siege of vicksburg


October 11th 1915: Albert Cashier dies

On this day in 1915, Civil War veteran Albert Cashier - born Jennie Hodgers - died in Illinois aged 71. On August 6th 1862, aged nineteen, Hodgers enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name of Albert Cashier. Cashier was considered a good soldier by army superiors, who thought nothing of his short stature and desire for privacy, and fought with his regiment in over forty battles. During the Siege of Vicksburg, he was captured by Confederate forces and escaped by overpowering the prison guard. Cashier left the army in August 1865, and returned to his native Illinois, finding employment in a variety of manual jobs. Cashier voted in elections and collected a veteran’s pension, which women were prevented from doing at that time. In 1910, Cashier was hit by a car, suffering a broken leg, and was sent to a veteran’s hospital in Quincy, Illinois. Three years later, the onset of dementia led to his relocation to a state hospital for the insane. While the previous hospitals had agreed not to disclose Cashier’s birth sex, the state institution forced him to dress in female clothing and allowed the press to report on the sensational story of the identity of Private Albert Cashier. While his wartime colleagues were surprised by the revelation, they were impressed by Cashier’s heroism during the Civil War and defended him against an investigation charging him with defrauding the government to receive a pension. They were successful, and upon his death in 1915 - less than two years before women were allowed to serve in the military - Cashier was buried in full uniform in a grave marked with his military service. Cashier died after becoming bedridden upon breaking his hip, an injury sustained because he was unused to wearing long dresses, which caused him to trip and fall. Over 400 women fought in the Civil War in the guise of men, but Cashier’s case has attracted particular attention as Hodgers allegedly dressed as a man prior to enlistment, and decided to continue to live as a man after the war. This has led some historians to identity Cashier as a transgender man, hence the use of male pronouns in this post, though it is unclear how Cashier himself identified.

100 years ago today


The Ketchum Hand Grenade,

Invented by William F. Ketchum in 1861, the Ketchum grenade, along with the grenade, was one of the most commonly used grenade design by the Union Army during the American Civil War.  The Ketchum grenade featured a cast iron bomb filled with black powder, and a pressure plate which when touched off would push a firing pin against a primer, thus igniting the main powder charge.  Attached to the bomb was a cardboard stabilization tail fin which guaranteed that the grenade would always land on the pressure plate, which increased the chances that it would discharge. They came in 1, 3, and 5 lb variants.  The Confederates made a crude copy called the Raines Grenade, which was much less effective.

Grenades were not commonly used in the open battlefield, but saw practical use in siege battles such as Vicksburg and Petersburg.  However, the detonation of the Ketchum grenade was sketchy.  It was not uncommon for dozens of grenades to be thrown with only a handful detonating.  After the Battle of Port Hudson, over 100 undetonated Ketchum grenades were recovered.  At other battles, the Confederates would learn to cover their defensive works with blankets so that the grenades would land harmlessly and be thrown back at Union troops.

The siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi by Union forces under Major General Ulysses S. Grant began 150 years ago on May 18, 1863.  Confederates forces would surrender the fortress city after 40 days, effectively yielding control of the Mississippi River to the Union.

Map of the Siege of Vicksburg, Miss., By the U. S. Forces Under the Command of Maj. Genl. U. S. Grant, U. S. Vls., Maj. F. E. Prime, Chief Engr. Surveyed and constructed under direction of Capt. C. B. Comstock, U.S. Engrs., and Lt. Col. J. H. Wilson, A. I. Genl. 1st Lt., Engrs….Drawn by Chs. Spangenberg, Asst. Engr., 08/20/1863

The CSS Arkansas runs the Union blockade at Vicksburg on July 15, 1862. Although she didn’t sink any Federal ships, she inflicted ample damage and managed to reach the city relatively unharmed, a feat that was subsequently quite celebrated. 

(Naval Historical Foundation)

View of Confederate-held Vicksburg from Union lines across the Mississippi River which was said to be taken while under Confederate fire during the Siege of Vicksburg, 1863. Caption written by Assistant Surgeon George H. Bixby. From Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War.