Archive for August, 2011

Confederate Sunset at Pea Ridge

This video was shot by Jeffrey S. Williams, the moderator of This Week in the Civil War, on Aug. 22, 2011 at 8 p.m.


Earthquakes and Hurricanes! Natural Disasters and the Civil War

Expedition Hurricane Track of 1861

I’m sure someone has considered the impact of natural disasters on the Civil War, but apparently nobody has put forward a book length study of the subject.  Perhaps that’s because there just isn’t anything to write about!

And that is not to say there is insufficient data.  The US Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior, National Weather Service (NWS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) all retain mountains of historical data about these topics.  The information is there, but perhaps there just isn’t much of a story to tell.

To The Sound of the Guns blog tells the story of the Civil War Hurricane seasons from 1861-1865 here.

Douglas Hancock Cooper biography

Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper, CSA (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

Born November 1, 1815, to a Baptist minister and physician, Douglas Hancock Cooper attended the University of Virginia from 1832 to 1834. He returned to Mississippi to marry Martha Collins of Natchez. The Coopers raised seven children on their plantation, Mon Clova. He was elected as State Representative in the Mississippi State Legislature in 1844, where he organized the Mississippi Rifle Regiment. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis. When the War with Mexico began, Cooper was commissioned as a captain under Davis and they became close friends. Cooper was cited for bravery and gallantry in the battle of Monterey.

Through his close connections with Davis, who was appointed Secretary of War in 1852, Cooper secured an appointment as U.S. Agent to the Choctaws in Indian Territory. In 1855 he successfully negotiated a treaty that defined the governing boundaries between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. In 1856 Cooper moved his office to Fort Washita where he organized a militia unit among the Choctaw and Chickasaws. On April 16, 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Colonel William H. Emory removed his U.S. troops to Fort Leavenworth and abandoned Fort Washita to Cooper and his militia. Cooper was commissioned a Colonel of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles CSA.

Cooper’s troops were involved in engagements at Round Mountain on November 19, 1861, Chusto-Talasah on December 9, 1861, and Chustenahlah on December 26, 1861. Due to mounting disagreements among the Confederate command and General Albert Pike, Commander of the Indian Territories, Cooper ordered the arrest of General Pike in November 1862, believing Pike to be “partly deranged and a dangerous person to be at liberty among the Indians.” Cooper was then in position to command all of the Indian and Texas troops in the Indian Territory. Due to Cooper’s problems with alcohol the Confederate Senate passed him over in favor of General William Steele.

Nonetheless Cooper led engagements at Newtonia on September 20 1862 and was made Brigadier General. He then led the engagements at Honey Springs on July 17, 1863, Prairie Springs on July 22, 1863, and Perryville on August 26, 1863. Steele was replaced by General Sam Bell Maxey in January, 1864. In July, 1864, the Confederate War Department issued an order that gave Cooper command of the Indian Territory, replacing Maxey. But General Kirby Smith, a good friend of Maxey, delayed the order being carried out until February 21, 1865. In April, 1865, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations surrendered and signed treaties of peace.

Cooper remained at Fort Washita and, working on behalf of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, sued the U.S. government for failed promises that dated as far back as the Indian removals of the 1830s. Cooper died April 29, 1879, and is buried in an unmarked grave at Fort Washita.

[Source: Historic Sites Highlights #5: Douglas Hancock Cooper – Prepared by the Oklahoma Historical Society December 2005]

Honey Springs to get 5,000 square foot visitor center

By Cathy SpauldingMuskogee Phoenix Staff Writer

A new 5,000 square-foot visitor center could be in place at the Honey Springs battlefield in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle.

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, right, talks with Historical Society volunteers and civil war re-enactors Gerald Krows, left, and Jean Krows, center, following an announcement of plans for a $1.9 million visitor’s center at the site of Oklahoma’s largest Civil War battlefield in northeast Oklahoma, at a news conference in Oklahoma City on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Muskogee Phoenix)

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development  announced a $1.9 million public-private partnership that includes the Oklahoma Historical Society, McIntosh County and an area nonprofit organization.

Oklahoma Historical Society Director Bob Blackburn said the USDA will fund $500,000 through a grant and $600,000 through a 40-year, 4 percent loan to be repaid by the Friends of Honey Springs Battlefield. The rest of the funds will come from cash on hand or money to be raised by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Blackburn said the visitor center would be four miles north of Interstate 40 and one mile east of U.S. 69. From U.S. 69, it will be accessible from the Rentiesville or Oktaha exits, he said.

The visitor center could help the area benefit from Civil War-related tourism. The site could attract up to 100,000 visitors a year, Blackburn said. However, Checotah resident Emmy Stidham, newly elected president of the Oklahoma Historical Society board, said officials expect 150,000 visitors and $9 million in tourism revenue.

“This historic site is very critical to the area,” said State Rep. Ed Cannaday. “I am especially proud. Oklahoma gets to be a site of significance in Civil War tourism.”

The Engagement at Honey Springs — July 17, 1863 — was the largest of more than 107 documented hostile encounters in Indian Territory during the Civil War, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society website. At least 150 men died in the battle, which Blackburn said was critical for Union victory because it paved the way for the occupation of Fort Smith, Ark.

Blackburn said the Honey Springs battle is significant in that it “involved African American soldiers, Indian troops, Texas Confederates.”

“We also can link Honey Springs to Fort Gibson,” he said.

Blackburn said the Historical Society had tried several avenues to fund a new visitor center in time for the battle’s 150th anniversary, July 17, 2013.

He said they found a good contact with Ryan McMullen, state director of USDA Rural Development. Blackburn said McMullen had a keen interest in Civil War history and helped secure the USDA funding.

“The partnership recognizes that rural areas should increasingly capitalize on the tourism industry,” McMullen said. “The development of this attraction will create jobs, as well as educate visitors on one of Oklahoma’s most historic sites.”

Blackburn said architects are designing the visitor center “right now,” and ground could be broken by January.

Some Honey Springs re-enactments bring several thousand people to Checotah, said Lloyd Jernigan, executive director of the Checotah Chamber of Commerce. He said he welcomes a new visitor center for the site.

“Now, we have a visitor center in a doublewide trailer,” Jernigan said.

A Civil War re-enactment held late last April drew 3,000 to 3,500 people to Checotah, he said.

“Quite a few visitors stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

Click here for a description of the battle.

The Battle of Honey Springs – July 17, 1863

This engraving of the Honey Springs battle was published in Harper's Weekly.

Honey Springs was the most important Civil War battle fought in Indian Territory. It preserved Union ownership of Fort Gibson and dealt Confederate forces a blow from which they never fully recovered. It also opened the way for the Federal capture of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and helped justify the recruitment of black regiments by the Union army.

In April 1863, Colonel William A. Phillips and a Union column out of Kansas challenged Confederate authority in Indian Territory by occupying Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River. Confederate brigadier general Douglas H. Cooper decided to retake that vital post, and he began gathering troops and supplies at Honey Springs, a Confederate depot twenty miles southwest of his objective.

By mid-July, Cooper had massed a mixed force of 6,000 Texans and Indians at Honey Springs. He also had a four-gun battery. Another 3,000 Confederate soldiers under Brigadier General William L. Cabell were enroute from Fort Smith, and Cooper expected them at Honey Springs sometime around 17 July. Once these reinforcements arrived, Cooper planned to advance on Fort Gibson, whose garrison barely numbered more than 3,000 men.

Unfortunately for Confederate hopes, Major General James G. Blunt, the aggressive commander of the Union District of the Frontier, learned of Cooper’s offensive preparations. Blunt realized that he had to smash the enemy at Honey Springs before Cabell arrived or forfeit Fort Gibson. Organizing a field force consisting of 3,000 men and twelve cannon, Blunt forded the Arkansas above Fort Gibson on 15-16 July and followed the Texas Road south. A rainy night march brought the Federals within six and a half miles of Honey Springs by daybreak on 17 July.

Elk Creek at the Honey Springs battlefield

Blunt discovered that Cooper had advanced a mile and a half from Honey Springs to meet him at Elk Creek. Cooper took advantage of the timber fringing the north bank of the creek to deploy his Texans and Indians in a sheltered line one and a half miles long, but his position was not as strong as it looked. Blunt’s superiority in artillery offset the Confederates’ superiority in numbers. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of Cooper’s troops lacked serviceable firearms, and their gunpowder was an inferior brand imported from Mexico. An early morning rain turned much of this powder into useless paste, leaving many rebels virtually defenseless.

The battle opened at 10:00 A.M. with a one-hour artillery duel. The Confederates knocked out a Federal 12-pound Napoleon howitzer, but their main opponents responded by disabling a mountain howitzer. Dismounting his cavalry units to fight on foot, Blunt sent them and his infantry to rake Cooper’s line with rapidly delivered small arms fire.

In keeping with his abolitionist principles, Blunt entrusted the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, the first black combat regiment in the Union Army, with holding the center of his line. After nearly two hours of fighting, Blunt directed the 1st Kansas to advance and capture the rebel artillery.

The black soldiers soon found themselves exchanging volleys with the dismounted 20th and 29th Texas Cavalry, posted in support of Cooper’s guns. In the midst of this standoff, the Union 2nd Indian Home Guard Regiment blundered into the 1st Kansas Colored’s field of fire. As the Indians scampered out of the way, the Confederates mistakenly assumed that Blunt’s entire line was giving way. The 29th Texas surged forward with a cheer. The 1st Kansas calmly permitted their opponents to close to twenty-five paces and then unleashed a series of destructive volleys that sent the Texans reeling to the rear without their regimental colors. A jubilant Blunt later reported: “I never saw such fighting as was done by the negro regiment. They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed. They preserved their line perfect throughout the whole engagement and, although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered. Too much praise cannot be awarded for their gallantry.”

1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry, Colored, marker at the Honey Springs battlefield

With the center of the Confederate line shattered beyond repair, Cooper retreated across Elk Creek. Blunt drove the Confederates past Honey Springs and managed to save much of the depot’s stocks of foodstuffs from fires hastily set by his beaten foes. The fighting ended at 2:00 P.M., two hours before Cabell arrived on the scene with his 3,000 men from Fort Smith.

At a loss of seventeen killed and sixty wounded, Blunt had saved Fort Gibson and the Union foothold in Indian Territory. Cooper admitted to 134 killed and wounded and forty-seven captured, but his army had suffered a major blow. Henceforth, Confederate forces in Indian Territory would confine themselves to hit-and-run raids against Union supply trains.

[Written by Gregory J.W. Urwin in the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History by David S. and Jeanne Heidler. pp. 994-995]

For further reading:

Britton, Wiley. Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border, 1863 (1993).

Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865 (1966).

Fischer, LeRoy H. The Civil War Era in Indian Territory (1974).

Josephy, Alvin M. The Civil War in the American West (1991).

Rampp, Larry C., and Donald L. Rampp. The Civil War in Indian Territory (1975).

Archaeologists comb newly-found Civil War POW camp

By RUSS BYNUM Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — When word reached Camp Lawton that the enemy army of Gen. William T. Sherman was approaching, the prison camp’s Confederate officers rounded up their thousands of Union army POWs for a swift evacuation — leaving behind rings, buckles, coins and other keepsakes that would remain undisturbed for nearly 150 years.

Archaeologists are still discovering unusual, and sometimes stunningly personal, artifacts a year after state officials revealed that a graduate student had pinpointed the location of the massive but short-lived Civil War camp in southeast Georgia.

In this undated photo provided by Georgia Southern University, an 1863 Grocer’s Token made of bronze is shown at Camp Lawton a Civil War-era POW facility, near Millen, Ga. This token was issued in Niles, Michigan by C.A. Colby & Co. Wholesale Groceries and Bakery. It circulated for the value of a cent. Camp Lawton was built by the Confederacy to house about 10,000 prisoners of war. But it abandoned after being used for only about six weeks in 1864 before Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s army arrived and burned the camp. Archaeologists say they’re still discovering unusual, and sometimes stunningly personal, artifacts abandoned by prisoners of war at the massive but short-lived Civil War camp a year after state officials revealed a Georgia Southern University graduate student had pinpointed its location in southeast Georgia. (AP Photo/Georgia Southern University, Amanda L. Morrow)

Discoveries made as recently as a few weeks ago were being displayed Thursday at the Statesboro campus of Georgia Southern University. They include a soldier’s copper ring bearing the insignia of the Union army’s 3rd Corps, which fought bloody battles at Gettysburg and Manassas, and a payment token stamped with the still-legible name of a grocery store in Michigan.

“These guys were rousted out in the middle of the night and loaded onto trains, so they didn’t have time to load all this stuff up,” said David Crass, an archaeologist who serves as director of Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division. “Pretty much all they had got left behind. You don’t see these sites often in archaeology.”

Camp Lawton’s obscurity helped it remain undisturbed all these years. Built about 50 miles south of Augusta, the Confederate camp imprisoned about 10,000 Union soldiers after it opened in October 1864 to replace the infamous Andersonville prison. But it lasted barely six weeks before Sherman’s army arrived and burned it during his march from Atlanta to Savannah.

Barely a footnote in the war’s history, Camp Lawton was a low priority among scholars. Its exact location was never verified. While known to be near Magnolia Springs State Park, archaeologists figured the camp was too short-lived to yield real historical treasures.

That changed last year when Georgia Southern archaeology student Kevin Chapman seized on an offer by the state Department of Natural Resources to pursue his master’s thesis by looking for evidence of Camp Lawton’s stockade walls on the park grounds.

Chapman ended up stunning the pros, uncovering much more than the remains of the stockade’s 15-foot pine posts. On neighboring land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he dug up remnants of the prisoners themselves — a corroded tourniquet buckle, a tobacco pipe with teeth marks in the stem and a folded frame that once held a daguerreotype.

“They’re not just buttons and bullets,” Chapman said. “They’re little pieces of the story, and this is not the story of battles and generals. This is the story of little people whose names have been forgotten by history that we’re starting to piece together and be able to tell.”

A year later, Chapman says he and fellow archaeology students working at Camp Lawton have still barely scratched the surface. In July, they used a metal detector to sweep two narrow strips about 240 yards long in the area where they believe prisoners lived.

They found a diamond-shaped 3rd Corps badge that came from a Union soldier’s uniform. Nearby was the ring with the same insignia soldered onto it.

The artifacts also yield clues to what parts of the country the POWs came from, including the token issued by a grocery store in Niles, Mich., that customers could use like cash to buy food. Stamped on its face was the merchant’s name: G.A. Colbey and Co. Wholesale Groceries and Bakery.

Similarly, there’s a buckle that likely clasped a pair of suspenders bearing the name of Nanawanuck Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts.

Hooks and buckles that appear to have come off a Union knapsack also hint that, despite harsh living conditions, captors probably allowed their Union prisoners to keep essentials like canteens and bedrolls.

The Georgia Southern University Museum plans to add the new artifacts to its public collection from Camp Lawton in October along with a related acquisition — a letter written by one of the camp’s prisoners on Nov. 14, 1864, just eight days before Lawton was abandoned and prisoners were taken back to Andersonville and other POW camps.

The letter written by Charles H. Knox of Schroon Lake, N.Y., a Union corporal in the 1st Connecticut Cavalry, was purchased from a Civil War collector in Tennessee. Unaware that Camp Lawton will soon be evacuated, Knox writes to his wife that he hopes to soon be freed in a prisoner exchange between the warring armies.

He doesn’t write much about conditions at the prison camp, but rather worries about his family. He tells his wife that if she and their young son need money for food or clothing, there’s a man who owes him $9. Knox also gives his wife permission to sell the family’s cow.

Brent Tharp, director of the campus museum, said his growing collection from Camp Lawton has definitely drawn Civil War buffs to visit from far beyond southeast Georgia.

“The people who are real Civil War buffs and fanatics, those are definitely coming,” Tharp said. “But I think we’ve also created a whole new group of Civil War buffs here because it’s right here in their own backyard.”

Maryland seeks to buy 14 acres of land near South Mountain Civil War battlefield for $55,600

Civil War Cannons in Maryland

MIDDLETOWN, Md. (AP) — A Department of Natural Resources official says the state of Maryland is seeking to buy some land near the South Mountain Civil War battlefield.

John Braskey told The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown newspaper on Tuesday that the two parcels near Middletown total 14.6 acres. One is a 9.1-acre parcel atop South Mountain that saw action during the battle. The smaller piece has scenic value.

The land belongs to the Central Maryland Heritage League. The group says the state has offered a fair price of about $55,600.

The deal would require approval by the state Board of Public Works.

South Mountain is Maryland’s only state-run Civil War battlefield. Federal and Confederate forces clashed there on Sept. 14, 1862, three days before the Battle of Antietam.

State considering land near South Mountain State Battlefield


6:21 PM EDT, August 16, 2011

The state has offered to buy land near South Mountain State Battlefield.

The parcels are the 9.1-acre Wise South Field and the 5.5-acre Mahaffey Woods, said John Braskey, the Western Maryland regional administrator for land acquisition and planning for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The land belongs to the Central Maryland Heritage League, a nonprofit group based in Middletown, Md.

Executive Director Bill Wilson said the league is interested in selling the parcels to the state. He said the state offered to pay $55,575, a price he called “eminently fair.”

He said the league is awaiting further instructions from the state on how the contract will be drawn up.

The final agreement will be sent to the state Board of Public Works for its approval.

South Mountain State Park runs along the border of Frederick and Washington counties.

The Department of Natural Resources’ website says the Civil War battle fought there on Sept. 14, 1862, was the first in Maryland and a turning point in the war.

“The Union victories at South Mountain and Antietam (fought three days later) led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation,” the DNR’s website says.

Wilson said the Wise property, at the top of South Mountain, encompasses land around Reno Monument and is battlefield land.

The Mahaffey property is about a quarter mile away on Reno Monument Road and is part of the viewshed around the battlefield.

Both parcels have easements that don’t allow development.

Wilson said the Central Maryland Heritage League and the state have talked about a possible sale for at least five years.

The idea resurfaced recently. A July 21 letter from the Department of Natural Resources to Terry Baker, the president of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, says there is a “potential real estate acquisition” in Washington County.

The DNR contacted Washington County because the properties “straddle the county line,” the letter says.

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