Saturday, August 22, 2015

Three Perspectives on Service in the 19th Iowa Infantry

Historians are quite fortunate when they find a regiment whose service was well documented by its members. An example of one of these for the trans-Mississippi was the 19th Iowa Infantry, a regiment that suffered heavy casualties at the battle of Prairie Grove and then went on to serve in Louisiana where 210 men were taken prisoner at Stirling’s Plantation. The survivors occupied Brownsville, Texas, and then ended the war serving in operations near Mobile Bay.

Three particularly fine surviving accounts document service in the 19th Iowa and from varying perspectives. Benjamin Franklin McIntyre enlisted at age 34 in Keokuk serving initially as a sergeant and then earning a commission as second lieutenant. His diary is one of the better surviving ones for a Federal soldier serving in the trans-Mississippi. He wrote about a variety of topics and since he was not captured at Stirling’s Plantation, he left behind an excellent account of duty in south Texas. On the other hand his diary abruptly ended in August 1864 so there is no account of his service along the Gulf in the last part of the war. For interested readers here is the citation for his published journal:
Tilley, Nannie M., ed. Federals On The Frontier: The Diary of Benjamin F. McIntyre, 1862-1864. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.

William Henry Harrison Clayton enlisted at age 22 in Keosauqua and became a company clerk. Clayton documented his service in regular letters to his parents and to his brothers. He had the misfortune to be captured at Stirling’s Plantation that resulted in a ten-month incarceration at Camp Ford, Texas, and a sizable gap in his correspondence. Following an exchange, he returned to his regiment and wrote about the final actions near Mobile Bay. Taken together, McIntyre’s and Clayton’s writings dovetail nicely in a chronological sense but provide varying perspectives of service in the 19th Iowa Infantry. The citation for Clayton’s letters is:
Elder, Donald C., III, ed. A Damned Iowa Greyhound: The Civil War Letters of William Henry Harrison Clayton. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998.

Finally, the 19th Iowa Infantry was the subject of one of the earliest Civil War regimental histories. Published in 1865, History of the Nineteenth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry by J. Irvine Dungan is an interesting history that discusses all of the regiment’s campaigns, but it is challenging to even locate a copy. Luckily, the Internet Archive has a digital copy available.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Official!!!

Louisiana State University Press has officially accepted my manuscript, A Constant School of Excitement: Albert C. Ellithorpe and the Civil War on the Frontier, and set a fall 2016 publication date for it. Preparing Ellithorpe’s writings for publication was a genuine pleasure, making it my favorite research project thus far. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

"It was a perfect blaze": The Battle of Wilson's Creek

To commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Wilson’s Creek here are the words of “M,” a soldier from Company G of the 2nd Kansas Infantry, taken from a letter he wrote to a newspaper eight days after the battle:

“This was my first battle—the first time in my life that I had men shoot at me, I returning their shots as well as I could, and seeing men fall dead at my side. I cannot say that I was frightened, for there is an excitement about the matter that completely banishes fear, and makes one blind to the danger around him. I saw the men fall, heard their groans, saw the enemy and heard their bullets whistling around me, with, I believe, as much unconcern as I would at witnessing a fire into a covey of quails. I had too much to attend to, to think of getting frightened.

For about half an hour, we held the ground undisturbed. Not a gun was fired. In the mean time, I drew some ‘grub’ from my ‘harversack,” and made a tolerably comfortable meal. It was rather a novel ‘hotel’ in which to ‘dine,’ but still I relished it, not withstanding cannon were booming from the opposite hills, with an occasional ‘shell’ whizzing over my head.

But this calm did not last long…[Going to the support of part of Captain James Totten’s battery, the enemy] advanced [toward it] and soon opened upon us one of the most terrific fires I had heard during the day. Before the firing had commenced, we had been ordered to lay down. By this means we were not so much exposed. Part of the boys went down, others standing, all busy pouring a hot volley into the enemy. Co. G was in the rear of the two pieces, and it seemed to me as if the main fire was directed at this point. It was a perfect blaze, and the balls flew like hail over our heads, cutting the limbs off the trees over our heads at a fearful rate. The artillery soon left…But the Kansas Second stood firm, and soon after had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy retreat down the hill” (pages 74-75).

M’s article was from Richard W. Hatcher, III and William Garrett Piston, eds., Kansans At Wilson’s Creek: Soldiers’ Letters from the Campaign For Southwest Missouri (Springfield, MO: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation, 1993).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Blogging Again!

The last few weeks have been busy yet I’ve reached the point where I feel recharged and ready to begin a new academic year. Following my mom’s death, I moved across town into her house. It had been a number of years since I had last moved so…oh my…what a process! I had certainly accumulated too much in the other house so it was a good time to weed out and let go of belongings that I no longer wanted or needed. However, most of my books (and certainly all of the ones about the trans-Mississippi) moved with me. Some of the collection is still boxed up and awaiting the arrival of some pine bookcases. Besides moving I traveled with a friend to beautiful Scotland!!! There, we stayed with friends who live near Glasgow, and what a wonderful time we had with them. They graciously took us to many fascinating places including Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies, Linlithgow Palace, Stirling Castle, Bannockburn, Culloden, Loch Ness, Fort George, Killiecrankie, the Robert Burns birthplace, and even more. It was grandly fun in part because I had never been overseas before; now I’m eager to go on another big trip.

Quite honestly, I never saw anything with any connection to the trans-Mississippi Civil War although we did pass close to Paisley, the birthplace of William A. Phillips, the commander of the Federal Indian Brigade. It was so much work for me to move across town. Just think what it was like for a Scotsman to migrate to Illinois and then to Kansas, as Phillips did, in the mid nineteenth century.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Break

My blogging time has been limited so far this year, and I've finally come to the realization that realistically speaking it is going to be awhile before I can regularly post. On Monday I made an across town move--what a lot of work! There are still many boxes to unpack with many of them filled with my Civil War library. Additionally, I have some touch-up work to do on my manuscript, A Constant School of Excitement: Albert C. Ellithorpe and the Civil War on the Frontier. My time will be occupied by some other activities over the next few weeks too. So...all that to convey that I'm taking a break from the blog for a few weeks. I'll continue to monitor it and post comments. This makes Post #399 so I invite you to look back at older postings while I'm on the break.

Friday, June 12, 2015

"'Bread!' is now the cry from all quarters..."

Many soldiers campaigning in the trans-Mississippi eventually commented on the refugee problem. It seems to me that the campaigns particularly displaced civilians in the Indian Territory, northwestern Arkansas, as well as various locales in Missouri and Louisiana. The result was that some areas became eerily depopulated as refugees sought safe havens. Army camps were sometimes inundated with refugees desperately seeking food.

Writing from his camp in northwestern Arkansas, Federal officer Albert C. Ellithorpe of the First Indian Home Guards informed Chicago readers in February 1863 that “’Bread!’ is now the cry from all quarters, and hundreds are applying to our lines for something to eat. You will remember that in a former letter I predicted the approach of the ‘evil genius of war.’ He is here—famine is sitting upon the thresholds of almost every cabin in the country. All must flee before him, and where can they go but to our lines?” In the same time period Lieutenant Benjamin F. McIntyre stationed at Forsyth, Missouri, reported that “A large number of Arkansas families have sought protection in our lines and as their condition is a destitute one Uncle Sam from his abundance must care for them” (p. 114).

The Federals were not the only ones to grapple with the issue. Traveling near Shreveport, Louisiana, Private William Henry King of the 28th Louisiana Infantry wrote on October 9, 1863, “On arriving at the ferry, a little after 1 o’clock, we find a crowd of refugees. They continue to cross until late in the evening, & crowds are still waiting to cross. Such heavy immigration will certainly cause great scarcity of bread stuffs in Texas. Indeed, I fear it will cause intestive war. Many of the citizens of Texas are opposed to refugees upon the ground that bread stuffs will be too scarce if so many go there” (p. 118).

Unlike the soldiers who viewed the refugees en masse, Mrs. Harriet Perry, residing near Marshall, Texas, informed her husband in early 1864 that “Dr. Haywood is boarding a family of refugees from Miss. a widow a Mrs Chevis, she has a grown daughter and a son, the young man has been discharged from the army on account of a wound received in the right arm which has rendered it useless—they have a man & maid servant, four mules & two horses, carriage & wagon” (p. 203). Several weeks later, Harriet described Mrs. Eliza Foote Chevis , the authoress and poetress…as the most incessant talker I ever heard” (p. 209).

Not many studies of refugees in the trans-Mississippi exist, but an in-depth one would probably be fascinating.


Albert C. Ellithorpe quote: Chicago Evening Journal, 11 February 1863.

Benjamin F. McIntyre quote: Tilley, Nannie M., ed. Federals On The Frontier:: The Diary of Benjamin F. McIntyre, 1862-1864. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.

William Henry King quote: Joiner, Gary D, Marilyn S. Joiner, and Clifton D. Cardin, eds. No Pardons to Ask, nor Apologies to Make: The Journal of William Henry King, Gray’s 28th Louisiana Infantry Regiment. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006.

Harriet Perry quote: Johansson, M. Jane, ed. Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Letters of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862-1864. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Prairie Grove Relic Destroyed

Craig Swain had a recent posting on his excellent blog about the discovery of live artillery rounds on Civil War battlefields, including one found at Prairie Grove. A city crew there found a James Rifle shell while working on a gas line, but an Army bomb squad destroyed the artifact. To read all about it, check out this Arkansas Online news story.