Mary Edwards Walker – the Only Woman to Receive the Congressional Medal of Honor

Coffee or Die has the story. The True Story of Mary Edwards Walker, the Only Female Medal of Honor Recipient.

When the American Civil War began, she went to Washington and attempted to join the Union Army as a medical officer. She was denied at first, but her feisty determination secured her role as an assistant physician. As a volunteer, she had the freedom to take assignments up and down the East Coast without the nagging oversight of the U.S. government.

She was a POW, and received the Medal of Honor with the recommendations of Major Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and George Thomas. Her award was rescinded in 1917, but restored by Jimmy Carter. Anyway, as they say, go read the whole thing.

The Surrender of General Kirby Smith: May 26, 1865

Confederate General Kirby SmithMost people consider that the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House was the end of the Civil War, but sporadic fighting went on after that. The forces in the western part of the Confederacy (Trans-Mississippi Department in the vernacular of the day, which means beyond the Mississippi) was the last organized military force of the Confederacy. The Surrender of Gen. E. Kirby Smith.

With the surrender of these forces, the war was effectively over. (The portrait of Gen. Kirby is from the Library of Congress. Click the image for a larger view.)

The Battle for Appomattox Court House was April 9th of 1865, and Lee surrendered that afternoon. But in the west, the Confederacy fought on. Part of the reason was the difficulty in communications. The final surrender was probably the CSS Shenandoah (a commerce raider) which learned of the end of the war in August, but decided to sail to Liverpool to surrender to the British. They lowered their colors on November 6, 1865. The last Confederate General to surrender was Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie commanding the Confederate Indians. (He surrendered on June 23rd.)

The war’s last land fight occurred on May 12-13th at Palmitto Ranch, where 350 Confederates, under Col. John S. Ford, scored a victory over 800 overconfident Federals under Col. Theodore H. Barrett. But afterward the Confederates learned that Richmond had fallen and Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered more than a month earlier. The news devastated their morale, and they abandoned their lines.

The surrender was formalized on May 26th, under similar terms to those that Grant gave to the Army of Northern Virginia. Officers and troops were offered parole, given they would not take up arms against the US government again. Officers could keep their sidearms, horses and personal belongings. Horses belonging to the enlisted could also go home with their owners. Small arms, artillery, gunboats, etc. were all to be surrendered. Major General Edward Canby commanding the Military Division of Western Mississippi accepted the surrender in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Not all of the Trans-Mississippi Confederates went home. Some 2,000 fled into Mexico; most of them went alone or in squad-sized groups, but 1 body numbered 300. With them, mounted on a mule, wearing a calico shirt and silk kerchief, sporting a revolver strapped to his hip and a shotgun on his saddle, was Smith.

The article from the New York Times that carried the news can be found at the following link. The Surrender of Kirby Smith.; IMPORTANT ORDER BY GEN. CANBY. HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION WEST MISSISSIPI,

April 12, 1861 – The Attack on Fort Sumter

This is perhaps the quintessential example of failing to consider the ramifications of your actions. The Civil War begins.

The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

Although things went the South’s way for quite some time, in a few years, when US “Unconditional Surrender” Grant was running the show, and William Tecumseh Sherman was marching across Georgia, things would look differently.

If you have never seen Ken Burns’ The Civil War it is worth a look, even if you don’t usually like history. This series (9 episodes) does a good job of bringing the past alive. It is streaming somewhere like Hulu or Amazon, though I can’t remember where. Or maybe your local library has a copy.

The History That The Left Wants to Eradicate

Like the character from Nineteen Eighty-four, they want to alter history to reflect the party line. Today is Robert E. Lee’s birthday. (Actually, it was a few days ago.)

Lee was born on January 19, 1807 the son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee III and Ann Hill Carter.

But if we are kept ignorant of history… Well, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

On April 18th, with Civil War now a reality, on April 18 a presidential advisor offered Lee a “major command in defense of the U.S. Capitol.” Lee said that he could not raise his sword against his native Virginia.

Lee did this in spite of the fact that he disagreed with slavery, but states came first.

Shelby Foote described it best, in Ken Burns’ The Civil War. We are used to thinking of the United States as a single entity, but prior to The Civil War, people thought of it as a collection of Entities. “United States” is plural (in a strictly 8th Grade Grammar context), after all. That is one of the things that the Civil War did; it welded the collection of states into a single nation.

The Left is busy tearing down all remnants of the Civil War. Next I suppose they will start paving over Confederate graveyards. I’m not sure why they don’t want to look at the past and learn from it.

Nineteen Eighty-four and Winston Smith.

Admiral David Farragut – Born July 1, 1801

Thinking about Admiral “Damn the torpedoes” Farragut makes me weep for what has become of the West. Admiral David Farragut.

To show how things have changed, and not for the better.

Farragut was befriended as a youth in New Orleans by Captain (later Commodore) David Porter (of the U.S. Navy), who adopted him. Farragut served under Porter aboard the frigate Essex in the War of 1812; this vessel captured so many British whaling vessels that Farragut, then age 12, was put in charge of one of the prize ships. By the age of 20 he was already an accomplished ship’s officer. In 1823 he served under Porter in a squadron that suppressed pirates in the Caribbean. He was given his first independent command in 1824.

A 25-year-old today longs for the status of a child. Rejoices at the fact that they can remain dependent on mommy and daddy. What has become of us?

His famous quote was uttered during the Civil War. While breaking into the Mississippi past Confederate forts, monitors, and mines (torpedoes). As his ships slowed due to the mines, he shouted his famous (though usually misquoted) line.

“Damn the torpedoes.”, said Farragut, “Four bells, Captain Drayton, go ahead. Jouett, full speed.”

Sherman Sacks Columbia, SC – February 17, 1865

William Tecumseh ShermanSherman captured Savannah, Georgia shortly before Christmas of 1864, after cutting a swath of destruction across that state. After spending some time Savannah, Sherman moved his army into South Carolina. Sherman began his Carolina campaign on February 1st. By the 17th, he had captured Columbia. Sherman sacks Columbia, South Carolina – Feb 17, 1865 – HISTORY.com

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and Confederate batteries opened fire on the Federal garrison of Fort Sumter in April of 1861 to get the festivities started. So the Union soldiers were particularly delighted in bringing war to South Carolina.

The troops under Confederate General Wade Hampton abandoned the city leaving it open to Sherman’s troops. The Union soldiers set fire to city – many after getting drunk.

Sherman wrote:

“Though I never ordered it and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over the event, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the War.”

About 2/3 of the town burned before the flames were extinguished, but Sherman set more fires – to all the government buildings – three days later before they marched out of Columbia.

150 Years Ago: Robert E. Lee surrenders – Apr 09, 1865

Appomattox_Court_HouseIt seems like we usually make a big deal out of anniversaries that end in 0. But not so much regarding the Civil War. Robert E. Lee surrenders – Apr 09, 1865 – HISTORY.com.

[Click the image for a better view of the famous painting of the signing of the surrender.]

April 9th, 1865, usually marks the end of the Civil War, though a few odd battles were fought after that date, and even one notable Confederate victory, with the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the South no longer had anything like a viable fighting force.

The actual surrender took place in the home of Wilmer McLean. The first engagement of the war – The First Battle of Bull Run – took place on his land. So he moved his family to get away from the conflict, only to have it find him again. “It is said that the American Civil War ‘started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.'”

April 9th is also almost exactly 6 months after Abraham Lincoln won reelection in 1864. The Democrats had run a campaign on the war being un-winnable. To say they were mistaken was an understatement.

The 1864 Overland Campaign under the command of Ulysses S Grant ended with the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. Taking Lee’s advice, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Cabinet abandoned Richmond on April 2nd. They set fire to the town as they left, and the fires raged until the mayor surrendered the town of Richmond to Union forces – who put out the fires – on April 3rd. Lee surrendered a week later.

If you haven’t seen the PBS/Ken Burns series “The Civil War” you should. It is both entertaining and informative.

So why is it that we aren’t interested in the commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War? Did anyone mark the fall of Atlanta, or Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in November of 1864? Was there ceremony to remember the burning of Atlanta or William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea? I suppose if they paid any attention to the Presidential Campaign of 1864, some attention would have been paid to the position of the Democrats and their candidate.

150 Years Ago Today: The Burning of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea

1864 was a Presidential election year. The Democrats held their convention and nominated George McClellan, former Union Army commander, to run on a platform that “the war was unwinnable” and the Union should sue for peace with the Confederacy. Lincoln was not expected to win that election.

But things changed when Sherman’s forces, moving south from Chattanooga, Tennessee captured Atlanta on 2 September 1864. Ordered to hold Atlanta until after the election, Sherman made preparations for his March to the Sea. This included sending some troops to Tennessee, and destroying the rail-yards and railroads in and around Atlanta.

On 14 November 1864, the fires were set.

[Sherman’s army] began its march for the sea on the morning of the 14th, when the entire city of Atlanta—excepting its courthouse, churches, and dwellings—was committed to the flames.

The buildings in the heart of the city, covering 200 acres of ground, formed a great conflagration; and, while the fire was raging, the bands played, and the soldiers chanted the stirring air and words, ” John Brown’s soul goes marching on!”

From November 14th until a few days before Christmas of 1864, Sherman’s force – totaling 60,000 infantry with associated artillery, and 5500 cavalry – cut a swath of destruction across Georgia. Sherman, had made his intentions clear. “I intend to make Georgia howl.” And he did. He removed from the Confederacy the support of the people. They were no longer willing to join the fight.

All confidence in President Davis and the Confederate government had disappeared in Georgia, and a great portion of the people were satisfied that it was, as they expressed it, “the rich man’s war, and the poor man’s fight,” and would no longer lend themselves to the authorities at Richmond. The National army moved steadily forward. At Griswoldsville there was a sharp engagement (Nov. 22, 1864) with a portion of Hardee’s troops sent up from Savannah, and several brigades of militia. The Confederates were repulsed with a loss of 2,500 men. Howard could have taken Macon after this blow upon its defenders, but such was not a part of Sherman’s plan.

The journals and letters of Mary Prescott, contain a first-hand report of the results of that campaign. If you haven’t seen Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” I can highly recommend it, and specifically that episode that deals with Sherman’s march across Georgia.

Sherman’s forces destroyed everything in their path. Houses, and barns. They built fires and twisted steel rails so they could never be used for railroads again. They slaughtered livestock, and burned provisions. They left a path of destruction and famine in their wake, but they accomplished their mission. They made it impossible for the South to continue to wage war.

And the political platform of the Democrats notwithstanding, Lee surrendered his Army of Virginia to U.S. Grant in April of 1865.