Uncle Tupelo

I’ve only driven through Chickamauga once (in the middle of the night on the way to the ER), but this song not only captures the feeling of that dark, historical town it, a sense of the South is felt: gritty and beautiful.  Jay Farrar’s voice is one of my favorites; no matter where I am I want to hear it, especially when I’m missing being immersed in that ‘Southern Thing’.

After it’s over, after the last gaze has shut down,
Will I have become
The landscape I’ve looked at and walked through
Or the road that took me there
                                                      or the time it took to arrive?

Charles Wright, from “Sprung Narratives,” in Chickamauga (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995)

Fun Fact: In 1863 at the American Civil War Battle of Chickamauga Union soldier Jacob Miller was shot right between the eyes. He managed to find his way to a hospital tent but surgeons refused to operate believing the wound to be fatal. It wasn’t. Miller survived and lived another half century with pieces of lead occasionally falling out of his wound.

A Surprise Casualty At Chickamauga, 1863- “As the Confederates do not use women in war, this woman, wounded in battle, is returned to you.”

A woman who had served as a private soldier in the ranks was severely wounded and taken prisoner at Chickamauga

She fell in a charge made upon the Confederates; and as the troops immediately fell back she was left with the other wounded on the field, in the enemy’s lines. As she was dressed as the other soldiers were, her sex was not discovered till she was under a surgeon’s care in the hospital. She was wounded in the thigh. No bones were broken; but it was a deep, ugly flesh wound, as if torn by a fragment of a shell.

A day or two afterwards she was sent with a flag of truce into the Union lines.

The sum and substance of the official message sent with this woman was: “As the Confederates do not use women in war, this woman, wounded in battle, is returned to you.” There was great indignation in the regiment to which this woman belonged; and officers and men hastened to protest, that, although she had been with them for more than a year, not one in the regiment guessed that she was a woman. She stood the long, hard marches, did full duty on the picket-line and in camp, and had fought well in all the battles in which the regiment took part. She was in the hospital at Chattanooga for some time… .

Sketch-depicts a woman named Bridget Devens, who was known as “Michigan Bridget,” she carries the Union flag in the midst of fighting. (Not the unknown woman from Chickamauga)

The Women’s War, Wittenmyer, Annie, and Dr. L. P. Brockett-1862, 1863, ca 1864

A cicada whines,
                             his voice
Starting to drown through the rainy world,
No ripple of wind,
                              no sound but his song of black wings,
No song but the song of his black wings.

Such emptiness at the heart,
                                                 such emptiness at the heart of being,

Charles Wright, from “Cicada,” Chickamauga (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995)

While going through some documents I found my ancestor’s civil war story.
He served with the army of Tennessee until he was wounded by cannonfire at Chickamauga. Before he passed he had his account of his time in the war transcribed. I think it’s pretty neat. Would you guys like to see it?

Known as the “Bloody Tinth”, it was one of only two Irish Catholic regiments in the Confederate Army, although their elected officers were mostly Ulster-Scots Protestants.

They built Forts Henry and Donelson and then were captured and held in Camp Douglas Prison. Reconstituted, the 10th were deployed as sharpshooters through the tough campaigns at Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Atlanta.

The Regimental flag originally belonged to Company ’D’ of the Tennessee Home Guards (State Militia). It was outlined in Kelly Green on a light green background. A gold harp, maroon trim with white lettering; above the harp, “Sons of Erin”; below the harp “Where glory await you”.

How vast the clouds are, how vast as they troll and pass by.
Splendid and once-removed, like lives, they never come back.
Does anyone think of them?
Everything’s golden from where I lie.
                                                            Even the void.
Beyond the void the clouds cross.
Even the knowledge that everything’s fire,
                                                                      and nothing ever comes back.

Charles Wright, from “Waiting for Tu Fu,” Chickamauga (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995)

Reminiscences of a Civil War vet.

What follows is what I think was a transcribed interview with my (several greats) uncle Alfred. It was included in a book about confederate vets that we found after doing a lot of research.
I enlisted in the Confederate Army in August, 1861, at Franklin, Tenn., as private in Company H, Twentieth Tennessee Infantry, Zollicoffer’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee. Was wounded in the battle of Chickamauga by a bombshell on left arm, and had to have it amputated near the shoulder. Was in the battles of Tyner Station, Murfreesboro and Hoover’s Gap, Tenn. Also in the battle of Elk River and a number of smaller fights. Three of my messmates were killed in the battle of

I well remember the long march across Cumberland Mountain, three days and nights without anything to eat. My feet were blistered when we arrived at the foot of the mountain, where there was a large spring. The officers had to put a guard around it to keep us from drinking too much water. They gave us only a little at a time. The Forage Master had gone on ahead, killed a beef and had it cooked when we arrived. I had some flour bread made up without salt or anything else, but it was all right. We were allowed only a little of the meat at a time. After we had cooked three day’s rations (about enough for one day), we crossed the Tennessee River, and made preparations for the battle of Chickamauga, which was the bloodiest battle in which I was engaged.

On Sept. 19, 1863, we had skirmishes all during the day; the 20th the fight opened in earnest. This was the day when I received my wound. Just before I was wounded my canteen was shot off me and the stock of my gun was broken by a minie ball. The dead were lying in piles over the battlefield. As I was going into the field, I met a number of the wounded coming out, and they were as bloody as could be. They were shot and wounded in every way imaginable, and being carried out on litters. The enemy had secreted themselves in some fallen tree tops, where many were killed by the tree tops catching fire and they were burned. We then buried the dead. There was a fellow who was wounded, and he was talking of his wife and children, saying that he wanted to see them once more, and while doing this his grave was being dug nearby. The trees were shot all to pieces. The Yankees captured the cannon of my regiment at the battle of Shiloh. At Chickamauga, we captured some Yankees, who told us that they belonged to the regiment that got our cannon. We said that we would have it back or die in the effort. It was captured and recaptured five times. Our boys rushed up and secured it and carried it to the rear by hand. The bullets were flying so thick that I do not see how any of us escaped with our lives.

When I returned home, to my great sorrow, my mother, my best friend, was gone. She had been dead about a year. She now awaits me at the beautiful gate, and it will not be long until I shall join her in the world beyond.


A member of Berdan’s Sharpshooters poses with his Colt Model 1855 Revolving Rifle. Although it proved to be a devastating weapon, it ironically doomed the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry when the volume of fire it provided goaded the Confederates into sending an entire division to roll up their single regiment at the Battle of Chickamauga. Chain-fires were rare, but engendered distrust of the weapon and it was phased out by 1863. They were resold on the civilian and world market for 42 cents each, from the original price of 44 dollars.

The First Female U.S. Army Surgeon- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is the sole woman to have been awarded the Medal of Honor 

At the beginning of the Civil War, she volunteered for the Union Army as a civilian. The U.S. Army had no female surgeons, and at first she was only allowed to practice as a nurse. 

During this period, she served at the First Battle Of Bull Run (Manassas), July 21, 1861, and at the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, She worked as an unpaid field surgeon near the Union front lines, including at the Battle of Fredericksburg and in Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga. 

As a suffragette, she was happy to see women serving as soldiers and alerted the press to the case of Frances Hook in Ward 2 of the Chattanooga hospital, a woman who served in the Union forces disguised as a man.  In September 1862, Walker wrote to the War Department requesting employment as a spy, but her proposal was declined.

In September 1863, she was employed as a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)" becoming the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army Surgeon. She was later appointed assistant surgeon of the 52nd Ohio Infantry. During her service, she frequently crossed battle lines and treated civilians.

On April 10, 1864, she was captured by Confederate troops and arrested as a spy, just after she finished helping a Confederate doctor perform an amputation. She was sent to Castle Thunder in Richmond, Virginia, and remained there until August 12, 1864, when she was released as part of a prisoner exchange. While she was imprisoned, she refused to wear the clothes provided because they were more "becoming of her sex”. Walker was exchanged for a Confederate surgeon from Tennessee on August 12, 1864.
She went on to serve during the Battle of Atlanta and later as supervisor of a female prison in Kentuck, and as the head of an orphanage in Tennessee.

Walker was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

Civil War Veteran Jacob Miller (Company K 9th Indiana Vol. Inf) was shot in the forehead on Sept.19th, 1863 at Brock Field at Chickamauga and left for dead. He lived with an open bullet wound for many years, with the last pieces of lead dropping out 31 years after he was first shot. He was a Medal of Honor recipient.

James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January 2, 1904) was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his “Old War Horse.” He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the Eastern Theater, but also with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee in the Western Theater. Biographer and historian Jeffry D. Wert wrote that “Longstreet … was the finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia; in fact, he was arguably the best corps commander in the conflict on either side.”

Longstreet’s talents as a general made significant contributions to the Confederate victories at Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga, in both offensive and defensive roles. He also performed strongly during the Seven Days Battles, the Battle of Antietam, and until he was seriously wounded, at the Battle of the Wilderness. His performance in semiautonomous command during the Knoxville Campaign resulted in a Confederate defeat. His most controversial service was at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he openly disagreed with General Lee on the tactics to be employed and reluctantly supervised the disastrous infantry assault known as Pickett’s Charge.

He enjoyed a successful post-war career working for the U.S. government as a diplomat, civil servant, and administrator. However, his conversion to the Republican Party and his cooperation with his old friend, President Ulysses S. Grant, as well as critical comments he wrote in his memoirs about General Lee’s wartime performance, made him anathema to many of his former Confederate colleagues. His reputation in the South further suffered when he led African-American militia against the anti-Reconstruction White League at the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874. Authors of the Lost Cause movement focused on Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg as a primary reason for the Confederacy’s loss of the war. His reputation in the South was damaged for over a century and has only recently begun a slow reassessment.

Battle of Chickamauga – Sixteen years ago I attended an American Civil War Reenactment in the mountains of Georgia commemorating the Battle of Chickamauga. I was doing academic research on the dress-related behaviors of Confederate Civil War reenactors… fascinating… There were thousands of reenactors. Somehow I got separated from the guys I knew and found myself wandering through the battlefield with a 2mpx Kodak Camera (non period for the time)… I had the great good fortune of capturing this image of the Confederate cavalry watering their horses… This image was published in the Camp Chase Gazette, which is a national journal of reenacting…

For those friends/followers of mine outside the U.S., this war which lasted between 1861 through 1865 still stirs the hearts of many Americans in both healthy and unhealthy ways, depending upon the person’s temperament and birth place.

More Americans died in this war than any other during our fractious history… Why? Because Americans were killing each other…

Brigadier General States Rights Gist — Yes, this is his real name!

During the American Civil War, one of the largest hot button issues that led to the war next to slavery was the issue of states (often the two issues went hand in hand).  Often people are accused of wearing their politics on their sleeve, during the Civil War there was one Confederate general whose name led to no doubt as to his personal politics.  Brigadier Gen. States Rights Gist (yes this is his real name) was perhaps the most bizarrely named Civil War general to fight on either side.  States Rights Gist was born to Nathaniel Gist in 1831.  At the time, one of the most popular southern politicians of the day was John C. Calhoun, a stalwart Democrat who supported slavery, nullification, and most importantly states rights.  Nathaniel Gist was such a passionate supporter of Calhoun and the idea of states rights that when his son was born, he chose to name him after his political ideals.  Thus he named him “States Rights Gist”. No this wasn’t a nickname, “States Rights” was his legal first name.

Gen. States Rights Gist served bravely as a Confederate officer throughout most of the war, taking part in the battles of Fort Sumter, Manassas (Bull Run), Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Atlanta.  During the Battle of Franklin on November 30th, 1864, he was shot in the chest, and died soon afterward.