Military History Monday: The Nancy Harts

While their menfolk were off fighting the Union, many Southern women stepped up to defend their homes and families.  One group of females in LaGrange, Georgia, however, officially banded together and formed an all-female militia.  They called themselves the Nancy Harts in honor of Revolutionary War heroine and fellow Georgian Nancy Morgan Hart.  In case you missed my July 4 “Feisty Female” article on Nancy Morgan Hart, you can read it here. After the LaGrange Light Guards of the Fourth Georgia Infantry left on April 26, 1861, two wives, Nancy Hill Morgan and Mary Alford Heard, decided to form their own all-female militia. About forty women attended the first meeting which was held at a schoolhouse on the grounds of United States Senator Benjamin Hill’s home. The women, inexperienced with both firearms and military procedures, secured the assistance of Dr. A.C. Ware, a local physician who had been exempted from military service, to assist them in their training. Dr. Ware was elected their first captain, according to Atlanta’s Southern Confederacy newspaper on June 1, 1861: We are informed that the ladies of LaGrange, to the number of about forty organized themselves on Saturday last, into a military corps for the purpose of drilling and target practice. They elected Dr. A.C. Ware as their Captain, and, we believe, resolved to meet every Saturday. Not long after the training began, Nancy Morgan and Mary Heard were elected as captain and first lieutenant, respectively. They were apparently quickly learning how to organize militarily – regiment leaders, sergeants, corporals and a treasurer were added. The “Nancy Harts” or “Nancies” began meeting twice as...

Military History Monday: Jennison’s Jayhawkers

This Civil War regiment, the 7th Kansas Cavalry, was organized by Charles Rainsford Jennison and became known as “Jennison’s Jawhawkers.”  By the time the regiment was mustered in on October 28, 1861, the terms “jayhawk,” “jawhawker,” and “jayhawking” were already part of the national lexicon long before the Civil War broke out in April of 1861. The term “jayhawk” and it’s various iterations seems to have originated as early as the late 1840’s along the Kansas-Missouri border. There are several theories as to how the term came into usage, but as far as a Kansan is concerned it is deeply rooted in the state’s history – it’s also Kansas University’s mascot. The name combines two birds, since there is no such thing as a “jayhawk” in nature – so mythically speaking it’s sort of a cross between a quarrelsome, nest-robbing blue jay and a sparrow hawk, a stealthy hunter. After the Kansas-Nebraska of 1854 was enacted, there was “Bloody Kansas” or as I like to call it, the “Civil War before THE Civil War”. Missouri counties which bordered Kansas were pro-slavery while Kansas was being flooded with anti-slavery advocates. In Missouri the “Border Ruffians” not only made incursions into Kansas Territory to harass, pillage and kill, they also sent illegal voters to Kansas to elect a pro-slavery legislature. Sparring with the “Border Ruffians” along the border were the Kansas “Jayhawkers.” As time went on and hostilities escalated, it would become harder to distinguish between the two after the Jayhawkers began using the same tactics – no wonder they called it “Bloody Kansas.” One of the more unscrupulous Jayhawkers was...

Military History Monday: Hundred Days Men

By 1864 it was becoming increasingly more difficult to conscript enough able-bodied men to fight for either the North or South.  Before the war began in early April of 1861, the United States Army had around 16,400 officers and men.  On April 9, 1861 a call was made for the District of Columbia to muster ten companies of militia.  There was some resistance as evidenced by one company of 100 men: two officers, one sergeant, one corporal, one musician and ten privates refused to muster. Less than a week later, President Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen to serve three months.  By May he was calling for 500,000 to serve three years.  In 1862 there were calls for 300,000 to serve three years and later that year another 300,000 to serve for nine months.  As the war continued unabated, calls for more enlistments were issued.  Some would re-enlist after their term of service had expired.  Even with a large numbers of troop already assembled, Lincoln made a special plea in 1863 and 1864, first to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. This article has been enhanced and published in the July 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Military History Monday: Battle of Wyoming, aka Wyoming Massacre

The Wyoming Valley of present day Pennsylvania was the scene of the bloodiest and most heinous battle of the Revolutionary War.  In 1662, the valley had been claimed as part of Connecticut and residents of that colony began settling there in 1762, originally designated as the county of Westmoreland. The settlers planted crops, harvested them and returned to Connecticut for the winter.  They returned in the spring of 1763 and that autumn were attacked and killed by Indians.  Those remaining fled back to Connecticut.  In 1769 another wave of settlers decided to migrate to the area once again. This article is no longer available at this site.  However, it will be enhanced and published later in a future issue of Digging History Magazine, our new monthly digital publication available by individual purchase or subscription.  To see what the magazine is all about you can preview issues at our YouTube Channel.  Subscriptions are affordable, safe and easy to purchase and the best deal for getting your “history fix” every...

Military History Monday: The Battle of Big Hole (Montana)

In 1805, Lewis and Clark named them “Nez Perce”, which literally means “pierced nose”, except this tribe didn’t perform nose piercings – that was the Chinook tribe.  The tribe’s name was actually “Nimi’puu” (Nee-Me-Poo) and meant “the people” or “we the people”.  This tribe was indigenous to a vast area of land (17 million acres) which covered present day Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  Rather than being one distinct tribe, this group actually consisted of various bands with somewhat different languages, managing to live together peacefully – the tribes (Shoshonis, Bannack and Blackfoot) to the south were not quite so friendly, however. The Nez Perce acquired horses sometime in the mid-1700’s, becoming expert horseman, and by the nineteenth century were the largest owner of horses in North America. They were a nomadic tribe, moving with the seasons to fish, hunt and gather – salmon, deer, elk, berries, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, wild potatoes and carrots. Two of the most prominent tribal leaders were Chief Joseph the Elder and Chief Joseph the Younger. The elder had taken the Christian name of “Joseph” when he converted to Christianity and was baptized at the Lapwai mission in 1838. His son was born in 1840 and given the name “Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt” or “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain”, but became known as “Joseph the Younger”. Joseph the Elder promoted peace with the white man, signing a treaty with the United States government in 1853 which set up a large reservation spanning across Oregon and into Idaho. When the gold rush brought more white settlers, in 1863 the government took more land and relegated the tribe...

Honoring the Fallen: Ladies Hollywood Memorial Association

The Ladies Hollywood Memorial Association was founded at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on May 3, 1866 and chartered on January 19, 1891.  The group’s primary duties were to care for and honor the graves of the Confederate soldiers buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery, and they were one of many such associations organized by the women of the South.  Indeed, immediately after the fall of the Confederacy these women sprang into action. The Association’s primary objective was to care for and prevent the neglect of the graves of approximately twelve thousand Confederate soldiers who had died in the Richmond hospitals, whether by disease or war wounds. One of the first commemorations instituted was a Memorial Day, and soon adopted by other associations in the South. The portion of Hollywood Cemetery to be used for burying war dead was sixteen acres in size and in need of improvements such as grounds clearing, paving, draining and then providing each grave a marker. Even though the South had been ravaged and impoverished after the Civil War, the ladies were able to raise $26,620.00 to begin their project and erect a monument to honor their dead. Approximately three thousand were moved from Gettysburg and other battlefields around Richmond, finally totally around eighteen thousand. The task of exhuming the remains of Confederate soldiers who died at Gettysburg fell to Dr. Rulus B. Weaver. Dr. Weaver was highly skilled in the field of anatomy and his expertise, when coupled with hospital records, allowed him to identify hundreds of soldiers. Between 1870 and 1873, he exhumed, boxed and shipped the remains of 3,320 soldiers – 73 to...