Civil War Wednesday: Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski, Library of Congress HABS GA, 26-SAV.V, 2-50

“From the position the enemy has taken in the Savannah River, it becomes necessary that you look to your defense in that direction.”[1] On February 17, 1862, General Robert E. Lee wrote these words to Colonel Charles Olmstead, the officer responsible for the garrison of 385 soldiers holding Fort Pulaski. For Lee, this occasion did not mark his first visit to Georgia, or to Fort Pulaski. As a young lieutenant in the late 1820s, Lee, after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, took his engineering training to Georgia’s coast.

During the aftermath of the War of 1812, the United States began building a series of coastal fortifications – The Third System. On Cockspur Island in the Savannah River, construction had started on a fortification named in honor of Casimir Pulaski, a native of Poland, who led cavalry troopers during the American Revolution.[2] While Lee influenced the early design of Fort Pulaski, advancements in artillery in the years leading up to the Civil War would prove the death knell of masonry fortifications.

Captain Quincy Gillmore

Captain Quincy Gillmore, Library of Congress LC-DIG-cwpb-06490

Seeking to seal the port of Savannah, and cut the number of blockade-runners making safe passage into the city, the Federals began preparations for taking Fort Pulaski in January 1862. Captain Quincy Gillmore received the task of landing troops and artillery on nearby Tybee Island, and positioning his artillery to launch a bombardment of the fort. Gillmore’s soldiers stepped onto the sandy shores on February 21, but several days passed as the men worked in the marshy areas, busily constructing roads and gun placements. Finally, with all preparations complete, the Federal guns opened fire on the morning of April 10. The artillery – many of the guns rifled – soon found their mark, and the shells started reducing the walls of the fort to rubble. Olmstead realized he held a position no longer tenable; the following day, he surrendered Fort Pulaski.[3]

Colonel Charles Olmstead

Colonel Charles Olmstead, Fort Pulaski National Monument—Georgia, gutenberg.org

Reporting on the mission’s success, Gillmore wrote to department commander, Major General David Hunter. “I have the honor to transmit herewith the terms of capitulation for the surrender to the United States of Fort Pulaski, Ga…the fort hoisted the white flag at a quarter before 2 o’clock this afternoon…a practicable breach in the walls was made in eighteen and a half hours’ firing by daylight.”[4] The fort would remain in Federal possession during the balance of the war, and later served as a prison, which held captured Confederates.

Today, the National Park Service manages the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Please visit http://www.nps.gov/fopu/index.htm for details in planning your next visit to historic Savannah, and Fort Pulaski!

 

[1] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, reprint 1899 ed., Series I, vol. 6 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971), 389. (Hereafter listed as O.R.)

[2] Casimir Pulaski, National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/fopu/learn/historyculture/casimir-pulaski.htm (accessed May 28, 2015).

[3] J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann, Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2004), 254–57.

[4] O.R., 139.

 

MikeMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at: www.civilwarhistorian.net.

 

Civil War Wednesday: The Battle of Brown’s Mill

Major General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 42 on July 25, 1864, once again communicating his plans for taking the city of Atlanta. Sherman’s horse soldiers received special mention in the orders, which indicated the troopers’ main mission rested on destroying portions of the rail network lining the city.

Brigadier General Edward McCook.

Brigadier General Edward McCook.

Saddles began filling on the morning of July 28; soon, two brigades under Brigadier General Edward McCook left a dusty trail as they rode toward the Macon and Western Railroad. After destroying large sections of this line, the horsemen turned their sights toward the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. A surprise awaited the riders as they traveled the Ricketyback Road when Southern iron of a different form – the cavalry soldiers with Major General Joe Wheeler – twisted the Federals’ plans, much as they had intended to warp the tracks of the Atlanta and West Point.

Hard fighting, often hand-to-hand, took place along the Ricketyback Road, and when Confederate reinforcements, in the form of the 1st and 9th Tennessee Battalions blocked the intersection onto the Corinth Road, the battle turned into a rout. Wheeler smelled blood, rose in his saddle, and encouraged his soldiers from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas to “Follow me! My brave Men!” McCook, shaken with the sudden onslaught, sat in his saddle, almost as if in a daze, mumbling, “What shall we do? What shall we do?” Colonel James Brownlow, son of Tennessee’s infamous “Parson” Brownlow had the answer. Escape! As Brownlow maneuvered toward the Chattahoochee River, at a position near Franklin, McCook and company rode toward the New River. The brave soldiers of the 8th Iowa fought a strong rearguard holding action, which allowed several Federal troopers to avoid a trip to Andersonville’s Camp Sumter. Local African-Americans served as guides for both fleeing forces, as they attempted to navigate through the unfamiliar territory.

Major General Joe Wheeler.

Major General Joe Wheeler.

Early on the morning of July 31, lead elements of Wheeler’s force caught up with Brownlow’s command and took several prisoners. Crossing the Chattahoochee proved a very slow process, and those boys in blue remaining on the “wrong” side of the river became prisoners. In his after-action report, McCook stated, “At Brown’s Mill…I was surrounded by an overwhelming force.” A fitting summation for a costly defeat, one Sherman echoed in a communication to Washington, “The loss of this cavalry is a serious one to me.”

One bright moment for the Federals did emerge from their suffering at Brown’s Mill, when Private George Healey with the 5th Iowa Cavalry received the Medal of Honor for assisting in the capture of five Confederate soldiers. Federal casualties during the action numbered 1,400 with almost 1,300 taken as prisoners; Wheeler lost around 700 dead, wounded, or missing.

[1] David Evans, Sherman’s Horsemen: Union Cavalry Operations in the Atlanta Campaign (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 261.

[1] Ibid., 264.

Images courtesy Library of Congress.

mikeMichael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

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Civil War Wednesday: The 11th Georgia Infantry at Gettysburg

Brigadier General George “Tige” Anderson; Courtesy Digital Library of Georgia

July 2, 1863, day two of the fighting at Gettysburg, found the corps of Lieutenant General James Longstreet launching an attack against the left of the Federal position. The resultant hard fighting produced many casualties among the roughly 94,000 Federal troops of Major General George Meade, and the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee – a force of almost 72,000 soldiers. The various battles of the day introduced new place names into the American lexicon – Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, The Peach Orchard, and The Wheatfield. The action in the Wheatfield involved several of more than 40 Georgia units engaged at Gettysburg; however, none would suffer as greatly as the 11th Georgia Infantry Regiment, part of Brigadier General George “Tige” Anderson’s brigade in Major General John Bell Hood’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps.

Major Henry McDaniel; Courtesy Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Archives

As the late afternoon of brutal fighting unfolded, the brave men of the 11th Georgia, along with other Georgians, South Carolinians, Texans, and Arkansans struggled to drive the Federal troops from the Wheatfield. Anderson’s brigade became the first Southern element to reach the Wheatfield. Once there, they confronted Colonel Regis de Trobriand’s brigade, specifically the soldiers of the 17th Maine positioned on their left. A stonewall dividing the Wheatfield from the surrounding countryside marked a coveted position on the field, and the Georgians twice crossed the barrier only to face a withering fire, which forced them to withdraw. Sometime after 5:30 p.m., Anderson fell wounded, and command of the brigade transferred to the 11th Georgia’s Colonel Francis Little. Lieutenant Colonel William Luffman took charge of the 11th until he too received a wound, leaving the Georgians to continue the fight under yet another new officer – twenty-six-year-old Major Henry McDaniel. McDaniel would survive the carnage of Gettysburg and the balance of the war’s engagements to become Georgia’s governor in 1883. Many of McDaniel’s men did not escape the arena of death in the Wheatfield. A Georgia officer participating in the attack noted, “We rallied the men and charged the third time almost into the mouths of their cannons…I could hear bones crash like glass in a hailstorm.”[1] Three hundred nine soldiers of the 11th entered the battle of July 2; at the day’s end, the number of dead, wounded, or missing totaled 201, for a 65 percent casualty rate – among the highest in Lee’s entire army during the three days of fighting at Gettysburg.[2]


[1] J. Keith Jones, Georgia Remembers Gettysburg: A Collection of First-Hand Accounts Written by Georgia Soldiers (Gettysburg, PA: Ten Roads Publishing, 2013), 21.

[2] J. David Petruzzi and Steven Stanley, The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties, and Maps, June 9-July 14, 1863 (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2012), 124.

mikeMichael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

The Civil War Center

Civil War Wednesday: The Burning of Darien

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863, and afforded African-Americans in the North the opportunity to volunteer for active service in the Federal army, and Governor Andrew of Massachusetts wasted little time in calling the men to arms. During February 1863, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw took charge of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – by month’s end, 1,007 soldiers and 37 officers drilled in Boston.[1]

Colonel James Montgomery

In late May 1863, the regiment boarded ships and headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina, with the knowledge the Confederate Congress recently authorized the return to slavery of captured African-American soldiers. White officers leading black troops faced death or punishment as determined through the courts. Soon after their arrival at Hilton Head, Shaw and the 54th joined forces with Colonel James Montgomery and his Second South Carolina Volunteers, another African-American regiment. Montgomery, supposedly operating under direct orders from the department commander – Major General David Hunter – ordered Shaw to take their combined forces up Altamaha River toward the port town of Darien, Georgia.

Lithograph showing the 54th Massachusetts attacking Battery Wagner

Once the troops neared Darien on June 11, Montgomery, who believed the port operated as a safe haven for Confederate blockade-runners, and served as the hometown of some of the South’s wealthiest slave owners, began shelling the vacated town. Local residents, fearful of the Federal blockade ships of the nearby coast, fled from Darien weeks earlier. Once the soldiers entered the town, Montgomery ordered his troops to begin looting and burning the various buildings. Shaw protested against assisting, but when Montgomery pressured with threats of a court-martial, the young colonel of the 54th relented and ordered some of his men to apply the torch. In a letter to his wife, written the day after the action at Darien, Shaw lamented, “Besides my own distaste for this barbarous sort of warfare, I am not sure that it will not harm very much the reputation of black troops and of those connected with them. For myself, I have gone through the war so far without dishonor, and I do not like to degenerate into a plunderer…there was not a deed performed, from beginning to end, which required any pluck or courage.”[2] President Abraham Lincoln, fearing repercussions from Hunter’s activity along the coast, relocated the officer to another theater. Just over one month after the shame of their involvement in the destruction of Darien, the men of the 54th would prove their mettle in leading the assault on Battery Wagner.



[1] “The 54th Massachusetts Infantry,” History, http://www.history.com/topics/the-54th-massachusetts-infantry (accessed May 20, 2013).

[2] Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 343.

ms2Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

The Civil War Center

Civil War Wednesday: Nurses

Period Illustration depicting nurses.

Period Illustration depicting nurses.

Prior to the Civil War, no professional nursing schools existed in the United States, and males occupied the vast majority of all nursing positions, with the “Catholic Sisters of Charity” representing the only professionally trained group of female nurses at the outset of war. During the conflict, this newfound vocation for women, also provided opportunities for free persons of color, slaves, and convalescent soldiers. At war’s end, more than 20,000 women provided angelic care to wounded soldiers.

Many female nurses came from middle and upper-class families, so income probably did not serve as the prime factor, which motivated them to risk their own health while tending to the needs of others. In the North, white nurses earned $12 per month, while African American nurses received $10. In the South, where inflation ran rampant, a nurse working in early 1865 earned a monthly salary of $40. In 1892, Congress approved a $12 per month pension for those women who served in Federal hospitals.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton

Clara Barton, an employee of the U.S. Patent Office prior to the war, began her nursing career after the July 1861 Battle of Bull Run/First Manassas. Throughout the war, she followed the Federal armies from Virginia to South Carolina, instilling a level of professionalism and introducing standard practices and procedures for nurses. After the war, she assisted family members in locating their loved ones – men fallen on some distant field or incarcerated in one of many Southern prisons. In 1881, she formed the American Red Cross.

Kate Cumming

Kate Cumming

 

Alabamian Kate Cumming served as a ObamaCare’s 2013 will be the year we get our first good look at how Medicaid Expansion and the ObamaCare how to get medical insurance Marketplaces will work (two health care reform’s biggest programs. nurse for the Confederacy in the western theater from April 1862, until the termination of hostilities. She experienced many of the same emotional struggles as nurses elsewhere, as witnessed in a September 1862 diary entry: “There is a good deal of trouble about the ladies in some of the hospitals of this department. Our friends here have advised us to go home, as they say it is not considered respectable to go into one [hospital]. I must confess, from all I have heard and seen, for awhile I wavered about the propriety of it; but when I remembered the suffering I had witnessed, and the relief I had given, my mind was made up to go into one if allowed to do so.”[1]

In April 1863, after almost one year spent tending the wounded, Cumming lamented, “It is sad to see so many dying with no kindred near them to sooth their last moments and close their eyes. What a sacred duty is here left undone by our women! I do not say all are guilty of this neglect, for I know there are many good women who have their home duties to attend to, and others who have not strength physically…”[2]

A poem, which Cumming penned after the war, perhaps captures the essence of the trials Civil War nurses endured North and South.

The wounds I might have healed –

The human sorrow and smart;

And yet it never was in my soul

To play so ill a part:

But evil is wrought by want of thought

As well as want of heart.[3]


[1] Kate Cumming, Kate, the Journal of a Confederate Nurse. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), 65.

[2] Ibid., 99.

[3] Ibid., 4.

Michael Shaffer

Michael Shaffer

Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

 

The Civil War Center

The Civil War Center