Saturday, December 13, 2014

Endangered Civil War Battlefields And Other Wars To Be Saved

Congress enacted landmark Legislation this week to preserve America's endangered battlefields, expanding the existing program to provide grants for the acquisition of land at Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. The legislation reauthorizes the Civil War Battlefield Preservation program, a matching grants program that encourages private sector investment in historic battlefield protection to now include these additional battlefields.

Since the program was first funded by Congress in 1999, it has been used to preserve more that 23,000 acres of battlefield land in 17 states. Some of the most famous have been saved, including Antietam, MD., Chancellorsville and Manassas, VA; Chattanooga and Franklin TN; Gettysburg PA; Perryville KY and Vicksburg MS.

The Civil War Trust is the premier nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America's hallowed battlegrounds. To date the Trust has preserved more than 40,000 acres of battlefield lands in 20 states. Learn more at

Friday, December 12, 2014

John Basil Turchin, Infamous Union Officer During WBTS

A friend shared information about John Turchin after my recent (11/10/14) blog about Union General William T. Sherman. I had never heard of Turchin, but apparently he was the "author" of the "Sherman Plan". Here is what he told me.

Turchin  was born Ivan Vasilovitch Turchininoff in Russia. He and his wife, also Russian, migrated to America and Americanized their names. He had served in the military in Russia and when the War Between the States began, he was commissioned Colonel of the 19th Illinois.

Turchin was placed in command of a brigade by Federal General Don Carlos Buell, and with these men Turchin captured Huntsville and Athens, Alabama. Holding to the Imperial Russian theory that "to the victor belong the spoils", he and his troops became especially notorious for their disregard of the persons and property of enemy civilians.

The story goes that while capturing Athens one of Turchin's regiments was shot up by local guerrillas, and Turchin determined to punish the town. Everything possible was stolen or destroyed and the women were brutally treated. For this and also for allowing his wife to accompany him (a big no-no) General Buell relieved him of command, court-marshaled him and recommended dismissal .

Before that could happen, his wife rushed to Washington and persuaded President Lincoln not only to pardon him, but to promote him to brigadier-general. Turchin's legacy to the nation is significant because his theories on war helped develop a mentality among Union officers and officials in Washington that targeting certain civilians was a necessary wartime measure. Turchin's punitive approach is seen, as I mentioned, in Sherman's "March to the Sea".

It was perhaps ironic that Turchin, in later years, suffered severe dementia, and died penniless in an  insane asylum in Anna, Illinois at the age of 79. He is buried next to his wife. You may want to read more about this Machiavellian man who had such influence on the outcome of the War and the way the post-War South was treated.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Recap 1864 Events of War Between the States

As this year draws to a close I want to remind us of some of the events of 1864. One of the biggest might have been March 9th when Lincoln appointed Union General Ulysses S. Grant to command all the armies of the United States, and appointed General William T.Sherman to succeed Grant as commander in the west.

A massive campaign in Virginia began in May when Grant began advancing toward Richmond against Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Granit had an army of 120,000 and Lee's forces were down to 64,000.

In the west, Sherman began advancing toward Atlanta with 100,000 men to fight Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee with 60,000.

In June the battle at Cold Harbor in Virginia resulted in 7,000 Union casualties. Also in June the Union forces missed a chance to capture Petersburg, but began a nine month siege of that city.

In July Sherman battled the Confederates, now under General John B. Hood, who replaced Johnston. Atlanta was captured in September.

In October a Union victory by Cavalry General Philip H. Sheridan was won over Jubal Early and his Southern troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Oh, if only we still had the great and good Stonewall Jackson.

In November Sherman began his March to the Sea which we  discussed in our November 10 blog, and in December, Hood's Confederate Army of the Tennessee, now down to 23,000 was crushed at Nashville by Union General George H. Thomas and his 55,000 troops. I talked about the Battle of Franklin in my December 8 blog, and how that contributed greatly to the disaster at Nashville.

By December 21, 1864 Sherman had reached Savannah, telegraphing President Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present. After four years of fighting, 1865 and the eventual downfall of the Confederacy loom ahead.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Zouaves in the War Between the States

The Zouave regiments of both North and South during the War Between the States are depicted in many paintings and pictures. The name and  uniforms were  North African-inspired. There were about 70 volunteer Zouave regiments in the Union army and about 25 in the Confederate army during the war.

I read this in the American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, Volume I: "One company of exotic Zouaves, patterned after the famous French fighting forces, thrilled the public with elaborate drills, but when these warriors went into battle they learned the hard way that their bizarre uniforms were not suited to combat".

The Zouave uniforms were sometimes quite elaborate. Some wore a fez with colored tassel, and turban, short fitting jacket, wide baggy red pantaloons and white leggings. The jackets were cooler than the usual wool ones worn by most of the armies.

Winslow Homer did an 1864 oil painting of two 5th New York Zouaves titled The Brierwood Pipe,  and of course Mathew Brady took photos of them!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Battle of Franklin, Tenn, 150 years ago November 30

I haven't seen anything in the Montgomery Advertiser about it, but the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Franklin, TN was held November 30, 2014. Did any of our readers go?

It reads as if the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was doomed from the start. Confederate Lt. General John B. Hood, after failing to destroy the Federals near Spring Hill on the 29th,  led a frontal assault against the Federals the next day, but was driven back with heavy losses. There were over 6000 Confederate casualties, including six Generals dead, and four others wounded. To put it bluntly, the attack was a total disaster.

Why was Hood the one in charge? Had it just come down to that? I wonder? The upshot was this: The Army of Tennessee was all but destroyed after Franklin, but rather than retreat, Hood felt he had no choice except to advance against  the Union Army at Nashville. That also ended very badly as one might guess; the Army of Tennessee never fought again, and Hood's career was ruined.

My heart goes out to the brave men that fought so valiantly with so little to show for it. I really want to read more about this particular battle and about Hood, so I can understand what happened and why.