Friday, August 24, 2012

It Was a Battle!

We went to Kennesaw Mt. National Battlefield just outside Atlanta the other day. Actually, getting there was like a battlefield with the traffic. Fortunately, the only wreck we saw was on the opposite side but it tied up traffic for miles.

This National Battlefield Park was like none other we have been to so far.  Sherman’s 100,00 man Union Army tried to oust Johnston’s 60,000 man Confederate army along an 8 mile line which was part of the Atlanta Campaign. We drove up the mountain and then climbed .5 mile to the summit. On the way up from the parking lot to the summit, there were four original cannons. I made a comment about how hard it must have been for the horses to pull the cannons up the mountain…there were no paved roads or paths. Lo and behold, here’s the sign we saw. I never would have believed the men had to do that too.

You can see the steep climb in the picture below, the view from the top and one of the cannons which posed with us!

There were so many interesting facts in the museum from music, food and communications to the lives of individual men.  

Music…something I can’t live without! The Confederates and the Federals each had particular songs near and dear to them. The Rebels had “The Bonnie Blue Flag” and the Union had “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Each rallied around their flags. I wish people in our country had that amount of respect for our flag. Probably most do but there are a few…I digress!

Food…one of my favorite subjects. However, in Civil War days it would not have been. This is what the each soldier got daily if they were lucky. Union:  l lb. of hardtack (think saltine crackers minus the salt); or 22 oz. of bread or flour;  ¾ lb. of salt pork or 1 ¼ lb. of fresh beef; dried beans, sugar, coffee and salt. Rebels: 1 lb. of beef of ½ lb. of pork or bacon; cornmeal was substituted for hardtack or flour; they rarely received sugar or coffee. That’s where chicory came into play and oh, how I hate the taste of that kind of “coffee”.  Of course, sometimes they would forage plantations. With the lack of fruits and vegetables, no wonder they suffered from scurvy. In 1861 bacon was 13 cents/lb. In 1864 it was $3.50. Not much inflation since 1864! However, eggs in 1861 were 15 cents/doz.  and $4/doz. In 1864. What are they now? How can the government allow deflation??

Communications were via colored flags by day or torches by night using codes, couriers on foot or horseback  and telegraphing. Sherman had skilled men following him who could lay their own telegraph wires rather than rely on existing wires in GA.

Speaking of Sherman…he was born in Ohio, graduated from West Point and had been familiar with the land around Marietta, GA.  He resigned from the army in 1853 and tried his hand at banking and also tried being a lawyer. Those jobs were unsuccessful but he did become the first president of what is now LSU. He bid his students goodbye when LA seceded from the Union and he joined the Union Army.  He had never done battle before but he prepared for the Atlanta campaign by studying the census returns for GA and the populations of every county in GA. He apparently was a redhead, smoked cigars and people thought him rather eccentric and perhaps slightly insane!

Sherman’s opposition was General Johnston. For various reasons, Johnston felt he should be the highest ranking officer in the Confederate army. His boss, Jefferson Davis, did not agree with Johnston. They were both quick to take offense and slow to forgive. Davis wanted  Johnston to invade Tennessee promptly and quickly but Johnston said he didn’t have enough men, horses, artillery or wagons to do that. NEVER ARGUE WITH YOUR BOSS! Johnston’s failure to stop the Union caused him to be replaced by General Hood (who also did not fare well). The man in the background is Hood.

Sometimes during skirmishes, both sides would call a cease fire, meet between the lines to talk, trade newspapers, or swap Union coffee for Confederate tobacco. At one point in time, a fire broke out and there were dead , disgusting soldiers laying in the field. Compassion won out and they ceased fire. They put out the fire and buried the dead, then began fighting again. That seems a little insane to me. In the words of a Union soldier, “It seems too bad that we have to fight men that we like.”

Does the name Landis ring a bell? The first commissioner of baseball was the son of a surgeon in the Civil War. How about General MacArthur? He was the son of a Major who commanded a regiment at the age of 19 and won the Medal of Honor. Like father, like son…General MacArthur won the Medal of Honor for WWII.

So, at the end of this battle the Confederates lost approximately 35,000 men to death, wounds or MIA and the Union lost approximately 38,000. No matter where the battle is fought, too much blood is shed.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that hike did look steep! When we stayed in Fair Play, SC, the hills were like that in the RV park! Every walk we took was either up hill or down, just to get to our site! I never did get to ride my bike there.

    Thanks for the great history lesson, Karen. Where will you 'winter'? Maybe we can catch up to you. We'll be back in Titusville in December for 3 months, then back out on the road headed west.


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