Politics can be a touchy subject. Many arguments have come from political disagreements, and in fact, a number of actual fights and even wars have been fought over political disagreements. The Civil War was one sch war fought over political views. During that time there were also a number of private disputes as well. Sumner Pinkham was in volved on one of those disputes. Sumner Pinkham was born in 1820 in the state of Maine and was raised in Wisconsin. Very little, if anything, is known about his early life. He married Laurinda Maria Atwood in Nebraska on November 4, 1842. In 1849, Pinkham joined the California gold rush and then spent time in Oregon before making his way to the booming gold rush camp of Idaho City in 1862. Pinkham was a big man…powerfully built, who stood six feet two inches tall and had a barrel chest. He was also prematurely gray, making him look older than he really was.
Pinkham was a conservative Republican, a Unionist, and an abolitionist, which put him on the opposite side of the majority of Boise Basin mining camps political views, which were predominantly Democrat. When Pinkham arrived in the Idaho City area, Idaho was still a part of Washington Territory, and the Boise Basin was located in Idaho County, of which Florence was the county seat. Florence was located a way away from the new mining basin, so the Washington Legislature established Boise County on January 29, 1863.
After being in the area for a while, and becoming known for his political views, the Governor of Washington was assigning commissioners and officers to the newly established county, and Pinkham was one of them, assigned to serve as the County Sheriff. On March 4, 1863, Congress created Idaho Territory. At that time Boise County exceeded the other counties in both area and in population. Those in office in Boise County at the time, including Pinkham, retained their positions until the territorial government could be officially organized. Pinkham appointed Orlando “Rube” Robbins, who shared his political opinions, as his deputy in August 1863. Robbins would later make himself known as one of Idaho’s greatest lawmen.
By this time, the Civil War was raging back East, and the area miners began to choose sides, around the Union and Confederate causes. This, dueled with whiskey, caused flair-ups between North and South sympathizers, bring with it fist fights, knife fights, and sometimes gun battles as they used force to show their opinions. That kept both Pinkham and his deputy, Rube Robbins, busy breaking up fights and locking up drunken loudmouths as they threatened to fight it out…to the death. The area being predominately Democrat often placed Pinkham at odds with his constituents due to his staunch Unionist views, Republican politics, and tough law enforcement. His list of enemies grew. Nevertheless, both Pinkham’s enemies and his most loyal friends knew that he was a man they shouldn’t mess with when he undertook to enforce the law, which he did with an iron hand.
His greatest enemy was a Southern gunfighter named Ferdinand “Ferd” Patterson. On one occasion, while Patterson was partying with some of his friends in Idaho City, they took unlawful possession of a brewery in Idaho City. Sheriff Pinkham was called by the owner to remove the rowdy group. When Pinkham entered the brewery, he was met with violent resistance. Pinkham and Patterson immediately hated each other. Patterson was Southerner who was crooked by nature, and Pinkham was a Northerner who tended to be self-righteous. In the end, Pinkham was successful, and Patterson was arrested. When Pinkham lost his October 1864 for re-election as Boise County Sheriff, in a bitter contest between the Democratic successionists and Republican candidates. Pinkham was defeated by A O Bowen by a comfortable majority, and Patterson celebrated, as the last of the ballots were being counted. When Patterson encountered his old nemesis, he began rubbing it in. Pinkham, who was in a rage, swung at Patterson, hitting him in the jaw and throwing the gambler off the street and into the gutter. After that, Pinkham walked away. Everyone expected Patterson to retaliate, but he let it go…for then. Pinkham left Idaho City, following the lost election, heading to Illinois to visit his dying mother. When he returned in 1865, everyone figured they would have it out, but it didn’t happen then either.
After the Civil War ended, Pinkham held a huge Fourth of July party. The crowds were mostly festive, with fireworks blazing and booze abundant. The celebration included a brass band, speeches, patriotic songs, a picnic, and a parade with Pinkham leading the way through town. For the victorious Yankees, it was a proud day. But, for the sullen Confederate sympathizers…not so much. To make matters worse, the Yankee’s heckled the “Blue Bellies” throughout the day. Patterson was furious as he watched Pinkham leading the parade through town. Pinkham singing, “Oh, we’ll hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree!” was the last straw. Patterson yelled out to the ex-sheriff that if “he didn’t shut his mouth, he’d shut it for him.” Pinkham invited him to try, and he did. A brief fist fight between the two men resulted in the flag falling into the dust of the street. Some witnesses swore they saw Patterson spit on it, and others attested they heard Pinkham swear he would kill Patterson for that, but nothing more came of it at that time. Several weeks later, on Sunday, July 23rd, Pinkham took a hired carriage from Idaho City to the Warm Springs Resort, which was about two miles west of town. Upon his arrival, Pinkham joined a number of his Unionist friends in the saloon, where they were heard singing patriotic and anti-Confederate songs.
Sometime later, Patterson entered the resort while Pinkham was paying his bill. Initially, Patterson ignored Pinkham, but by the time the ex-sheriff exited the resort, Patterson was outside waiting for him. Patterson said the word “draw” and then taunted Pinkham by calling him an “Abolitionist son-of-a-b***h.” Who drew first is in dispute, but in the end, Pinkham was dead. Patterson quickly fled but was immediately followed by several lawmen. Rube Robbins was the first to catch up to him, about 14 miles from Idaho City. Patterson surrendered to Robbins, who turned the killer over to Sheriff Bowen, who was next on the scene. Bowen and his men took over and escorted Patterson back to Idaho City.
A mob wanted to lynch him, and maybe that would have been justice, because in the “sham” trial held in a predominately Democrat area, Patterson was acquitted, and with that, justice for Pinkham would never be served. Ferd Patterson was tried for Pinkman’s murder at the beginning of November 1865. In the six-day trial, defense attorney Frank Ganahl claimed his client acted in self-defense, arguing that Pinkham was lying in wait for him. Alternatively, Pinkham’s friends testified that he tried to avoid a showdown and that Patterson came to Warm Springs with the explicit purpose of murdering Pinkham. It took only an hour and a half for the jury to acquit Patterson. Pinkham’s funeral was the largest and most impressive funeral ever seen in the mining camp. It was reported that over 1,500 mourners followed his hearse to the graveyard. Meanwhile, knowing he was in extreme danger, Patterson quickly fled Idaho City after his acquittal. He was killed in Walla Walla, Washington, the next year, by Thomas Donahue, an area policeman, in was thought by many to be an assassination. Donahue was charged with the murder of Patterson, but escaped from jail while awaiting trial. There apparently was little interest in tracking him down. He disappeared never to be heard from again.
These days, it’s strange to think of battles being fought on US soil. We have begun to believe that a war, at least can’t take place on our soil anymore, because we have so many early warning systems to tell of any incoming missiles or planes, but that wasn’t always the case. The Civil War was one of the biggest wars fought on US soil, and strangely, we were fighting ourselves. Civil Wars are among the worst kinds, because there is so much anger and unrest. We have had a number of wars fought here, including the Civil War, which was clearly one of the worst on our soil. Wars are unpredictable, and the length of battles vary, with some long and drawn out, and some were just one or two days. The Battle of Nashville, Tennessee, fell into the latter category, fought on December 15 and 16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood and the Union Army of the Cumberland under Major General George H Thomas. The Battle of Nashville was part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign.
As far as battles go, the length does not necessarily have anything to do with the size of the victory. The Battle of Nashville was short, but it was also one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the Civil War. Hood’s army was effectively destroyed when Thomas attacked and routed it as a capable fighting force. Amazingly, the Battle of Nashville was considered the only perfectly fought battle of the war, because it unfolded in “greater accordance with the victor’s battle plan” than any other clash of the war. Nashville, at that time was the second-most fortified city in America…second only to Washington DC, making the victory there an even greater one.
Although Thomas’s forces were much stronger than Hood’s army, Hood’s army was still a force to be reconned with and could not be ignored. Hood’s army had taken a severe beating at Franklin, but it nevertheless presented a threat by its mere presence and ability to maneuver. Therefore, Thomas knew he had to attack. He prepared cautiously, because he knew that Hood was not a complete pushover, and therefore, a poorly executed plan of attack could have ended in disaster. Thomas was concerned about his cavalry corps, because they were commanded by the energetic young Brigadier General James H Wilson, but they were poorly armed and mounted, and he did not want to proceed to a decisive battle without effective protection of his flanks. This was particularly important, since Wilson would be facing the horsemen of the formidable Forrest. Still, refitting the Union cavalry took time, so he had to be patient.
While Thomas knew what he was doing, Washington was not so patient, and in fact, they were fuming at the seeming procrastination. It was then that Sherman proposed his March to the Sea. Ulysses S Grant and Henry Halleck objected to it, because they thought that Hood would use the opportunity to invade Tennessee. In response, Sherman airily indicated that this was exactly what he wanted and that if Hood “continues to march North, all the way to Ohio, I will supply him with rations.” It sounded like a perfect plan, however, when the ever-confident Sherman disappeared into the heart of Georgia, Grant once again became concerned about an invasion of Kentucky or Ohio. Grant later said of the situation, “If I had been Hood, I would have gone to Louisville and on north until I came to Chicago.” His concern doubtless reflected Abraham Lincoln’s concern. Lincoln had little patience for slow generals and remarked of the situation, “This seems like the McClellan and Rosecrans strategy of do nothing and let the rebels raid the country.” Still, the plan to attack Nashville seems to have been the right move.
Washington continued to pressure Hood to push forward. Then on December 8, a bitter ice storm struck Nashville, stalling the plan again. While unusual for Nashville, the sub-freezing weather continued through December 12. Hood explained that to Grant, but when Thomas had still not moved by December 13, Grant directed that Major General John A Logan proceed to Nashville and assume command if Thomas had not yet initiated operations, by the time Logan arrived. Logan made it as far as Louisville by December 15, but on that day the Battle of Nashville had finally begun. A still impatient Grant left Petersburg on December 14, to take personal command. Apparently, he didn’t trust Logan much either. Once the battle began, Grant returned to Washington…a good thing, since three commanding officers might have been a bit awkward.
When things were heating up between the Confederate and Union soldiers around the town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, most of the town’s 2,400 civilian residents did their best to make themselves scarce. They didn’t want to find themselves pulled into the conflict on the basis of simply being in the vicinity when the Union needed reinforcements, so they did what they could to get out of the way…either staying shut up in their houses and basements or leaving for someplace calmer.
Not everyone felt that way, however. John Burns, who was about 69 years old at the time, although some said he was older, had fought a half-century earlier in the War of 1812. So, he was no stranger to war, but he took offence with the way a bunch of Rebels had come in and taken over his hometown. When he heard the sounds of battle on July 1, he told his wife he wanted to see what was going on. Grabbing his old flintlock musket, Burns left the house. He came across several Union officers and offered his services. The Union soldiers were basically amused by this strange character with his old musket, just showing up to offer to fight with them…and he wasn’t a young man, so that made it all the more strange. Still, Burns would not go away, and when he found a wounded soldier who would no longer need his rifle, Burns picked it up, and as the fighting heated up, Burns calmly took position behind a tree and began firing at the advancing Confederates. I guess the Union soldiers figured out pretty quickly that he meant business…especially when he was wounded three times in the intense fighting that day, and he still wouldn’t quit. One soldier recalled, “It must have been about noon when I saw a little old man coming up in the rear… I remember he wore a swallow-tailed coat with smooth brass buttons. He had a rifle on his shoulder. We boys began to poke fun at him as soon as he came amongst us, as we thought no civilian in his senses would [put] himself in such a place…”
The soldier then went on to say, “[When asked what] possessed him to come out there at such a time, he replied that ‘the rebels had either driven away or milked his cows, and that he was going to be even with them.’ About this time the enemy began to advance. Bullets were flying thicker and faster, and we hugged the ground about as close as we could. Burns got behind a tree and surprised us all by not taking a double-quick to the rear. He was as calm and collected as any veteran on the ground…I never saw John Burns after our movement to the right, when we left him behind his tree, and only know that he was true blue and grit to the backbone and fought until he was three times wounded.”
I’m sure it really upset the soldiers when they were forced to leave the injured Burns behind as they were ordered to retreat through the town. Burns was then found by the Confederates. Of course, since he had no uniform, they didn’t know that he wasn’t just a civilian who had been caught in the crossfire. Had they known he was fighting against them, they might have executed him, but a wise Burns had gotten rid of his weapon and pretended to be that helpless, unfortunate civilian who had been passing by at the wrong time. So, the Confederate surgeons treated him, and he was allowed to return home. The Confederates were none the wiser, and Burn had exacted his revenge. Burns was a happy man, because it just doesn’t get any better than that!!
So impressed were the Union soldiers with John Burns, that his story was told to their superiors, and Burns is now memorialized with a statue on the Gettysburg battlefield, and his valor was called out in an after-action report by Major General Abner Doubleday. The memorial reads: “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over 70 years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister, One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields. When the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places.” John Burns truly was a civilian hero, but the real moral of the story is “Don’t mess with the cows.”
During the Civil War, things like supply lines and lines of communication were crucial to both sides. The railroads became an important asset, as well as a liability, to both sides, depending on what they were carrying and where it was headed. On April 12, 1862, volunteers from the Union Army, led by civilian scout James J Andrews, commandeered a train called The General, and took it northward from Georgia toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. En route, they did as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad (W and A) line from Atlanta to Chattanooga. They were pursued for 87 miles by Confederate forces, trying at first to keep up on foot, and later resorting to a succession of locomotives, including The Texas.
Known as The Great Locomotive Chase, the military raid was also called the Andrews’ Raid or Mitchel Raid (after Major General Ormsby Mitchel, who had earlier assisted in the capture of Nashville and accepted the surrender of the city). In the end, as often happens in escapades like this, the raid made sensational headlines in newspapers, but it really had little impact on the war. It didn’t stop supply lines for the South or start new ones for the North.
In February, the Union soldiers captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston knew he had to withdraw his forces from central Tennessee to reorganize. Johnston evacuated Nashville on February 23rd, and Nashville became the first Confederate state capital to fall to the Union. For Major General Don Carlos Buell, the taking of Nashville was enough, and on March 11th, Buell’s army was merged into the new Department of the Mississippi under General Henry Halleck. It was then that James J Andrews, a Kentucky-born civilian serving as a secret agent and scout in Tennessee approached Buell with a plan to take eight men to steal a train in Georgia and drive it north. Buell authorized the expedition in August 1863. Andrews, a train engineer in Atlanta, was willing to defect to the Union with his train, and without Andrews, taking over the train would have proved difficult. Getting onboard would have been easy enough, but running the train without experienced personnel is next to impossible. Since Andrews was willing to defect, he might also be able to supply a volunteer train crew to assist in running the train, tearing up track, and burning bridges, so they would have an even greater chance of succeeding. The main target of the operation was the railway bridge at Bridgeport, Alabama, but Andrews had several other bridges in Georgia and Tennessee in mind too. Some of the men from Major General Mitchel’s division, encamped at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, were tapped to be the volunteers for this first raid.
The group of raiders moved south forty miles on foot to the Confederate railhead at Tullahoma. Then the caught a train to Marietta, Georgia. It was then that the operation hit its first snag, when Andrews discovered the engineer had been pressed into service elsewhere. Upon inquiring if any of the raiders knew how to operate a locomotive, they found that none did, and the raid was called off. Two raiders were also confronted by Confederate soldiers while trying to cut the telegraph lines, but successfully pretended to be overworked wiremen. Then the raiders returned north to Union lines, arriving about a week after they had departed. Andrews spent several days rearranging the operation and conducting reconnaissance on the Western and Atlantic Railroad before he headed north to federal lines too. The original raiders all refused to volunteer for the second raid, fearing the enemy. One said that “he felt all the time he was in the enemy’s country as though he had a rope around his neck.”
While the first raid was a bust, the second raid went off pretty well. The General was taken while the crew was a breakfast at the Lacey Hotel in Atlanta, and despite all the efforts to catch them, it arrived at milepost 116.3, north of Ringgold, Georgia, just 18 miles from Chattanooga and out of fuel. Andrews’s men abandoned The General and scattered. Andrews and all of his men were caught within two weeks. They even caught two volunteers who had the hijacking. Mitchel’s attack on Chattanooga was a failure.
All of the raiders were charged with “acts of unlawful belligerency.” The civilians among them were charged as unlawful combatants and spies. They were tried in military courts or courts-martial. Andrews was tried in Chattanooga, found guilty, and hanged on June 7 in Atlanta. Seven others were transported to Knoxville and convicted as spies. They were returned to Atlanta and were hanged too. Their bodies were buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave. Those bodies were later reburied in Chattanooga National Cemetery.
John Singleton Mosby was a Confederate army cavalry battalion commander in the American Civil War. He was also known as “The Gray Ghost.” Mosby’s command, the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry was known as Mosby’s Rangers or Mosby’s Raiders. The Unit was a partisan ranger unit noted for its lightning-quick raids and its ability to elude Union Army pursuers and disappear, blending in with local farmers and townsmen. They were so quick and so skilled, that they practically vanished into thin air. Mosby was a legend, and the area of northern central Virginia soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy. When the war was over, Mosby went on to become a Republican and worked as an attorney, supporting his former enemy’s commander, US President Ulysses S Grant. His political career took him to the US Department of Justice, where he served as the American consul to Hong Kong.
Mosby was born to Virginia McLaurine Mosby and Alfred Daniel Mosby in Powhatan County, Virginia, on December 6, 1833. He was a graduate of Hampden–Sydney College. Mosby’s father was a member of an old Virginia family of English origin whose ancestor, Richard Mosby, was born in England in 1600. The family settled in Charles City, Virginia in the early 17th century. Young Mosby was named after his maternal grandfather, John Singleton, who was ethnically Irish.
While Mosby was a hero in some ways and a politician, there was another side of him too. Mosby was a Confederate battalion commander, yes, but he was known for his guerrilla military tactics. One of his biggest victories of the war found him and 29 of his men infiltrating the area surrounding the Fairfax County Courthouse in the middle of the night. They caught the Union officers completely off-guard, because they were 10 miles safe behind Union lines. The situation gave Mosby the opportunity he needed. He had captured a general, 30 other Union soldiers, and nearly 60 horses, which was already an incredibly valuable take during the war. In addition, Mosby decided to treat himself, and maybe or maybe not his men, to many of the Union men’s valuables, gathering quite a treasure for himself.
While they were taking their prisoners into Confederate territory, they were informed about Union troops in the area. Mosby decided that he needed to protect his goods. So, he left the group and buried his treasure between two trees. He marked the spot with an X. As sometimes happened, Mosby switched sides politically, and personally, after the war. He chose to support Lincoln and even went on to serve on President Grant’s administration. So, what of the treasure? Well, apparently Mosby never retrieved the treasure he pillaged. Some people reported that he sent Confederate soldiers to dig it up, but they were caught and killed by Union soldiers. And if that was the case, either they hadn’t started digging yet, or hadn’t made it to the location yet, because to this day, the treasure has never been found. I guess he took the location to his grave. John S Mosby died of complications after throat surgery in a Washington, DC hospital on May 30, 1916, noting at the end that it was Memorial Day. He is buried at the Warrenton Cemetery in Warrenton, Virginia.
Building in a war zone!! Sounds crazy, right!! Nevertheless, in the middle of the Civil War, the United States began to build a railroad from Iowa to San Francisco, California. As with any railroad, the objective was to create a transcontinental railroad to facilitate transportation all across the nation. This was not going to be a quick project. In fact, it took six years to complete the entire length, but it was a great success. Named the Pacific Railroad, which is not the same as the Union Pacific Railroad, it was a railroad based in Missouri. It was a predecessor of both the Missouri Pacific Railroad and Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway, being chartered in 1849 by Missouri to extend from Saint Louis to the western boundary of Missouri and after Missouri was reached, to run on to the Pacific Ocean. Construction was delayed due to a cholera epidemic in 1849. That and other delays put the groundbreaking on hold until July 4, 1851. As the work progressed, the railroad purchased its first steam locomotive from a manufacturer in Taunton, Massachusetts. The locomotive arrived at Saint Louis by river in August 1852, which is a sight I would have loved to see. We don’t think much about a locomotive being delivered by ship these days…mostly because we have the railroad for that delivery, but also because if it was going to be delivered by ship, out ships today are much bigger and better equipped to handle a locomotive.
Finally finished to the first leg, the inaugural run of the locomotive took place on December 9, 1852, the Pacific Railroad had its inaugural run, traveling from its depot on Fourteenth Street, along the Mill Creek Valley, to Cheltenham in about ten minutes. It was a good run for the first one, and by the following May, it had reached Kirkwood. Several months later tunnels west of Kirkwood were completed, allowing the line to reach Franklin. The Southwest Branch of the Pacific Railroad was authorized in 1852 and split off at Franklin. This section was renamed Pacific, Missouri, in 1859. The remainder of the Southwest Pacific Railroad became the main line of the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway in 1866.
Due to financial difficulties the Pacific Railroad did not reach Washington…a mere eighteen miles away, until February 1855. Nevertheless, the line reached Jefferson City, the state capital, later that year. By July 1858 the Pacific Railroad reached Tipton was the eastern terminal for the Butterfield Overland Mail, which was an overland mail service that went on into San Francisco. Adding the railroad to the coach service reduced mail delivery times between Saint Louis and San Francisco from about 35 days to less than 25 days. After construction was interrupted by the Civil War, the Pacific Railroad became the first railroad to serve Kansas City in 1865. In 1872, the Pacific Railroad was reorganized as the Missouri Pacific Railroad by new investors after a railroad debt crisis.
As America grew, towns popped up in many places, only to dwindle into ghost towns when the expected industry that motivated their beginning, fell through. Lost Cove was one such town. Established just before the Civil War, it was once a thriving agricultural community, but then in the early 20th century, logging replaced farming, and the railroad brought workers. Somehow in the shuffle of changes, Lost Cove found itself off the beaten path, almost hidden in the forest, with no electricity or running water. The little town had to figure out something new, and so, because of the remoteness and because the town lay on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, an equally thriving moonshine industry was born.
Many people might think that the moonshine industry was all due to prohibition, and that is largely true, but while bootlegging was a crime of opportunity, it was also quite likely to be a crime of necessity. Still, while moonshine could provide a living for the residents, it would never be able to sustain a whole ton for very long. Eventually, the residents of Lost Cove began to move away to laces where they could make a living. The town, now empty, seen fell into disrepair. These days Lost Cove is a graveyard of abandoned homes and crumbling gravestones. Because Lost Cove was on the border, either state could have agreed on jurisdiction to collect tax revenues, but both declined to, thereby creating a haven for bootlegging.
Even with the logging business doing well, the timber eventually thinned and the railroad service that brought passenger trains through the area stopped. With that, the Lost Cove residents became even more isolated. The nearest stores were eight miles away, and they would have to walk for basic supplies, mostly because they didn’t have money for any other form of transportation. Soon the infrastructure deteriorated too, and the rough or non-existent roads led to even more shortages. In the end, here was nothing left, but to leave. The last known resident left in 1957. Sadly, in 2007, a fire destroyed most of what still stood in Lost Cove. All that is left now is a few structures, memories, and the history of the area, only seen by the occasional hiker, using trails that remain the only route of access.
Anytime a soldier goes to war, the possibility exists that they will be severely wounded or even killed in action, but I don’t think anyone expected the events of September 19, 1863. It was the middle of the Civil War, and Jacob C Miller was a private in Company K, 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. The company was fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga near Brock Field in southeastern Tennessee. One of the fastest ways to “get dead” is to get shot in the head. There is something about a bullet hitting the skull that puts an end to life pretty quickly…most of the time, anyway.
Maybe it was the type of bullets used in the Civil War, but no matter how it happened, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that living after taking a bullet between the eyes was a miracle. Jacob C Miller was just such a miracle man. After being shot, Miller crumpled to the ground. I’m sure everyone thought it was over, but Miller said later that he could hear the words of his captain, who said, “It’s no use to remove poor Miller, for he is dead.” The company, believing he was dead, moved on. Now, just imagine the shock when Miller became conscious and found himself alone. He raised up in a sitting position. Curiosity caused him to feel his wound. Clearly there was damage done. Miller’s left eye was out of place, and he tried to place it back, but had to move the crushed bone back together, or as near together as he could first. Once the eye was in its proper place, he bandaged the eye the best he could with his bandana. Then he began the journey to get help. Miller struggled to follow his company, until he was finally picked up by a liter party, and taken for treatment.
When he was taken to the doctors, and they examined him, they said that they were able to see his pulsating brain quite clearly. That said, we know that the bullet wasn’t somehow stopped by his skull. It had actually entered the brain lining, or at least into the skull bone. At that point, nothing was done with the bullet, and Miller was sent home to Logansport, Indiana. Doctors there were hesitant to remove the bullet, because they thought Miller would die, and somehow, he seemed to be functioning ok with the bullet in place. In the end they did remove about a third of the bullet, and Miller went on to live his life. Nevertheless, more pieces of the bullet simply fell out decades later. It was as if his body just rejected the foreign pieces of lead and moved them out of his head. It was a good thing, because the pressure on the bullet fragments during times of illness caused his to become delirious. Once the fragments fell out, that stopped.
Miller was born on August 4, 1840, in Bellevue, Ohio. He was shot on September 19, 1863, at the age of 23 years. Private Jacob C Miller lived an amazing 54 years with an open wound in his head. The wound never fully healed, but did not fully penetrate his skull, and apparently the brain area did close over, and caused no damage to his brain. He died January 13, 1917, in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 76 years. No cause of death is mentioned, but I guess we know it wasn’t a gunshot wound to the head.
Anyone who has studied history in school knows about the Civil War. It was, of course, fought over slavery. The South wanted to keep the slaves and the North wanted to free the slaves. The Civil War was unique in another way too. Most wars are fought with soldiers who are rough and tough, ready to take on the elements, and battle to the death for their cause. The Civil War was that too, but the men of the South during the Civil War Era, were part of an era of the southern belles and southern gentlemen. This was an era when a type of lifestyle was borrowed from the English countryside, and basically transplanted into the American south. The lifestyle included a glorification of elegant horse riding, hunting, and of course, etiquette. This era and the people in it felt like there was a proper way to do things and that a certain level of decorum must be kept at all costs, in order to preserve their way of life.
Tobacco played the central role in defining social class, local politics, and the labor system. In fact, it shaped the entire life of the region, and in doing so, actually shaped the Civil War. While the Civil War was a war, somehow the men of the South who fought in it felt like it needed to have that high level of decorum and decency. Tradition needed to be kept and carried on and while they knew that they were fighting a war, I’m not entirely sure that they understand that there would be, by necessity, loss of life and loss of that decorum and etiquette. For the men of the South especially, the Civil War was one of the most devastating events to challenge their way of life. This was also the most devastating event ever to occur on North American soil. While the loss of life was great, and in fact the Civil War caused more Americans to lose their lives than both World War I and World War II combined, the people of the South lost much of that “British Countryside” lifestyle that they thought so essential…and afterward, they didn’t quite know how to recover from that. The Confederate Army wanted to separate from the Union and maintain slavery, and the fight to combat that notion didn’t end until 1865. The differing ideas were a cause for rift long after the war was over.
Nevertheless, despite the high stakes, the American soldiers from both sides still had several unofficial truces. Wars are usually long and tedious, and sometimes the men just needed to stop the fighting for a short time and try to be human again. Although these unofficial truces or ceasefires were usually frowned upon by military superiors, the men on either side would frequently call truces at the frontlines so Union and Confederate soldiers could chat, share information, and trade smokes. Imagine that…as the fighting is heavy, someone yells, “Wait…Smoke Break!!” Then both sides would stop shooting, walk out to the middle of te battlefield, and everyone would light a cigarette. I’m sure that’s not exactly how it happened, but they did actually hold such unofficial truces at times.
War is a really horrific thing for soldiers to go through, and closure comes in different forms for different soldiers. Returning to the battlefield is a way to find closure for many veterans. It is also a way for solders to keep the friendships they made at a time when their life depended on their fellow soldiers. Countless numbers of men have returned to places like the beaches of Normandy, France to see that place again, where so many lost their lives. Some soldiers didn’t leave the place they fought in their war. Vietnam was that way to a degree.
The Civil War was unique in that when the veterans decided to have their reunion, they wanted to, of course renew old friendships with those they shared a common bond, but they also wanted to make their reunion a way to bring the north and south back together again. The Gettysburg, Pennsylvania reunion was the largest of these events, and so made headline news around the world. The event took place in 1913 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Civil War was unique in that all participants were citizens of the United States. Brother fought against brother, and family members against family members. The reunion was a chance to repair those horribly broken relationships for all the men who were still alive at the reunion, which was held on the 50th anniversary of the battle. General H.S. Huidekoper, a Gettysburg Veteran of the 150th PA., was the man behind the idea of making it a gathering of both Northern and Southern Veterans on the 50th Anniversary of the battle. With the state of Pennsylvania, acting as host, $400,000 was set aside to finance the event. The Federal Government added $195,000 and the volunteer services of 1,500 officers and enlisted men. The event was five years in the planning, with Veteran groups throughout the nation helping to make it happen.
The Veterans who were still alive were aging, and because of the reunion, they were able not only to renew the friendships they had, but new friendships were born, and old wounds healed as well. The youngest Veteran, Colonel John C. Clem (known as the Shiloh drummer boy), was 62 years old. The oldest Veteran was 112 years of age. A total of 55,000 veterans attended the event, representing the half million living Confederate and Union Veterans. Of the 55,000 men, 22,103 came from Pennsylvania, and of those, 303 were Confederate. The smallest delegation came from New Mexico…one, a Union Veteran.
The event…one I wish I could have seen, saw over 5,000 tents, covering 280 acres in the middle of the battlefield, where so many had lost their lives. It was almost as if they were there too…giving their approval. Distinguished guests had come to give speeches and presentations. General Daniel Sickles, representing the III Corps at Gettysburg where he lost his leg, was the only corps commander present. On behalf of the battle leaders were the daughter of General Meade and the grandchildren of Generals Longstreet, A.P. Hill and Pickett.
The reunion lasted a full week. The men ate well and swapped stories, cried and laughed. In all 688,000 meals were served by two thousand cooks and helpers. Amazingly and considering the age and health of the Veterans, along with the hot, sultry weather, there were only nine Veterans who did not survive the week, a number well below the normal mortality rate for that day. Perhaps it was the exhilaration of the joining of old friends, reliving days of their youth, hearing the infamous Rebel Yell resound across the battlefield, or reenacting Pickett’s charge to have the Stars and Bars meet the trefoil of Hancock’s II Corps once more that had lengthened their lives.
In the most stunning moment of the event…on the fourth of July at high noon, a great silence fell over the battlefield, as the church bells began to toll. Buglers of the blue and gray prepared to play the mournful tune of Taps one last time. The guns of Gettysburg shook the ground, signaling the end of the weeklong event. When I visited Gettysburg many years later, I was surprised by exactly how that place felt. You could feel the atmosphere there all those years later. It is hallowed ground. You feel like you should whisper…or better yet just be silent. I have never felt that way before, or since.
And though many eloquent speeches were given at Gettysburg that week, none expressed what these Veterans took away from this experience better than a scene witnessed at the train station: “Nearly all of the men had said their good-byes and headed for home. On the station platform a former Union soldier from Oregon and a Louisiana Confederate were taking leave of each other. They shook hands and embraced, but neither seemed able to find the words to express his feelings. Then an idea seemed to strike both men at once. In a simple act, which seemed to say everything they felt the pair took off their uniforms and exchanged them. The Yankee went home in Rebel gray, the Confederate in Union blue.” The above quote is an excerpt from “Gettysburg: The 50th Anniversary Encampment,” by Abbott M. Gibney, Civil War Times Illustrated, October 1970.