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This Day In Civil War History – Andersonville

400px-Andersonville_PrisonOn February 27, 1864, the first Federal inmates were brought into Andersonville prison, but the prison was not fully constructed at that time. The name Andersonville was associated with a death trap, since a quarter of the inmates died while in captivity. Henry Wirz ran the camp and, after the war ended, he was executed for brutality and mistreatment of prisoners by those under  his command.


The official name of the prison was Camp Sumter. Prior to 1863, Northern and Southern armies had enacted a prisoner exchange syster for those captured. But arguments over the handling of black soldiers caused problems and prison camps had to be hastily constructed by both sides. Andersonville was built with slave labor and was located in the Georgia woods close to a railroad but away from front battle lines. On 16 acres of land, the prison was supposed to include a barracks constructed of wood, but due to inflated lumber prices, Union prisoners were forced to live under open skies, with only makeshift shanties named “shebangs” made of wood scraps and blankets, for shelter. A stream supplied fresh water in the beginning, but it soon grew contaminated with human waste.

The prison was supposed to hold 10,000 men, but after six months, three times that number were imprisoned there. The contaminated creek eroded, becoming a swamp. It took up a great portion of the compound. The prisoners received inadequate rations and most of the time, half of the population were ill. Guards often brutalized inmates and violence existed between prisoners.

Andersonville proved to be the worst among both Union and Confederate prisons.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/federal-prisoners-begin-arriving-at-andersonville

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/andersonville.html

The Sinking of The Sultana

Sultana[1]In Shadows of the Soul, the hero, Luke Devlin, is a mentally and emotionally tortured hero. The torture starts when he’s young, perpetrated by an emotionally abusive aunt. But his life after leaving home is no picnic (partly to his own choices). He ends up in Andersonville prison. When he’s released, he decides to travel to Iowa to find the heroine. Unfortunately, he chooses the Sultana.

The Sultana was a riverboat that traveled the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, which sank after a terrible explosion on the morning of April 27, 1865. Most of the people on board were soldiers, many like my fictional character Luke, survivors of Andersonville prison or Cahaba prison.

Launched on January 3rd 1863, the Sultana was a $60,000 side-wheel riverboat/steamboat, 260 feet long with a hold 7 feet deep. Constructed with a flat bottom for inland water ways, it sported four coal-burning boilers, made in the new “fire tube” style. This style was considered more efficient, but were not, however , particularly good for the muddy water of the  lower Mississippi.

Originally built for the lower Mississippi cotton trade, The Sultana was a beautifully appointed ship with glass chandeliers and ornate Victorian trimming. It had room for 66 cabin passengers. The staterooms were small but luxurious, and the passengers could enjoy the passing scenery from the boiler deck promenade. The rest of the ship could accommodate 300 deck passengers and crew, the former of whom were like “steerage” passengers on ocean liners, and slept on bare planks, and had their food served on tin plates.

For all that, on the day the Sultana sank two years later it carried an estimated 2400 passengers.

Riverboats on Mississippi had a rough life. They were only expected to last  4 -5 years due to the perils of snags, debris and collisions. However about 200 of steamship disasters in the first half of century were due to boiler explosions.

At any rate Captain J.C. Mason piloted the Sultana out of Cairo, Illinois headed for New Orleans on April 15, 1865, the day President Lincoln died, and a week after the official end of the war. At the time, War Secretary Stanton had ordered southern newspapers not to print anything about Lincoln’s assassination, so when the Sultana arrived in New Orleans on April 19th, it was the first time they’d heard this news, which many didn’t believe.

The Sultana left New Orleans two days later on April 21st 1865 with only 75-100 passengers. 75 miles south of Vicksburg it was discovered that one of the coal-burning boilers was leaking from a bulging seam. They reduced the ship’s speed and it was decided to repair the boiler in Vicksburg. There the Captain was informed that the best repair, the most thorough and permanent, would be to replace two metal sheets adjoining the leak. However, Captain Mason was persuaded against his better judgment to patch the seam instead. It took 20 hours and the patch itself was thinner than the regular plating on the boiler. In addition heavy rain and melting snow increased the current made it harder for the steamship to travel.

While the Sultana was being repaired, Federal prisoners from Andersonville and Cahaba were arriving for passage to Cairo, Illinois. The price paid to transport enlisted men was generally five dollars, and ten dollars for an officer, good money for the time. The first 1300 soldiers, the lucky ones, were taken north by the Henry Ames on April 22. Afterwards more ex-prisoners being held at Camp Fisk were marched four miles to Vicksburg to board the Sultana. They were crammed on board, along with army mules, horses and hogs.

When the Sultana left Vicksburg it had 2400 people on board. It steamed North for 30 or more hours to Helena Arkansas, on April 26. There the last picture of the Sultana was taken. When the passengers heard of the photograph they moved to the port side to be part of the photograph, nearly capsizing the boat. An hour later it started up river. It’s next stop was Memphis, Tennessee, where they docked at 6:30 pm that night. There they did some minor repairs again on the boiler while some passengers disembarked. The ones who didn’t re-embark were the lucky ones. At midnight the Sultana cut across-stream to a coal yard, where it picked up a thousand bushels of coal. It left at 1 am on April 27th.

7 miles north of Memphis, at 2 am, The Sultana’s boiler finally gave out. It’s believe that the explosion ruptured two of three remaining boilers, and was heard all the way to Memphis. Debris tore through decks below, and many passengers were instantly scalded by superheated steam. Some were hurled into the air and thrown into the river. Others were burned or wounded by flying metal, and some were trapped in the burning ship.

The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi by Rex T. Jackson, has many different direct recollections of survivors’ tales. One passenger reported the hissing of steam and the crashing of the different decks, along with the horrors of the falling of the smoke stacks, and flames bursting through crowds of people, burning alive men who had survived battle and the horrors of Andersonville. He reported the sounds of people begging for help, of women shrieking and the sounds of horses neighing and mules braying, all kicking frantically in fear.

The explosion made machinery parts into projectiles, flying through the upper decks and killing passengers as they slept. One man wrote an account of waking up surrounded by fire. He escaped to the hurricane deck and used ropes to get to the bow, where he saw the dead and dying being trampled as people tried to escape. He reported seeing people crying, praying and singing.

As the Sultana burned, terrified people jumped into the water, whether they could swim or not. The water, one passenger reported, was a seething mass of humanity, and people jumping in often landed on top of other people. The passengers in the water hung onto each other. It didn’t last for very long, however. Many were injured by the explosion. Many were weakened by their time in prison, and drowned quickly.

One man was thrown into the water by the explosion, fully clothed. He swam as best he could for a while and was lucky  to catch hold a piece of debris large enough to keep him afloat.

One man sleeping on the boiler deck about 16 feet away from the explosion had his shoulder broken by the explosion. He was badly scalded and believed he should be burned alive, but he managed to crawl to the front of the boat. He jumped into the water and swam three and a half miles to shore, where he stayed until 9 am the next morning.

One smart man picked up a hatch door, threw it into the water, and then jumped on top of it. He floated on it until another steamer, the Bostonia picked him up. The Bostonia picked up about one hundred passengers.

Sadly, the Sultana had only one lifeboat. Although people did manage to get it into the water, so many tried to get into it that eventually it sank, taking everybody down with it.

Meanwhile on shor, a man whose house was across the river from the explosion said that fire was so bright, he could the ground clearly by it. He watched as the ship because a ball of fire and drifted down the river. By dawn of April 27th it sank in 26 feet of water, taking many dead with it.

That day and for weeks to follow bodies washed up on shore in and around Memphis, Fort Pickering and Helena. Many bodies just floated in the water decomposing and getting in the way of other boats and steamers, some of which would get caught up in the wheels of the paddle boats. To get them untangled was a gruesome job. 520 victims made it to hospitals, 200 of whom died, many so badly burned or wounded they died within hours.

In the end an estimated 1,547 people died that day. However, taking into account the people at the hospital, the casualty count is probably more like 1700-1800 in all. In comparison, the estimated dead of the Titanic 47 years later was about 1500 people. And yet, very few people have heard of this disaster, probably because it was so close to the end of the war and the death of Lincoln. Understandable, of course, but for the people who lost loved ones on the Sultana, and those who survived it to be physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives, the lack of press and therefore lack of understanding, was difficult and painful.

PHOTO borrowed from this site, which has some more very interesting information, and an eyewitness account.

The majority of my information came from The Sultana Saga, The Titanic of the Mississippi, by Tex T. Jackson

This Day in the Civil War – Negro soldiers liberating slaves

On January 23, 1864, Harper’s Weekly featured a story about Negro soldiers liberating slaves in North Carolina.

NEGRO SOLDIERS LIBERATING SLAVES.

70652-004-0F577C98General Wild’s late raid into the interior of North Carolina abounded in incidents of peculiar interest, from which we have selected a single one as the subject of the illustration on page 52, representing the liberation by the negro battalion of the slaves on Mr. Terrebee’s plantation. As the reader may imagine, the scene was both novel and original in all its features. General Wild having scoured the peninsula between Pasquotank and Little Rivers to Elizabeth City, proceeded from the latter place toward Indiantown in Camden County. Having encamped overnight, the column moved on into a rich country which was covered with wealthy plantations. The scene in our sketch represents the colored troops on one of these plantations freeing the slaves. The morning light is shining upon their bristling bayonets in the back-ground, and upon a scene in front as ludicrous as it is interesting. The personal effects of the slaves are being gathered together from the outhouses on the plantation and piled, regardless of order, in an old cart, the party meanwhile availing themselves in a promiscuous manner of the Confiscation Act by plundering hens and chickens and larger fowl; and after all of these preliminary arrangements the women and children are (in a double sense) placed on an eminence above their chattels and carted off in triumph, leaving “Ole Massa” to glory in solitude and secession.
http://history.ncsu.edu/projects/cwnc/items/show/175

This Day in the Civil War – Harper’s Weekly

Thought it would be fun to share the front page of Harper’s Weekly, dating January 9, 1864.

THE REBELS FIRING ON OUR
SUPPLY—TRAIN.

longstreet-sharpshootersON this page we give a graphic sketch of an attack made by rebel sharp-shooters upon our supply-train on the banks of the Tennessee. After the battle of Chickamauga, when our army had retired to its strong-hold at Chattanooga, it was the chief object of the rebels to disturb our communications, and if possible to break up its supply-trains. Of the particular instance given in the sketch the artist was an eve-witness. Upon the crags of Raccoon Mountain, and overlooking the river, were posted a small force of picked men ofLongstreet’s corps, armed with Whitworth rifles. The position was twelve miles in the rear of our works at Chattanooga, and was unguarded. Captain Goree had charge of the attacking party. The only way of reaching the position chosen for attack, and avoiding our scouts, was by taking the Indian trails through the forest heights. No sooner had the position been gained than the rumbling of the approaching train was heard along the river-bank. Thus when the train came up the gorge, preceded by a small infantry escort, and had fairly filled the open space of the road in front of the rebel sharp-shooters, it was entirely at the mercy of the latter. Then the word wok given to fire, and a score of deafening reports leaped from crag to crag; and close upon the fire followed the confusion of a stampede. The teams in front were crippled by dead mules; and those behind, thus blocked in and unable to move forward, were equally cut off from retreat by the inextricably confused wagon in the rear. The escort, after firing a few shots, fled panic-stricken, leaving the train in the hands of the enemy.

THE SIEGE OF CHARLESTON.

charleston-bombardmentON page 28 we give an illustration representing the effect produced by one ofGilmore’s shells bursting in the streets of Charleston. When Gilmore first began to shell the city it had more noncombatants in it than it has now; it was not believed that the city was within range until the actual reality brought conviction. The illustration is designed to represent the first occasion upon which the city was shelled, and depicts the overwhelming surprise of the citizens. The shelling commenced at midnight, but did little harm beyond terrifying the ladies left in the city. Only a single house was set on fire. In the particular scene presented by the artist a fireman is running through the streets giving the alarm, and a watchman, thoroughly overcome, is taking leave of his senses and his staff in the foreground. The gun burst after a few discharges. The distance was over four miles. At latest dates General Gilmore had recommenced shelling the city, having destroyed twelve buildings, killed one man, and seriously wounded some eight or ten persons. We give also on the same page an illustration representing the interior of Fort Sumter after a continuous bombardment by the batteries on Morris Island. The bombardment was from 200-pound Parrott guns, and eve’ v gun of the fort was dismounted, leaving the garrison to be passive spectators of the gradual demolition of the walls. Nearly the whole parapet of the fort was swept away. The gorge-face presents one mass of ruins, and the casemates scarcely afford shelter to the garrison. Beauregard, it is said, is determined to hold the fort till the last; by the bayonet, if need be.

See entire issue at this site: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/longstreets-sharpshooters.htm

This Day In the Civil War – Sherman’s Christmas Gift to Lincoln

On December 22, 1864 from William Tecumseh Sherman sent a short telegram to Abraham Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” Lincoln had been out of touch with Sherman for several weeks, ever since the major general had left Atlanta on his March to the Sea. The President found great relief in the brief message.
abrahamlincoln150 years ago today, December 26, 1864, Lincoln sent his reply. “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift.” He admitted to being “anxious, if not fearful” when Sherman left Atlanta, but put his trust in the general. “Feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained,’ I did not interfere.” Lincoln added, “the honor is all yours.”

Of course, Georgians did not agree. Savannah surrendered without much fuss, but the March to the Sea, cut civilian support for the Confederacy. And it lives in Southern memory as one of the cruelest campaigns of the Civil War.

For more information: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2012/12/20/william_tecumseh_sherman_s_gift_for_abraham_lincoln_1864_telegram_presenting.html

 

Watch a video of the historic letter: William Tecumsah Sherman’s Christmas letter to Abraham Lincoln

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWq4uRndUvQ

This Day in the Civil War – The Stoney Creek Raid

General-Warren-002On this week 150 years ago, the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, which lasted from June of 1864 to March 1865, continued.

G.K. Warren and his troops moved south following the Weldon Railroad toward Stony Creek. The Federal Army’s intent was to destroy much of this vital rail supply line. A.P. Hill’s forces trailed them. Warren’s troops destroyed large sections of the railroad as well as other supplies meant for the  Confederate Army. Although much damage was done, the Confederates repaired the railroad heading north to Stony Creek Station by March of 1865.

For more information on this battle, visit these sites:

http://www.petersburgsiege.org/stony.htm
http://www.beyondthecrater.com/resources/bat-sum/petersburg-siege-sum/seventh-offensive-summaries/stony-creek-raid-december-7-12-1864/

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

Civil War Romance Boxed-Set Releases Today

WhispersintheWind_w9628_750If you love Civil War romance, like I do, my award winning Civil War romance, Confederate Rose, is now available as part of a boxed-set of Civil War romance novels titled Whispers In the Wind. The set is being released today from The Wild Rose Press.

 

From torn loyalties come… Rebellious hearts and Forbidden passions

 

This digital boxed set contains 6 complete novels.

The Rebel Wife by Donna Dalton

When war correspondent Jackson Porter lies to a Union patrol to save a red-headed rebel, he gets something he never expected…a wife. With her knowledge of corruption at the federal prisons, he can deliver the topnotch article his newspaper editor expects.

Louisa Carleton needs a miracle–even if that miracle is a Yankee. With her brother’s imminent death in prison, she has no option but to join forces with the enemy. Can she save her brother from a vindictive prison commander while still protecting her heart, or will Jackson stir dark memories she wants to forget?

 

Confederate Rose by Susan Macatee

Disguised as a man to serve with her husband as a soldier in the Confederate Army, Irish immigrant Katie Rose O’Reilly vows to remain in the ranks and seek revenge on Yankees after her husband is killed at Sharpsburg. When she falls and almost drowns in a swollen stream, Southerner Alexander Hart, a Yankee spy, saves Katie from drowning, then nurses her through a resulting fever, keeping his identity secret from the feisty and beautiful Rebel soldier even as he finds himself falling in love with her. Can Katie reconcile her loyalties with her love?

 

Northern Temptress by Nicole McCaffrey

When the Civil War arrives on her door step, Gettysburg doctor Alexandra Winters uses her knowledge of medicine to help the wounded. When an uncommonly handsome rebel officer finds her tending the wounded in his battlefield, he takes her for a spy until she confesses her darkest secret; her brother fights for the south.

Major Caleb McKenna, CSA, has grown weary of war and bloodshed. Dreams of glory and valor are long gone, as is the memory of his beloved fiancee back home in Georgia. Try as he might, he can’t recall her face. Instead, it’s the bewitching image of Alexa Winters that haunts his every thought.

When the major is gravely wounded, Alexa comes to his aide. Hiding a Confederate officer in a house filled with recuperating Union soldiers is risky… but fighting their growing desire is a battle they can’t afford to lose.

 

Memory’s Edge by Bette McNicholas

Brave and feisty at eighteen, Victoria Garrett takes on a mission to smuggle two slaves to the Underground Railroad in Delaware. But after an explosion at the DuPont Munitions Factory, she’s arrested as a Confederate spy.

Captain Luke Cassidy has different thoughts about Victoria, the only survivor found unconscious at the scene. He notices strangulation marks on her neck. Invincible together, he and his men rescue her and hide her from the person trying to kill her.

Suffering from amnesia, Victoria is alone and frightened. She turns to the one person who will save her, Luke Cassidy. Theirs is a tale of murder, espionage and love…

 

An April To Remember by Lauri Robinson

April Simonson hated all men. They were cruel, sinful beasts. Her disfigured face was proof. That is until she met Jerek Brinkley. Then, as the revered Sultana explodes, April falls into the dark, muddy waters of the Mississippi River terrified she’ll never see the light of day or the handsome riverboat gambler again.

Jerek Brinkley fought hell and high water to save the northern vixen who’d won his heart with her cards tricks, only to fear Allan Pinkerton’s arrival in Memphis might reveal secrets he’s not ready for her to know.

Based on history’s greatest maritime disaster, An April to Remember, sprinkled with real facts and events, revives the Sultana, a civil war riverboat whose death toll surpassed the Titanic’s, and offers a new twist on what might have happened that fateful night in 1865.

 

Shadows Of A Southern Moon by Meg Hennessy

In a country torn apart, Brandt Michaels serves the Union. Behind enemy lines, he expects the danger of Confederate skirmishers and swamps. Instead, he finds himself bewitched by a beautiful woman, igniting his passion beyond anything he’s ever known. But he soon learns her coy games are only a distraction, as she secretly devises a deadly trap for his capture.

Elizabeth DuBay is determined to deny her attraction to the Union officer and plans to foil his mission. But the moment Elizabeth surrenders to her burning desire for one unforgettable night of love, her life changes forever. As her well-set trap closes in on Brandt Michaels, Elizabeth must risk everything for his escape. From their perilous journey through war-ravaged countryside springs a passion too strong for the war to destroy…and too consuming for the lovers to deny….

To purchase or for more info, visit The Wild Rose Press.

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