January 19, 1861: Georgia Secedes

On January 19, 1861 Georgia approved an ordinance of secession, joining South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama in attempting to exit from the Union.  On January 29, 1861 Georgia issued a Declaration explaining why secession was necessary.  It is worth reading because it is a thorough representation of the Southern view that slavery was imperilled by the election of Lincoln and the rise of the Republican party, and that in order for slavery to be preserved, the Union could not be.  Compare and contrast with the unintentionally hilarious video from the Sons of Confederate Veterans video (Lincoln as the “Big Government” candidate!), which manages the feat of discussing Georgia secession and not breathing a word about slavery . (more…)

Published in: on January 19, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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From Underground Railroad to Confederate General

The Civil War is often described as the North against the South.  That is somewhat inaccurate as plenty of Southerners fought against the Confederacy, and the Confederacy had a fair number of sympathizers in Union states.  Of the generals who led the armies, a few Southerners, George “Pap” Thomas is a prime example, fought for the North, and a few Northerners fought for the South.  Of those Northerners who donned rebel gray, none had a more unusual biography than Bushrod  Rust Johnson.

Born in Belmont County Ohio, on October 7, 1817, Johnson’s family were Quakers, pacifists and strongly opposed to slavery.  Prior to attending West Point, Johnson worked with an uncle on the Underground Railroad, smuggling slaves to freedom.

Graduating with the class of 1840 from West Point, Johnson served in the Seminole and Mexican Wars.  In 1847 his military career was cut short when he was dismissed from the Army for selling contraband.  Academia being less choosy usually than the military, Johnson taught as a Professor of Chemistry and Philosophy at the Western Military Institute in Georgetown, Kentucky and went on to be Professor of Engineering at the University of Nashville.  Throughout this time period Johnson was active in the Kentucky and Tennessee state militias. (more…)

Published in: on January 16, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 12, 1865: Davis Note to Blair

Lincoln v. Davis

 Go here to read about the peace initiative of Francis P. Blair who travelled to Richmond to meet with President Davis.

Jefferson Davis was a very shrewd man, much shrewder I think than most historians have given him credit for being.  He realized that little could be expected from negotiations with Lincoln because Lincoln would never agree to Confederate independence, the one non-negotiable issue as far as both Lincoln and Davis were concerned.  Additionally, he regarded a joint Union Confederate war against the French in Mexico, the core of the Blair initiative,  to be a fairly bizarre proposal.  However, he was eager to negotiate.  The Confederate military situation was beyond dire.  If the negotiations led to Confederate independence, victory would be snatched at the last instant.  If, as Davis expected, the negotiations led to nothing, he could tell his people that he had attempted negotiations and the Union would not negotiate in good faith, and all that remained was a last ditch struggle to secure on the battlefield what the North would never concede on the negotiating table.   Here is the note that he gave to Blair to take back to Lincoln:  (more…)

Published in: on January 12, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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What’s the Matter Stephen Foster?

The Civil War probably killed Stephen Foster.  The most notable American composer of his time, in a day when copyright enforcement was nil, Foster always just managed to scratch out a precarious living.  As the beginning of the song indicates, with the coming of the War many of the songs he had written in peace were no longer in demand.

Broke and suffering from a persistent fever, deserted by his wife who had taken their daughter to live in Pittsburgh in 1861, Foster fell in his hotel room in New York City on January 10, 1864 and gashed his head on a wash basin.  He was admitted to Bellevue and died three days later, at age 37.  Ironically his most successful song, Beautiful Dreamer, was published a few months after his death: (more…)

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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1864: The Coming Year

Situation at Beginning of 1864

Not much of note was going on during the Civil War 156 years ago.  The War had entered a quiet stage, as if both Union and Confederacy, exhausted by the extreme exertions of the prior year, were gathering strength for the decisive year that lay ahead.

The political calendar for the Union ensured that it would be decisive.  The Republicans had lost 20 seats in the 1862 elections, primarily due to the War, and Confederates could hope that Lincoln, as all Presidents subsequent to Jackson, would be a one term President and he and his party would be repudiated at the polls, bringing an end to the War and independence for the Confederacy.  Unionists realized that unless Lincoln won reelection, the War was likely lost, as a Peace Democrat would be unlikely to continue the War.  More than in any election in American history, the Union elections of 1864 hinged upon the perceived success or failure of the Union war effort.

The third anniversary of the beginning of the War would come in April, and the Union could take solace in the fact that progress was being made.  The Union controlled the Mississippi and the largest Confederate city, New Orleans, was firmly in the Union grasp.  The Union blockade was beginning to bite, with the Union controlling ports and enclaves the length of the Confederate coast line.  Tennessee was completely subdued with the Union holding large portions of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  However, the cost had been frightful and at the rate of the last three years, it might well take at least another three years to see the War end in Union victory.  No doubt even ardent Union supporters wondered if Union morale could endure the costly and bloody conflict for much longer.  1864 would have to see a speed up in the process of the Union winning the War, or eventual victory would never come. (more…)

Published in: on January 1, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

December 20, 1860: The Union is Dissolved

The video at the beginning of this post celebrates, I think that is the correct term, the secession of South Carolina on December 20, 1860.  The video is hilariously inaccurate, most notably in not recognizing the historical fact that a right of secession had been hotly debated and contested prior to the Civil War and in failing to breathe a word about slavery, the reason why the secession crisis occurred.    In contrast to this Neo-Confederate balderdash, I think the words of former Congressman James L. Petigru at the time were apt:  “South Carolina is too small to be a Republic and too large to be an insane asylum.”   Here is the ordinance of secession for the little state that started the big war: (more…)

Published in: on December 20, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 20, 1860: The Union is Dissolved  
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December 12, 1860: Secretary of State Lewis Cass Resigns

150 years ago the stage was being set for the Civil War.  The Buchanan administration sat paralyzed as the tide of secession was about to begin throughout the lower South.  One member of the administration was fed up by its inaction.  Lewis Cass was Secretary of State in the Buchanan cabinet.  He was the Grand Old Man of the Michigan Democrat Party.  A strong believer in Popular Sovereignty, a belief that the citizens of a territory should decide the slavery issue themselves, he had long been considered a doughface, a Northern politician who had Southern sympathies.

However, Cass, who was born during the Revolution, also had a deep love for the Union, and he was appalled by the refusal of Buchanan to take a firm military stand against the secessionists.  His letter of resignation: (more…)

Published in: on December 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 12, 1860: Secretary of State Lewis Cass Resigns  
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December 4, 1864: “Battle” of Waynesboro

Battle of Waynesboro



There was very little fighting on Sherman’s March to the Sea, other than low level skirmishing.  Even the battles fought would tend to be considered a skirmish at most if they had occurred in the Virginia theatre of operations.  So it was with the “battle” of Waynesboro, a fight that occurred on December 4, 1864.  Ninety-nine miles from Sherman’s goal of the port of Savannah, the skirmishes around Waynesboro between Sherman’s cavalry commanded by General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, appropriately nicknamed Killcavalry, and Confederate cavalry under General Joe Wheeler, typified the ability of the Confederates to annoy, but not really to impede, the Union march.  Sherman in his memoirs gives us the details: (more…)

Published in: on December 4, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 4, 1864: “Battle” of Waynesboro  
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McPherson on the 1619 Project


The best one volume history of the Civil War is Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) by James McPherson, a book which has received endless accolades and earned each one.  I therefore found interesting his comments on the New York Times 1619 Project:


Earlier this month the site interviewed James McPherson on his reaction to the Times’ Project. McPhereson is a Princeton history professor who specializes in the history of the Civil War including a Pulitzer Prize winning history on the topic. Here’s a sample of what McPhereson had to say about 1619:

Q. What was your initial reaction to the 1619 Project?

A. Well, I didn’t know anything about it until I got my Sunday paper, with the magazine section entirely devoted to the 1619 Project. Because this is a subject I’ve long been interested in I sat down and started to read some of the essays. I’d say that, almost from the outset, I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history. And slavery in the United States was only a small part of a larger world process that unfolded over many centuries. And in the United States, too, there was not only slavery but also an antislavery movement. So I thought the account, which emphasized American racism—which is obviously a major part of the history, no question about it—but it focused so narrowly on that part of the story that it left most of the history out.

So I read a few of the essays and skimmed the rest, but didn’t pursue much more about it because it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning very much new. And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view…

Q. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer and leader of the 1619 Project, includes a statement in her essay—and I would say that this is the thesis of the project—that “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.”

A. Yes, I saw that too. It does not make very much sense to me. I suppose she’s using DNA metaphorically. She argues that racism is the central theme of American history. It is certainly part of the history. But again, I think it lacks context, lacks perspective on the entire course of slavery and how slavery began and how slavery in the United States was hardly unique. And racial convictions, or “anti-other” convictions, have been central to many societies.

But the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true. And it also doesn’t account for the countervailing tendencies in American history as well. Because opposition to slavery, and opposition to racism, has also been an important theme in American history.

Go here to read the rest.  Politicized history is junk history.

Published in: on December 3, 2019 at 6:02 am  Comments (2)  
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December 2, 1864: Non-Siege of Nashville Begins



One of the oddest episodes in the history of the Civil War begins.  His army badly mangled at the battle of Franklin, Hood entrenches his army before the Union lines at Nashville.

Hood explained his rationale for doing so in his official report of the campaign which he submitted on February 15, 1865:

On the 2d of December the army took position in front of Nashville, about two miles from the city. Lieutenant-General Lee’s corps constituted our center, resting upon the Franklin pike, with Cheatham’s corps upon the right and Stewart’s on the left, and the cavalry on either flank, extending to the river. I was causing strong detached works to be built to cover our flanks, intending to make them inclosed works, so as to defeat any attempt of the enemy should he undertake offensive movements against our flank and rear. The enemy still held Murfrees-borough with about 6,000 men, strongly fortified; he also held small forces at Chattanooga and Knoxville. It was apparent that he would soon have to take the offensive to relieve his garrisons at those points or cause them to be evacuated, in which case I hoped to capture the forces at Murfreesborough, and should then be able to open communication with Georgia and Virginia. Should he attack me in position I felt that I could defeat him, and thus gain possession of Nashville with abundant supplies for the army. This would give me possession of Tennessee. Necessary steps were taken to furnish the army with supplies, which the people were ready and willing to furnish. Shoe-shops were in operation in each brigade. We had captured sufficient railroad stock to use the road to Pulaski, and it was already in successful operation. Having possession of the State, we should have gained largely in recruits, and could at an early day have moved forward to the Ohio, which would have frustrated the plans of the enemy, as developed in his campaign toward the Atlantic coast. (more…)

Published in: on December 2, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 2, 1864: Non-Siege of Nashville Begins  
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