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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
- 2 February. Confederate Generals Beauregard, Hill, and Smith meet near Augusta, Georgia to plan the defense of South Carolina. Anticipating an attack on Charleston, they plan an evacuation if necessary. Beauregard writes to President Jefferson Davis, telling him that he does not have enough men to stop Sherman and asks for troops from Virginia and North Carolina. However, Lee has already sent a division commanded by General Robert Hoke to North Carolina to fight in defense of Wilmington and feels he can't spare more troops.
As Sherman's troops move through, they thoroughly destroy the railroads. The tracks are pulled up, the ties are burned, and the metal rails placed atop them to heat. The hot rails are then formed into donut shape and twisted with a special tool called a "Poe's railroad hook". The soldiers call the end result a "Lincoln gimlet". (Orlando Poe is Sherman's chief engineer. Having spent the war planning new and better ways of destruction, he will spend his postwar career building lighthouses.)
- 3 February. President Lincoln meets with Confederate representatives aboard a ship anchored at Hampton Roads, Virginia to talk about peace. No agreement is reached and the conflict continues.
- 5 February. Reports of the immense suffering of Union POW's at prisons such as Salisbury and Andersonville, cause General Ulysses S. Grant to order the resumption of prisoner exchanges. [See April 1864.]
- 6 February. President Jefferson Davis turns over command of all the Confederate armies to Robert E. Lee. Until now, Davis has been the commander.
- 12 February. The commander of Salisbury Prison warns the government in Raleigh that Confederate deserters and Union supporters may be planning to attack the town.
- 16 February. Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of a wealthy South Carolinian Confederate official, takes the train from Charlotte to Lincolnton, seeking refuge from the war. Her diary will become one of the best known accounts of the times.
- 17 February. Sherman's troops reach Columbia, South Carolina which surrenders without a fight. In the previous 2 years the population had gone from 8,000 to 20,000, most of them refugees. Now this horde of people flee, many to to North Carolina on the railroad going to Charlotte. One of the last trains out is crammed inside and outside with over a thousand passengers. By the time the Union troops leave a few days later, much of the city will be burned and looted, partially as a result of the huge amounts of liquor passed out to the troops by the local inhabitants. Today 6 marks left by Federal guns can still be seen on the State Capitol.
- 18 February. Union officer Galusha Pennypacker, age 20, becomes a brigadier general; he is still the youngest ever to hold this rank in the U. S. Army. He is also a Medal of Honor winner.
The youngest Confederate general is a North Carolinian from Gates County, William P. Roberts, a cavalry officer.
- 21 February. On the coast Confederate soldiers evacuate Wilmington, North Carolina; General Braxton Bragg feels he can no longer defend the city.
- 23 February. General Joseph E. Johnston is called back into service [see July 1864] to lead the Army of Tennessee and assume command of Confederate forces opposing Sherman's march through the Carolinas. He travels from Lincolnton where he has been staying with his wife and sets up his first headquarters in Charlotte, taking over from General Beauregard who is convinced that Charlotte is Sherman's ultimate objective. [See next month.]
This Month's Fiction
The March by
Call Number: FIC DOC
Publication Date: 2005-09-20
In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the dispossessed, and the triumphant. Only a master novelist could so powerfully and compassionately render the lives of those who marched. The author of Ragtime, City of God, and The Book of Daniel has given us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable characters - white and black, men, women, and children, unionists and rebels, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners.
Out from this place, by Joyce Hansen, pub. 1988, 135 p., call #: J H. This sequel to Which Way Freedom [see April 1864] follows Obi's companion in escape, Easter. She joins a group of slaves (including her beloved Jason) who are running away from their former master. They escape to the islands off the coast of South Carolina, where they work on a plantation for pay and, reportedly, will have have the opportunity to buy their land. Easter learns to read, then must make a decision: wait for Obi to come for her and continue to make inquiries about him or go to a real school in Philadelphia. Hansen has written another wonderful tale, showing the unfairness of the situations in which freed slaves often found themselves. The use of black dialect may slow down some readers at first, but it adds tremendously to the novel, making Easter spring to life. Although a familiarity with the first book isn't required, it does give readers a better background for the incidents to which Easter refers. Gr 6-9.
This Month's Non-Fiction
Sherman's March Through the Carolinas by
Call Number: 973.7 B N.C.
Publication Date: 1956-01-01
In retrospect, General William Tecumseh Sherman considered his march through the Carolinas the greatest of his military feats, greater even than the Georgia campaign. When he set out northward from Savannah with 60,000 veteran soldiers in January 1865, he was more convinced than ever that the bold application of his ideas of total war could speedily end the conflict. John Barrett's story of what happened in the three months that followed is based on printed memoirs and documentary records of those who fought and of the civilians who lived in the path of Sherman's onslaught. The burning of Columbia, the battle of Bentonville, and Joseph E. Johnston's surrender nine days after Appomattox are at the center of the story.
A City Laid Waste by
Call Number: 973.7 SIM
Publication Date: 2005-11-05
This thin volume offers readers the first reissue of the Civil War accounts of South Carolina native author William Gilmore Simms and his observations of General William Tecumseh Sherman's occupation of the city of Columbia in 1865. Simms originally penned this collection of essays as serialized installments for a local newspaper, and editor Aiken (English, College of Charleston) puts the essays into broader context for the first time since 1865. Simms's narrative vividly describes the atrocities committed by Sherman's troops: their abuse of local citizens (including the occasional rape); their pillaging of South Carolina College; and their surprisingly harsh treatment of the city's slaves. Aiken's informative introduction provides excellent background on the city and its people, and the author and the impact of his original articles. Aiken's occasionally paltry endnotes do not overshadow the power of Simms's stunning descriptions of this tragic episode in Southern history.
Confederate Correspondent by
Call Number: 973.7 RAY N.C.
Publication Date: 2008-12-15
Soon after North Carolina seceded from the Union in May 1861, Jacob Nathaniel Raymer enlisted in the Confederate Army. A young man with a talent for keen observation who had pledged to keep those back home informed of the movements of Company C and the Fourth Regiment, he faithfully wrote letters to the Carolina Watchman and the Iredell Express. Unlike other contemporary correspondence, rather than being directed to an individual, Nat's letters were intended for the broader audience of area newspaper readers and portrayed the dogged determination of the southern soldiers in a descriptive style that brought the war and all its harsh realities home to his readers. The collection is transcribed primarily from the two newspapers and is complemented by brief narratives that place the letters within the Fourth Regiment's movements. This is an unusual and detailed view of the war in Virginia.
Jefferson Davis by
Call Number: jB Davis
Publication Date: 2001-01-01
This uncomplicated biography follows Davis from his early years through his death and fully details his problem-plagued administration. Although the text tends to be dry, the illustrations and sidebars break up its monotonous tone. Thoughts and feelings are imagined throughout. For example, Davis's parents "somehow knew this baby would be special" and "-Jefferson was upset that the leader [Lincoln] of the United States had been-murdered." Although colorless at times, Frazier's book is a serviceable introduction to the first and only president of the Confederacy. Gr. 4-7.
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