DID YOU KNOW (Part 3) CIVIL WAR

1. Did you know …that during the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy diplomatically attempted to find allies in Europe. For various reasons, the two major powers of England and France would not commit to either one. England however, did build warships for the Confederacy and Napoleon III of France showed definite signs of friendship with the South. However the North practiced a high level of diplomacy which helped keep total support of the South from occurring. Still, in 1863, a very unlikely European ally showed their support for the North. Believe it or not, this country was Czarist Russia!

Russian ship Osliaba arrives in Virginia in 1863. Mrs. Lincoln accompanied by General Dix would later visit the ship.

Russian ship Osliaba arrives in Virginia in 1863. Mrs. Lincoln accompanied by General Dix would later visit the ship.

From the article “Europe and the Civil War” posted at http://www.civilwarhome.com/europeandcivilwar.htm the following explanation is given.

“Singularly enough, the one European country which showed a definite friendship for the Northern government was Czarist Russia. In the fall of 1863 two Russian fleets entered American waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. They put into New York and San Francisco harbors and spent the winter there, and the average Northerner expressed both surprise and delight over the visit, assuming the Russian Czar was taking this means of warning England and France that if they made war in support of the South, he would help the North. Since pure altruism is seldom or never visible in any country’s foreign relations, the business was not quite that simple. Russia at the time was in some danger of getting into a war with England and France, for reasons totally unconnected with the Civil War in America; to avoid the risk of having his fleets icebound in Russia ports, the Czar simply had them winter in American harbors. If war should come, they would be admirably placed to raid British and French commerce. For many years most Americans believed that for some inexplicable reason of his own the Czar had sent the fleets simply to show his friendship for America”.

Sidebar: President Lincoln was unaware that the Russian fleet was coming and their arrival caught him totally by surprise.

 

2. Did you know …that on September 3, 1861, one of the top military blunders of the Civil War occurred. The following excerpt is from “The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War” (pgs. 68-69) by Thomas R. Flagel.

“In a contest over the Mississippi River, an inept Union general almost committed on of the costliest mistakes of the war, then an equally incompetent Confederate general beat him to it.

From the outset of the war, the sprawling state of Kentucky had declared its neutrality. Presidents Lincoln and Davis both vowed to respect the wishes of their mutual birthplace. Although beneficial to both men, neutral bluegrass was as good as gold for Davis. Resting on five hundred miles of the Confederacy’s border, from western Virginia across the length of Tennessee’s vulnerable north boundary, Kentucky stood directly between the Southern heartland and five Union states. The only land avenues left into Dixie were tumultuous Missouri and the stone wall of Virginia.

All this mattered little to self-aggrandizing Union Gen. John C. Fremont and equally shortsighted Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk. Both eyed Kentucky’s jagged westerly tail as prime, unclaimed real estate for controlling the mighty Mississippi. As it turned out, both generals targeted Columbus, Kentucky, a small, undefended town tucked neatly in a strategically exquisite bend in the river. Consulting neither their presidents nor their War Departments, each man positioned himself for the first strike, Polk in Union City, Tennessee, and Fremont across the waters in Belmont, Missouri.

Polk was the first to move. He crossed the Tennessee-Kentucky border on September 3, 1861, and snuggled into Columbus the following day. Hearing of Polk’s unilateral act of political idiocy, Tennessee Gov. Isham Harris, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Walker, and Jefferson Davis demanded that Polk withdraw back to Tennessee. An indignant Polk, took the orders under advisement and declined.

Repercussions were swift. Armed with the moral high ground, Union forces took two days to occupy Paduch in the west and Frankfort in the north. In two weeks, the government of Kentucky declared allegiance to the Union. A vast roadblock to the Confederacy had become an open passage”.

Confederate General Leonidas Polk 

Confederate General Leonidas Polk

Despite his huge blunder, Polk continued to command Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. He was involved in the battles at Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga & Marietta. His overall field record as a commander was poor. However, despite his inability to be a successful military leader, his men adored him. Unfortunately, Polk would not live to see the end of the war as he was killed on June 14, 1864 during the Battle of Marietta.

Gens. Polk, Johnson, Hardee and their staffs had been scouting enemy positions from atop Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia when Federal artillery troops starting shelling their location. Several rounds came close and as the party scattered, Polk was hit by a 3″ Hotchkiss shell and killed instantly.

Hodgekiss shell (2.94" dia. x 6.25" long x 8 lbs)

Hotchkiss shell (2.94" dia. x 6.25" long x 8 lbs)

He was deeply mourned by his men.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:

 

“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 

 

  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008) 

 

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DID YOU KNOW (Part 2) CIVIL WAR

1. Did you know … that in 1861 Samuel L. Clemens, aka Mark Twain, along with some friends, joined a volunteer Confederate militia in Missouri (which was a non-Confederate state) and trained for about two weeks before reconsidering and disbanding the group entirely. Instead, he headed west to Nevada and California for the remainder of the war where he worked as a miner, newspaper reporter and writer.

Mark Twain (photo by A.F. Bradley) Mark Twain (photo by Wm. A.F. Bradley)

2. Did you know … that early in the war there was a process set up by the North and South to exchange prisoners.  Based on a system used during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, prisoners would be exchanged rather than confining them. Or, failing that arrangement, the captured men could be paroled, meaning that the soldiers would be freed but not allowed to return to their units until they were notified they had been officially ‘exchanged’.

1862 Union camp in the Shenandoah Valley guarding Confederate prisoners  1862 Union Camp in the Shenandoah Valley guarding Confederate prisoners.

During the first two years of the Civil War, this mutual arrangement worked out, for the most part. However it began to fall apart in the fall of 1863 when the Union discovered Conferate parolees, who had not been officially exchanged, fighting at the Battle of Chickamauga. To add to the dilemma, the South refused to treat white and black prisoners equally which resulted in some black soldiers being sent back into slavery or worse, massacred (as did happen at Fort Pillow in 1864).  From September, 1863 to January, 1865 (fifteen months) the prisoner exchange program was suspended leading to severe problems for both sides with overcrowded prison camps which were ill-equipped to handle the volume of the captured soldiers. 

3. Did you know …that prison camps during the Civil War were horrific places with severe overcrowding, little food, rampant disease, terrible sanitation conditions and little or no shelter from the elements. According to “The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War” by Thomas R. Flagel (2003), “A Civil War soldier marching into battle stood a one-in-thirty chance of dying. If he stepped into one of the 150 stockades, warehouses or forts serving as prison camps during the war, his odds fell to one-in-seven. More than fifty-seven thousand soldiers died in prison during the war, just shy of all the American soldiers lost from all causes in Vietnam”.

Andersonville Prison Camp Andersonville Prison Camp

Here is a list from Flagel of his Top Ten Deadliest Military Prisons

1. Andersonville, Georgia (Confederate). 10,000 – 33,000 prisoners. Deaths – 12,919.

2. Camp Douglas, South Chicago, Illinois (Union). 6,000 – 12,000 prisoners. Deaths – 4,454.

3. Point Lookout, Maryland (Union). 10,000 – 22,000 prisoners. Deaths – 3,584.

4. Salisbury, North Carolina (Confederate). 2,000 – 10,000 prisoners. Deaths – 3,479.

5. Elmira, New York (Union). 5,000 – 9,400 prisoners. Deaths – 2,993.

6. Florence, South Carolina (Confederate). Peak 15,000 prisoners. Deaths – 2,973.

7. Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, Delaware (Union). 10,000 – 12,600 prisoners. Deaths – 2,460.

8. Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio (Union). 4,000 – 9,400 prisoners. Deaths – 2,260.

9. Rock Island, Illinois (Union). Peak 8,600 prisoners. Deaths – 1, 960.

10. Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Indiana (Union). 2,000 – 5,000 prisoners. Deaths – 1,763.

Another source online on Civil War Prison Camps is: http://www.censusdiggins.com/civil_war_prisons.html

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

—————————————————————–

  

If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:

 

“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 

 

  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008) 

 

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