Home    Charger    Articles    Schedule    Library    Links    Destinations

Honor the Monitor    Speakers Bureau    Membership    Contact Us   

 

History Briefs 2013 - 2014
By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved

Editor's Note: Since 2007, each Roundtable meeting has opened with a 'History Brief' presented by the Roundtable Historian, each 'brief' providing a small glimpse into a less-explored corner of the story of the Civil War. This page collects the History Briefs from this particular Roundtable season.
Past Briefs:
2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013
2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016
2016-2017 2017-2018 .

May…

Robert E. Lee's Invasion of Ohio

People with even a little knowledge of the Civil War likely know that Robert E. Lee led two invasions of the North, one into Maryland and another into Pennsylvania. However, Lee once invaded Ohio, and if Lee had been successful in this invasion, Ohio would have lost some of its territory. Worse yet, the territory that Ohio would have lost would have been lost not to the Confederacy, but to the state of Michigan.

This story starts in 1787 when Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. In the Northwest Ordinance the border between the future states of Ohio and Michigan was stipulated as "an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." This seems sufficiently definitive to be beyond question. However, the map that was used to determine this border, a map known as the Mitchell Map, was in error with respect to the southernmost extension of Lake Michigan. In fact, Lake Michigan extends further south than is indicated by the Mitchell Map, which places the border between Ohio and Michigan further south than originally expected.

When Ohio applied for statehood, the proposed state constitution was written such that the border with the future state of Michigan was to run from Lake Michigan's southern tip to Maumee Bay. In other words, the border was to run not as an east-west line as stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance, but at an angle from the tip of Lake Michigan northeastward. The principal reason for this change was to include the city of Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River within the borders of Ohio. This was important to Ohio, because at the time there was a proposal to build a system of canals that would link Toledo to the Ohio River. This means that there would be a shipping channel that would connect Lake Erie to the Mississippi River through Toledo, and this was expected to make Toledo a major shipping hub. When Congress reviewed Ohio's Enabling Act for its application for statehood, Congress rendered no decision regarding Ohio's northern border. In its report about the border issue, a Congressional committee stated that the committee "thought it unnecessary to take it, at the time, into consideration."

The Michigan-Ohio Strip
(dark area, SE corner of map)


In 1805, two years after Ohio became a state, Congress created the Territory of Michigan, and it then became necessary to resolve the border issue. Several years later Congress authorized a survey to establish the border between Ohio and Michigan, but due to the War of 1812, the survey did not occur until 1817. This was fortuitous for Ohio, because at this time, the Surveyor General of the United States was Edward Tiffin, a former governor of Ohio. Tiffin employed a person by the name of William Harris for the survey, but instructed Harris to survey not the line stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance, but the line stipulated in the Ohio Constitution. Not surprisingly, the territorial governor of Michigan, Lewis Cass, felt that Tiffin was biased about the border issue, and he appealed to President James Monroe and to Congress for a survey of the line stipulated in the Northwest Ordinance. This survey was done the following year, 1818, by John A. Fulton, and Fulton's survey indicated that the border between Ohio and Michigan was south of the line stipulated in the Ohio Constitution, and furthermore that Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River were in Michigan, not in Ohio. These two survey lines, named for the men who did the surveys, demarcated a thin strip of land that came to be known as the Toledo Strip with the city of Toledo at its eastern end. From north to south, the Toledo Strip is 5 miles wide at the Ohio-Indiana border and 8 miles wide at Lake Erie and encompasses almost 500 square miles.

For the next 14 years the issue simmered with much political posturing and maneuvering until in 1832 Michigan petitioned for statehood. Congress refused the petition and cited as the reason the unresolved border dispute with Ohio, the very same border issue that Congress could have taken care of many years earlier, but instead chose to do nothing about. Congress commissioned another survey of the Northwest Ordinance line, this one to be done by the Army Corps of Engineers. This survey was carried out in the spring of 1835 by Captain Andrew Talcott and two young Corps of Engineer lieutenants, Washington Hood and Robert E. Lee. While Lee was conducting the survey, he sent a letter to a fellow officer in Washington, in which he gave his impressions of the wilderness that he was encountering in Michigan and Ohio. "The country around savors marvelously of bilious fevers, and seems to be productive of nothing more plentifully than of mosquitoes and snakes." This survey followed the Fulton line very closely and supported Michigan's claim to the Toledo Strip.

The Michigan-Ohio Strip
(detail)


In the meantime, the new governor of Michigan Territory, Stevens Mason, prodded the territorial legislature to expedite another petition for statehood with the Toledo Strip as part of Michigan. In response, Ohio Governor Robert Lucas spearheaded passage of a law early in 1835 that extended Ohio's jurisdiction into the Toledo Strip. Not to be outdone, Mason and the Michigan territorial legislature enacted the Pains and Penalties Act, which called for a fine of $1,000 and/or imprisonment for five years for anyone other than a Michigan territorial official exercising jurisdiction within the Toledo Strip. The remainder of 1835 saw the situation escalate into what came to be called the Toledo War. Much of the activity of the Toledo War involved calling up of militias, shooting in the air rather than at adversaries, and chasing people who had left before their pursuers arrived. It was actually not so much a war, but really just jostling, posturing, and saber rattling. However, the name "Toledo War" sounds much more impressive than "Toledo Jostling, Posturing, and Saber Rattling."

One of the first incidents of the Toledo War occurred in April 1835 and involved Michigan law enforcement, who were sent by Governor Mason into the Toledo Strip to enforce the Pains and Penalties Act. Among the Ohioans whom they attempted to arrest was a staunch partisan named Benjamin Stickney. Stickney's house was ransacked, and some Ohioans were arrested, but Stickney was not found. In response to these actions, Ohio Governor Lucas prepared to send the militia. When news of this reached Michigan, the press there stated that any Ohio militia who entered the Toledo Strip would be "welcomed…to hospitable graves." To validate Ohio's claim to the Toledo Strip, Governor Lucas arranged for a Court of Common Pleas to be held in Toledo. Court officials snuck into Toledo under cover of darkness, opened court at 1:00 a.m., elected officers and conducted other cursory business, and then adjourned to the local tavern to celebrate. All of the court proceedings were recorded on slips of paper and put into the clerk's hat. When rumors came that Michigan troops were on their way to arrest these Ohioans, they quickly fled.

The only casualty of the Toledo War suffered his wound on July 15, 1835. A party of Michigan law enforcement led by Deputy Sheriff Joseph Wood was sent into Toledo to arrest a number of Ohioans, including Benjamin Stickney, the man whose house had been ransacked a few months earlier. Benjamin Stickney had two adult sons whose names were One Stickney and Two Stickney. When Wood and his party tried to make their arrests, Two Stickney stabbed Wood, whose wound was not serious, and then Two Stickney fled south.

President Andrew Jackson was anxious to put an end to the Ohio-Michigan border dispute, and his administration and Congress proposed in the summer of 1836 that, as a condition of statehood, Michigan would relinquish its claim to the Toledo Strip and in return be given a large portion of the Upper Peninsula. The eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula was already part of Michigan Territory, but Jackson's proposal offered Michigan the western three-fourths of the peninsula, which was part of Wisconsin Territory. Michigan refused the offer, because it was felt that the Upper Peninsula was too remote and consisted of worthless wilderness. But not only did Michigan not want the Upper Peninsula; the residents of the Upper Peninsula did not want Michigan, because they believed that their distance from the rest of the state would cause them to be neglected. However, in December 1836 a convention was called in Ann Arbor, at which the offer was finally accepted. The Ann Arbor convention came to be known as the Frostbitten Convention, both for the bitterly cold weather and the very cold reception among many Michiganders to their territorial government's acceptance of the proposal. In return for giving up the less than 500 square miles of the Toledo Strip, Michigan received 9,000 square miles of the Upper Peninsula, and far from being worthless, the Upper Peninsula was found to be rich in mineral deposits, such as iron and copper, and also to be a valuable source of timber.

The story does not end there, however. There were still disputes about the exact border until a survey in 1915 brought a final settlement, although this applied only to the land border. In the 1960s Michigan went to court over the issue of the border between itself and Ohio within Lake Erie. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio that the border within Lake Erie angles sharply from the coast to the northeast until it contacts the international border with Canada. This puts most of the U.S. portion of Lake Erie's western basin in Ohio.

In the end, although Michigan received the Upper Peninsula, it lost the disputed territory, but perhaps this outcome was to be expected in light of one of Michigan's allies in this dispute. Robert E. Lee gave his support to Virginia and the Confederacy, a cause that was lost, and more than 25 years earlier, in a lesser known chapter of Lee's life, his efforts had provided support for Michigan in another cause that ultimately failed.

 

April…

Rosie the Riveter and the Bloodiest Day in American Military History

During World War II many American women worked in factories to produce materiel for the war effort. These women were personified in the image of a female factory worker that came to be known as Rosie the Riveter. Similarly, numerous women worked in munitions factories during the Civil War, in both the North and the South, and represent Civil War era Rosie the Riveters. Some of the North's Rosie the Riveters suffered a ghastly tragedy in the explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, which was a village at that time, but is now part of the city of Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Arsenal explosion occurred on September 17, 1862, the same day as the battle of Antietam.

Construction of the Allegheny Arsenal began in 1814. The site, which is on the banks of the Allegheny River northeast of downtown Pittsburgh, was selected by William Barclay Foster, the father of composer Stephen Foster. The location of the arsenal was chosen to make it accessible to easy shipping of its products westward into the expanding U.S., and also because the land on which the arsenal was built was owned by William Barclay Foster, which means that he made a tidy profit from the sale of the land to the U.S. government. Prior to the Civil War, the arsenal had been visited by a number of dignitaries, including President James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Dickens, and former President John Quincy Adams.

The commander of the arsenal at the outbreak of the Civil War was Colonel John Symington, which was a matter of controversy. For various reasons Symington's sympathies were not clear. One of his sons fought for the Confederacy, one of his daughters appeared in church one Sunday wearing a Confederate rosette, and, worst of all, shortly after South Carolina seceded, Secretary of War John Floyd, whose Southern sympathies were well known, ordered Symington to ship cannon and small arms to New Orleans, and Symington attempted to comply with this order, although intense pressure from Union-loyal residents of the area caused the War Department to cancel the shipments. In spite of all this, Symington continued to serve as commander of the arsenal.

The Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh, PA


The Allegheny Arsenal operated extremely well and without incident for the first 17 months of the war. The facility included several buildings, one of which was used to store barrels of gunpowder that were transported by horse-drawn wagon to other buildings as needed. At around 1:00 p.m. on the day of the explosion (or about the time that Ambrose Burnside's men finally took the bridge over Antietam Creek), Joseph Frick was delivering ten barrels of gunpowder to the ammunition building, in which small arms cartridges and other munitions were made. The roadway that Frick used was a newly constructed one made of stone. After Frick delivered the gunpowder onto one of the building's porches, Robert Smith, who was assisting Frick, asked him to carry away some empty wooden boxes. According to witnesses, while Frick was maneuvering the wagon toward the porch, there was a spark from either a horseshoe of the wagon's horse or the iron rim of a wagon wheel. The spark was caused by the extreme dryness of that summer combined with the use of stone for the roadway. The results were catastrophic. The spark ignited loose gunpowder that was lying on the roadway, and three separate explosions over the course of several minutes destroyed the ammunition building. Frick was thrown 200 yards from his wagon, Smith was blown to bits, and the remains of the building became an inferno.

After the first explosion, Alexander McBride, the civilian foreman of the ammunition building, jumped out his office window and watched as the roof of the building collapsed onto rooms that included the one in which his 15-year-old daughter Kate was working. Mary Jane Black, who worked in the ammunition building, was on her way there after receiving her pay when she heard screaming. She turned toward the screams and saw "two girls behind me. They were on fire; their faces were burning and blood running from them. I pulled the clothes off one of them. While I was doing this, the other ran up and begged me to cover her. I did not succeed in saving either one." Joseph Bollman, one of the men who worked at the facility, ran out of the building with a young girl in his arms. After laying her safely outside, he rushed back into the building to find his daughter, Mary, but he never returned and both of them perished.

After the fire was extinguished, bodies, many unrecognizable, were pulled from the debris and laid on wooden planks on the ground. According to a gruesome account in one newspaper, "In some places bodies lay in heaps, and burnt as rapidly as pine wood. In other places nothing could be seen but the whitened and consuming bones, the intensity of the heat having consumed every particle of flesh. The steel bands remaining from the hoop skirts of the unfortunate girls marked the place where many of them had perished." In all 78 people died, 70 of them women and girls. Many of the unidentified dead were buried in a mass grave in Allegheny Cemetery. About a thousand local residents sent a request to Congress that funds be appropriated for the victims and their families, but the request was denied.

A civilian coroner's inquiry into the explosion laid blame primarily on foreman Alexander McBride and arsenal commander John Symington for failure to enforce proper safety procedures. Symington disputed the ruling and felt that it was biased because of rumors that he was a Confederate sympathizer. He requested a military court of inquiry, which concluded that the cause of the explosion could not be ascertained. The military court of inquiry also ruled that Colonel Symington had followed all precautions correctly, but he was relieved of command less than a month later. During his testimony before both of the inquiries, Alexander McBride, who had been trained as a cooper, testified that the company which supplied the gunpowder, namely the E.I. DuPont Company, insisted on reusing the barrels and that this practice caused the lids to fit too loosely after prolonged use of the barrels. This resulted in leaks of gunpowder during transport of the barrels, and witnesses testified that the stone roadway was covered with gunpowder. McBride also stated that he had made this concern known to the company, and he further asserted that he was so worried about sparks like the one that purportedly triggered the explosion that he had the stone roadway covered with wood chips and sawdust to prevent sparks, but that Symington ordered that the wood chips and sawdust be removed. Symington claimed that there was gunpowder on the roadway because workers routinely swept spilled gunpowder out of the building rather than removing it properly. The DuPont Company was never investigated, and some have surmised that this is because DuPont was the primary supplier of gunpowder to the U.S. War Department. It will never be known with certainty whether leaky barrel lids or poor adherence to safety procedures was the reason for the gunpowder on the stone roadway.

Whatever the reason for the explosion, 78 people lost their lives, including 70 of the Union's Rosie the Riveters. Their spirit was captured in a comment made by a visitor to a munitions factory in Indianapolis, who observed, "It is a beautiful and patriotic sight to see the young and tender happy in the bloody work. They laugh and chat gaily as they roll up the balls and fix the fatal charge intended to let daylight through some man's heart." Those who perished in the Allegheny Arsenal explosion are more names that were added to the bloodiest day in American military history alongside those who died in the battle of Antietam. On the monument at the mass grave in Allegheny Cemetery is an inscription that reads in part, "Tread softly, this is consecrated dust, pure patriotic victims lie here. A sacrifice to freedom and civil liberty, a horrid memento of a most wicked rebellion."

 

March…

The Day Rosie the Riveter Died

One of the most iconic images from World War II is Rosie the Riveter. It is a stylized depiction of a female factory worker, and it is meant to portray the large number of American women who worked in factories to provide materiel for the war effort. The Civil War had its generation of Rosie the Riveters, and on Friday March 13, 1863 a horrendous tragedy befell a number of them. This occurred when there was an explosion at the Confederate Laboratory on Brown's Island in Richmond, Virginia. The Brown's Island Laboratory was not a laboratory in the sense that we know today; there was no testing or experimentation happening there. The Confederate Laboratory on Brown's Island was a munitions factory. While the small number of administrators were men, almost all of the workers were women between the ages of 9 and 20, and all of them were poor. The Brown's Island Laboratory was distinct from the Tredegar Iron Works and manufactured cartridges, fuses, caps, grenades, and friction primers. The facility was located on an island near the northern shore of the James River. Originally the facility was in some buildings on land near the James River, but Brown's Island was cleared and the facility relocated to separate it from the city in case of an accident.

The Confederate Laboratory on Brown’s Island,
Richmond, Virginia


On March 13, 1863, 80 to 100 workers were in a large room at the factory. Several different activities had been consolidated in the room, because an expansion of another building had not been completed. In one part of the room small arms cartridges were being filled with gunpowder, and in another part of the room defective cartridges were being broken open to salvage the gunpowder for reuse. Other workers in the room were boxing percussion caps and friction primers, and still others were filling cannon cartridge bags with gunpowder. There was also a coal stove in the room. The explosion occurred between 11:00 a.m. and noon. The cause of the explosion was detailed afterward by Mary Ryan, an 18-year-old Irish immigrant who caused the explosion. She was making friction primers that day in the same room where the other activities were taking place. Friction primers are short metal tubes filled with explosive material that are used to detonate the gunpowder inside a cannon in order to propel the projectile. As the name implies, friction primers are designed to detonate via the application of friction. One of the last steps in manufacturing primers involved coating them with wax and varnish to protect them from moisture. Mary was having difficulty removing some primers from the wooden board on which she had varnished them, probably because the varnish had bonded the primers to the board. She tried to separate the primers from the board by banging the board against the table on which she was working. This was sufficient to detonate the primers, and Mary was thrown up to the ceiling. After coming down, Mary was thrown by a second explosion that was most likely caused by the airborne gunpowder dust or the other explosives in the room.

The explosions lifted the roof off of the building and blasted the walls to pieces, which caused debris to fall onto the workers. Although the building was made of wood, the fire was extinguished quickly. According to later reports, 10 to 12 workers were killed in the initial explosion. A number of other workers were burned terribly, and some women whose clothes caught fire jumped into the James River. One woman whose clothing was on fire ran in a panic toward another of the laboratory buildings in which gunpowder and other combustible material was stored. Fortunately she was grabbed by a male employee, which likely prevented even more damage and loss of life. It is not certain how many fatalities there were, but at least 45 people died, of whom all but three were women or girls, some as young as 10 to 15 years. Some of the dead are buried in Hollywood Cemetery, including Mary Ryan, who died three days after the explosion that she caused. Funerals were so numerous in the days following the explosion that some corteges passed by each other.

Articles in Richmond newspapers described the aftermath of the explosion. "The most heart rending lamentations and cries issued from the ruins from the sufferers rendered delirious from suffering and terror. No sooner was one helpless, unrecognizable mass of humanity cared for and removed before the piteous appeals of another would invoke the energy of the rescuers. From twenty to thirty still alive suffered the most horrible agonies, blind from burns, with the hair burned from their heads, and the clothing hanging in burning shreds about their persons. Mothers rushed wildly about, throwing themselves upon the corpses of the dead, and the persons of the wounded, trying to recognize the disfigured features of a daughter, and calling out their names. The distress among friends was aggravated by the fact that it was utterly impossible to recognize many of the wounded on account of their disfigurement." "Some of the unfortunate girls were burnt from head to foot, others were burned in the face and eyes; some had an arm or a leg divested of flesh and skin, others were bleeding with wounds received from the falling timbers or in the violent concussions against floor and ceiling which ensued."

Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo organized economic assistance for the affected families through the Young Men's Christian Association. Richmond residents also provided some assistance, and even Confederate soldiers contributed. One soldier sent a donation to the Richmond Sentinel with a note that read, "A non-resident of the city, I beg to appeal to all humane people in the city and the State, to contribute to so laudable a purpose. The poor wounded creatures are young females who were dependent on their daily labor for their support. I send you five dollars and am only sorry I cannot afford more." About two months after the explosion, the Brown's Island Laboratory resumed full operation, and it continued to operate, with new safety policies and without incident, until Richmond fell. There was no difficulty in recruiting new workers for the facility in spite of the evidence of the extreme occupational hazards that the explosion had demonstrated. Although the easy replacement of the workers was due principally to the need for income among the group of people from whom the workers came, the Rosie the Riveter spirit of these Confederate women was captured in a passage in the Richmond Examiner after the facility returned to operation. This passage, which is flavored with more than a hint of gory propaganda, reads, "Embowered in the deep shade of Brown’s Island, with its busy colony of female operatives the laboratory works are well worthy a visit. Here the delicate hands of the southern maiden put up the little packet of powder and bullet (that) the thicker finger and unerring aim of the southern soldier sends on its mission of death into the breast and brain of the invader." A more personal Rosie the Riveter comment came after the war when a young woman who had been in the explosion spoke with a reporter. The reporter recorded that "her hands and face were covered with cruel scars." The young woman told the reporter, "But I did not mind, for it was in a good cause."

 

February…

The Last U.S. President Who was a Slaveholder

In recognition of February being Black History Month, it is an appropriate time to consider the interesting piece of trivia of the last U.S. president who was a slaveowner for at least some time in his life. The perhaps surprising answer is Ulysses S. Grant. As far as is known, Grant owned only one slave in his lifetime, and he freed that slave even though at the time Grant was in a dire financial situation and could have made some much needed money by selling his slave. Grant came to own that slave through his wife's family. When Ulysses Grant and Julia Dent married on August 22, 1848, Grant was pursuing a military career, having recently returned from the Mexican-American War. Grant continued his military service, and Julia accompanied him to some of the places where he was stationed. However, when Grant was sent west, Julia was pregnant with their second child and could not accompany her husband. Grant became despondent while he was separated from his family and eventually resigned from the army in 1854 to return to them.

While Grant was away, Julia had gone to live with her family at their plantation called White Haven near St. Louis, Missouri. Julia's father, Frederick Dent, had purchased the 850-acre plantation in 1820, and this is where Julia had grown up. Missouri was a slave state at that time, although most slaveholders in Missouri owned fewer than ten slaves, and many Missouri slaveowners worked alongside their slaves in order to increase their farm's work force. Frederick Dent was not such a slaveowner. He thought himself a southern gentleman and owned as many as 18 slaves to do the labor at White Haven.

When Grant rejoined Julia, they lived on some property on the plantation that Julia's father had given to them as a wedding present and on which Grant farmed and eventually built the house that he named Hardscrabble. Grant labored alongside the plantation's slaves in the manual tasks that needed to be done, although as the son-in-law of the plantation's owner, he had some control over those slaves. At some time during the late 1850s, Grant came to own a slave named William Jones. It is not certain when this occurred or why, but most likely Grant's ownership of Jones was through purchase or as a gift from his father-in-law. The only evidence that Grant owned Jones is the official document manumitting Jones in 1859. In that document, Grant attested, "I do hereby manumit, emancipate, & set free said William from slavery forever."

William Jones's Manumition


It may be that Grant's experiences working with slaves and his brief ownership of one influenced his opinion of slavery. Grant's father, Jesse, was staunchly anti-slavery, but early in the Civil War Ulysses Grant asserted in a letter to his father that the main goal of the war was to restore the Union. In a subsequent letter a few months later Grant stated to his father, "My inclination is to whip the rebellion into submission, preserving all constitutional rights. If it cannot be whipped in any other way than through a war against slavery, let it come to that legitimately. If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go." In other words, early in the Civil War Ulysses S. Grant, like Abraham Lincoln, viewed preservation of the Union as the primary goal of the war, and the eradication of slavery was important only to the degree that it affected the preservation of the Union.

After the Civil War, Grant's perspective changed regarding the relative importance of preserving the Union and of ending slavery as goals of the Civil War. This was clear in a conversation that Grant had while he and his wife Julia were traveling around the world after Grant's presidency. In June 1878, the couple was visiting Berlin when Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the German Empire, learned of Grant's visit and invited Grant to meet with him. What resulted was a conversation in which Grant expounded on the Civil War. Part of this conversation dealt with the subject of slavery's role in the war. Bismarck lamented to Grant, "What always seemed so sad to me about your last great war was that you were fighting your own people. That is always so terrible in wars, so hard."

Grant replied, "But it had to be done."

"Yes," Bismarck answered, "you had to save the Union, just as we had to save Germany."

But Grant then added, "Not only save the Union, but destroy slavery." 

Bismarck persisted, "I suppose. However, the Union was the real sentiment, the dominant sentiment."

Grant did not relent. "We all felt, even those who did not object to slaves, that slavery must be destroyed. We felt that it was a stain on the Union that men should be bought and sold like cattle...There had to be an end of slavery."
It is ironic that Ulysses S. Grant is the last U.S. president who was a slaveowner and that he will remain so in perpetuity. Grant's conversation with Otto von Bismarck shows that he was by no means pro-slavery. Moreover, in contrast to his letters to his father in the early days of the Civil War, years after the war Grant viewed the ending of slavery as a goal equal to that of preserving the Union.

Not enough is known about the circumstances associated with Grant's ownership of William Jones to ascertain why Grant came to have possession of him. But for anyone who doubts Grant's views on slavery and the necessity of doing whatever was needed to destroy it, Grant wrote the following in his memoirs. "The South was burdened with an institution abhorrent to all civilized people not brought up under it, and one which degraded labor, kept it in ignorance and enervated the governing class. The war was expensive to the South as well as to the North, both in blood and treasure, but it was worth all it cost."


Ulysses S. Grant (1843)

January…

Adversaries Under the Same Flag

The honor system is something that is familiar to almost everyone. It is defined as a system whereby persons are trusted to abide by a certain code of conduct without supervision or surveillance. But there is another type of honor system that held individuals to a code of conduct that frequently led to tragic consequences. This honor system was usually referred to as a matter of honor or an affair of honor, and one such incident involving two Confederate generals took place on September 6, 1863 at 15 paces with Colt Navy revolvers.

The principals involved were John Sappington Marmaduke and Lucius Marshall Walker, whose nickname was Marsh Walker and who was a nephew of James K. Polk. During the battle of Helena, Arkansas on July 4, 1863, the main Confederate attack was in the center, but to the north the cavalry units of Marmaduke and Walker were to give further weight to the main attack by assaulting Union positions on this part of the battlefield. Marmaduke's unit made its assault, but its left flank became exposed to a Union counterattack, because Walker's unit failed to provide support. This is because Walker believed that doing so would lead to his unit becoming dangerously exposed. Marmaduke wrote in his after battle report that his failure to capture his objective resulted from lack of support from Walker's unit. Marmaduke's claim led the commander of the Confederate army at Helena to charge in his report that Walker had not done his duty. Further animus was added to the relationship between Marmaduke and Walker when the defeated Confederate army was withdrawing from Helena to Little Rock. The cavalry units of Marmaduke and Walker were acting as rear guard with Walker in command, since he was the senior officer. At one point, Marmaduke's unit was to draw the pursuing Union cavalry forward into a narrow area where Walker's unit would attack it. Marmaduke did draw the Union cavalry forward, but Walker had continued to withdraw with the rest of the Confederate army, with the result that Walker's unit was not present to attack the Union cavalry, and Marmaduke and his unit were nearly captured. Marmaduke was understandably angry and demanded that his unit be transferred from under Walker's command.

When Walker learned that Marmaduke had made statements about his conduct, he sent a message to Marmaduke that precipitated a heated exchange, and the messengers played more than just a delivery role. Marmaduke's messenger was his friend Captain John Moore, and Walker's messenger was Colonel Robert Crockett. The name of Walker's messenger should be familiar, because Walker's messenger, Robert Crockett, was the grandson of Davy Crockett. The exchange of messages began ostensibly as a request for information, but quickly escalated in gravity, and seemingly without the knowledge of the principals.

From Walker to Marmaduke: "General, I am informed that you have pronounced me a coward, and that I so acted...You will please inform me whether you have been correctly reported."

From Marmaduke to Walker: "General, I received your note...stating that it had been 'reported' to you that I had 'pronounced you a coward.'...I do not recognize the right of yourself or anyone else to call for 'explanations' when your information is based upon nameless 'reporters.' In this case however I will waive it. I have not pronounced you a coward, but I desire to inform you that your conduct as commander of the cavalry...was such that I determined no longer to serve under you."

From Walker to Marmaduke: "Your note...is so far satisfactory in what relates to the questions contained in my note...But you say that my conduct as commander of the cavalry...was such that you determined no longer to serve under me. The above language is capable of many different constructions, and I therefore demand an explicit explanation of your meaning."

The next message was not from Marmaduke to Walker, but from Marmaduke's messenger (Moore) to Walker's messenger (Crockett). In it, Moore acknowledged receipt of Walker's message and then stated that Marmaduke "disclaims the use of the specific term coward in relation to General Walker," but that Marmaduke holds himself responsible for the inferences that may be drawn from the statements in his note. Moore's note went on to say that these statements "were predicated upon" the "scrupulous care with which General Walker avoided all positions of danger" and "the fact of his refusal to make his appearance upon the field of battle."

Crockett replied in a note directly to Moore, in which he first acknowledged receipt of Moore's note and then stated in regard to that note, "It presents but one alternative. As the friend of General Walker, and without consultation with him, I demand in his behalf of General Marmaduke the satisfaction due to a gentleman. You will please to confer with me at your earliest convenience, so that proper preliminary arrangements can be made for a meeting at once."

Moore then replied to Crockett in a note, "It affords me pleasure, as the friend of General Marmaduke, to accord to the demand of satisfaction. I shall be pleased to meet you at your earliest convenience, and arrange the necessary terms."

In other words, Walker's messenger issued the challenge of a duel without informing Walker of this, and Marmaduke's messenger accepted the challenge on Marmaduke's behalf. After the messengers arranged the terms of the duel, the commander of the Confederate army learned of the impending duel and issued orders to both parties to remain at their posts. However, Walker, for some unknown reason, did not receive the order, and Marmaduke simply ignored it. On the morning of September 6, 1863, the principals and their parties arrived at the appointed place; Walker brought a surgeon and Marmaduke an ambulance. After the location was prepared, Marmaduke and Walker faced each other, aimed, and shot, but neither man was struck. Marmaduke fired a second time and hit Walker in the abdomen. Then, in a most incongruous act in this whole incongruous affair, Marmaduke rushed to the fallen man into whom he had fervently desired to put a hole, immediately after accomplishing his goal of putting a hole into him, and offered Walker the use of his ambulance. As Marmaduke knelt next to Walker, Walker forgave Marmaduke for what had happened. The surgeon pronounced the wound fatal, and Walker died the next day.

Both Marmaduke and Walker suffered dire consequences from their duel. Walker's dire consequences are obvious; he was mortally wounded in the duel. Marmaduke was arrested by his commanding officer as a murderer, since dueling had been outlawed in Arkansas in 1820. However, that commanding officer, realizing that the enemy was closing and that he had already lost one cavalry commander and could ill afford the confinement of the other, decided to suspend the arrest and return Marmaduke to his command. Eventually the matter was quietly dropped, and Marmaduke was never prosecuted. Nevertheless, the men who had served under Marsh Walker were not so inclined to forget what Marmaduke had done. On at least one occasion after the duel when Marmaduke ordered a charge, one of Walker's former brigade commanders refused to do so on the grounds that he and his men would not serve under Marmaduke. After the Civil War, Marmaduke served as governor of Missouri, having been elected in 1884 as the first ex-Confederate to win a major political office in that state. Marmaduke's other distinction is that he was the last Confederate officer to attain the rank of major general. Until the day he died in 1887, Marmaduke regretted that he had been responsible for Walker's death.

Marsh Walker, Marmaduke's dueling adversary, never saw the post-war period. He left behind a wife and four children. From our perspective, Walker's death seems senseless. But from the perspective of the duelists, the affair looks entirely different. An 1836 manual on dueling says this. "It is certainly both awful and distressing to see a young person cut off suddenly in a duel, particularly if he be the father of a family; but the loss of a few lives is a mere trifle, when compared with the benefits resulting to Society at large...The man who falls in a duel, and the individual who is killed by the overturn of a stagecoach, are both unfortunate victims to a practice from which we derive great advantage." These lofty words sound reassuring, but Marsh Walker may have felt differently as he lay dying and realized that he would never again see his wife and children and that he would never see his children grow to adulthood. Nevertheless, as Walker was being transported in Marmaduke's ambulance, he told Robert Crockett, his messenger, to tell his wife that the duel was necessary to preserve his honor. Such was the honor system that claimed Marsh Walker.


John Sappington Marmaduke
Lucius Marshall Walker

December…

John C. Calhoun's Other Tomb

Many people share the blame that there was not a peaceful resolution of the issues of secession and slavery, but the person who is perhaps most responsible for starting the fire on which the fire-eaters dined is John C. Calhoun. He has been called by some historians the patron saint of secession, a distinction that he indisputably merits. Calhoun is revered in the South as a steadfast champion of states rights and Southern rights, and he is reviled in the North as a pigheaded partisan of states rights and Southern rights. Born in South Carolina, Calhoun's hand rocked the cradle of secession until that state became the standard-bearer for disunion. Calhoun did not live long enough to see the movement that he nurtured become reality. But if deceased persons are able to drive events from the grave with their spiritual energy, there is no doubt that Calhoun was doing this in the years just before the Civil War. In fact, after Calhoun's death one of his staunchest adversaries, Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, made this caustic comment about Calhoun when he expressed his disagreement that Calhoun be honored with a eulogy in Congress. "He is not dead. There may be no vitality in his body, but there is in his doctrines." If Calhoun was influencing events from his grave, then where was the location of the source of this spiritual energy? The answer to this question may seem obvious, because John C. Calhoun is buried in his native South Carolina. However, Calhoun also has a tomb in Washington, D.C. in the Congressional Cemetery.

Congressional Cemetery sits on 35 acres of land that was accumulated starting in 1807 to serve as the final resting places for government officials who died while in office. At that time, the long transport times made it difficult to return the remains of such people to their homes, and burial in Washington was more practicable. A vice president, a Supreme Court justice, and 90 members of Congress are buried in Congressional Cemetery. The first Congressman to be buried there was Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy in 1807. Like John C. Calhoun, Tracy was a champion of secession, not of the South, but of New England due to the policies of Thomas Jefferson and his followers, which Tracy felt were curtailing Northern influence. Also buried in Congressional Cemetery are J. Edgar Hoover, John Philip Sousa, Mathew Brady, Lincoln conspirator David Herold, Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument, and Choctaw Indian Chief Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, who fought with Andrew Jackson against the British in the War of 1812, died in Washington when he traveled there to lobby for compensation for lost Choctaw land, and was buried with full military honors.

In addition to actual tombs, Congressional Cemetery also contains 165 cenotaphs. The literal meaning of cenotaph is empty tomb, and cenotaphs are tomb sites that honor someone who is buried elsewhere. The cenotaphs in Congressional Cemetery are marked with a distinctive monument that was designed by Benjamin Latrobe, and the markers are named after him. The Latrobe markers are made of sandstone from the same quarry as that used for the Capitol Building and the White House. The markers consist of a low square base, a stout block, and a conical apex. The style is much more modern than grave markers for that time, and public opinion of the Latrobe markers was not always favorable. In Congressional Cemetery, the term "cenotaph" is used to denote not only empty tombs, but also actual burial places that have a Latrobe marker. Of the 165 cenotaphs in Congressional Cemetery, 50 are actual burial sites. After 1835, the remains of most government officials who died in Washington were sent to their home states and were interred there, but cenotaphs were still erected for them. In 1876 the practice of erecting cenotaphs for government officials who died in office was discontinued. The motivation for discontinuing this practice came from a remark about the Latrobe markers by Massachusetts Congressman George Frisbie Hoar, who said, "The thought of being buried beneath one of those atrocities brought new terror to death." Only two cenotaphs have been erected since 1876. One was in 1972 for Hale Boggs and Nicholas Begich, whose bodies were never recovered after a 1972 plane crash and who share a cenotaph. The other was in 1994 for former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, although his cenotaph is not in the Latrobe style.

The cenotaphs of John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C.

One government official who is honored with a cenotaph is John C. Calhoun, who died in office while a member of the Senate. Calhoun's actual grave is in Charleston, South Carolina, but because of his cenotaph he also has a tomb in Washington. Calhoun's cenotaph is next to that of Henry Clay, a fellow senator and sometimes adversary of Calhoun. This is ironic, because Calhoun once said of Clay, "I don't like Clay. He is a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes. I wouldn't speak to him, but, by God, I love him." Daniel Webster, the third member of the famous Senatorial Triumvirate comprised of Webster, Calhoun, and Clay, is interred in Massachusetts, but he also has a cenotaph in Congressional Cemetery, although his cenotaph is not near those of Calhoun and Clay. Because John C. Calhoun has a tomb in Washington, his spiritual energy did not have to project all the way from his actual tomb in South Carolina in order to influence events in the nation's capital during the final decade before the Civil War. It is also fortunate for Northerners that John C. Calhoun has a cenotaph in Congressional Cemetery, because people in the North can make a pilgrimage to Calhoun's tomb without traveling all the way to the mecca of secession, Charleston, South Carolina. This makes it easier for Northerners to 'pay their respects' at the tomb of John C. Calhoun with whatever gesture they deem appropriate for the patron saint of secession.


John C. Calhoun

November…

The Other Gettysburg Orator

"Four score and seven years ago." With this creative phrasing of the age of the United States, Abraham Lincoln began the two-minute process of upstaging the featured speaker at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Many who are interested in the Civil War know Edward Everett only as the featured speaker who was upstaged by Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address. However, by the time of the Civil War, Everett had lived a very accomplished life. Although it was Everett's well deserved reputation as an orator that led to him being chosen as the featured speaker, he had many other accomplishments as a statesman and educator.

Everett was born in 1794 in Massachusetts into a family that could trace its roots to early colonial times. He was admitted to Harvard College in 1807 at the age of 13. He graduated four years later as the valedictorian of his class. With diploma in hand, Everett was unsure what career to pursue, and he was encouraged by his pastor to follow in his deceased father's footsteps and become a minister. After two years of study, Everett became a minister and was made pastor of his congregation. Although Everett was a popular preacher, he grew disenchanted with the constraints that the ministry put on his talents, and after a year he left his position and went to Washington where he met and interacted with several prominent statesmen from his home state, including Daniel Webster. In 1814 at age 20, Everett was appointed professor of Greek studies at Harvard, where he was highly regarded as an educator.

During his time at Harvard, two major events happened to Everett. First, he married Charlotte Gray Brooks in 1822. This gave Everett a connection to Northeast Ohio, because Chardon, Ohio is named after Everett's father-in-law, who donated land for the city. Second, Everett began to give public speeches on various intellectual topics. One speech brought him wide acclaim, not only for the speech, but also because the Marquis de Lafayette was in attendance, and this focused much attention on what was an excellent speech. Shortly thereafter, Everett was nominated as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, and he easily won election to that office in 1824. After serving five terms in the House of Representatives, Everett left office and was elected governor of Massachusetts a year later. He served four terms as governor, each term being one year at that time, and he won re-election easily each time. Everett lost his bid for a fifth term in what is the closest gubernatorial election in U.S. history. One of the issues that played into Everett's defeat was the passage of a temperance law that reduced support for Everett's Whig Party, which controlled the Massachusetts legislature. According to the official results, Everett's opponent, Democrat Marcus Morton, received 50.001% of the votes. In spite of numerous voting irregularities, Everett did not challenge the results.

During the next several years, Everett served as ambassador to Great Britain and president of Harvard, and then, upon the death of his friend Daniel Webster, Everett was appointed secretary of state by Millard Fillmore to replace Webster. After Fillmore left office, Everett was elected senator from Massachusetts, but he served only one year due to health and resigned in 1854. Everett spent the remaining seven years prior to the Civil War giving speeches across the country, some in support of different causes. For Everett, public speaking was the most satisfying part of his diverse career. One cause that he supported was the preservation of George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, and he raised about $90,000 for this effort. He was also a staunch supporter of the Union. Edward Everett's skill as an orator is best summarized in a quote by a historian who said, "In native terms (he) made articulate …everything that America held precious."

With this background, Everett was the obvious choice to be the featured speaker at Gettysburg, and the dedication of the cemetery was rescheduled for almost a month later to accommodate Everett's typically extensive, intense, and lengthy preparation. On the day of the dedication, Everett went early to the speakers' platform to prepare himself in the tent that he had requested be placed nearby. He needed this time in part because of kidney problems, and he had to relieve himself immediately before and after the ceremony. Everett always memorized his speeches, no matter their length, and when he mounted the platform, the voluminous text of his speech was on a table in front of him, but he made sure that everyone noticed that he did not look at it. From our perspective, Everett's two-hour oration seems like a ponderous ordeal for the audience. But for November 1863, Everett's speech was precisely what was desired. Because of the short address that came after it, we have the impression that Everett's speech was not well received, but the opposite is true. Lincoln's secretary John Hay wrote in his diary about Everett's speech, "For two hours, he held the assembled multitude in rapt attention with his eloquent description and argument, his polished diction, his carefully studied and practised delivery." After the Gettysburg speech Everett continued to give vocal support for the Union cause, and in the election of 1864 Everett was a Republican elector from Massachusetts. In early January 1865, Everett gave a speech in Boston and took ill. He did not live to see the end of the war whose dead he had eloquently memorialized as the featured speaker at Gettysburg.

What we know as the Gettysburg Address ended with the words "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth," and those are certainly inspiring words. The conclusion of Edward Everett's featured speech at Gettysburg contained these inspiring words. "Let me again, as we part, invoke your benediction on these honored graves...God bless the Union; it is dearer to us for the blood of brave men which has been shed in its defenses. The spots on which they stood and fell, Seminary Ridge, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery, Culp, and Wolf Hill, Round Top, Little Round Top, humble names, henceforward dear and famous. No lapse of time, no distance of space, shall cause you to be forgotten. 'The whole earth,' said Pericles, as he stood over the remains of his fellow citizens, who had fallen in the first year of the Peloponnesian war, 'the whole earth is the sepulcher of illustrious men.' All time, he might have added, is the millennium of their glory...As we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates The Battles of Gettysburg."


Edward Everett

October…

The Major General Who Wasn't

If at first you don't succeed, find a career in something that you're good at. This rewording of the old aphorism applies to the person who did the painting that is often called Whistler's Mother, namely James Whistler. Before he became the painter who is familiar to many, Whistler tried his hand at the art of warfare. Had he been successful at this, he very likely could have been someone who was part of the Civil War. But Whistler failed with the sword and instead made his mark in history with a paintbrush.

From a very early age, Whistler showed an interest in drawing and painters. At age 11, while he was living in St. Petersburg, Russia with his family, Whistler received private art lessons at a fine arts academy and was considered very promising by some of the artists he came to meet there. A few years later Whistler informed his father of his desire to pursue a career in art. However, his progress in this path was derailed when his father passed away. After the family's return to the U.S., Whistler was enrolled in a school where his mother hoped that her son would become a minister. But Whistler soon realized that this career path was not for him, and he decided to apply to the U.S. Military Academy.

Although James Whistler's most famous painting is commonly known as Whistler's Mother, it was Whistler's deceased father who was most instrumental in Whistler being accepted to the U.S. Military Academy. Whistler's father, George Washington Whistler, graduated tenth in the West Point Class of 1819 and had served for a short time as a highly regarded instructor at the Academy. But James Whistler inherited none of his father's desire for the military, nor did he have a suitable physique or temperament. He was frail, self-willed, and openly sarcastic, traits that military instructors do not find particularly desirable in their students.

In his first year at West Point Whistler accumulated 190 demerits, which put him close to expulsion. However, his demerits were typically for minor infractions, such as inattentiveness, tardiness, and wearing his hair too long. Whistler also received poor grades in nearly every subject, drawing being the one exception. A Whistler West Point anecdote points out how poor his grades were. On one occasion Whistler was thrown over his horse's head, and the instructor remarked, "Mr. Whistler, I am pleased to see you for once at the head of your class." In spite of his poor record, Whistler was very popular with both classmates and faculty. Whistler's roommate referred to him as "one of the most indolent of mortals," but added, "But his was a most charming laziness, always doing that which was most agreeable to others and himself."

Eventually Whistler's demerit total required that his record be reviewed by the West Point superintendent for possible expulsion. The superintendent at that time was someone who had no personal experience with demerits; the superintendent was Robert E. Lee, who in four years as a cadet never received a demerit. Lee dismissed enough of Whistler's demerits to allow him to continue at West Point. But Whistler's military career came to a halt in his third year at his chemistry final exam. For one question on the oral exam, the instructor asked Whistler to describe the element silicon. According to several accounts Whistler began his answer, "I am required to discuss silicon. Silicon is a gas..." "That will be all," the instructor interrupted. As anyone who remembers high school chemistry knows, silicon is a solid at ambient temperatures. This time Robert E. Lee could not salvage the military career of James Whistler, and the Academic Board voted to expel him.

Whistler appealed the expulsion to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who referred the matter to Lee. In spite of his penchant for leniency, Lee had to acknowledge that Whistler's combination of poor grades and high number of demerits justified expulsion. Lee wrote to Davis, "I can therefore do nothing more in his behalf, nor do I know of anything entitling him to further indulgence. I can only regret that one so capable of doing well should so have neglected himself and must now suffer the penalty." Davis affirmed Lee's opinion, and Whistler was expelled. Given the two individuals who made Whistler's expulsion official, it can be argued that Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were instrumental in James Whistler becoming a painter.

Whistler's classmates at West Point included some men who became cavalry officers in the Civil War, such as David Gregg and William Averell, and the class ahead of Whistler included Custis Lee, the son of Robert E. Lee, Oliver O. Howard, Jeb Stuart, and some others who served in the Civil War. In other words, a number of people who were educated at the U.S. Military Academy during the time that Whistler was there were officers in the Civil War, and Whistler may likewise have been one had he graduated and pursued a military career. Later in life Whistler looked back fondly on his time at West Point and sometimes joked, "If silicon had been a gas, I would have been a major general."

In the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, one of the characters is a tragically ineffective junior officer. This officer becomes so overwrought at his failure in his chosen career that he commits suicide by jumping overboard. At the ceremony memorializing him, the ship's captain begins by saying, "The simple truth is, not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be." In the context of the movie, this comment has a negative tone. This comment also applies to James Whistler, but in his case the comment is much more positive. While it is true that Whistler did not become the man he once aspired to be, the fact that he failed at this led directly to his becoming the man whom we know as one of the great American painters. If at first you didn't succeed, James Whistler, you found a career in something in which you were superb.


James Whistler

September…

The First Confederate Invasion of Ohio

On June 6, 1863, General John Hunt Morgan and over 2,000 Confederate cavalrymen left McMinnville, Tennessee and headed north. On July 2, this unit entered Morgan's beloved Kentucky and continued northward. On July 8, Morgan and his troops crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and then turned east. On July 13, Morgan and his men entered Ohio and became the first Confederate soldiers to set foot on Ohio soil. Except Morgan and his men were not the first Confederate soldiers to enter the Buckeye State. That distinction belongs to Albert G. Jenkins and his band of 550 cavalrymen. Jenkins beat Morgan into Ohio by almost nine months.

In the early months of the Civil War, the Confederacy suffered some serious setbacks in northwestern Virginia. These defeats secured this territory for the Union and eventually led to the formation of the state of West Virginia. In an attempt to recapture this territory, William Loring, the Confederate commander in that area, sent Albert Jenkins and his cavalry unit on a raid in order to disrupt the region as a prelude to a larger invasion. On August 22, 1862, Jenkins and his troops departed from a point in the southeastern part of what is now West Virginia and headed northeast. After several days, Jenkins turned west toward the Ohio River. While moving in this direction, Jenkins and his men defeated some Union units, took numerous prisoners, captured supplies and munitions (and destroyed what they could not take with them), and even captured over $5,000 from a Union paymaster. After resting for a day near the Ohio River, Jenkins and his men crossed the river on September 4, 1862 and became the first Confederate troops to tread on Ohio ground. Their incursion into Ohio was very short, only about 20 miles, and they accomplished nothing of note other than the psychological trauma of placing enemy soldiers in Union territory.

After their return to West Virginia, Jenkins' men created more havoc on a circuitous route, and on September 12, after a raid of 500 miles, Jenkins' unit took position in the Kanawha River valley. On October 31, 1862, more than two months after his departure, Jenkins was driven back to Confederate-held territory. Although Jenkins failed to accomplish one of his main objectives, that is, the destruction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Jenkins' commander, William Loring, pronounced the raid a success because of the disruptive effect it had in the region. However, the territory never returned to Confederate control, and less than a year later West Virginia was admitted to the Union.

Albert Jenkins had a personal stake in retaining control of West Virginia for the Confederacy, because he was born there along the Ohio River in 1830. As a young man, he attended college in Pennsylvania and then graduated from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the bar. He became active in politics and was a delegate to the 1856 Democratic National Convention (which means that he may have been partly responsible for the nomination of James Buchanan). Jenkins also served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. After he resigned from Congress to align himself with the Confederacy, he returned to his homeland where he raised the unit that he led on his famous raid. This unit was intended to serve as a home guard, and it was doing so in the summer of 1861 prior to its lengthy raid. During this time the unit took part in a battle near the Kanawha River, and in that battle Jenkins took command of the Confederate force after the commander of that force was wounded. The person whom Jenkins replaced was George S. Patton, the grandfather of the famous World War II general.

After the 1862 raid, Jenkins' unit was sent to guard the Shenandoah Valley. In the summer of 1863 Jenkins' unit was attached to Richard Ewell's Corps for Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North. Jenkins' cavalry became the vanguard for the Army of Northern Virginia during its penetration into the North and even went as far north as three miles outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where they skirmished with Union militia. During this time Jenkins and his men came under criticism for what the military report termed "irregularities," a euphemism for stealing and destruction of civilian property.

Jenkins' unit was present for the battle of Gettysburg, and on July 2 it was assigned to guard the left flank of Ewell's Corps, which, in fact, was the left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia. But Jenkins' unit never arrived at its assigned position. While the unit was moving there, Jenkins ventured in front of Confederate lines and began to observe the Union position with his field glasses. For this reconnaissance Jenkins went onto a small elevation known as Blocher's Knoll, although this place is now known as Barlow's Knoll because of what happened there the previous day. While Jenkins was on the knoll, Union artillery saw him and began firing. Shrapnel from an exploding shell killed Jenkins' horse and wounded him. Because Jenkins' unit failed to carry out its assignment, Ewell was forced to cover his left flank with two infantry brigades, brigades that Ewell could have used when his corps attacked Culp's Hill later that day.

In the autumn of 1863 Jenkins had recovered from his wound and resumed command of his unit. By this time, the unit had returned to its original mission of detached service in West Virginia. Although military commanders are almost never enthusiastic about relinquishing troops from their command, the officers above Jenkins' unit were not disappointed to see this unit leave the Army of Northern Virginia, because Jenkins' men were considered too undisciplined to function as part of a larger force. After several months of independent operations in the mountains of West Virginia, Jenkins became aware of a Union force that moved into the area in early May 1864. This force was commanded by George Crook and included two future U.S. Presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.

Jenkins' men and Crook's force clashed on May 9, 1864 in the battle of Cloyd's Mountain. Jenkins was outflanked, and after vicious hand-to-hand fighting the Confederate lines began to break. As the Confederates started to fall back, Jenkins sensed a rout was about to ensue. In order to ensure the withdrawal of all his surviving men, Jenkins stayed to the last to direct the retreat. This proved fatal, because Jenkins' arm was shattered by a bullet. He could not be carried from the field and fell into Union hands. Jenkins' wounded arm was amputated by a Union surgeon, and he died twelve days later on May 21, 1864. Ironically Jenkins received his mortal wound one day short of one year after the death of Stonewall Jackson, another Virginian whose birthplace, like that of Jenkins, was excised from their home state when West Virginia was made a state. Like Stonewall, Jenkins was wounded in the arm, had his arm amputated, and lived for several days more before dying.

One of Albert Jenkins' subordinates paid stirring tribute when he wrote about his deceased commander, "No more on his proud steed shall he sweep o'er the plains, cheering by his ringing voice and flashing eye his struggling cavaliers to deeds of daring, breasting with the foremost the storm of battle." While Ohioans may have difficulty with the thought of an enemy force entering their state, someone who is described like that by one of his comrades is certainly worthy to be the first Confederate to lead an incursion into Ohio.

2012-2013 HISTORY BRIEFS>>


Albert G. Jenkins

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable