Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

The timeless words of Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 153rd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln. Those of us who love Lincoln most likely have it, or at least most of it, memorized – a feat I undertook a the age of seven. Even those who may not be as familiar with him will recognize at least a few lines from one of Lincoln’s greatest and most well-known speeches (and perhaps one of the most famous speeches in the entire world).

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, but this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…


“Gettysburg Address” by Mort Kunstler. He’s one of my favourite artists EVER. Amazing painter. Google him.

These words, along with the entire speech, are so well known, just as many of Lincoln’s speeches are. And if not the entire speech, at least a few lines are known from them and often quoted.

Now, more than ever, we need Lincoln’s words. Not just from the Gettysburg Address, but from his other speeches – the First Inaugural, the Second Inaugural and many others. I don’t need to say why we need them ever. We all know why. 

This post came to me about 30 minutes before I had to leave for work yesterday. I knew I wanted to write something to post on the anniversary of the address…but what exactly to write evaded me.  Given the turmoil happening in a country that is a like my second home, a country I love very much and a country where many that I love very dearly live (y’all know who you are) I wanted to write something hopeful, something positive. I’ve been turning to Lincoln’s words very much in recent weeks and I know a few others who have been doing this as well. So, this post is to bring hope, to show how remembering what Lincoln said – not just the Gettysburg Address but his other speeches as well – can perhaps help us see a light in the darkness, and most of all, remember what he stood for.

His words show us how he felt about his country, how much he loved it but also how we should be to others. To have empathy, as he did. To accept, as he did. To laugh, as he so very much loved to do. To grieve and to feel sorrow. But most of all, to find hope. His words are absolutely timeless.

There are so many lines that come to mind. I can’t possibly write them all down here. But some of my favourites that I find solace in, that bring me hope, that remind the type of person I should strive to be, are the ones I’ve chosen to include in this post.

The one I’ve been thinking of the most lately is from his First Inaugural, given on March 4, 1861…

I am loathe to close. We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It is “….not enemies but friends” and “…the better angels of our nature” that move me the most. It is these lines that remind me to be a good person, to treat people with respect and that though we may have differences, we need to stay together and be friends. And, if not friends, respect people for their differences.

His Second Inaugural, given on March 4th, 1864, is another one that stands out in my mind, and there is one very line in particular:

With malice toward none


Abraham Lincoln giving his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1864

Those four words to me have always stood out to me. Just like the First Inaugural, they remind us how they should be. On a more grander scale, the rest of the closing of the speech is powerful too, showing that darkness can be overcome:

…let us strive to finish the word we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Lincoln, so well ahead of his time, knew peace could be achieved. I believe he truly did.

From his Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862:

The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if follow, the world will forever applaud…

From the Cooper Union Address, given on February 27, 1860:

Let us have faith the right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dar to do our duty as we understand it…

And here are some random quotes that I love…

Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.

He reminds us to never give up…

Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.

The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a case we believe to be just; it shall not deter me. (“Speech on the Sub-Treasury” given in the Illinois House of Representatives December 26, 1839)

Having friends is awesome…

The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships…

So, those are just a few of my favourite words from one of my favourite men, Abraham Lincoln.

One line in the Gettysburg Address that has always stuck out to me (especially when I was 7, this line really hit me…)

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here…

It is not surprising that Lincoln, a truly humble man, would say this. He was sure his words would not go down in history. But as we remember today, on this 153rd anniversary, his words are still very much alive as they were that very long time ago. Many years from now his timeless words will continue to be remembered and perhaps, things like “…the better angels of our nature” and “…with malice toward none” will be taken more to heart.

Abraham Lincoln helped his nation through a very dark time. Lincoln’s words are timeless and in them we can find hope to persevere, hope that we can become better people and most of all, find hope that the darkness, when it happens, can be overcome and that the light will shine through. Lincoln helped get his country through a dark time and these words show just that.

I’d love to know some of your favourite words from Lincoln. Please leave them in a comment, write me on Twitter or on my Facebook page. And tell me why that particular line from a speech or from something he said means so much to you.

Thank you so much for reading. Y’all are awesome.

Until next time,



“With a few simple cautions, he hopes to lead you to achievements equal to those of the past…”

It began with a letter to his men written by his Aide-de-Camp, L.M. Dayton, on November 8, 1864:

The general commanding deems it proper at this time to inform the officers and men of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth and the Twentieth Corps, that he has organized them into an army for a special purpose, well known to the War Department and to General Grant. It is sufficient for you to know that it involves departure from our present base, and a long and difficult march to a new one. All the chances of war have been considered and provided for, as far as human sagacity can. All the asks of you is to maintain that discipline, patience and courage, which have characterized you in the past; and he hopes, through you, to strike a blow at our enemy that will have material effect in producing what we all so much desire, his complete overthrow. Of all things, the most important is, that the  men during marches and in camp, keep their places and do not scatter about as stragglers or foragers, to be picked up by a hostile people in detail. It is also of the utmost importance that our wagons should not be loaded with anything but provisions and ammunition. All surplus servants, non-combatants, and refugees, should now go to the rear, and none should be encouraged to encumber the march. At some future time we will be able to provide for the poor whites and blacks who seek to escape the bondage under which they are now suffering. With these few simple cautions, he hopes to lead you to achievements equal in importance to those of the past. 

By order of Major-General W.T. Sherman

L.M. Dayton, Aide-de-Camp

As you can see, the above letter was sent to the soldiers who were in the army of my favourite Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman. This was the letter that was sent informing troops they would be going on what has become known as  Sherman’s March To The Sea. Also issued at this time was Special Field Orders. No 120.  I’m going to discuss that more in another post.

Cump was about to “make Georgia howl”. In a cable to Grant on October 9, 1864, he stated:

If the North can march an army right through the South, it is proof positive  that the North can prevail in this contest…Even without battle, the result operating upon the minds of sensible men would produce fruits more than compensating for the expense, trouble and risk

Robert L. O’Connell says it best in his biography about Sherman called “Fierce Patriot”: “Sherman was proposing a trek across the mind of the South as much as a march across their territory”. In other words, this was not just physical war. Sherman was about to crush the morale of the south.


What I call the “Sherman Stare”. It’s a thing. And it’s sexy.

The troops were, of course, in Atlanta, Georgia. And the place where they were headed? First stop was Milledgeville. The final stop? The ultimate goal? Savanah. A distance of approximately 285 miles. Wow…

And for that, you need soldiers who are in very good shape. These were the Spartans of the Civil War. Sherman had medical inspectors. They went through ALL the troops. The result? Around 62,000 troops who were in very good shape. O’Connell states that “the weeding out process had left them feeling like members of a truly elite force”. You can bet this also boosted morale about them and with Uncle Billy knowing “exactly where he was going and what he was doing” (O’Connell) , these men probably felt damn near invincible. They would be walking fifteen to twenty miles a day carrying a blanket, pot, extra shirt, socks, canteen, food, gun plus forty rounds of ammo. This was considered the bare essentials.

And like I mentioned, Atlanta to Savannah is a LONG way when you’re on your feet…


Map showing the route of the March to the Sea. I’ll explain why there is a left and right light. In short: it’s called confusing the enemy, keeping them thinking and yes, Sherman was playing the mind game with the South.

Military strategist/genius/hottie that Sherman was, he didn’t want the Confederacy to know what he was up to (though they had their suspicions). Cump meant business. This is why there is a right wing, led by General Oliver O. Howard and a left wing, led by General Harvey W. Slocum. These two divergent lines, as Cump explains in his memoirs, were designed to threaten both Macon and Augusta and “to prevent a concentration at our intended destination”, of which was Milledgeville.

Keep ’em guessing, Cump.

Sherman estimated 7 seven days to arrive at Milledgeville.

It was on November 15, 1864 that Howard with the 15th and 17th Corps plus cavalry and Slocum with the 20th Corps, left Atlanta. Sherman would leave the next day. He stayed behind with the 14th Corps, which would eventually join General Slocum.

Sherman stayed behind to complete the loading the trains and for the destruction of many of the buildings in Atlanta. He believed they “could be converted to hostile uses” and he clearly wanted to make sure that did NOT happen.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be doing more posts about Sherman’s March to the Sea. One of the best accounts I’ve ever read of it is in Robert L. O’Connell’s “Fierce Patriot”. If y’all haven’t read that one yet and are looking for a good bio about General Sherman, read this one! It is freaking awesome!

As always, thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Mary 🙂



O’Connell, Robert L. “Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman”. Random House: New York, 2014.

Sherman, General William T. “Memoirs”. Barnes & Noble: New York, 2005 (originally published in 1886).

Trudeau, Noah Andre. “Southern Storm: Sherman’s March To The Sea”. Harper Collins: New York, 2008.


A “remarkable little horse” named Little Sorrel

In early May 1861 at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson seized 6 train cars, one of which was carrying horses. From these horses, Jackson ended up purchasing two – a large one for himself, which he called “Big Sorrel” (apparently, he was a beautiful, black Stallion) and a smaller one he named “Fancy” (who was not fancy but rather kind of shaggy and unruly looking), which he intended for his wife, Anna. Jackson soon found “Big Sorrel” was a bit of a spaz. Spazzy horses and battles do not mix well and clearly, Jackson knew this. He needed a horse that would have some level of “zen” amid the noises of guns, artillery, shouting and other general chaos that accompany battles.

He decided to try “Fancy”, the horse he had intended for Anna. Upon riding him, Jackson remarked “a seat on him was like being rocked in a cradle” and that he “showed a smooth pace and even temper” (quite the opposite of Spazzy) . Jackson also changed the horse’s name to Little Sorrel. Thus began another famous horse and rider duo from the Civil War – that of General Stonewall Jackson and his Morgan horse, Little Sorrel (Anna ended up with Spazzy McSpaz a.k.a. Big Sorrel). Meanwhile, the brown coloured Little Sorrel would be Jackson’s primary horse/animal BFF from 1861  until Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. He would subsequently die of pneumonia on May 10, 1863.


“There Stands Jackson Like A Stonewall”. Painting by Mort Kunstler.

A bit of backstory on Little Sorrel (cause after doing some digging and falling down rabbit holes, I managed to find a few tidbits for y’all…)

Little Sorrel was a small Morgan horse, about 15 hands high, or 5 feet at his shoulders and was about 11 years old when Jackson took him under his wing. He is said to have been born around 1850 on the farm of Noah C. Collins in Somers, Connecticut and is believed to be a descendent of the original Morgan horse, born in 1789 to Springfield, Connecticut. These horses are known for their short legs and stocky bodies which Little Sorrel possessed and which makes the Morgan an ideal battle horse (remember, spazzy horses are bad. Zen horses are where it’s at). The Morgan horses are also known for their endurance, quickness and agility. Also, like many of the Civil War horses and their BFF General’s, Little Sorrel became almost an extension of Stonewall’s personality, and was often seemingly as calm as his General was during battles (no word on if Little Sorrel enjoyed to eat lemons like Stonewall did). During breaks in battle, Little Sorrel was known to lie down and sleep.  Kyd Douglas, a member of Jackson’s staff had this to say about Little Sorrel:

“…[he was] a remarkable little horse. Such endurance I have never seen in horse flesh. We had no horse at Headquarters that could match him. I never saw him show a sign of fatigue.”

Douglas was being quite serious – on long marches, Sorrel could cover 40 miles in one day. Jackson was so comfortable on him, that he would often sleep during part of these marches.

The Jackson/Sorrel duo  would make the soldiers rally and would boost morale (this is much the same as it was for General Sheridan and Rienzi on the Union side. More on that partnership in another blog post). The ironic thing was, however, that Jackson didn’t like the cheering and was actually somewhat embarrassed by it. Little Sorrel seemed to grow to learn this and “whenever Confederates raised loud and friendly noise, the horse would break into a gallop and carry [Jackson] speedily along”. 


“Horse and Man” by Mort Kunstler. I believe this painting truly captures the bond between Jackson and Sorrel, a bond that happened with many horses from the Civil War and their Generals. 

Little Sorrel and General Jackson were in many battles together – First Manasses (I did find one source that stated Jackson actually borrowed a horse for this battle. More sources said he had Little Sorrel at the battle) & Second Manassas (or Bull Run), Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, Cedar Mountain, Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Seven Days Campaign, and finally, Chancellorsville in early May 1863. This battle would prove to be the last battle both General Jackson and Little Sorrel were in.

General Jackson was wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorsville on May 2nd, 1863. He ended up having his left arm amputated but he succumbed to pneumonia on May 10th. When Jackson had been shot, this is said to have the one and only time that Little Sorrel bolted. He is said to have remained on the battlefield after Jackson was taken away for medical attention. In all the chaos, no one was much paying attention to the gingerbread coloured horse who was wandering around. One account I read states that he was eventually found by two artillery soldiers who had no idea who the horses belonged to. One of them took it upon himself to start riding him. Eventually, Little Sorrel was recognized. He is said to have been given to General J.E.B. Stuart who gave Little Sorrel to Jackson’s widow, Anna.


Confederate General JEB Stuart with his “impeccable” hat (y’all will get that joke if y’all have seen “Gods & Generals”). Skylark and Highfly were two of his horses.

Little Sorrel lived with Anna for a time. The horse became known as a “rascal” and he most certainly had a mind of his own. He the had ability to undo latches, untie ropes and even remove rails from fences so he could jump into another pasture. He was also known to let other horses out to tag along with him.

Eventually, Little Sorrel was moved to Stonewall’s old stomping grounds at the Virginia Military Institute or VMI. Here, he didn’t need to worry about latches, ropes or fences as he was free to graze on the lush, green parade grounds. I’m sure this was absolute heaven for him. It is clear, however, the Little Sorrel never forgot his friend Stonewall or the Civil War. This was always quite clear during artillery practice at VMI. Little Sorrel’s ears would stand up and his nostrils would flare at the sound of cannons. He would canter around as if looking for General Jackson. To me, this shows the bond that Jackson and Sorrel had with each other and clearly, Little Sorrel never forgot him.

Little Sorrel had gained as nearly as much fame as his General after the Civil War. As such, the horse made appearances at many fairs and veterans reunions. VMI cadets always accompanied him to make sure people did not pluck hair from his mane and tail for souvenirs (why do people have to be weird like that?).

Little Sorrel after the Civil War

In the later stages of his life, Little Sorrel lived at the Confederate Soldier’s Home in Richmond (also called Robert E. Lee Camp). Here, he was seen as a pet and absolutely adored by the veterans. Little Sorrel eventually developed arthritis. It reached a point where the elderly horse could no longer stand. Curious onlookers often came to see Jackson’s famous horse and so the veterans at the home made a sling and hoist to help Little Sorrel stand up. Unfortunately, one day there was an accident and the sling broke causing Little Sorrel to fall. In the fall, the horse broke his back which proved to be mortal.

Little Sorrel’s final hours were not spent alone, however. He was cared for by the veterans and one in particular, stayed by his side:

“An old Confederate veteran, Tom O’Connell, stood by during the day and at night slept beside his charge [Little Sorrel] until he went over the green fields of some animal heaven to rest in peace and honor”.

Or perhaps he found Jackson on the other side of the river.


This beautiful painting by Mort Kunstler is titled “Cross Over The River, General Stonewall Jackson”.

After his death, Little Sorrel’s body was given to taxidermist Frederic Weber and mounted over plastic. Weber kept Little Sorrel’s bones (umm…gross) as part of payment but he later donated them to The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One can imagine this angered many southerners. I will come back to this in a few sentences. As Aaron Burr says in Hamilton…”wait for it…” (psst, Jen…there’s a Hamilton reference for you). You can view Little Sorrel today at VMI


There’s something slightly creepy but cool about this…

Little Sorrel’s legacy continues to live on to this day. He is nearly as famous as General Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveller.In 1990, a street was named after him in his birthplace of Somers, Connecticut. There are also a few statues showing General Jackson and Little Sorrel.


Oh, hey, remember the thing about the bones?

Here’s the story…

In 1997, the bones of Little Sorrel were returned to the VMI. On July 20 of that year, they were buried at the foot of a statue of General Jackson. Dirt from every battlefield where Jackson and Little Sorrel had been together was placed in the grave. The site was also flanked (Haha. That was Sherman’s signature move…) by wreaths of apples and carrots plus several horseshoes.I’m sure had he been there Little Sorrel would have made short order of those wreaths.

That’s the story of Little Sorrel, the horse of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Thanks, y’all, for reading. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed researching it.

Until next time…


P.S. I’ve used a few Mort Kunstler paintings in this post. To view more of his beautiful artwork, please visit here .



Gwynne, S.C. “Rebel Yell”. Simon & Schuster: New York, 2014.

“Jackson’s Most Trusted Sidekick”

“Little Sorrel Buried at VMI July 20, 1997”

“Little Sorrel, Connecticut’s Confederate War Horse”

“Stonewall Jackson FAQ”

“Stonewall Jackson’s Horse, Little Sorrel”

“Stonewall Jackson’s Stuffed Horse”

“Traveller and Little Sorrel – The War Horses of Lee and Jackson”

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