Friday, January 27, 2012
From The Arkansas Toothpick:
Major General Earl Van Dorn arrived at Little Rock on the evening of January 28, and took a room at the luxurious Anthony House, the Capital city’s leading hotel. He was assigned by the Secretary of War to command the Trans-Mississippi District on January 10th, as previously stated.
The next day he issued his first general order by which he formally assumed the command. He then ordered all officers and men on furlough to return to their regiments. Immediately afterward he called upon Governor Rector for ten more companies of infantry and four artillery companies from Arkansas. In doing so, he inadvertently got the wholehearted co-operation of the governor by explaining the new troops would guard the state from invasion and assist in driving the enemy from MO. The governor like many others was displeased at the removal of Arkansas troops to Kentucky in ’61. But it proved to be a promise Van Dorn couldn’t keep. In three months he unforeseeably had to take them east of the Mississippi.
Among Van Dorn’s appointed staff officers were two Virginians, West Pointer’s with over 15 years service in the old army. Major William L Cabell was Chief of the Quartermaster Department. During the previous summer he served in that capacity for Gen Beauregard during the battle of Bull Run. He would later rise to prominence in Arkansas as a hell-for-leather cavalry general. Colonel Dabney H Maury graduated from the University of Virginia in 1842, studied law, but entered West Point (USMA) rather than establish a legal practice. When he resigned his commission in 1861, this Mexican War veteran and esteemed Military Academy instructor entered Confederate service as a captain of cavalry, but in early 1862 was promoted and assigned as Chief of Staff to Gen Van Dorn. Kentucky native and former cavalry captain William N R Beall was appointed to the USMA from Chicot County Arkansas in 1844. As with so many of the young officers of his day, his service was primarily on the frontier skirmishing with Indians or attending to Kansans border disturbances. He impressed Van Dorn as a man born to military life. The general would twice recommend Beal for a colonelcy. Instead Congress confirmed him as a Brigadier General on April 11, 1862.
The three men were aggressive to a mature level and provided an excellent nucleus to assist an army commander. It was probable President Davis was instrumental in furnishing these three professionals, but his friend Gen Van Dorn would demonstrate a need for a dynamic staff to stabilize his battlefield performance.
January 26, 1862 was a special day for Central Arkansas because the western section of the Memphis and Little Rock railroad was completed. Its terminal point was on the north side of the Arkansas River at Huntersville Station.
A brief ceremony took place 11 miles from that site with the honor of driving the last spike given to Mr. William E Woodruff of Little Rock, one of the directors of the railroad company and the oldest representative of the press in Arkansas, having founded the Arkansas Gazette in 1819. Then followed a short speech by Christopher C Danley, current editor of the newspaper who envisioned a larger circulation implemented through this mode of transportation. Soon the mail from Memphis would arrive seven hours earlier then usual. With trains leaving Huntersville every morning at eight o’clock, traveling time to Memphis would soon be reduced to 24 hours as opposed to normal 36 hours, which was surely encouraging to Mr. Danley.
Nine years had passed since the railroad had been chartered, yet there still remained a gap of 45 miles in the road between the White and St Francis Rivers. Even so the railroad was of great benefit, because it connected Little Rock and its environs with the White River at DeValls Bluff which unlike the Arkansas stayed navigable at all seasons.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
From The Arkansas Toothpick:
The Arkansas Toothpick endorses several Civil War events throughout the next few months. Soldiers and Living Historians from Arkansas are highly encouraged to attend the following events officially released by the 2nd Arkansas Batl’n Volunteers.
If you are interested in reliving the Civil War during the 150th Anniversary, contact Captain Guy Taylor, 2nd Arkansas Infantry, CSA (870) 794-6262 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next Arkansas Civil War event will be the annual living history at Arkansas Post on January 28, 2012 at the Arkansas Post State Park located near Gillet, Arkansas. Note: this is the State Park, NOT the National Park. The event will consist of military drill, artillery demonstrations, static as well as dynamic exhibitry, and infantry demonstrations. Meal will be provided to living historians and there is no cost to the public to attend this event.
The annual Arkansas Post event is a time to reflect on the Battle of Arkansas Post in January, 1863 that turned the tide of the War in the Trans-Mississippi. Also the location of an American Revolution Battle, Arkansas Post is a great place to relive Arkansas History from its beginning.
The National Memorial Park is located near the State Park and has original rifle pits and a great interpretative center.
There will be a Battalion Drill to prepare for the 150th Shiloh at Old Washington State Park on February 18, 2012. Living Historians planning on attending the 150th Shiloh with the 2nd Arkansas Batl’n are urged to attend this event but not required. Anyone interested in reenacting is likewise urged to attend this event to become familiar with Civil War military drill.
More information on the 150th Shiloh will appear here on arkansastoothpick.com, as this will be the largest Civil War reenactment EVER west of the Mississippi! Arkansas was directly affected by this battle in April, 1862 and therefore will be highly visible on this website.
Next week’s column “One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago…” will feature information on General Van Dorn taking control of the Army of the Trans-0Mississippi in Late January, 1862, setting the wheels in motion that will come to a grinding halt in April at the bloodiest day in American History up until the day at Shiloh!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
from The Arkansas Toothpick:
One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers were buckling down for a potential invasion of the state from Missouri. As with any war, among the chief concerns is the potential for treasonous activity in civilians aiding the enemy. The War Between the States west of the Mississippi River was no exception.
North West Arkansas was known for its pro Union sentiment. Peace Societies were beginning to appear for the “purpose of giving aid and comfort to the enemy; that upon the approach of Lincoln’s troops the houses of the members were to be distinguished by a mark on the doorfacing [sic] and were to be unmolested…” The 1862 edition of the True Democrat continued, “that arms from the Federals in Missouri had been placed in their hands with which to fight against the South; that besides the oath already known, there was another and reasonable one, in which the members swore hostility to the Southern Confederacy and that the leaders were abolitionists.”
As the propaganda heated up on both sides of the conflict, Arkansas newspapers were feeling the unceasing economic impact of the illegal Federal blockade initiated by Lincoln. Most advertisers pulled their support from the newspapers for lack of funds to pay for their ads, leaving the print media almost exclusively at the mercy of subscribers:
“The public printing, owing to the reduction in prices made at the last session of the General Assembly, and the great increase in the cost of paper and labor, has become an expense to us instead of a profit… Even if the paper was no so high priced, we shall be compelled to economize, because of its scarcity… we are forced to reduce our issues within paying limits, and strike off only the number of sheets for which we are paid.”
Friday, January 20, 2012
From The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Town Hall:
Let's hear it for The Usable Past. That phrase was much in vogue among historians not long ago, and may still be. Historians, too wanted to be part of the practical arts. History, we were told, isn't something to be studied for its own sake, but as a guide to current politics. A useful collection of talking points. A great warehouse of stick figures we can choose from to make our case.
The uses to which Robert E. Lee's name has been put vary. To the old folks at home, he is still an icon to be venerated, the centerpiece of a thousand Confederate Memorial Day observances, the storybook knight beyond reproach, the marble man of Sothern mythology -- less man than monument.
The revisionists in their turn cannot resist using Lee, too. As a foil. As the symbol and personification of all Southern sins and hypocrisies. An icon always invites inconoclasts. The hero becomes the anti-hero, and history one of the plastic arts. For once the past becomes usable, anybody can use it for any purpose. It's the modern, flexible, pragmatic way.
Call it instrumental history; we go to the past not as students but scavengers, on the lookout for what we can find there and, sure enough, finding just what we expected. Even if we have to plant it there ourselves. It's a campaign year, and the demand for such salvage increases accordingly. "History shows ..." just what we want it to show.
The idea of the past as something complete of itself, whole and almost holy, not to be profaned for our own partisan purposes ... how quaint all that seems now. Like the laws of war in an age of terror.
The American Civil War is often hailed as the first modern war. It saw the introduction not only of new technologies -- automatic weapons, ironclad ships, submarines -- but new strategies that did away with old qualms.
William Tecumseh Sherman's total war, an innovation in 1864, became the standard of the next century. His march to the sea, destroying whatever stood in his way, also destroyed the distinction between military and civilian targets. "War is cruelty," he warned the people of Atlanta, "and you cannot refine it...." To paraphrase, war is hell. Sherman certainly made it so.
What began with the burning of Atlanta would culminate a century later with the incineration of Hiroshima. The future of war had unfolded like a mushroom cloud. A most modern man, General Sherman. A prophet and precursor, practicing what he preached.
But if the American Civil War was the first modern war, it was also the last of the old, formal wars fought by a certain code of honor. Robert E. Lee's campaigns of mobility and surprise against forces superior to his own in every material respect may have been the last in a way of war going back to Hannibal at Cannae, the chivalrous code he followed as old as Saladin's.
Far from a modern nationalist. Robert E. Lee wasn't even a sectionalist. He thought of his country as Virginia, and its people as his people, much as Southerners even today speak of family as "my people." Offered the leadership of the greatest force yet assembled on the North American continent, he would decline, and accept command of the Army of Northern Virginia instead. He could not abandon his people, and The War came.
The most celebrated and dissected battle of that war remains Gettysburg, where not just two armies met but the past and future of war -- like Pickett's charge meeting massed artillery. There could be no doubting the outcome.
The name Chambersburg is not as well known. It does not exert the same fascination for the modern mind. Chambersburg, Pa., was just a spot where Lee paused on his way to Gettysburg. He was moving to the offensive, and the smell of a decisive encounter was in the air that summer of 1863. Already reports had reached Lee's troops of the tactics Yankee marauders were beginning to use against the homes and families the men had left behind. A modern commander would have known how to play on their fears, how to raise their anger to a fever pitch, how to incite them to vengeance and victory.
But not Robert E. Lee, already a man of the past. Instead, he issued General Orders No. 73. On entering enemy territory with his troops poised to strike and avenge, the countryside open before him, ripe for the ravaging, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia told his troops this:
"The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the unarmed, and defenceless and the wanton destruction of private property that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country. ... It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain."
Like all the works of man, what Lee did -- his victories and defeats -- will fade with time. Each generation is further and further removed from them. But what he was, the code he followed and embodied, that will last as long as conscience does. As long as the ever fecund past shapes us. As long as we can remember that it is not we who use the past, but it that nurtures and sustains us. Like the memory of Lee himself.