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“I’m shot, my God, I’m shot!” A Melancholy Event on the Way to Chickasaw Bayou

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       Gravestone of Sergeant James Dempsey, Co. C, 23rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Vicksburg National Cemetery Section E, grave 1756      It was the evening of Tuesday, December 23 rd 1862 when Corporal Rockwell J. Flint of the 23 rd Wisconsin sat behind a desk aboard the steamer John H. Dickey and grappled with the raw emotions of loss and anger. During the overnight hours, a tragic accident had occurred that shook the young soldier to his core. “I would like to give you the details of our voyage thus far, but present feelings will not admit,” he admitted. The regiment had boarded the steamer John H. Dickey at Memphis two days previously and were now headed south along the Mississippi River as part of the Union army’s first serious effort at taking Vicksburg. “I hardly know how to place upon paper the heart-rending news I wish to tell you. I wish to break it gently, but the best expressions seem harsh and even brutal,” Flint stated. On August 6, 1862, three young printers fro

The 83rd Illinois’ Finest Hour: Holding Dover Against Wheeler and Forrest

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       Garrison duty at Dover, Tennessee had for the 83 rd Illinois Infantry amounted to months of monitoring of Federal steamboat traffic along the Cumberland River while dealing with the occasional local bushwhackers. But despite the dullness of duty, Dover was an important post as it lay right along the Army of the Cumberland’s primary wintertime supply route. In early February 1863, rumors that General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry was in the neighborhood prompted the local garrison commander Colonel Abner C. Harding to be on the alert. Located about a mile south of Fort Donelson, the Federals chose to lightly fortify the town of Dover itself rather than occupy the old Confederate works. To combat the approaching Confederate cavalry, Colonel Harding had at his command the nine companies of his own regiment, two sections of Battery C, 2 nd Illinois Light Artillery, a single 32-lb siege gun, and a company of Iowa cavalry, the whole force totaling 600-800 men. (Estimates vary)   Genera

Riding with Wheeler Through Sequatchie Valley

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     With the Army of the Cumberland hemmed in at Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga, Federal supply lines stretching back over Walden’s Ridge to Bridgeport, Alabama became a target for General Joe Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry. In early October, Wheeler led his 5,000 troopers on a long raid intending to break up Federal supply traffic and compel the Federal evacuation of Chattanooga. Wheeler’s force had it greatest success early on at Anderson’s Crossroads where a huge train of 800 wagons was captured; unfortunately, the troops spent their afternoon pillaging the wagons (brandy was especially prized) such that when Union reinforcements arrived on the scene, more than a third of the mules were recaptured and the Confederates lost 270 men. The chase continued to McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Shelbyville, and Farmington, with the Confederates slashing at the railroad and burning bridges, while the Federal cavalry continued to strike the rear guard. The eight-day Sequatchie Valley

Bonebrake’s Redemption: Richmond to Chickasaw Bayou with the 69th Indiana

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     Civil War literature is rife with stories about regiments and individuals who showed the “white feather” in one engagement only to redeem themselves later; one remembers the regiments of the 1862 Harper’s Ferry garrison such as the 32 nd Ohio and 126 th New York  who were lampooned as cowards yet acquitted themselves with distinction at places like Champion’s Hill and Gettysburg the following year. Today’s blog post focuses on the redemption of a single individual, Indiana officer George Henry Bonebrake of the 69 th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.           Bonebrake, born in June 1838 near Eaton in Preble County, Ohio, attended Otterbein University and graduated just as the Civil War began. Determined to make his fortune, he traveled west to Union City, Indiana and took over as the editor of the local newspaper the Union City Eagle . Less than a year later, he pulled up stakes and moved to Winchester, Indiana where he entered into the study of law with Thomas M. Browne, but al

With the Arkansas Conscripts at Prairie Grove

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     Alexander Hawthorn was a veteran of Shiloh with the 6th Arkansas Infantry when he was given the task of the leading the 39th Arkansas Infantry; the regiment had a whole host of different names, but one thing it had in abundance was conscripts. Little was expected of men drafted into service, but Hawthorn reported with pride in the following letter to his brother that at the Battle of Prairie Grove, his "Arkansas conscripts" toed the mark just fine, thank you.     Prairie Grove was fought December 7, 1862 in northwestern Arkansas between the 12,000 men of the Trans-Mississippi army under General Thomas C. Hindman and two Federal divisions, one under General James G. Blunt and the second under General Francis Herron. As part of General James Fagan's brigade of General Francis Shoup's division, Hawthorn's regiment arrived on the field about midday and took up a good position on a ridge, prepared to hold off an expected Federal attack. Ordered to advance through

The Solemn Realities of War: A Hoosier Greenhorn Sees the Elephant at Perryville

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       The opening moments of the Battle of Perryville were both exciting and frightening for 40-year-old Private Joseph Glezen of the 80 th Indiana Infantry. The former attorney and newspaper editor had enlisted as a private in the ranks of Co. H only a month before, and now stood facing an advancing line of veteran Confederate infantry, and soon discovered a horrifying fact: his musket would not fire. “At the word fire, we all pulled trigger together and were directed to load and fire at will. Many of our guns were defective, and when I rammed down my second cartridge I discovered that my gun contained two loads. I reprimed, however, and thought I would double the dose by firing two balls at once, but my gun again refused to fire. I again retired down the hill, took off the tube, picked the powder in the touch hole, primed, advance, and made the third attempt to fire, but there was not sufficient power in the lock to burst the cap. I stood and snapped four times but in vain. I the

Rich and Racy Crumbs: A sampling of battlefield souvenirs from Stones River

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       During the Civil War, soldiers of both armies were wont to wander over the battlefields after an engagement on the hunt for relics of all kinds. For some men, they were on the hunt for practical reasons: picking over the dead to remove boots, clothing, equipment, and weapons, as replacements for their own worn-out or missing items. Others wandered to satisfy a ghoulish curiosity; this was especially true for a soldier in his first engagement but often one visit amongst the debris of a battle satisfied all desires and the scene of battle was one avoided in the future instead of sought. Among the items that usually elicited attention were letters, and today’s post shares the findings of a Mississippi soldier at the Battle of Stones River.   While walking through the cedar forest near the Wilkinson Pike in the days following the battle, he came upon the body of a dead Union private and discovered a few items of interest. After perusing them, he decided to send them home to the ed