Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

Madison County mystery: Hard-scrabble farmer turns dedicated Confederate soldier

Many Americans named children Napoleon Bonaparte in homage to the great French general.  One of those children had a shadowy journey into the Confederate service.

Napoleon Bonaparte Morgan was a Virginia native who had nine brothers and sisters.  They moved to a farm in Madison County, Iowa, southwest of Des Moines, before the Civil War.

N.B. Morgan worked as a laborer on his father’s farm.  The Morgan family, like many Iowans, struggled financially in the lingering Panic of 1857.  N.B. Morgan had no land or possessions to his name.

Five months after Southerners fired upon Fort Sumter, 25-year-old N.B. Morgan fought for the Confederacy at the Battle of Lexington, Missouri.  He had enrolled in the 1st Missouri Infantry (later to become the 2nd Missouri Infantry).

It’s unclear why N.B. Morgan entered the Confederate service.  He may have simply needed a job.  Once he donned a gray uniform, N.B. Morgan climbed the ranks, being promoted 4th Sergeant by August 1862.

The next year, on May 16, 1863, he fought at the Battle of Champion Hill, at Baker’s Creek, Mississippi.  He “lost [a] thumb and two fingers” of his right hand, and Union troops captured him. He was immediately paroled, but he was exchanged four months later.  Back in his unit, Confederate doctors declared N.B. Morgan “unfit for field duty,” so he became a quartermaster.

The following year, 1864, N.B. Morgan was demoted to private and became a “wagon master.”

Unidentified teamster — note the bullwhip (Library of Congress)

On Oct. 5, 1864, N.B. Morgan was captured at Alatoona outside of Atlanta.  He ended up in Camp Chase prison, Ohio.  A month later, N.B. Morgan applied to take the oath of allegiance.  But the prison authorities held him until the war was over.

Apparently, N.B. Morgan steered clear of Madison County for a few years and lived in Warren County.  He ran a sawmill, and he still had no personal estate or real estate.

Twelve years after the war ended, in 1877, N.B. Morgan served as street commissioner for the brand-new town of St. Charles in Madison County.  Two years later, he ran a hotel in town.  Thereafter, he fades into obscurity.

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I want to credit Madison County historian Walt Libby with discovering Napoleon Bonaparte Morgan.

Thank you for reading my blog!  Please leave any questions and comments below.

When words broke bones: A review of The Civil War: A Book of Quotations

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” an ancient writer tells us.  In a sense, words inflamed the country and, in 1861, flared up into Civil War.

Like a good interviewer, Bob Blaisdell quotes many people in The Civil War:  A Book of Quotations.  The characters range from famous to common folk, and we encounter the intensity of those days through their eyes.

The quotations allow us to get at the personalities, the humanity, and the complexity of the whole affair.  Blaisdell aptly places the quotes within summaries of each stage of the war.

Changing opinions

Some characters had mistaken judgment, and others changed their minds.  For example, Robert Toombs advised Georgians (on December 24, 1860) that a vote for secession “will be your best guarantee for liberty, security, tranquility, and glory.”

Republican Senator William H. Seward said on January 12, 1861, before the war began, “I do not know what the Union would be worth if saved by the use of the sword.”   Seward and other Republicans drastically “changed their tune” after the first cannonballs smashed into Fort Sumter.

The nature of war

This book invites questions about the nature of the war.  For example, President Lincoln said, in the midst of a bloody campaign:

We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained.  Under God, I hope it never will until that time.

Three days later, on June 19, 1864, Mrs. Sarah Butler, wife of Union General Benjamin Butler, wrote her husband:

What is all this struggling and fighting for?  This ruin and death to thousands of families?  … What advancement of mankind to compensate for the present horrible calamities?

My recommendation

This book helped me look at the Civil War in a fresh way, and it stimulated my thinking.  I highly recommend The Civil War:  A Book of Quotations.  It has a little something for everyone.

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Thank you for reading my blog!

 

Gentlemen, Don’t do this: A Cautionary Valentine’s Day Tale

On their wedding day, Nancy and John Shipley had great hopes and dreams.  They married amidst the gloomy financial Panic of 1857.  Twenty-five-year-old John and 19-year-old Nancy thought the best was yet to come.

But hard times became harder.  Some men lost fortunes, others lost land.  A history of neighboring Scott County notes, “Work became very scarce.”

Heading to Memphis

John and Nancy headed to Memphis, Tennessee, a town that was fairly booming.  Companies were engaged in construction, and steamboat manufacturing, repair, and reconditioning.

And baby makes three

Nancy conceived and came back to Muscatine to deliver their son, William Everett Shipley, born in June 1860.  Nancy and the baby rejoined John in Memphis.  Nancy felt their marriage was “happy and contented.”

Unidentified family (Library of Congress}

Back to Muscatine

After Lincoln was elected president, South Carolina threatened to secede in mid-November 1860.  John sent Nancy and five-month-old William back to her parents’ home in Muscatine.  She supposed it was “because of the political troubles.”   Nancy’s parents supported her and the infant.

Missing her husband

Nancy missed her husband, so she returned to Memphis five months later, in April 1861, around the time of the firing upon Fort Sumter.  John immediately sent her back to Muscatine, saying she “might find it difficult to get back.”  A few weeks later, John enlisted in the Tennessee Infantry.  He stopped sending letters, and he didn’t send any child support.

What happened to Nancy and John?

Nancy’s father went to Confederate-held Tennessee, the following spring of 1862.  He saw John’s “manner and action” and thought “his affections were entirely alienated from his wife and child.”  His conclusion?  John was devoted to “the Southern confederacy.”

Mutual friends said that John had been promoted.  He was now a captain and Acting Commissary of Subsistence (who provided food to soldiers).  But he still didn’t send money to support Nancy and their son.  Of course, John was paid in Confederate dollars that Nancy couldn’t spend.

Unidentified Confederate soldier (Library of Congress)

Bad press

The Muscatine Journal reported that John was in the Confederate Army, and had been captured at Island Number 10.  (He wasn’t captured.)

The Journal also stated that the 11th Iowa Infantry lost half of their officers at Pittsburgh Landing.  Local passions burned against rebels and their families and supporters.

The marriage ends

The next year, on January 14, 1863, Nancy filed for divorce, claiming “desertion and abandonment of her and their child.”  Her lawyer said that John was serving “a nefarious cause.”

Nancy believed that John had sent her back to Muscatine in order to “free himself” from his responsibilities, and to aid the Confederacy.  She obtained a divorce on June 1, 1863, while John was in Shelbyville, Tennessee.  Nancy soon married another Muscatine man.

John’s motives are a mystery.  One descendant implied that John’s drinking was a factor in the divorce.

Captured!

Two years later, Robert E. Lee surrendered, and Jefferson Davis fled Richmond, heading for the Deep South.  In the manhunt that ensued, Union Brigadier General W.J. Palmer captured John near Athens, Georgia, on May 8, 1865.

Post-war career in Muscatine

After the war, John returned to Muscatine and worked as a bookkeeper and insurance salesman.  In 1893, he was elected to one term as Muscatine City Treasurer.

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Thank you for reading my blog!  This article was originally posted in early February 2016.  Please leave any comments below.

Huck Finn’s dilemma, Part Two: When conscience and Scripture seemed to collide

In Part One, Huck Finn and abolition-minded Christians agonized over slavery and the state of their own souls.  They were torn between heart/conscience and Bible verses that seemed to support slavery.

Troubled Christians were able to look back to Protestant Reformer Martin Luther for a way forward.

Martin Luther (by Lucas Cranach)

Test of conscience

Martin Luther’s life was at stake in 1521 during his trial for heresy and revolution.  Luther told the Holy Roman Emperor:

My conscience is captive to the Word of God … to go against conscience is neither right nor safe …[i]

Martin Luther

Luther later advised:

Treat a [Bible] passage like Moses did the rock in the desert, which he smote with his rod until water gushed out for his thirsty people.[ii]

Luther was determined to find the deeper truth – and a principle for living – in Scripture.  Fast-forward 330 years:  Abolition-minded Christians fervently hoped to find a Bible-based argument against American slavery.

The pro-slavery tradition of Bible interpretation

Seemingly, the deck was stacked in favor of pro-slavery Christians.  Many ministers quoted Old Testament verses about owning slaves, and they mentioned the first slave-owning patriarch, Abraham.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ and his apostles never condemned slavery (although they had plenty of chances to do so).   Instead, the Apostle Paul wanted to send an escaped slave back to his master.

The verdict was clear, many ministers said:  Anyone who opened the Bible could read straightforward verses in favor of slavery.

A pro-abolition Bible argument

In contrast, some ministers, professors, and rabbis gave a sophisticated, nuanced Bible argument against American slavery.  These men admitted that the Old Testament gave approval for buying non-Hebrews as slaves, but never for selling them.

Historian Mark A. Noll explains:

This provision for servitude depended on the distinction in ancient Israel between the people of God and ‘the heathen.’[iii]

Capstone of the pro-abolition Bible argument

Tayler Lewis was a Dutch Reformed layman and professor of Greek and Oriental Studies at New York University and at Union College.  He explained that Jesus opened the door to salvation to everyone.  Therefore, there are no longer any “heathen” whom it is acceptable to enslave.

Dr. Tayler Lewis (Find a Grave)

Scholarship required

The Bible’s nuanced pro-abolition argument depended upon four different things:

  1. Patient reflection on the entire Bible, not simply “proof-texting” individual verses;
  2. An expert level of knowledge of slavery in the Ancient Near East and in the Roman Empires;
  3. Knowledge of conditions in the Slave States; and
  4. A sophisticated interpretive practice to replace a “common sense” approach to scripture.

Battle Royale

The pro-abolition argument lost the battle of public opinion for four main reasons:

  1. Biblical defenders of slavery lumped together nuanced arguments with arguments of radical abolitionists who attacked the authority of Scripture. Pro-slavery Christians said they were defending the Bible.
  2. Slave-owners benefited from the “peculiar institution.”
  3. Many Protestant denominations said that anyone could open the Bible to any page and understand what was on the page. According to this view, no one needed bishops or church hierarchies to interpret the Bible.
  4. Racism was widespread, North and South. If a person believed that whites were superior to blacks, it was very hard to accept a nuanced, sophisticated Bible-based abolition argument.

Foreign perspectives:  Corporate, not individual interpretation

Historian Noll explains that, outside of the United States, Bible interpretation respected the traditions of Christian communities more than an individual’s grasp of Scripture.  Bible interpretation in Europe and Canada had a context of history, tradition, and a respect for formal learning.

Many European Christian scholars, unburdened by racism, concluded that American slavery was unbiblical and sinful.[iv]

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I am indebted to Rev. David Brooks for a thought-provoking question.  I drew heavily from Mark A. Noll’s excellent book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.  I highly recommend that you read it.

[i] Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand:  A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville:  1950), 144.

[ii] Heiko Augustinus Oberman, Luther:  Man Between God and the Devil (Berlin:  1982; English edition, New Haven:  1989), 224.

[iii] Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill, North Carolina:  2006), 48.

[iv] Ibid., 40-41, 45, 48-50, 121.

Huck Finn’s dilemma: When conscience and Scripture seemed to collide, Part 1

Loyalty, love, and sin come to life in Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Set in the shadow of the Fugitive Slave Act, Huck Finn helps his friend, Jim, escape from slavery.

Late in their journey, Huck wants to be “saved” from his sins, but he remembers a preacher who said the Bible approved slavery.  Did Huck need to hand Jim over to a slave-catcher to be “right with God”?

Mark Twain (Library of Congress)

Huck talks with himself

Something inside me kept saying, “There was the Sunday school … they’d a learnt you, there, that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.”

It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come … It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all.

I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie-and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie- I found that out …

At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter- and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing …

At last I struck the time I saved him … and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up.”[1]

Abolition-minded Christians shared Huck’s agony to some degree.  Their consciences and hearts said that slavery was sinful, but they couldn’t point to a simple Bible verse or passage to prove their point.  In contrast, Southern ministers thundered out Bible verses in support of slavery.

Fugitive Slave Act

Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, requiring all Americans to help return slaves to their masters.  Quaker Jesse Macy called the Fugitive Slave Act “one of the most barbarous pieces of legislation ever enacted by a civilized country.” [2]

Jesse Macy (Wikipedia)

Pro-abolition Christians remembered Bible verses such as “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (II Peter 2:13, King James Version).  How could they refuse to obey the Fugitive Slave Act and still be good Christians?

Two weeks from now, Part II

In Part Two, I will discuss why the pro-slavery tradition of Bible interpretation was so strong. I will also share a pro-abolition Bible argument from Scripture that was available in the 1850s.

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Thank you for reading my blog!

[1] Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York:  1884 and 1918), 294-297.

[2] Jesse Macy, The Anti-Slavery Crusade:  A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm (New York: 1919), 109.

The pleasure of good storytelling: A review of City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War

When was the last time you simply enjoyed a history of a city – or any book about the Civil War?  For me, it happened over Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house in rural Iowa.

The writer in me reveled in John Strausbaugh’s City of Sedition:  The History of New York City During the Civil War.

city-of-sedition-cover-image

This book is a joy to read.  The exception is the barbarity of the 1863 Draft Riots.  But even here, the author puts events in context, portraying a simmering pot, stoked hotter and hotter, that erupts, scalding everyone nearby.

Peopled with leading characters from politics, history, and literature, New York City comes to life in Strausbaugh’s engaging book.   In a nice touch, detailed biographical sketches advance the narrative.

Contradictions abound

The paradox of New York City is trotted out in all its glory.  The author states:

No city would be more of a help to Lincoln and the war effort, or more of a hindrance.  No city raised more men, money, and material for the war, and no city raised more hell against it …

The same New York banks that funded the spread of plantation slavery across the Cotton South would provide the start-up capital for the Union war machine that ended slavery.  New York merchants outfitted both.

Port of slavers

I caught my breath as I read this shocking claim:

By the 1850s, it was an open secret that New York was the North’s major slaving port.  New Yorkers owned and invested in slave ships and financed their voyages.  New York shipyards fitted them out.

New York’s corrupt and easily bribed port authorities turned a blind eye.  In 1865, the Evening Post published a list of 85 slave ships that had sailed from New York bound for Africa in 1859 and 1860.

Skillful writing

The author tries to present and describe things as the characters saw and experienced them.  Strausbaugh paints characters with warts and all.

The author includes excellent quotes.  For example, Jesuit chaplain Joseph O’Hagan described the Excelsior or Sickles’ Brigade in this way:

Most of them were the scum of New York society, reeking with vice and spreading a moral malaria around them.

With a novelist’s eye for details and tension, Strausbaugh describes John Wilkes Booth’s older brother Edwin Booth:

Even with his second sight, Edwin had no inkling of the bizarre and shattering turns it [life] was going to take.

I wrote in the book margin, “Builds anticipation.  My gosh, the author’s good.”

Negative critiques

I have two minor beefs about this book:

  1. The quality of the paper doesn’t match the high quality of the writing.
  2. There are so many interesting nuggets that I frequently flipped back to the endnotes. Unfortunately, the endnotes are rather cursory, and that made it hard to pinpoint some good quotes.

Overall recommendation

Strausbaugh’s 367-page book was well worth my time.  I highly recommend it.

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From my home to yours: Robert E. Lee’s Christmas wish

Amid the crowded holidays, after a contentious election, Robert E. Lee offers us these thoughts:

But what a cruel thing is war:  to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.”

General Robert E. Lee to his wife, December 25, 1862[1]

Robert E. Lee (Currier & Ives, Library of Congress)

Robert E. Lee (Library of Congress)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

I’ll be back with a new blog post in two weeks.

 

[1] Thomas Nelson Page, Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier (New York:  1912), 330-331.

 

 

Split-screen history: A review of From Blue Mills to Columbia: Cedar Falls and the Civil War

Iowa during the Civil War offers drama:  Noble leaders, scoundrels, bright hopes, and bitter disappointment. In short, we see a reflection of our common humanity.

A respected colleague suggested that I read more books about home-front Iowa.  Kenneth L. Lyftogt’s From Blue Mills to Columbia:  Cedar Falls and the Civil War is a good addition to my library.

from-blue-mills-to-columbia

Lyftogt reminds me of a seasoned trail guide, who enlivens the journey with stories.  Published by the University of Iowa Press in 1993, From Blue Mills to Columbia gives a split-screen view of the Civil War.

In one frame, we follow residents of Cedar Falls and Black Hawk County, Iowa who served in the Union Army.  In the other frame, we see how townspeople experienced the war from afar.

The story gathers steam with the full-throated uproar over Fort Sumter and the rush to arms.  As the war dragged on, hope-filled soldiers and civilians were frustrated and deeply disappointed.

Firing upon Ft. Sumter

Firing upon Ft. Sumter

An interesting phenomenon occurred in Cedar Falls:  Business boomed during the war, and at the same time, residents grew increasingly anxious over the safety of soldiers.

Against this backdrop, Lyftogt describes a grieving father (whose son had died at Andersonville Prison).  This father smashed the windows of a hotel, run by a lady who said she supported McClellan for president in 1864.  It’s unlikely that the father was prosecuted in heavily Republican Cedar Falls.

Pendulum-swing of emotions

Cedar Falls residents had a frenzy of celebration after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.  One handbill crowed, “Bad Luck on the Man who is Sober Tonight!”

Less than a week later, President Lincoln was assassinated.  Ashen grief, despair, and bitter anger ruled the day.  A leading resident, Peter Melendy, wrote:

Would to God that the hot wrath of the people might swing every man that rejoices in this calamity.  Revenge is my motto.

Peter Melendy

Peter Melendy

My recommendation

I appreciate the way Lyftogt provides context, using just enough explanation but not too much.  He excels at including excerpts of letters that enrich his narrative.

For a snapshot of home-front Iowa, and an overview of Iowa regiments at war, I recommend Lyftogt’s readable book.

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From Iowa Wesleyan to the battle lines: An old friend says “Thank you”

We never know where friendships will lead us.  A Methodist preacher’s son from Mississippi, George Carson Leavell, was to discover that friendship “gladdens the heart, and makes the face to shine.”

George came to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in early 1861 to attend Iowa Wesleyan University’s prep school.  He reportedly had Iowa relatives.

Iowa Wesleyan University

Iowa Wesleyan University

Sometime after the firing upon Ft. Sumter, he returned south.  George enlisted in late June 1863 – midway through the war – in the 60th North Carolina Infantry.  He served as aide-de-camp to Col. James M. Ray at the fierce Battle of Chickamauga.

leavellgeorgec-cropped-enlarged

George Carson Leavell

During the Atlanta campaign, less than a year later, Confederates captured a number of Union soldiers.  George discovered among the POWs an old friend from Iowa Wesleyan.  His friend, Hiram Thornton Bird, tells the story:

On our arrival at Atlanta, we, with other prisoners, were drawn up in line in the woods at East Point …  After the [Confederate] officer had taken our names and regiment and what valuables we had in our pockets … a Confederate soldier stepped up and said, ‘I heard you say you are from Iowa.  Do you know anybody in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa?’

I at once recognized the voice and features of my old college chum George Leavel.  But he was so thin and wan … that it took a second look to recognize him.  But here in War Country was my chum sure enough, though it seemed like a fairy story to find him.

When the Civil War broke out, George Leavell was a student at our Iowa Wesleyan University from Jackson, Mississippi. …

At the breaking out of the war, he had called his friends together and had told them he would have to return to the south and go with his people.  We all shed tears and bade him good bye, hoping that ‘when the cruel was over,’ he would return to Iowa Wesleyan University.

My meeting with him was the only time he was ever heard from.  The first question he asked me was concerning his sweetheart at Wesleyan.  It was indeed hard for me to tell him that she had been married a short time before.   He looked very sad …

Hiram Thornton Bird continued:

He put question upon question to me, all about his College life; the war was not mentioned — his heart yearned for his College friends at the old school.

Then he said, ‘Now Thornt, we are on the battle line, and they will become suspicious if we talk too long.  What can I do for you?  Would you like something to eat?’

He was in charge of some supplies for the sick and wounded, and he took my haversack and filled it full of good things, and as I had had nothing to eat for more than a day, it showed his good will as nothing else could have done at that time. And then we said good bye forever …

My friend looked very ill, almost like death, for he had been on the sick list for some time …

Through the years, since that day in Atlanta, I have held in sacred memory the meeting with George Leavell.  I draw from it the lesson of the bigness of College Friendship, of the trueness of those ties formed in youth.  We met as friends, not as enemies of war, the ties of friendship were first and dearest — all else was small, insignificant, and forgotten.

Soon after their meeting, George was discharged from the Confederate Army for “paralysis.”

After the war ended, George moved to Ocala, Florida, and became a Methodist minister.  He died on Feb. 14, 1879.

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I am indebted to Iowa Wesleyan University archivist Lynn Ellsworth and librarian Joy Conwell, and descendant-genealogist Jane A. Leavell for their assistance.  I  drew upon Hiram Thornton Bird’s Memories of the Civil War, published in 1925.

Thank you for reading my blog!  Please leave any comments below.

You can’t outrun the long arm of the law

Governments on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line had an insatiable desire for military recruits.  Pennsylvania native Samuel H. Bulger found this out during the Civil War.

Samuel had moved to Clinton, Iowa, when he was 12.  At age 18, in 1857, he and his family moved to Texas, where Samuel worked as a laborer, and his father raised stock.

Texas seceded in 1861.  A year later, 22-year-old Samuel enlisted as a private in Company E, 6th Texas Infantry.

The infantry was an unpopular choice.  A Confederate recruiter wrote:

[I] find it hard to get Texans to go into infantry companies.  They say they will go mounted, but no other way.  That is, a majority say so.

bulgersamuelh-narrow-escape-of-general-meade-loc-cropped

Years later, Samuel said he had been “pressed into the rebel service.”  He wasn’t drafted, but he may have felt pressured to enlist by his Texas peers, his neighbors, or his employer.

His younger brother, Philip, enlisted in the same company a few months later.

Samuel’s troubles began to mount.  For starters, he received no pay for eight months.

Their regiment was sent to Fort Hindman, also called Arkansas Post, on the Arkansas River. Union commanders considered Fort Hindman a stepping-stone to Vicksburg.

bulgersamuelb-plan-of-fort-hindman-jan-1863-battle-of-arkansas-post-historyofwar-dot-org

In early January 1863, Union troops and gunboats moved in, outnumbering Confederate troops 6 to 1.  Admiral David D. Porter’s gunboats began shelling the Confederate positions.

(Currier and Ives)

Battle of Fort Hindman (Currier and Ives)

The Confederate infantrymen retreated to rifle pits outside of Fort Hindman.   Intense shelling lasted for a day, and the Confederates surrendered on January 11.

They were hustled on to steamboats.  Soaking wet from rain and snow, Sam, his brother, and other POWs suffered terribly, heading up the Mississippi.

The Bulger brothers and their fellow POWs went to Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois.  After a month-and-a-half of captivity, in March 1863, Sam took the oath of allegiance to the U.S.  Dozens of his comrades did, too, including his brother, Philip.

Historian James M. McCaffrey notes:

Other prisoners referred to this oath taking as ‘swallowing the puppy,’ and called those who took the oath ‘razorbacks’.

Samuel returned to Clinton, but he couldn’t escape the war.  He was enumerated for the draft that summer.

Conflicting information creeps into the story.  Samuel claimed to have served the Union Army for three months, which would have made him a 100 Day Man.  However, I haven’t found any record of this.

His brother, Philip, was a different story.  Philip was a 100 Day Man.

Samuel claimed to have been drafted the following year, in 1864, so he scraped up enough money to hire a substitute to take his place.  He also married Alice D. Stockwell.  They later had four children and moved to Appanoose County, Iowa.

In 1890, Samuel and his wife moved to Guadalupe County, Texas.  Samuel died on August 28, 1893.

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