"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Henderson and Monroe Counties

Yesterday I was privileged to have a book signing at the Henderson County Heritage Museum in Hendersonville, North Carolina.  The Museum has a great display of War Between the States memorabilia in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial, and has been inviting local authors of Civil War books to present their works.  I brought along a few of my own relics to display.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Next weekend, I'll be in Forsyth, in Monroe County, Georgia.  Sunday, October 2, I'll be having a book signing from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Monroe County Historical Society Museum.  The next evening, I'll be speaking to the Society about writing a regimental history.  The Quitman Guards of Forsyth and Monroe County were Company K of the First Georgia Infantry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13, 1861

His plans disrupted with the failure of Colonel Rust to attack Cheat Summit Fort, and with all hope of surprise gone, General Lee orders his brigades back to their camps.  General Loring urges Lee to allow the attack on Elkwater to proceed, but Lee decides that an assault on the well-entrenched and now alerted enemy would be suicidal.

Not receiving the recall order, General Jackson continued to demonstrate in front of Cheat Summit Fort, hoping to draw the Federals out of their fortifications.  With no success, Jackson begins building his own fieldworks, but on the 16th receives orders to return to Camp Bartow.

Unsuccessful at Cheat Mountain, Lee decided to try again at another point.  On September 20, Lee directed Loring to follow him south to the Kanawha River Valley with 5 regiments, leaving General Jackson in command at Camp Bartow.   

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 1861

Lee’s various brigades made their way to their positions opposite Elkwater and Cheat Summit Fort. Surprisingly, even with torrential downpours and clashes with Federal pickets, the different brigades reached their jump-off points on schedule. General Jackson’s brigade, including the First Georgia, was to approach Cheat Mountain from the east.

Early on the morning of September 12, a detachment of 100 soldiers, taken from the First and Twelfth Georgia regiments, under the command of Lt. Samuel Dawson of the Twelfth, were sent ahead to silence the Union pickets. After several encounters, Dawson’s small force got close enough to Cheat Summit Fort to hear music from within. Dawson felt that his soldiers were too exposed where they were, so he elected to withdraw back down the mountain. As they came down the road in the early morning rain and fog, they came upon a column of troops moving toward them. Believing the column to be Federals, several of Dawson’s men panicked and opened fire. Actually, the troops were the Twelfth and First Georgia, who deployed into the trees and began returning fire.

For several minutes the Georgians blazed away at each other, before some of Dawson’s men realized that they were firing on their own regiments. Dawson’s detachment ceased fire and began to yell “Georgians, Georgians!” and “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”

Colonel Edward Johnson of the Twelfth hollered to his men “It’s a damned lie. Pop it to ‘em, pop it to ‘em!” Sergeant William Dent of the Newnan Guards, bleeding from where a ball had grazed his head, ran through the hail of lead shouting, “Great Gods! You are killing your own men!” Dent’s actions finally brought the firing to a halt. Private Tom Brown of the Newnan Guards was mortally wounded, and Private Rufus McPherson Felder from the Southern Rights Guard was killed. The Georgians took care of their killed and wounded, then proceeded to their designated positions.

Lee now had the Federals at Elkwater and Cheat Mountain encircled. The signal for all commands to attack would be the sound of Colonel Rust’s guns as his small brigade struck the rear of Cheat Summit Fort. However, captured Union soldiers convinced Rust that there were over 3,000 troops in the fort, instead of the few hundred actually there. That, and the formidable breastworks, caused Rust to have second thoughts. He decided that it would be suicidal to attack, so withdrew back to Camp Bartow. The rest of Lee’s troops waited all day for the sound of Rust’s attack, but it never came.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 1861...2001...and 2011

Orders went on to the soldiers of the First Georgia to ready themselves to march. On the afternoon of September 11, 1861, strips of white cloth were passed out to the troops, to be attached to their uniforms as identification. Shortly thereafter, the First formed ranks and marched out of camp, working their way along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike toward Cheat Mountain as lightning flashed around them and rain began to fall. 


Like millions of Americans on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was beginning my work day when news came that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. The office television was quickly switched on, and we viewed with shock and sadness at what looked to be a terrible accident. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, there was a fleeting glimpse of an object tearing across the sky, and within seconds, flames billowed out from the second tower. My thought at that moment was this is no accident. The images on the TV screen were unbelievable, surreal – like the special effects of a science fiction movie. It was almost impossible for my mind to wrap itself around what was happening. But deep down within me, I knew that this country was changed on that horrible day.


This morning on my front porch, my United States flag flies at half staff. I would ask everyone to please take a moment today to remember those that lost their lives on 9/11/01, as well as the men and women in uniform who now serve our country across the globe; from those in harm's way, to those in support roles, and the loved ones who wait at home for their safe return.   

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9, 1861

While in the midst of planning an attack on Union fortifications at Elkwater in Western Virginia, General Robert E. Lee was approached by Colonel Albert Rust of the Third Arkansas. Rust claimed to have scouted a trail which led to the rear of Federal Fort Milroy on Cheat Mountain, and proposed a multi-pronged attack which would take both positions. Lee was unsure about the plan, but was swayed by Rust's enthusiasm. The general put together an ambitious plan for a simultaneous assualt by five brigades to commence on September 12, 1861.
Colonel Albert Rust
of the Third Arkansas Infantry

Rust requested the honor of leading the troops which would approach Cheat Summit Fort from the rear. Though senior in rank, Colonel William B. Taliaferro of the Twenty-Third Virginia and Colonel Samuel Fulkerson of the Thirty-Seventh Virginia agreed to serve under Rust's command. Having the farthest distance to travel to it's jump-off position, Rust's brigade, including his own Third Arkansas, Taliaferro's and Fulkerson's regiments, the Thirty-First Virginia under Lt. Colonel William L. Jackson and Major George Hansborough's Ninth Virginia Battalion, marched out of Camp Bartow on September 9.

If his brigades could reach their positions undetected, Lee would have the Union fortifications surrounded, and victory would be certain. The signal for all of his troops to attack would be the sound of Colonel Rust's guns as the Arkansan struck Cheat Summit Fort. Lee's decision to give such a vital role to an untested officer would have unforseen results.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Expectations

Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army,
as he appeared at the beginning of the Civil War.
Considered by many to be the best soldier in the pre-war United States Army, Robert E. Lee had been offered command of the Union Army being assembled around Washington. Unwilling to lead an army which would probably be sent against his native state of Virginia, Lee chose instead to resign his commission. Shortly thereafter he was offered command of all Virginia forces, which he accepted. When Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, the state troops were absorbed into the Confederate army. Lee was quickly offered the job of military advisor to President Davis.

After the disastrous retreat of General Robert S. Garnett’s Army of the Northwest from Laurel Hill, and that general’s death at Corricks Ford, General William W. Loring was ordered to Western Virginia to take command of the army. Still anxious over the state of affairs in the region, President Jefferson Davis decided that more help was needed, so he ordered his most trusted advisor to head west. Expectations were high that Lee could recover the region for the Confederacy. However, the general proceeded under the handicap of having no specific orders to take charge, rather, he was given vague instructions to oversee and advise the area commanders. Loring, who had outranked Lee in the pre-war army, and who had only been in command for a short time, viewed Lee’s arrival as a hindrance.

Undertaking a personal reconnaissance of the area, Lee began planning for an offensive which would push the Federal army back out of Western Virginia. The general had high hopes for success. The events which transpired over the month of September would dash those hopes, and cause Lee’s reputation to plummet.