three columns made a night march against the Union left.  By 3:30 AM they were in position to laucher their attack.  The attack began at 5:00 AM in darkness and a thick fog.  Surprise was complete and the division sized Union Army of West Virginia which was at the far left of the Union force was quickly overwhelmed.  By 10:00 AM, Early had driven the seven Union divisions from the field, captured 1300 prisoners, taken 24 cannon, and his famished troops were feeding off Union supplies in the abandoned Union camps.  His troops seemed to have won an against the odds victory.  Then Sheridan arrived at the battlefield and changed everything.

At 6:00 AM pickets at Winchester reported that they heard the faint sound of artillery.  Not expecting an attack Sheridan thought nothing of it.  However he ordered his horse Rienzi to be saddled and after a quick breakfast he began at 9:00 AM to ride towards Cedar Creek.  The sounds of fighting became louder the closer approached and Sheridan realized a fight was in progress.  Sheridan was cheered by stragglers from the fight as he approached Cedar Creek.  Sheridan ordered the stragglers to follow him which most of them did, convinced that little Phil would bring them victory again.  Sheridan arrived at the battlefield at 10:30 AM.

Sheridan immediately began planning his counterattack.  Early had effectively lost control of his army due to the plundering of the Union supplies, and Sheridan had plenty of time to perfect his plan before he launched his attack at 4:00 PM.  The smaller Confederate force resisted for about an hour when its left began to crumble and the Confederates routed from the field.

Union casualties were 5,665 to 3000 Confederate.  Among the Confederate dead was Major General Stephen Dodson Ramseur, who died the day after the battle in spite of the best medical care his Union captors could provide.  The day before the battle he had learned that his wife had borne him a daughter.  His last words were   “Bear this message to my precious wife—I die a Christian and hope to meet her in heaven.”  He was 27 years old.

The battle was decisive and Early’s army was no longer a threat to Union control of the Shenandoah.  The victory provided a great boost to the re-election campaign of Lincoln during the closing weeks of the campaign leading up to election day November 8.

Here is Sheridan’s account of the battle in his memoirs: (more…)

Shenandoah Valley: The Burning

 Shenandoah in Flames196

After his victory over Early at Fisher’s Hill, Sheridan decided that further pursuit of Early up the Valley would be pointless as Early’s force was too small to any longer pose a threat to Union control of the Shenandoah and his time would be better spent carrying out Grant’s wish expressed to General David Hunter that crows have to carry their own provisions over the Shenandoah Valley.  As Sheridan wrote to Grant: , “My judgment is that it would be best to terminate this campaign by the destruction of the crops, &c., in this valley, and the transfer of troops to the army operating against Richmond.”   Grant agreed, and Sheridan over the next two weeks conducted a march from Stanton north to Strasburg, a distance of 70 miles with his army covering a width of thirty miles.


On October 7, 1864 Sheridan reported to Grant:

I have the honor to report my command at this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and harrisonburg yesterday morning. The grain and forage in advance of these points up to Staunton had previously been destroyed. In moving back to this point the whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountains has been made untenable for a rebel army. I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat, hay, and farming implements; over seventy mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in front of the army over 4,[000] head of stock, and have killed and issued to the troops not less than 3,000 sheep. this destruction embraces the Luray Valley and Little Forst Valley, as well as the main valley. A large number of horses have been obtained, a proper estimate of which I cannot now make. Lieutenant John R. Meigh, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg, near Dayton. For this atrocious act all the houses within an area of five miles were burned. Since I came into the Valley, from Harper’s Ferry up to Harrisonburg, every train, every small party, and every small party, and every straggler has been bushwhacked by people, many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in this valley. From the vicinity of Harrisonburg over 400 wagon-loads of refugees have been sent back to Martinsburg; most of these people were Dunkers and had been conscripted. The people here are getting sick of the war; heretofore they have had no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance. (more…)

Published in: on October 18, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Marching Along


Something for the weekend.  Marching Along by William B. Bradbury.  Bradbury was a human song writing machine of the 19th century.  Of all the songs he wrote, doubtless the best known is the tune for Yes, Jesus Loves Me which I frequently sang as a child.  He wrote that tune the same year, 1862, that he wrote Marching AlongMarching Along, appropriately enough, was a favorite marching song of the Army of the Potomac, and they sang it endlessly during their marathon marches of the Civil War.

Published in: on October 16, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 13, 1863: Vallandigham Loses Bid for Governor


I have always thought that the Copperhead Movement in the North, those Northerners who believed that war to preserve the Union was wicked and/or futile, had a great deal of potential strength and it is something of a puzzle as to why it did not have a greater impact on the War.  One reason is that the Copperhead political leadership tended to be second raters at best.  A case in point is Clement Vallandigham, a Congressman of Ohio, and most definitely the most famous Copperhead.

Ironically a personal friend of Edwin Stanton before the War, Vallandigham served for one term in the Ohio legislature before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1858, after a disputed election loss in 1856.  Re-elected to the House in 1860, he became famous throughout the nation for his fiery speeches opposing the war policies of the Lincoln administration and condemned what he viewed as the administration’s infringement on civil liberties.  Vallandigham lost a bid for a third term in 1862, the boundaries of his district having changed as a result of redistricting.

Out of office, he continued to denounce the War in widely printed speeches.  That was too much for Major General Ambrose Burnside, who after the debacle of Fredericksburg had been placed in command of the Department of Ohio.  Burnside on April 13, 1863 issued General Order 38 which among its other provisions, stated the following:  The habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy will no longer be tolerated in the department. Persons committing such offences will be at once arrested, with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends.

On May 5, 1863 Burnside had Vallandigham arrested for violation of the General Order.  His case quickly became a cause celebre, Democrats around the nation, not all of them Copperheads, vociferously denounced the arrest.

Lincoln decided to exile Vallandigham to the Confederacy on May 19, 1863.  Once in the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis had Vallandigham briefly guarded as an alien enemy. He had talks with the Confederate government.  In these talks Vallandigham either cautioned against an invasion of the North or spoke in favor of it, the sources differ.  Vallandigham eventually left the Confederacy on a blockade runner, first to Bermuda and then to Canada.

While in Canada, Vallandigham carried on clearly treasonous talks with a representative of the Confederacy about his plans of establishing a Northwest Confederacy of Midwestern states.  This was all moonbeams and unicorn talk as Vallandigham demonstrated next year when he ran in absentia for the governorship of Ohio.  Vallandigham gained the Democrat nomination readily enough, but he went down in flames on election day, losing to War Democrat John Brough, running on a Union fusion ticket of Republicans and War Democrats,  288,374 to 187,492.  Lincoln wired Brough a telegram: “Glory to God in the Highest. Ohio has saved the Nation.” (more…)

Published in: on October 13, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Wearing of the Grey

Something for the weekend.  The Wearing of the Grey sung  by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man battle to bring the music of the Civil War to modern audiences.


“The fearful struggle’s ended now, and peace smiles on our land
And though we’ve yielded, we have proved ourselves a faithful band.
We fought them long, we fought them well, we fought them night and day
And bravely struggled for our rights while wearin’ of the Grey!

And now that we have ceased to fight and pledged our sacred word
That we against the Union’s might no more will draw the sword
We feel despite the sneers of those who never smelled the fray
That we’ve a manly honest right to wearin’ of the Grey.

Our Cause is lost, no more we fight ‘gainst overwhelmin’ power.
All wearied are our limbs and drenched with many a battle shower.
We feign would rest for want of strength and yield them up the day
And lower the flag so proudly borne while wearin’ of the Grey.

Defeat is not dishonor; No, of honor not bereft.
We should thank God that in our breast this priceless boon is left.
And though we weep tis for those braves who stood in proud array
Beneath our flag and nobly died while wearin’ of the Grey.

When in the ranks of war we stood and faced the deadly hail
Our simple suits of Grey composed our only coats of mail.
And on those awful hours that marked the bloody battle day
In memory we will still be seen a wearin’ of the Grey.

Oh, should we reach that glorious place where waits the sparklin’ crown
For everyone who for the right his soldier’s life lay down,
God grant to us the privilege upon that happy day
Of clasping hands with those who fell a wearin’ of the Grey.”

Published in: on October 9, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 3, 1861: Battle of Greenbrier River

Most of the skirmishes and battles of the Civil War were fairly indecisive affairs, and so it was with the battle of Greenbrier River fought on October 3, 1861 in Pocahontas County in what is now West Virginia.

In mid September 1861 the Confederates had established Camp Bartow in the area of Cheat Mountain under General Henry R. Jackson.  Union forces under General Joseph J. Reynolds (intriguing that the Confederate and Union commanders had surnames that would become famous in the War, but not due to them) attacked the camp on the morning of October 3, 1861.  Each side consisted of about six brigades.

The fighting went on for five hours from 8:00 AM to about 1:00 PM in a fairly desultory manner judging from the light casualties:  5 Union dead and 35 wounded, to 6 Confederate dead, 35 wounded and 13 missing.   The Union commander, concluding the attack was going nowhere, eventually retreated.  Both the Union and Confederate commanders reported that the other side had lost about 300 men, exaggeration of enemy losses, innocent or otherwise, being a constant habit of both sides during the War.  A completely inconclusive battle of no importance, except to the dead and wounded on both sides and their families. (more…)

Published in: on October 3, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 1, 1863: Wheeler Begins His Raid Into Tennessee

Joseph Wheeler



In most histories of the Civil War the focus tends to be on the big battles and this is understandable as they were very important.  However, this distorts our view of the War as it often takes our attention away from other facets of the War that loomed large to contemporaries and often had an impact on the conflict not much less than major battles.  One overlooked facet is the constant raiding that went on throughout the War by partisans and cavalry.  The Confederates were masters of this type of warfare, and these raids often slowed, if not crippled, the operations of major Union armies, as supply depots were destroyed, railroads cut, telegraph lines ripped down, and general havoc raised with Union rear area logistics.  One such raid began on October 1, 1863, led by General Joe Wheeler, commander of the cavalry of the Army of Tennessee.

With Rosecrans bottled up in Chattanooga, Wheeler went into Tennessee, for nine days, raising alarms through out the Union forces in that state, as he hit the supply lines that Rosecrans needed to keep his semi-besieged army supplied.  The shining moment of the raid for Wheeler came when he attacked an 800 wagon Union supply column, capturing 500 of the wagons, and killing approximately a thousand mules badly needed to haul Union supplies.  On his return to Confederate lines his command was roughly handled by pursuing Union cavalry under Brigadier General George Crook, but his mission to complicate the supply of the Union Army of the Cumberland was successful.  Here is Wheeler’s report: (more…)

Published in: on October 1, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Prisoner of Fort McHenry


Francis Key Howard


Forty-seven years after he penned the Star-Spangled Banner, and eighteen years after his death, a grandson of Francis Scott Key, Francis Key Howard, found himself a prisoner in Fort McHenry.  The editor of the Baltimore Exchange, and a Confederate sympathizer, Howard was imprisoned for his vigorous editorial protesting the suspension by the Lincoln administration of the writ of habeas corpus and the arrest of the mayor and city council of Baltimore by the Lincoln administration.  Howard would be held for fourteen months in various Union prisons until his release.

On September 14, 1861 he looked out from his prison cell in Fort McHenry at the flag waving in the breeze.  He later wrote down his reflections at that moment: (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2021 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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