June/July 2015


Good day,


This issue will serve for the months of June and July.  A brief issue will resume on August 3rd, but please don’t expect anything too lengthy as not much will be happening over the summer.  As always, feel free to email me with any comments, suggestions, or complaints.  I wish to encourage everyone to use the opportunity of the down time this summer to refresh and revamp.  Go through your gear and fix/replace what needs be done.  Use the time to roll rounds ahead of the season.  Take the time to review training exercises and such.  Don’t forget that our RESOURCES area has a great deal of manuals, videos, and other guides…take advantage of this great wealth of knowledge.  Encourage your mates to do the same.


As always, if you wish to be notified of each new issue, send an email to subscribe@floridareenactorsonline.com.   ALL Writers are welcomed: Confederate, Union, and Civilian.  If you wish to submit an article, or have any questions, send an email to webmaster@floridareenactorsonline.com.


Your obedient servant,



Sgt. Mjr. Hamilton McElroy

4th Brigade, US



For additional event information, please visit the EVENTS page for a complete listing.


·        The updated Schedule of Events will be available on July 1st.

·        August 14-16:  Battle of Gainesville, FL

·        Fourth of July Re-enactor Events: Greetings, fellow re-enactors!  Many are familiar with the annual Rifles, Rails, and History event held in September in Tavares, Florida.  In promoting said event (and providing an opportunity to don our period clothing for a little oasis in the re-enacting off season) some re-enactment events and participation are being planned as part of the Independence Day festivities in Tavares on Friday July 4, 2015.  The success of these largely depend on the number of participants on hand to put on a good showing for the crowd (and give us the chance to burn a little gunpowder), so please share this with your unit members and fellow re-enactors that you think may be interested in this endeavor.  The details on the day's events are as follows:

1) Independence Day Parade - A re-enactor parade unit is being entered in the Tavares parade.  This is open to both Union, Confederate, and civilian re-enactors comprising a marching unit and possibly a float for civilians to ride on.  Military troops will be needed for a Color Guard and a marching force; please bring cartridges as we will be firing musket volleys along the route. The parade begins at 5:00 PM.  Early arrivals are welcome to meet at re-enactor Bob Grenier's house nearby and car pool or caravan to the parade formation site.   For those wishing to head directly to the park, the earlier you the better you chances of finding a parking spot closer to the park.  Plenty of room is available at the parking garage about two blocks north of the park.  Re-enactor participants are asked to meet around 4:00 PM near the replica 1880s Woodlea House in the park; if past that time please meet at our parade line up position nearby.   Uniform of the day for troops will be light marching order (musket, leathers, haversack, bayonet, and canteen).  The parade route is not unusually long (roughly 1/2 mile or so in length) and stays in close to the park.  The re-enactor unit will be close the the head of the parade (4th unit or so back behind the police n fire department vehicles and local elected officials).


2) Battle re-enactment - This will be held in the early evening very shortly after the end of the parade (which should give us a built in crowd).  This will be a largely infantry action fought along the lake shore and into the small field around the period Woodlea House.  Immediately after the parade, those wishing to participate will move to the area around the Woodlea House, take a refresher break, get some water, etc. or meet here around 6 PM.  From here we will go over the battle scenario and move to our staging positions. 


For those who wish to bring the family, make a day of it, etc. the park will be filled a host of festivities (and the splash park will be open).   The day will conclude with fireworks over Lake Dora.  I have attached a map of the site layout provided by the organizers which shows the location of the re-enactment and the other parts of the festival.  By all means feel free to contact me for further details.  All the best and until such time as our paths cross may cross again I remain,


Lt. Col. Keith W. Kohl, CSA






The Ending of the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States

By Gen. Thomas Jessee



As the 150th winds down, most are left with the question of: What next?   As also happened at the end of the 100th, and the 125th, most are feeling exhausted.  It has been a very busy 4 years.  And it means that there will be a slowing down of participation in events.  Some will retire, or just fade away.  Many will just take some time off, and attend a limited number of events.


There has been talk of where reenacting will go from here.  It is a conversation that many need to have.  For a number of reasons, there will not be the ‘mega events’ that many have taken for granted. 


There is a feeling among some that we will need to focus on local, meaning Florida and Georgia, events and then select the best and support those.  We, also, will see some folks looking for other parts of reenacting to take part in.  A person that has been in the infantry may decide to try being a sailor or a civilian as something different. 


Whatever direction, or directions, it takes, I think reenacting will change from what we have become used to.


As for me, I will always be involved in some form with reenacting and living history.   The 150th was a remarkable series of events, which will not come around again.

From striking the gavel that took Florida out of the Union in 1861 (2011) to recently having the honour of portraying Gen RE Lee at the National Park at Appomattox, the 150th has been far more than I could have dreamed of back in 2010. 


Now, just as Gen. Lee did after Appomattox, we should look to the future.


Gen Thomas Jessee





150th Anniversary of Appomattox

Compliments of Dr. Cutis Fields



Dr. Fields (Gen. Ulysses Grant) sends his compliments, and he highly recommended the video that Mr. Brady (Paul Schatzkin) made of Appomattox.





Federal Garrison of Ft. Clinch

Pictures By James Shillinglaw



The following pictures are just a brief sampling from the collection of Mr. James Shillinglaw during his participation on this year’s Federal May Garrison of Ft. Clinch in Fernandina Beach, on May 1-3, 2015.  While the first weekend of every month sees a collection of soldiers bringing this most historic fort to life, the Federal May Garrison is widely considered to be the largest and best garrison weekend for the Fort.  Usually there are anywhere from 80-100 Federal troops manning the fort and fulfilling such duties as sentry, mess, blacksmith, baker, and carpenter.  Additionally, a great deal of drill and instruction takes place as well.  All troops are welcomed. 

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Saint Andrews Bay Salt Works Raid

By Ron Boyce




The annual St Andrews Salt Works Raid commemorates a raid that the Union Navy completed in 1863 which attempted to curtail the production of salt in that area. Salt was a very important commodity during the war between the states. Salt was used for leather making, gunpowder, and food preservation just to name a few key uses. St Andrews Bay had a high salinity content and was heavily wooded, both needed to convert sea water to salt. Before the war, salt was mined in Minnesota and imported and was fairly cheap. When the Union stopped selling salt to the South and they instigated the blockade, the availability dropped and price of salt skyrocketed. The Union Navy came from Pensacola and entered the Bay which boasted dozens of salt making operations, even outfits from other Southern States. It took 5 days to burn down the more than 500 structures associated with the production. Sledge hammers and picks were not enough and boat howitzers had to be landed to help destroy the brick furnaces that had been constructed in the larger operations.


The reenactment is sponsored by the Pawnee Guard, www.pawneeguard.com, who do mostly Union Marine and Confederate Infantry impressions. The battle ground is in downtown Panama City, right on the Bay. The reenactors enjoyed exceptionally good weather with ocean breezes every evening. There was a Marine camp, and Salt Workers camp and modern camping was also available. There were all of the usual extras despite the small size of the event. The Salt Workers were represented by a crew form the Walton Guard, including Ethan Rodgers whose direct ancestor actually operated a salt works on the Bay during the war.  Displays were present that educated the public on the USS Pawnee and the Marines during the war, Civil War medicine by Dr. Woodrum, and Salt Making by Ethan Rodgers. The local Sea Cadet unit joined in and were outfitted as Marines and sailors and trained by the Pawnee Marine Guard NCO’s.


The Marines invaded from the sea aboard their launch and hit the beach right in front of the salt works. The salt workers put up a spirited fight and managed to get away with a box of their salt, but the strength of the Marine assault was too much for them and they had to give way. The Union sailors landed and they destroyed the salt boiling kettle before withdrawing to the launch. 


Raids were conducted on Saturday and Sunday. The spectators enjoyed the displays and the battles. The reenactors enjoyed the great camping and the chance to use the rowed launch for the amphibious assault. The event will take place next year again in the same spot and details can be found on www.pawneeguard.com.







In character, re-enactors mark 150 years since end of Civil War

The Occupation of Manatee, FL

By Thomas Becnel

Published: Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 5:08 p.m.




BRADENTON - On the Friday night before the Occupation of Manatee, Mike Bloski cooked campfire stew for a crew of about a dozen Civil War re-enactors.  He did it with an awkward bandage on his thumb — the first wound of the weekend.


“I had a can accident earlier,” Bloski explained, laughing at himself. “If you don't draw blood at a re-enactment, then you're not trying.”


Everyone seemed to enjoy his pork and beans on a grassy lot at the Manatee Village Historical Park. The sun set behind a row of canvas tents shaded by live oaks draped with Spanish moss.


After supper, soldiers gathered near the too-warm campfire. Most of them wore boots, wool trousers and striped linen shirts. Some of them tucked cell phones into their pants.  They talked and laughed. They played a dice game called Shut the Box. They sang songs such as “All For Me Grog” and “Drop of Nelson's Blood.”


These Civil War buffs enjoy the camaraderie as much as anything.


“In camp, you're all equals,” said Brandon Hiott, a 36-year-old Bradenton paramedic “You're just lovers of history who enjoy each other's company.”


More than 60 Florida re-enactors took part in the Occupation of Manatee, which sought to describe the final days of the Civil War in 1865.  The Bradenton event was one of the last celebrations in the country to mark the 150th anniversary of the war.  Most of the participants came from the Gulf Coast, but Michael Santana traveled all the way from Miami.  The 22-year-old just graduated from The Citadel in South Carolina, where Civil War history hits close to home for cadets.


“We started the war,” Santana said. “Jan. 9, 1861. We fired the first shots at a ship called Star of the West at Fort Sumter. We had a mural about it in our library.”


Now Santana is back in Florida, where he plans to go to law school. His father in Miami shares an interest in World War II, but not the Civil War.


“He's like, 'Our family was in Cuba back then,' ” Santana said. “ 'What the hell do I care?' ”


His son cares, though. As a re-enactor, Santana has a simple goal.


“To keep history from being relegated to the textbooks,” he says. “To tell the story of a common soldier, a common person, swept up in events.”


Rebekah Merritt of Lakeland set her tent apart from the federal soldiers camped at the Historical Village. She's a seamstress who plays a seamstress and sells period clothes at re-enactments.  Some women are interested in Civil War history. Others are more interested in costume drama.


“We call it porch fluff,” Merritt said. “They want to look pretty, wave their fans and have their picture taken. I have one lady, one of my regular customers, and she'll say, 'Bekah, I'm ready for a wow-me dress.' ”


She and her daughter got started at the Alafia River Rendezvous, a pre-Civil War re-enactment east of Tampa. It became a hobby and then a business they've shared for 13 years.


“I love it,” Merritt says. “I love everything about it. When I sew at home, I wear a corset over jeans and T-shirt.”


Hiott, the Bradenton paramedic, got started with medieval and renaissance fairs, and then progressed to Civil War, World War II and Vietnam War re-enactments.


“You've got some crossovers, but most people choose one or two time periods,” he said. “Then there are people like me who are interested in all times. Now I'm getting into the 16th century, Spanish colonial stuff.”


In real life, Hiott joined the Army and served in Bosnia and Iraq. He knows the life of a soldier.  For Civil War re-enactments, he plays a young Irish volunteer named Finnegan O'Toole. His nickname, “Stick,” might come from the red matchsticks he tucks into the band of his black bowler hat. He chews long-leaf tobacco and sings Irish folk songs.


“I like to put a back story to it,” Hiott says, “to give it more of a personal feel.”


Bloski, the 44-year-old leader of local re-enactors, is a Manatee firefighter. His daughter joins him at some events.  They have a black Labrador retriever named Jackson, as in Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  Bloski has traveled to the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville for some of the nation's biggest re-enactments.


In north Florida, he's been to Olustee, where there's a re-enactment each February.  Celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War gave him the idea for the Occupation of Manatee. No cannon fire or infantry charges, but lots of living history.


“Everybody loves to see a battle, but what's more telling than this?” Bloski asked. “This is the end of the Civil War. The timing is right, right now. The timing couldn't be better.”





The Battle of Palmito Ranch

Review by Bob Niepert


The Battle of Palmito Ranch is generally reckoned as the final battle of the American Civil War, since it was the last engagement involving casualties. It was fought on May 12 and 13, 1865, on the banks of the Rio Grande east of Brownsville, Texas, and a few miles from the seaport of Los Brazos de Santiago (now known as Matamoros). It took place more than a month after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.


Union and Confederate forces in southern Texas had been observing an unofficial truce, but Union Colonel Theodore H. Barrett ordered an attack on a Confederate camp near Fort Brown, for reasons unknown. (Some claimed he wanted to see combat before the war completely ended.) The Union attackers gained a few prisoners, but the attack was repulsed near Palmito Ranch the next day by Col. John Salmon Ford, and it was claimed as a Confederate victory. Casualty estimates are not dependable, but Union Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana is believed to have been the last man killed in combat in the war. The engagement is also known as the Battle of Palmito Hill.



Battle of Palmito Ranch

Written by Mark Weaver



The Battle of Palmito Ranch was the last land battle of the American Civil War. It took place in the extreme southern tip of Texas, near Brownsville. The main events of the battle took place on May 12-13, 1865; though, as you will see, the very first and very last troop movements took place on May 11 and 14 respectively.


By the time the Battle of Palmito Ranch took place, the war was long over. On April 9 Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. On April 15 Lincoln died after being shot the night before by John Wilkes Booth. Booth was shot and killed on April 26; the same day General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General Sherman. On May 4 General Richard Taylor surrendered to General E. R. S. Canby. On May 9 President Johnson declared an official end to the war, and on May 10 Jefferson Davis was captured.


So why was there a battle at Palmito Ranch?




That is a whole other story.





First, let me introduce you to the two commanders in this battle Colonel Theodore H. Barrett of the Union forces and Colonel John S. "Rip" Ford of the Confederate forces. Colonel Barrett commanded nearly 2,000 men on Brazos Santiago Island at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Colonel Ford was based at Brownsville, Texas; and his command - due to desertion as the war drew to a close - had only 625 men fit for duty at the beginning of April and no doubt lost many more by early May.


Captain William N. Robinson served under Colonel Ford and commanded two camps between Brownsville and Brazos Santiago Island. One was a small outpost at White's Ranch and the other his main camp nearer Brownsville at Palmito Ranch.


As May 1865 rolled around everyone in southern Texas knew that the war was essentially over. In March Colonel Ford communicated with Union Major General Lew Wallace concerning the possibility of a truce in southern Texas. Although no formal agreement came of it, a sort of gentlemen's agreement to end hostilities was observed.


However, in mid-April, the commander of Brazos Santiago Island, Colonel Robert B. Jones, resigned his post and headed home. He was replaced by Colonel Barrett...


Colonel Barrett was an interesting case. He had served as an officer in the Union Army since 1862, but he had never seen action. Some say the entire cause of the Battle of Palmito Ranch was Barrett's need for, "a little battlefield glory before the war ended altogether." I tend to agree, because there doesn't seem to be anything else for him to gain from this battle.


Anyway, that is the setup. Now let’s take a look at what went down...



May 11-12


In the early morning hours of May 11 Colonel Barrett issued orders that set in motion the final battle of the American Civil War...


Under those orders, Lieutenant Colonel David Branson, of the 62nd US Colored Infantry, mustered 250 of his men, with their officers at the north end of Brazos Santiago intending to cross to the mainland at Port Isabel in a steam boat under cover of darkness and a coming storm. However, the steamer broke down and they had no way to cross.


Branson then ordered his men to return to camp while he searched for another way to make the crossing. He finally gathered enough small boats to get his men and supplies across. Due to the storm he decided to go to the southern end of the island for a shorter passage across to Boca Chica.


Along the way he picked up 50 volunteers and 2 officers from the Union 2nd Texas Cavalry. These men were cavalry in name only as there were no horses available for them to ride...


Before making the crossing, each man was issued 5 days rations and 100 rounds of ammunition; and by 9:30 p.m. Branson finally had his force of 300 men on the mainland.


Using two mule-drawn wagons to carry extra supplies, Branson and his men set out immediately. Their target was the first rebel outpost at White's Ranch...


They reached and surrounded White's Ranch at roughly 2 a.m. on May 12. Unfortunately for them, their surprise attack surprised no one. Why? Because there was no one there to surprise, the rebels had all pulled back to Palmito Ranch only a few days earlier.


By this time his men had been up for nearly 24 hours, and Branson knew there was no way he could reach Palmito Ranch in time to surprise the rebels before daybreak. So, he decided to move a little farther inland and had his men take cover and sleep, "in a thicket and among weeds on the banks of the Rio Grande one mile and a half above White's Ranch."


At this time, the French controlled the area on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, and by eight or nine in the morning their patrols had spotted the Union troops hiding along the river. This information soon found its way to the Confederate troops north of the river, and french troops suddenly began appearing across the river from Branson and his men.


Despite having lost the element of surprise, Branson gathered his men and pressed on towards Palmito Ranch.


Captain Robinson's force at Palmito Ranch was fairly small due to the fact that much of the Confederate cavalry was spread out trying to find grass for their horses. Despite the warning from the French, he was unable to defend his camp atop Palmito Hill and was forced to retreat.


Branson and his men took the camp along with a few sick prisoners and supplies. There they stopped to rest and eat before continuing on.


Robinson immediately sent word to Colonel Ford of the loss of Palmito Ranch and the fact that he was badly outnumbered. Ford ordered Robinson to hold on as best he was able while he rounded up some of the scattered cavalry forces in the area and came to his aid.


Robinson, however, was unwilling to wait idly for re-enforcements. Instead, he gathered all the men that he could - believed to be less than 100 - and launched a daring attack on Palmito hill that afternoon. Branson, despite outnumbering Robinson by roughly 3-1 felt his position was "indefensible" and began to retreat.


Branson fled all the way back to White's Ranch. Once his men were dug in there he sent word to Colonel Barrett concerning his situation...



May 13-14


When he got Branson's message, Barrett took 200 men of the 34th Regiment of Indiana Infantry, made the crossing at Boca Chica, and joined Branson at White's Ranch at daybreak on the morning of May 13.


Barrett ordered Branson to set out towards Palmito Ranch immediately, Barrett's men made some breakfast and followed roughly half an hour later.


As they advanced Branson and his men drove Robinson's small force in front of them. While Branson continued to push Robinson back past Palmito Ranch Barrett's men returned to the ranch to burn all the supplies that had been left behind.


Finally, in mid-afternoon Ford arrived to re-enforce Robinson. This brought the Confederate force up to about 300 men and 6 pieces of field artillery to face Barrett's roughly 500 men.


First, Ford tried to trap Barrett in a bend of the river, but the Union forces saw the flanking attack and were able to respond quickly enough to keep a way of escape open. At this point Barrett began to fall back slowly continuing to skirmish with the Confederate forces.


After about an hour, Ford finally got off a couple shots with his artillery. Despite the fact that the artillery fire was largely ineffectual, it caused quite a bit of alarm among Barrett's troops since they had no idea there were any big guns in the area. When more of the artillery joined the firing, Barrett immediately started his men to the rear on the double quick.


He fled in such a hurry that he left only the 50 men of the 2nd Texas Cavalry to serve as a rear guard, even though each man had only a few of his original 100 rounds of ammunition after two days of fighting. Nearly half of these men - including their officers - were captured as Barrett left them behind.


If fact, Barrett left so quickly, that he left behind roughly 80 of the men who were defending against Ford's flanking maneuver to keep the path of retreat open. These men were surrounded and captured by Ford's forces.


His retreat was so quick that some of his men could not keep up. Some tried to swim the river to safety, but most of these were driven back by French fire from the other shore. Roughly another 30 men were captured as a result of not being able to keep up with Barrett's "precipitous" retreat.


According to a witness's account, Barrett promised his troops they would turn and fight at Palmito Hill, but instead he kept them on the retreat at top speed.


Ford's troops kept up the pursuit; but, as they reached the narrow Boca Chica Peninsula, they were no longer able to flank the Union forces. From then on they simply followed behind harrying the retreat with musket and artillery fire.


As darkness fell, the first Union troops reached the boats; and - ignoring orders to allow the wounded in first - clambered aboard to make good their escape. At this point, Ford, who was not even within sight of the boats, was content to let them go without further pressure. So there was no real reason for such panic.


Ford turned his men and began to head back towards Brownsville, but was met by his superior Brigadier General James E. Slaughter who thought they should continue to pressure the enemy. Therefore, the Confederates moved forward and renewed the skirmish with the Union rear until the last of the Union troops turned and headed for the landing and their boats. Slaughter kept his men moving forward, but he did not press the attack...


Thus, the final shots of the Civil War had been fired!


Barrett succeeded in getting his men back on Brazos Santiago Island by about 4 a.m. on May 14.



Aftermath of Palmito Ranch


Afterwards, Colonel Ford put his losses at "five or six wounded."


Reports of Union casualties vary widely but respected historian Jerry D. Thompson estimates Barrett's forces suffered roughly 4 killed and 12 wounded.


These numbers don't seem too bad for two days of fighting, but - when you consider the fact that the war had been over for a month and that there was no good reason for Barrett's attack - it does seem a high price for such a pointless battle.


Private John J. Williams (left), of the 34th Indiana, was shot and killed in the fighting late in the afternoon of May 13. Thus, he has the dubious distinction of being the last man to die in the American Civil War.


Many of the officers who served under him in this battle, thought Barrett's efforts were less than impressive. Therefore, many blame him not only for causing the battle, but also for losing to a badly outnumbered enemy.


In attempt to shift the blame for his disastrous performance, Barrett brought charges against one of his officers, Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Morrison. During a court-martial on these charges Colonel Ford was called by Morrison's defense and provided the shaming testimony that Barrett had fled - on the double quick, no less - before a force which was a little over half the size of his own. The court absolved Morrison of any responsibility for the Union defeat in the Battle of Palmito Ranch.


Twelve days after the Battle of Palmito Ranch, General Edmund Kirby surrendered Confederate forces in Texas to General E. R. S. Canby. Many Confederate officers from Texas - including Ford and Slaughter - fled to Mexico after Kirby's surrender.


Confederate Colonel Santos Benavides led 100-150 Hispanic troops in the Battle of Palmito Ranch. As a Colonel, he was the highest ranking Tejano officer in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.




Union Soldier’s Civil War Diary

By Maj. Kenneth Baum



Some you may be aware that I have a photo copy of my great-grandfather’s CW diary.  At first tried to share the works by coping the 75 pages to send to various people (expensive & time consuming), and I have shown it to reenactors & spectators at reenactments.  However, I end up only being able to show highlights of the document to one person(s) at a time, which was ineffective in the sharing process. I mentioned all this to Tom Criscuolo and said that I wanted to transcribe it into a document online so that others could read it at their leisure.  He volunteered to do it with instructions to not correct any of the misspelled words. With that major task done, it was proof read to the letter, adding in the page numbers and comments on the couple of missing pages. I came up with a glossary of the people that he mentioned in the diary, especially noting who were of my ancestry due to my family genealogy research. So in short, with all that said, I submitted it to be put on the 42nd Indiana Regt. Website, and you can find it as a PDF file at : www.42ndindiana.com.  The easiest way to find it from the homepage, is to scroll down to “What’s New” and in that list you will find the entry for Sgt. George Baum’s Diary.  It’s now out there to share with everybody interested in a soldier’s daily entries while serving with Sherman’s Army.  You won’t be finding any derogatory comments of the confederacy or any description of  battle carnage witnessed.  I will be honored for you to read what he has put down in pen and ink from the battle of Jonesboro until his day of mustering out.


With the 150th anniversary of the Grand Review in Washington City having just passed on May 23 & 24, I was going to type out what he said about his participation in that march, but decided for you to please visit the website PDF and find it on page 42 of 52, entry for page 106 &107 of May 24, 1865.


Your Obedient Servant,

Major Ken Baum

2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, US


Dear Reader,


I have taken the liberty of providing you with a link directly to Sgt. George Baum’s diary.  Feel free to follow this and enjoy.  http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~indiana42nd/gbaumdiary.pdf  Also, when you get a moment, the website here (www.42ndindiana.com) has a great deal of other fascinating diaries, letters, etc.








A Punishment on the Nation: An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War

Edited by Brian Craig Miller

Review written by Stuart McClung




Recent years have seen a profusion of compilations of letters from and about Civil War soldiers, in many cases detailing everything from combat experiences to camp life and the lack of food and pay to concern about how family and friends are faring at home and a longing to return to the loving bosom of one’s family again after peace had been established. In the case of this particular volume, a vast majority of the letters deal with the latter. As it turns out, Private Silas W. Haven, author of most of these letters, was a member of the 27th Iowa Infantry, a unit which saw relatively little combat, having spent most of its term of service guarding supply trains, picketing and marching across the Mississippi River Valley in the Western theater of the war. Haven’s company did spend some time in Minnesota during the 1862 summer war with the Sioux but the unit also spent considerable time in its home state of Iowa, Vicksburg and other areas of Mississippi and Memphis and other parts of Tennessee while participating in the Little Rock and Meridian campaigns in Arkansas and Mississippi, respectively. The Red River Campaign, specifically the Battle of Mansfield, saw the unit’s biggest and virtually only battle engagement of the war.


During the course of his enlistment, he wrote many letters home which detailed his experiences in camp, on picket and the march while expressing the same refrain of all Civil War soldiers about the quality and frequency of food, getting paid in order to send money home to relieve the basic needs of wife and children who were always foremost in his thoughts, obtaining a furlough to come home for a short respite from duty and the hope that the war will soon end and peace will come and put an end to the necessity of being in the army and on the front line so that his homecoming will be permanent. Haven also opined on the course of the war, how it was being fought and intended to punish the secessionist “traitors” and Copperheads at home, hence the title. Included as well are occasional letters from his mother, letters which survived primarily because he forwarded them to his wife since most personal missives were destroyed by the soldier in order to prevent their potential capture, and being read, by the enemy. The letters dealing with combat are relatively few but of interest as most soldiers tend to ignore details of battle when writing home in order to minimize worry and concern for their family. However, Haven does provide some information on the actions and experiences of his and the 27th Iowa’s biggest battle, Mansfield, Louisiana, as well as some of the resultant casualties to friends and neighbors, all the while expressing his certainty and faith that he would survive the fray unharmed and return safely to his family, as was the final outcome of his service.


Editor Brian Craig Miller, book review editor for the Kent State University journal, Civil War History, has organized the book into a series of chapters which follows the chronological course of Haven’s service from his initial enlistment, in the summer of 1862, and picketing and guarding supply trains to his participation in the three above mentioned campaigns, from mid-summer, 1863, to spring, 1864, and concludes with letters which also reveal his feelings regarding Lincoln’s re-election and his own personal fight with and recovery from illness during the last months of the war which kept him away from his unit much of the time as well as any more possible combat. Miller adds context within the chapters with information on contemporaneous events ongoing elsewhere during the war and at home in Iowa. Indeed, much of value is contained within the endnotes which provide additional context, reference and explanatory material for the reader. Interestingly enough, Haven requests “miniatures” be sent to him of his family, in at least one letter, presumably meaning photographs of them, yet there doesn’t seem to have been a “likeness” of Haven himself as the unfortunately few illustrations in the book contain only a photograph of the family graveyard, his wife and daughter’s headstones, a 27th Iowa Infantry reunion photograph from 1885 which does not identify Haven, who may not have attended due to failing health and died in 1893, and a map of the Western Theater of operations. The editor should be commended, however, for employing a number of local, state and national archival sources as well as a list of periodicals, books and articles in order to properly annotate Haven’s letters.


Given the lack of previous, extant material on the 27th Iowa Infantry, this volume can be recommended for those who seek information on this relatively obscure unit, or any unit which served in the West, and the thoughts, feelings and experiences of one of its members during his service, with one caveat: This reviewer found the book just a bit too pricey for a compilation of a soldier’s letters.


A Punishment on the Nation: An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War,

Edited by Brian Craig Miller. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2012. 228 pp.  $45.00





http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/petervick167/petervick1671301/petervick167130100228/17262605-engraving-of-union-major-general-benjamin-franklin-butler-november-5-1818-a--january-11-1893--an-ame.jpgBenjamin Butler

A Review of Butler’s BookPart 4

By Ralph Epifanio



According to his Commanders of the Civil War, William C. Davis notes that there were 583Union officers serving as generals during the War of Secession. Additionally, “some 1,367 men received brevet promotions to brigadier or major general of volunteers or Regulars during the war.” (Page 168)


Davis spends many pages juxtaposing noteworthy military commanders with, in his opinion, the less successful. He, like most of us, tends to be of the viewpoint that success in battle is the most important quality of a high-ranking officer. In context, that may be, but there were many different roles to be filled in the mid-19th century military, and each required certain subtleties in the qualities of the men who filled them. Could you imagine the war’s results had Grant not entered it in the western theatre, or better still, if he had been well-placed in 1861? Or if Sherman had been chained to a desk after his mental breakdown in Kentucky?


Davis writes that “probably most notorious of all was Benjamin F. Butler in the East and the scheming John McClernand in the West.” (Both, by the way, were lawyers, politicians, and had the ear of President Lincoln.) He follows with a quote from Chief of Staff Henry Halleck (in a letter to Sherman, April, 1864): “it seems but little better than murder to give important commands to such men as Banks, Butler, McClernand, Sigel, and Lew Wallace, and yet it seems impossible to prevent it.” (Page 173) Perhaps, however Halleck wasn’t without his intrigues.


Keep in mind that less than 1,100 officers—among the 17,000 career soldiers—were on duty when the war started. In a perfect scenario, these men, plus former West Point graduates that had left active duty for non-military employment might have been enough to fill duty rosters. But they were not. And two factors played into the perception that Lincoln’s political appointees to military commissions were counter-productive. One is the fraternity-like bond between the West Point graduates. To put it in modern terms, they were “full of themselves.” Even with their training, they too suffered setbacks. You can read a book, drill from dawn ‘til dusk, and have all the troops that were available, but the fact is that the enemy is not privy to your plans, and if they were you can count on them not cooperating. This was especially true in the mid-19th century, when the leaders on both sides of the battlegrounds attended the same classes, read the same books, and probably even took lessons from many of the  same professors while in military school.


The second factor is that in 1861 all those living within our American borders did not consider themselves as simply Americans. We were Floridians or New Yorker; Black or White; free or slave; Irish or German (many of whom spoke only their native language, and based their trust on each other); patriotic and self-serving; and Republican or Democratic. Lincoln knew all this better than anyone, and used his oft-maligned appointees to bind these independent, self-serving groups into the companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, and armies that he needed to reunite the country.


That brings us to Benjamin Butler. He was a lawyer, a Democrat, and already led one of the largest militias in the country, albeit as an avocation. Most importantly, while everyone else was trying to make up their minds what to do about secession   and the transfer of government in the spring of 1861, he organized and equipped a small army and secured the safety of Washington, a fact not lost on a grateful Abraham Lincoln.


For awhile, at least—most notably when his personal contact with Butler outweighed public (read: West Point alumni) opinion that Butler never was, nor ever would be one of the good old boys, Grant held Butler’s opinions in somewhat—as his initial support would indicate—high esteem, and acknowledged that support with approval of his ideas. Eventually, however, it seemed as if even Grant distanced himself from the 19th century minuteman.


Good Men, All

As stated in Part 3, in the fall of 1861 (sic)—and with Lincoln’s blessing--Butler went on a recruiting trip to New England. At the time—immediately after the debacle at Manassas—volunteer enthusiasm did not approach that of the post-Sumter period, and Butler’s junket had mixed results.  This is duly noted in his somewhat humorous description of the Ninth Connecticut. His Massachusetts numbers down—each state had its own, separate quota to fill—he was approached by Connecticut Governor Buckingham, who said to him (according to Butler):


Buckingham: “You can do me a great favor, General.”

Butler: “What is that, Governor?”

Buckingham: “I have almost a regiment (1000 men), something more than eight hundred men, all Irishmen, enlisted and encamped here near Hartford. I cannot get the regiment up to a thousand men so as to have it mustered in and have officers appointed. They are naturally good men, but….” (page 311)


The “but” was that they were drunken Irishmen, lacking in any discipline, and totally out of control. A 19th century version of TV’s “F Troop,” Butler had no qualms that they would be trouble with a capital T, however he agreed to “accept them,” justifying his generosity with a “bird in hand philosophy.” (That, and this near-regiment would help him take a step closer to the Massachusetts quota, no doubt thinking of his promise to Lincoln.)


“So the Ninth Connecticut was sent for. Their fame preceded them, and their conduct on the route to Lowell”—where he was assembling the Eastern and Western Bay State Regiments—“fully justified that fame. They managed to tear the roof off of all the cars of the train they were in…so delayed the train…that it failed to connect…proceeded to ransack it (the town of Groton Junction) for liquor….” (Page 311)


…and when they finally arrived in Lowell, did so in a drunken stupor. So fearful of their impact upon its town, the Lowell, Massachusetts city council voted to appropriate funds to employ five hundred special constables to guard them.  Butler had no qualms that the threat to public safety was justified, and secured the Ninth Connecticut behind a nine foot stockade. The guards posted outside that compound had orders to bayonet anyone who tried to escape. It did, in fact, become necessary. About midnight, “after a body of them got together, and raising the cry ‘Connicticut over the fince(Page 312), the first man over was greeted with the point of a bayonet. Its owner was summarily promoted to sergeant. Butler subsequently assembled both guards and Irish infantry, and said this to the assembled:


“Now, my men, I am going to put the guard to-night around the outside of this fence with their muskets loaded with ball cartridges, and if any of you attempt to get over the fence that way again I will make the man who first shoots one of you a lieutenant.”  (Pages 312-313)


That solved the problem of misbehavior on the part of Ninth Connecticut. (Except perhaps for frequent visits by a portly woman who was found to have a liquor-filled rubber hose wound around her. It had a spigot at the drinking end, which became the men’s favorite source of refreshment on the day of her visits.) Subsequent to their taming, Butler, in fact, trusted them enough to guard the best houses in New Orleans during his stay there. When it came time to relieve them, the community around Lafayette Park petitioned him to leave the Ninth in place.



The Trent Affair

Despite regional entreaties to the contrary, England officially remained neutral to the conflict raging in its former colony. Butler established that “her people were with the North, her government held itself apparently impartial, and her aristocracy and monied class were entirely with the South.” (Page 314)


The British government, in fact, had a dilemma. The opening events of the Rebellion closely followed the Great (Irish)  Famine of 1845-52, where an estimated 1.5 million people died, and its resultant diaspora—adding to an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Irish, mostly working class, tenant farmers, who left their native island in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  In its midst, conservative British Prime Minister Robert Peel made the decision to gradually lower the tariff on grains, one of Ireland’s exports to England. By successfully leading the movement to repeal the Corn Law (through the Importation Act of 1846), thereby lifting the tariff on grains, Parliament opened the floodgates to American grain.  From the 18,873 bushels imported in 1840, United States imports increased a hundredfold to 18,706,000 bushels by 1860. These imports were from the northern and Midwestern states.


On the other hand, King Cotton (1.4 billion pounds were imported from America in 1860) employed 440,000 English workers in 2, 650 mills, most of which were in such industrial centers as Manchester and Lancashire.  The War Between the States, and more specifically the ever-tightening Union blockade, had, however begun to turn the tsunami of southern cotton into a trickle. At first, with warehouses and ships overflowing with cotton and textiles, it was not a problem. It was hoped that the war would end soon, thus allowing the textile industry time to reduce production, and adjust prices that had fallen. It would also allow British Parliament the luxury to forgo a decision to support either side.  Speculators on both sides of the Atlantic held on to  available supplies, hoping for a rise in prices.


With little industry, and dwindling cash supplies—brought on by an ever-tightening Union blockade—the agrarian South needed a resumption of their trans-Atlantic cotton trade. It became imperative for the Confederacy to gain recognition from European leaders—both England and France--and for those mercantile nations to aid in breaking the Union blockade.

It was with that latter intention that James Mason and John Slidell boarded the British passenger ship/mail steamer RMS Trent, which—on November 7, 1861--left Havana, Cuba for London. The Trent was intercepted and fired upon by the San Jacinto (captained by Charles Wilkes) in the Bahama Channel. His second in command, Lt. D.M. Fairfax boarded the Trent and took the two diplomats into custody. Eventually, they were incarcerated in Boston’s Fort Warren, a prison for Confederates. The Trent, however, was allowed to go on its way. This, as it turned out, was the wrong thing to do.


“Captain Wilkes treated the Confederate commissioners very fairly and properly; and through his courteous kindness to the passengers of the Trent and the owners of the vessels he committed a mistake in point of law which it was claimed rendered the capture illegal. This mistake consisted in not bringing in the vessel, so that he might submit his capture to the courts.


“…the British Cabinet flew into a passion. They ordered a considerable force of troops sent to Canada, and ordered a large number of vessels sent to Halifax, and they sent over to Canada a little general who was not then (or ever) a general. And this they did before our government could know officially or properly what had been done.” (Page 316-317)


In the end Secretary of State Seward recognized Wilkes’ mistake as a way out, and ordered the two diplomats freed. Butler, thinking it through, thought going to war with England might not have been a bad idea.


“It was the most fatal mistake on our part….England of her own soldiers has never had more than twenty-five thousand men on any battle-field. The time has gone for buying  Germans to fight her battles. We had more soldiers die at Andersonville than England had at Waterloo—and a larger part of those at Waterloo were commanded by an Irishman. We were raising armies by the hundreds of thousands. If England had attacked us, the vast advantage would have been that it would have been a foreign war, in which everybody must have taken part, North and South, who was not a traitor to his country….Canada would not have been in our way at all. Ninety days would have enlisted Irishmen enough to take Canada”—think in terms of the Irish genocide caused by English mercantile laws—“that could have been taken by contract. It was the beginning of winter; the frost had made a bridge over every stream, and a road for march could be built many miles a day to any place. The Canadian barns were all full and would have been depositories of forage. There would have been no difficulty about our soldiers eating the pork and bacon stored for winter use, and the cattle there would have been running loose.


“It was a source of aid of my recruitment. So it was a chance for war with England, they came to me in squads. And if I had said to them ‘Yes, I want you to march to Canada and take that first, and then for the western coast of Ireland, or against any Englishmen we can find down South.’ I could have filled up not only one or two regiments in Massachusetts, but eight or ten. No Copperhead would have hesitated to go into my ranks in such a war. We could have had no hesitation in setting free the whole negro population of the South to enlist and fight our battles against England.


“In view of this, I am, and ever have been, firmly of the opinion that war with England over the Trent affair was utterly impossible.” (Pages 322-323)


With this we can see the clear eyes in which Butler saw the obvious.


New Orleans

It was with some intensity that Benjamin Butler argued with General McClellan for permission to attack New Orleans, as part of Commodore David Porter’s planned assault on the Mississippi.


“This would relieve the western men along its banks by bringing the trade back to New Orleans….I found that General McClellan was very much averse to having the number of men I needed taken away from the army around Washington. He very much wanted two hundred thousand men there, and he had but one hundred and ninety thousand. He did not care with that force to move against the rebels, who had more than two hundred thousand men as he believed. In fact, he had been peremptorily ordered to move against the enemy on the 22nd of February,”--1862—“and disobeyed the order.” (Page 325)


As a counterpoint to McClellan, Butler laid out a logical calculation of the Rebel army, Brigade by Brigade, and came up with 54,000. He brought his case to McClellan, and then Lincoln, who was with Secretary of War Stanton at the time.


To McClellan he said: “I think I can do a great deal of good for the country. Besides, I want to get away from Washington; I am sick of the intrigues and cross purposes that I find here. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton seem to be the only persons who are in dead earnest for a vigorous prosecution of the war.” (Page 334)

To Stanton: “…I am going to take New Orleans or you will never see me again.”

Stanton: “Well, you take New Orleans and you shall be lieutenant-general.” (Page 336)


Butler had his permission and McClellan signed off on it.


“…at nine o’clock on the evening of the 25th”--February, 1862—“I stood on the deck of the good steamer Mississippi with my wife and some of my staff officers beside me, and gave orders to ‘up anchor for Ship Island.’ I had sixteen hundred men on board with me, and the enormous sum of seventy five dollars in gold in my pocket with which to pay the expenses of the expedition.” (Page 336)




His mission was almost scuttled before it had a chance to begin. Somewhere off the coast of North Carolina the troop’s transport ship ran aground in an area called the “The Frying Pan Shoals,” an act he decided was intentionally planned by the ship’s (“Baltimorean secessionist”) captain. Butler had already experienced, first-hand, that city’s loyalties to the South.  If that wasn’t bad enough, subsequently, in dropping the port anchor, its fluke tore a 5” gash in the iron plating, just below the waterline. The ship began taking on water. Butler ordered the captain’s arrest.


It was only after a nerve-wracking series of events that the ship was prevented from foundering, moved off the shoal, repaired, and continued on its way south to Ship Island (at the mouth of the Mississippi) to wait for the Navy to begin its assault, a wait that turned into weeks.


An interesting sidebar to his business sense, Butler had—before leaving Boston—filled his ships with coal (as ballast, instead of the usual stones that most ships use). He noticed that the price on anthracite coal was rising rapidly, and determined that it would “save the government money” if he held it in storage until he returned. As it turned out, Flag Officer Farragut had lost track of his fleet’s coal—the ships carrying its re-supply were missing—and Butler offered his “army coal” as a solution.


The battle for New Orleans consisted of a persistent, six day bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip (beginning on April 18, 1862), the cutting of a chain-and-ship barrier across the river, destruction of  a fleet of 12 Rebel steamers by Farragut’s ships, a night assault on Fort St. Philip by Butler’s troops (from the undefended swamp, or rear side), and—the actual turning point being—the mutiny  of the Rebel defenders of  Fort Jackson, and their surrender to Butler’s pickets. On April 28th—their garrisons having been emptied by deserters who subsequently spiked their cannons—the officers of both forts were forced to surrender to Admiral Porter.



Butler had this to say about that event:


“…for the sake of my brave and enduring soldiers of the Twenty-Sixth Massachusetts and Fourth Wisconsin regiments, who waded in the swamps in the rear of Fort St. Philip up to their armpits in water in order to cut off its garrison and get ready to assault the enemy’s works, to put the truth of history right before the War Department and the country….No naval vessel or one of the mortar fleet had fired a shot at the forts for three days before the surrender, and not one of the mortar boats was within twenty-five miles at that time…a majority of the garrison of Fort Jackson had surrendered to my pickets the night before the officers surrendered….I do not wish to take from the well-earned and well-deserved consideration due to the navy for their brilliant exploit in running past Forts St. Philip and Jackson….but after that no shot was fired until the surrender, and the forts could have been held for weeks, if not months,,,they were as defensible as before the bombardment.” (Pages 371-372)


For Butler, the military conquest of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, as it turned out, required far less effort and diplomacy than that of the citizens of City of New Orleans.  That, due entirely to Butler, will be described in Part 5.



Butler’s Book, by Benjamin Butler (Published by A. M. Thayer & Co., Boston, 1892)

The Commanders o the Civil War, by William C. Davis (Published by Smithmark Publishers, Inc., New York, 1991; ISBN 0831715057)





God’s Ownership

By Captain John Butler, Chaplain Hardy’s Brigade


Inspired by God


“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he had founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?” Psalm 24:1-3


We, as men, get caught up in the art of ownership. We always have to have the latest and greatest items. We tend to compete with our neighbors on who owns the most or the best.  ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’ is a common phrase.  Well, he who dies with most toys, still dies, but then where is his heart? Even our founding fathers were caught up in it.  In the Declaration of Independence there was a debate about the line ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ It was, at first, stated as the pursuit of property but then was changed.


Now we must ask, what defines the fact of ownership? Is it the act of making a payment for something?  Is it the principle of action to lay claim, like a settler posting a boundary saying all within is mine.  Well, I say the best defining situation of ownership is that of creation; creating something of you and by yourself, fully and completely defines ownership. Blacksmiths, armorers, and others who, in their trade, make tools, swords and many creations that they sell to people are the original owners. God created all the earth and the heavens.  In Genesis, we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” So, by the right of creation, God owns all the earth and heavens, and He didn’t make it to sell or trade.


In considering God’s Ownership, let’s take a moment to also think of the institution of slavery, the act of owning people in order to make them do what we wish, bent to our will. Men went to war and destroyed each other to take slaves (both here and in other countries), while others sued one another to acquire slaves. Sometimes, ownership was passed down from generation to generation.  But how can we own another person when we don’t even own ourselves?  By the same fact of creation that shows God owns the earth, God also owns us.  Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female created he them.”  A slave is coerced into doing the bidding of his master, and he has no say in the destiny of his life.  However, God gave us our free will to be able to choose Him and not to be a slave forced to admire Him. He gave us free will, because desires for us to want to want Him.  Even as we strayed from His side, choosing to do wrong and not be in His company (as a wayward child who wants to live his own life), He still loved us so much that He wanted to give us a way back to Him from Satan and from ourselves. Giving us a chance to know what wrongs we are doing and turn back to Him and His glory, Jesus came to pay that price, the price of sin which is death...not death of the body but of the soul.  What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1 Cor 6:19-20.


God owns us twice over: the first in that He created us; the second in that He paid our sin debt (death) that we accrued by the shedding of Jesus’ blood for us. Do we then choose to continue to vandalize His temple? Continue to lay squatters rights to this body we inhabit to say it is ours? Walk without His guidance, and tear up the title to our salvation? Or do we honor the bill of sale God laid down for us and let Him be our owner: to guide us, protect, provide, and to love us. Will you align your will to that of God’s? Will you live the life of Christian stewardship and manage your life to be that of Jesus, sharing love, compassion, and Him to all others? We are only the tenants of this body, renting out from God the awesome landlord. Keep His property clean, whole and invest in it. “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he had done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” 2 Cor 5:9-11


If this letter has made you want to walk closer with Jesus, to get to know Him, or if you have a burden you wish to pray about, please contact me at catman6375@msn.com.




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