Duffel Blog provides Civil War satire

If you follow the US military and the blogging world that surrounds it, you may have visited Duffel Blog. This site presents all the hilarity and wit of the legendary satire publication The Onion, but with emphasis on the armed forces and veterans, to provide members and supporters of the armed forces a bit of levity in trying times. I have enjoyed several pieces from this blog in the past and a recent one was no different.

With all the controversy surrounding the status of the “Confederate flag” (predominantly dealing with the battle flag design) in the wake of the tragic murders in Charleston at the hand of a deranged white supremacist, there have been hundreds of stories relating to symbols of the Confederacy and its military and political leaders. Duffel Blog decided to jump into the fray by writing about West Point revoking the diplomas of graduates who went on to serve the Confederacy. This “story” follows an earlier posting regarding efforts to rename Army installations named for Confederate generals.

Both of these pieces are amusing, but also thought-provoking, as they force us to consider the broader role of the war on our society. Clearly, Duffel Blog is responding to the controversies surrounding Confederate symbols with tongue-in-cheek humor designed to make us reflect on the absurdity of the reactionary nature of our times. They are also aware that a sizable portion of their audience is likely Southern and is in the cross hairs of this debate. That said, they also make one reflect upon the careers of the Confederate military leadership when viewed against the backdrop of American military history. Further, they speak to attempts to reconcile the two regions after the war by naming the installations for these men.

That said, I doubt that West Point will be revoking diplomas of former Confederates anytime soon, as the Academy knows that, despite their switched allegiance during the war, many of these men had distinguished antebellum careers in the Army, with Robert E. Lee being among the most prominent. Whatever your stance on the symbols of the Confederacy and how they are used and displayed, I invite you to read the two Duffel Blog posts, chuckle a bit, and allow yourself a moment to breathe and reflect, as more of that would certainly benefit this ongoing debate.

Momentous anniversaries and visiting Civil War history

To my loyal blog readers, my apologies for not actually posting something worthy on the actual anniversaries recently, but I do want to share with you that the last several days have commemorated some momentous events related to the history of the Civil War. One of the reasons was that I was out of town visiting my parents for Easter, followed by a trip to Branson, Missouri to celebrate my mother’s birthday, which is actually April 15 (yes, I do appreciate the irony as a historian of her birthday).

On April 7, my Dad and I traveled to Illinois College, my alma mater to hear Dr. Robert Welch, who also writes a blog The Eagle and The Journal, which deals with Macomb, Illinois during the war via articles from its two main papers during the war The Eagle and The Journal. Check it out, as it’s quite good. Welch brought a lot of gear to his talk and drew a crowd of around 75, who were quite interested in his topic on Civil War Living History and Reenacting, including its uses as a teaching tool, which resonates with me quite well.

April 9 marked the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. I unfortunately missed the NPS program on it, but my good reenacting buddy Den Bolda had two questioned answered during the live-stream, which was quite cool. I did make a Civil War trip out of it though, as my Dad and I visited Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield that day. I had been there before in 2011 to reenact for the 150th, but did not get to see much, so it was fun to take time with him and survey the park, despite limited time.

April 14 marked the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in DC. Finally, April 15 marked the 150th anniversary of his death. Springfield is abuzz with activities leading up to ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of his funeral, so, if you are in Springfield, be sure to take in the festivities.

With that I will leave you with some photos of Welch’s talk and my visit to Wilson’s Creek.

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This Week in the Civil War: Sep 9-15, 1863

Wednesday, September 9.  General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland entered Chattanooga this morning. Rosecrans wired General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “Chattanooga is ours without a struggle and East Tennessee is free.” The Federals had conducted another brilliant campaign of maneuver with little loss of life.

General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee had reluctantly abandoned the prized city. Hoping to destroy Bragg’s army, Rosecrans immediately ordered a pursuit despite being deep in hostile territory. The Federals were also dangerously split into three columns, while Bragg much closer than expected.

President Jefferson Davis decided to send General James Longstreet’s Second Corps from the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce Bragg. Because the Federals now occupied Cumberland Gap, Longstreet’s troops had to travel through the Carolinas and Georgia via Atlanta to get to Bragg.

In Charleston Harbor, a Federal flotilla attempting to land at Fort Sumter was repulsed with heavy losses. Sumter’s walls were crumbling from continued Federal artillery, but the defenders refused to surrender. Skirmishing occurred in the Indian Territory.

Thursday, September 10.  As Federal forces captured Fort Smith on Arkansas’s western border, the Federals threatened eastern Arkansas. Outnumbered, Confederate General Sterling Price evacuated the state capital of Little Rock and withdrew to Rockport and Arkadelphia. The Federals entered the capital unopposed and seized control of the Arkansas River. This threatened General Edmund Kirby Smith’s entire Confederate Trans-Mississippi District.

William Rosecrans’s Federals probed Confederate positions in Georgia below Chattanooga. James Longstreet’s Confederates began moving out of Virginia to reinforce Braxton Bragg. The Federal shelling of Fort Sumter temporarily ceased.

In North Carolina, Confederate soldiers destroyed the offices of the Raleigh Standard, a newspaper owned by pro-Union politician William W. Holden. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Friday, September 11.  Reconnaissance and skirmishing continued between Rosecrans’s Federals and Bragg’s Confederates in northern Georgia. The Federals continued advancing on Confederate positions without knowing exactly where they were.

President Abraham Lincoln instructed Governor Andrew Johnson to organize a pro-Union government in Tennessee. Lincoln also met with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to discuss the Charleston campaign. A Federal expedition began from La Grange, Tennessee to Corinth, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Saturday, September 12.  Federal probing of Confederate positions continued in northern Georgia. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Sunday, September 13.  When James Longstreet’s corps was pulled from General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army and sent to reinforce Braxton Bragg, Lee was compelled to withdraw to the Rapidan River in northern Virginia. As a result, General George G. Meade’s Federal Army of the Potomac moved from the Rappahannock River and occupied Culpeper Court House. Clashes took place at Brandy Station, Muddy Run, Stevenson, and other points.

General Ulysses S. Grant was ordered to send all available troops to aid William Rosecrans at Chattanooga. In Georgia, Braxton Bragg ordered a Confederate attack on Federal scouts, but the order was not carried out.

In South Carolina, Federal telegraphers were captured near Lowndes’ Mill on the Combahee River. In Mississippi, 20 Federal crewmen from U.S.S. Rattler were captured by Confederate cavalry while attending church services at Rodney. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri.

Monday, September 14.  Skirmishing continued between George G. Meade’s Federals and Robert E. Lee’s Confederates in northern Virginia. Other skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, September 15.  Citing the existing “state of rebellion,” President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus throughout the North in cases where the Federal military or civil authorities held citizens in custody for suspected disloyalty. Lincoln also wrote to General-in-Chief Halleck that George G. Meade should attack Robert E. Lee immediately. Meade chose not to attack.

Federal expeditions began from Virginia, Missouri, and the New Mexico Territory. William Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg began concentrating their forces as various skirmishes took place in northern Georgia. Skirmishing also occurred in Virginia and Missouri.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Sep 2-8, 1863

Wednesday, September 2.  In eastern Tennessee, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio entered Knoxville unopposed. The city had been virtually undefended, as most Confederates had left to join General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. The Federals were overwhelmingly welcomed by the predominantly pro-Union residents. The fall of Knoxville cut a key rail link between Chattanooga and Virginia, which forced Bragg to use a roundabout route through Georgia to supply his men.

In Charleston Harbor, the Federal bombardment lessened, but Federal troops entrenched themselves within 80 yards of Battery Wagner’s earthworks on Morris Island. The Alabama state legislature approved employing slaves in Confederate armies.

President Lincoln informed Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase that portions of Virginia and Louisiana could not be included under the Emancipation Proclamation because the “original proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification except as a military measure.”

A Federal expedition began from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Federal naval forces destroyed buildings and four small boats in a raid on Peace Creek, Florida. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as Federal cavalry destroyed two Confederate (formerly Federal) gunboats on the Rappahannock River.

Thursday, September 3.  A portion of General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland skirmished with Braxton Bragg’s Confederates in Georgia as part of Rosecrans’s campaign to capture Chattanooga.

Federal troops fought Indians in California’s Hoopa Valley and in the Dakota Territory. Federal military operations began in the Humboldt Military District of California. Federal guns began pounding Battery Wagner.

Friday, September 4.  In Tennessee, William S. Rosecrans’s Federals continued their advance on Chattanooga. The Federals crossed the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, Alabama and Shellmound, Tennessee, and began encircling the city. Confederate President Jefferson Davis urged Braxton to hold Chattanooga while trying to muster reinforcements.

Federal transports and supply ships left New Orleans, advancing toward the Texas-Louisiana coast at Sabine Pass. This was the first of several moves by General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal Army of the Gulf to capture important points in Texas, both as an offensive against Confederates and as a display of force to the French occupying Mexico.

Women looted food and supply stores in Mobile, Alabama while carrying signs reading “Bread or Blood” and “Bread and Peace.” Southern discontent with the economy and hardships of war were becoming more prominent in the press. Federals scouted from Cold Water Grove, Missouri, and from Fort Lyon, Colorado toward Fort Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri and West Virginia.

Saturday, September 5.  U.S. Minister Charles Francis Adams informed British Lord John Russell that if Confederate ironclads left the British shipyards, “it would be superfluous for me to point out to your Lordship that this is war.” Two ships known as the “Laird Rams” were under construction in British navy yards, ostensibly to be used by the Confederacy. Unbeknownst to Adams, Russell had previously ordered the ships detained at Birkenhead. The “Laird Rams” were not delivered to the Confederacy, and an international crisis was averted.

In Charleston Harbor, Federals edged closer to the earthworks surrounding Battery Wagner as Federal artillery continued firing. Confederates repulsed a Federal attack on Fort Gregg on the north end of Morris Island. The Charleston Mercury stated that President Davis “has lost the confidence of both the army and the people.”

Meanwhile, President Davis urgently asked Braxton Bragg, “What is your proposed plan of operation (at Chattanooga)? Can you ascertain intention of enemy?… can you not cut his line of communication and compel him to retreat for want of supplies?”

William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished with Confederates in Alabama and Georgia. Federals also skirmished in eastern Tennessee as they moved in on Cumberland Gap from Knoxville. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, and Federals battled Indians in the Dakota Territory.

Sunday, September 6.  In Charleston Harbor, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard evacuated Battery Wagner and Fort Gregg amidst the relentless Federal naval bombardment of the harbor forts. But Fort Sumter and Charleston held firm.

Monday, September 7.  In Charleston Harbor, Federals occupied Battery Wagner, which gave them a better position to fire upon Forts Sumter and Moultrie in the harbor.

Skirmishing occurred in Georgia, below Chattanooga. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, and Kansas.

Tuesday, September 8.  In eastern Texas, a detachment of Federal transports and gunboats under General William Franklin occupied Sabine Pass and prepared to advance on Beaumont and Houston. The Confederates could muster only 47 defenders on the Sabine River, led by General John B. Magruder and Lieutenant Dick Dowling. Nevertheless, they destroyed a Federal gunboat from a nearby earthwork and forced the withdrawal of the remaining vessels. The humiliated Federals returned to New Orleans, while this small engagement greatly boosted Confederate morale in Texas.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal naval vessels bombarded the forts as the Federals prepared for a small-boat operation by night against Fort Sumter. William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished in Alabama and Georgia. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the Arizona Territory.

President Davis informed General Robert E. Lee of the increasing threat to Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga; Davis said that he considered sending Lee west, but feared that Lee’s absence would demoralize the Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate Attorney General Thomas H. Watts resigned, having been elected governor of Alabama. He was replaced on an interim basis by Wade Keyes.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Aug 5-11, 1863

Wednesday, August 5.  President Lincoln wrote to General Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Federal Department of the Gulf: “For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the emancipation proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.”

In Arkansas, General Frederick Steele assumed command of Federal troops at Helena. On the South Carolina coast, Confederates strengthened defenses at Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

Thursday, August 6.  In accordance with President Lincoln’s proclamation, the northern states observed a day of thanksgiving for the recent Federal victories. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to South Carolina Governor M.L. Bonham pledging relief for Charleston, “which we pray will never be polluted by the footsteps of a lustful, relentless, inhuman foe.”

C.S.S. Alabama captured Sea Bride amidst cheers off the Cape of Good Hope. In Virginia, John S. Mosby’s Confederate raiders captured a Federal wagon train near Fairfax Court House. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia.

Friday, August 7.  President Lincoln refused New York Governor Horatio Seymour’s request to suspend the military draft, explaining, “My purpose is to be, in my action, just and constitutional; and yet practical, in performing the important duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and the free principles of our common country.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Missouri.

Saturday, August 8.  General Robert E. Lee submitted his resignation as commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to President Davis. Lee was in poor health, and he blamed himself for the defeat at Gettysburg in July. Lee wrote, “I, therefore, in all sincerity, request your excellency to take measures to supply my place.”

On the South Carolina coast, Federals continued building approaches to Battery Wagner, using calcium lights to work at night. Off the Florida coast, U.S.S. Sagamore seized four prizes. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Mississippi, and Missouri.

Sunday, August 9.  In a letter to General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, President Lincoln wrote that black troops were “a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Monday, August 10.  In Arkansas, Frederick Steele’s Federals began advancing on Little Rock from Helena. Thirteenth Corps was transferred from Ulysses S. Grant’s army at Vicksburg to Carrollton, Louisiana. In Texas, Confederate regiments mutinied at Galveston due to lack of rations and furloughs, but order was quickly restored.

President Lincoln wrote to General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee, “I have not abated in my kind feeling for and confidence in you… Since Grant has been entirely relieved by the fall of Vicksburg, by which (Confederate General Joseph E.) Johnston (in Mississippi) is also relieved, it has seemed to me that your chance for a stroke, has been considerably diminished…” Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and Missouri.

Tuesday, August 11.  On the South Carolina coast, Confederate artillery at Battery Wagner, Fort Sumter, and James Island pounded entrenched Federals. In Virginia, Confederates captured a Federal wagon train near Annandale.

After pondering Robert E. Lee’s resignation, President Davis refused, stating, “our country could not bear to lose you.” A pro-Union meeting voiced support for the Federal war effort at Washington, North Carolina.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: July 29 – Aug 4, 1863

Wednesday, July 29.  Following the string of Confederate defeats this month, Queen Victoria of England informed the British Parliament that she saw “no reason to depart from the strict neutrality which Her Majesty has observed from the beginning of the contest.”

President Abraham Lincoln stated that he opposed “pressing” General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, into immediately attacking General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. Federals clashed with Indians in the Dakota and New Mexico territories.

Thursday, July 30.  President Lincoln directed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to issue an order declaring the U.S. government would “give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession…” This “Order of Retaliation” was prompted by the Confederate order “dooming to death or slavery every negro taken in arms, and every white officer who commands negro troops.”

Lincoln’s order sought to offset the Confederacy’s “relapse into barbarism,” stating “the law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war.” Under this order, “for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor.”

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Friday, July 31.  In Virginia, Federals clashed with Confederates while crossing the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Saturday, August 1.  Federal Rear Admiral David D. Porter assumed command of naval forces on the Mississippi River. Now that the entire waterway was in Federal hands, Porter’s main objective was to defend against Confederate guerrilla attacks on Federal shipping.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered amnesty to all soldiers absent without leave if they would return to their units within 20 days. In asking for more sacrifice, Davis proclaimed that “no alternative is left you but victory, or subjugation, slavery and utter ruin of yourselves, your families and your country.”

In Virginia, a cavalry skirmish near Brandy Station ended the Gettysburg Campaign. On the South Carolina coast, Federals began concentrating for another attack on Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. The Federal War Department disbanded the Fourth and Seventh Army Corps.

Prominent Confederate spy Belle Boyd was imprisoned in Washington a second time after being apprehended in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Sunday, August 2.  On the South Carolina coast, Federals attacked the Confederate steamer Chesterfield off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. President Davis wrote Robert E. Lee, “It is painful to contemplate our weakness when you ask for reinforcements.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Monday, August 3.  In response to the New York City draft riots last month, New York Governor Horatio Seymour requested that President Lincoln suspend the military draft in his state. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, August 4.  On the South Carolina coast, Federals continued bombarding Charleston Harbor while preparing the “Swamp Angel,” a massive cannon, to aid in the bombardment. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: July 22-28, 1863

Wednesday, July 22.  In Ohio, General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raid continued with skirmishing at Eagleport. Morgan’s Confederates fled northward from Federal pursuers.

In Virginia, General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, directed General William H. French, commanding Third Corps, to attack Confederates under General Robert E. Lee in Manassas Gap tomorrow. The New York Chamber of Commerce estimated that Confederate raiders had taken 150 Federal merchant vessels valued at over $12 million. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Louisiana.

Thursday, July 23.  In Virginia, William H. French’s Federals pushed through Manassas Gap but were delayed for hours by a Confederate brigade. This allowed the remainder of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to escape southward. Other skirmishing occurred at various points, but George G. Meade’s effort to destroy Lee in the Shenandoah Valley failed.

In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s straggling Confederates skirmished at Rockville.

Friday, July 24.  In Virginia, the Federal Third Corps occupied Front Royal, and George G. Meade began concentrating his remaining forces at Warrenton. Robert E. Lee’s Confederates began arriving at Culpeper Court House, south of the Rappahannock River. Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis that he had intended to march east of the Blue Ridge, but high water and other obstacles prevented him from doing so before the Federals crossed the Potomac into Loudoun County.

In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished at Washington and Athens. On the South Carolina coast, Federal naval vessels bombarded Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor as Federal infantry advanced their siege lines. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri and the New Mexico Territory.

Saturday, July 25.  In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished near Steubenville and Springfield. The Confederate Department of East Tennessee was merged into the Department of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Arkansas.

Sunday, July 26.  In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan and his Confederate raiders surrendered to Federal forces at Salineville. Morgan and his men were exhausted and outnumbered after invading enemy territory and moving east near the Pennsylvania border. They were imprisoned in Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. Morgan’s unauthorized raid had resulted in sensational headlines, the capture of nearly 6,000 Federal prisoners, the destruction of hundreds of bridges and railroad tracks, and the diversion of Federal attention from other campaigns. However, it did little to affect the war.

In Texas, prominent statesman Sam Houston died at Huntsville. Houston had opposed secession but knew that as long as the people of Texas chose to secede, they could not turn back. In Kentucky, John J. Crittenden died at Frankfort. A longtime member of Congress, Crittenden had tried to negotiate a compromise between North and South before the war.

In accordance with an act of Congress expelling the Dakota Sioux Indians from Minnesota, Colonel Henry Sibley’s Federals pursued the Lakota and Dakota Indians into the Dakota Territory and defeated them at the Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Monday, July 27.  In Alabama, Confederate leader William Lowndes Yancey died at Montgomery. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, July 28.  President Davis wrote to Robert E. Lee and shared his views on the recent Confederate defeats: “I have felt more than ever before the want of your advice during the recent period of disaster.” Noting that public opinion was turning against him, Davis stated, “If a victim would secure the success of our cause I would freely offer myself.”

In Virginia, General John S. Mosby’s Confederate raiders harassed George G. Meade’s Federals. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and the Dakota Territory.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)