|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Each one who fought in Civil War had reason” was originally published in the April 25, 1985 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
There has been much discussion during recent weeks about one of our universities displaying the Confederate flag. Much has been said about the war, and more has been written. Many have voiced their opinions while knowing little or nothing about the causes of the war. Many read no further than what they want to believe.
This war that lasted four years on the soil of our great country was the most unusual war in history, as well as the most misunderstood and the least studied about by most of our citizens.
No one takes the time to read the “fine print,” so to speak, about the causes and the feelings that spread across this great land. I use the word “feelings” because in many, many instances, this was all that caused families to be divided and caused brother to fight brother, father to fight son. But with all the misunderstanding, this conflict united this country and has been instrumental in us becoming the greatest power this earth has ever witnessed.
As a self-taught scholar of this era in history, and as one whose family on both sides was closely associated with many events and battles, I would like to share with you some of the unusual facts about the war that I have researched since early childhood.
For instance, more than 100,000 Federal soldiers were 15 years old or younger. There were numerous “soldiers in gray” too young to climb into their saddles. It might have been called “the boys’ war.” The youngest Rebel served at age 10, the oldest at 75.
The commander of the Union garrison at Fort Sumter (the first battle of the war) was a slave owner. Gen. U.S. Grant had to sign an agreement in the presence of President Lincoln that he would free his slaves before he could command the Union Army.
Capt. S. Isadore Guillet, a young Confederate officer, was fatally shot on the same horse on which three of his brothers had been previously killed.
The conflict known to us as the Civil War was referred to under 29 other games.
George B. Zimpleman’s of Terry’s Texas Rangers, CSA, a private by choice, fought in more than 400 battles, had a number of horses shot from under him, and suffered two wounds.
Firing on both sides was so inaccurate that soldiers estimated it took a man’s weight in lead to kill a single enemy in battle. A Federal expert said that each Confederate who was shot required 240 pounds of powder and 900 pounds of lead.
Of the 425 Confederate generals, 77 were killed or died of wounds during the war. The last surviving lieutenant general of the Southern Armies was Simon Bolivar Buckner, who lived until 1914; his son and namesake was killed as a general in World War II.
Soldiers once, during the Battle of Petersburg, watched Gen. Robert E. Lee dismount his horse while under fire to pick up something from the ground and place it in a tree. When he was gone, the curious men found that he had replaced a fallen baby bird in its nest.
Mary Lincoln, the wife of President Lincoln, had a brother, Dr. George R.C. Todd, who was a volunteer Confederate surgeon. Gen. Ben Hardin Helm, a Confederate general killed during the Battle of Chickamauga, was married to one of Mary Lincoln’s sisters. Two other sisters were married to Confederate officers.
Col. John Singleton Mosby, the Confederate ranger, slipped into Alexandria, Va. and captured Col. D.H. Dulaney, U.S.A. He had a well-qualified guide in his ranks to show him the way, French Dulaney, the son of his victim.
For the siege of Vicksburg, Miss., the state of Missouri furnished 29 regiments – 17 Confederate, 22 Union. The climax of the war for the 7th Tennessee Regiment Confederate was the capture of the complete 7th Tennessee USA – warriors, drummers, cooks and all.
Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, classed by some as the war’s most able cavalry commander, had 29 horses shot from under him in the course of the war.
Under the terms of General Johnston’s surrender to USA General Sherman near Durham, N.C., many more men were surrendered than General Lee gave up at Appomattox. In post-war years, General Johnston served as pallbearer for several prominent Union generals, including U.S. Grant. His last such service was for William T. Sherman, his conqueror. While paying his respects to Sherman in the cemetery on a raw winter day, Johnston contracted a severe cold, which became pneumonia and caused his death.
The troops of these strangely divided armies were taught tactics from the same book, written by a Confederate, Gen. W.J. Hardee.
So, when all is said and done, each in his own way had reason to render his services and, in many instances, give his life to a cause each thought was right. So the flying or display of the “Stars and Bars” is in no way a symbol of slavery, but a symbol of a belief many thought was right and honorable.
The blood of both sides that has stained the soil of this great land should not be looked up lightly. Through this blood that was shed rose one nation, under God, that hopefully will no perish from the earth. The words of the poet Theodore O’Hara would be the most appropriate in closing:
Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud –
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow
And the proud forms by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.
Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished year hath flown,
The story how you fell.
Nor wreck nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor time’s remorseless doom,
Can dim one ray of holy light
That gilds your glorious tomb.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)