A Representative Crater Letter

I spent part of today organizing some digital files related to the battle of the Crater.  Included is the following letter written by H.A. Minor to his sister just after the battle.  I can’t remember if it made it into the book because I have so many rich letters written by soldiers in William Mahone’s division. For anyone familiar with these post-battle letters, what stands out are the patterns that emerge between the many soldiers who took pen to paper to share the highlights of the battle with loved ones back home.  I detail this in the first chapter of the book, but here is a little taste.

Papers of Henry Augustine Minor [manuscript] 1864-76
Minor, Henry Augustine, 1835-
Personal Author: Minor, Henry Augustine, 1835-
Title:Papers of Henry Augustine Minor [manuscript] 1864-76.
Collection: Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Field Hospital, 9th Alabama Regiment near Petersburg, Va., August 1, 1864
H.A. Minor to sister, M.A. Moseley: Minor was the surgeon of the 9th Alabama Volunteers.  Collection

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Remembering Confederate Conscription

Given my last post I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that today is the 150th anniversary of the Confederate Conscription Act, which made  all white males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five eligible to be drafted into military service.  This was the first draft in American history.

It could be celebrated by those who believe that that the Confederate government was justified in instituting any measure necessary to bring about independence from such a corrupt government in Washington.  The problem is that the memory of Confederate heritage tends to avoid any challenge to a vague notion of a principled defense of states rights such as the centralization of power in Richmond that only increased as the war dragged on.

What is lost, however, is any acknowledgment of continued resistance against the Confederate government by such governors as Vance and Brown as well as countless others, who worried about the dangers associated with concentrated power.  Instead folks such as Thomas DiLorenzo rail against Lincoln for his supposedly corrupt efforts and embrace Davis and the Confederacy as counter-revolutionary.  Such a picture completely ignores the rich history of states rights advocacy that continued within the Confederacy itself.

What Would Your Confederate Ancestor Say?

SC Sen. Mike Rose tells fellow senators that if they don’t vote to let the state take over Medicare from the federal government, the ghosts of their Confederate ancestors will be very unhappy with them.  My guess is that this argument has less rhetorical appeal compared to years past.  I would love to have seen the faces of those African American state representatives.

By extension, I think we can safely assume that our Confederate ancestors would also not support voting for Obama this coming November. Here is an older post for those of you who are still convinced that the brief Confederate experiment had anything to do with the protection of states rights.

For the Sake of Serenity

Don Troiani's "The Last Salute"

I think Gary Gallagher makes a pretty good case for why black soldiers were not present at the Grand Review in Washington D.C. in May 1865.  He argues that their absence had little to do with scheming politicians and military brass, who hoped to keep it an all-white affair.  The parade was made up primarily of units that were in the process of being demobilized.  Since black units were raised later in the war they remained stationed in various parts of the South.

In contrast, black troops under Edward O.C. Ord’s command were at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.  Anyone who has read William Marvel’s books on the march out of the Petersburg trenches and surrender knows that these units were kept in camp behind their white comrades once the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered.  Before the surrender ceremony on April 12 these men were ordered away from Appomattox.  Marvel suggests that this was done “for the sake of serenity.”  That seems like a reasonable explanation.

One wonders how their presence might have shaped an account of a salute that may or may not have taken place.