Military History Monday: Fighting Civil War Boredom

Some of the most memorable Civil War battles to occur during winter were fought, not the bullets and swords, but snowballs.  Throughout the Civil War, and not just during the winter months, one of the main things the soldiers battled was boredom – even more so during the cold and snowy winter months.  Accounts of these often fierce snowball battles were recorded in soldiers’ diaries. The early winter months of 1863 were filled with accounts, both Yankee and Confederate.  In early 1863 the Army of the Potomac had been encamped at White Oak Church since November of 1862.  Since October the Twenty-Sixth New Jersey had been attached to the First Vermont Brigade.  According to A War of the People: Vermont Civil War Letters, the “Vermonters disdained the Jersey men, whose bravery and honesty they doubted.” The Jersey soldiers, believing their snowball skills superior, challenged the Third and Fifth Vermont Regiments to a contest.  According to one New Jersey soldier’s diary account, the Vermonters had been taunting them, making “an attack on the encampment of the Twenty-sixth, sending a perfect shower of snow balls at the head of every luckless Jerseyman who made his appearance without his tent.” The Jersey soldier went on to describe the snowball fight with references to strategy, blow-by-blow accounts and casualties.  The Jersey men were taken off guard, completely surprised, and as darkness neared the combatants retreated to their tents.  A few days later another attack commenced and of course, according to the Jersey soldier, their side more than held their ground.  His descriptions were vivid: A few days afterwards the attack was renewed, but...

Military History Monday: Did a Snowball Fight Spark Revolution?

It is one of those historic places in America where a momentous event took place, and its precise spot is marked in front of the Old State House in Boston.  Tensions had been escalating since October of 1768 when British soldiers were first dispatched to the city to ensure that the Townshend Acts of 1767 were enforced. Those acts placed an onerous burden on colonists by taxing the importation of vital products like glass, lead, paints, paper and tea.  The soldiers dispatched to Boston were placed there to keep order, but to the colonists they were more like oppressors, impediments to their personal freedom. Those tasked with collecting those taxes, the Commissioners of Customs, were intimidated enough by angry colonists to request protection.  General Thomas Gage agreed and requested troops which came to be numbered around seven hundred.  Paul Revere, later known for his famous midnight ride, was already in the thick of the growing resistance movement. In response to the arrival of British troops in 1768, he made an elaborate engraving with a description of troops who “formed and marched with insolent parade, drums beating, fifes playing, and colours flying, up King Street.”  Some of the troops were unable to secure lodging and pitched their tents on the common, which in turn created a stench from camp latrines throughout the city. Lieutenant Colonel William Dalrymple wanted his men to be dispatched to live in the homes of local citizens, something that the council in Boston found objectionable.  Governor Barnard had devised a plan to punish those who opposed his policies by forcing them to open their homes to...

Military History Monday: Veterans Day

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate and honor the service of our military veterans.  This week will feature one or two other articles which are Veterans Day-related.  Tomorrow’s Tombstone Tuesday article will honor both a veteran and a Native American Choctaw Code Talker serving in World War I (November is also National Native American Heritage Month), and Wednesday’s article will feature a story about an historic blizzard that happened to fall on Veterans (then called Armistice) Day. But first, a little history.  It was first called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of “the war to end all wars”, World War I (how wrong we were).  The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but fighting had actually ended on November 11, 1918.  That day signified a temporary halt to hostilities by the Allies and Germans at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. To honor that precise day, Woodrow Wilson established the first Armistice Day in November of 1919 with a proclamation that read, in part: To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations. In keeping with the original suspension of  hostilities, the day was set aside for parades and speeches, with a brief suspension of business activity at 11:00 a.m. (the eleventh hour of...

Military History Monday: Native American Code Talkers of World War I

November is the month we celebrate Veterans Day and it’s also National Native American Heritage Month.  In honor of those designations and Military History Monday, today’s article will honor the Native American code talkers of World War I. The first thing to be noted is these Native American soldiers were not officially United States citizens at the time, nor were they allowed to vote, yet they served honorably and with distinction.  According to research conducted by the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, over twelve thousand Native Americans, representing about one-fourth of the entire male population of American Indians at that time, were serving their country during World War I. The United States reluctantly entered the war in April of 1917.  Throughout the war, the Germans had been able to break radio codes being transmitted from the other side.  With secret codes being broken, runners between companies were used, but that didn’t work very well either because they were subject to German capture. Choctaw Code Talkers According to Bishinik, the official publication of The Choctaw Nation, near the end of the war a group of Oklahoma Choctaws serving in the 141st and 142nd Infantry were called upon to help the American Expeditionary Force win several battles in the Mousse-Argonne campaign.  One day a captain walking around the camp overheard Solomon Lewis and Mitchell Bobb talking in their native language. He took Corporal Lewis aside and asked how many more Choctaw were serving in their battalion.  Lewis and Bobb were asked to send a message in their native language to Ben Carterby, another Choctaw soldier stationed at headquarters.  Upon receiving...

Military History Monday: The Battle of Middle Creek

I’ve been reading an excellent book about James Abram Garfield, the twentieth President of the United States (look for a book review soon).  I didn’t really know that much about him, except that he was assassinated not long after he was inaugurated in 1881.  Not a lot of books have been written about him, but he lived an amazing life, rising from poverty to the presidency. One event that caught my attention, and made him famous, was the Civil War Battle of Middle Creek in eastern Kentucky.  The description provided by author Candice Mallard reminded me of the Bible story of Gideon and his rout of the Midianites. James Garfield had been pursuing an academic career as a professor, and later president of the Eclectic Institute, when an Ohio state senator died unexpectedly.  Garfield was asked to take his seat and later won it outright.  When the Civil War began, he was eager to enlist, although Ohio Governor William Dennison, Jr. convinced him his service in the legislature was needed more urgently at the time. In the summer of 1861 Garfield entered the Union Army as a lieutenant colonel, and after reaching the age of thirty in November, was promoted to full colonel.  His first task was to assemble the 42nd Ohio Regiment which he would command.  Defending Kentucky, a strategic border state, from Rebel advances, was his first assignment.  Kentucky was also the birth home of President Abraham Lincoln, who emphasized, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” As it turned out, however, Garfield and his regiment were outnumbered (not to mention...

Military History Monday: Quattlebaum Military Service

Today’s Military History article continues the story of the Quattelbaum (Quattlebaum) family whose American progenitor, Petter Quattelbaum, arrived in America in October of 1736 (see this past week’s Surname Saturday article here). Johannes Quattelbaum, son of Petter, had seen action in the Revolutionary War, serving under Brigadier General Francis Marion, a.k.a. the “Swamp Fox”.  His son John was born on December 1, 1774 in the Saxe Gotha Township, two miles north of present day Leesville, South Carolina.   After the war Johannes moved his family to a Dutch settlement on Sleepy Creek, but John returned to his birthplace and married Sarah Weaver on August 5, 1798. John and Sarah Quattelbaum had five children together before Sarah died on January 6, 1809.  John was left with five young children to raise and the following year he married Metee Burkett, daughter of a fellow soldier who had fought alongside his father Johannes.   He and Metee had four sons. Sometime in 1809 John moved his family to a place on Lightwood Creek, about four miles south of Leesville, where he would establish mill operations: a flour mill, grist mill and lumber mill.  There he gained a reputation as an industrialist who also manufactured cotton gins and rifles.  The development of the last two industries were especially well-timed and profitable – demand for the cotton gin was high and the Quattelbaum rifle was well-known and sold throughout the country. After receiving a commission as captain of his local militia company, John served during the War of 1812 with Lieutenant Colonel Rowe and the South Carolina Militia in defense of Charleston. According to family history...