Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dakota Sioux Uprising ...

… in Minnesota began on this date in 1862. It resulted, on Dec. 26, in the largest mass hanging in American history. Lincoln commuted most of the 303 death sentences, but allowed the 38 pictured above to proceed.
The Indians had killed many civilians, and one vivid perspective on the war, sympathetic to both sides, can be seen in the Swedish film The New Land.  The film is a sequel to The Emigrants, and equally impressive. Both date from the early 1970s, co-written and directed by Jan Troell, starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, and based on novels by Vilhelm Moberg.
After the Dakota War, the surviving Sioux were expelled west, where some may have encountered Custer in 1876.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Second Battle of Dalton ...

… was concluded on this date in 1864, when James Steedman (above), US major general of volunteers, brought down a relief force by train from Chattanooga to drive off the 4,000 Confederate cavalry raiders under Joseph Wheeler who were besieging Dalton in northwestern Georgia. Confederate General John Bell Hood hoped Wheeler's raid would lift the ongoing siege of Atlanta by sufficiently disrupting Major General William T. Sherman's supply line -- which it failed to do.

Steedman was a colorful character with a combat record dating back to West Virginia in 1861, and including the heroic relief of George Thomas at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863. After Dalton, in December 1864, he would lead a division under Thomas at Nashville. While that battle was an overwhelming victory, Steedman's African-American troops suffered heavy casualties.

 In-between, still at Chattanooga, Steedman encountered an unimpressed regular, Major General David Stanley, who wrote in his memoirs:
 "At the time he was living in very high style, holding a gay court. The Princess [Agnes] Salm Salm was his guest and occasionally the Prince, who was colonel of a New York regiment stationed about twenty miles from headquarters, dropped in. The Princess was a very beautiful woman, afterwards mixed up with the tragedy of Maximillian. Steedman was dead in love with the woman and such an idiot that I could not get any work out of him. In fact he was so taken up with making love to the Princess and drinking champagne that it was difficult to see this great potentate of Chattanooga." 

Monday, August 13, 2018

General Powell Clayton

"How come I never heard of this guy?" must be a constant refrain of those of us researching Civil War history -- in this case, mostly using The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

A volunteer from humble origins in Pennsylvania, Clayton did most of his fighting before being promoted to US brigadier general in August 1864. He was a captain at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri in 1861, but spent most of the war in Arkansas.
Colonel Clayton commanded the right wing cavalry in the successful defense of Helena on July 4, 1863. Then, when Major General Frederick Steele moved from Vicksburg to Helena to command Union forces, Clayton helped him capture Little Rock.
Given independent command at Pine Bluff, on Oct. 25, 1863, he successfully defended it with the assistance of freed slaves against far superior Confederate numbers led by Brigadier General John Marmaduke. The next spring, Clayton led a raid from Pine Bluff in support of Steele's Camden Expedition, itself a part of the Red River Campaign. While the wider campaign was not successful, US forces escaped from disaster, in part due to the positive role of Clayton's force. 

After the war, he was a Reconstruction governor and US senator, then moved with his family to the resort town of Eureka Springs, which he helped develop. Under Presidents McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, Clayton served as ambassador to Mexico.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Back in the Saddle Again

No, not me, literally, but I will be back up at DA Collins on Ballard Road, Wilton, NY, for conclusion of Civil War Weekend. The Grant Cottage-sponsored event includes re-enactors, music, food and more. I'll show up by noon with books to sell and sign.
(Photo from yesterday by Mike Lesser)
Update: I made it into  Jason Subik's Daily Gazette story:

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Civil War Weekend

A Confederate corporal keeps an eye on Union cavalry in rear. This morning at Civil War Weekend, sponsored by Grant Cottage, at DA  Collins, Ballard Road, Wilton, with re-enactors, music, food and more. Come on up and I'll sell you a book.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Put Not Your Trust in Princes"

On this date in 1861, Confederate Brigadier General Magruder burned Hampton, Virginia, the most destructive act yet directed at civilian property during the war. 
"Prince" John Magruder had served most of his life in the US Army, and was a favorite of his fellow Virginian Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. He burned Hampton because it was in the long run indefensible, and "was the harbor of runaway slaves and traitors." 
Magruder later found some success delaying George McClellan's advance in the Peninsula Campaign, and, on New Year's Day 1863, recapturing Galveston, Texas, from Admiral David Farragut. 
That admiral decided to leave Galveston in Rebel hands to focus on his top priority, the Mississippi River campaign, which was arguably the product of the much mocked Anaconda Plan of former chief General Winfield Scott. Scott, unlike Magruder, stayed loyal to the United States.
Farragut was another loyal son of the South. He and the midwestern border-state men Lincoln and Grant were turning Scott's plan into action. Magruder, left behind in Texas and Arkansas west of the Mississippi, was condemned to strategic irrelevance.
After the war, he was among the unreconstructed Confederates who went off to serve the Austrian prince who had been installed by the French emperor as emperor of Mexico, and met with no greater success.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Battle of Baton Rouge

Albany, NY, native and Brigadier General Thomas Williams was killed on this date in 1862, leading US forces defending Baton Rouge, La. The Confederate general commanding was John Breckinridge, who had been a candidate for US president in 1860 while serving as vice president under James Buchanan.
Col. Thomas Cahill took over command from Williams, leading the army back closer to the Mississippi River, where Union gunboats were able to play a crucial role in artillery support. Breckinridge was forced to retreat and suffered heavier casualties, but also won time to reinforce Port Hudson to the north, which would be the last Confederate outpost on the Mississippi when it finally surrendered in July 1863. US forces withdrew from Baton Rouge later in August 1862, but then reoccupied it in December through the end of the war.
Cahill, an ornamental plasterer before the war, was a civic leader in New Haven, Ct. The wartime correspondence between him and his wife, Margaret, was recently published. Unfortunately, he died in 1869 and she in 1870, leaving their children orphaned.
Two of Williams' children became prominent in religious and medical matters out West. His theater commander in New Orleans, Maj. Gen. Ben Butler, gave him a glowing death announcement.

"We, his companions in arms, who had learned to love him, weep the true friend the gallant gentleman, the brave soldier, the accomplished officer the pure patriot and victorious hero, and the devoted Christian. All and more went out when Williams died. By a singular felicity the manner of his death illustrated each of these generous qualities.
"The chivalric American gentleman, he gave up the vantage of the cover of the houses of the city-forming his lines in the open field -- lest the women and children of his enemies should be hurt in the fight.
"A good general, he had made his dispositions and prepared for battle at the break of day, when he met his foe.
"A brave soldier, he received the death-shot leading his men."

The Dakota Sioux Uprising ...

… in Minnesota began on this date in 1862. It resulted, on Dec. 26, in the largest mass hanging in American history . Lincoln commuted mo...