Friday, July 3, 2009

Canvas pullers...

Before you all go out and buy a new wall tent or A-frame, check out this article. Pretty interesting...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Civil War Shotput

Here's a little story about an artilleryman from Eli Lilly's battery during the battle of Chickamauga. The battery had been deployed beside the Alexander house at the opening of the battle, and were supporting Wilder's lightning brigade. That's when this amazing story occurred.
Excerpt is from "This Terrible Sound" by Peter Cozzens.

Captain William Fowler's Alabama Battery returned the fire from a hill a half mile away. The first Rebel shell arched toward Lilly's gunners with an "awful, unearthly screeching. It seemed as if it never would strike it was so long coming...We all knew, from the sound of it, that it would strike someplace close by," recalled cannoneer Henry Campbell. The shell crashed through the trees. It bounced in front of gun number two, ricocheted off the corner of the Alexander cabin, then fell back among the horrified artillerymen with the fuse sizzling. Private Sidney Speed coolly picked up the shell and heaved it over the cabin, where it burst harmlessly on the other side. An amazed Captain Lilly cited Speed for gallantry in his after action report."

Hokey smokes!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009


So there are a lot of research articles and such out there that fellow reenactors and amateur historians have put many long hours into, and this is another of those types of sites.

These guys are the Salt River Rifles, and have some excellent stuff on their website. Check it out, its very interesting!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Sorry about the lack of posts, trying to get the crops in the ground here in good 'ol Indiana. Most of the spring has been like a monsoon season! Found this on the Authentic Campaigner site, and wanted to pass it on for all those early spring and late fall events where the weather gets a bit frosty!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And a Nickname is Born

Most of you probably know that Ulysses S. Grant was nicknamed "Unconditional Surrender" Grant by the northern press after he took Fort Donelson. What some of you might not know is the exchange of dispatches between the opposing commanders that brought this about. Found this in the TimeLife "Voices of the Civil War" series of books.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant:
"Before daylight General Smith brought to me the following letter from General Buckner: 'Sir, in consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of Commissioners to agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in that view, suggest an armistice until 2 o'clock today."

Major John H. Brinton (Brigadier General on Grant's staff):
"The night was inclement. Our troops slept on their arms, General C.F. Smith's division being absolutely within the lines of defense around Fort Donelson. All apparently passed quietly enough, no sorties by the enemy and no attack by us. General Grant slept at his headquarters in a feather bed in the kitchen, and I remember that I was curled up on the floor near the fire with my head resting in the seat of my saddle. Early, very early, an orderly entered, ushering in General C.F. Smith, who seemed very cold, indeed half frozen. He walked at once to the open fire on the hearth, for a moment warmed his feet, then turned his back to the fire, facing General Grant who had slipped out of bed, and who was quickly drawing on his outer clothes.

'There's something for you to read, General Grant," said Smith, handing him a letter and while he was doing so, Smith asked us for something to drink. My flask, the only liquor on the Staff, was handed to him, and he helped himself in a soldier-like manner. I can almost see him now, erect, manly, every inch a soldier, standing in front of the fire, twisting his long white moustache and wiping his lips.

'What answer shall I send to this, General Smith,' asked Grant.

'No terms to the damned rebels," replied Smith. Those were his actual words. General Grant gave a short laugh, and drawing a piece of paper, letter size, and of rather poor quality, began to write. In a short time, certainly, not many minutes, he finished and read aloud as if to General Smith, but really so that we understrappers could all hear, his famous "Unconditional surrender" letter, ending with,

'I propose to move immediately upon your works.'

General Smith gave a short emphatic 'Hm!' and remarking, "It's the same thing in smoother words," stalked out of the room to deliver the letter, which was shortly followed by the return answer of surrender.

Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner:

Headquarters Dover, Tenn.,
February 16, 1862
To Brig.-Gen. U.S. Grant, U.S.A.:
Sir: The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose. I am, sir, your very obedient servant,

S.B. Buckner
Brig.-Gen. C.S.A.

Well played, sir. Bully!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Camp Musicians

At the time of the Civil War, minstrel tunes sung with the accompaniment of the banjo and fiddle were the most popular forms of music, so it was only natural that within the armies, there were literally thousands of musicians. These camp musicians were one of the ways for the men to remove themselves from the monotony and terror of war. One famous musician, Sam Sweeney (brother of Joel Sweeney who is credited with the invention of the 5 string banjo), had only one job during the war. He was J.E.B. Stuart's personal banjo player and played for the troops, the general, and his guests.

The following story is from an article entitled "Reminiscences of a Banjo Player" published in the February 1893 issue of S.S. Stewart's Banjo and Guitar Journal. Mr. A. Baur relates the following:

"...In 1864 there were very few regiments in the service that had more than one wagon for the whole regiment...Strict orders were at all times issued that no baggage must be carried for an enlisted man in any of the wagons...Where there's a will, there's a way, and a few of us managed with the help of a friendly teamster to stow away a tack head banjo and an accordion...

If the weather was pleasant, a crowd would gather around the camp fire, the banjo and accordion having been sneaked out of the wagon and a door from some farm house or a couple of boards having been put on the ground on one side of the fire, the audience would take it's place on the opposite side, when the evening's entertainment would be gone through with. It consisted of songs with banjo and accordion accompaniment, stories of home and jig dancing. The performances were crude but helped while away many a lonely hour and remind us of home and friends in the far north.

Owing to poor facilities for keeping the instruments in order, the instrumental part of our entertainments were always the poorest. Sometimes it would be weeks before we could get a string, and if the banjo head was broken, it took much time and maneuvering for one of our party to steal into the tent of a drummer and punch a hole in a drum near the shell, after which we would watch that drummer's tent with eagle eyes until he took the damaged head and threw it out, when 'one of the gang' would pounce on it and bring it to camp in a round about way. Owing to their thickness, the drum heads did not make very good banjo heads, but they beat 'nothing clear out of sight.' In addition to the banjo and accordion, we had a set of beef bones and a sheet iron mess pan that answered for a tambourine. Taking into consideration our surroundings and the disadvantages under which we labored, we had some tolerably good shows and at any rate satisfied our open air audiences..."

As I am currently working on learning how to play the minstrel style banjo, I saw this and thought it very interesting. Maybe a flavor to be added to our camps at night during reenactments, and if we don't have a banjo handy, just make our own instruments with whatever is laying around. Of course, be courteous to sleeping messmates as it will probably be a noise most likely to wake the dead!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Battle of Chicago's Beer Gardens

Whew! It's been awhile! Well let's get right to it.

This tale comes from Robert Strong, and involves his return trip to Illinois after the war. His regiment was sent back to Chicago. They wired the mayor asking for quarters and provisions and got none! They were then ordered to to different quarters, still with nothing to eat. You can imagine the mood the men were in by this time.

"We reached our camp at nine o'clock Friday morning and found some rations had been sent to us. On opening the boxes of crackers, we found them alive with worms. The meat was so maggotty that we could not eat it. Then we were mad! Our officers bought us some dinner and the quartermaster was sent for. He attempted to apologize for the condition of the rations. He was told that if he did not very soon have full, clean rations on the grounds, we would hang him. The rations came, but we stayed mad.

Adjoining the camp was a Dutch beer garden. On sunday morining it began to fill up with men and women coming to spend the day drinking and dancing.

The other regiments in camp besides the 105th (Strong's unit) did not go home saturday night, but went almost in a body into these beer gardens. Early on sunday, a soldier in one of those regiments bought a whopping big glass of beer and drunk the health of "Old Billy Sherman." When this soldier toasted Old Billy, a big Dutchman said, "Damn Sherman." The soldier knocked him down with his beer glass. Others came to the Dutchman's rescue, and for a time I thought they would clean us out.

Just then, some soldier called out, "Attention, Sherman's Bummers to the rescue!" and then, Oh my countrymen, began a fierce fight. In ten minutes, the saloon keeper had not a bottle or keg or box of cigars unsmashed, and he himself lay senseless on the ground. Police came rushing in with their clubs, and they got a drubbing. The battle kept roaring for two hours. We did not go for our guns, but used our fists and chairs and the clubs which we had taken away from the policemen.

The mayor ordered out all the police and himself came to quell the riot. He swore he would arrest every one of us. As it happened, General Joe Hooker, who had formerly had command of us, appeared about then. He told the mayor: 'These boys are mad at the way you have used them, but will quiet down if you let them alone. But if you bring any more policemen or new troops here, they will think it fun to whip the whole crowd. They have faced cannon and musketry for three years, and do not know what fear is. Let them alone or they will burn down your city.'

So the mayor left us alone."

Awesome. Go Hooker!