Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.
This Month's Events
8 October. The CSS Shenandoah, commanded by North Carolinian Captain James Iredell Wadell, sets sail from England on a mission to destroy Union shipping. [See June 1865]
During this month Union forces led by General Philip Sheridan are cutting a path of destruction through the rich Shenandoah Valley, the "breadbasket of the Confederacy". As they destroy crops, farms, and mills, Sheridan describes the area, "A crow could not fly over it without carrying his rations with him."
19 October. Sheridan, returning from Washington, hears the sound of a Confederate attack at Cedar Creek, Virginia. Galloping frantically towards the battle, he rallies his fleeing troops and is victorious. "Sheridan's Ride" becomes the title of one of America's most famous poems. [See right.] For horse lovers, the name of "the steed that saved the day" was Rienzi.
This battle, also known as Belle Grove, ends the Confederate invasion of the North.
19 October. Twenty Confederate soldiers stage a raid on St. Albans, Vermont, and escape to Canada with $200,000 stolen from 3 banks. This is the northernmost Confederate raid.
20 October. General Stephen Dodson Ramseur of Lincolnton dies of wounds received the day before during the battle of Cedar Creek. He had 2 horses killed underneath him and was then mortally wounded and captured. Many Union officers who had known him before the war came to see him including George Custer and Philip Sheridan. The night before the battle he had received a telegram saying that he had a child and he wore a white flower into battle in honor of the event, but he dies without learning that the child was a girl. For his last letter to his wife, see p. 289 in the Bravest of the Brave listed right. He is buried in St Luke's Episcopal Cemetery, Lincolnton. The town of Ramseur in eastern Randolph County, North Carolina is named in his honor. [See November 1862]
31 October. Nevada achieves statehood. This state constitution had been overwhelmingly approved by Nevada voters on September 7, 1864, with 10,375 votes supporting it, and a mere 1,184 against. The constitution was telegraphed to Washington, D.C. at a cost of $3,416.77, supposedly the longest and most expensive telegram ever sent up to that time.
This fall F. William Hauenstein, a Swiss immigrant in Indiana, builds a cider press, the world's largest. The hard (alcoholic) cider he produces -- more than 100 gallons a day -- provides not only drinks but also alcohol for army medicinal use. The mill still exists today in an outdoor museum and still produces cider, using many of its original parts.
As John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee literally disappears in a hail of cannon and rifle fire from the Union Army's entrenchments, young rifleman Bushrod Carter vividly imparts the Confederate charge and its deadly consequences. After he is brought to a makeshift hospital, Carter comes under the care of a young southern woman named Anna, who, even in the midst of battle and defeat, manages to find ways to express her love. Written with reverent attention to historical accuracy, The Black Flower is a powerful reminder that the war that divided America will not vanish quietly into the pages of history.
While Pa is away fighting the Civil War, 14-year-old Johnny is responsible for farm and family in the mountains of Virginia. Pa is mortally wounded at Cedar Creek and returns home to die, extracting one promise from his quick-tempered son: to stay home, not fight, and take care of Ma and the little ones. Johnny wants revenge, but agrees. Soon the family's grim straits force a compromise. He agrees to sneak provisions to the Confederates near Richmond, but is captured by new Union recruit and ex-slave, Cush. Johnny is humiliated to be caught by a "darky" despite having no personal knowledge or experience with blacks. What begins acrimoniously develops into an uneasy alliance as the boys trek through Northern Virginia. Their friendship, achieved through circumstances, underlines the complexities of race relations then and now. Historical details are described with trademark Collier accuracy and emotion. Gr. 5-8.
Born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, in 1837, Stephen Dodson Ramseur rose meteorically through the military ranks. Graduating from West Point in 1860, he joined the Confederate army as a captain. By the time of his death near the end of the war at the Battle of Cedar Creek, he had attained the rank of major general in the Army of Northern Virginia. He excelled in every assignment and was involved as a senior officer in many of the war's most important conflicts east of the Appalachians. This collected correspondence begins with his days as a student at Davidson College and ends with his last letter, written to his wife the evening before he was mortally wounded.
Most people are unaware of Native American participation in the American Civil War, and yet this struggle of brother against brother pitted approximately 20,000 Indian soldiers on both sides of the conflict, and left them as victims of the calamity. Hauptman has produced a well-written and well-documented account of this participation by focusing on a dozen tribal groups. Of these, only the western Cherokee of Indian Territory have received considerable attention in earlier studies. Although this group was badly divided during the war, the author demonstrates that most Delawares of Indian Territory, Oneidas of Wisconsin, Ojibwas and Ottawas of Michigan, Senecas of New York, and Pequot and Mohegan of Connecticut loyally supported the Union. In contrast, the Catawbas of South Carolina and eastern Cherokees of North Carolina allied with the Confederacy. Most exceptional were the Pamunkey of Virginia and Lumbee of North Carolina, who challenged the racial system of the South and fought for the Union. Hauptman superbly identifies the reasons why each of the groups aligned as it did, and demonstrates that Indians were no mere pawns in this struggle but were fighting for their own unique ideological and practical concerns.
This traditional somewhat fictionalized account of Sheridan's life begins with his boyhood, but doesn't follow him past the end of the Civil War. Reeder focuses on Sheridan's determination to get an education and on his military prowess.
This Newbery Award-winning study of our 16th president is highly readable and meticulously organized. In a boxed review, Publisher's Weekly hailed it as a "superb, encompassing account'' of ``an intriguing, recognizable human being." Illustrated with prints and photographs. Ages 8-12.