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 tag “generalsherman”

“I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of events”: Cump in Louisiana, Part 1

Today’s post begins in 1859 where we find my favourite red-headed, bad ass, rock star general living in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas helping his foster brothers Hugh & Tom Ewing with their law practice.  Yup, Sherman was in the Prairies “managing property” (whatever that means) for them. His other option  had been staying in Ohio and managing a salt mine for his foster father, Tom Ewing. Since Sherman, at times, seems to equate Ohio as being the equilvalent of the seventh level of Hell (particularly Lancaster), he decided to GTFO and go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas…because somehow that is better. (Sidenote: I don’t get his issue with Ohio. The coolest people, including one of my BFF’s, are from Ohio. Besides Cump, it also where Grant and Sheridan hail from *fans self*. Cedar Point is there too. So are the Cleveland Indians #GOTRIBE and the Buckeyes. Like come on…coolest place ever! ). Honestly though, I wouldn’t want to manage a salt mine either.

However, when I think of the Prairies, I think of Oregon trail…


F%$&. No thanks.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to go there either. Cump, however, needed money for his ever growing family (Yes, Ellen was pregnant again when he left for Kansas).


Whilst in the middle of nowhere, Cump got bored. Quickly. He wanted back in the Army because he was always “perfectly at home with sound of bugle and drum”. He craved the order of military life. He craved the commradary that came with it. Having not been in the Army for a few years at this point, Cump was given a taste of what he loved so much when he visited his friend from his West Point days, Stewart Van Vliet. Van Vliet was stationed at Fort Riley. The visit certainly paid off, since Sherman was granted a contract to oversee the maintenance of the road back to Leavenworth. As O’Connell states:

It was exactly what Sherman needed. It brought some money into Hugh and Tom’s firm, but mostly it was a tonic for his [Sherman’s] spirits.

A tonic he perhaps didn’t realize he needed. One night, he met up with a column of cavalry who were returning from scouting. He ended up trading stories with them. Between this and being at Fort Riley  (and probably just being f%^*ing bored), O’Connell argues that it made Sherman realize how much he missed the army. Sherman stated “it makes me regret my being out of service thus to meet my old comrades, in the open field, just where I most like to be”.

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He wanted back in. On June 11, 1859, Sherman wrote to Major D.C. Buell, who was assistant adjutant-general in the War Department in Washington, D.C. He was looking for a vacancy in said department. The reply was such that there was no openings in D.C. but…GUESS WHAT? There’s this military academy that’s being established in Louisiana AND they need a Superintendent. YOU SHOULD APPLY TO THIS NEW MILITARY SCHOOL IN THE SOUTH (sidenote: anyone else raising their eyebrows? Military Academy. South. There is talk of secession. There is political turmoil between north and south. Hmmmm…why are they building a military academy down there? Sherman does not really seem to question this either.).

And so he applied. Sherman wrote a few letters and in July of 1859, he received a reply from Governor Wickliffe in Louisiana that they would, indeed, like to have Cump as the Superintendent. I’ve found in a few sources that General Bragg and General Beauregard (yes, very soon to be Generals in the Confederate Army) had a hand in him getting this position. For example, O’Connell states that Sherman used Bragg as a reference. As a history enthusiast, conflicting info is both the bane of my existence as well as something that can be highly entertaining.

Sherman states in his memoirs that neither of these men had a hand in getting him the position:

During the Civil War, it was reported and charged that I owed my position to the personal friendship of General Braggs and Beauregard, and that, in taking up arms against the South, I had been guilty of a breach of hospitality and friendship. I was not indebted to General Bragg, because he himself told me that he was not even aware that I was an applicant, and had favored the selection of Major Jenkins, another West Point graduate. General Beauregard had nothing whatever to do with the matter.

He could also be throwing a bit of shade their way too for the their parts in the Civil War but hey, they threw shade at him. Especially Beauregard. At Shiloh. It involved Cump’s tent and a certain southern General using it. Cump was, literally, not a happy camper after Day 1 of Shiloh. You can read about it here.

On a side note (would anything less be expected from me) Sherman has snubbed more than a few people in his time- a notable one being Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton after the Civil War by NOT shaking his hand during the Grand Review held in Washington in May 1865. I believe “no-handshake-gate” is blog post worthy too. Whatever the case and whoever the hell his references were and what strings were pulled or not pulled, Sherman got the job. It paid $3,500.00 a year, a considerable sum in those days.

He found himself in Louisiana in Autumn of 1859, overseeing the building of this soon-to-be military academy near Alexandria, Louisiana. The Academy was to open in January of 1860. Sherman describes it is in his memoirs:

It was located on an old country place of 400 acres of pineland, with numerous springs, and the building was very large, and handsome.


Louisiana State Seminary & Military Academy as it would have looked when Sherman was Superintendent.

It was a nice place visually to be and from what I garnered in Sherman’s memoir’s, he genuinely enjoyed it there.

Sherman had to work quickly when he got there, since the Academy was slated to open on January 1, 1860. We all know when it comes to being quick, Cump is the master (especially at marching to places like the sea through states called Georgia). He immediately found carpenters that could finish the inside of the school (mess-tables, benches, blackboards, etc) while he worked on corresponding with the professors of the Academy and the Board of Directors. There was also other administrative things Cump had to take care with his fellow professors and the Board of Directors – bylaws, making the opening date official, how much tuition would be, what the exact name of the school would be, etc.

The Seminary opened, as planned, on January 1, 1860. Tuition was $60.00 for the year. There were 60 Cadets that first day, with 16 of them having their tuition covered by the State of Louisiana. By mid-winter, that number had went to 73. Sherman describes the school as  being very much like West Point or the Virginia Military Institute “but without uniforms or muskets”. There were, however, roll-calls, sections and recitations. It wasn’t exactly like completely being back in the Army, but Cump, nonetheless, seems to have been back in his element and, dare I say, happy. Sherman states in his memoirs that he was always treated with “the greatest courtesy and kindness”.

Flash foward to November of 1860 now. The election for the President of the United States is looming.

Cump writes a letter to wife Ellen on November 3, 1860. He talks of life at the Academy, and his horse Clay whom he feeds “oats at about a dollar a bushel & hay $60 a ton but he don’t appear to appreciate”. He also mentions the turmoil that is slowly bubbling towards the surface. Turmoil that he hopes will pass:

“People here not as though Disunion was a fixed thing – men of property say that as this constant feeling of danger of abolitionism exists they would rather try a Southern Confederacy – Louisiana would not secede but should South Carolina secede, I fear other Southern states will follow and soon General Anarchy will prevail – I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of Events”

He carries on in his letter, speaking of the beautiful weather, that when Ellen moves down there (yes, his plan was to move his family to Louisiana to be with him), and she “may count on as much Euchre as you please” in the evenings, especially as he has a friend, Dr. Clark, that enjoys playing Euchre. He says the house for them will be ready by Christmas but he says he wants to wait until after November to start the process of moving. One can surmise he is doing this because he is waiting to see how things go with the election.

And that is where we will leave Cump. Things are unstable politically, and it clear he knows this. As was always his way with politics, Sherman is steering clear, minding his own business as he himself stated in his letter to Ellen. And I’m sure, hoping, that he fears he relayed to Ellen would not be realized.

Thank you, as always, reading.

Until next time (just a few days away),



I beg to present you a birthday post about Sherman…

February is a special month for me. Why? It ain’t cause of Valentine’s Day (I’m so over it). My two favourite men both have birthdays this month! If y’all didn’t know, that would be Abraham Lincoln and General William Tecumseh Sherman.

My two favourite men. *Swoon*. One with a crooked bow-tie, the other with messy hair. This is why they’re awesome.

Today just so happens to be Sherman’s birthday! As such, I wanted to have a post about him. But what to write about? I was perplexed but than I thought, why not let Cump speak for himself? I mean, look at the man’s memoirs….


Leave it to me to take a photo of Cump’s memoirs AND my Lincoln mug.

Yes, Cump was a chatterbox.

Robert L. O’Connell (author of an amazing biography about Sherman called “Fierce Patriot) has quite a priceless description of what a wordy guy Cump was and it makes me laugh out loud every time I read it:

Calling him a motormouth understates the case: he was a veritable volcano of verbiage, as borne by a mountain of letters, memoranda, and other official papers, not to mention the uniformly gabby impression he left among his contemporaries. If there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist – he lived a long time and slept very little; otherwise he was talking. [I’d like to add to this – or marching/burning things. But he probably talked while he did that too]

O’Connell goes on to say that Cump always “said what was on his mind at that instant”. He also would switch from subject to subject but eventually get back to the first. (Side note: I do this. All the time. One of my best friends does too. When we talk, our conversations our interesting, to put it lightly. Nothing like starting with talking about what we each had for dinner and somehow we end up talking about how we haven’t read certain classic novels like “War and Peace” and that we’ve been judged for it.  But I digress…).

And this is why for my post about Cump on his birthday, I want him to speak for himself. I found some of my favourite quotes from him – some funny, some serious, some sad. Now, I beg to present, to you my awesome readers and friends, a birthday post about my favourite General with quotes from the man himself (haha! See what I did there?)..

That time he partied a little too hard when he was in California but then the ship arrived with the mail…

“The ball was a really handsome affair, and we kept it up nearly all night. The next morning we were at breakfast…We were dull and stupid enough until a gun from the fort aroused us, then another and another. ‘The steamer!’ exclaimed all, and, without waiting for hats or anything, off we dashed…”

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That time he ate a hot pepper in California but thought it was a tomato (and we see a hint of drama queen coming out in Sherman)…

“…I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colarado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me…”

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That maybe, sometimes, Cump wasn’t very patient,  he exaggerated and could have been a drama queen…

“By the time the ship was fairly at anchor, we had answered a million questions about gold and the state of the country…”

Like, oh my god, enough questions already…

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On his friendship with Grant…

Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.

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On war…

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want. 

On reporters…

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. 

I think I understand what military fame is: to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers. 

I wasn’t really convinced he hated reporters until I found this gem…

If I had my choice I will kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast. 

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Well, okay.

Perhaps the most epic telegram of all time was sent by General Sherman to President Lincoln on December 22, 1864…

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton

There you have it! Some of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite Civil War Generals, William Tecumseh Sherman. Do you have any favourite quotes from him?

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time,

Mary 🙂



“Fierce Patriot” by Robert L. O’Connell.

“Memoirs” by William T. Sherman








Another of my favourite books from 2016 is…

…”Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.


Y’all, I’ll be honest – I’m going to be lazy with this one and just point you over to here. That is my review I wrote of this book back in March.

But I do have some stuff to add (I’m a chatterbox just like my man Cump was…)

It still remains one of my favourite books about Lincoln. It is one I most certainly will read again. In the months since I’ve read it, I’ve recommended it to numerous people. These are not just people who love Lincoln. In fact, quite a few of them do not know much about him. The reason I recommended it though? Because we were discussing depression and I told them how much this book helped me to understand my own depression. It was the first book that really spoke to me, and as I say in my earlier review, made me feel like “hey, you’re not alone”. I tell them how inspirational the book is and that in knowing that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression (and at a time when it was not well understood) and he managed to do all the incredible things he did. I think a few of them have ended up reading it.

In reading more about Lincoln since finishing “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, I have come to truly realize how much his depression did challenge him and fuel him as a person. When I read about him, I’m always keeping this in mind and it truly has made me see him in a different light. It’s made reading Donald’s bio of “Lincoln” that much more interesting because I read between the lines, as one would say, and will think “Hmm, that could be why he’s being that way”.

The one thing I see the most as stemming from his depression is his empathy. Lincoln had an incredible amount of empathy and I think this is one of the many things about his personality that made him so ahead of his time. The best example I can think of involves General Sherman (I know. Y’all are so not surprised by that…) and just how empathetic Lincoln was to him when Sherman had his breakdown in 1862. O’Connell states in “Fierce Patriot” (side note: if y’all haven’t read that one, you need to. I read it in 2015 hence why it’s not being mentioned as a fav of mine from 2016), his biography about General Sherman, that:

Lincoln had suffered from deep bouts of depression since early manhood (he called it the “hypo”) and it’s likely he [Lincoln] recognized a similar condition lurking behind Sherman’s excessive pessimism. He also must have known from his own experience that these bleak episodes eventually passed and so remained open to giving his fellow sufferer additional responsibility once he [Sherman] recovered.

He goes on to write that “mental illness of any sort carried a tremendous stigma in nineteenth century America, but not with Lincoln when it came to a general he instinctively liked and believed in”

Of course I have to include a photo of my two favourite men 🙂

I could go on with other examples of Lincoln’s empathy but this is one that always comes to mind. And hey, any chance to mention my two favourite men in a blog post is always awesome. #goals #historycrush #hotties

“Lincoln’s Melancholy” did make me feel like I came to know Lincoln better. It very much is a book worth reading, especially if you love Abraham Lincoln and want to know more about him. Depression was very much a part of who he was just as was his sense of humour and his empathy, both of which, I believe, stem from him having depression. I know for myself, my sense of humour has been a sort of defence mechanism against depression since I was very young.

I’ll wrap up my post there. What are y’all reading right now? Better yet, what was your favourite book of 2016? I’ll be posting tomorrow what my favourite book of 2016 was.

Until that time, have a happy Friday, y’all!!

Much love,

Mary 🙂


“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.



Early Mornings…

Morning, y’all!
Here’s how a Civil War fangirl spends her morning when she has a silly head cold.

A good cup of tea, Donald’s bio on Lincoln (White’s bio is also there too) and a cool bookmark from Iceland.

I couldn’t sleep so rather than tossing and turning, I decided to be productive and make some headway in Donald’s bio of Lincoln (which, I confess, I have taken far too long in reading. I’m a slow reader AND I usually have five books on the go).

I graffiti the hell out of my books and sticky notes have become my friend again. I need to write notes and highlight or else I have a tough time retaining information.
So, this morning I’ve been reading about my fav guy Lincoln winning the election, and now I’m onto his cabinet selection. It’s amazing how much reasoning and calculation went into selection of his cabinet. He was striving for balance, as he said to Thurlow Weed, whom felt Lincoln had given favour to the democrats: “You seem to forget that I expect to be there; and counting me as one, you see how nicely the cabinet would be balanced and ballasted”. Again, he knew exactly what he was doing!

Of course when I’m reading too, tons of blog post ideas flood my mind! I do go through lulls where I don’t get many ideas, but lately I’ve had quite a few. So, expect posts about:

  • Little Sorrel – General Jackson’s horse. I did a poll on Twitter and over on my Facebook page for this blog. Little Sorrel was the popular one.
  • Rienzi – Philip Sheridan’s horse. You might also know him as Winchester.
  • A post or post(s) (haven’t decided yet) about the relationship between Sherman and Lincoln. I’ve been reading a bio about Sherman and am just passed the part about First Bull Run. There’s a quite a story about his interaction with Lincoln here and that’s where I came up with the idea.
  • Posts about some of Lincoln’s cabinet members – Gideon Welles definitely comes to mind for this. He’s one of my favorites and his diary is an amazing primary source for anything to do with Lincoln’s cabinet and the Civil War.

Those are just a few of the ideas floating around in my mind right now. Do you have any suggestions for posts I could do? Just let me know in the comments below, on Twitter or on my Facebook page. I’m always open to suggestions!

Hope y’all are doing well. As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Saturday!



Cump’s Memoirs…

For those who don’t know, “Cump” is the nickname of General William Tecumseh Sherman. I make no secret of the fact, that next to Lincoln, I dearly love the man and find him an incredibly fascinating individual. He’s pretty damn handsome too. I mean, come on…

oh, hai, Cump…you handsome devil…

Okay, enough with the swooning and batting of eyelashes…

Awhile ago, I started reading Sherman’s Memoirs. Being as I have 5 books on the go AND I’m a slow reader, I’m not too far into it. Plus, the book is freaking gigantic. Cump had a lot to say and Robert L O’Connell is absolutely correct in his book”Fierce Patriot” (hands down, one of the best bios I’ve ever read) when he refers to Sherm as a chatterbox and states “if there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist…”. Slay that dragon, Cump…

oh, hey…look at that…two of my favourite men.

But the memoirs are full of good chatter. Yes, he has much to say but it’s interesting as hell. I’m enjoying it immensely. When I read it, I seem to get lost in a world where Cump is sitting with me, telling me the whole story. It’s fascinating to read. He also lets his sense of humour shine through and he’s got a certain way of saying things that I can see the meaning underneath the words. Let’s just say I’ve had a few laugh out loud moments and times where I’ve uttered “Oh, Cump…you’re cute”.There has also been many times I can picture him in a situation and imagine the mannerisms he must have employed, like eye rolling and uttering “Whatever the f$&/” under his breath when he was frustrated about something. Or maybe not under his breath. This is General Sherman after all…

Anyway, here’s some cool stuff I’ve found out so far…

He attended West Point and graduated in 1840 at the age of twenty. His best subjects were drawing, chemistry, mathematics and natural philosophy (science).He graduated sixth in a class of forty-three. His explanation as to why this happened is, to me, typical Sherman:

At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these…



I give you Exhibit A…messy haired Cump. Clearly not excelling in neatness yet still excelling in being handsome. Cump wins again!

He continues on about his demerit points.

My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six.

All I thought was “Damn, Cump, you knew how to have fun & you made sure you did at West Point”. Uncle Billy, as his soldiers later called him, knew how to have a good time. I’m also surprised geography wasn’t mentioned as one of his best subjects because, damn, you can tell the man was quite the geographer. The level of detail he gives in describing places in his memoirs , such as the terrain, buildings, etc. is incredible.

In the summer of 1840, he was appointed and commissioned second-lieutenant, Third Artillery. He was in Company A. He reported to Governor’s Island, New York and after that, it was off to the sunny south! Florida, specifically.

The entire Third Artillery were stationed along the Atlantic coast of Florida from St. Augustine south to Key Biscayne. His Company was stationed at Fort Pierce, Indian River.

Not the best map but you get an idea of where Cump was stationed

The fort was abandoned in 1842 (not long after Cump left) and burned down the following year. It’s now the home of Old Fort Pierce Park. Cump describes his first encounter with the fort:

We walked up the steep sand-bluff on which the fort was situated and across the parade-grounds to the officers’ quarters. These were six or seven log-houses, thatched with palmetto-leaves, built on high posts, with a porch in front facing the water. The men’s quarters were also of logs forming the two sides of rectangle, open toward the water; the intervals and flanks were closed with log stockades.

It doesn’t sound like it was a bad place to be. Plus it’s Florida (granted, Florida pre-Disney so maybe not as fun…).

Sherman was stationed there during the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. He arrived just before active operations so there was time for leisure and there was a particularly colorful character called Captain Ashlock (Sherman describes him as a “character of some note”), with whom he and other officers spent a good deal of time with:

The season was hardly yet come for active operations against the Indians, so that the officers were naturally attracted to Ashlock, who was the best fisherman I ever saw. He soon initiated us into the mysteries of shark-spearing, trolling for red-fish and taking the sheep’s-head and mullet.

They also caught green turtles so the cooks had an ample supply. They often ate turtle instead of what he describes as “poor Florida beef or the usual barreled mess-pork” (ummm…yuck).

Captain Ashlock unfortunately ended up drowning after his boat capsized while he was bringing people to shore. Sherman remarked that “strange to say, he [Ashlock] could not swim, although he had been employed on the water all his life”. Ashlock had just been married too and had brought his wife back with him. Sherman did see to it that she and her sister were taken care of, giving them his own quarters to use. The two women were eventually sent back to St. Augustine, Florida.

Sherman did not see much action while in Florida. He did seem to enjoy his time there though, remarking that while on excursions there was:

a peculiar charm, for the fragrance of the air, the abundance of game and fish, and just enough of adventure, gave to life a relish.

So, while he seemed to have enjoyed Florida, he felt it was of little value to it being a great state. If only he knew what the future held…


Florida became something, Cump! It’s the happiest freaking place on earth!

Let’s face it. Sherman would have enjoyed the fireworks. He probably would have also enjoyed the “Pirates Of The Caribbean”. As for “It’s A Small World”, however…


Cump not impressed after the kids make him binge ride “It’s A Small World”…

He’s internally burning “It’s A Small World”. Let’s face it…some of us secretly want that…

My question for y’all: have you read the memoirs of anyone from the Civil War? Do you have a favourite and why?

As always, thanks for reading!

Until next time,



“Memoirs”. General William Tecumseh Sherman

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


The Whirlwind Journey To Here…

I’ve been interested in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War for as long as I can remember. Well, since at least six years of age. That’s a long time, considering I turn 34 in a couple of weeks. I’ve been asked a few times, especially since I’m a Canadian, how I came to be OBSESSED with American’s 16th President and the Civil War.

So, I decided to make a video about it. It’s about 18 minutes long. I totally get if you just skim through it or don’t watch it. I also made it for myself because I wanted to start posting videos on here and I’m trying to become more comfortable with doing that. I have social anxiety…this is a HUGE thing for me to be able to do this.

So, a couple things…

  1. The video is very amateur. I didn’t edit it or anything. It’s the raw footage as I shot it yesterday in my basement with my iPad.
  2. I swear a little bit. Okay, sometimes more than a little bit. Just a warning. I start talking and my filter doesn’t always kick in.
  3. I ramble.
  4. I don’t look at the camera.
  5. I’m learning as I go. And it’s been a good experience so far.

So, here’s the video…how I became a history geek…

Oh, there’s a few things I mention in the video and I’ve posted the photos below, just so y’all have reference to them…


This is it. The book that started it all for me. I still have it, along with all the other books in the series, in the black hole that is my parent’s place.

The above photos are from my first visit to Gettysburg with my highschool when I was 16. It was an amazing experience.

Oh, and here’s the blog post I mention about when my husband and I went to DC. We got lost in Arlington National Cemetery. If you EVER go on a trip with me, DO NOT let me navigate UNLESS you want to get lost. If that’s the case, by all means, let me navigate. I was born with a broken GPS and I will get us lost.

Oh, and I give a shout out to a few people in my video. I’m taking it down to nerves (and really, I should have sat and made a list), but there are a few other people to mention that follow me on Twitter (and I follow them and immensely enjoy their tweets): Old News Co, Kimi, Roxi, Bob, Ethan, Mike, Abbie. And anyone else…I love y’all just as much! I hate leaving people out…

Oh, and I’d love to hear how y’all became interested into history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, etc. I always love to hear how people become passionate about the things they love! Feel free to leave your story in the comments!

As always, thank you for reading (and if you watched the video, awesome!). I love and appreciate all of you.

Until next time…

Mary a.k.a Civil War Fangirl a.k.a Miss_Bellatrix


Cool Things I Learned About The Civil War This Week…

Whew! Yeah, it’s kind of a long title, I know. I don’t need to tell any of you that Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War are huge passions of mine. While I’m not a scholar in either area, I still do a great amount of reading and research about it. I do that for personal interest but also for blog posts on here.

I always come across things every day that I find really interesting. It’s usually just some random, little fact.  I decided that every week (or perhaps more) I’m going to try and do a post about some cool things I learn about Abraham Lincoln and/or the Civil War. Or perhaps it’ll just be some random facts I’ve known for awhile and just feel like writing about them. Some of the things I find might even turn into longer blog posts.

So, what are some things I found out this week? This week it’s mainly about horses cause that’s what I’ve been researching…

– Rienzi (also known as Winchester), General Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War, was born on a farm near Lakeport, Michigan. This town is just up the road from Port Huron, Michigan, a town I’m quite familiar with and only about 90 minutes from me.  Soon after the Civil War began, a group of citizens from Port Huron, Michigan, pooled their money together and purchased Rienzi, at the time called John, for Captain Archibald Campbell. Captain Campbell was a member of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Unfortunately, he had little experience as a rider and John the horse could be a little, as they say, head-strong. Long story short, Captain Campbell’s Commander was Colonel Philip Sheridan (later to became a General), who happened to be an excellent horseman. Colonel Sheridan took a liking to Captain Campbell’s horse. This was noticed by Campbell, who ended up giving the horse to Sheridan in June of 1862. Sheridan christened the horse as “Rienzi”, named after the the Mississippi town they were encamped in.

– After their deaths, Rienzi and Little Sorrel (General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s horse) were mounted (another word for “stuffed”) by the same taxidermist, Frederic S. Webster. Both horses are on display – Rienzi is in the Hall of Armed Forces at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Little Sorrel is at the Virginia Military Institute Museum in Lexington, Virginia.

– Before being on permanent display at the Smithsonian, Rienzi was on display at Governors Island, New York. After a fire in 1922, Rienzi was moved to the Smithsonian.

– I was reading excerpts from Gideon Welles’ diary this week. I’ve mentioned his diary earlier in this post and this one. I read his entry recounting the Grant Review of the Armies, which happened April 23rd and 24th, 1865 (Oddly, Welles has the dates as 22nd and 23rd). He delayed his proposed trip south so as he could “witness this magnificent and imposing spectacle”. He recounts the thousands of people that came out to see the armies as they marched by and that public offices were closed for two days. The one part of the entry that really moved me? He ends by writing:

But Abraham Lincoln was not there. All felt this.

Clearly, he and many others were still feeling the loss of their beloved President. This is what I love about Welles’ diary – I can always get a sense of what he was feeling when he wrote an entry. When I read his diary, I do feel as though he’s actually talking to me. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of it (I got mine from iBooks – it’s free on there).

–  I want to end with a picture. This one is of Ellen Ewing Sherman. I first saw this picture a few months ago but I was reading a bit about her this week. She is my favourite of the Civil War wives. Is that any surprise, given that her husband is my favourite General? She was quite an interesting lady and I plan on writing more about her on my blog…

Ellen Ewing Sherman

What interesting things have you learned recently about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War or just in general? Feel free to post in the comments.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time…



Little Sorrel & Rienzi: Morgan Mounts of the Civil War.

Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson.





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





Roundup of Civil War Books Part 1

I LOVE to read but I’m a slow reader. This is usually cause I have at least three books on the go. I’ll focus on one for awhile, go back to another, and repeat the cycle. As such, it takes me awhile to finish books. For the past year, much of my reading has focused on books to do with Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War. I’ve decided I’d like to post on occasion what books about Lincoln or the Civil War that I’ve read. Maybe occasionally I’ll post about non-Civil War stuff. You know, just to mix it up a bit.

So, I’m starting with five books that I read in 2015 (I did read more than this in 2015 but these were five of my favourites). This was when I really started pursuing my interest in Lincoln and the Civil War. Granted, the interest/obsession/love/major crush, especially with Lincoln, has been there since I was six, I kept it hidden for years because I was actually teased for it at a young age. Anyway, 2015 was the year it all took off, so to speak. Fitting, considering 2015, was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination as well as the end of the Civil War.

So, here are the first five books…

1)”Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman” by Robert L. O’Connell


I have developed a raging crush on General William Tecumseh Sherman and part of the reason was this amazing, well-written, made me laugh out loud, made me cry, book. A brilliantly human portrayal of this talented general, I couldn’t put this book down. It was well written in a way that was down to earth and quite humorous at times. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.

Sherman’s life is covered in three parts: Part 1 is Sherman as a Military Strategist. Part 2 is Sherman as a General and his Army. Part 3 is about Sherman and his personal life. All three parts were equally interesting. My favourite part of the book was O’Connell’s description of the March to the Sea. At first I thought I’d find the way it was divided up confusing but it was not that way at all. It made the book and Sherman’s life easy to follow.

This book also made me realize some needs to make a movie or mini-series about Sherman.

2) “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin


The inspiration for the brilliant Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln”. Not only is it a biography of Abraham Lincoln, it also looks at the lives of three of his “rivals”, later turned cabinet members William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates. It’s a very detailed book and a must-read for anyone who is interested in Lincoln. It’s also a book that deserves a second reading. While Lincoln is of course my favourite, it was so very interesting to learn about the lives of Seward, Bates & Chase.

3) “I Am Abraham” by Jerome Charyn


This is a wonderfully written historical fiction book told from the perspective of Lincoln. It was such a stunning, at times very raw, human portrayal of Lincoln that it became one of my absolute favourite fiction books (next to “To Kill A Mockingbird”). I laughed, cried and felt like I somehow got to know Lincoln better through reading this book. His struggle with depression, his marriage to Mary, his relationship with his sons as well as various other historical figures (General McCLellan being one of them) are all part of this book. It is one I know I will go back and read numerous times because it’s a book you can absolutely get lost in.

4) “Lincoln’s Boys” by Joshua Zeitz


I’ll confess. I think John Hay and John Nicolay were the hotties of their day. They’re super cute. Plus, during Lincoln’s Presidency, they probably spent more time with the President than anyone else did. As such, they came to know him quite well and of course, I wanted to know more about them. It was great to finally learn about these two men who Lincoln affectionately referred to as “his boys”. The book had some laugh-out-loud moments with some of the antics these two got up to, including their partying in Gettysburg the night before Lincoln’s great address. I also loved reading about how Nico and Hay managed to compile all their paperwork from their years with Lincoln and write what became a very detailed biography about him (which I plan to read someday). The two boys led very interesting lives before, during and after their time as Lincoln’s two secretaries. It’s a must read for any Lincoln geek.

5)”The Lincoln Letter” by William Martin


A great, fast-paced historical fiction about the search for Lincoln’s diary. The book flips between 1860s Washington DC to the modern day. I felt like I got to know all the characters quite well and the author writes in such a way that I was able to visualize what 1860s Washington D.C. must have been like. While not a major character, Lincoln is still in the book and William Martin has done an amazing job in bringing him to life. Some of my favourite parts of the book were the ones that involved Lincoln. If you love historical fiction, this is a great one to check out.

So, those are five awesome books I read in 2015. I’ve got three books on the go right now and I’m sure I’ll discuss them in a post at some point:

  1. “Rebel Yell” by S.C. Gwynne
  2. “Heart Of A Dove” by Abbie Williams
  3. “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald

If you want, please comment and let me know what you’re reading, even if it isn’t to do with Lincoln or the Civil War. I’m always looking for new books to add to my to-read list on Good Reads. Also, please feel free to add me on if you’re on there.


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