Ft. Dickerson clean-up crew

The photo below shows the group who worked at Fort Dickerson last Saturday preparing for our upcoming Living History weekend, October 26-28.

This group worked really hard. A special shoutout to the Explorer Scouts of Knoxville Police Department Explorer 300 who have helped us at the fort for several years now

 

From L to R: Annalisa Roehrig, Gus Roehrig, Kelly Henson, Travis Henson, Blaise Creswell, Elijah Beatty, Kate Grote, Fiora Cruey, and event organizer Eric Wayland.

 

One month after the battle: A description of the battlefield by teenager Mary Hoffer

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ANTIETAM BATTLEFIELD VISIT LETTER OF CIVILIAN
MARY E. HOFFER, MOUNT JOY, PA
WRITTEN OCTOBER 27, 1862 TO “MY DEAR FRIEND”

September 17 is the 156th anniversary of the greatest single day battle loss in American history. Over 23,000 Americans destroyed each other near Sharpsburg, MD. For this fateful anniversary, I would like to share a letter from my personal collection. It is the finest description of the field post-battle I have ever read.

Mary Hoffer of Mount Joy, PA was a 16-year-old young lady who visited the battlefield with the father and her uncle on October 2, 1862. She wrote a very vivid and detailed description of her visit to a friend on October 27.

The letter is transcribed exactly as written complete with spelling and punctuation errors. I created several paragraphs for ease of reading. Mary’s descriptions are vivid and exact. Her mention of the specific accoutrements of soldiers shows quite a good knowledge of these items, which she may have learned from her uncle and father on the day of their visit. Mary was well-educated and well-written. Mary’s comments about the appearance of the Confederate soldiers are poignant and memorable. She had a genuine interest in the battle which perhaps was due to the earlier drafting of several of her cousins. Mary visited the Antietam battlefield on October 2, 1862, just two weeks after battle and on the very day Lincoln and his party arrived in Sharpsburg from Harpers Ferry. Mary and her party did not wait to see President Lincoln.

This sword handle is from the battle of Antietam and part of the collection of Dennis Urban.

From the description given in the letter it’s possible to speculate on the areas of the field Mary visited. Coming from Hagerstown they probably first stopped at either the J. Poffenberger farm or the David R. Miller farm, which is just north of the famous cornfield. Both of these farms had small orchards adjacent to the farmhouse. The reference to the burial of “248 soldiers in the orchard” may be the best clue to this specific location. Since soldiers were buried near where they fell, the 248 could be either Union or Confederate soldiers buried on the David Miller farm.

The 1868 publication A Descriptive List of the Burial Places of the Remains of Confederate Soldiers, Who Fell in the Battles of Antietam… compiled at the behest of Maryland Governor Bowie, refers to the burials of large numbers of unknown on the D.R. Miller farm but does not specifically reference the number 248 or burials in the Miller orchard. There were no specific mentions of burials on the J. Poffenberger farm. The burned brick houses probably refer to the Mumma farm and buildings. The rebel “breastwork of rails” likely refers to the area of the sunken road. The sharpshooters tree could be the Confederate positions around the Burnside Bridge. Mary also visited the Dunker Church and the Grove farm where Lincoln reviewed the troops and met with General McClellan. Because Mary’s uncle had been to the battlefield several times, her tour was complete and thorough. The group stopped to talk with and get information from both Union and Confederate soldiers.

The draft to which Mary refers is probably the national draft signed into law by Lincoln on July 17, 1862 which encompassed all able-bodied men between 18 and 45 and established state quotas based on population. The civil war database lists quite a few Hoffer and Engle (maiden name of Mary’s mother) soldiers from Lancaster and Hanover counties who enlisted prior to September 1862. The complete letter follows below.

Dennis Urban

past president

Knoxville Civil War Roundtable

Mount Joy. Oct 27 1862.

Monday Morn.
My Dear Friend.
I suppose you almost thought I was not going to fulfill my promise I made when I left your place, but I could not possibly write sooner. We arrived home safe and sound a little over two weeks ago, being gone near two weeks. I enjoyed my visit very much.
We did not get to the battle field on Wednesday as we expected. We came to one of my Uncles living seven miles from Hagerstown, on Wednesday morning and our intention was to visit the field that day but they persuaded father to stay until Thursday morning and then they would go with us. We were very glad afterwards that Uncle was along, because he had been down several times and therefore knew best where the most was to be seen. It is indeed a place worth seeing.

The stench coming from the dead horses with which the ground was covered, made me feel quite sick at first, but I was soon used to it; After we were there a while I did not mind passing within three or four yards of a dead horse that had been lying three weeks in the sun. There were still a great many wounded rebels their and a few Union Soldiers that could not be moved. The first effect of the battle we saw was at a farm house, where the battle must have commenced. The house and barn and all the out buildings that could be used, were filled with wounded men and the garden and a great many tents behind the house were full. I did not get out of the carriage, because it was morning and they were getting their wounds dressed. I saw one lying in the
garden with his both legs off below the knee, and had nothing over him but the sky.

A contemporary drawing of the Battle of Antietam by combat artist Alfred Waud.

There was a Union Soldier their, told us that they buried 248 soldiers in the orchard and a lot belonging to that house, that had died their since the battle and there were still some yet that could not recover. Father was all around the place and saw them all, he saw two rebels that were dying, that were not seriously wounded, but they would not leave the bandages on the wounds, they said they wanted to die, the one even tried to kill himself that morning. I saw one walking. I saw one walking about with the right side of his face bandaged and upon inquiry found he had the half of his face shot off by a piece of a bomb shell. It took off half of his nose and mouth and his cheek and he was able to eat and speak. While we were their a lot of ambulances arrived, to take off the rebels could be moved, they are all paroled and will be sent to Dixie

After we left that house we saw nothing but ruined fields, fences and houses, at some places there was nothing left of the large brick farm houses but the bricks and ashes and the fences torn down, a person could drive out of the fields where they wished, and they were tramped as hard as the pike and soldiers clothes, knapsacks, haversacks cartridge boxes, tin plates, cups canteens, bullets, whole bombshells and pieces, caps, cartriges, army crackers, torn papers, dead horses, and soldiers graves all over them. The Union Soldiers were all nicely buried, with a board at the head of the grave, giving the name, company & regiment the person was in, some had neat little fences around them and some a large flat stone layed on them by their comrades, which how much they love their brother soldiers. The remains of a great many were taken up by their friends and taken home, we met a great many wagons going too and from the battle field with coffins.

The rebels are all buried in long trenches and nicely covered that is those that were buried by our men, but we saw some that the rebels buried, they had their heads knees and feet above the ground, not exactly their heads but the skulls were their yet. I saw the breastwork of rails put up by the rebels, and the tree the rebel sharpshooter was shot off of while picking off our officers, and the church riddled with bullets, some large enough for me to creep through, that is without hoops.

I could tell you of a great many more things I saw but time will not permit. We were also through the camp near Sharpsburg, there are a great many wounded soldiers their and they nearly all look very clean and comfortable, several that had one arm shot off were able to walk about again. I always had an idea the rebels must be horrid ugly, but I was not a little surprised to see some of the handsomest young men with the wounded that I ever saw, one quite young looking boy especially that had both his feet off.

The President, Gen McLellan and some distinguished officers were their that day but we could not wait till they arrived, but we saw some ten or twelve thousand soldiers in a large field waiting for them. I must now stop writing about the battle field or you will fall asleep while reading it, and maybe when you are done you cannot take and sense out of it. The draft has created a good deal of excitement around here, there were a good many of my cousins drafted. Our town has given four more volunteers than its quota and therefore there was no draft needed here. I hope their are none of your friends drafted. I must now close hoping to hear from you very soon. my best respects to all my friends.

Truly your friend

Mary E. Hoffer
Mount Joy, Lancaster Co. Pa.

Spotsylvania, 1864: Breeching the Mule Shoe

By May of 1864, the Civil War, now in its fourth year and showing no signs of abating , had reached a whole new level of intensity. Around the sleepy Virginia village of Spotsylvania Court House, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates dug-in, defending the road to Richmond, while the Federals under Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade pounded on them relentlessly.

Tactics changed at Spotsylvania–innovations in earthworks and how to attack them had evolved to a new level by this point–all of which led to the single worst bloodletting of the tragic Overland Campaign.

Come join us as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Lead Historian Frank O’Reilly takes us back to the Battle of the Bloody Angle and the prelude attack at the Mule Shoe that set the stage for this incredible white-heat moment of combat. Spotsylvania became a life-and-death struggle for the Union and the Confederacy which created a profound legacy that endures to this day.

WELCOME BACK TO KNOXVILLE, FRANK O’REILLY!

Frank A. O’Reilly received both his BA and MA in American History with a concentration in Early American Military History and Civil War Studies. After graduating from Washington & Lee University in 1987, he joined the National Park Service at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Later he worked with the Park Service at Independence Hall in Philadelphia before returning to Fredericksburg in 1990 as the park’s permanent historian. He has also served as an historical consultant for the City of Fredericksburg. O’Reilly, who has lectured extensively on military history to audiences around the world, has written numerous articles on the Civil War and Mexican War and has appeared on CSPAN and in several video documentaries.

He is the author of Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg and The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock which garnered several awards including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters. Currently he is researching a book on the Battle of Malvern Hill and the Seven Days’ Campaign around Richmond.

Difficult and broken ground: the terrain as a factor in the battle of Shiloh

Numerous factors combined to bring about the major Union victory that was Shiloh.

Timing, numbers, and leadership all combined to sway the action in definite ways, but perhaps the most dominant and least understood reason for the reversal of Confederate fortunes was the terrain on which the Battle of Shiloh took place. Understanding of the battle must be based firmly on an understanding of the field on which it was fought.

Come join us on Tuesday, Aug. 14, as Dr. Timothy B. Smith, basing his talk on his award-winning book Shiloh: Conquer or Perish, will walk us through a detailed examination of the terrain factor at Shiloh. He will explain how the ground, often described negatively as a trap for the Union forces, was set up perfectly for Union victory and Confederate defeat.

Little known features will be examined to understand more fully how the battle was
shaped and how it funneled in certain directions, leading to a major advantage for the Federal forces. Albert Sidney Johnston famously proclaimed that he must conquer or perish that day. After seeming to do the former, he and many Confederate soldiers under him did the latter at Shiloh in large part due to the terrain on which the battle was fought.

Timothy Smith

Timothy B. Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University, is a veteran of the National Park Service and currently teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In addition to numerous articles and essays, he is the author, editor, or co-editor of eighteen books, including

  • Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (2004), which won the nonfiction book award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters,
  • Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation (2012), which won the Fletcher Pratt Award and the McLemore Prize,
  • Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (2014), which won the Richard B. Harwell Award, the Tennessee History Book Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and
  • Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson (2016), which won the Tennessee History Book Award, the Emerging Civil War Book Award, the Albert Castel Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award.

His book on Grierson’s Raid, The Real Horse Soldiers, comes out in September, and he is currently writing a book on the May 19 th and 22 nd Union assaults on the Confederate lines at Vicksburg that preceded the siege and surrender of the city.

Tim lives with his wife Kelly and children Mary Kate and Leah Grace in Adamsville, Tennessee.

Monthly Civil War Information Packets – How to get one

Each month, 100 packets of Civil War information are donated to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable.

There are two ways to get a copy. (1) Be one of the first 100 people arriving at the monthly meeting or (2) pick up a packet left on a table after the meeting.

On the average only 80% of the packets are taken home. The remainder are available for anyone wanting a packet but didn’t get one initially. During the over 75 months that groups of packets have been donated to KCWRT and handed out to members, there has never been a month when all of the packets were taken home.

After everyone that wants a copy gets one, the remaining packets are collected and become part of future handouts for guests.

Ft. Dickerson spring clean-up report

The Civil War Trust sponsors an annual work day at multiple Civil War sites. Here in Knoxville the KCWRT has for many years partnered with the City of Knoxville Parks & Recreation Department to preserve historic Fort Dickerson, and to promote public visitation and appreciation of this unique location, which was an

integral part of Union defenses during the siege of Knoxville in November, 1863. Our initial Spring Clean-Up on April 7 was canceled due to weather, and rescheduled for April 28, which turned out to be a lovely day.

Director of Preservation Eric Wayland arranged for the City to furnish a Bobcat for lifting mulch for the paths, and 15-20 Police Scouts donated their Saturday morning to spread the mulch. Cannons and interpretive signs were cleaned, debris removed, and other odd jobs performed by several volunteers, including Eric’s daughter Kelly and her family, and KCWRT members Jim Doncaster, Dick Heisser, Dennis
Urban, Stan Sech, Tom Wright, Jerry Patterson, Melanie and Miranda Goldstine, and John Burkhart.

Thanks to the efforts of the City of Knoxville Maintenance Department, increased patrols by the Knoxville Police Department, and the new entry and hiking and bicycle trails, visitation has increased significantly. Our Roundtable has made a significant contribution. Fort Dickerson Park is definitely worth a visit.

Dinner reservations revisited

At our monthly meeting on May 8, we paid for 102 diners. Unfortunately, we had only 82 reservations, so we had to set up an additional table and barely had enough food. Of the 102 who ate dinner, 72 were members, and 30 were guests. We also had 24 members and 6 guests who attended the lecture. A large crowd is wonderful, and if we could reliably count on 90 for dinner, we could routinely reserve both halves
of the building and never be cramped.

PLEASE…..
1. Join us for dinner.
2. Call 671-9001 before 12 noon on the Monday before the meeting and make a reservation.
3. Do not sit at a table if you are not eating.
4. Do not sit in a chair away from the table if you are eating.
Bearden Banquet Hall counts heads at tables and diners in chairs, and charges us accordingly. The Board tries keep dinner costs low, and so there is little margin. Losing money is not fiscally responsible. We want our meetings to be both attended and affordable. Please help.

President’s message: Never dull or boring

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”—-James Russell Lowell, 1848

As my year as President draws to a close, a small amount of retrospection is appropriate. It’s been an educational year, usually interesting, sometimes aggravating, but never dull nor boring. I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and am especially grateful for the chance to work with some truly generous people who give freely of their time, talent, and financial support to make our club and community better. I won’t name names, because not only would I omit someone, but also because none of them seem to do what they do in hopes of public recognition or adulation.

We are, of course, an organization of volunteers, and have been since 1983. Many of our members contribute additional financial support beyond basic dues, which allows us to do more than just publish a monthly newsletter and have dinner meetings with outstanding speakers. Board members keep the wheels turning, and volunteers support our preservation efforts at Fort Dickerson, Living History Weekend in
October, and the East Tennessee History Fair in August. Many of our members are re-enactors and speakers at schools, museums, churches, civic clubs, and other
organizations. All of this, and more, supports our mission of “promoting the knowledge, commemoration, and preservation of our American Civil War heritage.”
June is the first month of summer. The days are long and warm, and it’s a good time to visit historic sites, or just to read a good book. Our semimonthly Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 5, at Bearden Public Library. Meetings are always open to Roundtable members, but due to a long agenda, this month we’ll begin at 5 pm instead of the usual 6 pm. This will be the farewell meeting for John Stegner, who filled two offices this year, and Laura Reagan, who has been on the Board for the past 18 years. Joining the Board on July 1 will be Melanie Goldstine, Sheila Burchfield, and Tim Vane. Some current Board members will assume new duties, and Jack Spiceland will serve as our next President. I look forward to this coming year of excellent leadership from Jack and your Board.

John Burkhart

“The past is prologue.”—-William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

Editor’s Note:
It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of long time friend and
KCWRT member Dr. Robert H. Greer. Bob served on the Board as Treasurer for
many years and will be sorely missed. He was a great man and a great friend.
The family asks that any donations be made to Remote Area Medical Foundation,
2200 Stock Creek Blvd., Rockford, Tenn., 37853, or to the Robert H. Greer
Scholarship Fund at The McCallie School, 500 Dodds Ave., Chattanooga, Tenn.,
37404

 

Braxton Bragg: The most hated man in the Confederacy

History has not been kind to Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

Braxton Bragg

His reputation, sullied during the Civil War, has suffered ever since. The most-hated man of the Confederacy was blamed for lost battles and branded as a chief cause of Confederate defeat. Considered a tyrant who callously executed his own soldiers, often for seemingly trivial causes, he was the victim of many a false story

Rather than causing Rebel defeat, Bragg was actually the most able commander of the Army of Tennessee, but
he worked under a wide variety of problems typical of most
high-ranking Southern commanders. Many of his colleagues and
soldiers continued to believe in his leadership despite the many
controversies surrounding his troubled Civil War career.

Come join us on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, as Dr. Earl Hess breaks away from the prevailing historiography to portray Bragg in a more balanced way, as a man with unusual talent that was recognized by many including
his chief supporter, Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

WELCOME BACK TO THE ROUNDTABLE, EARL HESS!

Dr. Earl J. Hess has been a student of Civil War history since
he was a teenager, growing up in rural Missouri.

He completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees in History at Southeast
Missouri State University. His Ph.D. in American Studies,
with a concentration in History, was awarded by Purdue
University in 1986. He has taught at a number of institutions,
including the University of Georgia, Texas Tech University,
and the University of Arkansas.

Since 1989, he has been at Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee, where he is Associate Professor of History, past director of the
History Program, and holds the Stewart McClelland Chair.

Dr. Hess has published more than twenty books, over thirty
articles, and more than a hundred book reviews for academic
history journals. His book, Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated
Man of the Confederacy, the subject of his June presentation
(University of North Carolina Press, 2016), won the Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award, Atlanta Civil War Round Table, in 2017.

Sultana Association reunion, Selma, AL, April 27-29, 2018

–Norman Shaw

The 31st annual reunion of Sultana descendants and friends will be held this coming April 27th and 28th in Selma, AL. Selma is only about 12 miles from the now abandoned town of Cahaba, once the state capital, where about 3,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned in an abandoned cotton warehouse. About 1,200 of these men ended up on the Sultana steamboat, along with

about the same number from Andersonville Prison, that was transporting them home when it blew up on the Mississippi River about 2 a.m. on April 27, 1865, about seven miles above Memphis.

This continues to be the worst maritime disaster in American history with about 1,200 lives lost, mostly former Union POWs crammed on the Sultana at Vicksburg, MS, a few days earlier.

For more information about the 2018 reunion, contact
Norman Shaw at shawclan4@bellsouth.net. Everyone is welcome!