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 category “Battles”

“He is one of the bravest men…”

It’s funny how I will develop an interest in someone from the Civil War, especially some high ranking officer. It’s often the eyes that strike me the most. Or just that they’re damn fine looking gentlemen. I give you a wonderful example below of my two favourites…

If y’all follow me on Twitter, you know how much I love General Sherman and probably have picked up on how much I LOVE General John Reynolds as well. With Reynolds, it was totally the eyes that struck me the most and it turns out he was a pretty damn fascinating guy. You can check the post I wrote about him here.

It was much the same when I came across this handsome gentleman. Totally the eyes AGAIN. Y’all, meet Major General John Gibbon…


Major General John Gibbon. Intense eyes AND yes, he’s an interesting fellow…

Of course I wanted to know more about him. Just as was the case with General Reynolds, Major General Gibbon is an interesting guy. I recently wrote a post about the Battle of South Mountain, in which Gibbon was a part of at Turner’s Gap. Check it out here.

On to more about Gibbon. Here we go…

John Gibbon was born on April 20, 1827 in Philadelphia, PA. When he was ten years old, Gibbon and his family moved to the Charleston, South Carolina. His father had accepted a position of Chief Assayer (basically, analyzing the quantity of gold, silver, etc. in a coin) at the U.S. Mint.

In 1842 at the age of 15, John was appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point. He had discipline problems (i.e. rebel, badass, etc) and ended up having to repeat his ENTIRE first year. Clearly, mistakes were made but lessons were learned. After this, his time there and, subsequently, his entire military career was defined by rigid discipline. He graduated in the middle of his class in 1847.Two of his classmates were Ambrose Burnside and Ambrose Powell Hill.

After graduation, John was made Brevet 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery.

He was in Mexico during the Mexican-American war, but saw no action there. He was also in Florida and in Texas.

In 1854, he returned to West Point where he taught artillery tactics. This proved to be quite a fit for him and must have been something he enjoyed, because he ended up writing an ENTIRE book about it called the Artillerist’s Manual. It was published in 1859, and was adopted by the War Department very quickly. It ended up being used by both the Union and the Confederate Armies during the Civil War.


I bought an e-version of this from Amazon. My partner’s reaction: “We’re probably on some list now…”.

In 1855, Gibbon married Francis North Moale and together they had four children: Frances Moale, Catharine (Katy), John Jr. (he died as a toddler) & John S. Gibbon.

Life seemed to be rolling along smoothly for John when the Civil War broke out in 1861. His father, who still lived in the south, was a slave owner. John’s three brothers and his cousin, J. Johnston Pettigrew, all fought for the Confederacy.


John Gibbon’s cousin, J.Johnston Pettigrew. He was involved in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. He was killed at Bunker Hill, West Virginia, on July 17, 1863.

John, who was stationed in Utah at the time, decided to remain loyal to the Union. He took the oath to the United States and reported to Washington. Here he was made Chief of Artillery for Major General Irwin McDowell.


Major General Irvin McDowell. Hails from Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, best known for his defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. Well, f%^&

In 1862, the Gibbs (I know, so not an original nickname is you watch NCIS but…come on…it works! And it’s kinda cute…) was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers and placed in charge of King’s Wisconsin Brigade, made of men from Wisconsin (duh), Michigan & Indiana. He proved to be quite good at handling the volunteers, and, unlike other officers, he did not have a negative opinion of them.  Not only was he big into drilling his soldiers but he used a rigid discipline system to turn them into being some of the most bad-ass, ferocious fighters in the Army of the Potomac. Gibbs believed the best way to promote such rigid discipline was using a system of awards (gold star, anyone?!) to recognize good behaviour and, for not-so-good behaviour, he used penalties that were meant to hurt their pride.

A few examples…

Fence stealing was popular (cause why not steal a fence when you’re a volunteer soldier, right?) amongst his brigade. Fence pieces would be used for shelter or fires. This extra curricular activity dwindled after Gibbs came on the scene. Fence stealing ain’t so much fun when you have to rebuild said fence.

On a positive note, however, the Gibbs discovered that giving the well-behaved soldiers 24 hour passes was a thing of miracles for promoting good behaviour. Y’all, this 24 hour pass was their version of a gold star. Leave camp, go have fun! I’d be good to if it meant I got to leave camp for 24 hours and go play cards (cards being a euphemism for various sorts of shenanigans I won’t mention on here) with the locals.

He also changed the uniform of the soldiers. The most notable of these changes was the hat. He replaced the traditional Kepi with the black felt Hardee hat. Soon after this, they became known as the Black Hat Brigade.

Clearly, Gibbs wanted his bad-ass Brigade to stand out.

And stand out his brigade did…

He fought at Second Manasses at Brawner’s Farm. This was one of the most intense fire fights of the entire Civil War. One of his solider’s remarked of him after the battle:

How completely that little battle removed all dislike from the strict disciplinarian, and how great became the admiration and love for him, only those who have witnessed similar changes can appreciate…

Gibbs was at South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. It was here that either General Joseph Hooker or G McC (my pet name for General McClellan) christened Gibbon’s brigade as the “Iron Brigade”. The men had “fought like iron”.


Part of the Iron Brigade

At Antietam, the Iron Brigade had heavy losses. It was here that Gibbon manned an artillery piece during the very bloody fighting in the Cornfield.

In late 1862, John was promoted to the 2nd Division, I Corps. This meant he would be separated from his “Iron Brigade”:

My feeling was one of regret at the idea of being separated from my gallant brigade.

It is said that John Reynolds picked up on this and said he could offer it to someone else. Gibbs, despite qualms about leaving, did accept the new position he had been offered. One officer of the Iron Brigade described Gibbon as “a most excellent officer…beloved and respected by his whole command”.

His love of this brigade and its men evidently stuck with the Gibbs throughout his life. His answer to an invitation to all soldiers honorably discharged from Wisconsin shows how he felt towards them:

I was not a Wisconsin soldier, and have not been honorably discharged, but at the judgement day I want to be with Wisconsin soldiers. 

So, on it was to his new command, and the first battle he led them at was Fredericksburg. It was here Gibbon ended up receiving a wound near his wrist after a shell exploded close by. This put him out of duty for several months.

He was back in time for Gettysburg. It was here he commanded the 2nd Division of General Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps.


General Winfield Scott Hancock. As my #soulsister Jen would say…#HeyGirl. She’ll also be happy I  managed to include a photo of him in this post. 🙂

On July 3rd at Gettysburg, Gibbon was at Cemetery Ridge. His major role in the battle was the repulse of Pickett’s Charge. In a council of war meeting (sounds like Game of Thrones shit happening here…) the night before, General Meade had pulled Gibbon aside and predicted that if Lee were to attack, it would be right where Gibbon would be. Eerily enough, Meade was right. Gibbon’s division did bear the brunt of the fighting, as predicted by Meade. Both Gibbon and Hancock ended up getting wounded here.

With being wounded, Gibbs was out of action and he ended up being sent to Cleveland, Ohio where he worked in a draft depot.

I’m sure that was really exciting…

But here’s something really cool. While Gibbon was still recovering from his wounds (okay, so that’s not so cool but this next part is the total silver lining in it all), he was able to attend the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. Y’all know what happened on that day, right? GETTYSBURG ADDRESS BY MY FAVOURITE MAN. How  awesome is it that Gibbon got to see and hear Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address? Also, could you imagine being there at the Gettysburg Address? Lincoln and Gibbon in the same place? I would have been fangirling big time. On a serious note, it would have been absolutely amazing to witness the Gettysburg Address, perhaps one of the most amazing speeches ever written (that’s for another post though).


I had to put a photo in of my fav man! #heygirl #fangirl Also, the crooked bowtie is awesome. #workit

Once he’d recovered from his wounds, Gibbon was back in action again. He dove right back in for the Overland Campaign and fought at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. On June 7th, 1864,  he was promoted to Major General for his service in the Overland Campaign.

On August 25, 1864, he and his men fought in the Second Battle of Reams Station. He felt his Division had fought poorly and this very much disheartened. At this time, he also began to quarrel with his superior, General Hancock. I’m guessing Hancock was probably not a good man to cross. Although promoted briefly to command the XVIII Corps, Gibbs ended up going on sick leave.

In January 1865 he came back and was given command of the XXIV Corps in the newly created Army of the James. James Rufus Davies, a member of the Iron Brigade, had this to say about Gibbon receiving this command:

His honors are fairly won. He is one of the bravest men. He was with us on every battlefield

On April 2, 1865, Gibbon was involved in the Third Battle of Petersburg. This battle was also known as (SPOILER ALERT) the Fall of Petersburg, so I think we all know how that turned out for the Confederates. It was during this battle that the Gibbs captured Fort Gregg, part of the Confederate defences.

During the Appomattox Campaign, Gibbon blocked the Confederate escape route during the battle of Appomattox Courthouse.

At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, Gibbon served as the Surrender Commissioner.


Can y’all spot Gibbon? And check out the evil eye on Sheridan towards Lee.

After the Civil War, Gibbs was demoted to being a Colonel in the regular army (this apparently happened quite a bit. It’s complicated to get into and I’m just beginning to learn about it myself). Gibbon spent much time on the frontier. He was mainly engaged in the Indian Wars. It was Gibbon who came upon the remains of Custer and his men after the Battle of Little Big Horn.

In 1885, he was promoted to Brigadier General in the regular army. He was placed in command of the Department of Columbia, which represented all points of the Pacific Northwest. In 1890, he was made head of the Military Division of the Atlantic. He only held this post for a year, however, as he was forced to retire in 1891.


Gibbs aged well. #finewine #swoon

In all, he served nearly fifty years! John Gibbon passed away on February 6, 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


One cool thing I learned in researching this post is that Gibbon has a few towns that are named after him. Thanks for my cool Twitter follower @AndersenTy, I found out there is a town in Nebraska called Gibbon. Yes, named after John Gibbon. There are others too – in Oregon, Minnesota, and Washington. Gibbon River and Falls in Yellowstone National Park is also named after him. Gibbon went there on an 1872 expedition.

Besides “The Artillerist’s Manual”, Gibbon also wrote two other books, both of which were published posthumously: “Personal Recollections of the Civil War” (1928) and “Adventures On The Western Frontier” (1994).

Just on the lighter side of things, apparently Gibbon was quite the colourful speaker, something which I appreciate because I do have a knack for use of colourful language myself (as I’m sure y’all have picked up on from some of my blog posts or videos). A member of General Meade’s staff described Gibbon as having an “up-and-down manner of telling the truth, no matter whom it hurt”. In other words, he was blunt. He could also out-swear most officers in the Army of the Potomac, which does make him a personal hero of mine now (upon finding this out, I blurted out “that is f&^%ing awesome!”).  Apparently, the exception to this rule was Andrew Humphreys  and quite possibly (and for some reason this did not surprise me), Winfield Scott Hancock.


Major General Andrew Humphreys, known potty-mouth of the Army of the Potomac. #lifegoals

Gibbon was a really cool, interesting guy. He was clearly well-respected by his troops and despite being a strict disciplinarian, a hard-ass and a-type about drilling his soldiers, in his heart he clearly cared about those he commanded. He created some of the most bad-ass fighters in the Army of the Potomac when he commanded the Iron Brigade. And the men he commanded after that were just equally as bad-ass. I’ll end this post by leaving you with a photo of the monument to Gibbon, which is at Gettysburg. It was dedicated on July 3, 1988 and it close to where he was wounded during Pickett’s Charge. Check out the swagger…


#workit #heygirl #sexyboots #swagger

As always, thanks for reading! I hope y’all enjoyed this post. I certainly enjoyed researching and writing it.

Until next time,




“John Gibbon”. Civil War Trust.

“John Gibbon, Loyal and Able Soldier”

Nolan, Alan T. “The Iron Brigade: A Military History” Indiana University Press: Indianapolis. 1961.

Reardon, Carol & Tom Vossler. “A Field Guide To Gettysburg”. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.2013.

John Gibbon. Wikipedia.




They “Fought Like Iron…”

I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter that for the last little while I’ve been working on a blog post about this Union Army hottie Major General John Gibbon…


“Hey, girl…” as my BFF Jen always says when we’re discussing the Generals we love. Gibbon is swoon worthy and y’all, he’s interesting as hell, too. Post will be done soon 🙂

Gibbon was the second commander of what is known as the Iron Brigade. The first commander was Union Brigadier General Rufus King. The Wisconsin Historical Society has some more information about him here


Rufus King, first leader of the Iron Brigade. President Lincoln had originally appointed him Minister to the Papal States in 1861 but when the Civil War broke out, he took a leave of absence from this to join the Union Army. 

It was on May 7, 1862, when Special Order No. 46 was issued, giving command of the Iron Brigade to Brigadier General John Gibbon. To begin, the Brigade had consisted of the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, 19th from Indiana and Battery B of the 4th U.S. Light Artillery. The 24th Michigan later joined their ranks.

When I started researching John Gibbon and finding out that he led the Iron Brigade, one of the questions I had was just how had this Brigade come to be called the “Iron Brigade”?

Well, it happened 154 years ago today, during the Battle of South Mountain (also known as the Battle of Boonsboro Gap), which was part of the Maryland Campaign. It was fought at three separate passes where General Lee’s Army  (this is where I started to go down a rabbit hole but quickly got back out again. No, Mary, focus on how the Brigade was named. You don’t need to talk about the whole damn battle!):

So, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the battle but Civil War Trust has a good summary of the battle here. Also, I’ve included a couple maps too, just to give y’all an idea of where the battle was fought and who was where…


Crampton’s Gap. Southern most post of the battle. The Union won the day here. 


Fox’s & Turner’s Gap. The Federal’s almost take Fox’s Gap but Confederate General John Bell Hood arrives in time to stop this. Turner’s Gap is where the Iron Brigade earns it’s nickname.


Onto the naming of the Brigade. By this point, Gibbon’s Brigade was already standing out with their black Hardee hats. Ever the unique snowflake, it was Gibbon who had made them part of the uniform. Hence the other name they are also known by – the Black Hat Brigade.


The Hardee hat, chosen by John Gibbon as part of their uniform. Hence the name “Black Hat Brigade”

The morning of September 14 found Gibbon and his men marching towards South Mountain. In short, General McClellan (henceforth known as G McC) had found General Lee’s Order 191 (Pro-tip: don’t roll important orders around a cigar. Someone will probably drop them), giving detailed plans of his army’s operation. Hence the marching to South Mountain. By this point, however, Bobbi Lee had found out G McC had found the order. He’d already reinforced South Mountain. I read a couple sources that state G McC was taking things at a “leisurely place”(*gasp* Is this what Lincoln referred to as “the slows”? I think so…).

Gibbon was marching with Brigadier General John Porter Hatch’s Division to begin with…


John Porter Hatch. He was wounded at the Battle of South Mountain. After the battle, he was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. He also earned the Medal of Honor. 

Plans changed, however, and he received direct orders from General Ambrose Burnside to take his brigade plus Battery B (the artillery) back to the National Road. It was there they started advancing towards the mountain at what is known as Turner’s Gap.

It was Confederate General D.H. Hill who was defending Turner’s Gap, a man who John Gibbon knew personally as he’d been D.H. Hill’s groomsman at his wedding. This is one of those moments where I think of the Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business”.


Confederate General D.H. Hill. He was the brother-in-law of General “Stonewall” Jackson. Did not get on too well with Bobbi Lee, therefore was considered to be under utilized. This may be why he looks angry.

With support from Battery B, it was Gibbon’s Brigade on its own that was to go up the National Road and hit the center of the Confederate line at Turner’s Gap. Back at headquarters, G McC and Burnside would have front row seats, so to speak, to see Gibbon and his men in action. Since Bobbi Lee knew G McC would be coming to pay him a visit, General D.H. Hill had been reinforced already with brigades from Brigidier General J.R. Jones and General John Bell Hood. Of course he had artillery of his own too.

Gibbs and his Black Hat Brigade were going to have a tough climb up to Turner’s Gap towards Alfred H. Colquitt, who had 1,100 men with him. It was later in the afternoon when Gibbon finally received word from Burnside to move forward. As they started their ascent, Gibbon was mounted on his horse, commanding “Forward! Forward! Forward!”. They ascended towards Turner’s Gap, and they had a hell of a fight.

Much of the fighting was done in the darkness. The Black Hat Brigade fought hard and slowly, they gained ground, despite constant firing and shelling from the enemy. The Confederates were putting up a hell of a fight as well in order to hold their ground. Gibbon moved on the battlefield, directing his men where to go and seemingly staying quite cool considering the circumstances.


Painting depicting the Iron Brigade fighting at Turner’s Gap. If anyone can tell me the name of the artist, please let me know! I couldn’t find it anywhere and they need credit for the this amazing painting.

Circumstances seemed grave near the end of the night and I’m sure even Gibbon was scared. You know shit is getting bad when you have to give your men the order “Hold your ground with the bayonet” because they’ve run out of ammo. This was the order he had to give the men of the 7th Wisconsin and it is eerily like an order given less than a year later by Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Just when things seemed at their worst, Gibbon finally got the word to cease firing and that they had won the day. At approximately 9pm on September 14th, the bloody fighting at Turner’s Gap was done.

Fighting had ended else where along South Mountain at this time too. General  Lee soon withdrew his troops. The wounded and dead lay strewn along the mountainside and this was Gibbon’s greatest concern. 25% of the brigade had been lost – 37 killed, 251 wounded and 30 missing. The 7th Wisconsin had the heaviest casualties with 147 wounded or dead. Overall, the Black Hat Brigade had sustained greater losses than any other Brigade that day at South Mountain.

Their hard fighting and sacrifice did not go unnoticed, however. Remember I said that G McC and Burnside had front row seats to watch Gibbon and his bad ass Black Hat Brigade ascend Turner’s Gap? Nolan sums it up perfectly in his book about the history of the Iron Brigade:

McClellan and Burnside and a number of other officers had seen it all, the initial advance up the mountainside, the unflinching progress as the enemy’s fire increased and the dogged movements, always forward, into the darkness, marked toward the end of the day by the flashes from the opposing lines of rifles. 

“A brilliant engagement” was how Burnside put it. G McC, in his official report, wrote that “General Gibbon, in this delicate movement, handled his brigade with as much precision and coolness as if upon parade and the bravery of his troops could not be excelled”.

The word “iron” was used to describe the brigade and how they had fought. Some sources say that it was Hooker who said “those men fought like iron”. Others say it was McClellan. Another source I found attributed it to Hooker. Whatever the case, Gibbon’s Brigade, nicknamed the Black Hat Brigade because of their black Hardee hats, became known as the Iron Brigade. This was the name they most certainly had earned in the fighting of Turner’s Gap.

Nolan states that:

On the rocky sides of South Mountain at Turner’s Gap, Gibbon’s soldiers acquired a reputation, a reputation they would have to sustain with further bravery and which would somehow make them brave, as brave as an “Iron Brigade”. 


Just a few of the men from Gibbon’s Iron Brigade. This Co. K, 7th Wisconsin Infantry. These are the men who suffered the heaviest casualties in Gibbon’s Brigade.

Prior to South Mountain, they had fought at Second Bull Run. They went on to fight at Antietam, which happened just a few days after South Mountain on September 17th, 1862. Their other battles included Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Minerun, Overland, Richmond-Petersburg and finally, Appomattox.

Also, I can’t recommend Alan T. Nolan’s book “The Iron Brigade: A Military History” enough. Although I haven’t read it all the way through yet,what I have read is very well written and very interesting. It was my main source for writing this post.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I absolutely loved learning how the Iron Brigade earned it’s name at South Mountain. The Iron Brigade is becoming a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to read the whole book about them.

Do any of you have a favourite brigade from the Civil War? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter or on my Facebook page.

Until next time,







Thus ensued the Battle of South Mountain



“Bloody Prelude: The Battle of South Mountain”.

Civil War Trust

“King, Gen. Rufus (1814-1876)”. Wisconsin Historical Society.

Nolan, Alan T. “The Iron Brigade: A Military History”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961.

“The Battle of South Mountain”. The American Civil War 150 Years Ago Today.

Union Rock Stars: Major General John Fulton Reynolds

I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of sorts with someone from the Civil War. Surprise, surprise. It started when I was at Barnes and Noble earlier this week and I picked up this Gettysburg Field Guide…


…and landed on a page with a photo of this handsome gentleman, Major General John Fulton Reynolds…


“Every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man…”. Reynolds was one of the Rock Star Union Generals (and kinda hot). His horses were Fancy &  Prince.

Something about seeing him made me want to learn more him and down the rabbit hole I went. Turns out he’s a very interesting fellow and was perhaps one of the most talented men in the Union Army at the time of his death at Battle of Gettysburg.

Born on September 20, 1820 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (about 50 miles from Gettysburg) Reynolds graduated from West Point in 1841 (a year after Sherman. Yes, I had to stick him somewhere in this post…). As with many of the well known military personalities from the Civil War, Reynolds fought in the Mexican War. He proved himself to be quite talented during this war, and was brevetted (in other words, promoted) twice for gallantry. He especially proved himself at the Battle of Buena Vista, when his artillery stopped a flanking attack by enemy cavalry, forcing the Mexican Army to withdraw.

In 1860, he was back at West Point, this time as commandant of cadets and an instructor in tactics. When the Civil War broke out, he was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers. It was here he began a lengthy association with the Pennsylvania Reserves. Also, another tidbit of information, while Reynolds was Pro-Union, he did not support anti-slavery politics.

During the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, Reynolds occupied and became military governor of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He fought during the Seven Days Campaign, commanding his brigade at the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines Mill. It was after Gaines Mill Reynolds had an “oh shit” moment (well, it was more than a moment, I suppose) when he ended up getting captured by the Confederate Army. After Gaines Mill, Reynolds had not slept for a few days and was absolutely exhausted. He was attempting to sleep when the Confederate Army found him and captured him. Reynolds was no doubt embarrassed. Confederate General D.H. Hill, who also happened to be a friend of Reynolds, tried to reassure him that all would be fine by saying “do not feel so bad about your capture, its the fate of wars” (#nothelping). He was held at Libby Prison but luckily for him, this was not to last long. On August 15, 1862, he was exchanged and released back to the Union Army.

Back in the saddle on either Prince or Fancy, Reynolds picked up where’d left off and show cased his military talent at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He led his men in a last ditch stand at Henry Hill. He shouted “Now boys, give them the steel, charge bayonets, double quick”. He assisted greatly in keeping the Confederates halted allowing the Union Army to retreat.

He was not at Antietam due to a slightly paranoid Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew G. Curtin, wanting him to organize, train and lead a Pennsylvania militia called into active duty. Needless to say General McClellan and General Hooker were none too pleased about losing one of their military rock stars. They stated that “a scared governor ought not to be permitted to destroy the usefulness of an entire division”. Too bad the governor won out, much to the chagrin of Mac and Fightin’ Joe. (side note: Mac was not going to have to worry about it for long since Lincoln was about done with his shenanigans and Mac was about to relieved of *surprised gasp* command of the Army of the Potomac).

Off Reynolds went to train the militia…

Turns out he was only gone for a couple of weeks…

Reynolds was back for the Battle of Fredericksburg. By this time, the Army of the Potomac was now headed by General Burnside. Reynolds directed the First Corps. One his divisions was commanded by George Meade, who ended up making the only breakthrough at the battle. Reynolds failed to reinforce Meade because he had not received clear orders from from a Brigadier General William B. Franklin as to what his role was. #Frustrating.

Despite this, on November 29, 1862, Reynolds was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. It was also after this battle, he was one of a few generals to speak out against General Burnside.


General Burnside (his horse was Old Bob) and Reynolds (dunno who Mr Blurry Face is in the background). I love this photo. Reynolds is looking RIGHT at the camera. And that stance. Damn…he looks like a man who gets shit done….

We all know what happened to Burnside…

Next up was Chancellorsville. In charge of the Army of the Potomac by this time was General “Fightin Joe” Hooker…


General”Fightin’ Joe” Hooker. He got concussed at Chancellorsville after an incident with a cannon ball. His horse: Lookout (that’s the one one I could find. I’m sure he had more)

Major General Reynolds commanded the First Corps again at this battle. He ended up clashing with “Fightin Joe” when Hooker changed the placement of his troops, causing the XI Corps to become over run by General “Stonewall” Jackson and his troops before Reynolds could get his I Corps to their new position. The Union Army ended up having to retreat. Afterwards, a vote was held as to whether to proceed with battle. There was a 3 to 2 vote to continue and go on the offensive against the Confederates. Reynolds voted for the offensive. Hooker, however, made the ultimate decision, and despite the majority wanting the offensive, decided to withdraw the Army of the Potomac (I’m sure the other Generals that voted for the offensive were thinking “WTF, man?”). When awakened by Meade and told the news of the retreat, Reynolds said loud enough for Hooker to hear “What was the use of calling us together at this time of night when he intended to retreat anyhow?”. Yeah, I’d be angry too. Hooker did have a rough day though. Not only had Stonewall’s surprise attack rattle him to his core, he also had a concussion from an incident involving a cannonball striking the house he had set up command in.

Reynolds had voiced his concern for a good commander of the Army of the Potomac, stating “If we do not get someone soon who can command an army without consulting Stanton and Halleck at Washington, I do not know what will become of the army”. Clearly, Reynolds felt the army needed to be independent from the government in Washington and have the ability to make its own decisions. Just as he’d done with Burnside, Reynolds spoke out against General Hooker, calling for his removal. Before this could happen, Hooker ended up resigning. Of himself he said “To tell the truth, I just lost confidence in Joe Hooker”.

Reynolds had the talent to lead the Army of the Potomac. He’d proven himself to be excellent tactical commander on many occasions. President Abraham Lincoln recognized this in him and on June 2, 1863, the two met in Washington. Lincoln asked if Reynolds would lead the Army of the Potomac. His response was basically “Yup…if you’ll let me do what I want and let me have control. Oh, and no interference from Washington” (not exactly what he said but you get the idea…). Lincoln could not guarantee this. Sticking to what he firmly believed, Reynolds refused the command.

On June 28, 1863, General George Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac. This was just a mere three days before the Battle of Gettysburg.


General George Meade. Random fact: His horse was called Old Baldy. Coolest name ever for a horse.

On the morning of July 1st, Reynolds was leading his force to the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg when he found out Confederate Forces were almost there too. He met with Major General Buford there.


Major General John Buford. Union Cavalry officer. He died five months after the Battle of Gettysburg. His horse was Grey Eagle

Reynolds shouted to him “What’s the matter, John?”. Buford replied “The devil’s to pay”.  Reynolds learned the situation – Buford’s  men were being pushed back by the Confederates and Reynolds had a choice: move back or fight.

He decided to fight.

Reynolds led the Iron Brigade to McPhearson’s Ridge. Out ahead of his men, he eyed the Confederates in an apple orchard . He turned back in his saddle and shouted to the infantry behind him: “Forward, forward, men! Drive those fellows out! Forward! For God’s sake, forward!”. These were to be his last words. Suddenly, he fell from his horse and lay still. An aid rushed to him and saw he’d been struck behind his right ear by a bullet. Major General John Fulton Reynolds, was said by Shelby Foote to be “not only the highest ranking but the best general in the Army” at the time of Gettysburg, was dead at the age of 42.

Of the death of Reynolds, one soldier wrote “his death affected us much for he was one of the soldier generals of the army”. Reynolds was incredibly talented, a gifted tactician and had proven himself many times on the battlefield. We’ll never know if he would have been offered command of the Army of the Potomac again but it’s easy to speculate he probably would have done well in that role. If he had lived, he, General Grant and General Sherman would have been a force to be reckoned with.

Reynolds was burned on July 4, 1863 in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


There are also a few memorials for him at Gettysburg, which I plan on going when I’m back there (hopefully in the Autumn)

I’m not done with Reynolds just yet. There is another part of his story I want to tell and it’s a bit of a love story. It deserves it’s own post though.

Thank you, as always, for reading!


Civil War Trust. “John F. Reynolds”.

Foote, Shelby. “The Civil War: A Narrative. Volume 2 Fredericksburg to Meridian”. New York: Random House, 1963

Reardon, Carol & Tom Vosslet. “A Field Guide To Gettysburg”. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013




It happened under a tree in the rain…

…my favourite moment between General Grant and General Sherman, that is. Yes, it happened under a tree in the rain after the first day of the Battle of Shiloh. Oh, and just to warn you, this post contains profanity.

Civil War BFF’s. If I had to pick between the two though, I’m Team Sherman….

I’ve always been fascinated by the friendship between Grant and Sherman. From Shiloh to the end of the war, they were BFF’s. Sadly, their friendship did not remain as strong after the war and I believe this is mainly to do from Grant’s time as President (I’m not laying the blame solely on Grant but I think he did a few things that pissed Sherman off). During the Civil War, however, they had quite the friendship. One can gather this from how they spoke of each other.

Speaking of Grant, Sherman said “he stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk and now sir, we stand by each other always”. And vice-versa, Grant wrote to his father, “I know him well as one of the greatest and best of men. He is poor and always will be, but he is great and magnanimous”. The bond that was forged quickly at the Battle of Shiloh would carry through the war. Taking place 10 months into the war, Flood states that “the relationship as superior [Grant] and subordinate [Sherman] began when they moved towards Shiloh” (Flood 4). It was here Grant and Sherman were brought together on the field, taking “each other’s measure under fire and [beginning] two years of successful cooperation and friendship” (Flood 4). It has been argued by many that it was this friendship that was a huge factor in the Union victory. Robert L. O’Connell, author of the very awesome Sherman biography “Fierce Patriot” states that “it was this alliance that eventually won the Civil War in the field” (O’Connell 94). There is a even a book devoted to their friendship, “Grant & Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War” by Charles Bracelen Flood (I’m currently reading it and it’s quite good so far!).

It just so happens that today marks the 154th  anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Shiloh. This is when my favourite Grant-Sherman moment happened.

A little about Shiloh…

The Union side was led by Grant and Don Carlos Buell.  Sherman, along with Stephen Hurl, Benjamin Prentis, John McClernand & Lew Wallace (side note: Heard of the book “Ben Hur”? This guy is the author. Spoiler alert: he makes it through the war. Also, he got a little held up on his way to Shiloh and wasn’t there until the end of the day) are also there. Leading on the Confederate side, there is Albert Sidney Johnston (the south’s oldest general at 58 years of age),& P.G.T Beauregard (herein known simply as “Beau”). Braxton Bragg, Leonidas K. Polk, John C. Breckinridge and William J. Hardee were also there.

The battle was named after a church that was at the top of a hill nearly at the center of the Union line. It is also called the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. Shiloh is located in the far southwestern corner of Tennessee close to the Mississippi border. The eastern boundary of the battlefield was the Tennessee River. To the west, the boundary was the Owl and Snake creeks. The site had lots of forest with ridges, deep ravines, swaps and there were very few cleared areas. In other words, it was a shitty place for a battle (but nothing is perfect, especially in war. Grant and Johnston didn’t get together prior to the battle and have a discussion like this: “You know, man, this is a shitty place to fight a battle” “I know, dude, like look at a these frickin’ trees, ravines and damn swamps. There’s maybe what, like 40 acres of cleared land?” “Yup. Shitty place. Let’s find somewhere better to kick each other’s asses” “Yeah, that sounds good”). Even the best generals would struggle to control troops on this terrain. And struggle they did, on both sides, but especially the Union side on the first day.

It was a violent, bloody battle and those that fought had difficulty describing it: “I cannot bring myself to tell you of the things I saw yesterday” (Shiloh 15). It is described “as the first great and terrible battle of the Civil War”, setting the stage for what was to follow (Shiloh 15). Sherman states it was a battle that “began with extreme fury” (Sherman 213) and that what he witnessed “would have cured anybody of war”(from a letter Sherman wrote to his wife Ellen).

The battle began with a surprise attack on the Union troops, which Sherman was witness to:

“Shortly after 7am, with my entire staff, I rode along a portion of our front, and when in the open field before Appler’s regiment, the enemy’s pickets opened a brisk fire upon my party, killing my orderly, Thomas D. Holliday, of Company H, Second Illinois Cavalry. The fire came from the bushes which line a small stream that rises in the field in front of Appler’s camp, and flows to the north along my whole front” (Sherman’s Memoirs)

Despite the surprise attack, Sherman, and the rest of the Union army, held their own on that first day. Yes, they did get driven back from where they started but they did not lose the battle. O’Connell argues that it  was Prentiss who saved the day, by getting his men into shelter along a sunken lane and turning it into what the Confederates called, with no affection whatsoever, a hornet’s nest (O’Connell 99). While Prentiss did end up surrendering, with Beau getting 2200 men from this, what he did helped the Union to hold their own even while the Confederates pounded them with their artillery, driving them further back.

The Confederates had bad luck of their own though. In mid-afternoon, General Albert Sidney Johnston, struck by a musket ball that severed the artery in his leg, died.This left Beau to take over command. While he tried his best to keep the news from the men eventually word got around  that Johnston had died(Flood 111). Upon seeing  his tired troops (who were no doubt also demoralized too at losing their commander),  Beau decided that maybe, just maybe, he should call it a day. Grant was thinking along the same lines as him (O’Connell 100). The end of day 1 looked like this:


That night, Beau ended up sleeping in Sherman’s tent since he had captured where Sherman had been that morning (Flood 113). I’m picturing Sherman just seething at this. At 10pm, just to add insult to injury, mainly for the Union at this point because…NO TENTS…it starts to rain.

It is at this time, General Grant is riding around his own camp. His troops were sleeping in the rain without shelter. He could hear agonized moans from the wounded (Flood 113).

Sherman paints a bit of prettier picture in his official account of the battle:

“It rained hard during the night, but our men were in good spirits, lay on their arms, being satisfied with such bread and meat as could be gathered at the neighboring camps, and determined to redeem on Monday the losses of Sunday” (Sherman’s Memoirs).

Really, you probably aren’t going to say “it was a really crappy night, it was f&*^ing raining, and a damn rebel general is sleeping in my f&*^ing tent”. Nope, you have to be official. And official Sherman was.

To top it off with the rain, Grant had a sore, swollen ankle that was result of the fall from a horse the Friday before the battle. His ankle was swollen, bruised and painful to the point where he knew he wouldn’t be able to rest (Grant’s Memoirs). Did I mention it is f&*^ing raining? Grant went back to a log house for shelter. It was being used a make-shift hospital to treat the wounded. He found the site “more unendurable than encountering the enemy’s fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain” (Grant’s Memoirs).

This is where my favourite Grant-Sherman moment happens. Under the tree. In the rain…

Sherman, his arm in a sling and hand sore from a buckshot wound (O’Connell 100), wanders over to where Grant is. What Sherman does not mention in his official report is that, at this point, he is ready to retreat. He doesn’t think they should fight the next day. And he’s about to tell Grant his plan for retreat (O’Connell 100). He thought it best to put the river between them and the enemy in order to recuperate (Flood 114). Both men know how high the casualties are going to be from the day. Of the 40,000 Union soldiers who had started the day, 10,00 would be listed as wounded, killed or missing. He sees Grant there standing under the tree, a lantern in one hand, supporting himself on a crutch, rain dripping down the brim of his hat and cigar clenched in his teeth. In seeing Grant there, Sherman decided to shut-up and not say a thing about the retreat.

Instead, he says to Grant: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day of it, haven’t we?”. To which Grant replies “Yes. Lick’em tomorrow though”. O’Connell says at this point “Sherman rose to the occasion. The chatterbox shut himself down, bit the proverbial bullet, and got ready for the next day’s attack” (O’Connell 100). And that exchange between the two men is my favourite Grant-Sherman moment. I don’t know why. It just is. Just something about it. Perhaps because Shiloh was such an important battle for them both and it was the beginning of their friendship. A friendship that ultimately had a strong role in the Union victory.

They fought the next day, with the Beau and his Confederate Army finally retreating mid-afternoon. It was actually Beau’s chief of staff who hinted that maybe they should GTF out and gave a good analogy on the state of things (O’Connell 101):

Do you not think our troops are very much in the condition of a lump of sugar thoroughly soaked with water, yet preserving its original shape, though ready to dissolve? Would it not be judicious to get away with what we have?

Beau listened, taking the army back towards Corinth. This is a map of the second day, April 7, 1862:


The two day battle at Shiloh produced more than 23,000 casualties, ended as a stalemate and was the bloodiest battle in American history at its time.The Civil War Trust gives quite a good summary of the battle here.


“Battle of Shiloh” by Thure de Thulstrup


Flood, Bracelen Charles. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War”. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.

Groom, Winston. “Shiloh 1862”. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2013.

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

I also used the Memoirs of both General Grant and General Sherman




That Time We Went To Gettysburg…

About three years, my husband and I took a road trip down south. It was originally to visit friends in South Carolina but it ended up becoming a Civil War road trip of sorts. One of stops included Gettysburg. These are just a few of the many photos I took that day…

Of course we had to get pictures of each of us with Lincoln at the Visitor’s Center. Yes, I behaved myself whilst around the statue of my second favourite guy in the world…

Random photos of cannons, reenactors (I ogled them from afar. Yes, I have a thing for men in Civil War uniforms…)

I had to get photos of a few of the statues. I loved Lee’s but I think General Longstreet was one of my favourites…

Of course we stopped at Little Round Top (I have a massive crush on General Chamberlain). This was my favourite area. I think we spent an hour here. Jeremy’s favourite was Devil’s Den…

Finally, we went to where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and to the Cemetery. We were the only ones there. It was so peaceful and to stand where one of my favourite speeches was given was amazing.

It was an amazing day. It was my third visit to Gettysburg and Jeremy’s first. We both want to go back very soon. It’s one of our favourite places.

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