Tag Archives: Civil War

What are the odds?

Had a chimney guy in last week to inspect the mini-rancho’s fireplace before we use it. He picked up Bar’s cannonball from the hearth, hefted it and asked if it was real. When I said yes, it’s real, he set it down gently.

I said it was Confederate from an old fort in South Austin before there was a South Austin. He said (coincidentally, what are the odds?) he grew up in Pennsylvania and his school classes spent time each year at the Gettysburg battlefield park. Said he had a friend coming down soon and he’d sure like to show him a real civil war fort.

I said the old fort, just earthen berms really with field piece (cannon) revetments cut into them, was near Ben White and South Congress. Somewhere on the northwest corner. All gone now, of course, buried under commercial development. But they can look at it and imagine how it was.

UPDATE: From the Austin Chronicle, July 4, 2003: “‘Archeological and Archival Investigations at Fort Magruder, a Civil War Period Fortification in Austin, Travis County, Texas,’ published by the Texas Department of Transportation, is by far the most comprehensive history of the fort or, more accurately, construction site. ‘The fortifications of Fort Magruder for all practical purpose never got off the ground, and to date no documented evidence has surfaced that Fort Magruder was ever garrisoned by troops for the military threat to Austin never materialized,’ the report said.”

The Sneed mansion

The Sneed mansion in somewhat better days, i.e. 1936. Today it’s just a South Austin ruin surrounded by development. Even Wikipedia gets its history wrong, neglecting to mention that ol’ Sebron sr. was a Confederate provost marshal whose home was the rallying point for captured deserters and other evaders of the draft, and that the attic was used as a ballroom for parties and dances. Some of Sebron’s 21 slaves are nearby in a neglected cemetery that should be some sort of SJW monument to them and their plight but isn’t.

All that remains of Fort Sanders


Just a historical marker two blocks south of the military crest of the ridge. I posted this on the novel’s Web site as well. Will post it here also to give the novel site a little boost. It is not yet attracting as many hits as the 13th MS one, which is understandable I suppose. The MS brigade was famous and still is among the war’s buffs. Fort Sanders was, at best, obscure. Forgotten is even more accurate. That was my gamble novelizing it, but also my opportunity.

Civil War Envelopes

ACWPatrioticEnvelopesNot having inherited any Civil War letters, and not knowing anyone who did, I found this cover of a new book on them pretty fascinating. I had no idea. Believe I’ll post this on my Knoxville 1863 novel’s site, as well, since one of the narrators of the story talks about having received a letter from home but having no paper or envelope to write back.

The novel’s site is drawing fewer visits (so far) than the one I’ve begun for the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Probably because the 13th still is relatively well known among ACW buffs, certainly compared to the novel’s subject, the Battle of Fort Sanders, which has been pretty much forgotten. But that may change by next spring when the sesquicentennial of the war begins and local interest catches fire as media mentions proliferate.

Terry’s Texas Rangers

rangers1This Civil War unit, part of Wheeler’s Cavalry, plays a role in “Knoxville 1863.”

Civil War reenactors

soldierACW reenactors are an interesting bunch, most often portraying Rebels. Their story is perhaps best told here–despite the author’s ignorance of history and regrettable air of liberal Yankee embarrassment. (It’s said that in Germany, where reenacting also is popular, you have to be Union for two years before you can be a Rebel. Elsewise they’d have no Union reenactors.)

But, wherever they are found, I dislike the Rebel reenactor’s usual odor of unreality. (See above.) Their clothes are too uniform and almost never patched or ragged, much less dirty. Their cap boxes and other accoutrements are too shiny. Moreover, their hair is too short and too clean and their beards (when they have them at all) aren’t scraggly. And, whoa, get this, they all are well shod. T’ain’t realistic t’ all.

UPDATE:  Playing at being Confederates is one thing. Playing at being Union Colored Troops is quite another. The latter are little known and therefore of immense educational value to anyone, whether interested in the war or not.

Grant’s papers to Mississippi

Here’s irony. As we approach the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2011-2015: Unconditional Surrender Grant is still buried in Grant’s tomb, as the old joke has it, in New York City.

But his correspondence and other papers have journeyed from Southern Illinois University to Mississippi State University. At least  State has now put them on the Web for the benefit of researchers everywhere. But still. Gen. Grant to the Rebs? Oh my.