Sunday, April 07, 2019

In 15 images: A ballgame on hallowed ground at Shiloh

                      "Trapper" Haskins of the Franklin Farriers poses by the backstop.

    Farriers "Meatball Morgan" and "Arky,"  no relation to  Hall of Famer Arky Vaughn

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On a spring day in 1862, soldiers in opposing armies aimed to kill each other in farmer Joseph Duncan's field at Shiloh. On a Saturday in April, the 157th anniversary of the first day of the battle in southwestern Tennessee, opposing forces merely wanted to outscore each other on the same turf. At the invitation of the National Park Service, teams in the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball played two games on the hallowed ground. The gods of sport smiled: The sky was clear and the temperature tipped into the 80s.

"Liberty" of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill. All the players have 
nicknames. Mine would be "Flounder," my favorite movie character.
The scene provided an odd juxtaposition: A double play was turned yards from cannon that marked a Confederate artillery position and a monument for a Union brigade headquarters. Fans relaxed on lawn chairs and bales of hay, watching players in old-time uniforms. Drinks and snacks were available from a stand set up behind a ballplayers’ bench covered by a small tent. Fastened to a portable backstop, a large U.S. flag fluttered in a gentle breeze. Also attached to the barricade was a bell, intended to be rung when a run scored. Nearby, a cannon boomed during an artillery demonstration.

Men from the Quicksteps of Spring Hill, Franklin Farriers, Phoenix of East Nashville and Stones River Scouts tossed and hit a softer cousin of the baseball we know. A white-bearded arbiter,  referred to today as an umpire or sometimes by a profanity, made calls. Like most competitors during the Civil War, the ballplayers on Saturday didn't use gloves to catch the ball, often called an "onion" 150-plus years ago. A bat? That's a "willow."

Baseball and Shiloh are not as unusual a mix as they may seem. During the war, soldiers played the game on battlefields and in prison camps. A ball even was retrieved on the hallowed ground in 1862. “Picked Up on the Battle Field at Shiloh by G.F. Hellum," reads the inscription on the "lemon peel ball," another name for the orb.

The boys of '19 go by nicknames -- "Meatball Morgan," "Liberty," "Spud," "Mule" and "Suspenders" are among my favorites. A burly slugger named "Lefty" considered the experience "awesome." His teammates did, too.

And so we wonder what the boys of the spring of 1862 would think of it all. Games played on hallowed ground? We bet wherever their spirits linger, they'd be pleased. Like "Lefty," perhaps even smiling.

       Close-up of the ball, or "onion," used during the games at Duncan Field at Shiloh. 

Where I come from we call this "The Rack." 
"Knuckles" of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill.
"Mule" and his son "Fiddlesticks" of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill.
From left, "Rip," "Liberty" and "Suspenders" of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill.
"Lefty" of the Phoenix of East Nashville poses by a cannon near Duncan Field.
"Lefty" called the game at Duncan Field at Shiloh "awesome."
A Franklin Farriers pennant dangles from the portable backstop.
Score a run and ring the bell.
"Tater," perhaps the power hitter of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill.
From left, "Stonewall," "Rip," "Liberty" and "Suspenders" of the Quicksteps of Spring Hill.
The trophy awarded to the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball champion. Info on league here.

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Friday, April 05, 2019

'The ball is in motion': Where Grant learned Shiloh had begun

The Cherry Mansion was used as headquarters by Union generals Charles Ferguson Smith, Ulysses Grant
and Don Carlos Buell.  It is a private residence today. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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On the morning of April 6, 1862, Ulysses Grant sat with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table in the Cherry Mansion in Savannah, Tenn., the nerve center of his Army of the Tennessee. The general's headquarters tent was pitched in the yard of the beautiful home on the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. Grant slept in the mansion owned by ardent Unionist William Cherry and his wife, Annie, a staunch supporter of the Confederacy.

On the morning of April 6, 1862, Ulysses Grant 
was at Annie Cherry's breakfast table 
when he heard the report from a cannon. 
Then the 39-year-old commander heard the booming of cannon in the distance. Grant's army was camped miles upriver at Pittsburg Landing and Crump's Landing.

"The ball is in motion," the general said, according to Annie Cherry.  Grant and his staff boarded a steamship and headed toward Pittsburg Landing.

The Battle of Shiloh had begun.

THE GENERAL WAS SOBER -- Decades after the war, Annie Cherry, whose two brothers served in the Confederate Army, dismissed rumors that Grant was drunk the morning of the battle. "You will please accept my assurance, gladly given, that on the date mentioned I believe Gen. Grant was thoroughly sober," she wrote in a letter published in Confederate Veteran  in February 1893. Added Cherry: "During the weeks of his occupancy of my house he always demeaned himself as a gentleman; was kind, courteous, genial, and considerate, and never appeared in my presence in a state of intoxication."

GRANT'S PIANO: The general and other Union officers were  entertained in the house by Annie and her sisters. The piano they played remains on the first floor of the house, a private residence today.

HOSPITAL SITE: After the Battle of Shiloh, which resulted in nearly 24,000 casualties, a makeshift hospital was set up in the yard of the mansion. Days after the battle, hospital boats were moored in the Tennessee River below the house.

Mortally wounded at Shiloh, General W.H.L. Wallace died
in his wife's arms at the Cherry Mansion. She never remarried.
"WE MEET IN HEAVEN" On the first day of the battle, Union General W.H.L Wallace, a lawyer in civilian life, was shot through the back of the head. The projectile exited through 40-year-old general's left eye. Left behind as Confederates overwhelmed Union lines, Wallace lay overnight in the rain, wrapped in a blanket. The next day, he was discovered by comrades and taken to the Cherry Mansion, accompanied by his wife, who had traveled from Illinois. Martha Ann Wallace was "occasionally made happy by a smile or act of recognition," but the general died in his wife's arms in the library of the mansion on April 10. His last words to her: "We meet in heaven." 

Charles F. Smith
ANOTHER GENERAL DIES: Union Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, whom Grant idolized, died on the second floor of the mansion on April 25, 1862, a day after his 55th birthday. Cause of death: An infection following a foot injury and dysentery.

In early May, Smith's body lay in state at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where he was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. (Read my Civil War Times column on the cemetery.) "An unceasing stream of visitors, a great portion of whom were ladies, thronged towards the Hall for the purpose of viewing the remains, from the time the doors were opened until six o'clock, when they were closed," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 6, 1862. "It was estimated by officers of the bodyguard that the number of visitors during the day amounted to 100 per minute."

"There was no better soldier in the army," the Philadelphia newspaper noted, "than General Smith."

A view of the mansion from the Tennessee River side. 
A view of the mansion through an iron gate from the Tennessee River side. 
A Civil War Trails marker notes the significance of the Cherry Mansion.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

In 10 images: A walk in 'this here sticks' at Shiloh

Monument marks where Union General W.H.L Wallace was mortally wounded April 6, 1862.
 W.H.L.Wallace died with his wife at his side in Savannah, Tenn., downriver from Shiloh.
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On a beautiful spring day at Shiloh, purple wildflowers sprouted by a cannon wheel and yellow daffodils bloomed by a monument in Sarah Bell’s Peach Orchard. Pristine and so well-maintained by the National Park Service, Shiloh is a jewel. “This here sticks," the park's longtime chief engineer Atwell Thompson described the remoteness of the area in 1899. It remains remote today. A blessing for all of us.

A soldier stands watch on the 77th Pennsylvania monument while a jet flies overhead.
A beautiful bas-relief plaque on the side of the base of the 77th Pennsylvania monument. 
A reconstruction of Shiloh Church near the site of the wartime structure.
A close-up of the mortuary cannon that marks location of the mortal wounding 
of Union colonel Julius Raith, an immigrant from Germany.
A tablet for Robertson's Battery needs painting. The unit shelled Union positions in the Hornets' Nest.
A sign of spring at Shiloh near a weapon of war.
Ornate carving on an Ohio monument.
          PANORAMA: The Bloody Pond (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

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SOURCE:  Smith, Timothy, This Great Battlefield of Shiloh, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 2004.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Then & Now: Where the Yankees played baseball in Nashville

A 19th-century view of where Union Army soldiers played baseball in Nashville. 
(Image from Civil War Trails marker via Tennessee Historical Society)
A present-day view of the site of the Union Army ballfield. Note Tennessee state capitol building 
in background. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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The Union Army occupied Nashville from March 1862 until the end of the war. This field was used by the Yankees for baseball games and other recreation. (And, no, I’m not talking the distant cousins of the modern-day team most of us despise.) The game those long-ago Derek Jeters and Mickey Mantles played was far different from today’s sport. The ball was softer, and outfielders and some infielders played without gloves. Home runs were called aces. To my knowledge, no one during the Civil War signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract. Unsurprisingly, a Civil War Trails marker made me stop dead in my tracks during a morning run. Curses to you, Drew Gruber!

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Friday, March 22, 2019

Where Lincoln's brother-in-law was mortally wounded

A cannonball pyramid marks where Confederate general Benjamin Helm was mortally wounded 
at the Battle of Chickamauga. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
The monument is in a clearing in the woods, east of Alexander Bridge Road.
Benjamin Helm died on Sept. 21, 1863, the day after he was wounded at Chickamauga.
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It was a war of brother vs. brother. Brother-in-law vs. brother-in-law, too.

On the morning of Sept. 20, 1863, Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm, commander of the "Orphan Brigade," was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter while astride his horse during the Battle of Chickamauga (Ga.). The 32-year-old Kentucky native died the next day.

The news of Helm's death reverberated in Washington. Helm was married to Emilie Todd, the younger half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. Benjamin, who in 1861 declined Abraham Lincoln's offer of a commission in the Union Army, was the president's brother-in-law. Mary Todd Lincoln also was a Kentucky native.

Benjamin Hardin Helm, mortally wounded
at Chickamauga, was buried 

in Elizabethtown, Ky.
"I never saw Mr. Lincoln more moved," said Senator David Davis of Illinois, "than when he heard of the death of his young brother-in-law Ben Hardin Helm, only thirty-two years old, at Chickamauga. I called to see him about four o'clock on the 22nd of September; I found him in the greatest grief."

In December 1863, Emilie was granted passage through Union lines to visit the White House, where she was treated with exceptional kindness by the Lincolns during her six-day visit.

"Mr. Lincoln and my sister met me with the warmest affection, [but] we were all too grief-stricken at first for speech," the 26-year-old widow wrote in her diary.

Added Emilie: "Sister Mary's tenderness for me is very touching. She and brother Lincoln pet me as if I were child, and, without words, try to comfort me."

In February 1862, the Lincolns had been rocked by their own tragedy when their 11-year-old son Willie died of typhoid fever. Later that year, Mary lost two half-brothers, Aleck and Samuel, who served in the Confederate Army. (They were Emilie's brothers.)

Lincoln was worried Emilie might blame him for her husband's death, In her diary, she recorded an account of the conversation with the president:
"You know, Little Sister, I tried to have Ben come with me. I hope you do not feel any bitterness or that I am in any way to blame for all this sorrow.’ I answered it was ‘the fortune of war’ and that while my husband loved him and had been deeply grateful to him for his generous offer to make him an officer in the Federal Army, he had to follow his conscience and that for weal or woe he felt he must side with his own people."
Mary Lincoln and her half-sister, Emilie. She died in 1930 at 93
(Emilie image: University of Kentucky digital collection)
Then Lincoln hugged her, and they both wept.

After Emilie retired to her room in the White House one night, she heard a knock on her door. It was Mary, who was smiling through tears. "I want to tell you Emilie," she said, "that one may not be wholly without comfort when our loved ones leave us." Then the president's wife talked of how she had "fallen into a deep pit of gloom and despair without a ray of light anywhere" after the death of her "noble little Willie."

"He comes to me every night, and stands at the foot of my bed with the same sweet, adorable smile he has always had," Mrs. Lincoln said, according to her sister, "He does not always come alone; little Eddie is sometimes with him and twice he has come with our brother Alec."

"Mary's eyes were wide and shining," Emilie recalled, "and I had a feeling of awe as if  I were in the presence of the supernatural."

ABOVE AND BELOW: A colorful remembrance wreath and an image of Helm near the site of his death.  

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Helm, Katherine, The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1928.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

In 25 images: My 'brutal' trip down (and up) Lookout Mountain

Those two "wild" dogs in the background could not prevent me from completing my mission.
My goal: Reach the Cravens House, opposite the Iowa monument in the middle distance.
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On Nov. 24, 1863, gutsy Union soldiers fought their way up rugged Lookout Mountain during the "Battle Among The Clouds." On March 16, 2019, armed with a Fitbit and blessed with well-honed backwoods instincts, I battled my way down the Tennessee mountain, stepping through a puddle or two, climbing over 2-foot-high log obstacles and easily dodging a small but vicious white terrier. Simply brutal. My mission: Hike the Cravens Trail from the summit of Lookout Mountain at Point Park to the bottom ...  and then back up again. (And live to blog about it.) Estimated round-trip time: Two hours. Temperature: 40 degrees.

... I deftly walked down two long flights of steps, tightly grasping the ice-cold metal handrails. Seconds later, I was rewarded with a view of these remarkable works of art on the face of Lookout Mountain. Amazing placement for the weather-worn 29th Pennsylvania plaques. The regiment was organized in Philadelphia in 1861 ...

... and steps away is this fabulous plaque for the 111th Pennsylvania, soldiers recruited from Erie, Crawford and Warren counties. ...

... a close-up of the massive bas-relief plaque reveals how some of the Pennsylvania boys advanced up the mountain. Yup, they occasionally deployed ladders during the assault ...

... the boulder-strewn side of Lookout Mountain. ...

... I photographed this helpful information on the trail marker during my descent. You know, just in case. ...

... One slip on the narrow Cravens Trail can lead to painful results. ...

... Tempting fate? Nah, I wouldn't do that, would I? ...

.... 45 minutes after my journey began, I reached the Robert Cravens House and plateau, the vortex of the Battle of Lookout Mountain. The house, destroyed during the war, was rebuilt in 1866...

... The beautiful view of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Tennessee River from the front porch of the Cravens House. Ah, this would be a perfect time for one of those Cracker Barrel rocking chairs and a beer. But alas, I must be on my way. That's the Iowa monument in the middle distance. Perhaps my wife, an Iowa native, will appreciate. (On second thought, nah.) ...

... Confederates valiantly defended the Cravens plateau, but they were vastly outnumbered and outgunned. ...

... and be sure to visit the outstanding New York monument near the Cravens House. ...

... On the lawn behind Cravens House, an early sign of spring. ...

... The seldom-visited 28th Pennsylvania and 59th Illinois monuments on a trail behind the Cravens House. Be warned: Poison ivy could ruin your visit here during the summer, according to a source extremely close to this blogger. ...

... A panoramic view of the monuments on the ridge behind the Cravens House. From left, the 28th Pennsylvania, 96th Illinois, 59th Illinois, 12th Illinois (in distance) and 147th Pennsylvania monuments (in foreground). ...

... On the 28th Pennsylvania monument, a tremendous carved forage cap. ...

... What? I have to go back up? Where's my vehicle? Oh, wait ...

...  I'm doomed! ...

... But nothing can truly stop me on the way up, not even this massive log. Thankfully I got a running start for my leap. ...

... It's not the Ritz-Carlton, but this will do if your fragile body can't make it back to the summit. (I wonder if a soldier used this crevice for refuge.) ...

.... I am almost back where this journey began. Hey, kid, get off of my steps. ...

... Like Douglas MacArthur, "I have returned." Slightly winded, but pride not wounded. On this spot in 1863, a certain high-ranking Union officer was photographed ....

(Library of Congress collection)
... Yes, Ulysses S. Grant (bottom left), clenching a stick -- or is it a cigar? -- in his mouth ...

... No victory cigar for me, however. My final results: 77 floors climbed, 12,500 steps walked, 2,000 calories burned, two hours elapsed and a deep appreciation achieved for the courage and grit of  Union soldiers who fought their way up Lookout Mountain.

Until next time ...

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