Saturday, February 25, 2017

Singleton talks of strange Civil War facts that 'history forgot to mention'

Edwin Thomas Booth
(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 “Strange facts of the war that history forgot to mention” was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2001 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Our history teachings of today give little or no thought to the tragic and bloody sacrifices of that period in our history known as the Civil War.

This period, from 1861 to 1865, was unlike any other event that has taken place anywhere else in the world because of the circumstances and happenings which caused this war to be different and unlike any war known to mankind.

As for myself, I think the history of our dreaded Civil War should be taught in greater detail, due to the fact that with this teaching, our youth would have a greater knowledge of this period of our history.

Many unanswered questions that we face today could be answered and many mysteries of this time would be solved. This article is dedicated to those of my readers who care about our history and those who search for many answers.

Here are some oddities of this bloody war that might open some eyes.

In 1861, Wilmer McLean, distressed that a cannonball had crashed through his home during the battle of Bull Run, moved to a farm where “the sound of battle would never again reach him and his family.”

Almost four years later, McLean’s Appomattox Courthouse home was used for General Lee’s surrender to General Grant. There wasn’t any damage from cannonballs, but souvenir-hunting Union officers stripped his house of almost all of its furniture.

When Sam and Keith Blalock joined the 26th North Carolina Regiment, they claimed to be old friends who were distantly related. It was months before anyone discovered Sam’s real name was Malinda. When Keith signed up to fight the Yankees, his wife put on man’s attire and went to war with him.

After the Confederacy was defeated, Jefferson Davis was stripped of his citizenship. He died as a man without a country. His citizenship was restored by Congress during the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Major General George A. Custer, only wounded one time during the bloody conflict, had 11 horses shot from under him. Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler continued to fight after having 16 horses killed under him. Still, the all-time record seems to have been set by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. After a thorough study of the matter, Brigadier General James R. Chalmers reported that Forrest was under fire more than 100 times during which 36 horses were shot from under him.

A later analysis, now widely accepted, led to the conclusion that General Forrest actually had a total of 39 horses killed under him while he was in the saddle.

Unlike the Confederates, the Union cavalrymen were usually provided with a government-owned horse. There were a few exceptions.

By October 1861, virtually all units of the Union Army were furnished animals owned by the government. By October 1862, the federal government owned about 150,000 horses and 100,000 mules.

During the first two years of the fighting, Union cavalry units, which never had more than 60,000 men in the field, were supplied with about 240,000 horses. Before General Lee surrendered, federal funds had paid for an estimated 840,000 horses and at least 430,000 mules.

Even then, politics played an important role in the decisions as to who went to war and those who were exempt from the draft.

Shielded from battle because he was the son of the president, college student Robert Todd Lincoln was at a New Jersey railroad station waiting to board a train. Forced by the mass of many other passengers to lean from the waiting platform against the side of the train, he suddenly felt it begin to move.

The motion of the train spun young Lincoln off his feet and caused him to slide downward into the open space between the car and the platform. Suspended helplessly, he suddenly felt a hand grab his coat and lift him to safety.

Turning around to thank the bystander who had rescued him, he recognized the famous actor Edwin Booth, the brother of the man who, a few months later, would take the life of his father.

After Union General William T. Sherman burned and destroyed the city of Atlanta, Ga., he began his famous March to the Sea. He decided that he and his army would burn a path 100 miles wide across the South and destroy all farm houses and mules and horses in his path.

During this march, he destroyed many homes, along with many crops in the fields. His army killed over 15,000 farm horses and over 18,000 mules that were used to cultivate the farm land along his march route.

Following his army were between 600 to 700 freed slaves. Sherman’s army and the freed slaves pillaged the farms and destroyed an estimated 60 tons of cured meat that they took from the destroyed farm’s families.

By the time the army reached Ebenezer Creek just outside Savannah, Ga., there was no food for the followers of Sherman’s army.

The followers were eating spilled rice swept from the wagon beds that had been taken from the farms along the way.

The stream named Ebenezer Creek was really a wide stream of water as wide as a river. No one to this day knows why the stream was called a creek.

Sherman ordered flatboats to be constructed for his army to cross the stream on. After all the army and its equipment and animals had been ferried across, the flatboats were sent back to bring across the 600 or so freed slaves.

As the flatboats reached midstream, Sherman ordered his cannons to open fire on the loaded flatboats. None of those aboard the boats lived to reach the shore.

History describes Sherman as a gentle and kind soldier. Our history fails to mention also that upon an occasion when some of Sherman’s riflemen killed three Confederate soldiers in a small skirmish, Sherman ordered the three bodies to be placed in a large hog pen nearby, to be eaten by the hungry hogs rather than take the time to bury them. Truly, indeed, Sherman was a kind and gentle man.

History also forgets to mention that the largest slave owner in the South was a black man by the name of Lanier who lived in southern Louisiana. He owned over 4,000 of his own people. Also, the largest slave trader in the world was a black man by the name of Sinque. This black slave trader sold over two million of his own people.

If our teaching of history continues on the path that we follow today, within a very short time, the true stories of the dreadful years of our Civil War will have faded into oblivion. And the many who lie sleeping in the thousands of unknown graves throughout our nation will forever be forgotten.

History will rewrite our past, not like it actually happened, but like we wanted it to happen.

(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, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 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. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” 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.)

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