Monday, January 13, 2014

Notes from a Civil War Battlefield

Fort Sumter, 1861, courtesy of Wikipedia
Rangers and volunteers from the James A. Garfield National Historic Site have been hosting a monthly series of talks about the battles of the Civil War at the Mentor Public Library.

On Wednesday, Park Ranger Scott Longert took library patrons on an armchair tour of Civil War battle sites.

It would be impossible to repeat everything Longert said, so I'm just going to hit you with one interesting/funny/unbelievable fact from each battle field.

1. Bull Run—This is the battlefield where General Barnard Bee bestowed a famous nickname on General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

Watching Jackson's troops fight, Bee said, "Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer."

However, some civil war experts have suggested that Bee meant his comment (at least partly) as a jibe. He was implying that Jackson was a "stone wall" because he was taking too long to move his troops.

2. Shiloh—The Battle of Shiloh was a resounding victory for the Confederacy and one of Ulysses Grant's lowest ebbs as a general.

The Union certainly lost that day but the question has always been, "Did they lose (at least partly) because Grant was drunk and, thus, unfit to command?"

The South ambushed the Union soldiers that morning and Grant was late to appear on the battlefield. Grant's opponents—mostly those in the North—claimed it was because Grant was inebriated.

However, others have claimed it was because Grant was nursing an injury after falling from his horse.

3. Fort Sumter—At the onset of the Civil War, only 65 Northern soldiers manned Fort Sumter even though the fort was designed for a garrison of 650.

Consequently, the Union soldiers never had much of a chance of defending the fort. But only one Union soldier died during the battle that began the Civil War. (The number of Union casualties doubled during the surrender ceremony.)

Fifty-two Confederate soldiers died at Fort Sumter during the span of the war. Slaves were killed while working there, as well, but we don't know how many.

4. GettysburgI've already written at length about the Battle of Gettysburg; so, as to avoid redundancy, I want to highlight a modern addition to the Gettysburg National Park.

If you visit the park, make certain to see the Gettysburg Cyclorama. It is a circular, 37-foot high, 377-foot long depiction of Pickett's Charge.

It was painted by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux and is absolutely breathtaking.

5. Appomattox Court House—One short anecdote about General Robert Lee's surrender.

Apparently, Lee was very put out during the surrender (and not for the obvious reasons.) While the Confederate general had worn his best outfit for the ceremony, General Grant wore muddy boots and looked like he had slept in his clothes.

Lee was irritated by the Union general's lack of decorum.

The James A. Garfield National Historic Site's next Civil War talk will be noon on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Mentor Public Library's Main Branch. The topic will be art inspired by the war. It's free and open to the public.

No comments:

Post a Comment