It’s a far cry from Tolstoy, but then again I’m not Russian …

trevilian station

Among the things I enjoy most about blogging is being able to tell a good story. It was one of my favorite aspects of journalism and it’s part of what I relish in writing for the magazine I put together for my employer.

Nearly four years ago, I got an opportunity to tell a bigger story, one that was approximately 150 years old but had never been fully laid out in print before.

It came to fruition last month when Broadfoot Publishing Co. of Wilmington, NC, sent me a copy of To Virginia and Back With Rutledge’s Cavalry: A History of the 4th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, a 520-page work that took me more than three years to write.

First, I should note that writing anything about myself is about as enjoyable as having teeth pulled with a rusty pair of pliers. But it would be remiss of me not to at least thank those who have supported me over the past few years.

First, about the book, or rather the topic of my book:

The 4th S.C. Cavalry Regiment suffered the most battle casualties of any of South Carolina’s seven cavalry units. Nearly all its combat deaths came during a two-week period in the summer of 1864, when the 1,000-man unit was thrown into its first real action literally hours after arriving in Virginia.

Prior to reaching Virginia shortly after the start of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, the 4th South Carolina hadn’t suffered a single combat death since the start of the war. Within a couple of weeks, it had lost scores of men, with hundreds more wounded and captured.

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The odd case of the Confederates who came in from the cold

prisoners

It’s not unheard of for the soldiers of defeated nations to continue fighting on, sometimes for years or even decades.

Usually, as in the case of Japanese troops who held out in the Pacific following World War II, such men are isolated and completely cut off from the rest of the world. They’re either unaware the war is over, or unwilling to accept the conflict’s conclusion.

Sometimes, however, reports of such incidents raise red flags.

Consider a story that first appeared in the Petersburg (Va.) Index on Aug. 15, 1866, and was reprinted in other publications, including the Chicago Tribune, in the following days.

Under the headline “The Last of the Rebel Army,” and the subhead, “Four Rebel Soldiers Surrender – They Have Just Found Out the War is Over,” the Index detailed a report that four Confederate soldiers had just turned themselves in to Federal authorities on Aug. 14, 1866, nearly 1-1/2 years after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox and nearly 15 months after the last Confederate army had capitulated.

According to the report, Anthony Monkas, Thomas Wells and James Brinberter, all of Co. E, 52nd Georgia Infantry Regiment, and Allan Tewksbury of the 43rd Louisiana Infantry Regiment, all members of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered after holding out along the Appomattox River since the first half of 1865.

According to the story, Tewksbury told Federal authorities that following the Confederate evacuation of Petersburg in the spring of 1865 he and his contingent stopped on the Appomattox, about seven miles above the city, to rest.

Realizing they were cut off, they made a vow to hold their ground and “never go home or give up until the Confederacy was completely annihilated,” according to the article in the Chicago Tribune.

They fashioned an abode on the banks of the river and lived off fish and game, and roasted ears of corn taken from nearby fields, along with the occasional pig they captured.

In the summer of 1866, “… hearing from an old negro man that the Confederacy was undoubtedly ‘gone up,’ they concluded to quit their barbarian life and surrender,” according to the report.

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Last Union officer killed in Civil War shot by 14-year-old boy

boykin-mill-monument

The purported last Union officer killed in the War Between the States was a product of Harvard, shot down by a 14-year-old member of the Confederate home guard more than a week after Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.

Edward Lewis Stevens, Harvard Class of 1863, had enlisted as a private in the 44th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment on Sept. 12, 1862. The Brighton, Mass., native was 20 years old when he joined up.

He was later commissioned an officer in the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first official African-American units and the subject of the 1989 film Glory.

Stevens was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 54th in April 1864, nearly a year after the regiment had attempted to take Fort Wagner near Charleston, SC, where Col. Robert Gould Shaw and 280 other members of the unit were killed, wounded or listed as missing in action.

Stevens was promoted to 1st lieutenant in December 1864 and as the war would down, the 54th and other Federal troops found themselves back in South Carolina.

The 54th Massachusetts arrived in South Carolina on April 1, 1865, landing at Georgetown, between Charleston and Wilmington, NC, from Savannah, Ga.

The unit was one of six infantry regiments operating under Maj. Gen. Edward E. Potter, with the 54th contributing 700 officers and enlisted men to Potter’s 2,700-man force.

By April 18, 1865, Potter was in Camden, a medium-sized affluent community a little more than 100 miles northeast of Georgetown. That morning, Potter left Camden and headed south. They had traveled 10 miles on the Stateburg Road and encountered no opposition until they reached a fortified Confederate position at Boykin’s Mill.

Boykin’s Mill was little more than a grist mill, church and small collection of homes, but its defense were enhanced by the presence of a millpond, along with streams and a swamp.

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Haw’s Shop: The seven-hour buzz saw

haw's shop battlefield

For all the notoriety of Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg, the American Civil War featured hundreds of smaller battles and skirmishes, many all but unknown except to students of the 1861-65 conflict. One such clash was the battle of Haw’s Shop, which took place in Hanover County, Va., 150 years ago today.

It marked the first action for the 4th, 5th and 6th South Carolina Cavalry regiments, which made up Butler’s Brigade, part of Hampton’s Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The battle is important because it marked an increased emphasis in a new style of cavalry tactics in which troopers would often use their horses to speed to the scene of battle, then dismount and fight from improvised fortifications, much like infantry.

Not coincidently, Haw’s Shop also marked the changing of the guard for the Army of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry Corps as Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton unofficially began his eventual succession of J.E.B. Stuart, killed earlier in the month at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.

The 4th South Carolina had only reached Virginia a few days earlier after spending the previous 2-1/2 years defending the South Carolina coast, as had the 5th and 6th South Carolina.

Just four days after finally arriving in Richmond after a six-week trek north, the 4th and 5th South Carolina, along with the 20th Georgia Cavalry Battalion and the regiments that made up Brig. Gen. William C. Wickham’s Virginia Brigade were dispatched to track the movement of Grant’s army and to counter Union cavalry commanded by Philip Sheridan.

Robert E Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, the opposing military leaders, were trying to discern each other’s intentions. Both sides relied on their cavalry to try to establish contact with enemy.

Lee, fearful that Grant might get around him and break through to Richmond, sent Hampton on a mission to locate the Union force. Grant, seeking a way to get around Lee’s army and into the Confederate capital, turned to Sheridan in a bid to determine Lee’s plans.

The two cavalry forces met on the morning of May 28, 1864, near Haw’s Shop, named for a large blacksmith shop owned by local resident John Haw.

The action began about a mile west of Haw’s Shop, near Enon Methodist Church, which still stands today. After a series of charges and countercharges by opposing cavalry forces, the conflict turned into a dismounted battle, with Union troopers from Brig. Gen. David McMurtie Gregg’s 2nd Cavalry Division battling Hampton’s forces in the woods near Enon Church.

Gregg would later write, “In the shortest possible time both of my brigades were hotly engaged. Every available man was put into the fight, which had lasted some hours. Neither party would yield an inch.” Hampton formed a defensive line with Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Rosser’s troops on the left, Wickham’s men in the center and Butler’s South Carolinians on the right.

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Moon to blame for Stonewall Jackson’s demise

wounding of stonewall jackson

Some 150 years after Confederate troops mistakenly shot Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as he returned from a night scouting mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville, a pair of Texas researchers believe they have determined why the famed general and his group were confused with enemy troops.

Jackson’s wounding on May 2, 1863, would lead to the amputation of his left arm and complications that would result in pneumonia and ultimately his death eight days later.

But historians have struggled with the fact that on the evening Jackson was accidentally shot by men of the 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment, the battlefield and area around it was brightened by a full moon, to the point that opposing forces were able to see well enough to fight through the night, according to eyewitness accounts.

Don Olson of Texas State University and Laurie E. Jasinski, a Texas State graduate and editor of The Handbook of Texas Music, Second Edition, decided to use astronomy to try to resolve the mystery, according to RedOrbit.

Using detailed battle maps and astronomical calculations, Olson and Jasinski determined that the 18th North Carolina was looking to the southeast, directly toward the rising moon, which silhouetted Jackson and his officers, according to the website.

“When you tell people it was a bright moonlit night, they think it makes it easier to see. What we are finding is that the 18th North Carolina was looking directly toward the direction of the moon as Stonewall Jackson and his party came riding back,” Olson said. “They would see the riders only as dark silhouettes.”

It would be not unlike looking at an individual approaching from the direction of the sun during the day. One would be able to make out a figure, but details would be hard to determine.

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Lee’s sword being moved to Appomattox

Robert E. Lee’s sword is being returned to Appomattox, perhaps for the first time since he surrendered it to Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865, to be the centerpiece of a new museum examining the struggle to heal the nation following the War Between the States.

The uniform Lee wore the same day will also be on display March 31 when the Museum of the Confederacy opens an 11,700-square-foot museum within a mile of where Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

The Appomattox museum is the first in a regional system planned by the Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy to make its vast collection of Confederate artifacts and manuscripts more accessible, the wire service added.

The other museums are planned for the Fredericksburg area and Hampton Roads, perhaps Fort Monroe.

All told, more than 450 uniforms, muskets, swords, documents, flags and other artifacts will be displayed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox.

“Appomattox is one of those words you can say anywhere in the world and people know what you’re talking about, like Waterloo,” said Waite Rawls, chief executive of the Museum of the Confederacy. “Appomattox is the very metaphor for the end of the Civil War and the reunification of the nation.”

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Museum looks to preserve Gettysburg flag

The Tennessee Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is spearheading an effort to conserve a Confederate battle flag captured on the pivotal third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, at the apex of Pickett’s Charge.

The organization is seeking to raise $12,000 to conserve the banner, which belonged to the 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiment and today resides in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

The flag was captured by the 14th Connecticut on July 3, 1863, after the Tennessee unit had joined with approximately 10,000 other Southern troops and advanced over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Federal artillery and rifle fire.

The men of the 14th Tennessee were actually able to breach the stone wall that protected many of the Union soldiers, but couldn’t hold its gains, eventually being forced to fall back with heavy losses.

The unit lost four of its regimental colors.

After its capture, the flag was forwarded to the US War Department, where it was held for decades.

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