A Very Jewish Civil War

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Up to now the only source for Jewish Confederate soldiers, besides considering surnames on rosters, has been attorney Simon Wolf’s 1895 The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen, available here.

Altogether about 10,000 names: 7,000 Union and the rest Confederate. Of them, I found eight among the 13th’s infantrymen, though could match only five of them in McLean’s and Howell’s rosters.

Soon there may be more, as a National Archives project to identify all Jewish soldiers of the Civil War is underway. With records Wolf had no access to. Plans now are for everything, from written documents to photographs to be available free online in 2017.

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Another Look At Barksdale

“Forty-two years old, Barksdale was one of the Confederacy’s most inspirational brigadiers, and his brigade of big, rangy, straight-shooting Mississippians was second to none. Barksdale was a political general, and couldn’t be asked to achieve anything tactically sophisticated, but as a charismatic leader of a brigade of fellow Mississippians, he could work wonders in either attack or defense.”

More here in an interesting word portrait of the 13th Regiment’s original colonel.

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The ghost 13th at Nashville

The 13th’s battle flags certainly got around, at least one being captured at Knoxville in November 1863 and another possibly captured at Saylor’s Creek in 1865, though the latter is in dispute.

There’s no dispute, however, about a 13th battle flag being captured at Nashville in December of 1864. It wasn’t captured there because the 13th wasn’t there then, being in defensive entrenchments east of Richmond at the time.

And yet that’s what the federal Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads for Sergeant William Garrett of the 41st Ohio Regiment: “With several companions [he] dashed forward, the first to enter the enemy’s works, taking possession of 4 pieces of artillery and captured the flag of the 13th Mississippi Infantry (C.S.A.),” according to Find-A-Grave.

Either the citation writer got it wrong, or the Find-A-Grave copyist did, or there was a ghost 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment at Nashville on Dec. 16, 1864. Boo!

Posted in The Battle Flags, The Fall of Richmond | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Reprise: Marching and Countermarching

Thursday, July 2, 1863, was clear and warm, according to Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill:

“General Lee brought all of his forces up this morning in front of the enemy. Both parties skirmished all the morning.”

Barksdale’s Brigade could hear the fighting to the east. But, camped at Marsh Creek along the Chambersburg Turnpike, east of the South Mountains, they were well west of Gettysburg. For them, it began as another day of hurry-up-and-wait.

“The slumbers of all were broken by drum beat and bugle call at sunrise,”J.S. McNeily wrote in 1903 for the Mississippi Historical Society, “and the column was promptly formed and headed toward Gettysburg…We reached the front at nine or ten o’clock…where the road intersected Seminary Ridge. We halted here an hour or more until the plan of battle was decided…”

Confederate veterans later and historians today argue whether Gen. Lee wanted a morning attack by Longstreet’s Corps (but his old War Horse inexplicably delayed), or if Lee himself delayed for unknown reasons, perhaps wanted to keep the Union off-balance.

Longstreet wrote in 1878 that “It was fully eleven o’clock when [Lee decided that Longstreet’s Corps would make the main attack on the extreme right]. We waited about forty minutes for Law’s brigade [of Hood’s Division] and then moved forward.”

Then there’s the problem of Longstreet’s approach march to his corps’s position on the field “one of the most difficult non-combat aspects of the Gettysburg campaign to reconstruct and to understand,” wrote historian Harry Pfanz in his Gettysburg, The Second Day:

“The facts of the matter seem to lie forever concealed by a lack of correct information engendered by personal conflicts and the failure of participants to report what they had done.”

Pfanz concluded that it “must not have begun before noon at the earliest.”

McLaws division, with Kershaw’s Brigade in the lead, followed by Barksdale’s Brigade, led the march to the battlefield. Hood’s division followed McLaws. They marched south down the west side of Herr Ridge and onward to Black Horse Tavern, at a good pace, according to 17th Regiment memoirist William Meshack Abernathy.

They halted when McLaws determined that if they continued they would be exposed to enemy view (and the Union Signal Corps communication flags) on Little Round Top mountain. He and a few mounted staff officers searched for an alternate route. Longstreet approved a countermarch.

“The time taken to cover the intervening space,” McNeily wrote, “has been the cause of much censure, but without cavalry, not even a company to guide the advance over unknown ground for five or six miles, slow progress was unavoidable.”

They apparently returned to Herr Ridge and took another route farther east that also led them south, closer to the west slope of Seminary Ridge.

Finally, close to 4 p.m., they reached the tree line along the eastern side of the ridge, a quarter mile west of the Peach Orchard, where federal artillery unexpectedly took them under fire—revealing that Gen. Lee’s intelligence on the disposition of the enemy was wrong.

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Private Edward P. Stanley


My great grandfather Edward P. Stanley in an iPhone camera copy of a tintype photo taken in the late 1850s-early 1860s. The image, as with all tintypes, is reversed. E.P. was a private in the Minutemen of Attala from the inception of the 13th Regiment in 1861 until the May, 1864, Battle of the Wilderness where he lost part of one leg to a bounding cannonball.

After the war Edward became a circuit-riding Methodist minister and farmer who married and begat four children. He was a friend of Newt Nash, another Minuteman, who mentioned Edward in one of his letters home as having joined the Methodist church in the popular religious revivals at Fredericksburg in the winter of 1862-63. Born in 1837, he died in 1900, possibly from complications of his wartime amputation which was not an uncommon problem. He’s buried in Lexington, Mississippi.

Posted in Nimrod Newton Nash, The Bloody Thirteenth, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Firing the 1861 Springfield

A Hungarian fellow who styles himself capandball on the Internet has a really thick accent but if you listen closely you can get the gist of his description of the 1861 Springfield percussion rifle-musket he’s firing here.

The South imported thousands of the British Enfield Pattern 1853 and most Confederates, if not, indeed, most Yankees who obtained orphaned ones off the battlefield, preferred the Enfield to the Springfield. But both were employed by both sides.

Indeed, after the Rebels captured the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1862 (with the assistance of the 13th Regiment’s emplaced Parrott cannon on Maryland Heights above), thousands of copies of the Springfield were made. They were dubbed the Richmond Rifle. So it’s probable that the 13th Regiment’s soldiers carried one or the other.

Pity capandball is not shooting at night so you could watch the impressive 3-feet of flame the black powder produces out the rifled-musket’s business end.


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Legacy of war






This crutch belonged to Joseph W. Weatherly of the 13th Regiment’s Minutemen of Attala, a private from his 1861 enlistment, according to independent historian Grady Howell, to when one of his legs was amputated after the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.

Independent historian Jess McLean found that Weatherly  was 17 when he enlisted at Camp Barksdale, near Union City, Tennessee, in June, 1861. He was a native of Attala County.

Many returning veterans were amputees. Confederate casualties in the war were at least 28% of military age men (though most of them died from disease rather than in battle), and historians are revising the casualty numbers upward every year.

The crutch is in the Museum of Mississippi History collection at the Mississippi Archives in Jackson, Mississippi whose Web site is here.

Posted in Battles: Fredericksburg, H. Grady Howell Jr., Jess N. McLean, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Kennon McElroy: Poet

Mayst purest pleasures ever be thine,
A [something] holy, pure, chaste, divine,
Richest of all treasures I’d wish thee given,
Youth, beauty, happiness – a home in Heaven.

So then-Captain, later Colonel, Kennon McElroy , of the 13th’s Lauderdale Zouaves, wrote in an elaborate, decorative hand to “Miss Mary” on Dec. 27, 1861. It was two years and almost a month before his death leading the regiment in its attack on Fort Sanders at Knoxville, Tennessee.

Miss Mary was the pretty, 20-year-old Mary Elizabeth Johnston of Leesburg, Virginia. In the winter of 1861, the regiment was camped on the Fairgrounds near her home on Loudon Street.  McElroy, a 21-year-old University of Mississippi graduate and a farmer of Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi,  must have been a romantic figure in his elaborate Zouave uniform of billowing, red pantaloons, embroidered blue jacket and low, white turban hat cocked on the back of his head.

Miss Mary may have mourned him when he died at just age 23. She  outlived him by 47 years. But McElroy apparently was only one of her Mississippi suitors. She also inspired at least two other men of the regiment to write her poems. She kept all three poems in a “remembrance” album passed down to her descendants. The album may have been a gift to her from then-Captain McElroy who may have known her before the war.

Via Find-A-Grave

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