Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tromp Shot 3

Today's Tromp Shot:

October dusk on the Brawner Farm at Second Bull Run.

Manassas National Battlefield Park (Manassas, Virginia)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jacob's Pen 3

I've been fortunate to tromp a lot of ground lately, and the weather has allowed these boots to grow muddier by the day.

Thursday evening I attended a lecture sponsored by the Frederick County Civil War Roundtable at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. The topic was the role of Frederick's militia during John Brown's raid in Harpers Ferry. On Friday and Saturday, I ventured to Harpers Ferry for the fantastic commemoration of that raid. Tomorrow, I plan to make my first visit to the Ball's Bluff battlefield (Oct. 21, 1861) near Leesburg, Virginia. As I must also travel to Northern Virginia, I may stop by Manassas while down there so I can catch up on efforts there to restore the ground to historical appearances.

Obviously, I have - and will have - much to share. This will soon begin with a series of posts on the sesquicentennial events in Harpers Ferry; for now, we follow the events of 150 years ago as observed by Frederick's Jacob Engelbrecht:

The Harpers Ferry riot has thus far been silenced and the following have been killed & wounded: Dean, Captain Oliver Brown & Captain Watson Brown (sons of old John Brown), Lieutenant Albert Hazlett - Pennsylvania, Lieutenant William Leman - Maine, Stewart Taylor - Canada, William Thompson - New York, Captain John Kagi of Ohio, Lieutenant Jeremiah Anderson of Indiana. Negros: Daingerfield of Ohio [Dangerfield Newby], Luis Leary - Ohio. Wounded Captain Aaron C. Stephens, (Whites) old John Brown (chief). Total number killed on both sides up to this time is 16. Luke Quinn United States Marines was killed October 18.

Friday October 21, 1859 2 o'clock PM

All diary entries in the "Jacob's Pen" series come directly from The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jacob's Pen 2

Jacob Engelbrecht continues his coverage of John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry as seen from his Frederick, Maryland storefront home. 150 years ago, today, Jacob writes:

Tuesday October 18 - Report this morning is that 16 persons were killed yesterday.

October 18, 2 3/4 o'clock PM - Our 3 companies just now returned home.

All diary entries in the "Jacob's Pen" series come directly from The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jacob's Pen 1

Many students of the Civil War are familiar with the letters, journals, and memoirs of soldiers from both sides. These sources offer extraordinary insights into the daily life and sentiments of those fighting the battles of our nation's defining moments. But how were these defining moments viewed - how were they felt - on the home front? Luckily for students of local history in the Frederick County, Maryland, area, we have The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by the Frederick County Historical Society.

Throughout the sesquicentennial (150 year) anniversary commemorations of the Civil War, we'll view that period from the perspective of this first-generation German-American pro-Union storekeeper. Entries are written verbatim - spelling mistakes, erroneous reports, politically sensitive language, and biased opinions included.

Jacob's home town of Frederick, Maryland, is about twenty miles east of Harpers Ferry. As the anniversary of John Brown's raid kicks off the six-plus year sesquicentennial, we'll begin Jacob's Civil War story here, on October 17, 1859.

At 8 o'clock that morning, Engelbrecht recorded a typical entry in his diary about the arrival of a new minister for the new German Methodist Missionary congregation in Frederick. Two hours later, he would make note of an event whose shockwaves forever changed our nation.

"Harpers Ferry riot - The Independent Bell & the United or Swamp Bell are both now ringing (Swamp first) calling together the military companies of our city. The report from Harpers Ferry is that there is a kind of insurrection among the Negros of Jefferson County Virginia & want to seize the United States arms there or that the workmen at the Ferry are somewhat rebellious.
- Monday October 17, 1859 10 o'clock AM"

Later that day:

"Monday October 17 1/2 past 3 o'clock PM - Our three town companies Captain Sinn, Captain Ritchie, & Captain Hobbs just started for the cars at the Depot for the scene of War - Harpers Ferry."

All diary entries in the "Jacob's Pen" series come directly from The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht, published by The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Southern Rats

There's a scene in the film Gettysburg where Tom Chamberlain asks some Tennessee Confederate captives to explain what motivates the southern soldier's fight. "Ahm fah-tin' fo mah rats. All of us heah, that's what we-uhs fah-tin' fo," says one (w/ typical Hollywood indulgence). Chamberlain looks very confused and asks, "For your what?" "Fo ouwah rats," repeats the man. Viewers are meant to laugh at Chamberlain's inability to realize the soldier is fighting for his rights. Or is he?

Following is an anecdote from a real Tennessee veteran. In his famous memoir, Company Aytch, Private Sam Watkins of the First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry writes:

"While stationed at this place, Chattanooga, rations were very scarce and hard to get, and it was, perhaps, economy on the part of our General and commissaries to issue rather scant rations.

"About this time we learned that Pemberton's army, stationed at Vicksburg, were subsisting entirely on rats. Instead of the idea being horrid, we were glad to know that 'necessity is the mother of invention,' and that the idea had originated in the mind of genius. We at once acted upon the information, and started out rat hunting; but we couldn't find any rats. Presently we came to an old outhouse that seemed to be a natural harbor for this kind of vermin. The house was quickly torn down and out jumped an old residenter, who was old and gray. I suppose that he had been chased before. But we had jumped him and were determined to catch him, or 'burst a boiler.'

"After chasing him backwards and forwards, the rat finally got tired of this foolishness and started for his hole. But a rat's tail is the last that goes in the hole, and as he went in we made a grab for his tail. Well, tail hold broke, and we held the skin of his tail in our hand. But we we were determined to have that rat. After hard work we caught him.

"We skinned him, washed and salted him, buttered and peppered him, and fried him. He actually looked nice. The delicate aroma of the frying rat came to our hungry nostrils. We were keen to eat a piece of rat; our teeth were on edge; yea, even our mouth watered to eat a piece of rat. Well, after a while, he was said to be done. I got a piece of cold corn dodger, laid my piece of the rat on it, [ate] a little piece of bread, and raised the piece of rat to my mouth, when I happened to think of how that rat's tail did slip.

"I had lost my appetite for dead rat. I did not eat any rat. It was my first and last effort to eat dead rats."


Friday, October 9, 2009

Lookout Mountain: Then & Now

After the battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland reoccupied Chattanooga along the Tennessee River. Looking down on them from the heights of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain was Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee.

Moccasin Point (Then)

Photo caption: "From heights such as this Lookout Mountain perch over Moccasin Point on the Tennessee River, General Braxton Bragg's Rebels controlled nearly all routes to Chattanooga, thus throttling the flow of supplies to the Union army in the town." But this position was not as effective as one would imagine. The artillery did not have the necessary range to cover the entire vicinity; because of the extreme angle of the slopes, gunners could not lower their guns enough to cover all attacks; a dense fog (precipitation or battle smoke?) helped mask Union attackers; and, importantly, southern troops suffered from extremely poor provisions.

Moccasin Point (Now)
Private Sam Watkins, Company H, First Tennessee (Confederate), remembers his time spent on Lookout Mountain: "Maney's brigade fortified on top of Lookout Mountain. From this position we could see five states. The Yankees had built a fort across the river, on Moccasin Point, and were throwing shells at us continually. I have never seen such accurate shooting in my life . . . The soldiers were starved and almost naked, and covered all over with lice and camp itch and filth and dirt. The men looked sick, hollow-eyed, and heart-broken, living principally upon parched corn, which had been picked out of the mud and dirt under the feet of officers' horses. We thought of nothing but starvation."

The stranglehold snapped on November 25, when the Federals (joined by Sherman from the west and Hooker from Virginia, and placed under overall command of U.S. Grant) wrestled Lookout Mountain from the southerners' grips in the "Battle Above the Clouds," helping to unlock the valley for Sherman's subsequent march to Atlanta.

Lookout Rock (Then)
In the pre-dawn hours of November 25, 1863, Captain John Wilson and five others of the 8th Kentucky climbed Lookout Mountain and planted the regiment's national flag. Photo caption: "Captain [John] Wilson poses . . . with the five soldiers of the 8th Kentucky who helped him signal victory by carrying the first Union flag to the crest of the mountain. From left to right stand Sergeant Joseph Wagers, Private Joseph Bradley, Sergeant Harris Davis, Private William Witt, and Sergeant James Wood. The bearded, 49-year-old Wilson balances at the edge of the stone outcropping, holding the flag. All of the men were granted 30-day furloughs for their brave and inspiring action."

Lookout Rock (Now)

Wilson remembered: "Those who have seen the awe-inspiring precipice at the top of the great mountain can realize what a serious undertaking was before us . . . Dim daylight was dawning. We crept cautiously upward, clutching at rocks and bushes, supporting each other, using sticks and poles and such other aids as we could gather. At every step we expected to be greeted with deadly missiles of some sort from the enemy. But fortune favored us, and before sun-up I, in front, reached the summit and planted the flag on top of Lookout Mountain. It was the highest flag that was planted during the war . . . [We] were the lions of the day in the Union army."


-Mathless, Paul and Henry Woodhead, ed. 1863: Turning Point of the Civil War. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Inc., 1998.

-Watkins, Sam. Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show. M.Thomas Inge, ed. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1999.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tromp Shot 2

Today's Tromp Shot:

Worthington House porch offers a July afternoon rest in the shade.

Monocacy National Battlefield (Frederick, Maryland)
(Click photo for larger view.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tromp Shot 1

While trying to figure out various technical issues with my blogging site, I figured I could at least post some of my favorite battlefield photos. Thus begins "Tromp Shots," (semi)daily posts of personal favorite photos I've taken over the years. If you have similar shots you'd like to share, feel free to send a link!

Today's Tromp Shot:

Louisiana heralds the closing of another day over the fields of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg National Military Park (Adams County, Pennsylvania)
(Click photo for larger view.)