Civil War Galore

My exploration of the Atlanta Campaign prompted me to take a day trip further north to see some of the other sites in that campaign, in particular Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, and Rome Cross Roads. But as is usual with such tourism, you always discover other things when you’re out, such as the Chetoogeta Mountain Tunnel and the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension. But there is a lot more Civil War stuff in Georgia too. This post deals with some of it, and how it is memorialized. 

In Catoosa County, almost in Tennessee, one finds the main site for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. I regret to say that I was completely unaware of how massive (and massively deadly) the Battle of Chickamauga was in the course of the Civil War. Fought on September 18-20, 1863, it featured some 60,000 Union troops fighting 65,000 Confederates – producing, respectively, 16,000 and 18,000 casualties. Only Gettysburg had a higher toll. That this was a victory for the Confederacy in a war it ultimately lost, I suppose, puts it outside the narrative, so to speak, so it does not surprise me that Gettysburg is better known. 

In 1890, Congress authorized the foundation of this park, along with parks for the Battles of Gettysburg, Shiloh, and Vicksburg, in the first wave of federal Civil War preservation. To my chagrin the visitors’ center at Chickamauga was closed on account of the virus, but at 5300 acres, the park provides lots of things to see. These include artillery pieces:

Battlefield markers:

Plenty of signs explaining exactly what went on at various points in the battle (in gray for Confederate movements, and blue for Union):

And lots of monuments, contributed by various parties:

Florida.

Illinois

Indiana.

Kentucky, honoring soldiers who fought on both sides.

Gettysburg is like this too, if I recall correctly from a visit there many years ago. It is good to remember. The more monuments and markers, the better.

Today, this park has five other satellite sites, at Orchard Knob (for a battle fought there on Nov. 23, 1863), Lookout Mountain (Nov. 24, 1863), and Missionary Ridge (Nov. 25, 1863) – all commemorating subsequent Union victories in defense of Chattanooga, counting as part of the Chattanooga Campaign – plus Moccasin Bend (an American Indian site) and Signal Point (a Civil War signal station). But Chickamauga is the showpiece, and I’m looking forward to returning some day when the buildings are open, and when the weather is not quite as hot. 

The final battle in the Chattanooga Campaign was the battle of Ringgold Gap (Nov. 27, 1863), which counts as a Confederate victory because Patrick Cleburne held up Union forces, allowing Confederates and their equipment to escape, although the Union troops occupied Ringgold shortly thereafter. Ringgold Gap is not part of the national park, but one can view this GHC marker just outside of Ringgold, Ga. Do I detect a celebratory tone?

Cleburne certainly merits a statue…

…and outside the Ringgold railway depot flies Hardee’s flagWilliam J. Hardee was not at Ringgold Gap, but elements of his corps were, and Cleburne’s corps used the flag as well (my thanks to Eb Daniels for telling me about this). Thus does Ringgold accurately celebrate its Civil War heritage, while avoiding the Confederate Battle Flag that causes so much offense. 

Cleburne is noted for something else, which is edifying to our current sensibilities. On January 2, 1864, while stationed at Dalton, he offered up a “Proposal to Enlist Slaves and Guarantee Freedom to All Loyal Negroes.” According to an interpretive sign placed recently by Georgia’s Civil War Commission:

He cited that throughout history, slaves had fought beside master in many conflicts, and that the North was only using the slavery issue as “merely a pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government.” Remove slavery as a war factor and the foundations of the North’s argument would crumble. Cleburne also knew that Great Britain and France would likely recognize the South as a sovereign nation once it emancipated its own slaves.

But another marker, placed by the Georgia Historical Society in 2014 outside the Huff House in Dalton, which was serving as Johnston’s winter headquarters, tells that:

almost all the other generals present opposed the idea of black Confederate soldiers because it violated the principles upon which the Confederacy was founded. Gen. Patton Anderson said the proposal “would shake our governments, both state and Confederate, to their very foundations,” and Gen. A.P. Stewart said it was “at war with my social, moral, and political principles.” Considering the proposal treasonous, Gen. W.H.T. Walker informed President Jefferson Davis, who ordered any mention of it to be suppressed.

So despite the opinion of the Irish-born Cleburne, and some thirteen other officers who endorsed his proposal, it looks like the Confederate States of America really was all about slavery. Eventually the CSA did authorize a version of Cleburne’s proposal… on March 13, 1865, less than a month before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Bit late for that, I guess!

Ringgold Gap was also where Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign began on May 7, 1864. Here is a WPA marker testifying to this event.

Seven miles away, also on May 7, Union forces seized the Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel and its namesake town. A GHC sign tells about it, in the usual stilted style. 

Right beside the western entrance to the railroad tunnel stands the Clisby Austin house, which had served as a railway hotel, then a Confederate hospital, and then as Sherman’s headquarters from May 7 to May 12, 1864. 

Google maps.

I made this map to show some of the places significant to the opening days of the Atlanta Campaign. After Ringgold and Tunnel Hill, the next major encounter was at Rocky Face Ridge. The underlined “Rocky Face” on the map in fact denotes Mill Creek Gap, which the Confederates had spent the previous winter fortifying, including by damming Mill Creek. Turns out that this operation was quite effective at keeping Union troops at bay.

According to another sign, Mill Creek Gap earned the nickname “Buzzard’s Roost,” on account of one soldier’s observation that “buzzards are roosting up there, waiting for us to die.” 

But in what became a common occurrence during the Atlanta campaign, Sherman simply used his superior numbers to outflank Confederate defenses. Dug Gap (marked with a blue star on the map) and Snake Creek Gap (marked with a red star) turned out to be just as useful for getting through Rocky Face Ridge. 

Thus did Johnston abandon Dalton and retreat to Resaca, where the pattern repeated itself. An attempt by Union troops against the Confederate line was unsuccessful, so Sherman ordered a flanking movement to the  south, crossing the Oostanaula River with Cumberland pontoon bridges and forcing another Confederate retreat. 

Of the four GHC markers at Resaca, this one is the most lucid.

But the NPS marker is more clear…

…and the WPA marker actually illustrates what happened.

The Battle of Resaca may have been inconclusive, but it produced some 2800 casualties for the Confederacy, many of whom were hastily buried, or not buried at all. When the local Green family returned to their home in 1866, they were shocked by this sight, and Mary Jane Green, who had served as matron in hospital in Macon during the war, decided to do something about it. Through newspaper advertisements across the South she raised $2000, and got her father to grant her 2.5 acres of land, on which she and her family painstakingly reinterred the Confederate war dead, identifying those they could, and placing those they could not around a large granite cross inscribed “For the Unknown Dead.” The dedication of the Resaca Confederate Cemetery took place on October 25, 1866, and is tied with a cemetery in Winchester, Virginia as the first such cemetery in the country. 

The project put Miss Green $500 in debt, so she petitioned the legislature for a grant to cover it – the first woman known to have addressed that body. Not only did they cover the $500, they gave her a further $3500 to rebury the dead of Chickamauga. She died in 1924 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. 

The next action in the campaign took place at Adairsville on May 17, 1864 – for which see a previous post, and the marker below, which I discovered at the intersection of Cassville Rd. NW and US-41 in Cassville. It gives further details about why Johnston’s attempted ambush of Union troops failed, but gives the credit to Edward McCook (not Daniel Butterfield) for spoiling it. I believe that Spring Place Road on the map is now Cedar Creek Road. 

Old Highway 41, along which most of the Atlanta Campaign markers may be found, had been part of the Dixie Highway, which at one point was the only way to drive from Chicago or Detroit to Florida for the winter. Thus did everyone along the route try to cash in on this traffic, by providing food or accommodation, or some roadside attraction or other reason to stop. See Down the Dixie Highway (56-minute video) for more. The WPA markers seem to be part of this: they are in fact located in “pocket parks” along the route – small parks enclosed by short walls, which would have provided a nice place for a break or a picnic. 

Cassville.

Resaca.

Mill Creek Gap.

It is interesting to see the different “layers” presented at these sites, although nothing quite matches the variety of memorials found at New Hope Church in Dallas. I appreciated the clarity (and neutrality) of the WPA/NPS markers in the pocket parks – it would have been nice if they had built one at Adairsville. The GHC markers are more common, but can also be for pretty obscure things, not written all that well, and occasionally biased towards the CSA. Markers put up by local history societies or the Georgia Historical Society are pretty good, although they’re much less common – and perhaps a bit biased in the other direction.* Best of all are the interpretive signs sponsored by the Georgia Civil War Commission and put up by Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc., I believe during the sesquicentennial years of 2011-2015. By that point technology allowed the integration of text and colored graphics, and the signs are informative and apparently well-researched, with no marked bias that I could ascertain. I hope that whatever material they are made of ends up surviving the elements.

Two observations in conclusion. When dealing with warfare, one is reminded that “history” is often simply an artificial order imposed on the past to try to make some sense of it. There is a formal list of the battles of the Atlanta campaign, but there were a lot of skirmishes and “demonstrations” that are not included in that list – and you just know that there were all sorts of things that happened that did not make it into the official record at all, given the sheer numbers of men involved and the fact that so many of them did not actually survive. This leads to the second observation: War really is Hell. As peaceful as these battlefields and cemeteries might be today, one cannot help but realize that huge numbers of young men died or were permanently disfigured in particularly gruesome (and often quite avoidable) ways during the Civil War. It is good to remember this, if only so that we can avoid it as much as possible in the future. 

* Note how the Carter center marker claims that Sherman’s troops “only destroyed property used for waging war,” but in the next sentence claims that they “lived off the land, destroying food they could not consume,” as if Southern civilians did not need food. One does not need to be Lost Causer to object to that. 

Allatoona Pass

The creation of Lake Allatoona in 1950 necessitated a shift in the Western & Atlantic Railroad slightly to the west in places. The abandoned pilings on the Etowah River are one indication of this; the abandoned Allatoona Pass, further to the south, is another. 

Google Maps.

You can see the location of the current track, rendered as a faint horizontal line just below Old Allatoona Road SE. The darker dotted line to the north mostly follows the track as it was in the nineteenth century.

I’m not sure why the railroad ever took this route in the first place, because it necessitated the creation of a deep cutting. But these days it provides a nice setting for a walk. Andrews’ Raiders would have driven the stolen General through here. 

I love the use of little flags as “emojis.”

But the place is far more significant historically for the Battle of Allatoona, fought on October 5, 1864. This took place after Sherman occupied Kingston (in May), after the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (June-July), and after the Battle of Atlanta (which fell September 2) – all engagements in the Atlanta Campaign. (Sherman, who had worked as a young army lieutenant in the region, knew about Allatoona Pass and that it would be “very strong, and hard to force, and resolved not even to attempt it.” So he simply went around it on his way to Atlanta. The Confederates retreated, and the Union troops took Allatoona unopposed on June 1.)

Nineteenth century photograph of Allatoona Pass, from an interpretive sign at Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

The real fighting took place as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, an attempt by the Confederacy to disrupt Union supply lines. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood abandoned Atlanta to Sherman and retreated to Lovejoy’s Station south of the city. Near the end of September, he moved his troops to Palmetto, Ga. where he met with CSA President Jefferson Davis to devise strategy. They decided that they would retrace the steps of the the Atlanta Campaign, but in reverse – Hood would move his troops north along the Western & Atlantic Railroad, wrecking property now held by the Union and hoping to entice Sherman to follow him, and to force an open battle on ground favorable to the Confederates. As the historical marker makes clear, on Oct. 3, Lt. Gen. Alexander Stewart seized Big Shanty (i.e. Kennesaw) and Acworth, and on Oct. 4 Samuel French moved towards the Union garrison at Allatoona. Unlike Sherman, French was not prepared to outflank it. 

From an interpretive sign at Allatoona Pass Battlefield. Underlining added. 

Union troops occupied positions on the tops of the hills on either side of the cutting. These are “Rowett’s Redoubt” and “Eastern Redoubt” on the map. To the east of Rowett’s Redoubt is the so-called “Star Fort” that Union troops retreated to. To the west of the Eastern Reboubt is “Headquarters – Fourth Minnesota,” a wood-frame “dog-trot” cabin where Lt. Col. John Eaton Tourtellotte stationed himself. The two sides of the railway cutting were connected by a footbridge. 

Contrary to Confederate hopes, Sherman did not give chase to Hood, but did order Gen. John M. Corse to move his troops from Rome, Ga. and to assume command of the defense of Allatoona. Corse and his men arrived by rail just hours before the Confederate bombardment began in the early morning of Oct. 5. After two hours of this, French declared a truce and sent a message to Corse: 

I have the forces under my command and in such positions that you are surrounded and, in order to avoid a needless effusion of blood, I call upon you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally. Five minutes will be allotted you to decide. Should you accede to this , you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.

According to Sherman’s memoirs, Corse replied:

Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the “needless effusion of blood” whenever it is agreeable to you.

Such a response is rhetorically edifying, no doubt, which might cause one to suspect whether it actually happened. Certainly, the interpretive sign claims that Corse gave no response, and after fifteen minutes French called off the truce and began a ground assault. 

From an interpretive sign at Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

This map gives a general sense of what happened next. French ordered Francis Cockrell and William Young, commanding troops from Missouri and Texas, to attack from the west, and Claudius Sears, commanding troops from Mississippi, to attack from the north. Troops under Richard Rowett defended the hill on the western side of the cutting, while Tourtellotte’s troops defended the hill on the eastern side.

On the western side the fighting was intense. Union troops made effective use of their Henry Repeating rifles and Napoleon gun, but the Confederates would not quit, and despite taking enormous casualties, they eventually reached Rowett’s Redoubt. Soon “fierce hand-to-hand fighting with clubbed muskets, fists, swords, and even rocks” forced the Union troops to retreat to the Star Fort dragging their Napoleon with them. The fighting continued, even injuring Gen. Corse, who lost a cheek bone and one ear. Despite receiving some supplies and men over the footbridge, by the early afternoon Union troops in the Star Fort were pinned down, out of water, and almost out of ammunition.

(Events unfolded a bit better for the Union on the eastern side of the cutting. From their trenches, Union troops managed to repulse two Confederate regiments and deliver enfilading fire against a third. Some Confederate troops took refuge in a gulley where they could neither attack nor be attacked; they surrendered and were taken prisoner after the battle.)

What brought the battle to a close was not a decisive military maneuver on either side, but the receipt of a piece of intelligence by French, which stated that Union troops were on the march from Big Shanty. Fearing that he would either be overwhelmed by this force or cut off from the rest of the Confederate army encamped at Dallas, Ga., and in need of more troops and supplies for a final assault on the Star Fort, French reluctantly ordered a withdrawal around 2:00 PM. Thus is the Battle of Allatoona considered a Union victory – they held the position, and prevented over one million rations stored there from being taken or destroyed by the Confederates. 

But this victory came at an immense cost. Of Corse’s 2000 men, some 700 (an astonishing 35%) were casualties of the battle. Numbers on the Confederate side were not much better: of 3300 men, 900 were casualties, for a rate of 27%. The Battle of Allatoona was “one of the most deadly and stubbornly contested of the war.” Private Harvey M. Trimble of the 93rd Illinois wrote that:

The scene in that ravine after the battle was ended, was beyond all powers of description. All the languages of the earth combined are inadequate to tell half its horrors. Mangled and torn in every conceivable manner, the dead and wounded were everywhere, in heaps and windrows. Enemies though they were, their conquerors, only a few minutes removed from the heat and passion of battle, sickened and turned away, or remaining, looked only with great compassion, and through tears, upon that field of blood and carnage and death, upon that wreck of high hopes and splendid courage, that hecatomb of human life.

French did get his surviving troops back to Dallas, but the rest of the Franklin-Nashville campaign went about as well as the Battle of Allatoona did for the Confederates. Hood ended up resigning his commission in early 1865, having been chased to Tupelo, Mississippi after a major defeat at the Battle of Nashville (Dec. 15-16, 1864). Sherman, for his part, did not really bother with Hood – he began his March to the Sea on November 15 and took Savannah on December 20. By this point in the war, there was little doubt which side would eventually win it. 

One final detail about this battle deserves mentioning. Communication was possible between Sherman and Allatoona on account of the Crow’s Nest, a signal tower atop a Georgia pine, which could send and receive messages from Kennesaw Mountain (with, presumably, further relays to stations southwards). 

From an interpretive sign at Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

Popular legend has it that either prior to or during the battle General Sherman signaled “Hold the fort, I am coming,” which stiffened Corse’s resolve and dissuaded him from surrendering. Again, this information did not make it onto the interpretive sign, perhaps because no contemporary record or such communication can be found (note the “citation needed” comments at Wikiquote). Apparently, though, this quotation inspired Chicago evangelist Philip Bliss to compose a hymn. I had never heard “Hold the Fort” before, perhaps because such explicitly militaristic hymns are no longer in fashion:

Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.

Refrain:
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!

See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.

Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!

Remains of the Star Fort.

Remains of the Eastern Redoubt.

Allatoona is much more tranquil today, of course. It is reforested, and the trenches are faint – and unfortunately iPhone photos do them even less justice. But it is good to be able to see what remains, and remember why they were constructed in the first place. 

The information above has been gleaned from Wikipedia and from the numerous interpretive signs throughout the battlefield. We commend Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites for its historically accurate flag graphic on these signs.

The U.S. flag has 35 stars, for the number of states claimed at the time, the most recent being West Virginia (1863; flag updated July 4 of that year). The CSA flag is its second national flag, which debuted in 1863. They’ve even got the proportions right!

Alas, the canton of the “Stainless Banner” features the ever-controversial battle flag, prompting its effacement on some of the signs. But objecting to its presence in such a neutral and didactic context is just dumb. 

Fortunately, vandalism has not yet been visited upon the Memorial Ground, which features monuments for all the states of the soldiers at the Battle of Allatoona – five Union and six Confederate. Interestingly, Georgia is not represented among them. 

I reproduce photos of some of the monuments below. If I had better software I would edit out my reflection as it appears. (As an aside: isn’t it interesting how Americans love the shapes of their states?) 

Another monument, the Grave of the Unknown Hero, may be found at a location marked by the blue star on the map.

Google maps.

An interpretive sign at the red star on the map gives further information:

Local families once recalled that a few days after the battle, a wooden box addressed “Allatoona, Georgia” arrived at the station with no information as to its origin. Six local women found a deceased Confederate soldier in the box and buried him alongside the railroad in a location lost to history. Local historians believe that the burial on this spot is not the soldier the ladies buried, but Private Andrew Jackson Houston of Mississippi, who died here in the battle and was buried where he fell.

Forgotten to time for several yers, in 1880 this site was marked with an iron fence and a marble headstone inscribed “AN UNKNOWN HERO, He died for the Cause He thought was right.” Railroad employees maintained the grave for many years and later moved the grave to its present site when the rail line was relocated.

It is interesting that nothing Confederate currently decorates the grave of the Unknown Hero – despite that he was originally designated as Confederate by the people who buried him. By the early twentieth century the idea was that he could have been on either side, as expressed in this poem by Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown – a seeming attempt at “reconciliation.”

From an interpretive sign at Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

But I guess he was ultimately “Unionized.” I assume there’s a lesson of some sort here. 

Most of the other victims of the battle were buried where they died in unmarked graves, although some Union soldiers were eventually reinterred in the Marietta National Cemetery.

The railroad, as my students are fond of saying about various historical things, is “still in use today.”

The Atlanta Campaign

From May through September 1864 northwestern Georgia witnessed a major event in the American Civil War: the Atlanta Campaign, whereby General William Tecumseh Sherman, recently appointed Union commander of the Western Theater, marched his troops towards Atlanta in order to strike at the Confederates in their heartland and destroy their capacity to wage war. In this project he was opposed first by CSA General Joseph E. Johnston, and then by Gen. John Bell Hood. Both occasionally impeded the advance but they never succeeded in stopping it, and certainly not reversing it. 

Wikipedia.

One can follow the Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail from Chattanooga to Atlanta, but this post will be restricted to examining some engagements around the middle of the map – i.e. the ones closest to Reinhardt – which took place in late May and early June of 1864. I have noticed that there is a certain fractal quality to military history, whereby one can “zoom in” on a particular episode and examine it in terms of the units and personalities involved and on an almost hour-to-hour basis. I have nothing but respect for people who can do this, but I confess that I have never had the patience to master it. Instead, this post will be more about how these places are signified today.

Adairsville, in northeastern Bartow County, saw some action on May 17, 1864. According to Wikipedia (and every other website that copies it), the battle consisted of skirmishing between entrenched units of CSA Gen. William J. Hardee’s corps and Union Gen. Oliver Otis Howard’s IV Corps, and included an unsuccessful assault by regiments under Union Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur against a division commanded by CSA Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham. Unfortunately for Johnston, Adairsville did not provide the terrain for the staging of a more forceful defense, and so on May 18 the Confederates continued their retreat southwards. Johnston then devised a plan: he hoped to entice Sherman into dividing his troops into two groups, one of which would take the road to Cassville, the other the road to Kingston. Johnston would then concentrate his attack on one of the weakened columns. This is more or less what happened: on May 19, Sherman ordered James B. McPherson and George Henry Thomas to Kingston, and John Schofield to Cassville. CSA Gen. Leonidas Polk was to meet Schofield’s troops head-on on the Cassville-Adairsville Road, while Hood was to attack them from the east. It might have worked, except that Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield somehow discovered Hood’s troops, blowing their cover, forcing them to retreat, and ruining their plan to attack Schofield. Shortly thereafter, Johnston took his army across the Etowah River, in the hopes of finding a better place to make a stand against Sherman. Apparently such cautiousness was not very good for morale and was one reason why Johnston was eventually relieved of his command. 

Adairsville Cemetery may be found on Poplar Springs Road, just off US-41, and just south of GA-140. I assume some of the Confederate graves therein are for the victims of the Battle of Adairsville, although there is no separate Confederate plot as one finds at Kingston or Cassville. At the corner of the cemetery, three Georgia state historical markers give information about Adairsville’s role in the Atlanta Campaign.

Wikipedia claims that the cemetery is a “site of the part of the battlefield” but the map on the page indicates that the battle took place further to the north. Perhaps this explains why no sign in the cemetery addresses the events of May 17 (although if they’re going to be talking about Mosteller’s Mills, five miles out of town, then why not talk about the actual Battle of Adairsville too?). Instead, the markers just talk about troop movements on May 18 – the Confederate retreat, and the Union chase – in as bloodless a manner as possible! I realize that these markers have a limited amount of space, but it’s a shame that this fact, plus an apparent desire to record the precise units involved, leads to such stilted prose. (The Georgia Historical Commission could have at least taken a cue from the Bartow County Cultural Arts Alliance and utilized both sides of the sign.)

UPDATE: The Georgia Historical Society’s online catalogue of historical markers reveals that there is a marker to the north of town, on US 41 in front of the Adairsville Church of God, entitled “Original Site Adairsville 1830s,” but continuing:

May 17, 1864, Johnston’s forces [CSA] retreated S. From Reseca and paused here on an E. – W. line, the intention being to make a stand against the Federals in close pursuit.

Finding the position untenable due to width of Oothcaloga Valley, Johnston withdrew at midnight. Hardee’s Corps [CSA] was astride the road at this point.

In rear-guard action, detachments from Hardee’s Corps held the stone residence of Robert C. Saxon, 0.2 mi. N. of the County Line, until midnight.

So I guess that describes the Battle of Adairsville, such as it was. I would have given it a different title though.

• A few days later, in order to avoid attacking Allatoona, and in the hopes of outflanking Johnston, Sherman sent his troops in a wide arc to the west. But Johnston anticipated this move, and sent some of his own troops to check them. 

On May 25, near Dallas, Georgia, Sherman’s troops met the Confederates well entrenched at New Hope Church (and unentrenched across the road in the New Hope Cemetery – the troops were not willing to dig among the graves, instead using the headstones for cover). The GHC historic marker tells what happened next.

An Atlanta Campaign Heritage Trail marker gives more detail. The subtitle “A Costly Failure” just about sums it up. Sherman did not believe that the Confederates had gotten so many troops to New Hope in time, and ordered his subordinates to attack. The Confederates successfully repulsed them, causing some 1650 casualties while suffering only 450 of their own. 

New Hope Church still exists, and may be found at the intersection of the Dallas-Acworth Highway and Bobo Road in Dallas, Georgia. If its website is any indication, the church is far more interested in knowing Christ and making Him known than in maintaining the legacy of its eponymous battle. Yet immediately to the south of the parking lot is a little park quite full of monuments. 

It seems that everyone wants a piece of this battle. Not only are there markers from the Georgia Historical Commission and the Atlanta Civil War Heritage Trail, but also from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the National Parks Service, and even the Works Progress Administration. 

In other words, Confederate sympathizers want to claim the victory, while others want to make sure that “both sides” are remembered – or at least prove their magnanimity as the ultimate winners of the Civil War. 

Across Bobo Rd. one finds the original New Hope church building, now in use as a church hall.

To the south of this parking lot stands another monument to the battle (a “Confederate Victory”), erected by the SCV at the sesquicentennial in 2014…

…and a well-defined and prominently-labeled Confederate trench. 

Across Dallas-Acworth Highway to the north is New Hope Cemetery, also the site of fighting on May 25 (and on May 26, as the GHC marker indicates). 

Just to make sure that everyone knows who won this one, someone has hoisted a Bonnie Blue flag over the sign. 

There is also a Confederate plot elsewhere in the cemetery, with standard-issue tombstones and a large Battle Flag (apparently flying upside-down, although nineteenth-century Confederates were not particularly fastidious about the orientation of the stars). 

By early June, Union troops abandoned their positions and retreated eastwards, with the Confederates moving parallel to them. 

• On May 27 another battle took place at Pickett’s Mill, to the east of New Hope Church. Union General Oliver O. Howard faced off against Confederate General Patrick Cleburne, with similar results: Howard’s men were repulsed suffering 1600 casualties, as opposed to Cleburne’s 500. Interestingly, there are no monuments here that I noticed, although an account of the battle by author Ambrose Bierce can tell you more about it. The whole battleground is a state park maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The hiking trails are wonderful but as a historic site it leaves something to be desired. You encounter little signs with numbers on the trails, but they are not marked or explained on the map that you get. Otherwise, there is a dearth interpretive signage. This was one of only three that I found. 

And its map is badly oriented. North is actually behind the reader! Why not align the map with reality?

Presumably the visitor center can tell you more, but it is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and I was there on a Tuesday. Sad!

• The Battle of Marietta comprised a series of military operations from June 9 through July 3. One of the more significant of these occurred on June 14, when Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk was killed atop Pine Mountain (which is not to be confused with Bartow County’s Pine Mountain). 

Living Hope Church, at the corner of Stilesboro Rd. and Mack Dobbs Rd. in Kennesaw, has an undeveloped back yard in which one may see the remains of the Union trenches that shelled Pine Mountain.

A mile and a quarter away, atop Pine Mountain, one sees a historic marker detailing the fateful day. It’s true, Leonidas Polk was killed by a shell – not by a shell fragment, but by a direct hit from an actual shell, which essentially cut him in two. It was an extremely lucky shot.

Just off the road, on private property, one sees a monument to Gen. Polk. It was put up in 1902 by the property owners, who consulted with veteran witnesses to ensure that it was placed on the precise spot where Polk was killed. It is one of the most interesting Confederate monuments I think I’ve ever seen. The south-facing side reads:

It continues, in the usual elevated style:

Folding his arms across his breast, he stood gazing on the scenes below, turning himself around as if to take a farewell view.

Thus standing a cannon shot from the enemy’s guns crashed through his breast and opened a wide door through which his spirit took its flight to join his comrades on the other shore.

Surely the earth never opened her arms to allow the head of a braver man to rest upon her bosom.

Surely the light never pushed the darkness back to make brighter the road that leads to the lamb.

And surely the gates of heaven never opened wider to allow a more manly spirit to enter therein.

This is rather a different view of Polk than one that his contemporaries might have held. Polk was noted for his willfulness, his violent disagreements with fellow officers, and for his general lack of success in battle, including “one of the great blunders of the Civil War,” when he marched his troops to Columbus, Kentucky in September 1861, thereby prompting the state to abandon its declared neutrality by requesting Federal aid and thus becoming a de facto member of the Union for the remainder of the war. Yet he was popular with his troops, and his death was a great blow for morale. (Military historian Steven E. Woodworth claimed that it was bad for the Union too, as Polk’s incompetence meant that he was much more valuable alive than dead!)

As the Episcopal bishop of Louisiana and the main force behind the establishment of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., Polk also has a built-in audience from other quarters. Perhaps this explains the items left at the base of the monument: magazines in plastic bags, laminated sheets in praise of Polk, and numerous examples of “Polk’s flag” (i.e. that of First Corps, Army of Tennessee). 

The north-facing side of the monument simply reads:

North

Veni, vidi, vici

With 5 to 1

This is remarkable. I’ve never seen a Confederate monument run down the opposing side like this – or offer a reason why it won (apparently the North cheated by having a numerical advantage, although it was not quite 5 to 1). 

My thanks to Don Bergwall and Melvin Dishong for showing me around this one. 

The Treaty of Troyes

From the blog of the National Archives (UK) (which will always be the Public Record Office to me!) (hat tip: Deb Salata):

21 May 2020 marks the 600th anniversary of the Treaty of Troyes, a peace treaty which sought to unite the crowns of England and France under one king – Henry V – and his heirs, and end the Hundred Years War….

That stalemate was shattered by outbreak of war after King Henry V (1413-22) came to the English throne. Henry V’s seismic victory at Agincourt in 1415 opened the way for a new occupation of Normandy, the establishment of garrisons and the more affirmative exercise of a claim to the French throne. It put the English king firmly in the ascendant.

In France, the assassination of the Duke of Burgundy in 1418 had left the way open for a truce and an end to the war. The new duke, Phillip the Good, and the French queen, Isabeau, were willing to form an alliance with England in order to end the ongoing war, and to secure a strong presence on the French throne.

It was agreed that Phillip, Isabeau (acting on behalf of the king, Charles VI, who was often incapacitated with bouts of mental illness) would meet with Henry V at Troyes in May 1420 – with limited numbers of men on either side – to seal a peace treaty intended to unite the crowns of England and France in perpetuity.

The records for this agreement, as well as the muster rolls for the English expedition to Troyes, are held in our collections, and give details of the army who travelled to the proceedings.

By the terms of the treaty Henry would marry Charles’s daughter Catherine of Valois, and would inherit the French throne as heir after the French king’s death.

This was not to be a full integration of the two kingdoms – the institutions of each kingdom, and issues such as taxation remained separate – rather a dual monarchy: one king with two crowns. In the meantime, Henry was to act as regent, but not to name himself as King of France, while Charles VI’s son (also Charles), the Dauphin, was also disinherited for his ‘great and shocking crimes and misdeeds’.

Many years ago I used this document as the starting point of my master’s thesis. It is important to remember that, as impressive as Henry V’s generalship was, it would not have been possible without the support of the duke of Burgundy – whose repudiation of it at the Congress of Arras in 1436 (the closing point of my thesis) heralded the end of English ambitions in France. 

It also calls to mind Act 5, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which Henry attempts to woo Katherine across a language barrier:

KING HENRY V: O fair Katharine, if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue. Do you like me, Kate

KATHARINE: Pardonnez-moi, I cannot tell vat is ‘like me.’

KING HENRY V: An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel.

KATHARINE: Que dit-il? que je suis semblable a les anges?

ALICE: Oui, vraiment, sauf votre grace, ainsi dit-il.

KING HENRY V: I said so, dear Katharine; and I must not blush to affirm it.

And so on.

I admit to being of two minds about the history plays. I’m glad that the fifteenth century got some attention from the greatest playwright in the English language, but his great influence means that it takes continuous effort to realize that the plays are more about (fictionalized) characters than actual people or historical events. 

Still, I have enjoyed reading Henry VI, Part 1 and Richard III live on Zoom with fellow Shakespeare enthusiasts during this time of lockdown. This was the idea of Sasha Volokh of Emory Law School and I thank him for organizing it. 

Agincourt Museum

From History Extra (hat tip: Richard Utz):

True-to-scale battle numbers and 15th-century life: look inside the revamped Agincourt museum

As a renewed Agincourt museum is set to open near the site of the pivotal Hundred Years’ War battle between English and French armies, History Extra spoke to Professor Anne Curry about the historical facts that drive the new attraction.

It’s one of English history’s most celebrated victories, a battle in which Henry V’s invading force toppled a numerically superior French army near Agincourt. With the help of Shakespeare and company, this triumph of the Hundred Years’ War has come to represent an ultimate battle against the odds.

The scale of the military upset is just one of the myths that will be redressed for visitors to the revamped ‘Azincourt 1415’ which opens on 17 September at the Centre Historique Médiéval in Azincourt in north-east France.

Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton, whose work focuses on the records for the English and French armies in 1415 at the battle, explains how when the museum first opened in 2001 it held to an “old-fashioned interpretation” that Henry V’s forces were outnumbered by as many as five to one. Professor Curry has worked with the Centre on the new exhibition.

“There had been a tendency to use printed works of the 16th century rather than returning to the sources that for the period itself, such as financial records of the Crown on both sides of the channel, or royal orders,” says Curry. Such sources can show us that Henry V set out with 12,000 paid soldiers, yet when counting the losses documented through sick lists and also the garrison left to defend the French port of Harfleur, the actual number of men available to Henry V for battle is closer to 8,500. French forces would have numbered around 12,000.

More at the link

Mad Dog Mattis

My colleague Judi Irvine alerts me to an interview this morning on NPR with Gen. Jim Mattis, former Secretary of Defense, whose book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead has just been published. Whatever one might think of the Iraq war, or about American policy in the Middle East in general, one should find Mattis’s use of history to be sound.

***

NPR: The general describes his own detailed planning in bring troops into Iraq. In 2003, he read thousands of years of history, Alexander the Great and others, who invaded that region before him. What could a multi-thousand year old battle teach you that would be relevant in the twenty-first century?

JM: Well there’s enduring aspects of leadership, plus geography doesn’t change. So when you read about the challenges they faced it gets you thinking about your own. I knew we were going to be operating very deep inside the Middle East and I had to decide what was the right manner in which I wanted the troops to go in. So I used words from antiquity, from a Roman general I used, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” We were going in to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam. We were not going in to dominate them, I didn’t want triumphalism. I wanted to go with a sense of “first do no harm.”

NPR: So you read thousands of pages and then try to boil it down to a few phrases or in some cases even a word that you could pass on to thousands of people?

JM: Well that’s a leader’s job, to clearly set the vision…

JM: I think we need to have a more rigorous establishment of strategy, a more clearly enunciated policy, something we can sustain from Republicans to Democrats, like in the Cold War. I think that the biggest challenge we face in all the western democracies, not just America, is that we don’t study history in a way that we can apply it, and we’re not rigorously applying ourselves to strategy. There’s too much of a short-term view.

“Hard Lessons From the Russian Civil War”

From Reason (hat tip: Alex Bryant):

The official 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which birthed the world’s first Communist state, came and went two years ago. But the revolution actually played out over five horrific years known as the Russian Civil War. A century ago this summer, the anti-Bolshevik White forces were running a fully functional government in northern Russia. Their “Supreme Ruler,” Admiral Alexander Kolchak, was internationally recognized as the head of state, and their army was crushing the Bolsheviks in the South. By November 1919, the tide had turned. By the time the war was over, between 7 and 12 million were dead, and the Communists were victorious….

While many of the White movement’s leaders ostensibly espoused liberal ideas, it is safe to say that freedom had no real friends in the Russian Civil War. Still, it’s a virtual certainty that Russia—and most likely the world—would have been better off if the Whites had won.

They didn’t, for many reasons. They were just as unpopular as the Bolsheviks and more divided. Their leaders clung to Russia’s “great power” status and were adamantly opposed to Ukrainian independence or autonomy for other regions, which forced them to fight both the Bolsheviks and the separatists. The Bolsheviks, meanwhile, were not only more unified but more unscrupulous in their strategic alliances: They joined forces with Makhno’s anarchists only to turn on them the moment the White Army was no longer a threat.

A hundred years later, Russian Communism is gone; in its place is an authoritarian regime that promotes Soviet nostalgia…. The most trenchant lesson for the modern age is one that also seems increasingly relevant to the West: When political adversaries are no longer fellow citizens to live with but rather enemies to be crushed, we all lose.

Read the whole thing

Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon Line, which separates Pennsylvania from Maryland, became emblematic of the divide between slave and free states prior to the Civil War (thus is it sometimes erroneously called the “Mason-Dixie Line”). It was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to end a territorial dispute between the Province of Maryland and the Province of Pennsylvania.

Wikipedia.

What I did not know is that this dispute actually broke out into violence in the 1730s. From the Wikipedia entry on Cresap’s War:

Hostilities erupted in 1730 with a series of violent incidents prompted by disputes over property rights and law enforcement, and escalated through the first half of the decade, culminating in the deployment of military forces by Maryland in 1736 and by Pennsylvania in 1737. The armed phase of the conflict ended in May 1738 with the intervention of King George II, who compelled the negotiation of a cease-fire.

I do not know how many people actually died as a result of Cresap’s War (which is also gloriously known as the Conojocular War, after the Conejohela Valley where it was fought).

The American Heraldry Society posted some pictures of the demarcation stones of the Mason-Dixon Line to Facebook:

These feature the arms of the respective colonial proprietors: William Penn on the left, and Lord Baltimore on the right.

Medieval Hand Grenades

From the Daily Mail, courtesy Tim Furnish, who comments that they’ve found the real “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch“!

Now that’s a time bomb! 700-year-old hand grenade used in the Crusades is found off the coast of Israel

By Richard Gray

The crusades saw Christian soldiers wield a terrifying array of medieval weaponry, including powerful crossbows, wickedly spiked maces and swords large enough to cleave a man in two.

But in the bloody battles over the Holy Land, the crusaders faced, and perhaps also used, weapons that were far ahead of their time – hand grenades.

Now one of these early explosive devices has been pulled from the sea in northern Israel.

Although they rose to prominence as weapons during the 20th century, grenades have a long history.

They are first thought to have been used by the Byzantine Empire from around the seventh century AD. Clay vessels were filled with flammable liquid known as Greek fire and flung at the enemy.

They were often piled into catapults to increase the range and devastation they caused.

They were popular weapons in naval battles as the fire could easily spread on ships and cause devastation.

More at the link.

The Irish in America

The Wikipedia category “Irish emigrants to the United States (before 1923)” contains some 872 entries – that is, people notable enough to merit a Wikipedia article. This is really quite remarkable. Two of them have recently been brought to my attention, and deserve to be better known. From Wikipedia:

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892) was an Irish-born American composer  and bandmaster who lived and worked in the United States after 1848. Whilst serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Gilmore wrote the lyrics to the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” This was published under the pseudonym Louis Lambert in September 1863…

In many ways Gilmore can be seen as the principal figure in 19th-century American music. He was a composer, and the “Famous 22nd Regiment March” from 1874 is just one example of his work. He held the first “Promenade Concert in America” in 1855, the forerunner to today’s Boston Pops. He set up “Gilmore’s Concert Garden”, which became Madison Square Garden. He was the Musical Director of the Nation in effect, leading the festivities for the 1876 Centennial celebrations in Philadelphia and the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

Ron Good adds (having heard RTE’s P.S. Gilmore: Ireland’s First Superstar):

He made adjustments to the inclusion of instruments in bands (i.e. the addition of woodwinds) which resulted what we know today as concert bands. He also used anvils specially made in England which gave off sparks when struck with the hammers of dozens of faux blacksmiths.  Also used artillery pieces to add excitement.

Also from Wikipedia, we have notice of:

Thomas Francis Meagher (“Marr”; 1823-1867) was an Irish nationalist and leader of the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848. After being convicted of sedition, he was first sentenced to death, but received transportation for life to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) in Australia.

In 1852 he escaped and made his way to the United States, where he settled in New York City. He studied law, worked as a journalist, and traveled to present lectures on the Irish cause. He married for a second time in New York. At the beginning of the American Civil War, Meagher joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He was most notable for recruiting and leading the Irish Brigade, and encouraging support among Irish immigrants for the Union. By his first marriage in Ireland, he had one surviving son; the two never met.

Following the Civil War, Meagher was appointed acting governor of the Montana Territory. In 1867, Meagher drowned in the swift-running Missouri River after falling from a steamboat at Fort Benton.

What a fascinating character.