Phillips Legion at Knoxville

The Phillips Georgia Legion (or Phillips Legion of Georgia or simply Phillips Legion) rates its own chapter in the novel, for its co-starring part in the attack on Fort Sanders. Although this stirring little animation of its battle flag does not include any mention of Knoxville.

The Legion was famous enough in its own right, however, even towards the tail-end of the war—its officers claiming pride-of-place (though disputed) in its having been the last Rebel regiment to leave Richmond in the city’s April 3-4, 1865, evacuation.

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Reprise: The Unfortunate Friendship

Unfortunate, that is, for the boys age 14 to 17 who comprised the majority of Captain/Doctor William Watts Parker’s Sixth Virginia Light Artillery.

Meaning his friendship with Colonel Edward Porter Alexander, Longstreet’s chief of artillery. For as Alexander put it in his memoir:

“If I want a Christian to pray for the dying soldier, I call on Parker. If I wish a skillful surgeon to amputate the limb of a wounded soldier, I call on Parker. If I want a soldier, who with unflinching courage, will go wherever duty calls, I call on Parker.”

Which is why, at Knoxville, the “Boy Battery” had to haul their 3-inch rifled field pieces on a leaky old flatboat back and forth across the freezing Holston River in a snow storm.

“We’d came and went no less than three times in four days,” as my fictional sergeant-gunner Pichigru Pease put it, “to satisfy some damn fool generals who couldn’t make up their feeble minds.”

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USS Monitor restoration continues


The USS Monitor ironclad is featured in the novel in the recollections of Sergeant Timothy Chase of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The fictional sergeant saw the Monitor’s successful fight against the CSS Virginia ironclad in 1862 and has “dined out” on the experience ever since. The real Monitor is undergoing restoration in Newport News, Virginia.

“Mariners’ Museum conservators are performing electrolysis and desalination of USS Monitor‘s 120-ton revolving gun turret. The 90,000 gallon treatment tank [pictured above] is filled with an alkaline solution of sodium hydroxide in reverse osmosis water to promote electrolysis and desalination. Treatment of the wrought iron gun turret is anticipated to take an additional 15 years before the turret will be stable enough to display in the Large Artifact Gallery of the Ironclad Revolution exhibit at the USS Monitor Center.”

Watch it all on Webcam. Refreshed every twelve seconds. If nothing seems to be happening, you’ll notice that an occasional breeze ripples the surface. 😉

Via USS Monitor Center.

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Colonel Kennon McElroy’s grave

Here’s a possible correction in the Afterword—not in the novel itself.

In the Afterword, I asserted that the grave of Colonel Kennon McElroy was unknown. It was as far as I knew at the time I wrote the novel. Apparently it is not unknown anymore.

McElroy was a University of Mississippi graduate and Lauderdale Station farmer killed commanding the 13th Mississippi Regiment in the attack on Fort Sanders.

“Most of the Confederates buried on the battlefield were transferred to a Knoxville Cemetery in the spring of 1864,” I wrote. “Many were never identified. Colonel McElroy’s descendents do not know exactly where he is buried.”

Apparently, however, at least some of them do. Probably shortly after the war, according to independent historian and reenactor Kenneth Robison II at Find-A-Grave, McElroy’s “remains were later brought back to Mississippi and buried at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian” in Lauderdale County.

Several other grave registries at genealogical sites on the Web now also have McElroy buried at Rose Hill in Meridian. None did when I wrote the novel. But, curiously, neither Robison nor any of the others has offered a photograph of a tombstone for the young colonel who would have been 23 years old when he died. Is his grave unmarked?

I regret the error, if error it is.

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Firing the 1861 Springfield

This Hungarian fellow who styles himself capandball on the Internet has a really thick accent but if you listen closely you can get the gist of his description of the 1861 Springfield percussion rifle-musket he’s firing here.

Most Confederates, if not most Yankees, preferred the British Enfield Pattern 1853 to the Springfield any time they could snatch an orphaned Enfield off the battlefield. Thus the novel’s fictional Private Burton Laing of the New York Cameron Highlanders tries hard to fish the misfired ball out of the barrel of his old Enfield rather than surrender it for a new Springfield.

Pity capandball is not shooting at night so you could watch the impressive 3-feet of flame the black powder produces out the Springfield’s business end.


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A soldier poet

Mayst purest pleasures ever be thine,
A [something] holy, pure, chaste, divine,
Richest of all treasures I’d wish thee given,
Youth, beauty, happiness – a home in Heaven.

So then-Captain, later Colonel, Kennon McElroy wrote in December, 1861, in an elaborate, decorative hand to “Miss Mary,” just more than two years before he was killed leading his 13th Mississippi Regiment in the attack on Fort Sanders. “Old Chivalry,” the fictional men of the novel call him.

Miss Mary was the pretty, 20-year-old Mary Elizabeth Johnston of Leesburg, Virginia where the 13th Regiment was posted in the fall and winter of 1861. They were camped on the Fairgrounds near her home on Loudon Street.

McElroy, a University of Mississippi graduate and a farmer of Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi, must have cut a romantic figure in his Lauderdale Zouaves uniform of billowing, red pantaloons, embroidered blue jacket and low, white turban hat tilted on the back of his head.

Johnston may have mourned his death at age 23. She outlived him by 47 years. But he was only one of her Mississippi suitors. She also inspired at least two other men of the regiment to write her poems. She kept all three poems in a “remembrance” album passed down to her descendants. The album may have been a gift to her from then-Captain McElroy, who may even have known her before the war.

Via Find-A-Grave

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Zouaves at Knoxville


It’s doubtful whether the Lauderdale Zouaves company of the 13th Mississippi Regiment still had uniforms as presentable as this when the regiment attacked Fort Sanders on Nov. 29, 1863. But such apparently was their appearance when the war began.

Their romantic uniforms were not uncommon on both sides of the war. They commemorated the French colonial soldier who distinguished himself in the Crimean War of 1855. Of which it was written in 1862: “…he knows he is looked upon by his officers, by France, and by the world, as a soldier to whom nothing should be impossible; and he would rather die than disappoint the expectation formed of him; his is a corps d’elite, and every Zouave considers himself a ‘death or glory man.’”

The Zouaves of Lauderdale Station, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, originally were led by then-Captain Kennon McElroy, 21, a University of Mississippi graduate and farmer, who was elected colonel and promoted after Gettysburg to command the regiment. As such he is recreated in the novel. McElroy was killed in the attack on the fort.

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Was The South Ever Confederate, Anyway?

The old arguments over the Confederate battle flag (pride or racist symbol, or both), intensified after a photograph surfaced of a mass murderer in Charleston, South Carolina, holding one.

This war retrospective, by contemporary Knoxville journalist Jack Neely, whose title forms the headline of this post, speaks to some of the complexities of the war which are explored in Knoxville 1863:

“The Civil War is a big bagful of ironies and paradoxes, and not a recommended study for folks who like to keep things simple. It would be a particular challenge for anyone to survive the 1860s in Knoxville and either idealize one side or demonize the other. It took a later generation, one that didn’t remember the war, to glorify it…”

No better time, perhaps, than Independence Day to consider all this anew. Give it a whirl.

Via Instapundit.

UPDATE:  And if you care to get really bogged down in the war’s minutia, there’s this one.

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