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CHAPTER IX: ACROSS FOUR APRILS


The Tale of the Kane Family (Rhode Island)
“They were in such great need of service and care.” ~ Lauren Kane, 1862.


The Kane family was among the hundreds of thousands of Irish-Catholic immigrants who swelled the American population in the 1840s-1860s. Fleeing the Potato Famines, they sought refuge “in the land of opportunity,” only to find crowded urban sprawls, meager factory wages, crowded tenants, and anti-Catholic nativism from America’s Protestant establishment. Even Rhode Island was not free from the swelling anti-Catholic nativism of the Know Nothings despite the states’ relative history of religious tolerance.

Lauren Kane was the eldest daughter of the Kane family, only 20 years old when the outbreak of the Civil War erupted, but one year after the family migrated from Ireland to America. Her brother, Thomas, 21, was among the conscripted Irish soldiers in the rounds of conscription in 1861. The family had six other children, but all too young to have served in any meaningful capacity during the war. Lauren served as a nurse, one of many thousands of eventual frontline nurses that served with the Union armies during the course of the war. And, without doubt, one of the thousands of nurses who helped save tens of thousands of lives who would have likely otherwise died without immediate emergency care at the sight of the many battles.

The contribution of Catholics to the Union war effort, but especially Irish-Catholic in particular, was one of the instrumental aspects to the Union victory over the Confederacy. While it is true that American Catholics did not feel much love for the American republic in 1860, owing, by and large, to a long history of anti-Catholicism stretching back to the very foundation of colonial America, Catholics nevertheless answered the public call to duty. At the outbreak of war, the Pope declared that it would be the responsibility of Catholics that “wherever he is, and that is, to do his duty there as a citizen.” Indeed, the Catholic Church in America was the only major religious denomination not to be effected by slavery and secession, as all major Protestant denominations in America fragmented along political and geographic lines.

But what often receives minimal treatment is the toll, but also responsibility and courage, of non-battlefield combatants—equally important to the war effort itself, and the saints and angels on, or near, battlefields for those maimed with terrible wounds. But the role of Civil War nurses was far from the usual nurse aid on the battlefield. For instance, at the outbreak of war, the most famous of Civil War nurses, Clara Barton, provided her own clothing and food, and other supplies, to help tend to the Union sick and wounded. This became a hallmark of Civil War nursing: the usage of personal items to aid the war effort. Nurses, like Barton, would even purchase ads in newspapers asking for the wealthier public to provide surplus clothing, aid supplies, and other items to the soldiers at the front. The Union Army was ill-equipped, especially at the beginning of the war, to be able to sufficiently handle the mass of wounded that would tally up in the brutal battles of the war.

Lauren Kane, like Barton, wanted to show her patriotism and loyalty to newly adopted country by aiding in the manner in which she could. Of course, for Irish-Catholics had much to “prove” in the war. American nativists were, as we’ve covered in preceding chapters, deeply suspicious that the character and religion of Catholics was not conducive to Protestant democracy and liberalism. The war became the founding stone by which all “non-Americans” could “purchase” their citizenship. In September of 1861, Lauren answered a call in a Rhode Island newspaper that requested abled-body young women and men (non-combatant) to serve their country and countrymen in the war.

***

If it permits to suit the reader, however, I would prefer to look at the journal of Lauren as taken at the Battle of Valley Pike, the decisive turning point of the war in Virginia where General Clayton blocked Lee’s march north and scored a critical, but also exhausting, victory over the Confederate Army of Virginia. Lauren, serving as a nurse with the Irish Brigade, tended to men that were in the thick of the fighting and played a crucial role during the duration of the four day battle in two of the days of fighting: the first and third days, which were arguably the two most important days of the fighting.

With Lee’s army on the move northward in an attempt to break free from “Clayton’s land blockade,” Clayton decided to give pursuit, leaving General Sherman at Norfolk and General Hooker at Fredericksburg while he marched with the rest of the Army westward toward the Shenandoah where reports indicated the bulk of Lee’s army was moving. Lauren detailed, in great specificity, of the army’s westward track.

“Today we marched behind the army and into the town of Culpepper and were greeted with loud cheers and bands playing. Men, women, boys, and girls all ran up to the men, hugged and kissed them, waving the flag from before the war. Many townsfolk told officers of their knowledge of rebel movement, and I met so many wonderful and lovely women who gave what few possessions of help they had to us.” – August 13, 1862.

0SmGLzj.jpg

Union troops entering the town of Culpepper, meeting praise and applause from the town population. Three days later, the decisive Battle at Valley Pike was fought.

Culpepper had been a prosperous agricultural town that was deeply divided at the outbreak at the war. The town council, by a one-vote majority, voted to secede with the rest of Virginia when the Old Dominion state seceded. Volunteers answered the call, but many others stayed, with limited interest in serving the power politics of slave planation owners and their political cronies. By 1862, Culpepper had been at the margins of the war in northern Virginia, but not yet “liberated.” The toll of the war hit the town hard, as it did many northerly Virginia communities, and when the Union blue and stars and stripes entered the streets for the first time in more than two years, much of the town rejoiced. Three days later, the guns outside of Valley Pike sounded.

We could see the smoke of cannon fire and hear the roaring thunder of artillery and rifle fire,” wrote Lauren on August 16, the first day when the leading elements of the Union army bumped into the tail end of the Confederate army outside of Stephen’s City at Klines Mill. Lee had just failed to escape Clayton’s pursuit, and with news of battle thundering, turned the army about south to give battle to the Union forces. “It was not long until we saw officers galloping back on horseback and yelling at us to clear off the road as they gave the order for double-quick and the boys rushed up to the front.”

Within the hour we were told to establish quarters to treat the wounded. Stretchers filled the field, hundreds of men were being brought back from the billowing white smoke from afar front, they were in such great need of service and care.”

Today I had the most dreadful of experiences Mother. Sometime after noon the army buckled and came fleeing back toward us. A colonel barked orders at us that we needed to pick up the wounded that we could save and retreat with the army, and leave the untenable wounded to the rebels. I had a young boy, 18, William, with bright blue eyes, fair skin, and blonde hair in my hands as I tended to him. He was in need of immediate care. He begged me, upon hearing the commands, not to leave him. How could I? I carried him, in my arms, to a carriage, loaded him in, and stayed with him as we evacuated to the back end of the army lines. He blessed me, wept, and died. I cried, I cried, and I cried at his passing. I found Father Corby, who gave him gave him last rites, even though already dead.”

The guns are sounding again, as they have the past two days. We are learning that the rebels failed to take their gains yesterday and were beaten back up in the north. Elizabeth tells me tended a fair, gangly, and sickly Union general who is being hailed a hero for his actions in stopping the rebels yesterday [Barlow]. I fear, now, within hours, my arms will be soaked in scarlet blood again.” – August 18, 1862

Upon treating the wounded, men without limbs, fingers, and gaping holes in their bodies, Captain O’Henry came to the men and announced victory! I have never seen such a look of jubilation erupt on the faces and in the bodies of so many men and boys who, just an hour ago, were depressed and unlively, sick, puking, and ready to join Christ.” – August 18, 1862

Lauren was not without notice from officers within the Irish Brigade either. One captain wrote of a “fair eyed, pale, and blonde angel sent from Mother Mary to watch over the wounded” during the duration of the battle. Father Corby, the famous brigade priest, even remarked, “I met a blessed soul, a living saint, a young woman who never left her post, and gave comfort to the sick and dying, and restored life to aggrieved.”

lJBl75f.jpg

A field hospital established during the Battle of Valley Pike, Lauren would have worked in an environmental similar to this one.

***

Thomas, meanwhile, served with distinction. Wounded at Spotsylvania, he found passage back to Washington where he was nursed back to full health and promoted to corporal upon his return. Thomas rejoined Hooker’s corps to partake in the long and drawn out Siege of Richmond, where he also kept a detailed journal of the fighting, of the coldness, and of the carnage. But you will forgive me, readers, for glossing over Thomas’s journal to inform you that both Lauren and Thomas survived and returned to their family in Rhode Island. Lucky, no doubt, but a reminder that even in war, some manage to escape the brutality and carnage in fullness of body and spirit.

Sadly, we are unsure of what really happened to either after the war. They both seemingly retrenched themselves into civil society by late 1864. Lauren would go on to work with Clara Barton’s Red Cross, or at least we seem to think so, as the Cross’s rolls indicate a Lauren Kane among the first workers when the Cross was established.
 

stnylan

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An important look at an another underappreciated aspect of these endeavours.
 

Specialist290

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Laura Kane's story tangentially reminds me of the book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy -- another excellent work about women who were "unsung heroes" in the Civil War, though their work involved more skulduggery and less battlefield life-saving.
 

volksmarschall

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IMAGE INTERLUDE


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Top, Union forces storm the defenses during the Siege of Vicksburg. From late 1861 to the summer of 1862, General Ulysses Grant conducted the Vicksburg Campaign as part of the larger Mississippi River and Valley Campaigns. The fall of Vicksburg solidified Union control of the Mississippi and split the Confederacy in two. It was later followed by, at Bottom, the Battle of Valley Pike where Union forces under General William Clayton caught the tail end of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Virginia as it was moving toward Maryland. The four day battle ended with a Union victory, and over 40,000 casualties on both sides.

5aioJN0.jpg
Above, General Robert E. Lee, commanding General of the Army of Virginia, and the principal Confederate general during the war. Lee was a form Virginian colonel of the U.S. Marines, but opted to fight for Virginia when Virginia seceded. Who won great fame at the First Battle of Richmond, which is widely viewed as having saved the Confederacy from quick defeat. In 1861 and spring and early summer of 1862, Lee kept the Union armies at bay. His defeat Valley Pike proved disastrous however. 1863 saw a long and protracted war of attrition where the main army of Virginia, stuck in Maryland, capitulated on March 19 1863. Lee and about 20,000 seasoned veterans escaped south, down the Shenandoah, and held out for another year with mostly conscripts and raw recruits during the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond.

Cfiz6wt.jpg
Above, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was the main commander of Union forces in the West during the Civil War. He won great renown after conducting his brilliant Vicksburg Campaign, then proceeded to march eastward during his “March on Mobile.” Grants success as commander-in-chief of the Western Department of the Union army made him a national hero. He was selected Abraham Lincoln’s running mate, and later became President of the United States after Lincoln died in office, becoming the first “Civil War President.”

N6CMxej.jpg
wDZhlr6.jpg
Left, Union warships fighting a Confederate fort along the Mississippi River. Right, Union forces storm a Confederate earthworks during the Siege of Richmond, late October 1863. The fighting during the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond were especially brutal because of the reliance upon trenches and earthworks by Confederate forces. It was the first modern implementation of static defense and "trench warfare." Nearly 100,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, went missing, or fell ill from disease during the sieges.

AXq9DPw.jpg
Above, Major General William Sherman. Sherman originally commanded a corps in the Army of the Potomac under William Clayton, but was given the task of seizing all coastal ports along the Atlantic after Union forces were besieging Confederate positions in Petersburg and Richmond. Sherman’s “March Down the Coast” became legendary and won him great renown too. He was later elected President of the United States in 1880 as a Republican, another of the Civil War Presidents.
 
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volksmarschall

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Sherman in 1884? Isn't that the same election where in our world he said "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected"? I have to see what caused him to change his mind here...

A future Sherman, yep! ;)
 
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volksmarschall

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CHAPTER IX: ACROSS FOUR APRILS


The Tale of the Mather Family (Ohio)


The Mathers of Ohio were scions of the famous Mather Family, one of the most famous of the Puritan families that settled in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ohio was originally a claimed territory of Connecticut, and was first settled by New England gentry, effectively establishing themselves as the de facto aristocracy of the eventual state. The Mathers were among these members.

Peter Mather, the patriarch, was a Congregationalist minister and ardent champion of abolition. American Protestantism was deeply interwoven in the fabric of American cultural and political life in the 19th century, and especially during the abolitionist movement where many of the northern Protestant denominations moved to take strong anti-slavery and abolitionist stances (while their southern wings came to the defense of slavery leading to fragmentations and schisms between Protestant denominations along geographic lines that were intertwined with political lines). Peter Mather, for instance, was involved in local Republican politics, and a member of the Underground Railroad in Ohio.

Ohio’s position in the Union was critical during the lead up to the war and the war itself. Ohio was politically divided between Copperheads and Unionists, Democrats and Republicans, closet pro-southern agrarians and pro-abolitionist radicals and laborites. The state was also one of the larger in the Union, and the breadbasket of the young American nation. Oatmeal was the state’s leading product, and Ohio earned the reputation as the “oatmeal capital of America.” Akron, for instance, was the central hub of the Quaker Oats Company.

Cincinnati was a bustling and booming city and a prosperous river town. On the outskirts was Mather’s home, in what became one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods. Because of the city’s location along the Ohio River and bordering the slave state of Kentucky, Cincinnati was a hub for the Underground Railroad. Many of the city’s local churches and ministerial family homes served as shelters for runaway slaves and other refugees fleeing southern slaveholders and their slave catchers. By federal decree, the Fugitive Slave Act, slave catchers had all legal rights to catch and return runaway slaves—even in so-called “free states.”

The daily ground of Peter Mather was often preaching abolition from the pulpit on Sundays, and active in community affairs the other days of the week. The educated clergy, likewise, often took to newspapers and cheap magazines to promote their causes to the masses. This was no different where Mather was a columnist for the abolitionist newspaper The Philanthropist before it folded in 1843. He then took to cheap penny press newspapers operated by the Congregational Church in Ohio which continued to wage a word crusade in favor of abolition.

When war broke out, the aging Mather was one of the prominent members of the community to advocate support for the Union cause, and helped to raise awareness for the call to arms for volunteers. His eldest son, Charles, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st Ohio Infantry. In total, more than 320,000 Ohioans served in the Union army during the war, and the highest proportional service in the Union.[1] Peter was also a leading advocate for the “Black Brigade” of Cincinnati, one of the first all-black regiments formed in the Union army that defended the city from the threat of Confederate attack.

In 1861, Confederate forces attempt to cross the Ohio River and attack the city and was repulsed. Before the battle, volunteers of “Squirrel Hunters” noted Congregationalist clergymen praying over the men as they took up their posts to defend the city. Mather was among those clergyman.

Furthermore, in 1862, with the heated contest between Copperheads and Republicans in the state, Peter was a vocal advocate for Fremont and the Republicans against Vallandigham and the Copperheads. He even penned a newspaper article supporting Fremont’s decision to have the notorious Ohio Copperhead arrested and put on trial for treason. While the event damaged Fremont beyond all credible repair, the political newspaper war in Ohio saw Mather rise to center stage.

kAXwb1D.jpg

The First Congregational Church, a church that is a national historical landmark, and a hub of the Underground Railroad. The Congregational Church was one of the strongest bastions of abolitionism and Unionism during the Civil War. The Congregationalists trace their lineage back to the Puritans, Pilgrims, Brownists, and other non-conformist and dissenting churches during the English Reformation. The Congregational Church has been home to many of America’s most famous colonial and post-independence families, including the Mathers', Cotton's, Edwards’, Taft’s (Unitarian), and Obamas. Congregationalists also founded some of America’s vaunted institutions of higher learning, including Harvard and Yale.

His son, Charles, an officer in the 1st Ohio Infantry, served with Grant’s army during the war. Charles took part in the Vicksburg Campaign, rising to the rank of captain after the regiment’s initial captain was killed during the Battle of Corinth. Charles was a firm and ardent abolitionist, and had a strong distaste for plantation slavery – something that most of the men of Grant’s army witnessed firsthand during the campaign along the Mississippi.

Mississippi slavery was notorious. The river’s slave economy was the brutal, harsh, chattel-like slavery depicting in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was far from the quasi-benign and “civilizing” portrait of gentry slavery in Virginia and along the Atlantic coast that pro-slavery advocates and defenders attempted to portray to the north. The witnessing of the chattel-bound slavery on the Mississippi changed many hearts and minds among Union soldiers.

Not all men fighting for the Union army shared anti-slavery and abolitionist sentiments. Those most ardent in their support for abolition was, in actuality, only a small portion of the “Yankee population.” Most were the descendants of the Puritans were in-grafted into Puritan families. The brutality of the river’s slavery economy quickly changed the views of those soldiers fighting to capture Vicksburg. As Charles noted in his journal, “The men have come before me to apologize for remarks toward negroes upon hearing my support for abolition. Having just witnessed the charred remains of several negro men and women, the scars on their skin, and the fragility of their bodies, it was as if the Lord descended into their soul for the first time to see the wickedness of the sins of slavery for the first time.”

As the Union army pushed closer to Vicksburg and liberated many slaves, companies of black troops were raised. To be sure, it was not glamorous. Many were underpaid, underclothed, and underfed. Tasked with manual labor and logistical duties, they were often positioned far away from the frontlines. Nevertheless, Charles and other junior officers who were equally ardent abolitionists convinced the general staff, and Grant, to eventually push for frontline service of African soldiers during the war. Although they had a mixed record, most accounts indicate the African soldiers, especially those freed from slavery, fought with tenacity and bravery that “equaled or surpassed the white man.”

The 1st Ohio was also present at the storming of Fort Hill to the north of Vicksburg. The battle was hard-fought and brutal. Men smothered each other, face-first, into the dirt and mud to kill one another. Charles was wounded leading the American flag over the ramparts as the “first over the top.” Hit in the shoulder, the captain fell to the ground, passing the flag to the soldier behind him, and ordering the men to storm into the Confederate positions. The fall of the Confederates at Fort Hill prompted the collapse of the Confederate army at Vicksburg.

Rising to the rank of Colonel, Charles Mather became a member of the general staff during the push toward Mobile. The march across central Mississippi and Alabama down to the Gulf was a memorable and vivid experience. Even in the Deep South, the presence of Union soldiers liberating southern towns that had suffered repression and reprisal from Confederate forces for failing to comply to the Conscription and Impressment Acts were causes of joyful celebration. As Charles described:

We entered the town of Ellisville and were greeted with a raucous celebration and joyful tears from the town residents. Women rushed out to kiss officers and soldiers, throwing flowers at us as we marched through. Residents with instruments played Hail Columbia as we marched by with the colors. The town flagpole even raised the American flag for the first time since secession. Old men and farmers were crying, boys were being tossed into the air and caught by their fathers, knowing that they would not have to see their sons fight and die for traitors and slave owners.[2]

Grant’s march to Mobile was met with joyful celebrations in other towns and counties as well. At Mobile, Grant cornered the remaining large Confederate force along the Gulf, General Joseph Johnston’s fewer than 10,000 men. After several days of skirmishing and naval bombardment, Johnston surrendered the army and the city to Grant. Charles, witnessing the surrender of Johnston’s sword to Grant, penned that the moment of surrender was one of silent celebration. The officers inside the room with Grant knew what the surrender represented. It meant, for all practical purposes, the end of the war, the end to southern slavery, and the forthcoming reunification of the country and fight for Reconstruction in Congress.


HrHAwZC.jpg

The Fall of Mobile was the end of the Western Campaign of the American Civil War. The rest of the fighting in the west was sporadic and non-conclusive. The surrender of the city brought relief to the beleaguered population, with many of the residents welcoming the sight of the Union soldiers as they paraded into the city as victors, and liberators.



[1] In total sum, Ohio provided the third greatest number of total soldiers for the Union army, but in proportion to state population, provided the largest based on eligible population to serve.

[2] Ellisville was a historical center for Unionism in Mississippi during the war. In one of the legendary stories of the town’s history, Confederate soldiers were shot and killed on the porch of a house when asking to enter to round up deserters. The house is supposedly haunted with the ghost of the dead Confederates shot by the homeowners.


As a treat, here is one of the greatest renditions of “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” from an old Civil War computer game that @Specialist290 and myself have confirmed that we played, when growing up: Robert E. Lee: Civil War General and Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, and Sherman. The serenity to the music is just so pleasing. “Down with the traitors and up with the Stars!”

 

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I can feel some sympathy for Charles' compatriots. It's easy to disregard evil when you just hear about it, and much harder when you see its results first-hand.
 

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Civil War Presidents sounds like at least three, maybe more.
 

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The reception of Grant's army is very different from the historic feelings of citizens of, say, Vicksburg and Natchez. Still, as you say, Ellisville was not a Confederate stronghold (see The Free State of Jones, since Ellisville is the county seat of Jones County). Mobile was historically the last Southern city to surrender, three days after Appomattox.

Sherman as President? I could understand his brother getting the nod, but 'Cump' - at least as we know him - doesn't have the temperment. Be interesting to see him as President, at least from a secure location a few hundred feet distant LOL.
 

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I can feel some sympathy for Charles' compatriots. It's easy to disregard evil when you just hear about it, and much harder when you see its results first-hand.

Seeing is always better than hearing. Especially slavery along the Mississippi. I mean, not to sound "apologetic," but that romance vision of big aristocratic slavery like in Virginia, that was, comparatively, much more benign, was propped up by pro-slavery defenders for a reason. Which is why Uncle Tom's Cabin was such a big deal. It showed the side to slavery that was being deliberately suppressed by the South for obvious reasons.

Civil War Presidents sounds like at least three, maybe more.

Hmmm... someone might have my notes again. :p

The reception of Grant's army is very different from the historic feelings of citizens of, say, Vicksburg and Natchez. Still, as you say, Ellisville was not a Confederate stronghold (see The Free State of Jones, since Ellisville is the county seat of Jones County). Mobile was historically the last Southern city to surrender, three days after Appomattox.

Sherman as President? I could understand his brother getting the nod, but 'Cump' - at least as we know him - doesn't have the temperment. Be interesting to see him as President, at least from a secure location a few hundred feet distant LOL.

Yeah. The fun joys of writing the war as it unfolded in the game. Pretty much after Vicksburg all the fighting in the West was done except for those newly mobilized and recruited 3,000 man divisions occasionally popping up in Texas, Nuevo Leon, and the few Alabama units as Grant's army was mopping things up. It's important to show that the South was not as "unified" as people like to romanticize, that there was, in fact, a deep pro-Union and anti-CSA element even within Confederate society. So much for all those tales of national independence and what not.

Well, Sherman isn't exactly going to be presented in the romantic lime light next chapter when I detail my version of his March to Sea, "The March Down the Coast." But, alas, we'll just wait and see why he becomes the American Cincinnatus in 1884. ;)
 

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CHAPTER IX: ACROSS FOUR APRILS


The Tale of the Meyer Family (Alabama)

The Meyer family was a large yeoman family of farmers in Alabama. Untoched by slavery, and owning no slaves themselves, the Meyer’s were a reflection of the common majority of American southern citizenry: non-slaving owning, poor, but hardworking farmers. The Meyer family was, like all other families, just trying to make a living and provide for themselves and their children, of which there were 10, four sons and six daughters as I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

Andrew Meyer, the family patriarch, and his sons, Scott, Peter, James, and Philip were ardent Democrats. They were among the yeomanry that received the right to vote under Andrew Jackson’s reforms, and for this, they were eternally grateful and devoted. The Democratic Party, for all of its other ills, was, in a nominal sense, the party of the working class and the party of majoritarian democracy. That said, like most of the poor southern farming families, Andrew Meyer wasn’t particularity motivated to support the cause of southern secession. Neither was his eldest son, Scott, who had, recently, purchased his own plot of land with his wife Caroline – living about a 15 minute walk over the hills that separated the two plots of cultivated land.

Farming was tough and arduous, especially in the south. After spending half a day farming out with the sun beating down on their neck, colloquial language from wealthy white planters derided poor yeoman farmers as “rednecks.” This too, is one of the ironies of the Southern society and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party was, in one sense, a party of white egalitarianism and democracy; it advanced the political interests of the poor white majority in America, and it also aided them through various programs that were tailored to advance the interest of subsistence farmers and laborers. At the same time, especially in the south, the elite and gentrified plantation population also held control over the Democratic Party, especially the Fire-Eaters who prompted secession from the Union.

This was the torn loyalty for many poor whites, like the Meyer family, during the Civil War. On one hand, they saw little interest in abolitionist politics. These people were not dumb. The Meyer’s knew well what would happen if nearly 4 million southern slaves were suddenly freed. They would drop down on the social pyramid with the elevation of freed slaves. At the same time, as was the case with Tory Unionists throughout the south, poor white farmers – especially those who were conscripted into the Confederate army or had much of their grain, mules, and livestock seized for the war effort, had little love for the wealthy, elitist, and capitalistic plantation owners. After all, the plantation owners of the Deep South and Atlantic Coast were among the wealthiest families in America, far wealthier than even the prominent Brahmin families in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.

Southern secession had ruptured, definitely, the internal cracks of southern society and southern politics. Prior to the Civil War, Southern Democrats, in particular, could present themselves as the benevolent and benign democratic expansionists who were the friends of the poor white working class and farming families throughout the south. Unlike the Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans, who had fought against democratic expansion and farming interests, the Democrats steadfastly and routinely defended the working and agrarian ways of not just southerners, but northerners and westerners too. Hence, the rural areas and farming regions of the American republic, and especially the newly opened regions of westward expansion, were reliably Democratic.

eM0OoQ6.jpg

A farm in the American South around the time of the Civil War. Small, cramped, and often the home of many members of the family, immediate and extended, yeoman life was hard and difficult, but these farmers persevered with grit and independence. Families such as the one in the photo were the hardest hit during the war. Much like the Meyer family in Alabama.

However, the war and secession highlighted, at least among the southern wing of the party, who served as their true interests. In a sense, it was both a betrayal but necessary extension of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian ideology. Going back to the likes of ancient political theorists like Aristotle and Cicero, the great Greek philosopher, and the famous Roman statesman, both warned in their writings that democracy was threatened by wealth. Any democracy, they argued, would necessarily fall into the hands of those with the most money, and the egalitarianism that democracy embodies would devolve into a soft despotic tyranny of moneyed interests, and, according to Cicero, eventually lead to the reaction of the plebeians against the moneyed-interests that controlled the democratic process. Jefferson, for his part, somewhat understood this, which is why he favored a republic of small farmers and warned against the rise of a national bank and capitalist industries and tycoons that Hamilton promoted. However, Jefferson’s own agrarian and plantation heritage would necessarily serve as the southern side to Hamilton’s wealthy elite in the north. Thus, while Jefferson and Jackson were not the pawns of slave interests, and neither were their original political organizations, it was, if one agrees with Aristotle and Cicero, the inevitability that the political organization that advocated the virtues of the simple farmer and laborer would eventually become the vehicle of the wealthy plantation class.

Thus, when secession sounded its guns, Peter and James Meyer volunteered for the Alabama Militia. Andrew, too old, remained on the farmer with the youngest son, Philip, and seven of their daughters who were still living with him and his wife, Mary. Scott, the eldest son, and himself a farming land owner, with a young son himself, Thomas, managed to escape initially until the Conscriptions of 1861.

Scott, conscripted as a private of the 4th Alabama Infantry, fought at Corinth and Vicksburg against Grant’s unstoppable force. At Corinth, he was wounded in the shoulder, and at Vicksburg, he was killed during the fall of city. Scott’s death left Caroline and his 13 year old son Thomas alone on their farm. It was eventually merged with Andrew’s farm upon news of Scott’s death because Caroline and Thomas were unable to tend the plot on their own.

Peter was eventually part of the Alabama Brigade in the Army of Virginia, and served throughout the war, until the defeat at Valley Pike, where he deserted with around 2,000 soldiers who managed to escape southward back down the Shenandoah. Living with the Virginians in the valley, Peter managed to escape deserter hunters, and survived the war without being able to write any letters back home to his family. According to his father, Andrew, the sudden arrival of Peter as the family farm on April 27, 1864, was a momentous and shocking moment of joy.

Like the Prodigal Son,” Andrew wrote, “and like Lazarus, Peter emerged at my door today. Face torn, sickly, and muddied, nevertheless, alive and breathing.”

The moment was, without doubt, a great moment of celebration and joy. With Scott’s death, and the suspected death of Peter, whom had not written to his family for two years, to suddenly emerge one day knocking at his father’s door was a fitting reunion for the two. James, who was also there, reunited with his brother without his right leg, which was had to be amputated after the Battle of Clinch Mountain Tennessee, to which he eventually made his return home due to physical discharge.

The family farm, however, also suffered from the war. The Meyer’s, though poor, owned a substantial plot of land for a single farming family. Five times, according to Andrew’s journal, dozens of Confederate soldiers appeared at the family farm to take cloth, food, grain, and livestock “within the legal parameters of the law” in order to feed the Confederate war machine. The farm itself was untouched from Union advance, but, due to the seizure of livestock and grain, Anne, the youngest daughter, eventually died from fever and, by Andrew’s words, “starvation from Davis’s demonic policies.”

Of course, families like the Meyer’s, and James himself, never received compensation from the Confederate government, the state of Alabama, or the reunited federal government post-war. Instead, it was entirely their lot to own. The essential desecration of their farm, their way of life, and the loss of James’s leg, was theirs and theirs alone to own and overcome.

By war’s end, as Andrew noted, “It is with great joy and solemn sadness that I hear the news of the end of the war

it is with great joy precisely because we may finally be whole again, and, as what is left with our family, a chance to rebuild

but it is also with a solemn and heavy heart that I hear the news of the war’s end, a war that led to Scott, Anne, and Peter’s death.” [At this time, Andrew was unaware that Peter was still alive.]

The end of war offered a new moment for southerners. A new moment to rebuild their society. But also a new moment to try and adapt to the new realities of Reconstruction. But for the Meyer family, and countless other southern families, the end of the war finally brought peace, and years of rebuilding and overcoming the losses, material, emotional, and filial, that was brought forth because of southern secession.

XqrjDwZ.jpg

"Returning Home," a painting depicts a Confederate veteran returning to his farm after the war, only to find that his family has gone missing, the farm destroyed and in ruin, and now, left alone upon war's end, has to either journey to find his family or rebuild his ancestral plot of land himself. Like Naboth, many Southern farmers steadfastly refused to concede the reality that the war had destroyed everything that generations of their family and ancestors had worked so hard to create, committed to the ideals of family, land, and ancestral customs, their allegiance to filial piety and landed work often caused their own demise and deaths.
 

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A grim situation made worse but the harsh realities of defeat. These folk only had bad options.
 

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CHAPTER X: GONE WITH THE WIND
(SHERMAN’S MARCH DOWN THE COAST)


qPEb81d.jpg


You can tell your grandchildren about – how you watched the Old South fall one night.
~ Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Gone With the Wind (1939)


The Fate of the Old South

The most romanticized, brutal, and often heroic moments of the American Civil War occurred in the summer and autumn of 1863. While Union forces under Clayton besieged Lee at Petersburg and Richmond, and Grant captured Mobile, William Sherman led a force, initially, of 45,000 soldiers down the Atlantic Coast to seize the major shipping ports and harbors of the Confederacy: Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah from September to December. Those three cities, and their harbors, with protected forts and entrenched troops, posed the last great outlet of hope for the Confederacy. While blockaded from sea, Confederate guns kept Union warships far enough away that blockade running was still partially successfully. In combination with the War Department, and the American Navy, Sherman was given the important task of dislodging the Confederate forces from their forts, seize the harbors, and bring an end to the blockade running outlet that the Confederacy had grown to depend on after Union soldiers were sent south during the Mexican Crisis and the fall of Vicksburg.

GmQk3R8.jpg

A blockade runner. Blockade runners were widely used by the Confederacy, and late in the war they were the last lifeline of the Confederacy and became the final focus of the Union war efforts.

We already noted from the preceding chapter that David Smith from Indiana was a soldier in Sherman’s army during the march down the coast. During the campaign, the Old South was shattered, and Sherman unleashed “total war” against the southern states, towns, and infrastructure as he brought with him the Reaper’s sow. As he infamously declared, “These rebels will learn what the hand of God feels like when I’m done with them.” With Sherman were 5,000 Afro-American soldiers, who, while not given direct commands to be used in frontline combat, would end up fighting during the campaign and fought with great audacity and courage, including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers during the capture of Fort Wagner and Charleston.[1]

Sherman was originally stationed at Norfolk as a reserve force that could move to where forces were needed in Virginia, but also to maintain Norfolk Harbor for the Union, which was one of the principal ports of the Confederacy during the beginning of the war. By the summer of 1863, with the tide of the war clearly turning against the Confederacy, Clayton gave Sherman discretion to take his newly formed “army” down the Atlantic Coast and seize all the major forts and harbors that were pumping temporary life into the Confederacy. The initial battles were mostly minor skirmishes; the first major action was the Battle of Raleigh, where General John Reynolds, commanding the newly assembled I Corps of the “Army of the Carolinas,” protected the right flank of Sherman’s main body as he proceeded down the coastline. The fall of Raleigh signaled the slow death and collapse of the Confederacy. Raleigh was the capital of North Carolina, but the Confederate forces defending the city put up limited resistance after two days of fighting.

As Sherman marched through North Carolina he laid to a barren and burnt crisp the North Carolina countryside, railroad system, and burned every plantation within a two mile radius of his marching columns. Sherman meant to show the Confederacy no mercy, and that, with the war turning against the Confederacy, there was little room for compassion after three terrible and bloody years of war. One of Sherman’s subordinate staff officer’s wrote, “Like the Assyrians in the time of Isaiah, General Sherman will stop at nothing until all of the South will sing songs of his righteous wrath and judgment cometh.” And of course, it was true in some sense. Unlike the old reciprocal notions of lex talionis, Sherman was off to wage a war of punishment and brutality. Punishment. Punishment to teach the South a lesson was now the goal of the war rather than bringing them back into the fold and fabric of American society and politics. The same could be said for General Sheridan as he rode his cavalry through the countryside of Virginia and down into North Carolina, equally opening up the gates of hell with him. At least two pale riders were unleashed upon the South during the final year of the war, with reverberating and longstanding consequences to follow.

1N9o0Ue.jpg

A painting depicting Sherman’s march down the coast, and the destruction of the “Confederate means to wage war.” Sherman’s army destroyed thousands of miles worth of roads, bridges, telegraph lines, railroads, and burned many villages, plantations, and farms, while freeing all slaves they came across.
If the Russians employed Scorched Earth in the defense of Russia against the invasion from Napoleon, Sherman tripled the devastation as attacker. Nothing was safe from the torches and axes of his soldiers. As he pushed through the Carolinas, he declared his famous “40 acres and mule” promise to all freed slaves. Sherman, who was sympathetic to the Radical cause, also wanted “to bury the South.” The Confederacy, in Sherman’s eyes, had earned the wrath of fiery judgment and that their way of life was to be crushed as the judgement paid for treachery and secession. Even Grant, Clayton, and Lincoln initially wanted to keep Sherman on a leash but eventually gave him free hand.

Sherman’s army was all but unstoppable. The Confederate militias that had been raised, almost all conscripted, was meager. The last hopes of the Confederate South rested in their forts and harbor defenses. But Sherman, ever the ardent warrior, looked at their forts and laughed it off.

The Battle of Wilmington

Reaching Wilmington on September 24, Sherman immediately surrounded the city with 40,000 men and guns, with 50 warships and rocket ships along the coast. On September 25 Sherman gave the city and its commanders the ultimatum of surrender, which was naturally refused. The next nine days was an unrelenting shelling. As Confederate survivors and civilians recalled, “there was not a minute, or even a second, without a rocket or cannon firing off.”

The city of Wilmington was reduced to rubble, and Sherman’s III Corps slipped through the city to surround Fort Fisher while the IV Corps seized Fort Anderson. The fighting at Fort Fisher was the decisive moment of the Wilmington Campaign. The Confederate garrison stood their ground against overwhelming odds. General Oliver Howard, the commander of the III Corps, was given the task of clearing the fort after two days of continuous artillery bombardment. The 3,000 man garrison of the fort and its adjacent earthworks didn’t bat an eye at the Union war machine. After two days of terrible fighting, Fort Fisher surrendered.

The fighting itself was so brutal that 51 soldiers, sailors, and officers were awarded the newly established Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle. The highest officer awarded was Brigadier Newton Curtis, who led his brigade of New Yorkers over the ramparts of the fort while being wounded four times, and was regarded as “the man who took the fort.” The fall of Wilmington in two weeks spread like wildfire throughout South Carolina. Charleston rapidly conscripted all able-bodied men and boys still in the city. Much of the city’s population, in a panic, fled. Soldiers deserted. General Beauregard, the Confederate commander, wrote bleak reports in his journal concerning the nature of the city and frantic environment upon hearing news of “pillage, death, and incineration” at the hands of Sherman’s mighty war machine that was now marching south to Charleston.

Nevertheless, much like Wilmington, the Confederates placed their hopes in their harbor defenses and forts. Union warships, after all, had been unable to make a dent into the Confederate defenses after all these months and years. Confederate troops and cannons lined the defenses, and valiantly fired back. Three Union warships were so badly damaged that they were eventually scuttled by their crews.

rnIP4jC.jpg

A depiction of Union forces storming Fort Fisher, which later led to the fall of Wilmington.

But “Sherman’s army of demons” was another thing. As the Union army approached the city, a pillowing cloud of black smoke rose over the horizon. All in the city, and the men in their forts, knew what the smoke cloud meant. Sherman was coming. And his army had a vengeful wrath on their mind. To his credit, Sherman was also employing psychological warfare against the Confederate population. Not only was he aware that “the destruction of the means of waging war” would break the Confederate logistical capacity to maintain itself in war, he also knew of the reputation that would be built from his actions.

Since the Confederates were his enemy, he cared not for their love and affection as Banks achieved in New Orleans. Instead, he wanted to be their bogeyman. Sherman intended, through the destruction of the Confederate means of war, to also leave an impression on the minds of all Southerners who still held out hope for the Confederate cause. He did not merely destroy roads, tracks, bridges, farms, plantations, and wagons, he lit fire to forests to display his power and instill fear and trembling among nearby towns that stood in his path. As one Union officer remarked of Sherman’s tactics, “War is an uncivilized game and can’t be civilized.”

On October 23, 1863, Sherman camped outside of Charleston and Fort Wagner on Morris Island, which covered the approach into the city’s harbor. Just as it was at Wilmington, Sherman would coordinate the attack from land and sea. And it was here at Fort Wagner that the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, an all-black infantry regiment, would go down in the annals of American military history.


[1] In OTL, Fort Wagner never fell.


SUGGESTED READING:

Jason Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns

James McDonough, William Tecumseh Sherman, In Service of My Country: A Life

Ronald White, American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant
 

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I have also started yet another AAR of a truly gripping, and bizarre, game I had with Provence in Eu4. Come check if out if you want to see a humble vassal dynasty come to dominate the royal thrones of Europe and wage a brutal war against the Great Green Giant (Ottomans)!

Europa: In the Age of the Fourth Race of Kings. Whig and Anglophile apologists enter at your own discretion! :p
 

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I find Sherman an interesting character. Today we would call him a war criminal without a moment's hesitation. Except .. often we do hesitate, even those who are ready to throw that label of those responsible for far less.

So I suppose it is better to say I find Sherman is an interesting mirror to our own times.

For my own part I do call him a war criminal, for I find very little different between him and Manstein, for example.
 

RossN

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An intriguing if dark update. I only vaguely knew of Sherman before, though I was aware he was controversial.

It looks like the 1864 election might be a post-war one.
 

Idhrendur

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Sherman's rough for me. I can never quite find words for a coherent thought in analysis of his actions.
 

volksmarschall

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I find Sherman an interesting character. Today we would call him a war criminal without a moment's hesitation. Except .. often we do hesitate, even those who are ready to throw that label of those responsible for far less.

So I suppose it is better to say I find Sherman is an interesting mirror to our own times.

For my own part I do call him a war criminal, for I find very little different between him and Manstein, for example.
An intriguing if dark update. I only vaguely knew of Sherman before, though I was aware he was controversial.

It looks like the 1864 election might be a post-war one.
Sherman's rough for me. I can never quite find words for a coherent thought in analysis of his actions.

I have to admit that, as someone who grew up in the South and who still has some attachment to the romantic agrarian ideal but no sympathy whatsoever for the racism and slavery that underpinned it in reality, my views on Sherman have always been a little complicated to untangle. I've ultimately come around to believing he did the best thing possible under the circumstances for the right reasons, but part of me still thinks his March to the Sea is directly to blame for at least some measure of the crushing poverty that plagued the South for a generation afterwards, and the knock-on effects on education (among others) that have stuck with us to this day.

Well if there's anything that I hope you all, and all the other readers, take away as we go through this Civil War, is the de-romanticizing that plague both sides: the triumphant moralism of the north, and the romantic revisionism of the south. I think I have brought forth a cultural and intellectual retelling that highlights the general tragedy of the nature of the American Civil War. For whatever bonafides we want to give the Union, to which I think there are many, this shouldn't come at the expense of what actions -- esp. late in war -- various Union armies and their commanders took. But they were on the "winning side" not just militarily and politically, but also on the winning side with regard to slavery. And certain the grievances of certain southern regions having felt "victimized" is very real and is always forgotten by northern, puritan, Yankees even they've dropped the explicit puritan theology from their cause but still reflect and embody it in secular ways. At the same time, as the fictionalized retelling of the four families, and other updates from preceding chapters, we forget that northern families and farmers were hit particularly hard -- driving them westward to seek new fortune from the Homestead Act. Naturally, as we'll see in Part IV, this left a bitter consciousness towards the federal government and capitalism in the Great Plains and Mountain West, which is still with us in other ways today.

Likewise, for all the romantic revisionism of the south, I've tried to highlight what southern partisans don't bring forth: the war wasn't about states' rights, whatever half truth there is about the agrarian, romantic, and chivalric Old South (to which there is), the war was never fought to really preserve that (and it was already declining before the Civil War). Likewise, a large portion of "Confederate" population was pro-Union, or just not concerned with the war. Furthermore, the Confederate government (to the sources I used in the bibliography) was far more centralized and authoritarian than Lincoln's Washington. They practiced what Fox News would quickly deride as "socialism" (state capitalism really). And lastly, direct Confederate government policies destroyed so many farms and families without the need of the Union, leading to migration crises, desertion, and bread shortages for the common folk.

Sherman is no different. Of course, if people's views of the ACW is "read Wikipedia" and "become an expert," that's just so wrongheaded on many levels. This might be a fictionalized retelling of this game's Civil War, but deep behind the name changes, date changes, and all the rest -- as @stnylan would know -- is a rich historiography crafted by this author that wants to bring out the other sides of Civil War scholarship. You've all received, and continue to gain, an esoteric education in American history from this AAR. :p

And let's just say we're not done with Sherman yet either. Charleston is in his sights...
 
Last edited:

zealouscub

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Subbed.
I also wanna say thanks for all the suggested reading you have. I'm an American and I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I always found American history to be boring. But! You have made me way more interested in my own history, especially from this look at intellectual developments, and I have a lot of reading to look forward to now.