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Tearing Up Railroad Ties – This Day in Civil War History

grant_standing_promoBy the 25th of July, 1864, the siege of Petersburg continued on, but Union General Grant developed a plan to pester Confederate forces. Two divisions of Federal cavalry, the Second Corps, was sent to the north bank of the James River. Their orders were to tear up railroads and threaten Richmond in any way their hearts desired. Grant’s hope was that Lee would detach some of his  forces to drive the cavalry off.

Union cavalry not only tore up track, but they also burned the ties and iron, twisting the bars when hot. The reasoning was that bars simply bent could be re-used, but if they were twisted while red hot, they became usless. The instructions were to “Pile the ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across, and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface become spiral.”



For information on my romances set during and just after the American Civil War, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com

Battle at Kennesaw Mountain – This Day in History

Sorry I’m a day late posting, but 150 years ago yesterday, the Battle at Kennesaw Mountain was fought resulting in a Confederate victory.

Earlier that week, on June 18th and 19th, General Joseph E. Johnston withdrew his army to a new position beside Kennesaw Mountain in Cobb County, Georgia. His forces entrenched in an arc-shaped line north and west of Marietta. The troops protected the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a supply link to Atlanta.

generalshermanSherman had defeated General John B. Hood’s troops at Kolb’s Farm on the 22nd,  and was sure Johnston’s line was stretched too thin. He  decided to launch a frontal attack with diversions on the flanks.

After an artillery bombardment, Sherman sent his troops forward on the morning of June 27 .  They overran Confederate pickets south of the Burnt Hickory Road, but found attacking an enemy that was dug in to be futile.

The fighting ended by noon, with Sherman suffering high casualties.


For info on my romance books set during and after the American Civil War, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com



Victorian Slang of the Week–cit

This one’s mostly for the readers who follow Susan’s Civil War posts.  Cit: 1) an ordinary person. As early as the 18th century but used mostly in the 19th century, with the majority of the references pertaining to military books and magazines.  “Although courted by the entire platoon, in the end beautiful Sally Morissy married a cit.” 2) civilian clothes. “civvies” as many military folk refer to them today. From 1829 on.

Victorian Slang of the Week–cinch

cinch–this is a term we use today to mean something that’s easy. “No worries. I’ll do it. It’s a cinch.” The origin of this slang seems to come from cinch in terms of 1) defeating or beating someone, 1870’s. “He threw down two aces and I was cinched.” It later came to be used as 2) something that’s a certainty, a sure thing, 1890 and then, finally 3) something that’s easy 1896

Union Disaster at Cold Harbor – This Day in Civil War history

300px-Battle_of_Cold_HarborThree days prior to this date in Civil War history, June 3rd, 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant marched Union troops into a frontal assault at Cold Harbor, Virginia on entrenched Confederates. The general later believed this attack to be one of his greatest military mistakes. As a result 7,000 Union casualties were lost in less than an hour of fighting.

Prior to this battle, both Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had endured great losses as they wheeled along an arc around Richmond, Virginia. This path covered the Wilderness forest to Spotsylvania, and included numerous smaller battle sites over the previous month.

The collision for Lee and Grant began at Bethesda Church on May 30, 1864. The following day, advance units of both armies arrived 10 miles from Richmond,  at the strategic crossroads of Cold Harbor. A Union attack seized this important intersection.  Grant prepared for a major assault along the entire Confederate front on June 2, when he sensed he had no chance for a victory over Lee at the outskirts of Richmond.

Unfortunately, Winfield Hancock’s Union corps arrived late and the operation had to be postponed until the following day. The delay hurt the Union plans,  allowing General Lee’s troops time to entrench themselves. On June 3, Grant gave his order to attack, but this decision resulted in a disaster. The Yankees met overwhelming fire, and could only reach a few Confederate trenches. 7,000 Union casualties, compared to only 1,500 for the Confederates, were lost in under an hour.

Nine days later, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor in his pursuit of  flanking Lee’s army.

The next stop, south of Richmond,  was Petersburg, resulting in a nine-month siege. There would be no more attacks on the scale of Cold Harbor.


For information on my romances, set during and just after the American Civil War, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com

Victorian Slang of the Week

chuck: food, grub, provisions.  Originated probably in the West. 1850, used often throughout the century.   According to one reference from Wild Indians ” chuck” it was a universal Indian term for all of the plains tribes.  “The boys finished the work for the day, and gathered around the campfire to eat their chuck.”

chuck, as a verb: 1808, throughout the century.  to throw, pitch.

Interestingly, the term “chow” which I’d have thought was an American Western Victorian term, is nautical in origin, and used mostly in the 20th century.  I admit that I may have inadvertently used the wrong term in my Westerns.  Man, there is so much to learn!

Victorian Slang of the Week

Chowder-head, 1818, New England, mostly mid-century–a fool. This seems to be a strictly northeastern term, but I still hear it today, from my New England born-and-raised husband.


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