Refreshing furlough… Now a return to work

No posts for the last week of July.  Instead of “on the road” posts as offered during vacations in the past, I opted to just let the grass grow here on the blog.  During our trip, we added a number of Civil War related sites into our itinerary.

Several stops in Tennessee, including a lengthy tour at Johnsonville, Tennessee… or rather what was Johnsonville.


During the second half of the Civil War, the site was a major Federal depot supporting operations through middle Tennessee and deeper into Georgia.  Students of the western campaigns know this site for the action on November 3-4, 1864, in which Major-General Nathan Bedford Forrest used his “navy” to capture and destroy the depot. Today the site is partly submerged by Kentucky Lake.  Though substantial earthworks remain on the high ground.


The Johnsonville State Park includes an excellent museum, which covers many aspects of the depot’s and town’s history.


And the trail system is well interpreted.


The Johnsonville State Park on the east side of the river/lake matches up with the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park (which… who knows… might get renamed in the future) on the west side.  I’ll have more on Johnsonville in future posts.

After some time spent at my old family “homestead” in Missouri, we headed through St. Louis.  There are many Civil War related sites in and around the city, and most are familiar to me.  But our short stay precluded a full tour.  Besides, the Aide-de-Camp had some other objectives in mind!  On our way to the Arch, we took in the Old St. Louis Courthouse.  The St. Louis Circuit Court met in that courthouse through the mid 19th century right up into the 20th century.  Perhaps the most famous case heard in the courthouse was that of Dread Scott v. Sandford.  The National Park Service has arranged the courtrooms to the appearance of that time period.


It was in one of these courtrooms that Dread Scott eventually received his freedom, in May 1857, as result of manumission.

Before leaving St. Louis, we toured Jefferson Barracks.   This base, which has supported military operations from 1826 right up to the present (as a National Guard base), saw significant activity in several wars.  During the Civil War it was a garrison, depot, and hospital.  Today, the Missouri Civil War Museum occupies one of the early 20-th century buildings of the old post.  I will have more on this museum in a trip report post. Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery contains the remains of over 8,500 Federal and 1,000 Confederate soldiers.  Those include many remains originally buried at other places across Missouri, indicative of the widespread wartime activity in the state.

Jefferson Barracks 2015 107

And as you can see from this photo, a number of those graves are simply “unknown.”

From there, we visited family in the Indianapolis area.  Our stops included the Indiana State Museum, which has a modest Civil War display.  Among the artifacts is the Medal of Honor awarded to Corporal Andrew J. Smith, 55th Massachusetts Infantry, for actions at Honey Hill, November 30, 1864.

Indiana St Muse_4844

And there will be a follow up post on that subject.  Interesting how the Charleston-Savannah theater of war keeps circling back into my line of sight!

The rest of our tour was a detour off the Civil War subjects (with the exception of dinner with a friend, fellow blogger, and Civil War historian of note).  The Aide-de-Camp enjoyed this sort of stuff:

USAF Muse July 2015 601

However, you Civil War-types are perhaps less enthusiastic…. Plenty of blog posts should I start a new blog entitled “To the Sound of Pratt & Whitney”.

While relaxing, the trip also gave me time to consider future blog posts for “To the Sound of the Guns.”  As mentioned above there are several “trip reports” and other topics for posts.  But more importantly, I had the opportunity to consider which threads to follow as I evolve this blog into the post-sesquicentennial.  Not saying there will be changes, but rather the promise that there will continue to be content in the weeks and months (and hopefully years) ahead.

150th Anniversary of the Sultana Disaster

I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday, but thought it better to also put out word via a blog post.  This upcoming weekend, the town of Marion, Arkansas will host observances of the 150th anniversary of the Sultana disaster.  Details of the events are posted on the official Sultana 150th website, along with a full schedule of events.

As I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, I lived in Marion, Arkansas for several years.  And the Sultana disaster was one of my choice “field research” topics. I played a role in the dedication of a plaque for the Sultana, placed in town (originally at the city hall, but recently move to the county courthouse).  Many of the names I see active in the weekend activities are old friends.  Though I won’t be able to attend myself, I am looking forward to reports back from those who are able to go.

December 3, 1864: A journey of 1,434 miles comes to an end, closing Price’s Campaign

The last three entries in the itinerary of Major-General Sterling Price’s Campaign read:

December 1 (Camp No. 85). – Clark’s command on the march. Thompson to move tomorrow; eighteen miles.

December 2 (Camp No. 86). – At Laynesport. Crossed river; nineteen miles.

December 3. – Clark arrived and sent courier to Washington.

Whole distance marched, 1,434 miles.

With that, the last great campaign to reach into Missouri came to a quiet, anti-climatic end.  Since crossing the Arkansas River, Price had marched without threat through the Indian Territories and down the Texas side of the Red River.  A close up of the campaign map (below) shows the route taken from November 7 to December 3, 1864.  During the last weeks of the march, the Federals were no where near, having broken off pursuit at the Arkansas.


Notice at the right side of this map cut, I’ve left in the red lines indicating the first portions of the march, past Little Rock, on August 28.

In his official report Price made the case the campaign had accomplished a great deal:

In conclusion, permit me to add that in my opinion the results flowing from my operations in Missouri are of the most gratifying character. I marched 1,434 miles; fought forty three battles and skirmishes; captured and paroled over 3,000 Federal officers and men; captured 18 pieces of artillery, 3,000 stand of small-arms, 16 stand of colors that were brought out by me (besides many others that were captured and afterward destroyed by our troops who took them), at least 3,000 overcoats, large quantities of blankets, shoes, and ready-made clothing for soldiers, a great many wagons and teams, large numbers of horses, great quantities of subsistence and ordnance stores. I destroyed miles upon miles of railroad, burning the depots and bridges; and taking this into calculation, I do not think I go beyond the truth when I state that I destroyed in the late expedition to Missouri property to the amount of $10,000,000 in value. On the other hand, I lost 10 pieces of artillery, 2 stand of colors, 1,000 small-arms, while I do not think I lost 1,000 prisoners, including the wounded left in their hands and others than recruits on their way to join me, some of whom may have been captured by the enemy.

Military operations don’t happen in a vacuum.  I could probably replace “Missouri” with “Georgia” and pass that paragraph off as a report from Major-General William T. Sherman’s march.  While Price was concluding a campaign that destroyed $10 million, William T. Sherman was in the middle of one which would destroy an estimated  $80 million.  Add to that what was destroyed across Virginia and Tennessee that fall, and I would think the tally to be one of the most destructive fall seasons in the nation’s history.  The last autumn of the war was indeed a frenzy of destruction at all points of the map.

But in one way, Price’s campaign still was not over.  Later in December Thomas C. Reynolds, Confederate governor in-exile of Missouri, made several public statements condemning Price.  Seeking redress, Price asked for, and was granted, a court of inquiry.  The court met on April 21, 1865 and ran through May 3.  The end of the war sort of rendered any further proceedings useless.  So Price never got his full “day in court.”  Instead it is a footnote demonstrating the somewhat chaotic state in the last days of the Confederacy.

Historians have pointed out that Price failed to achieve most of his objectives – did not occupy any of the key cities of Missouri, did not influence the elections, did not damage Federal forces in any significant way, and did not inspire an uprising in the state.  However, he did bring in recruits for the army.  And he felt that effort would have been greater, under other circumstances.  “I am satisfied that could I have remained in Missouri this winter the army would have been increased 50,000 men.”

And in other ways, Price’s campaign continued well after the war.  The deeds of those fall days of 1864 – good, noble, brave, along with the ghastly and hideous – would remain at the base of the state’s identity for many generations to come.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part I, Serial 83, pages 640 and 648.)