Monday, November 4, 2013

Letter from Union Lieutenant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865 
"Camp near Camden, S. C. 

My dear wife--I have no time for particulars. We have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day. The chivalry [meaning the Honourable & Chivalrous people of the South] have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, &c., are as common in camp as blackberries. 

The terms of plunder are as follows: Each company is required to exhibit the results of its operations at any given place--one-fifth and first choice falls to the share of the commander-in-chief and staff; one-fifth to the corps commanders and staff; one-fifth to field officers of regiments, and two-fifths to the company. 

Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising themselves as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a suit of rough clothes from one of my men, and was successful in this place. He got a large quantity of silver (among other things an old-time milk pitcher) and a very fine gold watch from a Mrs DeSaussure, at this place. DeSaussure was one of the F. F. V.s of South Carolina, and was made to fork over liberally.. Officers over the rank of Captain are not made to put their plunder in the estimate for general distribution. This is very unfair, and for that reason, in order to protect themselves, subordinate officers and privates keep back every thing that they can carry about their persons, such as rings, earrings, breast pins, &c., of which, if I ever get home, I have about a quart. I am not joking--I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and all the girls, and some No. 1 diamond rings and pins among them. 

General Sherman has silver and gold enough to start a bank. His share in gold watches alone at Columbia was two hundred and seventy-five. But I said I could not go into particulars. All the general officers and many besides had valuables of every description, down to embroidered ladies' pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them, too. We took gold and silver enough from the damned rebels to have redeemed their infernal currency twice over. This, (the currency), whenever we came across it, we burned, as we considered it utterly worthless. 

I wish all the jewelry this army has could be carried to the "Old Bay State". It would deck her out in glorious style; but, alas! it will be scattered all over the North and Middle States. The damned niggers, as a general rule, prefer to stay at home, particularly after they found out that we only wanted the able-bodied men, (and to tell the truth, the youngest and best-looking women). Sometimes we took off whole families and plantations of niggers, by way of repaying secessionists. But the useless part of them we soon manage to lose; [one very effective was to "shoot at their bobbing heads as they swam rivers" after the army units crossed over], sometimes in crossing rivers, sometimes in other ways. 

I shall write to you again from Wilmington, Goldsboro', or some other place in North Carolina. The order to march has arrived, and I must close hurriedly. Love to grandmother and aunt Charlotte. Take care of yourself and children. Don't show this letter out of the family. 

Your affectionate husband, Thomas J Myers, Lieut., 

P.S. I will send this by the first flag of truce to be mailed, unless I have an opportunity of sending it at Hilton Head. Tell Sallie I am saving a pearl bracelet and ear-rings for her; but Lambert got the necklace and breast pin of the same set. I am trying to trade him out of them. These were taken from the Misses Jamison, daughters of the President of the South Carolina Secession Convention. We found these on our trip.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Great story came to us via Ray Davidson…

Tucker’s Marine Brigade
Confederate States Marine Corps
From Drewry’s Bluff to Appomattox Court House1865
by Ray Davidson

In 1998, Confederate States Marines Charles Cleaper, James Hicks and Joe Johnson names finally were added to the exhibit on Black Confederates at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. A tribute and belated honor to a story worth telling of grey coated warriors that served to the honor of the Corps.

Cleaper, Hicks and Johnson enlisted in the Confederate Marine Corps in Charleston, South Carolina and served aboard the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Chicora until March 1865. The Confederate States Marine Corps (CSMC), as well as the Confederate States Navy, authorized recruitment of one black for every five whites recruited. These Marines and sailors served alongside their white counterparts in integrated units. Several skilled pilots on Confederate gunboats were “men of color” and held an officers rank. One such pilot was Moses Dallas, who served with the Savannah Squadron from 1862 to 1864. A letter from the Savannah Squadron Commander to the Secretary of the Navy gives us a small glimpse of the value of blacks to the Confederate Navy:

“I have also been compelled to increase the pay of Moses Dallas from $80 to $100 per month in order to retain him. He is a colored pilot and is considered the best inland pilot on the coast.”

Later Dallas was on the expedition that captured the Federal gunboat USS Water Witch on the rainy night of June 3-4, 1864. He was among six Confederates killed in action during the firefight that erupted as they boarded the ship. Another black Confederate Naval Officer, Ben Newell, piloted the captured gunboat back to harbor.

In early spring 1865 the Union Army was making a concerted effort to capture Richmond, the Southern capitol and defeat Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. All Confederate States Marines along the east coast were ordered to Drewry’s Bluff for defense of Richmond.

The only obstacle that protected Richmond from a river approach was Fort Darling on Drewry's Bluff, overlooking a sharp bend on the James River their eight cannons in the fort, including field artillery pieces and five naval guns, some salvaged from the Virginia, commanded the river for miles in both directions. Guns from the CSS Patrick Henry, including an 8-inch smoothbore, were just upriver and sharpshooters gathered on the river banks. An underwater obstruction of sunken steamers, pilings, debris, and other vessels connected by chains was placed just below the bluff, making it difficult for vessels to maneuver in the narrow river.

Blunting previous Union nautical assaults Drewry’s Bluff remained an integral part of Richmond's defense until the fall of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. The garrison at Drewry's Bluff took part in the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg. Once Fort Darling had been abandoned by the retreating Confederates, the Union forces quickly cleared a path through the obstructions in the James River beneath Drewry's Bluff. On April 4 President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad passed the fort on the way up the James River to visit Richmond.

At Drewry’s Bluff, Cleaper, Hicks and Johnson and the men of the Charleston Squadron joined with remnants of the Wilmington (NC) Squadron and Virginia based personnel to form "Tucker’s Marine Brigade" that was named after its commander, Commodore John R. Tucker.

The Battle of Sayler's Creek was fought April 6, 1865, southwest of Petersburg. Tucker’s Marine Brigade had joined up with two Confederate divisions led by Maj. Generals Curtis Lee and Joseph B. Kershaw. These two divisions made up nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army. At Sayler’s creek they were cut off by Sheridan's cavalry and elements of the Union II and VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

Tucker’s Marine Brigade was the only Confederate unit that didn’t break under the first Federal charge. After repulsing the charge, the Brigade – numbering 300 to 400 men, was surrounded by six Union divisions. Tucker would not surrender and counterattacked, smashing the 37th Massachusetts Infantry into fragments and tearing into the 2nd Rhode Island in hand to hand combat.

Withdrawing to a wooded area, these Confederate Marines repulsed multiple Federal attacks. Tucker’s Brigade was resilient and did so much damage that the Federal generals estimated the "Marine Brigade" to number some 2,000 men. Tucker was ultimately talked into surrendering towards the end of the day.

Note: The Slayer’s Creek battlefield was designated a national Historic Landmark in 1985.


The remnants of Tucker’s Brigade; four Confederate States Marine Corps officers and 21 enlisted Marines withdrew to Appomattox and surrendered with General Lee on April 9, 1865. The ranking Confederate Marine Officer was 1stLt Richard Henderson (former USMC Commandant Gen. Archibald Henderson’s son). Standing proudly with Henderson were Charles Cleaper, James Hicks and Joe Johnson, “free men of color” who served with distinction as Confederate States Marines.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Strange triangle...

Wesley Culp enlisted in the 2nd Va. Infantry, Wesley’s brother William, who had remained in Pennsylvania, enlisted with the Union Army and was a member of the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry. 

William and Wesley Culp’s Regiments faced each other in combat at the Second Battle of Winchester. Fortunately, neither brother was wounded in the action. Wesley Culp came across a friend from Gettysburg on June 15, a Private Jack Skelly, who had been badly wounded and was in a Confederate hospital. 

Skelly gave Wesley a note to give to his fiance, Virginia “Jennie” Wade, who was back at home in Gettysburg. But Wesley was unable to deliver the note, as he was shot and killed a short time later at Culp's hill in Gettysburg on property belonging to his uncle.

Jennie Wade, was the only known civilian killed at Gettysburg as a bullet came through her home while baking bread. 

Before Gettysburg: Wesley Culp was a native of Gettysburg and lived there until he was a teenager. He learned to hunt in the woods on Culp’s Hill, which was owned by his uncle, Henry Culp. As a teen, Wesley took a job with a harness maker in Gettysburg, making leather trappings for horses and wagons. In 1858, the owner of the harness company moved his business to Princess Street in Shepherdstown, (West) Virginia, and Wesley moved there to continue working. Although Wesley made new friends in Shepherdstown, he still kept in contact with friends and family in Gettysburg.

In 1861, when the war broke out, Wesley chose to join the Confederate Army and fight alongside his new friends and neighbors as a member of Company B, 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment. The 2nd Virginia, part of the famous “Stonewall Brigade” led by General “Stonewall” Jackson, saw its first combat during the First Battle of Manassas. Wesley survived the battle and went on to participate in the Valley Campaign of 1862, the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Second Battle of Winchester and Gettysburg.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 19, 1864 Confederate General John Gordon described the battle at Cedar Creek as "the most unique day in the annals of war", because of the many unusual events and circumstances on that day south of Winchester, Virginia. For example:

• The day was marked by a dramatic reversal of fortunes: as Gordon put it, "a most brilliant victory converted into one of the most complete and ruinous routs of the entire war."

• Secondly, although the battle was a tactical military victory for the Union, its greatest impact was the political boost it gave President Lincoln during the final stages of the Presidential campaign.

• Cedar Creek was also unusual in the personal bitterness it generated within each army, including lifelong hostility between Early and Gordon, between Sheridan and Crook , and between Custer and Merritt.

• Finally, the impact on the two commanders could not have been more different. Confederate Commander Jubal Early's assault was daring and brilliantly executed, but the day's outcome essentially finished his career as a commander. He received more blame than he deserved for the Confederate defeat. 

In contrast, Union Commander Phillip Sheridan received more credit than he deserved for the Union victory. He was careless with his troop dispositions and was greatly mistaken in his estimation of Early's intentions and capability. He brought his army close to what would arguably have been the most embarrassing Union defeat of the war, and could have spelled the end of his career, not to mention President Lincoln's. But Cedar Creek propelled him to military fame to such an extent that his horse Rienzi can now be seen in the Smithsonian.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

“The Confederate soldier was a venerable old man, a youth, a child, a preacher, a farmer, merchant, student, statesman, orator, father, brother, husband, son, the wonder of the world, the terror of his foes!!!” Carlton McCarthy Mayor of Richmond

My own GGG Grandfather was 50 when he enlisted with his 4 sons...

Photo: 60 year old Confederate, the oldest soldier on either side was Curtis King who was 80 years old but he was mustered out after only four months. The legal age for joining the army was 18. Teenagers too young to join would write the number 18 on a piece of paper and place it in their shoe. Then when the mustering officer asked their age they could truthfully say that they were over 18.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Harry Truman’s Mama...gotta love her!

Mrs. Truman never forgot the burning, looting and thorough destruction of western Missouri by Union forces. After the War, when her son, Harry Truman was invited to dinner by a prominent family in Kansas City, a family who had profited handsomely by the war, Mrs. Truman made the following remark: 

“When you go there, turn the silverware over and check the hallmark, it’s probably ours!!!!”

Martha Ellen Young was born in Jackson County, Missouri, on November 25, 1852, to Solomon Young, a successful farmer who also had a business running Conestoga wagon trains along the Overland Trail, and his wife Harriet Louisa Gregg. The family were Southern loyalists during the War and several relatives served in the Confederate Army. 

In later life, Martha told of how a band of Union-supporting Jayhawkers destroyed her family's farm one day in 1861, then came again in 1863 when the family was ordered to vacate their home within 15 days by General Ewing’s General Order 11 and forced to move to Platte County, Missouri until after the war. This harsh treatment left Martha with a lifelong resentment for the winning Union side in the war, and she was well-known for her Confederate sympathies (so much so that it was reported that when she first visited the White House in 1945, she refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Friday, October 11, 2013


"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in any one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone." 

"The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, so what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes... They pull the strings... AND WE DANCE."

John Swinton, 1860s chief-of-staff for the New York Times. In an address to fellow journalists…