Skip to main content

tv   Civil War Soldiers Letters  CSPAN  January 31, 2015 8:30am-9:51am EST

8:30 am
on era dominance of the republican party government. that is tonight at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern. >> coming up next, the national archives at college park maryland as letters from civil war soldiers are already as well as the soldiers daily lives which were defined by personal hardship, disease, and death. this program is about one hour 20 minutes.
8:31 am
coming up next on american history tv, the national archives posts independent researcher john emond as he reads letters from civil war soldiers, placing the letters in the context of the war as well as the soldiers daily lives, defined by personal hardship disease, and death. this is about one hour and 20 minutes. >> i think we are all settled in. welcome. i work in the national archives. i work -- i welcome you to this program. we have an ongoing lecture series to teach you about the records of the national archives and how to use them for historical research. we are pleased to have john emond here with us today. the title of the event is civil war voices. a bit more about the know your records program, we also do researcher newsletters, if you provide your e-mail address i will send you that newsletter automatically. it -- we do a genealogy fair and wheels of have a genealogy program taken place at the national archives building in washington dc. that happened several times a month. so, with that, i will turn -- give the biography for mr. emond. he retired in 2011 at the 30 years in government. most of it in contract technology transfer and project management at nasa. he is a member of the maritime committee with the maryland
8:32 am
historical society. he is a collector of historical artifacts from the american revolution and civil war. including several civil war soldiers' letters which he will refer to in this presentation. a program that will be approximately one hour long. we will take questions and answers at the end. thank you, i hope you enjoy. >> before i get started, because this is a program that highlights the national archives, a bit of further information on my background. as a collector of americana, from the revolution through the civil war, i wanted to find out more. if there was an object with the name on it, i wanted to find out what was behind the name. i began to get involved with the archives to find out more about those instances where a story could be found. other peach -- people approached me, as well. many of the files i came across our routine, nothing extraordinary. but there are more. the stories that come out are truly extraordinary. that is part of the fun. you never know what you are going to find. until you actually delve into it. that is the basis of how i got involved with the archives. it is a magnificent repository. as we begin, civil war voices
8:33 am
from the archives. the civil war, for all intents and purposes, be and with the confederacy against fort sumter, in 1861. it ended, although confederate armies were still in the field with lee's surrender in a farmhouse in appomattox, virginia, april 9, 1865. the cost of war it self was incredible. extraordinary. roughly two to 2.2 million people served the union army. many died of disease, many died in battle. 250,000 died of disease. on the confederate side, 700,000-1,000,000 men served the confederacy. 164,000 died of disease. 94,000 died in battle.
8:34 am
about 600,000 deaths by battle or disease. if you look at the population in 1860, it was 31 million. compare that to the population in 2012 of 312 million. what that means is, as a ratio against the overall population with 6000 deaths during the civil war against the population of 31 million, if that equated to today's figures, that would mean in a population of 312 million in 2012, 6 million would have died. that is the magnitude, the scale of what the civil war meant to so many families, north and south. next slide. it is said, battles are planned by generals and fought by privates. during the civil war, that was clearly the case. for both the union side, and the confederates.
8:35 am
this is their story you will here today. it is not really of the major generals and major campaigns but it would -- is what it was like for the soldiers in the field. my presentation highlights the journey we are going on today. we will start from the dramatic, the coming storm, the beginning of the war itself. adulation to anger, two soldier stories. one from massachusetts, and the other from pennsylvania. as they had on their journey south, what it was like to go from adoring crowds to a sullen group, sometimes even a mob. families divided, we will hear what it was like to have not only a country divided, but a family divided. a slave no more. the issue of slavery was a central area of the civil war. return to war, how an individual
8:36 am
who was captured, escaped, and promised his family he would not go back into military service. why he did so, in a letter to his family. why he breaks his promise not to rejoin the military, and his reasons to do so. a confederates view of battle, a yankees view of battle. then we move on to historical tidbits from the archives. lincoln's substitute. i will get more to that. i was curious, when someone asked me to realize -- research lincoln substitute, i had no idea what he was talking about until i did the research. then, i will ask you to weigh in. what would you do? a soldier charged with desertion. should that person be executed for what he did? and another instance, evacuating a military post. should the officer have ordered his post abandoned? why or why not?
8:37 am
we will get your vote on these. and then, to lighten up the theme of death, there are funny stories that have emerged by the research i have done at the archives. one of them is called in action. i am not sure what it was about union kernels, but there were some real characters. another that i recently found, a great story that i knew had to come into this presentation. you can't make these things up. i captioned it, ok, but you are no ringo starr. and there is another, hey yank throw it over. what happens when there is an informal truce between battle, when confederates and yankees interact. and the most humorous event i have seen, the wedding. we will go into that. i will conclude the discussion as we get to the end of the war, and the most poignant aspects of
8:38 am
stories i have come across. one of them is david king's letter of remorse. it is the most chilling i have ever encountered. william keith, as the war winds down, a letter from appomattox. he was there. lastly, wisdom for the ages. charles smith's reflections. a passage that is flowery in victoria on a, it is flowery but it has as much meaning today as it did when it was written. we are still part of the sesquicentennial. men most certainly were dying in the conflict, it was by no means over yet. as far as the coming storm, you have a situation in the late fall of 1860. lincoln has been elected president.
8:39 am
the country is on a nice -- a knife's edge. things are changing, and they are changing fast. no one knows what is going to happen. this area in particular, maryland being a border state, had southern sympathies and northern sympathies. there was uncertainty as to what would happen if maryland chose to secede. in virginia, there was speculation -- i have a newspaper from alexandria, the speculation there before the war broke out is, if washington invades northern virginia, maryland will invade washington. so, no one knew what was going to happen. all they knew was that life as they knew it was about to change, romantically. -- change to magically. here is where we going to our change dramatically. first letter. they're in mind, south carolina seceded from the union on december 20, 1860. there was no confederate flag at this point, but the state flag of south carolina was the palmetto flag.
8:40 am
circular objects that were pinned to a hat, symbols of pro-secession leafs. this is relevant to the letter. december 7, 1860. dear friend bob, how are you? important business claimed the attention here of anyone, i.e. saving the country, to put down secessionists here in my state. i believe every hope is gone. maryland will be as hot for secession as any other state, in less than one month. the people almost all go for this union to throw off all northern role and set up for themselves. me, i am for the union. fugitive slaves should be returned, and so on. but as long as he shows favorite to negroes, i will fight to the knife. the boys in baltimore can fight. the southern army will be invincible on their own grounds. there are thousands will fight
8:41 am
for the union. they are organizing into companies. i hear cockade's are is plenty as june bugs in july. the palmetto flag is very clear, this is a southern-leaning expression. palmetto flags wave from two establishments from all-time. and at night, from several places. something is in the wind although i do not know what it is. yours, george. then, war breaks out. call to volunteers. north and south, if you look at pension files and military records in the war, you see a lot of times, the call to service for three months. both north and south thought it was going to be a short war. it turns out that short war resulted in four years of struggle. we have a situation where armies
8:42 am
that are organized in the north start off with adoring crowds. our brave boys heading forth to a glorious victory. they found it was different. early in the war, there was an angela in. -- adulation. there were parades through crowds that were cheering on their brave boys. on the right-hand side, it may be hard to make out, that is rioting in baltimore, april ninth, 1961. a different greeting for the union soldiers heading through. we will do background on that. the soldiers are heading into baltimore, they had to change trains at pratt street to board another train to continue their journey to washington. as they marched from one train station to another, crowds gathered. insults and bricks were hurled. rioting lookout, shots were fired.
8:43 am
several soldiers and civilians were killed. i'm about to tell you two stories. one soldier came from massachusetts, the other from pennsylvania. they write about their experiences at the start their journey, the adoring crowds, more food than they can possibly eat. this is what happens as they go through to a border state, and the situation changes dramatically. adulation to anger. 16th massachusetts infantry, baltimore, it august 20, 1861. dear mother, 43 hours from boston. from home to maryland, it was a triumphal march. your soldier boy got many a sweet kiss from the jersey girls. elizabethtown, princeton trenton, all the large places, there was a perfect rush to see us and bring us food and drink. we arrived in philadelphia at 9:00 in the evening. they have a place else in the side of the street, and every passing regiment is fed.
8:44 am
it is a splendid city. the people like soldiers. thousands flocked to see us. old massachusetts was cheered. many a shake of the hand and a kiss, and a hearty rod bless you. -- in a hearty got bless you. we left for baltimore at 12:00 at night. now, the scene changes. we got into baltimore yesterday about 11:00. we were received without a cheer or other expression. people looked on in sullen silence. we marched through baltimore. one of marshall kane's storehouses, where powder was hid, is used by a commissary to store our bread. he was a police chief. the city is spread out before us. the washington monument looks fine. workman henry -- fort mchenry can be seen. the provost marshal is here, and
8:45 am
has warned us to eat or drink nothing. a quick part about fort mchenry, at that point, it was well armed and staffed. cannons were mounted and manned. they were not pointing out to the chesapeake bay. they were pointing towards baltimore. there was an armed camp making sure that if any insurrection broke out in baltimore, it would be put down. at that moment, fort mchenry was not there to defend the city but was ready to attack the city in case of insurrection. july 2, 1861. asa smith. this is after bull run, when both north and south realized this is not the issue of war. he was medically discharged due to wounds. he was wounded in action. another soldier.
8:46 am
sergeant jacob winan, company h, ninth pennsylvania reserve washington d c. dear father, i am sorry i have not had time to write. i have been busy since i left pittsburgh. we left at 8:00. we arrived at huntington at five or 6:00. when we got there, people were loaded out with baskets of bread, coffee, and milk. the regiment cheered with the good people of huntington. cars were ready to take us to baltimore. i got up at daylight. i looked out, and was admiring the country in maryland. we were about 25 miles from baltimore and we had to wait for trains from baltimore. there is a strong guard along the railroads. all along the railroads, from maryland to baltimore, the roads were lined with burned down bridges, burned to slow the progress of federal troops heading south. we learned that we would have trouble in baltimore, so we work earnest with cartridges. -- we were furnished with
8:47 am
cartridges. we got to baltimore 1:00. we found thinks quieter than expected. nathan and i walked around the city. we were not molested. i found the city to be the most beautiful place i ever saw. we visited the washington monument. it is a splendid column of marble, surrounded by beautiful grounds. in our travels, we are greeted sometimes by cheers, but mostly as we pass a crowd, someone would come off for jefferson davis. or, ask us if we were going to bull run. bull run, a human fiasco, a union defeat. by asking if they were going to bull run, it was basically, are you going to get your but with again, yankee? so we went to the station. i was order to form the company as soon as possible. just before he left, union men came to the station and furnished us some bread. going from one station to another, we marched over the court that the massachusetts regiments did when they were attacked.
8:48 am
we left about 10:00 and arrived in washington 6:00. july 27, 1861. after bull run. his term of enlistment was three years. after bull run all bets were all bets were off. , promoted to lieutenant promoted to captain in 1863. interestingly enough, he was wounded in battle june 30, 1862. north and south. the battle of james river, the same as the other soldier. north and south a country , divided. clearly, it was not just -- not only a country divided, but families were divided. the civil war split a number of families. mary todd lincoln, abraham lincoln's wife, had several brothers who were confederate officers. jeb stuart, cavalry commander, his father-in-law was the union officer. in a letter dated 1862 from tennessee, john boston, 80 first
8:49 am
ohio infantry, expresses his outrage at his wife's pro-southern father. i think it is a curious thing why your father does not write to you or me. i think their patriotism is not very strong, otherwise he would write. but he does not care one grain if you were dead or alive, and he would rather hear of my death and my coming home. he is afraid to hear cannons roar and rifles crash, for here -- fear that it would break his copperhead bones. -- his cowardly bones. he is mad at me for volunteering to serve my country. he would rather hang around the birds nest, then to leave and fight to protect the family. but let the poor devil go for the time being. if i should be so lucky as to come home, i will give him a soldier's blessing, and that will be a rough was satan, you may -- a rough blessing, you may be sure.
8:50 am
there is a day when he will pay for all of this. john boston, enlisted 1862, ohio infantry. he was involved in a nut -- a number of battles. he died august 4, 1918. he died august 4, that means 1918. clearly, john boston did get home. perhaps he gave his father-in-law a soldier's blessing. to be sure. it would have been interesting to see how thanksgiving might have been dealt with their, with very lively discussions between the ex-soldier and the southern sympathizing father-in-law. clearly, one of the most divisive aspects of the war, one of the most perfect aspects leading up to the war, the whole issue of slavery. -- one of the most horrific
8:51 am
aspects. several documents in the national archives recounted individual lives before and after emancipation. before the proclamation, their life was referred to as slave time. for slave owners, breaking up a family might just be a business deal, a commodity. you buy and sell wheat, corn tobacco, you buy and sell human lives. this private was a slave before the war. after his death in 1864, his widow noted in a deposition, my husband was previously married in time of slavery. his wife was taken from him. she was sold to a distant land. he never heard from her or his child. another document noted, he was married to colina moon, and her and her child were sold 15th of august, 1858. a family torn apart. but it is just business, it is just buying and selling commodities.
8:52 am
even a compassionate owner still had absolute control over the lives of slaves. calvin buford, private. u.s. colored infantry. calvin and mary buford were married at the house of the master. their last name was the same as their owner, richard buford. in shell because he tennessee, -- in shelby county, tennessee may, 1859. , they were married by a slave on the plantation with the knowledge and consent of their master. alvin and mary buford were slaves of richard buford. they lived together until they were -- the fact is, they had to get his permission for that to occur. slave names had nothing to do with natural ancestry, and everything to do with their life as a commodity to be bought and sold. antwan williams, private.
8:53 am
68 u.s. colored infantry before , receiving freedom as a slave he took the last name of his master, handed from one slave-owning family to another. said soldier obtained his freedom a short time previous to enlistment. the reason why he enlisted under the name of williams is, that was his master's name. when he got his freedom, he went by the name of his master instead of that of his own father. there is someone who is entering into union service, to fight the confederacy. after the emancipation proclamation, to free the slaves. and he still is taking the name of his master, his former master. even the events of not enough -- even the emancipation proclamation was not enough proof that -- former slave owners. ira member anton williams was a slave belonging to me at the time of the emancipation. i'd amended his certificate of enlistment. emancipation has happened, that does not make any difference to
8:54 am
slave owners. i want to see his enlistment papers. otherwise, i will insert my right at being his owner. he then realizes, here is someone in uniform, armed. i guess he is no longer my slave. that is what it took, to have slave owners recognize, i no longer on them. christopher columbus, company eight, fourth regiment, missouri infantry. a remarkable letter from him to his wife, march 14, 1864. my dear wife, i think the services first rate. we were assigned to a regiment in uniform. we have been uniformed, and we will be armed and sent to did exceed to hunt rebels. -- sent into dixie to hunt rebels. since i put on lincoln blue, you'd hardly know me. your affectionate husband, christopher columbus. even though in a number of instances, black troops were not on the front line, in other instances they most certainly were. for all of these individuals putting on the union blue, as he
8:55 am
puts on his lincoln blue, you can imagine the gratification they had. he puts it, they are going to hunt rebels. they are going to hunt former slave owners. you can imagine how important that was, for him to be in the military on the union side, as a soldier, no longer a slave. there are many who volunteered some were drafted, many were drafted during the war. others entered service for a number of reasons. patriotism, or it could be that life at home was dull and boring, and they wanted to do something exciting. bear in mind, in many wars there is an initial exhilaration. going to war in the 19th century, in the sense of courage and honor for the bloody truth of the war becomes apparent. for some, irish americans, there is another reason why they want to enlist. it is fascinating for both
8:56 am
confederate irish-americans and union irish-americans. not only is it to fight the war, but it does to gain military training so that after the war as irish-americans, north and south, the intent was to go back and fight for the cause of irish freedom. in 1866, after the civil war ended, there was a raid, an attempt to invade canada. that was the closest british government they could get access to. as a way of striking a blow against england. that raid had both can -- confederate and union soldiers in the raid. here we have an individual james rorty. he served in several brigades. a great fighting unit. he is captured. he escapes. clearly, he has promised his parents he is not going back into military service.
8:57 am
in the letter i came across in the archives, he decides to rejoin the military, and he feels duty-bound to explain to his parents why he broke his parents -- thomas to them and is -- his promise to them and he is going back into the military. november 15, 1861. one reason is, hating working in his father's business. god knows i have struggled with mind and body for three years, and the -- at the end, i am -- it only succeeded in crippling my intellect. i must have more powerful incentive than the mere caustic gain. -- the mere prospect of gain. i joined the 69th you -- union infantry. weak in body, after enduring extraordinarily fatigued and hardship, iraq -- returned in less than six months invigorated. my nervousness gone, nothing like the hiss of rifle and
8:58 am
musket balls. as for the danger of death, i trust in god's protection. i believe in my heart the drygoods business would be a more speedy road to death than the military life. i would rather be shot at than be behind a desk or counter. he also gives another reason. the other reason why he rejoins the military is to use his military training in the cause of irish freedom. the military knowledge and skill which i may acquire may be turned to the sacred cause of my native land. sometime before the present unhappy war broke out, i joined the phoenix brigade, an organization of irishmen, much like in 20th century, the ira, to fight for irish freedom. i joined the free makes brigade -- the phoenix brigade. i cannot see now why i should not make myself competent to lead in the cause of ireland. are we not serving the foe of
8:59 am
ireland's foe? does not every male ring the cheering indications that overgrown and commercial blue -- body of england will fail if it cannot get a supply of american cotton? if i can obtain you and my mother's forgiveness and blessing, i would be happy. the consciousness of my disobedience is the only the consciousness of my disobedience is the only drawback to my happiness. i implore you to give me your consent to go back to battle that i may feel a conviction to my duty in battle with a light heart. your affectionate son. he was wounded and captured at the battle of bull run, july
9:00 am
21, 1861. he escaped from prison in the fall of 1861. he reenlisted two days after this letter was sent to his parents, into the fifth irish brigade. he was wounded in action at fredericksburg, virginia, in 1862. he did not live to fight for the cause of ireland. as captain, 14th new york independent battery, light artillery, james was killed in action at gettysburg. july 3, 1863. next slide please. now, we have first-hand accounts. i mentioned that battles are planned by generals, but it takes privates to fight them. here is a confederate's view of battle in spring 1863, several cavalry clashes between union and confederate forces. none of them really ended in a clear victory for either side. but for once, the union cavalry, which was derided by the
9:01 am
confederates, that they could not stand muster against confederate cavalry men, in this instance, the series of battles in 1863, the union cavalry gave as good as it got. they did not defeat the confederates, but they stood their own. here is the confederates' view, kelly's ford, 1863. our cavalry had a considerable fight with the yankees yesterday. our regiment was very badly used up. we had good many wounded and captured. our major was taken prisoner. he was commanding the regiment at the time. i have the misfortune to lose my horse in the first charge, shot through the head by a pistol. it fell on the field and died without a struggle. this is robert isabel. the yankees were less than 50 yards from me when my horse fell. i did not have time to save my
9:02 am
subtle or my clothes. one ball shot me broke the skin on my leg, and it rues did very the let bruised -- and it bruised it very much. i'm not disabled, all i want is a good horse and i will be after the yankees again. i cannot say whether any of my company were lost or not. my horse fell early. i came up last night on the train cars. robert isabel was born in 1833. he listed in 1861 in the second virginia cavalry rai. he was the first corporal, second virginia cavalry. he was captured and became ill behind enemy lines in 1862, but was released on parole back with his company in november 1862. wounded in battle 1864. about the year after this letter is written. his last reference is dated november 30, 1864, when he is ordered to duty from the
9:03 am
hospital he is recuperating in. that is telling. that date, the war is winding down, the confederacy's becoming more desperate. the fact that someone who is recuperating at the hospital is called back to duty, tells you how short the confederacy was on manpower. now, they are calling up even soldiers who are recuperating in the hospital, if they could carry a gun, we need them back on the front lines. although there is no further information on him, the fact that he is called out of his hospital bed to duty tells you by this point in the war, the confederacy is getting desperate. next slide. a yankee's view of battle. around the same time, brandy station, 1863. william keith. dear mother and father, sister s and brother. i am rested up after a hard fight. our regiment was in the advance. we crossed beverly ford at 4:00 in the morning.
9:04 am
as we was crossing the river, we were ordered to draw sabres. company a and company b were the first across the river. we started our horses on a run and commenced yelling like the devil, driving in the red pickets. the regiment poured in, bled into our ranks. we returned favor and through our revolvers and poured into them. our company commander was killed and our colonel, as we got the rebs to running. it was the hardest fighting our regiment ever had. we lost 11 men killed and wounded out of 32 in the company. we had 15 horses killed and wounded. we lost more men than any company in the regiment. i tell you, it was a death struggle some of the time. we commenced at 4:00 in the morning. when was under fire until half past 3:00 in the afternoon, when we withdrew from the front and were taken from the field.
9:05 am
we expect to cross again any day. we suffered for lack of water. the sun beat down, and we had nothing to eat and drink for 24 hours, neither for our horses or ourselves. shells bursting in our ranks hurt us more than the bullets. i do not want to see any harder fighting again thenan we had then, but thank god i came out all right, me and my horse. i have the best horse in our ranks. a horse that cannot run and jump is no good for a cavalryman. william keith is a fascinating observer. here is an example, he talks about the horror of battle. yet he ends the letter with an affectionate note about his horse. i have got the best horse in the cavalry. it becomes very much like a pet. i am fond of my horse, despite the fact that he has just lived
9:06 am
through one of the most hellish experiences of the campaign in 1863. i came across requests people had given me, interesting stories. one of them was someone asked me to research lincoln's substitute. i said, what do you mean lincoln's substitute? as part of the lincoln order of drafting individuals, you had two choices. you can either serve or you could pay your way out. that is the argument that it was a rich man's war. if someone was rich, a banker or businessman, he did not have to shoulder a musket. he could pay someone to do it for him. lincoln did not want to simply send out an act of this order without symbolically, at least saying he is no different from anyone else. so here we have john summerfield staples. he mustered in november 3, 1862
9:07 am
as a private, pennsylvania militia. discharged 1863 due to medical disability. an interesting note. he was drafted, so he was one of the ones who is called in as a draftee. he finishes his duty, and is discharged due to medical disability. lincoln signed into law in 1863 a draft that would require military service unless a man hires a substitute to serve for him. two symbolically prove that he is no different, abraham lincoln hires john staples to take his place. october 1, 1864. john staples, lincoln's representative recruit, was arrayed in the uniform of the u.s. army and accompanied by general larner of the third ward. he was taken to the executive mansion and received by president lincoln. general frey introduced him by saying, mr. president, this is the man who is to represent you in the army for the next year.
9:08 am
mr. lincoln shook hands with with staples, remarked that he was a good-looking and healthy looking young man and believed he would do his duty. he was presented with an official notice of the fact that he had put in a representative recruit. the president again shook hands with staples and expressed the hope that he would be one of the fortunate ones, and the visiting party and retired. if you are going to fight in the civil war, you want to be abraham lincoln's substitute soldier. you can guarantee will be nowhere near getting killed or captured. once he became the substitute soldier for abraham lincoln, the greatest wound he probably faced was maybe a paper cut. because john staples worked for the provost marshal until he was hospitalized and discharged in 1865. he died in 1888. if you have to take a position in the army, that is not a bad position to have.
9:09 am
you also hear sometimes remarkable stories. it is hard to believe. you sometimes have officials that seem to indicate that such a story really happened. here is a depiction of someone who is using a horse as a shield as he takes aim and fires. that firing position has a lot to do with this next passage, a document in the file at the archives. two bullets colliding, james b . scully, vermont infantry wounded 1863. while in the act of firing, a confederate bullet entered his musket and met his bullet going out, splitting his musket to the shoulder. as the stock rebounded by the shock, struck him in the head. the shock was so severe that he would have feltl had i not took
9:10 am
hold of him. i was standing by his side at the time, and i remember the incident well. he would have more luck getting the national powerball lottery than having that happen. as the bullet is leaving your barrel, it is met i and incoming confederate round. i'm not sure if he was just very lucky, or very unlucky to have that happen. it is an amazing story. i want to get your reaction. the first incident is, what you would do. this is an execution scene. company h, 14th kentucky infantry, accused of desertion and joining the confederate army. the charge is indicated on our about april 24, 1862. he deserted his unit and joined the confederate forces. he remained with the enemy for six weeks or thereabouts, at the expiration of which, the
9:11 am
regiment was disbanded and he returned to his home and remain ed there until arrested by federal forces in 1863. he indicated he did desert his company and went to his home. he remained there until early april 1862, at which point he was threatened with conscription by the confederate army. he served in a confederate unit. he later served another confederate unit until that was suspended -- disbanded. he indicated he did not go on duty, he never drew pay. he indicated he was sick and left to go home and recover. intending to return to his unit, but he was afraid to be punished if he returned. the court-martial found this man guilty of desertion and aiding the enemy by joining the confederate army and the penalty pronounced april 4 1863, is
9:12 am
that he be shot to death as a general commanding may direct. a question to you, should this man be executed based on desertion and treason? how many believe he should of have been executed? he not only deserted, he joined the confederate army. how many of you believe he should face the ultimate penalty? a few people. most of you, though, have sympathy for the man. you will be glad to know you are not alone. one man can make a big difference. first of all, this man's death sentence was suspended in 1863 remained in force. he remained in prison under a death sentence. his prison chaplain fought to save his life. he pointed out in a passionate letter to president lincoln in 1863 that henry did not understand the consequence of what he did. he was sick much of his time in
9:13 am
federal service. he was allowed to stay at home to regain his health. upon rejoining his unit, he became ill and decided to go home until his health improved. while at home, his neighborhood was surrounded by confederate forces. during conscription, and receiving word he would be paroled and allowed to stay at home, he gave himself up as a prisoner of war. however, he was not allowed to return home, and was kept prisoner. according to the chaplain, he never enlisted in the kent at -- in the confederate army and resisted solicitation to do so. once the rebel forces disbanded, he returned home until his arrest. in 1865, the chaplain wrote to john sherman, asking for president johnson to review his case. we have two prisoners under sentence of death for desertion. the sentence was suspended and they remained in cells by themselves after the sentence was suspended. for seven or eight months, they
9:14 am
wore heavy irons, and what may have been their fault, they have suffered severely in mind and body. as the war has closed, i feel i can no longer resist asking you, if possible, to bring their cases to the notice of president johnson, and to ask for a pardon, that they may go at once to their houses. henry claims he left his regiment on account of sickness and went home. rebel surrounded the place he lived and he gave himself up as a prisoner. he said he never entered rebel service. i hope you will feel free to ask mercy to be shown for these men on these representations. truly your obedient servant chaplain. 1865, the following order was given. the sentence of death in the case of henry estep, is by direction of the president commuted to imprisonment and
9:15 am
hard labor for one year. at such place as the secretary of war may designated. he has gone from having the umbrella of death over him, to one year of imprisonment and hard labor all due to one chaplain that believed this man is innocent and he should not pay the ultimate penalty and he, alone, was responsible for estep being freed after one year. let me give you another what if scenario. what would you do, evacuate new madrid, missouri, or not? december 26, 1862. a telegraph from colonel scott to colonel dyer. i think the post is in no danger. if you have any advice that indicates an attack on new madrid, please inform me as my presence at this event is desirable. 1862 despite colonel scott's
9:16 am
relief -- belief that new madrid was not in immediate danger, and this, by the way, it depicts an evacuation scene, he receives orders. colonel scott, proceed to new madrid. spike the guns, destroy the ammunition totally. take the same boat and proceed to the fort under the cover of gunboats and report to colonel wilkes. december 28, 1862. telegraph from colonel scott. general, in accordance with orders, i abandoned this post, having destroyed siege guns and ammunition. i go to the fort the command at this place. john scott colonel, 32nd iowa infantry commanding. he was given orders by a general to evacuate and destroy the guns so the confederates could not
9:17 am
use them. show of hands. how many think he should he have been abandoned and evacuated new madrid? how many think he should have evacuated and abandoned? a few. some of you may be skeptical. you may be right. what happens is, january 6 1863, colonel scott is placed under arrest. the brigadier general commanding directs me to say that as far as he can understand, you have abandoned your post in the most shameful and cowardly manner and to the detriment of the public service. the fact of your receiving orders from general davies does not palliate in the slightest degree your offense. you were not under his orders and had no right to obey his command, no more rights than he had to give the commands. brigadier general will prefer formal charges as soon as that is complete. in addition to abandoning your post you have deserted the , limits of the district with your whole command, and you are
9:18 am
hereby ordered to return to new madrid with your new command and consider your self under arrest. turn of your command to the next officer in rank. he obeyed the general's orders. but he obeyed the wrong general. here is a colonel being told that that general had no command over you, should have not done what he said. doubtful, but he simply obeyed the wrong general. a number of communications go back and forth regarding charges against colonel scott. including a message sent by colonel scott to general curtis. general, i am in receipt of communications from your headquarters. in the case of charges against me. justice for myself makes me say that every charge is false. ultimately, colonel scott resigned honorably in 1864. they allowed him to resign his commission. his guilt was basically
9:19 am
following orders, essentially. he was told he followed the wrong orders. now, we will move into a bit of a lighter motif. there are some stories that come out of the archives that are really funny, despite the fact that we are talking about the civil war. as far as penalties, if someone is drunk on duty instead of being cashiered out of the military, sometimes he is humiliated as punishment. here is someone walking around camp in a whiskey barrel. you can gather what his offense is. here is william hepburn in action. a sterling individual. he was court-martialed for being drunk on duty as follows. william hepburn, ohio cavalry. on or about the third day of number during engagement with 1863, the enemy, the colonel was drunk to such a degree as to
9:20 am
render him unfit to command. he was so drunk that he ordered lieutenant reed, commanding two howitzers to fire the guns. fire would have resulted in the destruction of a column of horses in front of the guns. and companies of men in front of the guns. he ordered a subordinate to open fire on his own man. doubtless, the order was not carried out. on or about november 3, 1863 lieutenant colonel william hepburn, once again, was so drunk he ordered a second -- the same second lieutenant the same subordinate, commanding him to shell a flock of goats. that order was obeyed.
9:21 am
you can imagine the subordinate, the colonel says fire, and the subordinate says, but sir. those are goats. you can imagine the slightly inebriated colonel saying i gave you in order. fire. there may be a sense that, we did not did defeat confederates, but we sure put the fear of god into those goats. we have another union colonel colonel lewis pierce pennsylvania. a checkered career, multiple charges leveled against him in the course of his service. one of them is bribery in exchange for promotion. the good colonel is basically saying, do you want to be a lieutenant? it will cost you. he is selling ranks. he also had conduct unbecoming an officer. 1863. colonel pierce, when in a
9:22 am
drunken condition, did write a horse into the camp of the ohio volunteer infantry, and demanded two snare drums, one for himself and one for the captain with him saying there is a bet between us as to who is the better drummer. the major protested against drumming in the camp at so late a time. colonel pierce replied, i will be responsible. let me have the drum. your men should learn to fall out after night at any hour. the records don't tell who won the bet. but colonel pierce caused a false alarm in the camp, by beating the drum. to win the bet, they are both beating the long roll.. this is nighttime telling the , soldiers, we are under attack. the soldiers who were sleeping
9:23 am
both long rolls meant, we are under attack. colonel pierce was removed from his position. by the way a lot of times in , military records, you see, to save face, the person is able to leave the military for pressing family matters, or personal matters. when, in fact, it would be, do this or you will be court-martialed. in this case, this person is so amazing. colonel pierce was eventually removed from his position due to, and this is an official quote, utter worthlessness and inefficiency. you can't get much better than that. one general noted, and incompetency. you can imagine, a grandkid many years after the war asking, grandpa, what did you do in the war? maybe you would make something up because the reality is, he did not do all that much, very well. then, we have instances where there is fraternization. there is a lull in the fighting. these are americans, north and
9:24 am
south, linked with a common language. there is a lot to have in common, despite the fact that they are enemies in battle in a war. a lot of times, there would be these impromptu truces exchanged. on the left, you have someone who is crafting a small boat and able to send it across to the other side to get something in return. on the right, you see literally, in the middle of no man's land a river. they meet in the river to exchange goods. on the union side, they have coffee the confederates would prefer. the confederates had tobacco. which the union forces would want. you have an exchange back and forth. here is an instance where i think the confederates got the better hand. orange county virginia. dear sister, come to hand on the 29th of december. your letter found me well and hearty. today is a pleasant day for this
9:25 am
time of year. we have taken up winter quarters at last camped seven miles below the courthouse. on christmas day, we were on one post together. after about 15 minutes, a yankee came to the river and we exchanged papers with them. we threw the papers across the river with our rock. the first paper the yankees tried to throw across fell short. we said, hey yank, throw overhand. the boys told the yankee to take off his overcoat and threw it across the river. the yankee then went back. the confederates take a rock and use that to weigh the paper as they throw it across the river. they tell the yankee, take off your overcoat and use that. at the end of the day, the yank gets a rock and the
9:26 am
confederates get an overcoat. they got the better end of the bargain. not all encounters in between battles where is pleasant. i have a letter from william keith, who you heard from earlier. you get the feeling that if someone is captured on the battlefield in the middle of the day, they are taken prisoner. but if someone is infiltrating the campground, maybe killing the pickets and killing the soldiers as they sleep in their tent, all bets are off as far as taking prisoners. you know that because in this letter, william keith says, if they found someone trying to infiltrate the campground at night, we leave them where they find them. so they would not hurt no one, no more. if you are caught trying to sneak into the campground, lord knows what you are trying to do to us while we sleep. if you are caught, you are staying right where you are caught. a chilling message. the confederate i mentioned was a private, mustard and-- mu
9:27 am
stered in 1862, captured in 1864, sent to a camp at fort delaware. probably the funniest story i came across, someone asked me to research pension records. clearly at the time, the pension officer, in talking to this woman, her husband died during the war. she put in for a survivor pension. the official says, what is with your name? there is something strange about this file. you need to clarify for us to process this further. this victorian wedding sort of came up. alice frost applied for a pension. there was something strange about her information. she then explained what is up with all the different names. about 19 years of age and unmarried, she attended a mock marriage. they all pretended to have a mock marriage as part of the amusement.
9:28 am
she was chosen as his bride. she was chosen to act as bride and thomas dawson to act as groom. the groom so selected was a stranger to her at the time. in connection with this act of fun, they went through with the ceremony. so, the party is winding down. before the breaking of the party, for those who may remember seinfeld and think of the character kramer being the minister. here you have got the party winding down. she was informed that the person officiating as the minister was in fact an ordained minister. and authorized to solemnize marriages. you can think of someone like the character of kramer saying i am a real minister you're really married. got to go. she said to the groom, thomas dawson, you know this is not intended to be a marriage and i
9:29 am
want you to take steps to have it annulled. being very much humiliated the affair and acting impulsively, she assumed the fictitious name. frost. and continued to pass as alice frost. she was married to more reflect -- more to reflect -- mortimer flint. her maiden name having actually been abbie trowbridge. that was the funniest passage i came across. we think of victorian as very staid and listening to soft music. here you have them with this party and doing mock marriage when the minister comes up and says, i'm the real deal. good luck. next slide, please. and as the war is in its latter phases, the most radical and most chilling i came across -- i will cause for a moment and say this is an actual letter in the file.
9:30 am
-- i will's for a moment and say this is an actual letter in the file. as the archives is doing a wonderful job of digitizing all the records they can for posterity, for outreach so everyone can have access, i think that is great but i also encourage the archives to always have a way for individuals to have access to the actual paper. when i opened up this letter from david king and realized it is in his handwriting, you will understand i was humbled. david king entered military service mustering in on 1862. september 2as a corporal in the third regiment michigan calvary. he had reenlisted on january 27, 1864. at the rank of sergeant. david king wrote a letter home on september 1, 1864. dear parents and friends, i will try and write a few lines.
9:31 am
i spoke last about the rebel raid. they captured 500 prisoners. our men are after them yet. it is three years tomorrow since i first enlisted. and if i had not been such a fool as to enlist again, i might be at home in a short time. don't say anything about this last sentence i have written or say anything about it if you please. virgil -- his brother -- can do as he thinks best about enlisting. for he had better go as a substitute for some men or pay a -- some men will pay a large price. in other words if my brother is , going to go into the military, he ought to make it worth his while, go for a large price. he also says, father, if you think he is of any use, keep him out of the military, out of the danger. this is all for the present , goodbye. your affectionate son, d.m. king. bear in mind, i am holding the letter he wrote as part of the
9:32 am
pension file. september 1, 1864. you look into the file records. military service from the archives note david king captured by guerrillas near brownsville station september 4, 1864. three days after he wrote this letter. the letter in the archives also has his postmarked envelope, which is postmarked september 5, 1864. which means by the time that letter is postmarked, he's dead. in the file, there's another letter written by his father to his brother many years later, in 1887. his father writes to brother. in the middle of the letter he , reflects on king's letter and indicates there was one thing he did not want mentioned. clearly, what he did not want
9:33 am
mentioned was his expression of regret that he reenlisted and otherwise he would of been on his way home. you're holding the actual -- this is why i say, the image you see on the computer screen, as important as the outreach is, as important as the saving of this information for posterity i think it is vital to also have the opportunity to hold in your hands the real thing. because as i was looking at the letter he wrote in his handwriting and knowing what was going to happen toh im, it was chilling and humbling to see what he says when he's saying if i had not been such a fool to reenlist, i would be on my way home now. knowing what he was going to face and how prescient and ho much of a poor tent -- portent that passage ended up to be.
9:34 am
next slide, please. we then get to the war's end. william keith. in 1853, the union cavalry stood their own against the confederate army. he tried to join up with joe johnson's confederate corps in north carolina and continued the war there. he was stopped in part union cavalry that blocked his march southward at appomattox. when we realized he was boxed in from the front and had other union armies coming from his rear, he had no choice but to seek terms for surrender. william keith.
9:35 am
he is seeing this happen. he is seeing the flag of truce. i mentioned he saw action in a number of battles. he joined the 8th new york cavalry. he saw action in a number of battles including gettysburg and the shenandoah valley. april 9, 1865. here's a letter william is sending home. appomattox courthouse, virginia, april 15, 1865. dear mother and father and sister, i have the pleasure of writing you once more after days of marching and fighting, and i thank god i'm spared. i think we have fought our last battle. since i last wrote you, i have expressed hard times. from the first of april, our division under our brave general custer charged them and gained the south side road with the assistance of the fifth corps. we drove the raebs out.
9:36 am
our regiment was in the advance of our division, was deployed with skirmishes and drove the red skirmishes back to lee. they sent up a flag of truce. such a shout went up for my men -- from my men it made the earth shake. i could not believe my own eyes in my blood ran cold with joy. i can't express my feelings. i think we have fought our last battle. i trust so. your son, william keith. william keith survived the war and eventually became a police captain in rochester, new york. last slide, the war has now ended, and i want to leave this presentation with the passage i came across. a lot of times things are sort of routine, but there are things from the archives, dramatic,
9:37 am
funny, poignant and in some instances everlasting, wisdom for the ages. charles otto smith, born april 1, 1846. he was a clerk before the war. he entered military service february 23, 1864. his term of service was 3 years. he mustered out of service on september 28, 1865. he died january 11, 1919. one of his roles after the war was that of the patriotic instructor department of pennsylvania g.a.r. soldiers memorial hall. in the archives files, and i've got copies to folks interested , is a small business card with his image.
9:38 am
two see the face of an individual, it puts the face together with the soldier. that is not all. on the backside of his business card, he talks about patriotic instructor g.a.r. this is what he says. it is victorian and flowery but has as much relevance today as it did then remember, do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead. fill their lives with sweetness. speak approving and cheering words while their years can hear them. while their hearts can be thrilled and made happier by them. the kind words you mean to say when they are gone, say before they go. the flowers you mean to send for their coffins, send to brighten and sweeten their homes before they leave them. if my friends had alabaster boxes laid away full of perfumes of sympathy and affection which they intend to break over my dead body, i would rather they would bring them out in my
9:39 am
troubled hours and open them that i may be refreshed and cheered while i need them, i would rather have a plain coffin without a flower, a funeral without a eulogy than a life without sweetness of love and sympathy. let us learn to anoint our friends before their burial. post more than kindness does not cheer the troubled spirit. flowers on the coffin cast no fragrance backward over life's weary way. remember, we travel the road of life but once. let us try to make the world better for having lived. i think that is a wonderful point for me to reach closure. i thank you. i will say two things. this passage to me was so remarkable that i actually have for those of you here today, i've got copies of it. i want to bring to your attention, those of you that are
9:40 am
here today have copies and for those that will see this on c-span, i want to encourage you. the maryland historical society right now has a remarkable exhibit called maryland divided. it shows artifacts and personal stories of individuals both north and south, because maryland sent its sons into the union and confederate army. and they have a remarkable exhibit. it is on the civil war as it affect maryland. maryland historical society in baltimore. about a mile up from the inner harbor. this particular exhibit will be running for some time. i highly encourage you to see it. as much as you heard today the personal story, the historical society has personal stories of both marylanders confederate and marylanders who were union soldiers. i encourage you to go to this wonderful exhibit. also, there is also a remarkable exhibit on the war of 1812, same location.
9:41 am
with that, i will turn it over to see if there any questions that people might have. yes? >> i have a question. first of all, i would like to say thank you for sharing your talent to bring these letters, sharing the letters and helping us really understand the context of the times. really is a talent. so my question is, if i were going to the national archives , it sounds like most of these letters were found in pension files? is that correct? >> the reason why it services in the pension files, there are times where a soldier is writing a letter and he is saying, i'm sending you money home. if he dies, especially if he dies in battle, the family -- pensions were not given on service alone. they were based on financial need. if a family tried to indicate they needed the pension because their son had sent money home and that's what really helped them, and if he is dead, then they are in desperate financial
9:42 am
straits, to help prove that they need this money, they would send the letter that talks about sending money home to the pension office and the pension office turned these files over to the archives. so, it does not happen often but there are instances where the actual letter will surface and most of the times it surfaces because in the letter itself, in the midst of everything else, it is basically saying, i am sending you money home. one more quick example. another poignant message a soldier was sending money home. he was also saying, i'm looking forward to coming home. mom and apple pie, good food warm bed. he's talking about looking forward to coming back to his home. in the midst of the letter he is saying, we are going on the road. we are on the march. that could have been the last letter written because the archives point out he died in battle week later.
9:43 am
once again, i was holding that letter. that could very well have been the last letter he wrote. in the course of the letter he saying he was sending money home. that is what triggers, it goes to the pensions office and they turn the files over to the archives. that is when some of these things surfaced. and they are really awe-inspiring. thank you for the question. any other questions? >> [inaudible] >> they -- an excellent question. sometime it took years and not always the pension request was granted. again, it was not based on military service which was an automatic way of sending out files to fill out and compensation forms. they had to request it and basically saying that they either the soldier themselves survived the war and they seek a survivor pension. and again, they would have to
9:44 am
document why they needed it. or if they died during the war the family would have to say we need this, the pension, and they would have to have a link to how the soldier sent money home and with his loss, their financial distress would warrant them to appeal and apply for a pension. but it was a tedious process and took a long time. some people never did get their pension. they would have to initiate it. yes? >> are there any other wars of the united states that would have files like these? >> um, there are, indeed. i think relative to more recent times in the archives, too, this would be more associated with world war ii. i would encourage talking to staff at the college, the archives, too, to find out what access there might be to records associated with world war ii and so forth. there are some statute of
9:45 am
limitations in terms of numbers of years that one has to pass before records are accessible. to go back to your question, the main branch of the archives goes from the spanish-american war to the american revolution. even if there is not a letter, there is a lot of interesting information that can surface. this could be revolutionary war, war of 1812, civil war. i've got a document that supposedly the individual was discharged by george washington personally. that was my understanding. i went into the archives, and i dove into the microfilm records, and there is a contemporary document that was written at the time indicating yes, indeed, this person was personally discharged by george washington. that information i found by going into the pension records. a quick answer -- the main branch of the archives revolutionary war, through the spanish-american war. usually the letters mostly surfaced from the civil war, but there are other very useful, very interesting documents that were also surfacing from the early wars.
9:46 am
american revolution, war of 1812, mexican war, things of that sort. more recently, it would be through archives in college park. and for that you need to contact staff to find out, because veterans from world war ii are still alive. there may be some limitations on accessing public records. they would be in a better position than i to let you know about accessing them. any other questions? yes? >> i'm interested in new statistics on the number of soldiers who died of disease during the civil war. i have seen many pension files in which the soldier died of disease he got during the war. after the war. i have never seen any statistics. do you know if they and he -- if they ever compiled any on the soldiers who died after the war on disease? >> i am not really sure about that. i know in terms of survivor
9:47 am
pensions there would have to be , a way to link up the way the individual died as a result of what took place during the war. >> they actually asked that of the widows. >> right. there are instances and i have , seen where a file has been rejected because a person may have died of pneumonia. if it is old age, if it is an affliction that they came down with late in life, but was not linked up, in some instances someone who may have been a union prisoner at one of the confederate p.o.w. camps and came down with a lifelong debilitation, was never the same, and then passed away after the war, even though it was after the war, the family would get a doctor and others to cooperate this person was never the same as a result of being imprisoned and came down with pneumonia and, never fully recuperated and died.
9:48 am
they would always have to make a link back to service. as to those who died after the war, tracking other cases of disease that afflicted them i am , not really sure. because the link in the pension records for disease always was whether or not they can prove that is was basically war -related. if it was not proven, chances are they did not get a pension. >> i've never seen a statistic. i do not know if they compiled it. >> another good source would be the museum of civil war medicine in frederick, because they have a lot of exhibits. they have done a lot of research. they may have gone into the database, and they might be a better source than i because they are focusing on civil war medicine. they may have much more information on file. any other questions? i leave today, hopefully, these stories have gotten, conveyed to
9:49 am
you the importance of the archives and how they really remain a national repository for records. i encourage you to make use of the archives. and i encourage you to also visit the maryland historical society to see some of these objects firsthand. after we wrap up today, i have got copies of reflections that i just spoke of a moment ago for those who would like copies. and i thank all of you for coming today. [applause] >> here are some of our featured programs for this weekend on the c-span networks. tonight at 10:00 white house correspondent april ryan on her more than 25 years in journalism and her coverage of three presidential administrations. sunday at noon, our conversation with walter isaacson whose biographies include ben
9:50 am
franklin, albert einstein, and steve jobs. on american history tv on cspan3 at 6:00, the boston college history professor on how the cowboy became symbolic of a newly unified america. sunday evening at 6:00, we will tour the house that was the headquarters of the american red cross and learn about the life of its founder. find our complete schedule at let us know what you think about the programs you are watching. call us, e-mail us, or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter. general 27 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the auschwitz con


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on