Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Damp and Desolate Place: The Confederate Cemetery at Brice's Crossroads.

The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads was fought June 10, 1864 where four roads intersect about 7 miles west of Baldwyn, Mississippi.  An estimated 3,500 troops commanded by Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest routed 8,100 Federals lead by Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis in the day long contest.  With several guns from Morton's Battery and cavalry fighting as mounted infantry Forrest had little problem defeating Union cavalry and infantry and capturing several pieces of artillery and numerous supply wagons.  The battle was typically Forrest and one of his greatest victories and while it kept him in Mississippi and away from Major General William T. Sherman’s supply line during the Atlanta Campaign the battle did not have a major impact on the outcome of the civil war.  

                                         Monument Honoring the Union and Confederate Forces

The Confederate forces held the field when the battle ended.  They were also left with the task of burying the dead.  Union dead were buried in trenches on the battlefield and later disinterred and taken to the National Cemetery at Memphis, Tennessee.  Ninety -six Confederate dead were buried in a section of the Bethany Associate Reform Presbyterian Church Cemetery which is southeast of the road intersection and the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield.   

I visited the Confederate Cemetery in April 2009.  It was a rainy day and I remember how desolate and damp everything felt and how unkept the cemetery appeared to be. Somehow it seemed like the brave men who died and were buried here deserved more, then again maybe being buried on hallowed ground is enough.

                                        Headstone of Sergeant William C. Hardy, 7th Tennessee Cavalry

Headstones of Daniel J. Coleman, Company E, 16th Tennessee Cavalry & Robert Owens, Company B, 8th Mississippi Cavalry

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Richard Rowland Kirkland: "The Angel of Marye's Heights"

This monument sculpted by Felix de Weldon, and erected in 1965 by the State of South Carolina, the Commonwealth of Virginia,  Citizens of the United States, Collateral Descendants of Richard Kirkland and the Richard Rowland Kirkland Memorial Foundation lies near the stone wall in front of the sunken road on Marye's Heights on the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Va.  The monument is dedicated to Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, Company G, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers.   Kirkland a South Carolinian,  born in August 1843 had enlisted in Company E, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers in 1861.  He saw action at 1st Bull Run, Savage Station, Maryland Heights (Harpers Ferry) and Antietam before arriving at Fredericksburg with his regiment in December 1862.

On December 13, 1862 Confederate troops commanded by Major General James Longstreet positioned in the sunken road behind the rock wall fired upon assault after assault of Union soldiers marching across open ground in their front.  The casualties were horrific.  As day turned into night and dawn approached on December 14 the fields in front of the stone wall was littered with dead and dying union soldiers as well as their unhurt brethren who had spent the bone chilling night trapped on the battlefield. Pitiful cries for water rent the air, reaching the ears of the Union and Confederate soldiers glaring at each other from opposite sides of the battlefield.  Nothing was being done by either side however to call for a truce or a halt to the hostilities  to render assistance to the wounded.

At some point Sergeant Kirkland purportedly sought and received the permission of the commanding officer Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw to attempt to assist the wounded Union soldiers.  He gathered up canteens from the Confederate lines, filled them with water , went over the stone wall and provided water, aide and encouragement to the Union soldiers lying on the field of battle.  Although a truce was never declared neither side fired at the young soldier  while he was conducting his mission of mercy.  For this act of kindness and humanity Richard Rowland Kirkland is known as "The Angel of Marye's Heights.

Following the Battle of Fredericksburg, Kirkland served with the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and at Chickamauga where on September 20, 1863 he received a mortal wound.  His remains were taken to South Carolina and buried in the Old Quaker Cemetery in Camden.

While this monument is dedicated to the heroic, humanitarian gesture of one man who fought in the fratricidal conflict that was the American Civil War it can also stand as a testament to the many acts of kindness on both sides toward their fellow Americans that go unnoticed to this day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Those Who Fought for the Blue & the Gray on St. Patrick's Day

There were over 150,000  Irish born soldiers in the Union Army during the civil war with one-third of that total having come from New York State.  Many served in regiments with soldiers of other nationalities while a number were regimented together.  Some predominately Irish Regiments can be identified including the 9th Connecticut, 23rd Illinois, 15th Maine, 10th New Hampshire, 10th Ohio and the 11th and 17th Wisconsin to name a few.  The most famous Irish Regiments however hailed from New York including, the 63rd, 69th and 88th New York Volunteer Infantry who were originally  brigaded with the 29th Massachusetts (non-Irish) and later the 28th Massachusetts and 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to make up the Irish Brigade, one of the hardest fighting units in the federal army. 
In the fall of 1861 the Federal Government authorized the formation of the Irish Brigade which originally consisted of the 3 New York Regiments mentioned above.  Just before the Peninsula Campaign they were joined by the 29th Massachusetts.  After Antietam, the 29th was replaced by the 28th Massachusetts and The 116 Pennsylvania was added.
The Irish Brigade saw action in all the major campaigns fought in the eastern theatre during the civil war.  There losses were heavy at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) where they attacked Confederate forces in the sunken road and suffered 60% casualties  (540 killed, wounded or missing).  They suffered severely assaulting Marye’s Heights on December 13, 1862, during the Battle of Fredericksburg and again while engaged in the Wheatfield and Rose’s Woods at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863).  Their suffering and sacrifice is remembered however by beautiful monuments erected to the Irish Brigade at both the Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park. 

The Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam, is the newest monument on the battlefield, having been unveiled on October 25, 1997.  It  lies at the southern end of the sunken road (Bloody Lane) due north of the observation tower.   The monument is made of granite from County Wicklow, Ireland upon which have been mounted two bas reliefs, the one on the obverse depicting the 69th New York Color Guard under fire  and the one on the reverse of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher. 

The Irish Brigade Monument at Gettysburg was dedicated on July 2, 1888 the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The bronze and granite monument depicts a Celtic Cross inscribed with the badge of the 2nd Corp, Army of the Potomac.  A  life sized Irish Wolfhound lies at the base of the cross.  The Irish Brigade listed 530 men present for duty on July 2, 1863 and suffered losses of 40% in killed wounded and missing fighting in the Wheatfield and Rose’s Woods.     

There is a second monument at Gettysburg honoring the Irish, that of Father William Corby. Corby, the chaplain of the Irish Brigade, is depicted giving absolution to the troops prior to their engaging in battle.      
There were about 40,000  Irish who fought for the Confederacy and while there was at least one regiment that was predominately, Irish, the 6th Louisiana, the Irish units wearing the gray did not attain the notoriety of the Irish units wearing blue.  One Irish born confederate officer stands out however and that is Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne who served conspicuously and gallantly in the western theater throughout the war only to be killed leading his men in a futile charge against entrenched union forces at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864.This monument on Winstead Hill, adjacent to the Columbia Pike south of Franklin, honors Cleburne. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Model 1857-Light Twelve Pounders: A Fitting Tribute to Battery B, 4th US Artillery

Monuments on civil war battlefields come in all shapes and sizes, from grand equestrian statues to small, unobtrusive markers in out of the way places.  All are intended to honor individuals officers, soldiers or regiments.  Some of the most interesting monuments are those dedicated to artillery units which often include cannons of the same type used by a particular battery at a given battlefield.  This is the case at Antietam National Battlefield where a pair of Model 1857 Light 12 Pounder Gun-Howitzers, more commonly referred to as “Napoleons” mark the position of Battery B, 4th US Artillery.
The 4th US Artillery dates from 1820/1821 if not before.  The regiment saw action in the Black Hawk , Seminole and Mexican Wars.  After the Mexican War Battery B, 4th US Artillery was in Texas for a while before being sent to Camp Floyd, Utah Territory.  In July 1861, under the command of Captain John Gibbon, Battery B left Utah, arriving in Washington via Fort Bridger, Fort Laramie, Ft Leavenworth and St Joseph, Missouri, in October.  The battery was assigned to the artillery reserve of McDowell’s Army and with a large number of new recruits selected from volunteer infantry regiments, spent most of the winter of 1861/1862 being whipped into shape by Gibbon. In June 1862 Battery B was assigned to the 4th Brigade, now commanded by John Gibbon, 1st Division, 3rd Corp, of Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia.   When the Armies of the Potomac and of Virginia were combined under McClellan in September 1862, Battery B and Gibbon’s Infantry Brigade (aka the Iron Brigade) were assigned to the 1st Corp under Major General Joseph Hooker.  
September 17, 1862 saw Battery B advancing and fighting with Gibbon’s Brigade astride the Hagerstown Pike in the early morning hours of the Battle of Antietam.  Gibbon and Battery B advanced through the woods and to open ground south of the D. R. Miller house and barn and were soon heavily engaged against confederate infantry and artillery.  Sections of the battery unlimbered in the pasture south of the barn and west of the Hagerstown Pike, which is where the cannons honoring their service at Antietam rest today.   Casualties at Antietam included Captain Joseph B. Campbell who was 'stricken down by a ball through the shoulder", 39 enlisted men and 33 horses.   

                       Two Light Twelve Pounders Representing Battery B's position at Antietam. 

Battery B's Napoleon

The muzzle of 1 of the guns honoring Battery B.  The markings show the cannon tube was cast by Revere Copper Company of Boston Mass., in 1862.  The tube weighing 1224 lbs., bears Serial # 83. It was inspected, prior to being accepted by the US government by Thomas Jackson Rodman.  All Napoleons manufactured for the US government during the civil war have these markings on the muzzle.  

                       Reproduction Model 1857 Light Twelve Pounder, Antietam National Battlefield

Living historians, portraying Battery B, 4th US Artillery firing a reproduction Light 12 Pounder at Antietam National Battlefield, a fitting tribute to their predecessors. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ninth New York (Hawkin's Zouaves) Volunteer Infantry Monument - Antietam

The Ninth New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as Hawkin's Zouaves in honor of Colonel Rush C. Hawkins was organized in New York City and mustered into federal service in May 1861.  At the Battle of Antietam the regiment was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 9th Corp, Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.  
Burnside's Corp made up the left flank of the Union Army and was charged with crossing Antietam Creek at the lower bridge and advancing in a northwesterly direction toward the town of Sharpsburg.  The placement of this monument just east of the Harpers Ferry Road marks the head of the union advance before they were turned back by A. P. Hill's Light Division late in the day on September 17, 1862.  

"To the Memory of the Brave Men of the Ninth New York Infantry (Hawkin's Zouaves) who fought upon this field, and especially to those who died that their nation might live"

The 9th New York Monument as seen from Antietam National Cemetery.  Confederate artillery was positioned where the cemetery now stands during the Battle of Antietam.

Of 373 men of the Ninth New York listed as present for duty on September 17, 1862, when the Battle of Antietam was fought 54 were killed, 158 wounded and  28 missing in action for a total of 240.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

The 104th New York Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam: In Need of Repairs

The 104th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a consolidation of the Morgan Guards and the Geneseo, Regiment, Wadsworth Guards, was recruited from Albany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Rensselaer, and Steuben Counties in New York between October 1861 and March  1862.  The regiment, was mustered into federal service in March 1862, and on the 22nd left New York in route to Washington where it was assigned to the Military District of Washington commanded by Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth.  
In May 1862 the regiment was transferred to the Department of the Rappahannack.  From June 1862 to September 1862 it was part of Major General Pope’s Army of Virginia and was heavily engaged at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. In early September the 104th New York became part of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corp, Army of the Potomac.  The 1st Corp, commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker saw action at Turner’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862 and in Miller’s Cornfield at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 where it was heavily engaged with rebel troops commanded by Major General Thomas J. Jackson. 
On September 27, 1917 the State of New York dedicated a monument to the 104th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment on Antietam National Battlefield.  The monument is  on the north side of Cornfield Ave., due south of Miller’s Cornfield.  

The monument, which cost $1,392.70 in 1917, is a square shaft of Barre Granite eleven feet five inches in height topped by a twelve inch high ball.  Twelve inch diameter discs  representing the badge of the First Corp,  are carved on the east and west sides of the monument.  Bronze #1’s were inserted in the center of these carved discs when the monument was erected.   
The stone work was done by the National Granite Company of Montpelier, Vermont.  Bronze pieces which include the numbers on the east and west sides, the coat of arms of the State of New York and a bronze plaque on the front were made by John Williams, Inc., of New York.   

Unfortunately sometime between 1917 and the present the bronze number 1 on the east side of the monument has disappeared.  It is my hope to work with the staff at Antietam National Battlefield and the Western Maryland Interpretive Association/Antietam Partners  to restore the monument to it’s original glory by having the missing #1 on the east side replaced.

As soon as I have more information on the cost and how and where to submit donations to repair this monument I will be updating this blog so stay tuned!  Seems like a worthy cause to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.