Petersburg Virginia, Civil War Battlefield

Virginia and Civil War equals Battlefields, and I love it. The Petersburg National Battlefield is a historic landmark for Civil War geeks and American history fans to explore. So many monuments, exhibits, walking paths, you can spend days there exploring.

The siege of Petersburg lasted nearly 10 long months. From June of 1864 thru April of 1865 the largely out numbered Confederate Army lead by General Beauregard protected Richmond from capture with intricate defensive lines of trenches and earthworks throughout the high ground.

With nearly 70,000 casualties during the siege ( 42,000 Union and 28,000 Confederate) on June 18th 1864 the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery sustained the largest loses of any regiment as 850 men advanced across a cornfield to capture a Confederate line. With no Union troops to protect there flanks the Confederates opened fire mowing down 632 Union troops in a mere 10 minutes, unfortunately for the Maine regiment not one man reached the Confederate line.

But the Battle of the Crater is what Petersburg is mostly known for. The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry tunneled a mine shaft 500 feet long, under the area where the Confederate line was. On July 30, 1864 they packed cavities under the Confederate line with 8000 pounds of explosives and ignited the fuse. The blast killed more then 300 South Carolinians and created a large gap measuring 170” long, 110” wide, 30” deep in the Confederate line.

Brigadier General William Mahone is largely credited with rallying the Confederate troops, counter attacking the Union troops as they rushed into the crater, he would later say it was like a “turkey shoot”. The Union attack failed due to poor planning and leadership. Union Casualties were staggering, with 504 killed, 1881 wounded 1413 missing or captured for a total of 3,798 versus Confederate casualties of 1491 with 361 killed, 727 wounded and 403 missing or captured. Many of the Union losses were from Ferrero’s United States Colored Troops. Major General Ambrose Burnside was relieved of his command shortly after his role in the debacle.

Cold Harbor Battlefield

Coming up from Florida in May of this year my wife and I stopped at a bunch of Civil War Battlefields in the Richmond Virginia area. Petersburg, The Seven Days Battle at Gaines Mill, Totopotomoy Creek, Cold Harbor and the Chandler house at Fairfield, Guinea Station the place where Stonewall Jackson Died are just a few of the American landmarks we visited.

With so much to explore I was in Civil War exploration overload. I mean there was just so much to see and do I was just in my glory. I would say I was a bit taken by the lack of resources that have been used to maintain these historic landmarks but I guess it’s typical of American Politicians (with the allocation of money)not to care about our history especially in the South, it’s just not politically correct these days. Bummer.

So anyway I’m sure you have better things to do then listen to me drone on about my opinions when it comes to politics, so let’s move on.

If you haven’t been to the Cold Harbor Battlefield you have to drop what your doing and go NOW, I mean it. It has some of the best preserved entrenchments any where. The Confederate trenches are soooooo cool. There are paths that follow the trenches that allow you to understand the topography of the land. Understanding this allows you to see just what a dominate defensive position the Confederate Army had and why it was such an overwhelming victory for the South.

I must warn you to NOT WALK THROUGH THE TRENCHES, they are American historic jewels and the more there disturbed the more they erode. Plus the park rangers will give you a hard time.

My Gr.Gr. grandfather Richard Jones and his brother Thomas Jones served in Co. C, 38th Battalion Virginias Light Artillery part of Read Battalion. On June 2nd and 3 rd 1864, both brothers were positioned with there battery at the spearhead of the Northern assault. Fortunately Richard survived the campaign without incident, Thomas on the other hand wasn’t so fortunate. He was WIA, June, 3rd 1864 with a flesh wound to the right leg and spent the rest of the war in and out of Chimborazo and Stuart Hospitals in Richmond Virginia.

For anyone wanting to read more about this Robert H. Moore is the author of “The Richmond Fayette, Hampden, Thomas, and Blounts Lynchburg Artillery” this is a limited edition book out of print these days but still available through specialty book stores online.

Confederate Retractable Pikes

For the longest time I’ve been wanting and waiting for a Retractable Pike to become available that had all the characteristics that I demand for my collection. I’ve seen a few over the past years that drew my interest and curiosity but it wasn’t until I examined them that I realized they didn’t meet my expectations. So year after year, show after show it’s been one of those Southern Weapons that I’ve been on the hunt for but never could find that ONE that I could call mine.

As luck would have it I was on one of the more prominent Civil War Dealers web sites and low and behold their it was in all its glory, the retractable pike that said “I’m yours, buy me”. Interestingly enough there wasn’t just one pike to choose from there we’re two. One had a lighter wood finish, that may have been cleaned at some time and it had a shorter blade by about 2 inches. Then their was the pike that called to me.

This pike has a beautiful blackened wood and metal finish. Unlike so many of the pikes that I’ve handled over the years that always seemed to be missing a part or two or had cracks in the wood or a damaged blade, this pike was just stunning it wasn’t missing anything. It had all its hardware and a longer blade then most, which really drew my curiosity.

The pike has a spear point blade that’s extremely sharp. The shaft is six foot 1 inch long when the blade is in the closed position, the blade is 16 inches long and the pike has an overall length of 7 foot 5 inches when the blade is in the opened position.

The retractable pike was invented by Reverend Doctor Graves, a Methodist minister originally from Vermont, living in Georgia at the time of the war. Probably made in Macon Georgia these pikes were originally designed to have a spring that would eject the blade (kinda like a large stiletto or switchblade) to the open position however the South didn’t have the capabilities of making such a spring so they were made without them. The user would slide the bolt on the side to manually move the blade to open and closed position.

Georgia Governor Joseph Brown gave an address in February, 1862 appealing to the blacksmiths and mechanics throughout the state to show there patriotism and turn out ten thousand pikes to be six feet long and have an eighteen inch blade.

Suggesting that armies should be armed with pikes and a long heavy side knives and when advancing columns come within reach of the balls, let them move in double time and rush with terrible impetuosity into the lines of the enemy.

Governor Brown stated in his address that long range guns sometimes fail to fire and waste hundreds of balls to one that takes effect, but the short range pike and terrible knife when brought within their proper range, and wielded by a stalwarts patriots arm never fail to fire and never waste a single load.

There’s no doubt Gov. Browns intentions were good but I’m not fighting anyone who has a gun that shots lead with an accuracy of 500 yards if I’m only armed with a 6 foot pike. I Believe a Georgia Regiment almost committed mutiny when told they would have to fight with such a weapon. Can’t say I blame them.

So there you have it, yet another fine example of a Southern Edged Weapon. I hope you enjoy the photos if you have any questions about this weapon or any of the other weapons here at the Civil War Arsenal I can be reached at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Eugene West

Civil War Guns

Sitting around the house today not knowing what to do, outside the snow is coming down and there calling this the storm of the century with up to 2 feet of snow and 50 MPH winds expected, sounds cold to me….

Anyway I decided to take some photos of my history room, a.k.a. the “Civil War Arsenal”. As you can see many of my antique weapons are displayed throughout the room. I recently had a carpenter build the racks that the rifles are mounted on, all in all I think the racks came out pretty nice and compliment the rifles and corresponding bayonets.

You’ll also notice some D-Handle, Side Knives, Pikes and Artillery Swords displayed as well. Its my opinion that these weapons should be displayed so friends and family can see and handle them. I don’t quite get the fun in collecting antique guns and swords then putting them in the safe or some out of the way place where no one can appreciate them. But thats just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions.

Also scattered throughout the room are a number of paintings, historical photos, bronze castings and dozens of other historical items. You’ll notice that I am a big “John Paul Strain” fan he is perhaps one of the best artist in his field I have a bunch of his paintings. I also have some of “Karl Anderson’s” sculptures, he’s a less know artist then John however just as good and I believe the best in his field, especially when it comes to historical accuracy.

Well there you have it, another story that no one will read. Just Kidding…. If you have any questions about this post or any of the weapons in the “Civil War Arsenal” feel free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Gene West

Kerr Patent, .44 Caliber, Percussion Revolver

Imported by the Confederate Government, the Kerr Revolver was made by the London Armory Company in London England, approximately 7,500 were imported by the South with a serial number range from about 3000 – 10000, interestingly enough the U.S. Government imported 16 revolvers in 1861.

The revolver was made in both .36 and .44 calibers with a double action version released in 1863, however the Confederacy only purchased single action .44 caliber revolvers. The overall length is 10 ¾” with a 5 ½” barrel that has London proof marks. The lock plate is marked London Armory as well as the left side of the frame. The serial number is located on the cylinder and the bottom right side of the frame under the cylinder compartment.

Many, but not all of the Confederate Kerr Revolvers are marked with the C/S import proof/inspection stamp of John Southgate, Chief CS viewer/proofer for the Confederacy in England, with the JS/Anchor demarcation.

Which brings me to the next example in the Civil War Arsenal. This relic condition revolver is a true Southern classic. I consider it relic condition due to the pitting on the lock plate, hammer that doesn’t stay in the cocked position all the time and the poor condition of the wood hand. It seems to me at one time or another it must have been dropped or crushed causing a crack to the wood handle, some damage to the checking on the handle and the worst part of the damage is a small portion of wood is missing from the area of the handle where the JS/anchor demarcation is located. It’s still clearly visible but the top portion of the JS is missing, it’s still a bummer (the damage that is).

This Revolver has a serial number of 6605 on the cylinder as well as the frame which puts it in the range of confederate purchases. Along with the JS/Anchor demarcation assures us this is a Southern Imported Revolver.

I first saw this weapon a couple of years ago on a web site of one of the more prominent Civil War dealers, I called him up and negotiated a price. The photos that he used to advertise the revolver were not the best quality and did not show the damage to the handle. I trusted his reputation and that he would alert me to any condition issues (he didn’t). So I probably paid more then I should have for this weapon due to the damage on the handle but I guess it’s all part of the learning experience. I’ll be certain to be more careful in the future and not trust the reputations of dealers.

So there you have it another Confederate beauty and another addition to the Civil War Arsenal. If you have any questions about this Revolver or any of the weapons in my Arsenal fell free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn Gene West.

Confederate, Tennessee Side Knife and Rig

This is a great example of a Side knife that a Confederate Infantrymen would have carried throughout the War Between the States. Small and light enough to be worn day and night. Many of the large D Handle knives were way too big, clumsy and heavy to be totted around day in and day out, many were tossed to the side of the road in favor of a lighter and more useful knife, such as this.

This knife is extra neat since it still has its wood lined scabbard and belt rig. Both of these pieces are hand sewed which was common for most Confederate rigging. The Spear Point blade is single edged with a sharpened 2 3/4″ top edge. The overall length of the knife is 14 ¾”, with the blade measuring 10 ¼ “and width 1 3/8”.

This knife was formally in the collection of Lee Hadaway, who is one of the leading experts in Confederate Edged Weapons and author of the “Confederate Bowie Knife Guide” which this Knife and Rig is published in. This knife is also published in “Confederate Bowie Knives” on page 253 as a Tennessee Side Knife.

I hope you enjoy the photos and if you have any questions about this knife please feel free to contact me at genx1969@yahoo.com attn. Gene West

Thomas Jonathan ”Stonewall” Jackson

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson born January 21, 1824, was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He graduated 17th of a class of 59 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in time to fight in the Mexican War (1846-48).

Jackson began his United States Army career as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment. He served at the Siege of Veracruz and the battles of Contreras,Chapultece , and Mexico City, eventually earning two brevet promotions, and the regular Army rank of First Lieutenant. It was in Mexico that Thomas Jackson first met Robert E. Lee.

In the spring of 1851, Jackson accepted a newly created teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), in Lexington Virginia. He became Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery. Parts of Jackson’s curriculum are still taught at VMI, regarded as timeless military essentials: discipline, mobility, assessing the enemy’s strength and intentions while attempting to conceal your own, and the efficiency of artillery combined with an infantry assault.

After his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Jackson joined the Confederate army and quickly forged his reputation for fearlessness and tenacity during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Jackson served only briefly as a colonel before receiving a promotion to brigadier general under General Joseph E. Johnston. Jackson earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as Manassas) in July 1861 when he rushed his troops forward to close a gap in the line against a determined Union attack. Upon observing Jackson, one of his fellow generals reportedly said, “Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall!”–a comment that spawned Jackson’s nickname. Jackson was commissioned a major general in October 1861.

By October 1862, Jackson was a lieutenant general and led a significant portion of Lee’s army. His widely publicized exploits had elevated him to legendary status among Southern soldiers and citizens alike. Jackson’s bravery and success inspired devotion from his soldiers, but to his officers, he was known as overly secretive and difficult to please. He frequently punished his officers for relatively minor violations of military discipline and rarely discussed his plans with them. Rather, they were expected to obey his orders without question.

Lee and Jackson’s most famous victory took place at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863. Facing a numerically superior Union force of 130,000 men to 60,000 of their own, Lee and Jackson devised and executed a plan to rout the army of Union General Joseph Hooker.

Historians call this battle one of Lee’s finest moments as a Confederate general, and his success owed much to Jackson’s participation. On May 2, Jackson stealthily and quickly took 28,000 troops on an approximately 15-mile forced march (Jackson’s Flank March) to Hooker’s exposed flank while Lee engaged in diversionary attacks on his front. Jackson’s attack on the Union right inflicted massive casualties on the superior force, and Hooker was forced to withdraw only days later.

But the victory was not without cost. Jackson’s brutal attack ended at sunset, when he took some men into the Wilderness to scout ahead. Troops from the 18th North Carolina regiment mistook them for enemy cavalry and opened fire, shooting Jackson 3 times, twice in the left arm and once in the right hand. Several of his Staff were killed, in addition to many horses. Darkness and confusion prevented Jackson from getting immediate care. He was dropped from the stretcher several times while being evacuated. He was taken from the field and General J. E. B. Stuart took over his command. Dr. Hunter McGuire determined that a bullet had shattered the bone just below his left shoulder, and quickly amputated Jackson’s left arm he was then moved to Thomas Chandlers Plantation.

Jackson appeared to be healing from his wounds, but he died in the plantation office building in Guinea Station, Virginia from pneumonia on May 10, 1863 at the age of 39. Lee dispatched a letter, writing, “Could I have directed events, I would have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead.” Southerners mourned the death of their war hero, while Lee faced fighting the war without a highly valued general and comrade.

His body was moved to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond Virginia for the public to mourn, and then he was moved to be buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia. However, the arm that was amputated on May 2nd was buried separately by Jackson’s Chaplin at the Horace Lacy House,’’ Ellwood” in the Wilderness near the field hospital.

William Brosius Company J 187thPennsylvania Vol. Infantry

For my birthday my friend Sam gave me a framed picture of what appears to be an old man giving you the finger with an American Flag behind him. Turns out it is a photo of William Brosius of Co. J 187th Regiment Pennsylvania Vol. Infantry. He was wounded July 30th 1864 in the left hand on Plank Road in Petersburg Virginia. With the photo came a copy of a Civil War Award giving by G.A.R. Post No. 17 saying that he was indeed wounded in the left hand at Petersburg Virginia . The G.A.R post was located in Harrisburg Pennsylvania; I assume he lived in or around Harrisburg.

The photo has William sitting in front of a 48 star flag (Arizona entered the Union Feb. 12th 1912), William looks to be about 70 years old in the photo. I believe the photo is of William on the 50th anniversary of being wounded, holding his war scared hand up to the camera.

The weird thing about the photo is that it is laminated on the glass and it almost looks like a negative, but when you hold it up to the light it has color in it, in fact the American Flag is RED, White and Blue. I think it may be a glass panel for a lantern light from the turn of the century.

Whatever reason it was made for, I don’t care. IT’S VERY COOL! I think eventually I will mount it in a frame that has a 2” deep reveal on the back side so I can put a light behind it and turn the color on and off.