TomP

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TomP last won the day on October 11 2016

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  1. Don't forget, tomorrow is the Grand Illumination of Corinth. 12,000 luminaries will be placed on the grounds of the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center and up and down the streets of the Historic District. Each of these candles represents a casualty in Corinth during the war, most of which were the Confederate soldiers who died of disease or their Shiloh wounds. The 16th/27th Alabama Infantry under Keith Willingham (old Shiloh friends) will arrive this evening and set up camp at the site of Battery Robinett. They will be portraying the 43rd Mississippi Infantry and "Old Douglass" the camel will be here as well. There will be interpretive programs throughout the day Saturday and Sunday. Check out the website for the full schedule. And don't miss the chance to see Bobby Horton in a free concert in the auditorium at 6:30. Aside from hearing Bobby's great music this will be the first chance in five years for the public to see the Stream of American History water feature lit up at night. If you have never seen it at night it is spectacular. If you are here at 4:30 tomorrow you can take one of the lighters and join in and help light the luminaries. Choose a spot in front of Battery Robinett and pay homage to the brave men who died and were wounded all around us. I will be at the Confederate camp all day supervising the weapons firings. Stop by and say hey. See you there, Tom
  2. Not to be outdone was Major General Sterling Price at the Battle of Corinth; (the other Shiloh battlefield). He captured five guns (one from Battery D, 1st Mo., and four from Battery H, 1st Mo.) on October 3rd but only claimed to have taken two. The next day, October 4, he claims to have captured "more than forty pieces of artillery." This took place near Battery Powell, where, truth be told, only eleven guns were taken. After a period of about fifteen minutes the divisions of Davies and Hamilton counterattacked and took back the eleven guns. Or was it more than forty? At the end of the paragraph he notes, "We brought off also the two guns captured at the outer line of fortifications on the 3rd." He didn't bother to mention he was not bringing the "more than forty" with him back to Ripley. Total captured - 4 Total claimed - 2 plus "more than forty" Number lost - 5 (he was correct in his report with this) Tom
  3. I wrote a piece about Simplot a few years ago for the Daily Corinthian - Story of a reporter, artist who followed Civil War Daily Corinthian – December 9, 2012 I have a confession to make; I’m not much of an artist. I like to flatter myself that I can string a few sentences together but when it comes to things like painting and music, I’m a real zero. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket in fact I am about as tone deaf as General Grant who once said he could only recognize two tunes, “One was Yankee Doodle, and the other wasn’t.” As for art, forget about it, I’m colorblind. There was a good reason why Mom never put my schoolwork on the fridge door. But I’ve always had a deep appreciation for artwork and, surprise, this includes a fondness for art created during the Civil War. Homer Winslow cranked out a number of fine paintings during the conflict as did Thomas Nast, Conrad Wise Chapman, and Edouard Manet. My particular favorites are the artists who travelled with the armies much like the modern imbedded journalists who reported Desert Storm and the Iraq War. These guys travelled with the troops, ate the same food, slept in the same mud. Their drawings were reproduced in the newspapers of the day and papers like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly loaded their pages with images. There were plenty of artist/correspondents who travelled with the Union army here in the West, men like Alfred Waud, Henri Lovie, and of course, Alexandar Simplot. Never heard of Alex Simplot? Well if you’ve ever been to the Interpretive Center here in Corinth you have seen his work. Alexandar Simplot was born in Dubuque, Iowa in1837. His parents were French immigrants and were among the first settlers in the state. One account has it that Alex was the first white child born in the Hawkeye State. His father was a merchant, made quite a bit of money, and was able to ensure Alex got a good education. He attended public schools for a bit and then transferred to the Rock River Seminary in Mount Morris, Illinois. It was here that Alex struck up a friendship with classmate John A. Rawlings the future Governor of Iowa. After he received his diploma from Rock River, Alex was bundled off to Union College in Schenectady, New York. Alexandar graduated in 1857 with a Law degree though his heart was really in his art. He gave a commencement address titled “Plea for Artists” which couldn’t have made his folks too happy; they discouraged his artistic leanings. As fate would have it Alex began life as neither an artist nor a lawyer, but rather as a teacher. One of his first students was a pretty little eleven year old girl by the name of Virginia Knapp. After the war, and shortly after her 18th birthday, Virginia became his bride. The outbreak of the Civil War provided the opportunity Alex needed to practice his love of drawing. He was in Dubuque on April 22, 1861 to witness the departure of the local militia unit, the “Governor’s Grays,” on a steamboat bound for the east. It was eleven days after the surrender at Fort Sumter and patriotism was high; thousands turned out for the event. Alex made a sketch of the teeming masses on the wharf and the soldiers lining the rails as the steamer Alhambra cast off into the river. He wrote a moving description as well and sent both off to the editors of Harper’s Weekly. The publishers liked what they saw and asked for more. “A few weeks, thereafter,” recalled Alex, “in May, saw me in Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.” Cairo was a vital Union staging ground and Alex was able to send off a number of drawings of the Northern soldiers preparing for war. Alex’s next stop was St. Louis where he fell in with a group of newspaper correspondents, many of whom would be his companions in the months to come. They were a rowdy, hard drinking press corps who called themselves the “Bohemian Brigade” and were responsible for reporting the war in the West to the world. Alexandar scored something of coup in the fall of 1861 when he acquired a letter of introduction from General Grant’s former employer in Galena, Illinois. When Alex secured a meeting with the then obscure brigadier general he was delighted to see his old school chum John A. Rawlings who was Grant’s chief-of-staff. It was a great meeting and thanks to Rawlings Alex had access to the inner circle of Grant’s command and could often wrangle interviews when others were left out in the cold. From that point on, wherever Grant was, there was Simplot. He was at the Battle of Belmont in Missouri and sketched Grant riding his horse up onto a steamboat at the close of the fight, and he was at Forts Henry and Donelson, the first major Union victories of the war. He produced remarkable drawings of the river landing as Hamburg just south of Pittsburg Landing and the activities that preceded the Siege of Corinth. Alex finally made his way to Corinth in May of 1862. He spent a good deal of his time off to the east with Pope’s Army of the Mississippi and was in a great position to make some amazing sketches of Farmington. Three of them made their way into Harper’s Weekly. Once Corinth was in Union hands General Sherman was sent west to repair the railroad to Memphis and Simplot went with him. As a consequence he was in Memphis in June and scored yet another coup; Alex was the only reporter to observe and record the all naval Battle of Memphis. Simplot was back in town by late September and was here for the epic Battle of Corinth. He made over a half dozen sketches of different aspects of the fight, but it was his drawing of the fighting at Battery Robinett that became one of the iconic images of the battle. The drawing depicts the high-water mark of the Confederate attack as the seemingly victorious 2nd Texas climb the walls of the fort and fight hand to hand with the defenders. In the distance are the reinforcements of the 11th Missouri infantry moments before they charged forward to drive the Southerners back. Corinth is in the background and you can almost smell the smoke of battle. Alex’s coverage of the war came to an abrupt halt soon after New Year’s in 1863. “Having returned to Memphis where I again fell victim of chronic dysentery, I left for Dubuque where I spent the rest of the war.” He lived a long full life in Iowa and must have been proud when his son Julien Dubuque Simplot, child number seven of nine, worked for a time as reporter for the local paper. Alex passed away in 1914 at the age of 77. Like most artists Alex produced a lot more drawings than he had published. In 1956 these drawings and sketches were found in an old cardboard box in his grandson’s garage. Several of these pieces of art depict the activities in and around Corinth. The priceless collection of rough drafts and field notebooks has made its way into the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society. How come I can’t find stuff like that in my garage?
  4. We had a big turnout last night. 120 folks including Mona!
  5. The first battle flag of the 11th Mississippi Infantry will be dedicated and placed on permanent display today at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. This flag was presented to the 11th Mississippi (which included the "University Greys of Ole' Miss) 155 years ago today as they were about to leave for Virginia. The flag flew in battle at Manassas and was then retired from use. The program will be held in the auditorium at 4:30 pm. http://www.dailycorinthian.com/view/full_story/27171937/article-Historic-flag-returns-home Hope to see you there, Tom
  6. Just a touch of clarification... 5 October Metamora Miss. This was actually in Tennessee. The 1st and 2nd battalions under majors Hayes and Ricker were involved in the opening fighting at Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River. (Shiloh NMP holds a five acre site at this field which is in a remarkable state of preservation.) 21 Dec Battle of Davis Mills: 1st & 3rd Batts. There were indeed troopers from the 5th Ohio Cav in this fight but not two battalions, just two companies. Companies B & M under the command of Capt. John Henry were part of a tiny defensive force which included six companies of the 25th Indiana Infantry, all under the command of Col. William H. Morgan. A total of 250 Union officers and men held back Van Dorn's mounted force of 3,500 men for several hours and eventually compelled the Confederates to find an alternate crossing of the Wolf River near Moscow. The Confederates suffered 22 killed, 30 wounded captured, 20 unwounded captured, and according to Asst. Surgeon Eugene Blocker of the 3rd Texas Cavalry, an additional 200-300 wounded who rode away from the field. Morgan suffered three lightly wounded. The October 1863 locations get a bit fuzzy, it depends on the individual companies. Some were here in the Corinth area at Camp Davies, MS on Clear Creek or at Smith's Bridge on the Tuscumbia River, others were near Cherokee, Al, Chickasaw, Al. At least two companies were enroute to join the 15th Corps near Huntsville. In other words, they were all over the place! The Supplement to the Official Records, Vol. 49, gives a great break down by company as to where they were located throughout the war. All the best, Tom
  7. Hello Dave, Welcome aboard. My great-great-uncle was at Shiloh as a sergeant in Company A, 54th Ohio Infantry. He eventually rose to Captain in command of his company. The only photo I have of him is from later in the war when he was wearing something a little more traditional. There are a few photos out there on the web of men of the 54th in their Zouave attire and that strange hat; not exactly a tri-corn, but more like what a vicar would wear. There are a number of photos of the 54th at this site: http://www.oocities.org/pentagon/bunker/6200/originalgallery.html
  8. Hmmm.. I don't think there was a selection as such for "wing commander". The wings were simply the three armies; Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi. Buell and Pope maintained control of their respective commands as their was no reason to remove them and it would not be easy to do so even if Halleck wanted to. He had recently failed in his attempt to remove Grant from army command. The only decision to be made was what to do with Grant, who we know Halleck neither trusted nor liked. From an administrative perspective Halleck's decision to elevate Grant to second-in-command was brilliant. He quite effectively shelved Grant and then bypassed him at every turn. The only real choice Halleck had to make was who to select to replace Grant. Joseph Rose is spot on; the first requirement for a new army commander was to have attended West Point. The potential leader also had to be a major general. That brought the pool of candidates to an even two; Thomas and Sherman.Sherman was still carrying too much baggage from his Kentucky breakdown which left Thomas as the only real choice.
  9. Brother of Mine. The Civil War Letters of Thomas & William Christie edited by Hampton Smith. This is an excellent book that not only has Tom's letters but his brother Bill as well. Lots of background context as well. A few years ago I based my anniversary walking/driving tours on following the activities of the 1st Minn., Munch's Battery, through the battle of Corinth. The Minnesota Historical society sent me a few newspaper articles written by Tom Christie and one included this which took place on October 3 on the Memphis Road : " A funny thing took place here. The German Captain of a Missouri battery [Capt. Henry Richardson] brought up his fine 20-pound Parrotts, and took position near us. A drink or two of 'commissary' had filled him with something more than 'Dutch courage:' he pranced back and forth on his horse shouting: 'Vere are dose tam rebels? Vere are dey?' Our Lieutenant (now Maj. Clayton of Bangor, Me.) who had charge of us all the way from Chewalla, said to him: 'There they are, Captain, coming up thru that hollow; you had better turn your guns in that direction and give them canister.' Unfortunatly, Clayton had been promoted only recently, and so was wearing the chevrons of an Orderly Sergeant. Also, he was black with powder smoke. The Captain glared at him. 'Go pack to your gun, sir! I don't take orders from a tam Sergeant!'" This little gem is found in the National Tribune, November 26, 1914. Tom
  10. In my opinion parole camps were extremely useful. We know that once the soldier is paroled he is bound by oath not to take up arms until exchanged. So what was to prevent this soldier from going home and waiting for the exchange? Imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to round up all of the men from the regiment once the exchanges take place. To prevent this the men were sent to organized camps of parole. Although they were not allowed to fight or serve in any function that would allow another soldier to move to the front (garrison, picket, prison guard, etc.) the time awaiting exchange could be used to great advantage. The men remained within a military organization and went through the normal daily routines of a military camp. They had to be present for the different roll calls through the day, police the grounds, and, if there was an efficient officer in charge of the camp, they could march, drill and train. Once the exchange goes through, the soldier is immediately ready to be sent back to the regiment or the regiment can return to active duty. This system prevented less-motivated soldiers from surrendering to the enemy with the hopes of being paroled and sent home for a nice vacation. Needless to say, these camps were hardly popular with the rank and file. But from the perspective of the War Department (or the regimental commander), having the men ready for service is a logical and effective way to deal with their parolees. Tom
  11. Mona, I don't think that anything would change in regards to programming or interpretation.as you recall, we have had evening programs in the past at both Shiloh and Corinth.
  12. There would no financial issues/burdens with Parker's Crossroads. The bill would make them an "affiliated site" with the NPS, not particularly Shiloh. S. 1785 would also establish Parker's Crossroads Battlefield in the State of Tennessee as an affiliated area of the National Park System. The bill designates the city of Parkers Crossroads and the Tennessee Historical Commission as the management entity for the affiliated area and authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide technical assistance and enter into cooperative agreements with the management entity for the purpose of providing financial assistance for the marketing, marking, interpretation, and preservation of the affiliated area. As an affiliated area, Parker's Crossroads Battlefield would continue under non-federal ownership and management, but the owner would be required to administer the site consistent with laws applicable to units of the National Park System. Affiliated areas comprise a variety of locations in the United States that preserve significant properties outside of the National Park System. Some of these have been designated by Acts of Congress and others have been designated administratively. All draw on technical assistance or financial aid from the National Park Service. Davis Bridge would remain an unmanned site, interpreted on site by signage and distantly from the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. This would relieve lingering issues of long-term care and budget issues/restraints from the State of Tennessee.
  13. They weren't doing any fighting, just watchin' from over on the left. How's the weather up north?
  14. Hello all, As some of you may know I used to have a regular column in the Daily Corinthian and my stories would be about Corinth during the war. Most of these can be found on the park website as "Parson's Ponderings." I am posting the piece about the Russell House (which my ancestor in the 54th Ohio had a small part in). All the best, Tom. “The Prettiest Little Fight of the War” Daily Corinthian December 22, 2013 On the 10th of December, 2013, Senator Lamar Alexander ®, Tennessee, introduced S. 1785, “A bill to modify the boundary of the Shiloh National Military Park located in Tennessee and Mississippi.” If this bill is signed into law it means four battle sites could someday be added to, or affiliated with the park. The bill itself does not transfer any property to the Park Service. No, all it does is change the authorized boundary of the park which would allow more acreage to be added at some later date. That’s the way it works, even if someone wanted to give us a big chunk of land, we are not allowed to take it unless it lies within the boundary approved by congress. What is great about this bill is it includes two sites which, though located in Tennessee, are associated with Corinth; Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River and the Russell House. You say you’ve never heard of the Russell House? Well warm up that cup of coffee and I’ll tell you a story. This tale takes place mid-way through the Siege of Corinth in May, 1862. There were three Union armies working together to capture Corinth and the all-important railroad junction. On the right of the Union line was the Army of the Tennessee and on the far right of this army was Gen. William T. Sherman’s Fifth Division. Sherman wanted a piece of real estate not far in front of his lines. It was on a low ridge overlooking the headwaters of Phillips Creek, a spot close to where the Purdy, Ridge and State Line roads came together. If you want to see the site, head north on Polk Street, (Old 45), to the Tennessee Line and there you are. The Russell family owned a house and several out-buildings on the property which was occupied by a brigade of Mississippi infantry under the command of Gen. James R. Chalmers, a Holly Springs lawyer. Chalmers was not inclined to give the property to Sherman just because he wanted it. On the 17th of May Sherman moved his troops like so many pieces on a chessboard. Two regiments were sent off to keep an eye on the road to the right while two more headed off to the left. On the main road, or Purdy Road, the 55th Illinois and 8th Missouri moved up to a bridge over Phillips Creek and waited for the word to move forward. The Russell House was ¾’s of a mile away. When the word came the two Federal regiments crossed the bridge, ran along a “causeway” that spanned the bottom land, and up to a hill that overlooked the house. The Northerners moved forward slowly and fought with the Southern pickets who grudgingly fell back toward their main line at the house. General Morgan Smith, whose troops were making the attack, wrote, “The enemy retired sullenly, obstinately contesting the ground.” As the Confederates fell back, “with great reluctance,” General Chalmers extended his reserve which came close to flanking Sherman’s line and threatened to undo everything the Union had accomplished. The Federal reserves on the right were brought up to counter this move and the fighting moved closer to the house. The boys in blue began cheering loudly to psych themselves up for the final effort. Before the charge was sounded a Confederate bullet pierced the heart of Pvt. Andrew Jones. He dropped his gun, threw up his hands and yelled, “Hurrah for the Fifty-fifth!” and immediately fell dead on the ground. Jones had miraculously survived an earlier wound at Shiloh when a small piece of buckshot hit him square in the forehead and came out the back of his head without breaking the skull. The small projectile had travelled right through his brain with no outward effect. He had cheated Death but Death found him at the Russell House. Nearby were Sgt. Fred Ebersol and Pvt. Littlefield of the same regiment who were doing their best to take cover behind a small tree some fifty yards from the house. They made a tempting target but came out of the fight without a scratch. The tree, however, was later found to have been hit by thirty bullets. Another casualty was William Dwyer of the 8th Missouri who had been promoted from sergeant to lieutenant that very morning, and three hours later he was dead in the Tennessee dust. From their positions some one hundred yards from the house they could hear “some of the officers entreating and ordering their men to hold their ground and not run from the damned Yankees.” The Southerners were taking casualties too. An officer was hit as he came out of the front door, the door frame covered with gore. Another officer was hit as he was using an upstairs window to peer out at the Federals. He mistook one of the movements he observed for a retreat and yelled out that the, “damned cowardly Yankees are running!” A moment later a bullet fired by Private Snyder of the 8th Missouri ended his life. The skirmishing came to an end when a few pieces of Union artillery were hauled across the causeway and onto the hill. When the shells began to fall among his men General Chalmers wisely called on them to fall back and relenquish the house to the Federals. At last the attackers rushed forward and took possession of the grounds. Inevitably, the men of the two regiments began to quarrel over claims of who had been the first to take the house. The 8th Missouri seemed to be winning the shouting match but Sgt. Ebersol of the 55th was having none of it. When Smith came up to see what the ruckus was about, Ebersol handed the general a Confederate canteen filled with whisky he had found in the house. Smith took a swig and turned to the crowd. “Dry up, for if that [Missouri] regiment had gotten into the house first, nobody else would ever have found a canteen of whisky there.” Both regiments would end up stitching the honors “Russell House” on their battle flags. The Federals pursued the Confederates for an additional three hundred yards before halting at the road junction as the sun was setting. The fight had lasted for three hours and Sherman’s Division held undisputed ownership of the hill, the house and the out buildings. The cost in human lives was small by Civil War standards but no less devastating to the families who had lost husbands and sons. Smith lost ten killed and thirty-one wounded. Chalmers made no report of the action though twelve dead Southerners were found including a captain and two lieutenants. A Southern prisoner was also taken and he was interrogated and revealed that the regiment had been issued brand new rifles straight from the box just two days before. Some were found scattered about the field, still loaded and never fired. Sherman was delighted with the afternoon’s work, deeming the encounter, “The prettiest little fight of the war.” A new advance picket line was established and over the next few days a long line of earthworks was built right through the yard. As for the house, it was burned to the ground a week later. I hope this piece of property will someday be added to Shiloh National Military Park. There are a number of sites scattered about town with earthworks from the Siege of Corinth, but the Russell House would be the only protected property where actual fighting took place during the Siege. The first step is getting congress to adjust our boundary. One last thought. Don’t confuse the Russell House property with the story in Wednesday’s paper about the West Corinth Elementary School. The old school property is already within the park boundary approved by the U. S. Congress and could easily be added to the park provided all parties are in agreement. Many of my stories talk about the October battle raging across the school grounds, including the one about Col. William P. Rogers leading the men of Texas and Alabama in the three tragic charges against Battery Robinett. To a guy like me, it is hallowed ground.