Friday, November 30, 2018

"A sort of clown": The Appearances of Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson in the Wake of the Maryland Campaign

     In times of war, nation's looks to their heroes. Few heroes ranked as high in the eyes of the Confederate citizenry in the fall of 1862 than Generals Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and "Stonewall" Jackson. They carried the war successfully from the gates of Richmond to Abraham Lincoln's doorstep and beyond the Potomac. Southerners yearned for news of the three men and tried to picture their heroes in an age before personal portraits were universally circulated.
     The war correspondent of the Columbus (GA) Times penned the following descriptions of what Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson looked like following their campaign into Maryland. It was reprinted in numerous papers, but this article has been pulled from the November 4, 1862 issue of the Staunton Spectator (VA).

     General Lee has, I believe, won his way to everybody's confidence. In appearance he is tall, portly and commanding. His dress is usually a plain Brigadier's uniform, a black felt hat, with the brim turned down, and he wears a short grizzled beard all round his face. He has much of the Washingtonian dignity about him, and is much respected by all with whom he is thrown. At Sharpsburg I saw him on the field during the heat of the action. He was surrounded by his staff and a perfect squadron of couriers. He was engaged in calmly viewing the storm of battle, and giving orders in a manner of cool reliance. Aids and couriers were hurrying to and from the right, left and centre, and the whole disposition of forces seemed under his perfect control.

     General Longstreet is stout and fleshy, and of good height, and has a quiet courageous look. He seems full of thought and of decision, and his face makes an agreeable impression alike on new and old acquaintances. He is characteristically a fighting man--none can equal him in forcing a strong and well fortified position, and General Lee showed his appreciation of an old tried soldier, when he patted him on the shoulder after the late battle and said, "My old war horse!" In this engagement he was second in command of the army, and his old corps keenly felt the need of his able handling.

     I was surprised at Stonewall Jackson's appearance. He has been described as a sort of clown. I never yet saw him riding with his knees drawn up like a monkey, and his head resting upon his breast. He has a first rate face, and seems a plainly dressed Captain of Cavalry, with an unpretending Staff. His uniform is fine enough, certainly, for the hard life he leads. But the imagination, is piqued, you know, by the absence of pretension, as "a King in grey clothes." Stonewall can't like to come about the army much. The boys keep him bareheaded all the time. When they begin to cheer him he usually pulls off his hat, spurs his fine horse, and runs through, greeted with cheers every step for five miles.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"I leave my history with my country": Napoleon J.T. Dana and his autobiography

Napoleon J.T. Dana
     Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana has to be the most military name found on the Antietam battlefield. And he seemed to live up to that name. He was born at a military post, graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842, seriously wounded in the Mexican War, and in 1861 became colonel of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. His men admired him, as he was a soldier's soldier. "We know that colonels such as he, 'like angel's visits,' are few and far between," wrote one Minnesota man upon learning of Dana's likely promotion to brigade command in the 2nd Corps.(1)
     Dana served admirably in brigade command as part of John Sedgwick's division on the Virginia Peninsula. In the swamps and quagmires there, he became ill with a fever at Harrison's Landing in July and reinvigorated his health in Philadelphia. He was well enough to retake command of his brigade in time for the Maryland Campaign. In the West Woods, Dana again fell with a serious wound, this time to the left leg, making him bedridden for the next two months.(2)
     When the Adjutant General's Office asked the generals of the Union Army for reports of their service in the war up to 1864, Dana submitted a succinct report detailing his experiences thus far. However, being the soldier's soldier, he ended his report as follows:
     I beg to remark that it is a delicate matter for a man to write his autobiography and I have aimed
     to do it in obedience to orders, as briefly and succinctly as possible. I could with much more
     pleasure and gratification write those of the brave soldiers who have fallen by my side. I leave my
     history with my country, which will also take care of the memory of those bloody graves. I can
     only say as I drop a tear on the sod that covers them, like Mark Anthony 
[Marc Antony], "My
     heart is in the coffin then with Caesar." There was many a Caesar among them.

1. Warner, Generals in Blue, 111; Moe, The Last Full Measure, 106.
2. Welsh, Medical Histories of Union Generals, 89-90.
3. Napoleon J. Dana, Roll 1, U.S. Army Generals' Reports of Civil War Service, M1098, RG 94, NARA.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

World War I sparked the memory of a Civil War hero's funeral

Colonel William B. Goodrich
With the centennial anniversary of the armistice effectively ending World War I having recently passed, it seemed fitting to stumble upon the article reproduced below from the September 21, 1918 issue of the Watertown Daily Times (NY). The article is titled "Funeral of Civil War Recalled."

     Canton, Sept. 21.--The receipt of casualty lists from the United States army in France recalls that 56 years ago tomorrow the body of Colonel William B. Goodrich, of the 60th New York State Volunteers, who was killed in action in the battle of Antietam arrived here for burial. Accompanying the body was the pony which Colonel Goodrich had taken with him when he left Canton to enter the war.
     Colonel Goodrich was 41 years of age at the time he was killed, and was one of the most prominent residents of the village, a street here having been named in honor of him. The older residents remember the crowd of people that congregated at the station when the body was brought back for the funeral. The colonel, who was a man of large physique, met his death at the hands of a Confederate sharpshooter, who picked him off as he was standing by the side of his horse in the open.