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CW - 150
The Civil War 150th Anniversary
Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.
This Month's Events
- This month the spring campaign begins as the Army of the Potomac under Grant crosses the Rapidan River in Virginia. Meanwhile other Union forces push into Georgia.
General Hoke's troops in North Carolina, including the 49th North Carolina, abandon their attack on New Bern and head for Virginia where reinforcements are needed.
- 5-7 May. Battle of the Wilderness. This first conflict in Grant's campaign is fought in an overgrown area in central Virginia. Lee hopes that this terrain will cut down the Union advantage of more men and more artillery. A brush fire starts between the two armies' lines during the night and wounded soldiers left on the field die screaming as they are burned alive in front of their comrades.
As the second day of fighting begins Grant tells a reporter who is returning to Washington, "If you see the president, tell him for me that, whatever happens, there will be no turning back." The battle is sometimes described as a draw. The Confederates lose an estimated 8,000 men while the Union losses are said to be 17,000 or more. While Union casualties are heavier, the Union can better afford them and they don't stop Grant's move to the south. Years later Grant, remembering these days, would say "more desperate fighting has not been witnessed on this continent."
- 7 May. The weekly Mercury in Raleigh publishes a story, "The Refugee's Niece" by Pvt. William D. Herrington, 3rd N. C. Cavalry CSA. It is the first of 4 stories by Herrington set in the Kinston area. Two will be published later as "novelettes". [See below in the book list.] In February 1865 Herrington will be captured, appear on a list of prisoners in Washington D. C., and swear allegiance to the Union. Then he disappears from history. Where he went and why, no one knows.
- 9 May. As Union troops attempt to destroy the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, they clash with Confederates in the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain. The Union victory results in the destruction of the New River bridge at Dublin, Virginia. One of the Union brigades is led by a future president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes.
- 8-21 May. Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia becomes the center of a huge battle. From the 8th through the 21st, the armies slug it out, generating 9,000 to 10,000 Confederate and about 18,000 Union casualties. Grant sends a dispatch on May 11 declaring, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." Neither side wins a clearcut victory. Lee succeeds in tying up Union troops, but the cost to his own waning forces is high.
- 11 May. General Jeb Stuart is mortally wounded in Virginia fighting cavalry led by General Philip Sheridan.
- 12 May. Near Spotsylvania, at the "Mule Shoe", Ramseur's Brigade, made up of the 2nd, 4th, 14th and 30th North Carolina regiments, stops an advancing Federal corps with a charge described as an "act of unsurpassed gallantry". The "Mule Shoe" becomes known as the "Bloody Angle". Ramseur is wounded. A week later he writes home to reassure his wife. [See The Civil War in North Carolina : soldiers' and civilians' letters below.] On May 27, Ramseur is promoted to major general.
- 15 May. At the Battle of New Market Virginia, a unit of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (ages probably 15 to 24 although most were 17 to 21) lead a charge on the Federal guns. Their casualties number 10 dead and 57 wounded out of 257. The day after the battle a general stops to congratulate them. "Boys, the work you did yesterday will make you famous." A young soldier yells back, "Fame's all right, General, but for God's sake, where's your commissary wagon?"
- 18 May The Raleigh Standard reports that Confederate soldiers in the western counties including Catawba, Ashe and Wilkes for the "purpose of recruiting cavalry and artillery horses" are "maltreating" and terrorizing the local citizens.
- 22 May. After years of effort, the 40-mile railroad line from Greensboro, North Carolina to Danville, Virginia finally opens, linking this area with the line to Richmond.
- 27 May. The age for Confederate military service is lowered to 17. On this day, boys from Gaston and Lincoln Counties, with James Q. Holland as captain, leave to become Co. C, 2nd Regiment, North Carolina Junior Reserves.
This Month's Fiction
Wilderness Run, by Maria Hummel, pub. 2002, 339 p. Hummel creates solid characters while capturing the day-to-day reality of military life during the Civil War, and her well-paced, elegant prose turns especially poignant at the end when Laurence is gravely wounded and saved at Chancellorsville. Sending a young rich man to war is a time-worn plot device, but Hummel is a solid writer who inserts enough intriguing turns in her narrative to keep things interesting.
The Judas Field
Call Number: FIC BAH
Publication Date: 2006-07-25
It is 20 years after the Civil War, and Alison Sansing has little time left. Cancer leaves few options in 1884, at least none that interest Alison. What does interest her in this latest novel from Bahr is traveling from her home in Cumberland, MS, to Franklin, TN, the site of the 1864 battle that took the lives of her father and brother. To accompany her, she enlists childhood friend Cass Wakefield, also a participant in the battle. No youngster caught up in the romance of war, Cass has never forgotten the confrontation and doesn't want to go back, even to help Alison. Most of what befalls a man in war occurs on the inside, and visions and nightmares are what veterans like Cass count among their souvenirs. This beautiful novel turns the tables on our view of war; the combatants we meet are witty and wry, and we can't help but be charmed by the descriptions of their dusty, dreary, less than honorable and unheroic routine. The final return to Franklin brings the memories to life and changes everyone involved. Highly recommended.
The Captain's Bride and the Deserter's Daughter
Call Number: FIC HER N.C.
Publication Date: 1990-01-01
This is a facsimile edition of two rare Civil War "novelettes" written by a Pitt County Confederate soldier. The stories provide firsthand glimpses of actual war scenes in eastern North Carolina; candidly depict internal divisions among North Carolinians in western Craven and eastern Lenoir counties; and offer an unusual glimpse of social and military life on the home front. Includes a detailed introduction by the editor.
Young Adult Fiction
March Toward the Thunder
Publication Date: 2008-05-01
Fifteen-year-old Louis, an Abenaki Indian from Canada, enlists in the U.S. Army in 1864 and serves with New York's Irish Brigade. Basing the main character on his great-grandfather, Bruchac takes readers close to the Civil War soldier's reality, from grimy field hospitals, where the term sawbones was a horrifically accurate term for a doctor, to the grim battlefields, which experienced soldiers entered only after pinning the pieces of paper to their shirts that would identify their bodies. Although written in third person, the story includes Louis' thoughts in italics, a device that brings readers closer to this laconic but sympathetic character. In lighter moments, Louis and his Mohawk friend, Artis, trade barbs, to the discomfort of fellow soldiers who misunderstand their brand of humor. Appended are an author's note on his family history, another on the Irish Brigade, and a bibliography of source materials. A fine choice for readers who want war stories that include plenty of action, as well as reflection. Gr. 7-10.
Dadblamed Union Army Cow
Call Number: P FLE
Publication Date: 2007-06-12
In a spirited, folksy narration that reads like free verse, an unnamed Union soldier relates the story of a "dadblamed cow" that accompanies him and other Indiana Volunteers during many battles and skirmishes of the Civil War. At the recruiting station, on the train, at campsites and in the midst of battle, she marches "step by step/all the way South./Clop two three four,/Clop two three four./Dadblamed, footsore cow!" An author's note provides documentation that such a cow existed, although Fletcher admits to taking "liberties with history." The pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are slightly naive and provide an appropriate and appealing visual interpretation of this comic story. Throughout, the author uses clever verbal twists to describe the animal, from "dadblamed persnickety cow" (she'll only eat "unstomped grass"), to "dadblamed heavy cow" (she has to be pulled out of the mud), and "dadblamed dangerous cow" (she runs into a pack of "horse dragoons"), and, finally, to a "dadblamed hero" (she receives a medal). A delightful read. Gr. 2-5.
This Month's Non-Fiction
On Fields of Fury: from the Wilderness to the Crater, an eyewitness history
Publication Date: 1991-04-01
Wheeler has mined primary sources with his customary skill to produce this readable popular account of the mobile phase of the Civil War's eastern campaign in 1864, from the year's beginning to settling into trench warfare after the Battle of the Crater in late July. The account also gives vivid impressions of other major engagements--including the Wilderness, Yellow Tavern, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor--which together made this the bloodiest campaign of the whole conflict.
Valley Thunder : the Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, May 1864
Call Number: 973.736 KNI
Publication Date: 2010-05-10
This book is the first full-length account in more than three decades to examine the combat at New Market on May 15, 1864 - the battle that opened the pivotal 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Included within the ranks of the 4,500-man Confederate army were cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under the direction of VMI Commandant of Cadets Lt. Col. Scott Ship, who had marched eighty miles in just four days to fight the Union. This account is based upon years of primary research and a firsthand appreciation of the battlefield terrain.
The Civil War in North Carolina : soldiers' and civilians' letters and diaries, 1861-1865
Call Number: 973.7 CIV NCC
Publication Date: 2003-01-22
"A compilation of letters and diary entries (and a few other documents such as a petition, a transfer request, an invitation) that tell the experiences of soldiers and citizens from 29 North Carolina counties during the Civil War. The counties are Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Gaston, Granville, Guilford, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Person, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Union, and Yadkin. The book is arranged chronologically, 1861 through 1865, and a chart at the beginning of each chapter tells the date, subject, document type (letter, diary entry, or other), author, recipient, and the home county and unit of soldiers."
North over South
Call Number: j973.7 BUR
Publication Date: 2010-07-01
Key victories at Gettysburg in the North and Vicksburg in the South gave Union forces the upper hand in summer 1863. But the long Civil War was far from over. It would take nearly two more years and thousands of lives before this bloody conflict would come to an end. Contents: Grant takes control -- Battles in Virginia -- Sherman on the march -- The home front -- Northern victory, and loss.
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