Forty Days in Hell: Grant’s Overland Campaign

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Battered and bloodied at the Battle of the Wilderness days before and now engaged in a titanic struggle at the “Mule Shoe” at Spotsylvania, Ulysses S. Grant doggedly affirmed his intentions in a dispatch: “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”

And fight it out he did. Day after day, battle after brutal battle, the Overland Campaign raged for 40 consecutive days between May 4th and June 12th, 1864. The campaign pitted the Union’s best general, Grant, fresh from the West, against the Confederacy’s best, the legendary Robert E. Lee, for the first time in the war.

Weeks of savage fighting in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, at the North Anna River, and at Cold Harbor, where 7,000 Union soldiers fell in just thirty minutes, exhausted the resources and tested the will of both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. On the home front and in the capitals North and South, a great hue and cry arose as casualty reports were posted and the scale of the carnage became manifest.

The war had entered a new and even-deadlier phase. Through it all, Grant remained implacable. Though the Overland Campaign failed to deliver the knockout blow he had hoped for, Grant had succeeded in stealing the initiative from Lee. The oft-beaten and much-maligned Army of the Potomac would not retreat again.

Come join us on Feb. 12 for an unforgettable evening as General Grant himself addresses his assumption of command of all Federal armies, his build-up for the Overland Campaign, and why he chose to go through the Wilderness rather than around it. He will speak to the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and the deadly dance between the armies up to and through Cold Harbor to the beginning of the siege of Petersburg.

Welcome to Knoxville, Curt Fields

Dr. E. C. (Curt) Fields, Jr., is an avid and lifelong student of the American Civil War. His interest in portraying General Ulysses S. Grant was driven by that study and his deep respect and admiration for General Grant. Dr. Fields is the same height and body type as General Grant and therefore presents a convincing, truetolife image of the man as he really looked. He researches and reads extensively about General Grant to deliver an accurate persona of the General. His presentations are in first person, quoting from General Grant’s Memoirs, articles and letters the General wrote, and statements he made in interviews.

Dr. Fields holds a Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Education from the University of Memphis. He later earned a Master’s degree in Secondary Education and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Curriculum from Michigan State University. He is a career educator who taught for eight years at the junior and senior high school levels and then served for 25 years as a high school administrator. He also has taught as an adjunct Sociology Professor at the University of Memphis and in Education for Belhaven University’s Memphis campus.

Dr. Fields is now an educational consultant and living historian. As a consultant, he has worked in leadership development as espoused and practiced by General Grant with several corporate and civic groups. As a living historian, Dr. Fields portrayed General Grant at the 150th Sesquicentennial observations of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Raymond, Vicksburg, and at Appomattox Court House in 2015. He has portrayed the general on film, as well starring as General Grant in the Visitor Center film shown at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park and in the Discovery Channel’s three-part documentary series “How Booze built America.”

Dr. Fields also was featured as General Grant, giving his life story, on the Civil War Trust website. A frequent contributor to “The Civil War Courier” (A Civil War monthly newspaper), Dr. Fields is a member of The Tennessee Historical Society, The West Tennessee Historical Society, The Shelby County Historical Society, The Nathan Bedford Forrest Historical Society, The Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association, The Appomattox 1865 Foundation, The 290 Foundation (dedicated to the Civil War Navies), The Civil War Trust, and the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

President’s message: February 2019

The classic story in American literature is the novel entitled Gone With The Wind.

Written by Atlanta newspaper reporter Margaret Mitchell and published in 1936, the 1,037-page book swept the nation by storm and was at the top of the bestseller list in both 1936 and 1937.

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, the novel was made into a movie in 1939. Since that time, book sales have exceeded thirty million and the movie has become one of the highest grossing films of all time.

It is considered one of the greatest American films ever produced and has become a cultural icon.

The novel itself is a confusing swirl of myths and facts about the aristocratic side of plantation life in the South and the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War.

It is a tale of unrequited love, social and cultural upheaval, economic destruction, lost hopes and dreams, and the tragedy of human suffering and bondage. For the South, the character of Scarlett O’Hara represented its struggle with the war and reconstruction. Her struggles were symbolic of the South’s own resilience and its indomitable will to survive and never give up. Mitchell’s book and the subsequent movie had a pull on Southerners that was simply irresistible. It gave verbal and visual expression to a lingering, frustrated anger and resentment that had remained bottled up since the “starving times” in the years following the war.

On December 15, 1939, over 100,000 people lined the motorcade route to welcome arriving GWTW actors and actresses to Atlanta for the Premiere of GWTW. The governor declared the day a state holiday and proms, parades and other festivities were held. That evening, the movie stars attended the Premiere of the movie at the Loew’s Grand Theatre.

The black cast members, including Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, were not allowed to attend the Premiere because of Georgia’s strict segregation laws.

There were many inherent problems with the movie. Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard were all citizens of Great Britain. Clark Gable, America’s heart throb, possessed a full set of dentures and was paranoid about having them accidentally dislodged in his “up close” kissing scenes. Hattie McDaniel, an accomplished songwriter and star of both stage and screen, was from Colorado and had to be tutored to speak in the dialect of a North Georgia slave.

The movie was filmed on the back lot of a studio in Culver City, California. The dirt on the set was dyed red to resemble Georgia’s red clay. Tara was a facade built by the studio and the exterior of Twelve Oaks was a matte painting. Nothing was filmed in Georgia.

It was “tinsel town” at its finest and Southern mythology at its best. It was about as authentic as Harry Potter and The Hogwart’s School of Magic. The movie, like the book, should have been entitled “Life Styles of The Rich and Famous,” since it only represented the aristocratic slice of southern culture.

The rest of the South was left out.

To compound matters, Atlanta was a railroad and industrial town with no Spanish moss and very few Greek Revival mansions. Following the Premiere, the town was compelled to completely reinvent itself to fit the film’s image and subsequent explosion in tourism.

Hattie McDaniel died in 1952. She asked to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery in California. Her request was denied because the cemetery was segregated. Even in death, Ms. McDaniel found no comfort. Despite the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, 650,000 deaths in The Civil War and the 14th Amendment, Ms. McDaniel still had no place at the table.

Jack Spiceland, President

KCWRT – Scout’s Report February 2019

 

2-2019 scout final

McClung Museum Hosts Ninth Annual Civil War Lecture Series

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View of Knoxville, Tenn. Knoxville Tennessee United States, 1864. [Photographed , Printed Later] Photograph.

The ninth annual McClung Museum Civil War Lecture Series begins January 20.

Throughout the series, McClung Museum Civil War Curator Joan Markel will shed light on the individual lives of Knoxvillians during the war. This social history is one of the first community-level studies devoted to the origins, conflicts, and aftermath of the Civil War as it played out in an established all-American city.

The lectures, which are free and open to the public, are held on one Sunday each month from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the museum’s auditorium.

The opening lecture on January 20, “Knoxville’s Civilian War: The Caregivers,” looks at the women of Knoxville who served as de facto physicians, ministers, press representatives, and domestic caregivers—all of the roles people looked to for expertise, advice, information, and counseling when life-altering decisions were made.

Other lectures in the series include:

  • February 17: “Knoxville’s Civilian War: The Lawyers.” Since its earliest days, our city has had a robust legal community, with many lawyers particularly visible in civil service roles. Examination of the sides chosen and the course of political careers over the war years and beyond reveals a complex interpretation of loyalty.
  • March 31: “Knoxville’s Civilian War: The Financiers.” With the coming of the railroad in 1855, new and established merchandising and distribution firms prospered in Knoxville. Many of the old families and the new money cast their lot with the promising economic prospects of the Confederacy. For some of these families, the war brought eager promise followed by economic ruin. Yet others maintained—and even grew—their wealth and status.
  • April 28: “Knoxville’s Civilian War: The Common Man.” The stories of many young men from working-class families come to light through well-documented military records supplemented by diaries, letters, and books detailing wartime routines and ordeals. When the fighting ended, many former Rebels never returned, going west or to the Deep South, while many former Union soldiers moved permanently to Knoxville to prosper with the town in the second half of the 19th century.

The McClung Museum is located at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Free parking is available on the weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is available via the Knoxville Trolley Orange Line. See the museum’s website for more information about family programming, parking, and collections and exhibits.

CONTACTS:

Joan Markel (865-974-2144, jmarkel@utk.edu)

Zack Plaster (865-974-6750, zplaster@utk.edu)

KCWRT – Scout’s Report, January 2019

1-2019 Scout

 

Lightning Strikes at Chickamauga: Wilder’s Mounted Infantry Brigade: KCWRT, Jan. 15, 2019

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“His command…merits the thanks of the country for its noble stand at the crossing of the Chickamauga…”, affirmed Major General William Rosecrans speaking of the role played by Col. John T. Wilder’s vaunted “Lightning Brigade” in the opening act of the Battle of Chickamauga.

Major General George Thomas was equally effusive in recommending Wilder for a promotion to brigadier citing his “ingenuity…in occupying the attention of the entire corps of the rebel army”, his “valor”, and “excellent service” … “before and during the battle of Chickamauga”. Three stars clearly shone brightly in the dark of the Union disaster at Chickamauga.

One was that of Old Pap Thomas whose heroic stand at Snodgrass Hill saved the Union army and garnered him the sobriquet of “Rock of Chickamauga”. The second was that of Gordon Granger who marched to the sound of the guns and, with Thomas, helped save the day.

And the third was none other than that of an Indiana industrialist, now colonel, John Thomas Wilder. In the six months leading up to the battle, through scouting and raiding in Middle Tennessee and giving battle at Hoover’s Gap, Wilder had crafted and molded one of the most powerful and unique units of the Civil War.

Come join on January 15 (please note the date) us as Historian Jim Ogden relates the story of Wilder’s famed Mounted Infantry Brigade and how they proved their mettle at Chickamauga.  From a key role on the initial Union left to the application of deadly firepower on the Union’s new right, Wilder’s Brigade shaped the action wherever they were on the field. Famously armed with the Spencer Repeating Rifle, the Brigade’s success was due not just to the new arm, but also to the leadership exercised by Wilder and his lieutenants and the character of the men under them. All of this and more will be a part of Ogden’s talk, “Lightning Strikes at Chickamauga.” This is one you’re not going to want to miss!

Jim Ogden, Chief Historian at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, is an historian, teacher, and tour guide par excellence. A frequent speaker at Round Tables and historical organizations across the U.S., Jim is a longtime friend of the KCWRT, our most visited speaker, and the first historian to be awarded with an honorary lifetime membership to our organization.

A native of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Jim joined the National Park Service in 1982 and served at Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Russell Cave, and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania before returning to Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP in 1988 as historian, the position he now holds. Jim has taught numerous history courses, led hundreds of tours and army staff rides, and written several articles on the Civil War. He also has appeared in several TV productions including “Civil War Journal”, “Civil War Combat”, and “History Detectives”.

Over the years Jim has been the recipient of a host of awards for his scholarship, preservation and advocacy work. His most recent awards include the United States Army Commander’s Award for Public Service and the Civil War Trust’s National Park Service Preservation Advocate Award, both bestowed in 2017.

Jim, his wife Lora, and their son Jamie (born on the133rd anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg) live in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia near the Chickamauga Battlefield.

It Wasn’t Supposed to End Like This…

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By Dennis Urban

George Messer was a 30 year old musician in Company F, 107th Illinois Infantry, who wrote his wife from the Lamar House Hospital in Knoxville on December 23, 1863. He was hoping to be home on furlough for Christmas. But that is getting ahead of the story.

George was a carpenter from DeWitt County, IL who was married but two years when he enlisted on Independence Day in 1862. In June 1860, he lived on a farm with his older brother and his mother. His father was absent from the home. His reasons for enlisting are unknown but given the date he enlisted perhaps patriotism after a rousing speech played a part. Maybe he enlisted as a musician so he would not have to carry a musket into combat. He may not have known that musicians were used as stretcher bearers to evacuate the wounded during battle. Many times they were in the thick of the action. The regiment was mustered into Federal service on September 4 and trained at Camp Butler, east of Springfield IL, before they left for the front. That fall the 107th spent time chasing John Hunt Morgan around Kentucky. These escapades did not result in any casualties within the regimen

George was a prolific letter writer to his wife Charlotte, whom he addressed as Lottie. Lottie was five years younger than he. His letter of December 23 was his 89th letter home. He numbered all his letters. George proved to be a sickly soldier, frequently writing about his intestinal diarrhea difficulties. As the regiment moved around, George spent most of his time in regimental hospitals. His letters indicate that he was sick more than he was well. He provided Lottie with news of the regiment and of those relatives and friends serving with him. He frequently sent money home. George offered Lottie advice on managing the farm. By September 25th the regiment was in Loudon, TN and George was again sick in the hospital for the next two weeks. He did recover and reported himself “well and hearty” to Lottie on October 11. His recovery was short-lived as he wrote on October 26 that he was “very poor and weak” and weighing 135#.

The 107th arrived in Knoxville the next day (October 27) at which time George began his stay at the Lamar House hospital. His letter of October 30 (#83) provides an excellent description of the Lamar House as a hospital. He writes, “the house that this hospital is in was a large hotel called the Lamar House and was owned by a Rebel and abandoned when our forces first came to this place. It is a splendid house and is well-suited for a hospital. There is now about two hundred & fifty patients in it. Some of them are pretty bad and some stout and hearty as men need be. There is about three deaths every twenty-four hours which is a very small average for a hospital of this size. I am way up on the third story and can have a view of over half the city from the window. [John] Minor Jolley [of Co. B] and myself are in a room with five others and we keep ourselves pretty comfortable.” George’s observations about the Lamar House provide some interesting information. We know the Lamar House had several additions built onto the original building especially on the north and west sides of the block. Being in a room with six others meant they were in quite a large room, perhaps even a corner room although he only mentions one window. Since he could view over half the city, he could have occupied a north facing room.

George remained in the Lamar House Hospital during November and he again wrote home from there on December 3. He commented that, “I am very weak and I can’t keep my diarrhea stopped long enough at a time to gain much strength…I don’t think that I will get entirely well until I can get to come home where I can get proper diet and better care and nursing.”  He tells Lottie of some “sharp fighting” that had occurred in November (Fort Sanders) in which one soldier was killed and four others of the 107th were wounded. He concludes by telling her of his efforts to get sent home to recuperate but says it is impossible to get anyone’s attention with all that is happening. 

This brings the story to George’s letter of December 23 (#89). George was trying to get a furlough to come home for Christmas but the medical director told him that furloughs were not being granted as the railroad was not in running order to Chattanooga. He wrote Lottie that “I think that I am getting a little better and have been mending slowly since I wrote to you last. I am gaining strength but my feet and legs are so bloated and swelled and so stiff that I can hardly get up when I am down. But when I am up a little while, I can manage to walk a little from my room out into the hall and back. I have not been downstairs on the ground for four weeks. I would be able to go down now if I was not so stiff for when I do go down, I have three pairs of stairs to go down and up again which is considerable of a job for me even if I was not so stiff. But I think the Dr will give me something to help that in a few days. He is very attentive to me.”

On the same sheet, George added additional information on Christmas Eve. He wrote, “During the siege here at this place, I was considerable under the weather and the prospect at one time was doubtful whose hands we would fall into, so I went to work one day and destroyed all of your letters that I had as I did not wish for other Eyes to see what was never intended they should and I did not know but I would get down so I could not take care of them myself. I am sorry that I done so now but it is too late. You must not think hard of me for doing so. Those other keepsakes, the locks of hair of yourself and our Dear Child that sleeps beneath the sod, I keep close to me night and day and shall still continue to do so. I would get my Likeness taken and send to you but I am affraid it would scare you. But I dont look so very poor in my face for it is nearly covered with hair. and besides, being considerable bloated, I shal not send my Likeness for a little while untill I see whether I get to come home any ways soon which I think will be known in the next three weeks at farthest.”

 When George closed this letter, his words proved to be prophetic. “My Darling Wife Good By from your Ever True and Loving Husband”. Thirty year old George Messer died on December 30, 1863 without ever leaving the Lamar House. His family was first notified of his passing through a letter from Lottie’s nephew (Willy), a soldier in the same Company F as George, to Lottie’s parents. Willy and a company lieutenant were able to recover some of George’s possessions and send them to Lottie. Some of his personal items and some of his money were stolen from his room after his death. Other items were sold to pay for what he owed the regiment. Letters were written concerning returning his remains to DeWitt County in the spring for burial. This was never accomplished for today George Messer lies in Section A of the National Cemetery in Knoxville, six rows removed from the center flagpole.

As we give thanks for all of our many blessings this Christmas and Holiday Season, it would be well to remember George and all the other soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Sources: https://messerweb.wordpress.com and collection of Dennis Urban

 

 

 

Scout’s Report, December 2018

Scout’s Report, December 2018

Scout’s Report, November 2018

 

Scout’s Report, November 2018.

 

 

Loveville becomes Lovell

Dennis Urban

This story first appeared in the KCWRT monthly newsletter, The Scout, in February 2014.  Because of the time of year connected to the story below, it is timely to republish this fascinating piece of local history which may not be known to the average area resident.  Additional information has been updated and added to the original article.

In talking with (one of our older members) before the last meeting about the Raby families in Roane County during the late war, I mentioned that I recently learned about the Loveville community that was near the intersection of Kingston Pike and the current Lovell Road.  The gentleman knew of the community and later sent me this photo of the historic marker noting a short history of the community.

The marker reads, “Robertus Love, a companion of Gen. James White, who founded Knoxville, established the village in this area in 1797 where he built a fulling mill in 1792. Several of the early buildings still exist a short distance from the highway. The name of the village has been corrupted to Lovell.” The marker is long gone and my contact was unable to find out what happened to it. Several things are interesting about the photo.  The Oak Ridge sign in the left background appears to be a mileage marker to the town. So the sign dates to after the Oak Ridge town was common knowledge. Also the car to the left of the sign appears to be late 1940s or early 1950s; so the sign is probably early 1950s.

Loveville is seen on an 1850 area map just east of Campbell’s Station along the Kingston Road. I could not resist thinking that this Loveville community must have 

some relation to the Mary Love family of Kingston. The same Mary Love, who in early December 1863, volunteered to carry a message from General Grant to General Burnside at Knoxville.  She began her perilous journey in Kingston and reached Louisville, TN. At that point a 13-year-old boy completed the trip to Knoxville and the message reached Burnside. The story is related in gre

ater detail in the book, The Knoxville Campaign, by Earl J. Hess, on page 181. I write about this because I continue to be fascinated by the early history our region. Loveville and its buildings are gone forever. Many area residents don’t know that Loveville became the Lovell area and a road was given the corrupted name. I can only wonder what other intriguing details or even photographs of this Loveville community exist. If you can contribute to this story, let me know.