September 29, 1864 was the battle of New Market Heights, an attack on the Confederate lines during the skirmish of Petersburg. The reason I blog about it today? I haven't made an entry all week. No...seriously, I wrote part of my master's thesis on this battle. It was important, in my opinion, because it provided further evidence to doubtful white Union generals that African Americans made excellent, gallant soldiers. Union officers still needed more proof, but that's another blog post for another time.
By early Fall 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee had been entrenched around Petersburg, Virginia, a railroad depot south of Richmond. Throughout the nine month siege, Grant made several attempts to crack Lee's lines with only limited success. On September 29, Grant ordered General Benjamin F. Butler to assault Lee. A number of regiments of African American soldiers (United States Colored Troops or USCT), in the brigade of Brigadier General Charles Paine, were involved in the fighting. In fact, of the twenty-five African American soldiers who received the Medal of Honor during the Civil War (both army and navy), fourteen earned the award at the battle of New Market Heights.
For more on the battle, here's a link to the National Park Service's overview.
Monday, September 17, 2012
|Sunken Lane (Bloody Lane), Antietam National Battlefield. Photo by Andrew Tremel|
|Matthew Brady, Confederate dead near Dunker Church, from nps.gov|
So, pause for a moment this evening. Look back to Antietam and remember the sacrifice made by so many.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
|Harpers Ferry, West Virginia from Maryland Heights, taken by Andrew Tremel|
At the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry is best known as the site of John Brown's 1859 raid. The sleepy town grew from industries (including Hall's Rifle Works and the U.S. Armory) that relied on water power, but numerous floods in the post Civil War years (including the great flood of 1936) destroyed any hope of reviving a once prosperous town. Now, Harpers Ferry sits as a tourist attraction along the Appalachian Trail. I'm a regular visitor--it's one of my favorite spots to visit, and I've never seen it as overwhelmingly busy as some Civil War sites.
An interesting fact: Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times during the Civil War--more than any town except for Winchester, Virginia (over seventy). One of those occasions in which Harpers Ferry was captured came just before the Battle of Antietam. As Robert E. Lee entered Maryland, he divided his army between his two chief lieutenants--Generals James Longstreet and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Lee ordered Jackson to take Harpers Ferry and its Union garrison.
From a military standpoint, Harpers Ferry is virtually impossible to defend. Jackson understood this and divided his three divisions among the three hills overlooking the town: Loudon Heights in Virginia, Maryland Heights in Maryland (duh), and Bolivar Heights in present-day West Virginia (near the National Park Service visitor center). On September 13, troops under Generals Joseph B. Kershaw and William Barksdale drove a regiment of Union troops from a small fort on Maryland Heights. He moved troops to the base of Loudon Heights on the 14th and by the 15th, was ready to move in from Bolivar Heights. With the town surrounded, Union Colonel Dixon S. Miles opted to surrender. He was mortally wounded, however, before he could personally do so.
The Union surrendered 12,500 troops, artillery, wagons, and military supplies--the largest surrender in U.S. army history until the Philippines in 1942. Jackson was able to capture the garrison quickly with very few casualties of his own (less than 300). It was a brilliant victory for Jackson. "Stonewall" then marched his men to Sharpsburg, Maryland, in compliance with Lee's orders, for a showdown with Union General George McClellan.
Monday, September 10, 2012
|Battle of Lake Erie, William H. Powell, 1873. From senate.gov|
For more on next year's bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie, click here.