Preservation Opportunity in the Western Theater

Our friends at the Civil War Trust sent along this announcement and opportunity to preserve more battlefield ground in the Western Theater. Continue reading for more information about this opportunity and how you can get involved.

“With the exception of Virginia, no state endured more significant Civil War battles than Tennessee. It was in Tennessee — during the war’s early stages — where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant first gained national recognition by demanding and securing the “unconditional surrender” of a Confederate army at Fort Donelson. In 1863, the nation’s gaze was again fixed upon the Volunteer State as Union and Confederate troops vied for control of Chattanooga. And it was in Tennessee that Gen. John Bell Hood launched a last-ditch effort to strike back at the Yankees, resulting in inconceivable suffering at Franklin and ultimate defeat at Nashville.

In recognition of the state’s importance during our nation’s defining conflict, you and I have already saved 3,491 acres in Tennessee, allowing future generations to walk the ground where history was made.

Today, we have the opportunity to save an additional 15 acres at three battlefields in Tennessee: Fort Donelson, Brown’s Ferry (near Chattanooga), and Franklin. We will be adding to the 639 acres we have already saved at these three battlefields—more tiles in the mosaic of Tennessee’s rich Civil War heritage. Thanks to a magnificent $21.17-to-$1 match, you and I can save this land—worth a combined total of $1.5 million—for just $73,250!

Help us build on our previous successes in Tennessee and save these three Tennessee battlefields.

’Til the Battle is Won,

Jim
Jim Lighthizer, President
Civil War Trust

P.S. Please join our efforts to save 15 acres at Fort Donelson, Brown’s Ferry, and Franklin. 

A Presidential Review That Didn’t Go Very Well

ECWer Stephen Davis of Cumming, Georgia, is finishing up his book on the generalship of John B. Hood, which will be published later this year by Savas Beatie. From it Steve draws the following story:

During the war President Jefferson Davis visited the Army of Tennessee three times, reviewing the troops on each occasion. His last review, held on September 26, 1864,when Hood’s army was encamped at Palmetto, Georgia, proved to be least successful, at least in terms of the reaction of the officers and men.

That morning Davis, Hood and maybe others–Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb and Tennessee Gov. Isham Harris were also at Palmetto then–passed before the troops. “President Davis is here, and is expected to review the troops today,” wrote Col. Lovick P. Thomas of the 42nd Georgia; “we are arranging to be under arms at 8 one half o’clock this morning.” Robert M. Magill, 39th Georgia, entered in his diary that day, “Monday, 26th.–Jeff Davis to come round at 9 a.m. Everything has to be cleaned up.”

According to one press report, Davis “was received by the men with great applause and made them a speech.” “Cheer after cheer went forth as he passed by accompanied by the music from each band,” recorded Capt. William Dixon of the 1st Georgia. Brig. Gen. Francis Shoup, Hood’s chief of staff, was also positive. “The President and General Hood, with their respective staffs, rode out to the front today,” he recorded on the 26th, “and were enthusiastically received by the troops.” In truth, some Rebs  seem to have hallooed vociferously. “The President together with Genl’s Hood, Hardee &c road past on splendid chargers, bowing and touching their hats,” Lt. Marcus Ely of the 54th Georgia wrote his wife the next day, “and we in return flourished our old hats and yelled like a set of maniacs. Splendid bands were discoursing sweet music all along the line–colors were flying &c–taking in all we had quite a gala day.”

Capt. Samuel Foster of the 24th Texas, in Granbury’s brigade of Cleburne’s division, recorded a funny incident during Davis’ review.

Now it so happened that F R Lubbock late Governor of Texas was on Davis’ staff, and he naturally supposing that the Texas soldiers would be glad to see him, thought he would take this occasion to introduce himself and we would give him a grand cheer–He made a serious mistake and so spoiled the whole thing. He stoped in front of an Irish (Brigade) Regt. just on our right before he got to us. Thinking he had found us, rode square up about the centre pulled off his hat and says “I am Governor Lubbock of Texas” and just when he expected to hear a big cheer, an Irishman says, “An who the bloody H–l is governor Lubbock?” with that peculiar Irish brogue, that made the Governor wilt. He turned his horse and galloped on to catch up with the President and party and pass by us without even looking at us.

Others, however, noted a more sullen reaction by the men. Capt. Benjamin L. Posey of the 36th Alabama wrote a week later, “there was an absence of enthusiasm” among the troops.

Things got uglier when some malcontents began to call out for a return of their old commander. Corporal Magill recorded, “pretty  weak cheering. Some shouting Johnston. Give us Johnston again.”

Davis and Hood could only ride on, doubtless chastened. “I regretted I should have been the cause of this uncourteous reception to His Excellency,” Hood admitted in his memoirs. He was right. “The troops did not like Hood,” Robert Patrick of the 4th Louisiana entered in his diary after the review. Yet it was not Hood’s doings alone that the men objected to; it was the president’s as well. According to a correspondent of the Montgomery Mail, the soldiers’ cool response to the president reflected their lingering resentment that he had fired Old Joe. “The feeling in the army for Gen. Johnston is yet as enthusiastic as it was when he bade the troops a sad farewell,” the reporter claimed. “The sullen glances which were cast at the President, while here, were marks of the displeasure entertained in his presence….They wished, in their own blunt way, to give expression to the estimation in which they held Mr. D.” And they clearly did so, according to Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault’s postwar recollection. “No cheers saluted him, countenances were depressed and sullen,” he remembered. “‘Give us Johnston! Give us our old Commander!’  and other remarks of a similar nature” were shouted; “this happened in many brigades.”

Officers tried to still the outbursts. “Arrests and threats of punishment alone prevented the cry from becoming loud and general,” Manigault remembered.

One could not help remarking the expression of President Davis’s countenance as he passed. He looked thin, care-worn, and angry. A scornful expression rested on it. He scarcely deigned to lift his hat from his head as we saluted. General Hood, with the Corps commanders, their staffs, and a large escort, accompanied him. All looked uneasy and apprehensive. I never remembered taking part in an affair of the kind so cheerless and unsatisfactory as this one was, where everyone seemed anxious to have it over.

    After the war James H. McNeilly, chaplain of the 49th Tennessee, recalled an incident of the Palmetto review.

Our colonel was an enthusiastic man, and several who knew his temperament warned him not to call for cheers for the President. They told him that our men would not do anything to insult him, but they would not cheer him. So they urged the colonel to remain quiet in his position while the President passed, and the men would present arms and salute. He promised to do as advised. The President passed the Mississippi division and was greeted with ringing cheers. Our colonel’s enthusiasm got away with him. As the President came opposite us our colonel spurred his horse out of the line and, swinging his hat about his head, cried: “Three cheers for our President!” but there was no response. The men were as silent as the grave. I never pitied a man more than I did the crestfallen colonel as he got back into line. We all loved him, for he was a grand man and a lovable one, but the men felt that they had warned him. Mr. Davis passed on as if not noticing, saluting us as he rode by.

Davis never again visited the Army of Tennessee; the war ended seven months after his Palmetto review. Given the lukewarm reception he got from Hood’s men, he would have had little reason to want a repetition of the experience.

January 10, 1861 in Florida

On this date in Tallahassee, Florida, the delegates to the state’s secession convention voted 62-7, in favor of secession. With that vote, after seven days of deliberation, Florida became the third state to formally declare itself out of the United States, following South Carolina and Mississippi. The outgoing governor, Madison Starke Perry and the governor-elect John Milton were both avid secessionists and were on hand to witness the outcome. The Ordinance of Secession would eventually be signed by 65-men, including two future Confederate generals; J. Patton Anderson and Joseph Finegan.

Richard Keith Call

Yet, a former governor, was certainly not in favor of that vote. Richard Keith Call, who had served two times as governor of the territory of Florida in the 1830s and 1840s, was a staunch Unionist. Although he was not a staunch Republican Call decried secession as “high treason against our constitutional government.”

Call found out about the vote when he was approached on the street by a jubilant pro-secessionist individual, who informed him;“Well governor…we have done it [meaning the vote in favor of seceding].” 

The 68-year old former governor responded;

“And what have you done?… You have opened the gates of Hell, from which shall flow
the curses of the damned which shall sink you to perdition!”

Unfortunately for the pro-secessionists and the future Confederacy, Call was right.

Unfortunately for Call, he would not live to see his prophesy come to fruition. He died on September 14, 1862, approximately a month shy of his 70th birthday.


Identifying “Courier Kirkpatrick” on A.P. Hill’s Last Ride

Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill was killed in the aftermath of the successful Union attack near Petersburg on the morning of April 2, 1865. Sergeant George Washington Tucker, Jr., the general’s chief of couriers, was the only Confederate present at the time. Both Tucker and John Watson Mauk, the corporal in the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry who killed Hill, wrote lengthy descriptions of the event. Several other Confederates accompanied Hill for smaller phases of his last ride and they provided additional details of the journey. In all the accounts, both primary and secondary, a courier named Kirkpatrick is referenced. Until now he has only been referred to by his last name. Thanks to the recent digitization of historical records and newspapers, we can finally put a full name and additional information together on one of Hill’s companions during the final hour of the general’s life.

That morning, Hill left his corps headquarters at the Widow Knight house, “Indiana,” on Petersburg’s western outskirts. At the time he only suspected that Union forces had attacked somewhere along the Confederate lines and remained uncertain as to the exact location or results. Somehow the Third Corps commander discovered that his own lines had been broken during his mile-and-a-half route west to army headquarters at the Turnbull house, “Edge Hill.” How Hill found out is still a mystery.

The general had initially raced toward Robert E. Lee’s headquarters alone that morning, directing Colonel William Henry Palmer, his chief of staff, to remain at “Indiana” awaiting further orders. Hill instructed Tucker, his chief courier, to follow him to relay messages but the sergeant was in the process of grooming his horse and would be delayed while fixing the saddle. Headquarters protocol, however, required that two couriers always keep their horses prepared. Tucker beckoned to the current pair on call, Jenkins and Kirkpatrick, to follow the general and chased off after the trio several minutes later. Privates William Henry Jenkins and Kirkpatrick reached Edge Hill shortly after their general. Hill had seemingly become aware of the break in his lines during this ride and immediately directed Kirkpatrick to return to Widow Knight’s with a message for Palmer. The chief of staff was to head toward Wilcox’s lines and assist in rallying the scattered men.

The courier galloped off to bring the first news of the breakthrough to corps headquarters. Tucker afterward wrote that he passed him on the road “going at full speed.” Hill meanwhile climbed off his horse and entered the Turnbull house to converse with Lee and Lieutenant General James Longstreet. He soon rode onward, shedding his escort until only Tucker remained. After Kirkpatrick delivered Hill’s message to Palmer, the colonel immediately mounted and rode to Major General Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox’s headquarters at “Cottage Farm.” Wilcox commanded the division whose lines had been broken and Palmer warned him about the successful Union attack before continuing across Rohoic Creek toward the Whitworth house. Palmer wrote that Kirkpatrick followed behind him but did not provide any more information about the courier.[1]

Major General William Mahone’s Third Corps division had camped on the Whitworth farm during the winter before garrisoning the Confederate line at Bermuda Hundred, in between Petersburg and Richmond. Their vacated winter quarters afterward housed a few invalid soldiers, but Palmer now noticed Union soldiers lurking in that vicinity. He carefully picked his way toward the Long Ordinary Road—a small road that connected Boydton Plank Road with Cox Road. There he met Sergeant Tucker, alone, who told him that A.P. Hill had been shot.

The Death of A.P. Hill (click on map for full size, created by Edward Alexander)

The details of Hill’s death are well documented and will not be dissected here. The best place to find them is in the accounts of Tucker and Mauk, found in Volume 27 of the Southern Historical Society Papers. Readers can also consult Bud Robertson’s Hill biography—James I. Robertson, Jr., General A.P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior (New York: Random House, 1987) and Will Greene’s narrative history of the last week at Petersburg—A. Wilson Greene, The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2008).

In the meantime, Wilcox had jolted into action. He immediately launched a counterattack that blunted any further expansion of the breach toward Petersburg before settling into a defensive position near Rohoic Creek. Brigadier General Nathaniel Harrison Harris’s Mississippians meanwhile rushed toward Forts Gregg and Whitworth. They belonged to Mahone’s division and were familiar with the ground but provided the lone reinforcements that Mahone could spare from Bermuda Hundred. Nevertheless, Wilcox’s attack and Harris’s defense bought time for Longstreet’s First Corps to arrive from Richmond in the early afternoon to garrison Petersburg’s inner defenses. Though the Confederates abandoned both cities overnight, the lack of a complete breakdown on Petersburg’s western front that morning perhaps extended the life of Lee’s army by another week.

 

Since then, no historian has produced more details or even a full name for the courier who first accompanied Hill and relayed the last message the general directed to corps headquarters. Who can blame them? Kirkpatrick was not present with Hill when Mauk shot the general, did not write an easily identified firsthand account, and though his message to Palmer had important consequences it could have been delivered by any mounted soldier. Furthermore, before modern research methods allowed keyword searches through historic records and newspapers, an effort to track down more information on Kirkpatrick would be a wild goose chase not worthy of the time commitment.

My search for the courier’s identity began with published primary accounts and secondary narratives. Those which identified him did so only with his last name. The next best reference place would be among the paroles of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. As a member of the corps staff, Kirkpatrick should be expected to have remained with the army through the last week of the war. Volume 15 of the Southern Historical Society Papers contains a list of parolees and a search for Kirkpatrick identified a “Private W.P. Kirkpatrick, Courier at Corps H’d Q’rs, one private horse.”[2]

One problem, however. That Kirkpatrick is listed as belonging to the 8th Tennessee Infantry, a regiment that would have been with Joe Johnston in North Carolina at the time. Furthermore, I used Fold3.com to browse through the service records for the 8th Tennessee and could not even find a W. Kirkpatrick. Perhaps at least the state and initials were correct. Fortunately for my search’s sake the Army of Northern Virginia only contained one brigade of Tennessee infantry, commanded at the end of the war by Brigadier General William McComb. They served in Major General Henry Heth’s division of the Third Corps and would have been located just a mile south of the point of the initial VI Corps attack on April 2, 1865.

In addition to the 2nd Maryland Infantry Battalion, McComb’s brigade included the 1st (Provisional), 7th, 14th, 17th, 23rd, 25th, 44th, and 63rd Tennessee regiments. In searching their records, I soon found a probable match in a soldier who shared the initials listed in the Southern Historical Society Papers parole list. Private William Pat Kirkpatrick, 7th Tennessee Infantry, was at Petersburg on April 2nd. His records show that he was captured on that day, held at Fort Delaware, and then released on June 28, 1865. Nothing, however, indicated that he was ever a courier or detached on any special detail.

I noticed several other members of the 7th Tennessee with similar names and started browsing their records. While clicking through Fold3’s muster roll cards for a William B. Kirkpatrick, Company E, I see “On extra or daily duty as Courier for Gen. Archer since 5 Oct 1862.” A few more clicks and I find “Detailed as Courier for Gen. Hill since 20 July 1863.” I continue through the end of William B.’s record and find him identified on the roll of prisoners paroled at Appomattox. “Remarks: Courier at Corps Hd Quarters and owns one horse.” Looks like a typo misidentifying his regiment in the Southern Historical Society Papers helped contribute to the courier being lost to history. I have his name now—William B. Kirkpatrick—what can we find out about him?

 

The service records simply show that he enlisted in Nashville on May 21, 1861 and served in Company E, 7th Tennessee Infantry. He was elected 2nd corporal on April 26, 1862, while the company was at Yorktown, Virginia, and then assigned as a courier for Brigadier General James Jay Archer, commanding the brigade, on October 5, 1862. Archer was captured at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and held prisoner for over a year. Shortly after his return to the Army of Northern Virginia, Archer died on October 24, 1864. The general’s capture at Gettysburg deprived Kirkpatrick of his assignment, but he was detailed as a courier for A.P. Hill, commanding the Third Corps, on July 20th. Though his records do not identify a date or reason, Kirkpatrick was reduced to private before January 23, 1864. He nevertheless continued running messages for Hill until April 2, 1865.

There’s a brief synopsis of Kirkpatrick the soldier, but what more can we discover? I still did not have an age or a hometown, believing that Nashville could very well be just the place where he joined his company. Having exhausted Fold3, it was onward to digital newspaper databases. My favorites are the Library of Congress’s Chronicling American and Newspapers.com. A few keyword searches there produced obituaries for several Tennessee residents named William B. Kirkpatrick but those proved to not be the courier. But I’ve found with keyword searches that you need to take the time to include all possible name combinations. That means searching William Kirkpatrick, William B. Kirkpatrick, Wm. Kirkpatrick, Wm. B. Kirkpatrick, W. Kirkpatrick, W.B. Kirkpatrick, Will Kirkpatrick, Bill Kirkpatrick, and so on.

Searching for Wm. B. Kirkpatrick finally produced a hit. “In Memory of Wm. B. Kirkpatrick”—a letter written by a Jesse Cage to the editor of the Nashville Tennessean. It appeared in print in the May 4, 1908 issue. “Dear Sir—It is always sad to chronicle the death of a friend and more especially so when the friendship has been cemented and bound by all the ties incident to soldiers’ lives, who were closely associated together through the late war, who were on the Confederate side, where hardships and sacrifice were intense and were an excellent test of manhood.”[3]

Cage identified Kirkpatrick as a member of the 7th Tennessee Infantry and a courier for Hill’s staff. He also wrote that Kirkpatrick died in Weatherford, Texas. We’ll look more at the rest of Cage’s letter later in this article, but for now we have an approximate date and location of Kirkpatrick’s death. I could now consult another online resource, FindAGrave.com. Once again, a precise search for “William B. Kirkpatrick, died 1908, buried Weatherford, Texas” did not turn up anything. But a broad search for “W Kirkpatrick, died 1908, buried Texas” produced a headstone in the Greenwood Community Cemetery, Parker County, Texas, for a W.B. Kirkpatrick, born April 30, 1842, died April 29, 1908. Buried beside him is a Nettie Kirkpatrick, listed as his wife, born January 1, 1849, died June 12, 1935. Google Maps confirmed that the cemetery is located in Weatherford.

 

Now that I have a birth date, death date, burial location, military record, and spouse for Kirkpatrick, I could head over to Ancestry.com and plug those details into a search. There were a few matches in user-generated family trees but I prefer to avoid those until the end. Sometimes you can find worthwhile material in photographs, newspaper clippings, and family stories that other members of Ancestry upload, but it is wise to save this until you’ve developed a fuller picture on the individual you are researching. This enables you to properly screen out misleading or inaccurate information.

Included among Confederate pension records I found an application from a Nettie Kirkpatrick of Weatherford, Texas, filed November 19, 1913, and approved December 1, 1913. This digitized record confirmed all the previously identified information on William. It also provided a middle name, Bennett; a marriage date and location, November 12, 1874, Sumner County, Tennessee; Nettie’s full name, Eunetta R. Hunter Kirkpatrick; and an approximate year of their move to Texas, 1889. Nettie also testified that in addition to his early service in the 7th Tennessee, William “Was a Courier part of the time, was with Gen’l. A.P. Hill when he was killed and was at Gettisburg [sic] and all of the great battles… Mounted as a Courier for Gen’l Hill and Gen’l Longstreet.”[4]

Several of William’s former comrades provided statements on Nettie’s behalf. S.O. Cantrell wrote that he was a schoolmate of William’s in Gallatin, Tennessee, served with him in the 7th Tennessee Infantry, and that William served on Hill’s staff and then transferred to Longstreet’s. “There was no better soldier in Gen. Lee’s command than W.B. Kirkpatrick during the whole war,” Cantrell testified.[5]

 

The previously mentioned letter to the Nashville Tennessean had similarly praised Kirkpatrick. Jesse Cage served as sergeant in Company E, 7th Tennessee Infantry, and was wounded and captured during the Breakthrough on April 2, 1865. He wrote that William went by the nicknames “Fancy” and “Billy Kirk” and reflected on William’s character in his eulogy.

“His courage was unimpeachable, not of the kind which was foolish or for display, but was prompted by the noblest impulses of the heart, the thoughtful kind which carried him into the thickest and most dangerous places with no fear of consequences as to his own person. No message was ever placed in his hands, verbal or otherwise, but which was born to its destination, regardless of the dangers or hazards to his own life, and that, too, because of his high ideas of duty to the cause in which he was engaged. He had a kind, benevolent heart, full of compassion; his disposition was of the sunny kind, and his bearing always that of a gentleman.”[6]

Cage’s heartfelt letter included an incorrect rumor about Hill’s death as well as certainly false details about Kirkpatrick. “Gen. A.P. Hill was wickedly slain after he had surrendered, so I have been informed, and ‘Fancy’ killed the federal who did it.”[7]

The accounts of both Mauk and Tucker disprove the rumor that Hill was killed after surrendering. As to Cage’s assertion that Kirkpatrick killed Mauk, neither Mauk nor Daniel Wolford (the other Union soldier present at the time) were killed on April 2nd. They lived until 1898 and 1908 respectively. Colonel Palmer also wrote that Kirkpatrick was near him at the time of the general’s death. I’ll trust that more than Cage’s secondary claim. Because no one else placed Kirkpatrick with Hill at the time of his death, I also think we can safely interpret Nettie’s claim fifty years later that he “was with Gen’l. A.P. Hill when he was killed” to mean that William was present on his staff that morning.

 

However, I’m no longer surprised to see such far-fetched renditions of the event as Cage’s. After the war many veterans claimed to have been present. I’ve identified at least half a dozen unsubstantiated claims from Confederates who claimed to have been along Hill’s route, most of whom claim to have had the last conversation with the general. Even more Union soldiers claim to have fired the shot that killed the general. One must utilize a critical eye when consulting Civil War resources, but I am satisfied with confidence that we can close the book on Private William Bennett Kirkpatrick, courier for Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill.

 

[1] George W. Tucker, “Death of General A.P. Hill,” Southern Historical Society Papers (Richmond, VA: Published by the Society, 1883), Volume 11, 566. William H. Palmer to Murray F. Taylor, November 8, 1902, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

[2] Southern Historical Society Papers (Richmond, VA: Published by the Society, 1887), Volume 15, 288.

[3] Jesse Cage to “Editor The Tennessean,” May 2, 1908, “In Memory of Wm. B. Kirkpatrick,” Nashville Tennessean, May 4, 1908

[4] Nettie Kirkpatrick, Pension Record, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, accessed through Alabama, Texas, and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958, Ancestry.com.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “In Memory of Wm. B. Kirkpatrick,” Nashville Tennessean, May 4, 1908.

[7] Ibid.


Expeditions Bold And Admirable: Conclusion

Conclusion of a series. You may read the Introduction, The First Battle of Hartwood Church, The Dumfries Raid and Raid on the Occoquon here.

Wade Hampton

The months of November and December, 1862 marked a transition in the career of Wade Hampton. For several weeks, Hampton and his brigade were thorn in the side of the Army of the Potomac. On three separate occasions, he led a handpicked force on expeditions behind the Union lines. At the behest of Robert E. Lee, Hampton crossed the Rappahannock on a scouting mission on November 27. The next day, he struck and captured a contingent of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry at Hartwood Church and confirmed that the Federals remained opposite the Confederate lines at Fredericksburg. On December 12, Hampton captured a sutler’s wagon train at Dumfries. A week later he fell on yet another supply train, this time near the village of Occoquon.

Hampton’s performance did not go unnoticed by his superiors, especially Le. At the end of February, 1863, Lee issued General Orders 29, announcing the recent successes of his cavalry to the army. Hampton’s actions were mentioned in the order. “The commanding general takes great pleasure in advertising to the promptness of the officers in striking a successful blow whenever the opportunity offered,” it read. “These deeds give assurance of vigilance, activity, and fortitude.”

By the beginning of the new year, Hampton had established himself as one of the most aggressive commanders in the Confederate mounted arm. Not surprisingly, his star would continue to rise in the coming months. Wounded on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, Hampton performed well during the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864. After Stuart’s death in May, he became the senior Major General in the cavalry corps. His performance in stopping Philip Sheridan’s raid toward the Shenandoah Valley at Trevilian Station ultimately brought him corps command. Hampton continued to fight well during the Siege of Petersburg. Early in 1865, he was transferred south to face Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union armies in the Carolinas. In the middle of March, Hampton turned in his finest performance. After a masterful display of reconnaissance and planning, Gen. Joseph Johnston accepted Hampton’s proposal to attack Sherman outside Bentonville, North Carolina. Johnston struck on March 19 and temporarily delayed the Federal march. On the last of the day engagement, Hampton directed and led counterattacks against a enemy force that helped secure the Confederate line of retreat. At the end of the war Hampton had compiled a record that rivaled if not surpassed that of any of his peers.

 

 

 

 

 


Florida’s “Cow Cavalry”

Napoleon Bonaparte once prophetically stated, “An army marches on its stomach.” A simple yet very truthful statement and a point that brought major concern and consternation to many a military leader before and after the French leader uttered those six words.

IMG_0101

Top of monument dedicated to the “Cow Cavalry” (author collection)

In 1863, the state of Florida would prove its worth to the Confederacy. The 11th out of 11 states in population, Florida sent its native sons to the war effort, drawing from a prewar military age population of 15,000 souls. What the state lacked in manpower, another living, breathing, moveable force certainly made up for it.

Cattle.

In the 1860 census, approximately 388,060 head of cattle grazed in the state in what some referred to as the “last great frontier east of the Mississippi River.” Although the cattle tended to be smaller in size, the harsh, humid climate had endured the beasts with the ability to ward off common diseases, especially ones borne from the dreaded tick. Usually weighing in at 600 pounds, half of that, or 300 pounds of beef could be cut for consumption.

Yet, until the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi in July 1863, the Confederate government had seemingly forgotten about this valuable commodity in the deep, deep South. Out of desperation, the Confederate government turned toward Florida, splitting the state into five commissary districts and requesting 3,000 head of cattle per week. Under the overall control of Major Pleasant W. White, his first name ironic, the native of Quincy, Florida tried his best to stick to the 1,000 head of cattle moving north per week quota.

As desperation for foodstuffs mounted in the Confederacy, cattle were driven north as quick as possible, but never enough to meet the needs of soldiers serving the two principle armies; the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee, along with garrisons at places like Charleston, South Carolina. Furthermore, pasture and fodder along the path north out of Florida also dwindled precipitously which greatly reduced the size of cattle as they reached the war front. In early 1864, all available pork and bacon was ordered by the Confederate government to be shipped north.

All this movement did not go unnoticed by the Federals. The reason for the climatic and largest land battle in Florida, at Olustee on February 20, 1864 was an effort to cut off this supply route. Along with quick strikes by Federal troops and cavalry stationed along the coasts, at places like Fort Myers, the movement that culminated at Olustee exacerbated the need to protect the cattle herds and the drivers that were moving the thinning herds north. Prey already to Confederate deserters, rising animosity toward the war effort, hesitancy on cattle owners to sell for Confederate promissory notes, also threatened to stem the tide. Something had to be done.

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Historical Marker for the John T. Lesley Home, Tampa, FL (author collection)

To protect this vital supply line, companies of cavalry, eventually numbering nine in total were raised. Officially organized as the 1st Battalion Florida Special Cavalry, Company B was raised by Captain John T. Lesley, in the area of Ichepuckassaa, Florida, to the east of Tampa, in Hillsborough County. Lesley, had joined the Confederate war effort early, being in the first company from Tampa to leave for the front and rose to the rank of major while serving the cause in Tennessee. He returned to Florida in 1863 where he was entrusted to raise the aforementioned company.

Comprised mostly of men that were on either end of the spectrum of military age; either too young or two old to fight, they served the Confederate war effort by joining what would be referred to as the “Cow Cavalry.” Eventually, approximately 900 men enlisted in the 1st Battalion Florida Special Cavalry.

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Grave of John T. Lesley. “He was a part of Tampa, and a big part, from the city’s infancy … His death marks the breaking of the final link that service the past and its traditions from the present and its hopes, and many tears have been shed because of the breaking of the bond.” Tampa Daily Times after his death on July 13, 1913

Their job was to assist in driving the herds north and also protecting the herds from the multitude of threats along the way. They were successful in delivering cattle to Confederate troops stationed in Charleston and Savannah, Georgia. Their efforts helped stave off defeat, given that when efforts were ramped up in spring 1863 in South Florida, the commissary in Atlanta was reporting at the same juncture the abysmally low-number of 4,000 cattle available for consumption in his possession!

A mundane task, but for one central Florida town, a task worthy of a small granite monument, and a legacy of providing the most essential weapon for a soldier; food.

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“Cow Cavalry” Monument Plant City, FL (author collection)

 

 

*Sources used*

Print:

Florida’s Civil War, Terrible Sacrifices by Tracy J. Revels

Website:

http://www.hmdb.org
-Search “Cow Cavalry”

http://www.myfloridahistory.org