Thursday, April 30, 2009


When I last visited Ringgold there was not much to see except for these wayside interpretive markers. I've heard that since then part of the mountain has been opened up so you can hike up there and see more of the defensive position. I look forward to doing that sometime, hopefully sooner than later. Cleburne formed the rear guard at Ringgold Gap following the defeat at Chattanooga. It would also be where the campaign for Atlanta starts, although there would be no fighting here in 1864.

Here our guide points up the hill to where part of Cleburne's men fought for control of the gap.

Of the three markers one is for Cleburne's 1863 battle while the other two are for the Atlanta campaign.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rebel Rivers by Mark Nesbitt

Rebel Rivers by Mark Nesbitt

My father actually came across this book at the library. I had never heard of it but am glad he found it. This is a great book. As the subtitle says, it is a guide for sites on Potomac, Rappahannock, James and York Rivers. Nesbitt will tell you what happened there and how to find the place, pretty standard fare as guide books go. Some of this information is in other guide books but Nesbitt also gives directions on seeing many places by water. I don't think I'd ever do a trip by water but this would be an important book to have along if I ever did. Nearly 100% of those sites can also be reached by land but Nesbitt points out that many of them were first seen by soldiers from the water so it makes sense to see it as the soldiers saw it. Even if you never intend to see them by water I think this guide book would be useful for land based trips.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lincoln Unmasked by DiLorenzo

Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas DiLorenzo
After my Springfield trip I picked up a bunch of Lincoln books from the library. Some were worthwhile (Land of Lincoln and Following in Lincoln's Footsteps were ones I really enjoyed). Others were not worthwhile. I knew DiLorenzo's book was likely to be a waste but I was curious and decided to take a look. I shouldn't have wasted my time.
Basically DiLorenzo will pick one Lincoln statement or action and draw a much larger conclusion that anyone else does. For instance he'll point out that Lincoln did say in the Lincoln-Douglas debates that he was not for black suffrage. He'll use that to say Lincoln was not the Great Emancipator that he's been labeled. While its fair to point out the varied aspect of Lincoln's life it is quite different to say he doesn't deserve to be called the Great Emancipator because he also said some racist things.
He also goes into a ton of detail exploding various quotes that are attributed to Lincoln. I didn't mind this too much except that there seems to be too much time wasted on it. The quotes in question were of the folk wisdom type, things like "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." I don't think it really matters one way or the other if Lincoln said that. But this section was only a minor complaint compared to the rest of the book.
After reading this I'm sorry I wasted my time and I'm sorry that the library wasted that money. It could have used that to buy a book that would actually educate its patrons. Don't waste your own time or money on this book.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sam Davis

One of the famous spy incidents of the war involves Sam Davis of Smyrna, Tennessee. Davis served with the 1st Tennessee until wounds forced him out of the regiment after Perryville. Then he became a member of Coleman's Scouts operating in the Middle Tennessee area.

It was during this service that Sam had the misfortune to be captured by the Union and was taken to a jail in Pulaski, Tennessee. Union General Dodge told Davis he would hang as a spy if he didn't reveal information about his unit. Sam said something along the lines of, "I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend." Or "If I had a thousand lives to live, I would give them all rather than betray a friend or the confidence of my informer." In any respect he stuck to his guns and would not reveal any information. There are stories that Dodge really never intended to hang Sam but had said the threat just to scare the young man. And that Dodge later tried to get Sam to give up some minor piece of information so that he could spare a life. But Sam steadfastly reused to budge and showed quite amount of grace and courage.

Prior to his execution he wrote home:
"Dear mother. O how painful it is to write you! I have got to die to-morrow --- to be hanged by the Federals. Mother, do not grieve for me. I must bid you good-bye forevermore. Mother, I do not fear to die. Give my love to all."

Even at the very end Sam showed amazing courage. The guard was put off by Sam's age and seemed to have no desire to do the execution. Sam said to him (or maybe it's fake to add to the great story), "Officer, I did my duty. Now, you do yours."

In Pulaski you can see the spot where he was hanged on November 27, 1863. There is a little museum there but it was not open when I was there. Apparently its open only by appointment.

Davis' home in Smyrna is now a museum you can tour.
He visited his home a few days before his capture. He tied his horse to this tree while he visited his family, for the last time.

Behind the house is the family burial site.

There is also a monument of Sam on the capitol grounds in Nashville. I have not personally seen that but hope to one day. The story might be exaggerated but the essence of it is correct. A young man was captured and threatened with death to reveal information that would cause his friends to be captured (and possibly killed as well). He refused multiple times to save his own life by telling all he knew. He may not have said all those eloquent things that are attributed to him but his actions are proven.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nathan Bedford Forrest's Birth

Since earlier this week I showed Nathan Bedford Forrest's final resting place it only makes sense to show where he was born. He was born July 13, 1821 in a simple cabin along this road in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Chapel Hill is near Spring Hill and is a very small town. Its pretty easy to get to. From I-65 take the exit for Henry Horton State Park (highway 99), the road will end at state highway 31, take that north a short distance and you'll be there. The monument is along the highway, you cannot miss it.

There is not much to see here either. Just the obelisk and a marker with some information about Forrest, and part of his farewell address to the troops in 1865.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mud Island

Mud Island in Memphis is a neat place to go for two reasons. First it has a museum about the Mississippi river valley which includes a pretty good section on the Civil War. The Civil War exhibits are pretty neat too in that there are quite a number of scale models of ships and that the gallery takes you onto the gundeck of an ironclad, and then takes you up to the artillery position firing on the ironclad. Its dark in there so this is the best picture of the gundeck I have and none of the artillery position.

Then you go outside to find a scale model of the Mississippi River. You can walk the entire length of the river. This is a kid friendly area and even adults take off their shoes to cool off a bit.

Here's Cairo:

Its not just a model of the river it also tells you a lot about the river. Some markers are historical in nature. Here is the sign for battle at Belmont. You then find the corresponding marker to see exactly where B and C are.

In this case they are very close to each other. C is on the left.

At the end of the journey is a Gulf of Mexico, and a little farther on is a display of flags for all the nations that have controlled the Memphis area. They were at half mast because I was there during the mourning period for President Reagan.

According to this marker the naval battle for Memphis, the Battle of Plum Run Bend, was off in the distance. It was a Union victory and sealed the fate of the city. If the Confederates had won they would have held onto the city a little longer but ultimately they probably would have had to abandon it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Memphis National Cemetery

The Memphis National Cemetery is a rather large cemetery. There are currently over 42,000 internments. I'm not sure the number of Civil War burials here but by sight it seemed like a lot. After initially being buried at Elmwood the Sultana victims were moved here. The story told at the cemetery is that the names were written on the coffins as they were removed from Elmwood so that they would be properly identified at the national cemetery. While the coffins were waiting to be reinterned a rain storm came up. Unfortunately the names had been written on the coffins in chalk so all the names washed away with the rain and the Sultana victims all lie in graves marked unknown.

The Minnesota monument, surrounded by soldiers from Minnesota.

The Illinois monument.

It was obviously a time of resodding at the cemetery.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Forrest Park

It is a source of continued controversy in Memphis but it also a nicely done statue. In 1905 the remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife were moved from Elmwood Cemetery to this park. Many people, led by the NAACP, want his remains moved back to Elmwood (I guess the statue would be moved there too) as they detest Forrest's life (slave trader, leader of the Confederates at Fort Pillow and the involvement with the KKK). But for now nothing will happen as the park has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an event that happened about a month ago.

If you go be advised that this is not a great area of town. There were a number of bums on one side of the park. I parked across the street at an office supply store, took my pictures and got out before anyone knew I was there. Knowing the hatred blacks have for the park I figured being alone in the park with several bums was not the smartest thing I've done. I only have these four pictures, wish I had more, but maybe I'll go again in a group and will feel more secure.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jefferson Davis Park

Along the riverfront in Memphis is a little park for Jefferson Davis. Davis lived in Memphis after the war (1869-1878) and there is a nice monument of him in the park.

The park also has this monument to J Harvey Mathes of the 37th Tennessee. James Harvey Mathes later became city editor of the Memphis Daily Argus and then later with the Memphis Public Ledger. He also wrote a book on Forrest that I found on google books. I have not read it but downloaded a copy so that I can read it. I also found online that his grandfather, William Mathes, was one of the first white children born in Tennessee.

Finally there are gun emplacements to protect the city from a river navy. Oh wait, those are modern guns. In one of my guidebooks it said that there were cannons here during the Civil War, the wall was different but the location is right. During the scrap metal drives for World War 2 the cannons were melted down. After the war cannon surplus was again given to the park but the vintage was wrong.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Elmwood Cemetery - Memphis

Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis is in a rundown part of town but it is well worth the visit. It is the oldest cemetery in Memphis and has quite a few Civil War generals buried there. Also all sorts of important people from Memphis' history are here, mayors, governors, senators, etc.

This is the Confederate section for common soldiers. The monument also has memorial plaques for some Confederate generals who are buried here but were from Memphis.

There are 20 Confederate generals buried here, as well as two Union generals. I don't have pictures of all of them, very few actually.
Here is Patton Anderson:

Nathan Bedford Forrest was buried here but was later moved to his own park (which has been quite the source of controversy for many years). The rest of his family though is buried here, including three brothers who were Confederate officers.

The victims of the Sultana were buried here but were later moved to the national cemetery.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Land of Lincoln

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America by Andrew Ferguson

In my blog comments for the Springfield visit it was suggested that I read this book, so I hit the library and snagged a copy. I really enjoyed this book. The simplest description is that its a Lincoln version of Confederates in the Attic. That's probably not a totally fair comparison for either book but it fits. The category of books on travels in Civil War territory has existed since the eve of the war and will likely long continue.

Ferguson goes to a number of Lincoln sites, hitting places that Lincoln was at. This means trips to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania and Washington DC. He also makes some side trips to other areas to talk to prominent Lincoln collectors and scholars but he spends a lot of time in Illinois, for obvious reasons.

Ferguson tries to deal with the many sides of Lincoln. I'm not sure anyone can completely explain why Lincoln is this way but it seems that he cannot be pinned down to one particular point. There is something in him that everyone can love and hate. In an early scene in the book an anti-Lincoln man is told by Ferguson that a particular group of Lincoln scholars (who weren't venomously anti-Lincoln) complained that Lincoln was a wimp, and he responded "Jesus, even I don't think he was a wimp." For everyone who thinks Lincoln was a great president there is something about him that they can pick on as a weakness and for everyone who hates Lincoln there is something there that they think was a strength. He can be all things to all people, maybe that's part of being a politician or maybe its because Lincoln generally didn't reveal too much to other people.

I especially enjoyed the section on Springfield because I had just been there and some things were familiar. But I also enjoyed the last section of the book where he takes his family on a trip following Lincoln in reverse from Springfield to Hodgenville. Ferguson meets a lot of interesting characters along the way and sees some great sites. Some of them are great because of the artifacts there; at the Lincoln Homestead you can see the bed his mother used as a child and the household items that his father made by hand. Or for the oddities of the place; the reconstructed log cabin at Lincoln's birth site wouldn't fit the protective building so they cut it to fit, luckily it wasn't really the original cabin just a cabin everyone believed was the original.

I would highly recommend this book. It was a pretty quick read. I don't think I'd buy a copy for my own shelves but that's mostly a space issue. But if I ended up acquiring a cheap or free copy along the way I'd certainly keep it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Atlanta Capitol Grounds

On one trip to Georgia we found ourselves with some unscheduled time before our flight home. So we went downtown to the capitol. I had heard that there were some monuments on the grounds. In fact its almost a monument garden there are so many monuments.

This is Joseph Brown, with his wife. Brown was governor of Georgia during the Civil War, and quite a thorn in Jefferson Davis' side. His monument also depicts scenes from two of the major battles in Georgia, Kennesaw Mountain and Dug Gap. This is a very well done monument and is in great condition.

There was also this very small marker for General William Wright. Apparently he was quite well liked as this marker was placed just three months after his death.
This is a somewhat strange monument that depicts the 33 Black state legislators who were expelled from the congress in 1868 because of their skin color. I don't remember seeing a date for the monument but I'm guessing from style that its a relatively modern piece.

One of the largest monuments on the grounds is for John B. Gordon. Another native son who became a general, but he also served as a US Senator and Georgia governor after the war. From 1873 to 1897 he was serving in one of those two jobs except when he took 1880-1886 off to work on his own railroad and mining interests. In the background you can also see the beautiful dome of the capitol.

There are also some information markers detailing events of the Atlanta campaign. For some reason though these were behind a metal barricade so that the pictures did not turn out well. I ended up taking these from a variety of angles so that I could later figure out what words were covered in these shots. They should install these somewhere else so that people could actually read them.

I can't find the guidebook right now but I know that this cannon's story is known, its not just a surplus barrel put here to look neat.
Finally, the capitol grounds were used as a campground by the 2nd Massachusetts while they served as Sherman's provost guard.