Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The War in 1865: Part Six

Starting positions on the first day of the Battle of Bentonville. This would be the "last grand charge" of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The Union forces were driven back but did not break. This is another example of the excellent period maps available in my The Civil War Today app.
Ending positions of the first day at Bentonville.  Sherman would bring up the rest of his army over the next two days and force Johnston to retreat.  Johnston and much of his army narrowly escaped capture.
Note:  This is a continuation of the end of the War Between the States 150 years ago as told by my app, The Civil War Today.

General Philip Sheridan's cavalry force roamed freely in northern and central Virginia.  He raided multiple rail depots and appeared only twenty miles from Richmond in no time. He damaged an important aqueduct on the James River Canal. Private property was being ravished by the Union cavalry as well. General George Pickett's division was sent to deal with this threat to General Robert E. Lee's line of communications. 

General William Hardee's small corps of Confederates was ordered by General Joseph E. Johnston to block the Union corps of General Henry Slocum at Averasboro, North Carolina. This was a full battle, the first Sherman's army had encountered since leaving Savannah several weeks ago.  The Confederates were insufficient in number, however, and Slocum swept them aside as he continued his advance. There were about 1,200 casualties in this short sharp fight.

The Civil War Today app reports on March 17: "The Federal Armies of West Mississippi, under the command of General Edward Canby, and numbering in the tens of thousands, are marching on Mobile, Alabama. Union troops are moving north from the area of Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay, and a separate column is mobilizing at Pensacola, Florida. The U.S. Navy has been in control of Mobile Bay since August, and are playing a major role in the new campaign.

"A Confederate dispatch from Mobile to Richmond last week reports: 'Fourteen vessels were added to the fleet to-day, making twenty one in sight of the city. Great activity prevails with the enemy in Lower Bay. There is every indication of an early attack. The enemy have fired a few shots at both shores.'"

General Johnston concentrated his entire "army" of about 17,000 against one wing of Sherman's 60,000. The Southern troops, many former Army of Tennessee boys, attacked at Bentonville. The largest battled so far in 1865 began with the Rebels penetrating Yankee positions and driving a considerable distance before reinforcements steadied the Northern lines.  The next day Sherman concentrated upon Johnston, who extended his weak lines to cover his flanks. There was constant, heavy skirmishing. On the third day Sherman attacked and broke through the Southern left flank, threatening to cut off the route of retreat for Johnston's entire army.  The Rebels shifted troops from one side of the battlefield to the other, counterattacked, and reopened the vital road which served as the Confederate retreat path.  

Simultaneously, General John Schofield captured Goldsboro, NC against very little Confederate resistance.  With the fall of that city and with his army in crisis, almost surrounded, Johnston's command hastened away, so as not to be cut off from communications with General Lee.  The Battle of Bentonville resulted in about 1,600 Union killed and wounded and about 2,000 for the Confederates.  Over 1,500 Southerners were reported as missing, some captured, some perhaps escaping the agony of war when all seemed lost.

After the battle Sherman joined up with Schofield at Goldsboro.  Once the rail road from New Bern was repair for logistics purposes, Sherman planned to have over 100,000 men at his disposal.  His plan was to march on Petersburg and combine his mighty force with the Army of the Potomac commanded by General George Meade but under the direct supervision of General Ulysses S. Grant. General Johnston warned General Lee that he had insufficient numbers to truly confront the mass of Sherman.  "I can do no more than annoy him," Johnston wrote.  There was heavy skirmishing at Mill Creek until the remains of Johnston's army safely withdrew. The battle was hailed as a victory in Richmond, though most realized it failed to stop Sherman.

13,000 Union cavalry under General James Wilson began a campaign throughout Alabama, concentrating on destroying mines, arms factories, and foundries that still operated for the Confederacy. General Nathan Bedford Forrest offered the only resistance to the Federals, commanding about 7,000 poorly supplied cavalry. Simultaneously, a smaller Union cavalry force under General George Stoneman crossed the North Carolina mountains by way of Knoxville, Tennessee to raid the parts of the state that Sherman's army did not march through. Stoneman encountered no opposition and was able to move at will.

General Lee realized that the Army of the Potomac would eventually be reinforced by General Sheridan's cavalry from the north and General Sherman's large army from the south. The Army of Northern Virginia, occupying 50 miles of fortifications around Petersburg and Richmond for many months now, would finally be overwhelmed. Lee ordered General John B. Gordon to find a weak point anywhere in the Union lines and attack. The hope was to break through the Northern position and reach Grant's main supply depot at City Point, Virginia.  Deprived of supply, the sheer size of the Union army would cause mass confusion and potentially break the long siege.

Before dawn on March 25, Gordon surprised the Federals by attacking Fort Stedman with about 11,000 infantry, capturing the fort and about 1,000 yards of entrenchments. The captured artillery inside the fort was turned and the Confederates poured enfilading fire up and down the Northern lines. As the sun rose the Rebel momentum waned, however. Union artillery concentrated on the fort and reinforcements were rushed to the area. Federal troops counterattacked, recaptured the fort, and drove the Southerners back into their own trenches.

Gordon's command suffered over 3,000 casualties which the South could not replace.  1,500 Confederates were captured in their retreat.  Union loses totaled about 1,000.  That evening Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis that his weakened and overextended army could not hold its current position for much longer.  Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln, who coincidentally was meeting with Grant at City Point at the time, visited the battlefield and Meade's headquarters.  Lincoln observed the burial of many of the Union dead from the battle before returning to City Point.

The following day Lincoln reviewed Federal positions along the James River as he waited for Sherman to join Grant and himself for a strategic conference. The war continued in Alabama, with Northern cavalry closing in on Selma while a combined naval and infantry force put more pressure on Mobile.  Skirmishing picked up near Birmingham as the Confederates attempted to resist multiple Union maneuvers while evacuating trains to less threatened parts of the state.

Sherman arrived at City Point the following day.  It was the first time he had directly appeared before other Union generals and staff since he left Chattanooga for the start of the Atlanta Campaign in May 1864.  He met with Lincoln, Grant, and Admiral D.D. Porter to discuss strategic coordination against Lee's army.  The meeting lasted two days.  Lincoln expressed concern that Lee might abandon Petersburg and join up with Johnston's forces in North Carolina, a move which could extend the war for many months.  

Federal naval and ground forces continued their slow, methodical investment of Mobile.  The forces laid siege to Confederate fortifications outside the city and attempted to maneuver their naval power where it could be most effective. This was thwarted by a collection of small Rebel gunboats and a plentiful supply of floating torpedoes released into the waters near the area.

After 11 months of siege, Grant moved in force against Lee's right flank at Petersburg.  Grant had assembled some 125,000 men against Lee's dwindling 55,000.  The Union commander sent 15,000 infantry in an attempt to block the Confederate supply lines.  The Yankees pushed the Rebels back until Southern reinforcements were brought in to stabilize the sector.  The battle lasted for several hours. Meanwhile, Sherman returned to his army in North Carolina and Sheridan's cavalry continued to harass and destroy vital Confederate interests roaming freely south of Petersburg.

Lee ordered thousands of his infantry under Pickett to strengthen his extended right flank.  These men joined Confederate cavalry under General Fitzhugh Lee near Five Forks, Virginia to protect Lee's vital line of communication with Johnston's small army and the rest of the South.  Lee gambled by removing some troops from his left and center in order to reinforce against Grant's maneuvers on his right flank.

Torrential rainfall delayed Northern maneuvers and bought Lee time to make adjustments. Sheridan's cavalry attacked Pickett's division in hopes of routing them before they could entrench, but the attack was repulsed with few Southern casualties.  To the east, Lee made an attack of his own.  As reported in The Civil War Today app: 

"A separate, more deadly battle was fought today along the White Oak Road, to the east, where Lee's troops attempted to outflank Union infantry and cut them off from Sheridan at Dinwiddie. The Yankees were driven back in early fighting, but more V Corps troops arrived to stabilize the Union lines. By mid afternoon the Federals launched a counterattack, led by General Chamberlain's brigade, who charged the exhausted Rebels and pushed them back across White Oak Road. By this evening, the Union had seized a stretch of the road, which cuts off General Pickett at Five Forks from the rest of Lee's army. Both sides lost hundreds of men in this day's fighting. Some of Warren's troops are marching tonight to Sheridan's aid at Dinwiddie."

With Pickett's infantry isolated at Five Forks, the Confederate position suddenly became even more precarious.
The March 24 issue of The New York Tribune featured the Field of Operations in North Carolina as well as stories on the fall of Wimington and the Battle of Bentonville.  The price of a single copy was four cents. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back to Cumberland Island

The Riverview Hotel in St. Mary's.  We Armadillos always stay here before boarding the ferry for the island.
Our camp.  The raccoon cage is essential to keep the pesky critters from stealing your food.  We tried to spruce it up a bit, vacation style.
I spent last Sunday - Tuesday on Cumberland Island.  It was my first time back on the island in about 15 years.  Long-time readers know the island was the subject of an earlier post and you can find references to it many times throughout this blog. My daughter motivated my return, just as her mother had been my motivation back in 1988.  It would be my daughter's first trip to the island - how could I refuse?

She was out for spring break and had requested to go to Cumberland Island late last fall.  I agreed to go, Jennifer made reservations for the ferry ride over.  The original plan was that my daughter's boyfriend might go with us, but his school schedule did not allow it.  So we gave the extra ferry ticket to Clint, who I met the same day I met Jennifer in 1987, and with whom I have been to Cumberland Island several times.

The four of us made the long drive down via Waycross, stopping off I-75 for lunch at Tifton.  We drove south into and ever-increasing fog that hung around all morning.  Jennifer and I listened to some Neil on the way down while my daughter watched a movie.  After a while we commented on the degrees of fog we were persistently driving through.  Lite fog, heavy fog, mist, drizzle. We judged by the variable setting for intermittent windshield wipers and, of course, sheer visibility, which was at times quite limited.  Just as well. There is not much to see along I-75 in South Georgia anyway.

Clint drove separately.  There was absolutely no room for another single thing in our packed tight Cadillac SUV, containing all sorts of things for camping on the island along with three passengers. I could only see what was behind me through the side mirrors, the cargo space and one downed back seat was nothing but a monstrous mass of bags, camp gear, plastic tubs stuffed full, and a cooler with an extra 12-pack of Bud Light.  Sam Adams was already iced down with our food.

We arrived in St. Mary's mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked in to the Riverside Hotel, the traditional Cumberland Island Armadillo haven of rest.  Jennifer, Clint, and my daughter walked the nearby shops and I reacquainted myself with the hotel lobby, hallway, large upstairs porch, and, of course, the bar.  Jennifer, Clint, and I enjoyed a couple of fine cold draft beers while reminiscing about pastimes spent together with various friends in this bar.  It was a breezy sunny day outside, a band of rain having come through the night before our arrival.  This trip was perfect timing on the sunshine.

The next morning we boarded the ferry.  My daughter got a proper initiation in loading up the ferry with all our stuff. She received bountiful gnat bites to exposed places in her clothing and spots untreated with repellent.  I dislike insect repellents due to the residual sensation on the skin. I bundled up instead and received a couple of dozen bites on my hands. I got hot being so overdressed but it is my preferred method for getting stuff on and off the ferry. I get fewer bites.  Bug bites are just part of the island experience.

This was my first time to camp on Cumberland.  All my previous trips were backpacking ones. In recent years Jennifer and my Armadillo friends have become strict campers at Sea Camp, preferring the luxuries of coolers and equipment with all kinds of booze and food, and maybe day hikes and bike rides thrown in.  I admit this is a fine way to experience the island but it all seemed pretty decadent to me really.  I might backpack whenever I return to the island.  It is such a unique space I prefer to let the island speak for itself. And it did at Sea Camp, only I had to filter out a lot of material interference I brought on my self.

We loaded down the only available baggage carts and it still took two trips to walk everything into our Sea Camp assignment.  It is about a quarter mile walk to Sea Camp from the Ranger Station.  I made the hike twice coming back and three times going before we had everything in camp. Meanwhile, people were scurrying around the Ranger Station.  Some were going to hike down to Dungeness, some rented bikes and were destined for all sorts of places on the island, some took off for a backcountry backpacking experience, the rest were like us, settling in at Sea Camp or visiting the beach. One group of backpackers reminded me of my travels here in the early 1990's.  Young guys and girls donned their gear and posed in front of a timed camera on a tripod.  I've done that before.  

Jennifer, who has been there 15 times or more, says that time stands still on Cumberland Island.  The trips are all connected in the same thread of time. Or perhaps all time spent on the island is connected in the vast timeless experience of it. Either way, I agree with her. Those young people getting the photo taken before their big backpacking trip on the island are in the same mental tone as I was 25 years ago.  Those years are meaningless when you are on the island.  Those years only exist off island, on the mainland.

It was mostly overcast that Sunday, our first afternoon on the island.  We set up camp at a casual pace, taking special care to stow anything the raccoons might want in the cage provided in the camp.  The raccoons at Sea Camp are numerous and assertive, as Clint and Jennifer knew from previous 'Dillo visits over the past five years.  But as soon as things were put away we spent a lot of time down on the beach, the incredible bountiful secluded beach of the island; about 10-11 miles of pristine white sand, as good as any public beach in Florida, remarkably wide at low tide, with more feral horses and shore birds than people.  Only 300 guests are allowed on the island each day, 60 for Sea Camp, 60 for backcountry, a few for the Greyfield Inn, and the rest are day-only visitors. That is an amazing amount of island and beach for an elite number of people, maybe 150 in all, not counting the Ranger staff and volunteer workers.

Our camp site itself was perhaps the finest at Sea Camp. Jennifer and Clint have collectively camped in several other Sea Camp spots over the past five years and they both think this one is the best.  I can't complain.  It was closest to the dunes and the beach, it had ample space for privacy, and it had a small path behind it that could only be entered from the camp itself leading to a viewing space on top of the large dune slowly rolling into the live oak forest.  That private dune afforded truly extraordinary vistas and we had plenty of clear dry weather to behold the glory of it.

The way out to the beach from Sea Camp is along a well constructed wooden boardwalk with railings to rest against and to keep visitors off the dunes. Walking is prohibited there, which is another reason our private dune space was so luxurious. But the views from the walkway are wonderful. You get a real sense of the pristine natural dune ecosystem, as complete as anywhere on the Atlantic coastline.  At one point a great wave of dune reaches up through the floor of the walkway and melds with it.  For a few feet you are walking on the sandy dune with no wood under you; quickly again though the boardwalk resumes and takes you all the way through the scrubby dune area.
We enjoyed gorgeous weather and fantastic seaside views. Here Clint and Jennifer check things out from our camp's luxurious "private dune." The blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean are just beyond the inter-coastal dune area.
The view from our dune.  You can make out the wooden walkway peeking through the shrubby growth.  The dunes peak near the beach.  At low tide you can easily observe the waves break and the few people on walking the shoreline from our dune perch.
Clint and me on the dune.  It felt so amazingly open, relaxing, and inspiring.
The beach is sandy, pristine, and virtually private.  This view is looking north at miles and miles of wonderful wide beach.
Pelicans.
Terns and sandpipers.
A seagull.
Deer are plentiful on the island.
We saw and heard wild turkeys every day at Sea Camp.  On our last morning there we were awakened by some constant, loud gobbling in the palmetto bushes near our tents.
Jennifer took this beautiful shot of clouds over the ocean at sunset.
I first walked out at low tide.  My daughter had gone ahead a half hour earlier as I helped situate our camp.  Then I opened the cooler, popped a beer, and walked from our campsite all along the walkway and out to where my daughter was lying on the beach, about a quarter mile away.  Then I walked past her down to the very edge of the tide and looked back upon the vast open beach.  The beach has a common transition of heavy white sand to more compact sand to the smoothness of the occasional surf.

I looked south and saw a paper mill in Florida near Fernandina Beach, only a few miles away.  To the north it was all beach with a few dots of people and horses and lots of shore bird action.  We were so privileged; to be here with my wife and daughter and one of my best friends and have it all so practically private.  It was easy to mute all other people from my awareness.  It was easy to just see this natural space, listen to the ocean break, and feel the salty wind in your face as if there were no one else around.

My daughter stayed on the beach all afternoon, reading a novel, staring into space and texting - you can get cellular coverage out on the beach, not in camp.  She remained plugged in and zoned out at the same time.  She and Jennifer collected seashells later that afternoon.  I stayed out for awhile but Clint and I decided to hang around camp, enjoy the bird calls and the live oak canopy.  I drank more beer.  It did not take me long to get in to the mindset of the island. Later, we had a hearty campfire, cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows and watched for raccoons.  The coons were active every night.  One stole half a can of Sprite.  Another got some aluminum foil with food residue on it.

Generally speaking we kept everything they would seriously want in the cage.  We didn't have too big of a problem.  Some neighbors had their garbage ripped up and partially stolen one night, but otherwise it was just a bunch of rustling in the thick palmettos under the live oaks after dark. Sometimes the rustling was not raccoons.  One evening it was a couple of armadillos.  There were opossums prowling around as well. We spotted deer near camp and had horses stroll through. We were in the wild. There are a few alligators and still some boar on the island.  They tend to stay on the northern end, however.

One afternoon a male and female Cardinal flitted about our picnic tables, and pecked the ground of our camp.  The male tried to chase off a squirrel, but a couple of the little creatures avoided the birds and came around to campfire. One stole the remains of an apple core and scooted up a tree before the other could checkout the site. Discovering that there was nothing else to be had the second squirrel proceeded to climb the tree and make threatening noises and gestures towards the first squirrel, whose mouth was biting as fast as it could as it expertly twirled the apple round and round.  My daughter watched all this from her hammock while I sat motionless in my beach chair. We giggled. The second squirrel never got any of that apple. 

A low point was when I stuck my hand in coon shit. I was moving around by the flickering fire light to get a plastic sheet and a stool where I had changed out of my running shoes into my beach shoes.  I used the plastic as a "clean" space for my feet to air out and be inspected. I simply leaned down to pick up the corner of the plastic and lifted it to shake off the bits of leaves and sand that had gathered on it while laying there.  I immediately felt something wet on my right index finger.  I dropped the plastic and moved over to my flashlight.  Sure enough, it was wet green coon poop.  I had to break out an antiseptic wipe for that situation.  Everyone in the camp roared with laughter, including myself. Another Cumberland Island first, Keith is the first 'Dillo to stick his hand in raccoon shit.

On Monday morning Jennifer, my daughter, and I rented bicycles.  Clint wanted to hang around the camp and the beach. So off we went on a family adventure.  We rode up to Stafford Beach, about three and a half miles away, to show my daughter where her mother and I spent our honeymoon. It has changed a lot since then.  Some pines are now missing and there is a lot of undergrowth to give the backpacking camp sites more privacy.  The biggest addition is a bathhouse which did not exist at all 15 years ago.  We checked out a private house nearby that is supposedly abandoned.  There was no one around but the place looked to be in good repair to us.

Stafford Beach took us about half way to our ultimate destination.  North of Stafford House the island turns into a wilderness area.  No campfires are allowed.  There are three camping spots in the northern half of the island.  Two of those have access only to sulfur water.  One has fresh water for treating or filtering.  The island has one long main road running along the higher ground at the middle of it. Frequently, you can see a mile or so in either direction because the road is so straight and relatively flat.  Almost four miles from Stafford Beach we came upon Plum Orchard.

Plum Orchard is a bizarre sight in the middle of the jungle-like wilderness areas of the central island.  It is situated away form the ocean, on the river side of the island.  It is a 24,000 square foot party house from about 1898 to 1918, complete with a heated indoor swimming pool, a refrigeration unit that produced boundless amounts of ice, indoor tennis squash court, numerous bedrooms, parlor rooms, social rooms, music rooms, and dining rooms.  The house required many servants who worked for pennies on the hour, the height of the Gilded Age. Servant areas of Plum Orchard were separated from guest and private areas by color of door handle.  If a handle was black it was an entrance into a servant space. A complex of outer houses was constructed along with Plum Orchard.  There were hunting lodges and picnic pavilions scattered all about the coastal jungle as the neoclassical mansion accommodated a steady stream of wealthy visitors.

My daughter and I biking up the island and into Stafford Beach.
Twin Italian Cypress welcome you to Plum Orchard.  As you can see, the weather was just perfect.
The formal dining room at Plum Orchard.  Quite a contrast to Sea Camp.
Two of many Tiffany lamps custom made for Plum Orchard.  The antique collection seen during the tour of the mansion was more than impressive.
The entrance to the mansion.
Another view of the entrance, my daughter just above the steps. Her first time on the island allowed me to reconnect to my earliest impressions of the space.
After biking seven miles up on sandy roads, we rested under an enormous live oak that predated the mansion’s existence, drinking water and snacking for a moment.  A feisty, elderly lady sat in a rocking chair at the entry way of the mansion. She asked if we'd like a tour. We were delighted. We had hoped for a tour, it had been decades since I had been inside Plum Orchard.  It was closed for renovations I last came to the island. My daughter was very interested in the huge old house and how the wealthy lived a century ago.  We took the tour with a couple of backpacking college girls on their spring break from school in North Carolina.  The ornate mansion was a striking contrast to Sea Camp.  We had come a long way both in terms of geography and economic class.  We were walking inside the shell of what was once busy with the super elite at leisure.

The bike ride back to Sea Camp was uneventful and took about an hour.  My daughter ran off to the beach but Jennifer and I took our time. It was a remarkably clear day with low humidity.  I walked up to our private dune after a late lunch and was amazed by the vivid colors in the ocean, the pristine nature of the large dune area, and of course the special enjoyment of seemingly having all that space to ourselves.  I was certainly connected to it.  Feeling the sea breeze and hearing the ocean so clearly even from our private dune proclaimed the vast space and distance which we were part; a motherly openness that seemed to dissipate all angst and concern.  

Cumberland Island is like a gigantic karmic sponge. It soaks up all your tensions and lets your mind run clear through the forests and marshes and beaches and history.  There is more of the island than any trouble you try to possess.  The island takes, you let go, and that way you can feel the wonder of the island calming, clarifying, and inspiring you.  It makes you almost weightless while basking in its lightness.

My daughter set her Fitbit to wake her early on Tuesday.  She and I watched the sunrise alone, at first on the private dune and then at the water's edge.  We took photos of each other. Sometimes she gave me her phone to take a pic, an extended selfie to post on the various social media outlets. Look at me losers, I have all of this to myself.  

The sun was magical as always.  I posed as she took a shot of me from essentially the same angle as a previous photo of me that I have had since around 1990.  This island runs deep with me and I wanted to connect the two moments in time. Jennifer is right.  All the island experiences are in singular time. That is both a poetic and yet accurate way to relate to the island.

After breakfast we all spent time on the beach under clear blue skies.  It was warmer that day but not yet hot in the morning.  We came in for lunch. Clint and I decided to hike down to Dungeness while Jennifer and my daughter would spend the entire day at the beach.  It felt good to hike. We took the main road down, an almost perfectly straight view to the grounds near the island's mansion ruins. The beachy road veers back to the left before coming to the main building, so you can't see any of Dungeness from Sea Camp though the road is as straight as an arrow for about one mile through thick live oak and palmetto forest.
More common to the island is the live oak canopy with palmetto undergrowth.  This provides a lot of shade and habitat for all kinds of bird action.
The ruins of Dungeness located on the southern part of the island, about 8 miles away from Plum Orchard.
Dungeness itself had not changed much.  The dorm buildings for the rangers on the island were as I remembered them. But the carport shed with the Studebaker and other old cars was gone.  It is all cleaned up there now.  Clint wanted to walk out to the edge of the marsh and check out that environment.  It was open and very windy so bugs were no problem at all. They can't fly in such wind. After a brief rest there we headed back.  A feral colt was walking on the road back toward the ruins.  It stood there defiantly, stuck its mouth toward us and showed us its teeth in a (for Clint and me) humorous display of aggression.  The horse looked stupid.  But we kept our distance, allowing it and it's mares to pass, giving them the road.

We stopped in the Ice House Museum at the Dungeness Dock and became tourists to the history of the island.  Then we took the River Trail back to the Ranger Station and over to our place in Sea Camp again.  It was almost three miles hiking round trip. Pretty easy and rewarded with cold drinking fountains near Dungeness.  Restrooms and clean cold water are a nice treat while camping. Clint later reminded me that this was the first time he and I visited Dungeness without other ‘Dillos joining us. The rest of that evening, our last on the island, would be at camp and the beach.
A large marsh estuary lies further south from Dungeness. The island is remarkable for its varied habitats.
My daughter took this pic of me taking a photo of the crescent moon from our private dune just before sunrise.
I took a photo of her in the same spot.
Then she and I left the dune and caught the sunrise on the beach.
Jennifer and she seem to have the beach to themselves.
The family portrait on the beach.
Four 'Dillos prepare to return to the mainland after a wonderful island experience. Taken at the Ranger Station while waiting on the ferry.
My evenings on the island were always short, as the sky got completely dark through the trees.  I was usually the first one to turn in.  I slept well, untroubled.  The next day we arose early, packed up our camp and carried down it down in the rickety carts provided by the Ranger Station dock for the 10AM ferry.  There was a constant breeze that morning so gnats wee not a big issue while unloading.  I got a couple more bites.  We had a big lunch at a local restaurant before driving back home.

Later that day we experienced the horror of Atlanta rush hour traffic, which was quite a contrast to our private dune on the island the day before.  We passed Turner Field at 5:05 and got to Barrett Parkway an hour later.  We didn't zip right along, obviously, but we made it through in a reasonable time.  Our SUV came to a full stop only twice in that distance. We were minus Clint when we had dinner before driving home; it was a fast food affair as none of us looked suitable for fine dining after camping on the island.  It felt good to do the family thing in a Cumberland Island style.  Having my daughter go with Jennifer and me added a fun perspective.  I observed her joyful (with accents of whininess) novice experience of the island.  It felt good to be with her and feel the island with her. I knew what she felt. Her mother is right, it is always the same place in time when you go to Cumberland Island, you are just dipping in and out of it throughout this thing called Life.


This is me at sunrise circa 1990. Jennifer took this one at Stafford Beach.
My daughter took a similar pose some 25 years later. The island is timeless and each visit seems like a continuation of the last no matter how long you have been away from its special natural beauty.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The War in 1865: Part Five

Note:  This is part of my continuing series on the end of the War Between the States 150 years ago as depicted in my The Civil War Today app.

On March 1, 1865 the State of New Jersey became the third Union state to vote against the 13th amendment. Significantly, this was the first free-state to dissent in ratification, the two previous states, Kentucky and Delaware, were slave-states within the Union. The Civil War Today app quotes from The New York Times:  "The discussion of the Constitutional Amendment continued during the principal part of the day. The vote was taken about five o'clock, and the amendment was defeated by a vote of 30 yeas against 30 nays. The result received cheers and hisses in the lobbies. It was a strict party vote."

My app goes on to explain: "New Jersey is one of the more conservative Northern states, home to many War Democrats who have favored a war to preserve the Union but reject the abolition of slavery as their cause. The state passed gradual emancipation laws in 1804, but did not abolish slavery outright until 1846, and there are still, in fact, a small number of persons remaining in indentured servitude within the state. It should be pointed out that New Jersey's apprenticeship provisions were mainly intended to provide for former slaves in their old age, more so than to hold them in perpetual bondage. The state senate is to debate the amendment later this month."


A small Confederate force under General Jubal Early still controlled the southern portion of the Shenandoah Valley in early March when Union cavalry under General George A. Custer attacked Early.  Custer managed to flank the Rebel positions at Waynesboro, Virginia, thereby routing the Southerners.  Early and his staff narrowly escaped being captured.  It was a complete Yankee victory and left the entire valley in Union possession for the first time in the war.  Soon Union cavalry were approaching Charlottesville, VA, about 90 miles in the rear of General Robert E. Lee's entrenched army at Petersburg and Richmond.


The 38th US Congress worked into the night in its final session. President Abraham Lincoln was likewise up late signing legislation hammered out at the last minute. A major piece of legislation established the Freedman's Bureau, to handle the transition of freed blacks from slavery. It also provided Federal assistance for the enormous number to refugees in the destitute South, freed blacks as well as whites displaced by the war.


President Lincoln was sworn in for his second term the next day.  His speech was marked with determination, appreciation, and - to the chagrin of many in his party - reconciliation with the South. He stated: "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God wills that it continue until...every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword...so it must be." Afterwards, the President and his wife hosted a reception of about 6,000 attendees.


One of the attendees, Andrew Johnson, the new Vice-President, apparently suffered from typhoid fever, which he attempted to treat the night before with whiskey.  He drank too heavily for his frail condition, even on that morning of the event, and was drunk when he was sworn in.  He gave an address in which he is quoted in one of the app's Quotes of the Day (I believe he is referring to The Bible he was sworn in on): "I kiss this book in the face of the nation, the United States." This caused one senator to write his wife that Johnson "disgraced himself and the Senate by giving a drunken foolish speech."


Several sharp clashes broke out between Yankee and Rebel troops as Sherman's army closed in on the North Carolina state line.  Union advances along the NC coast from New Bern and Wilmington were also met with heavy skirmishing. By now the Confederates had scratched together enough troops to meet each Federal advance but there were still insufficient numbers to offer full battle let alone to stop the Union forces anywhere. 


In naval action, the Union Mississippi River Squadron sent several mortar boats to Mobile Bay to assist with the planned attack on the city of Mobile, Alabama which remained in Confederate control despite the loss of the bay in 1864. Meanwhile, near the Virginia coast, a Rebel gunboat was destroyed by the USS Don after an exchange of fire on a large creek feeding into the Potomac River. 


While President Lincoln and his wife hosted 4,000 guests at the 1865 Inaugural Ball, Union cavalry under General Judson Kilpatrick entered North Carolina as Sherman's mass of infantry trudged through the mud in South Carolina without opposition.  General Joseph Johnston established his headquarters at Fayetteville, NC.  The remnants of the Army of Tennessee that had come east after being defeated at Nashville in 1864, gathered with significant Confederate cavalry, infantry units from the coast, and some militia and cadet training units to try to form a new army.  


The diaries and letters of 15 individuals are followed on a daily basis in The Civil War Today app.  A red outline means there is an entry for that person for that particular day.  It is a good mix of people from various aspects of American life, both North and South.
Among the features in each daily edition of my app are diary entries or letters or other correspondence from a group of fifteen men and women from the North and the South.  The app follows this group through the entire war.  Some write more regularly than others.  No one writes something every day. By 1865 one of them is dead. President Lincoln is one of these individuals. Southern belle Mary Chesnut is another.  Here is an entry by John Beauchamp Jones, a military clerk in the Confederate Government. His detail and tone tell us much of the how the South felt the war at this late stage. 
When you select a given individual their portrait is enlarged and you may read whatever correspondence is available from them for a given day.
"March 7th 

"Bright and frosty.

"Yesterday we had no certain accounts of the movements of Sheridan. His force was said to be near Charlottesville - at Keswich. Fitz Lee's cavalry and Pickett's infantry were sent in that direction. Not a word has yet appeared in the Richmond papers concerning this movement from the Valley - the papers being read daily in the enemy's camp below. We hear of no corresponding movement on the part of Grant; and perhaps there was none.

"Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. If these indications do not suffice to bring the speculators into the ranks to defend their own property (they have no honor, of course), the city and the State are lost; and the property owners will deserve their fate. The extortioners ought to be hung, besides losing their property. This would be a very popular act on the part of the conquerors.

"On the 4th inst., the day of inauguration at Washington, the troops (Federal) near Petersburg got drunk, and proposed an hour's truce to have a friendly talk. It was refused.

"I met my friend Brooks to-day, just from Georgia, in a pucker. He says the people there are for reunion. Mr. B. rented his house to Secretary Trenholm for $15,000 - furnished. It would now bring $30,000. But he is now running after teams to save his tobacco - he a speculator!

"The raid of Sheridan has caused some speculators to send their surplus flour into the city for sale. Some sold for $700 per barrel to-day, a decline of $50.

"D. H. London says the enemy captured the tobacco at Hamilton's Crossing (near Fredericksburg) this morning. I doubt it, but would not deplore it, as it belongs to speculators, sent thither for barter with the enemy. No doubt many articles will decline in price - the owners fearing the coming of the enemy.

"The packing up of the archives goes on, with directions to be as quiet as possible, so as 'not to alarm the people.' A large per cent of the population would behold the exodus with pleasure!"

By a vote of 9-8, the Confederate Senate approved the impressment of slaves into the military. (Note: The military service was in exchange to become a freedman in the South. This legislation was endorsed by President Jefferson Davis, General Lee, and Governor William Smith of Virginia. There were already attempts to form slave militia regiments in Georgia and elsewhere in late-1864, before the question was debated by the Confederate Senate, the States believing their Sovereignty trumped the Central Government on matters of State militias.)

At the recommendation of General P.G.T. Beauregard, General Johnston ordered the impressment of slaves as labor to build road blocks and block or destroy bridges under the supervision of Confederate engineers.  Meanwhile, Union troops pressed inland from New Bern and Wilmington on the North Carolina coast.  General Braxton Bragg commanded the Rebel defenders of the coast.  A hot fight happened near Kinston, North Carolina, where Bragg's troops managed to penetrate the Yankee lines and hit the Northern flank.  The clash resulted in about 2,600 causalities. A victory in a small battle which stalled the Union until it could concentrate the majority of its coastal troops under General John Schofield.

General W.H.C. Whiting died in the northern prison camp at Governor's Island from wounds he received in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Whiting had a successful career during the war. He was responsible for overseeing the transfer of troops from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas, which proved to be decisive in the First Battle of Bull Run. He commanded a division in the Seven Days' Battles in 1862. For most of the remainder of the war he was tasked with constructing fortifications and defending the port of Wilmington.  Fort Fisher was his most formidable endeavor. His command repulsed the initial attack on the fort in 1864 but it fell in January 1865 where he was severely wounded in its defense.  Whiting was 40.

The weather was very wet in the Carolinas. Sherman complained "the rain makes our roads difficult." Nevertheless, his army pushed on into Fayetteville, North Carolina.  As he did General Kilpatrick's cavalry led the way. Kilpatrick was hit hard in a surprise attack by the cavalry of Generals Wade Hampton and Joseph Wheeler while most of the Union troops were encamped.  This escalated to the largest cavalry battle so far in 1865 with over 200 casualties and dozens of Northerners taken prisoner. 

General Johnston summoned General Bragg's troops from the North Carolina coast and concentrated a makeshift army to confront Sherman. Meanwhile, Federal troops destroyed the arsenal, depot, mills, and factories in Fayetteville. Unlike in South Carolina, the seat of secession, Sherman's troops displayed more discipline in North Carolina.  The practice of burning civilian homes was reined-in and Union destruction was limited, as it was in Georgia, to primary buildings of industry and transportation.

On March 13, 1865, the Confederate Congress approved General Orders No. 14, which allowed for the enlistment of slaves into the Confederate Army. The orders went into effect on March 23.  (The app does not supply very much detail about this touchy and controversial subject. In point of fact, the impact was small.  Two companies of blacks began training in Richmond but never saw battle. The final version of the legislation did not specifically grant freedom to slaves serving in the army, instead it left that up to the owner of the slave.  But, that was nothing new.  Slave holders were always allowed to grant freedom their slaves if they so chose. More "free blacks" lived in the South than the entire free black population of the North before the war started. This is not to suggest the South was in any way "enlightened." The decision to muster slaves into the army was motivated out of desperation, not wisdom.  At any rate, after the Confederate Congress adjourned, President Davis [with General Lee's support] modified the legislation by executive order to read that any slave volunteering to serve in the Confederate military would be granted his freedom upon the end of his service.)
The last portrait of President Abraham Lincoln as presented in the app.  March 1865.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

First Feast 2015


Another fulfilling First Feast was enjoyed by 'Dillo friends Saturday night.  There was plenty of wine, conversation, food, music, and the usual zaniness.  Once again, Mark and Eileen were wonderful hosts and we dined in elegance.  
There was a lot of activity in the kitchen as various recipes were prepared sequentially or simultaneously. 
The hors d'oeuvres were satisfying.  There were various cheeses with fancy crackers and homemade bread.  Jennifer made one of  my personal favorites - dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans. They were especially yummy. I had too many.


If there was a food theme this year I don't really know what it was.  Maybe "comfort food."  Mark created a splendid beef loin that was as good as the finest prime rib I've ever had. This was accompanied by baked cauliflower, Diane's special green beans with shallots and almonds, and Clint brought a turbo-charged quinao dish. Jennifer's classic chocolate cake was served late in the evening with ice cream and coffee.