I love a good anecdote. You too?

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Mark F. Jenkins

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When the idea was raised of constructing a dam at Alexandria, Louisiana, to allow his gunboats to escape downriver, David Dixon Porter is alleged to have responded that, if 'damming' the river would have helped, he'd have been downstream a long time before...

Before Fort Henry, a heavy flood tore loose a number of Confederate torpedoes (mines) that had been placed in the Tennessee River to help defend the fort. One of these was snagged and brought aboard the Union flagboat for inspection; among the onlookers were Grant and gunboat commander Foote. When opened, a loud hissing emerged from the device, and the men scattered. Foote beat Grant up the ladder (or, in some versions, the other way around) to the upper deck, when it became apparent that the noise did not mean the mine was about to explode. Smiling, Foote asked, "General, why all this haste?" to which Grant replied, "That the Navy not get ahead of the Army."

When Farragut's fleet met Charles H. Davis's gunboat flotilla above Vicksburg in 1862, the two flag officers boarded the ironclad Benton to inspect and shell the city's upper batteries. Hearing the shots slam into the armor and witnessing a casualty nearby, Farragut exploded, "I feel like I'm shut up in an iron pot and can't stand it. I'm going up on deck." (Davis ordered the Benton to withdraw upriver.)

And one of my favorites... Petty Officer James F. Taylor of the North Carolina blockade runner Advance, seeing some other men nervous about being under fire as they went past the blockaders, helpfully informed them that, "A bullet, gentlemen, has a path called a 'line of trajectory.' All you have to do to insure safety is to stand to the left or right of this line."
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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From Century Magazine's " Battles and Leaders :, sorry about the length. From when Lee had his family escorted back through lines. Saved it because it seemed so normal, in such a tense time- Mary Lee fishes tomatoes, of all things, from under her seat to give to officers who probably hadn't seen one in awhile.

mary lee tom1.JPG
mary lee tom 2.JPG

mary lee tom 3.JPG
 

Burning Billy

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"Little sympathy existed down in the ranks for unknowledgeable superiors. The greener the officer appeared, the more difficult time he had at the outset with his men. A young and thoroughly inexperienced lieutenant was assigned to a new company of rough-hewn soldiers. The lieutenant was small, seemingly inept, and weak of voice. When he rode out in front of his troops for the first time, out of the ranks came a shout: "And a little child shall lead them!" Raucous laughter followed.

The officer calmly went about the day's duties. Early the next morning the men were aroused from sleep by an order to prepare for an all-day march. The announcement ended: "And a little child shall lead them—on a ****ed big horse!"


"Visitors to an encampment were favorite targets for the jibes of soldiers. In a rare instance, the civilian might enjoy the last laugh. Men in the 7th Virginia one quiet day spied an elderly minister, long white beard flowing in the wind, riding into camp. A good-natured Virginian immediately called out: "Look out, boys! Here comes Father Abraham!"

"Young men," the cleric replied quietly when the chortles subsided, "you are mistaken. I am Saul, the son of Kish, searching for his father's *****, and I have found them."


"Every army in the Civil War contained some degree of lawlessness. Theft was the most common offense. It was often stated that no farmer's henhouse was safe when the 21st Illinois was encamped in the vicinity. The 6th New York also acquired an unsavory reputation. One officer described this New York City unit as "the very flower of the Dead Rabbits, creme de la creme of Bowery society." Rumor circulated that before a man was accepted in the 6th New York, he had to prove that he possessed a jail record.

Just before that particular unit departed for war, its colonel gave the men a pep talk. He held up his gold watch and proclaimed that Southern plantation owners all had such luxuries which awaited confiscation by Union soldiers. Five minutes later, the colonel reached in his pocket to check on the time and found his watch gone."

National Park Civil War Series: The Civil War's Common Soldier
 
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AUG

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The soldiers of Hood's Texas Brigade recalled a lot of little humorous anecdotes in their writings.

Robert Campbell of Co. A, 5th Texas Infantry mentions a couple incidents with Major John C. Upton at Gaines' Mill. He calls him a lieutenant colonel but Upton actually wasn't promoted until the next month.

As soon as arriving at this hill, we were ordered to lay down, and commenced a brisk fire upon the enemy. Co. K of the 5th was detached as skirmishers – our brave Lt. Col. J. C. Upton – a Texas stock man, but as noble, brave and generous as ever lived, was walking up and down the regt – calling on us “My brave boys, give it to them” and then he would wave his saber over his head and give a yell. About this time, an officer dashed up and began in the following strain “Don’t run my boys, give it to them – stand my men, for Gods sake stand – or the day is lost.” Balls of all discription were flying like hail and now and then a groan would tell us of some brave comrade who was no more. As soon as this officer invoked us “For Gods sake stand,” Col. Upton ran up to him and in an awful anger, cried out “Who in the hell and ****ation are you?” “I am a staff officer of Genl. Ewells” – replied he. “Leave here, you **** coward, these are my men, these are Texans, and they don’t know how to run – and sir, if you don’t leave here immediately, I will teach you how to run.” The officer hesitated not a moment – for he knew from Col. Upton, that he meant what he said.

Later when the 5th Texas captured the 4th New Jersey in mass Maj. Upton received their surrender:

The prisoners proved to be the 4th New Jersey – entire – Col., all officers, ten companies – colors and brass band. They surrendered to the “Bloody Fifth.” The Col. of the 4th New Jersey upon his sword being demanded by Lt. Col. Upton – replied “I desire to surrender to a field officer.” Col. Upton had on an old pair of pants, a dilapidated pair of cavalry boots, and an old cotton shirt, a slouch black hat – a huge sabre, with a pair of six shooters – looking less like an officer than any of his men. Col. Upton in his blunt way, told him that he was a field officer and “to give up in a hurry” and says Upton “If you dam Yanks don’t surrender when my boys call on you, officer or not, you will get shot.”

One by one the New Jersey officers stepped up to surrender their swords to Upton. According J. B. Polley's history of the brigade, Upton carried his long-handled frying pan in one hand with an armful of swords in the other. Calling to a couple of his men he said, "Say, Big John Ferris, what the mischief and Tom Walker are you trying to do now?" "I'm trying to keep a lot of these dd Yankees from escaping," came the reply. "Let them go, you infernal fool, let them go; we'd a dd sight rather fight 'em than feed 'em."


The Texas Brigade contained quite a few characters. Val C. Giles of Co. B, 4th Texas Infantry related an incident with then Captain William H. "Howdy" Martin commanding Co. K at Gaines' Mill:

As the regiment charged down the hill at Gaines' Mill, Captain W. H. Martin of "Old K" was in advance of his men with a dragoon six-shooter in each hand, making a Fourth of July speech as he went: "Your homes and your firseside (bang), your wives and children (bang), your—" Just then a shell burst about five feet above the gallant old fellow's head and the "subsequent proceedings interested him no more." Jim saw it and sang out above the infernal roar: "Thar, by G—, Martin's battery is silenced at last." But "Old Howdy" was not killed, and led Old K in and out of many a hot place after that. Old K was the ugliest company in the regiment. They all looked alike.
 

AUG

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In another incident recalled by Giles, Gen. Hood came riding up in rear of the brigade on one march to find Bill Calhoun, the "wit and wag of the regiment" entertaining a group of stragglers around a fire with tales of hunting Comanches in West Texas. Hood ordered him to "join your regiment, sir. I don't know why you are loitering here, so far behind your command." Calhoun replied, "Yes, and what you don't know Gen. Hood would make mighty danmed big book." Despite that, Hood later found him to be "one of the brightest and best informed young men in the army."
 

SWMODave

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Franc Wilkie - The Iowa First

The Missourians believe very generally that we came here to steal their ni**ers, hang the men and ravish the women. One young fellow that was brought into camp to give some information, asked for pen and ink, wrote his sister a letter in which he implored the blessing and protection of heaven upon her, bid her an affectionate and everlasting farewell, and in five minutes after, to his immense astonishment, he was sent out to deliver his own letter, with the information that his presence in camp was not needed any longer.
 
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BelleBlackburn

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After Andrew Johnson took military control of Nashville he was irritated with Gen. Buell for ordering troops out of the city so fast it was in essence surrendering the city. Gen. Henry Halleck and Gen. Buell kept firing off gossipy telegrams to each other complaining about Johnson. Halleck complained, "We are now at the enemy's throat and cannot release our grasp to pare his toenails." Then Johnson telegrammed Lincoln that "petty jealousies and contests between generals wholly incompetent to discharge the duties assigned them have contributed more to the defeat and embarrassment of the government than all other causes combined." I think it is a good thing that twitter was not around then.
 

archieclement

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Franc Wilkie - The Iowa First

The Missourians believe very generally that we came here to steal their ni**ers, hang the men and ravish the women. One young fellow that was brought into camp to give some information, asked for pen and ink, wrote his sister a letter in which he implored the blessing and protection of heaven upon her, bid her an affectionate and everlasting farewell, and in five minutes after, to his immense astonishment, he was sent out to deliver his own letter, with the information that his presence in camp was not needed any longer.
Yet heres also what Wilkie said "And quite as bad as the inefficiency of officers and the introduction of politics into the "higher walks" of the army, is this wide spread, universal determination to steal. Men, with the Commissary's department full to bursting, run down pigs and chickens under the very noses of their officers, without reprimand or scarcely a notice. (I was rejoiced yesterday to see Gen Sturgis vigorously thrash a a fellow over the head with his cane who was in full cry after a rooster) They steal everything from a peach to a piano, and carry article's of plunder to their tents without a word of reproof. The desire for stealing has become so intense that, for the sake of stealing, men will take things not the slightest possible use to themselves or anyone else. At a place called Lancaster, for instance, provisions ran short, yet here the men stole everything they could lay their hands on, carrying off children's shoes, hoops, skirts, syrlages, and flat irons, leaving in their great desire to carry off something, a load of flour, that might have satisfied their hunger"

part of dispatch from Hudson (Macon MO) sept 14 1861

It wasn't a very complimentary dispatch on the union conduct of the war and addressed other inefficiencies too, including drunkenness, ineptitude, and cowardice, he was on a roll
 
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TracyM61

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General Grant, as is common knowledge, was known for his over-indulgence of alcohol on occasion. Gary Gallagher attributes it to the long stretches of time without his wife and children around him. Understandable, I'd say. Apparently, President Lincoln took the practical view of the matter regarding complaints of Grants drinking whiskey with this response:

"Find out the brand and give it to my other generals."

That one made me chuckle an endear me to Lincoln's humor and sure makes a great quote for the annals of history...
 
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jackt62

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On February 3, 1865 at the Hampton Roads Conference aboard the steamboat River Queen in Hampton Roads, Virginia, President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward met with three confederate commissioners, Alexander Stephens, Robert Hunter and John Campbell. The purpose of the conference was to discuss possible terms for ending the war. The confederate commissioners asked Lincoln whether it would be possible for the confederacy to hold official negotiations with the Union while fighting continued, noting that King Charles I of England had done so with rebels fighting his regime during the English Civil War. To that request, Lincoln remarked:

"I do not profess to be posted in history. All I distinctly remember about the case of Charles I, is, that he lost his head."
 
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Eleanor Rose

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I have always enjoyed this introduction written by Dan Sickles to the book,"Lee and Longstreet at High Tide." Some question if it is true, but if it was good enough for Helen Longstreet, it's good enough for me.

"I trust I may be pardoned for relating an incident that reveals the sunny side of Longstreet's genial nature. When I visited Georgia, in March, 1892, I was touched by a call from the General, who came from Gainesville to Atlanta to welcome me to his State. On St. Patrick's Day we supped together as guests of the Irish Societies of Atlanta, at their banquet. We entered the hall arm in arm, about nine o'clock in the evening and were received by some three hundred gentlemen with the wildest and loudest "rebel yell" I had ever heard.

When I rose to respond to a toast in honor of the Empire State of the North, Longstreet stood also and leaned with one arm on my shoulder, the better to hear what I had to say, and this was a signal for another outburst. I concluded my remarks by proposing,— "Health and long life to my old adversary, Lieutenant- General Longstreet," assuring the audience that, although the General did not often make speeches, he would sing the "Star-Spangled Banner." This was, indeed a risky promise, as I had never heard the General sing. I was greatly relieved by his exclamation:"Yes, I will sing it." And he did sing the song admirably, the company joining with much enthusiasm.

As the hour was late, and we had enjoyed quite a number of potations of hot Irish whiskey punch, we decided to go to our lodgings long before the end of the revel, which appeared likely to last until daybreak. When we descended to the street we were unable to find a carriage, but Longstreet proposed to be my guide; and, although the streets were dark and the walk a long one, we reached my hotel in fairly good form.

Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, I said, —"Longstreet, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and it is very late, and you are somewhat deaf and rather infirm; now I must escort you to your headquarters. "All right," said Longstreet; "come on and we'll have another handshake over the bloody chasm."

"When we arrived at his stopping-place and were about to separate, as I supposed, he turned to me and said, —"Sickles, the streets of Atlanta are very dark and you are lame, and a stranger here, and do not know the way back to your hotel ; I must escort you home." "Come along, Longstreet," was my answer.

On our way to the hotel, I said to him, "Old fellow, I hope you are sorry for shooting off my leg at Gettysburg. I suppose I will have to forgive you for it some day." "Forgive me?" Longstreet exclaimed. " You ought to thank me for leaving you one leg to stand on, after the mean way you behaved to me at Gettysburg."

How often we performed escort duty for each other on that eventful night I have never been able to recall with precision; but I am quite sure that I shall never forget St. Patrick's Day in 1892, at Atlanta.
 

jackt62

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At the start of the Atlanta campaign in May 1864, Jefferson Davis predicted that Sherman could not maintain his line of communications and that he would have to retreat sooner or later. Davis predicted that Sherman's army would meet the same fate as Napoleon's army did when it retreated from Moscow during the winter invasion of Russia.

When General Grant heard about Davis's prediction, Grant quipped, "Mr. Davis has not made it quite plain who is to furnish the snow for this Moscow retreat."
 
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Eleanor Rose

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Here's one more than I enjoy.

"All the way from Texas hobbled an old soldier, one leg and one arm removed by the grim surgery of battle He wanted to see his old commander. The general was sleeping when he came to the room door. "Let me enter softly," said he to Mrs. Longstreet. "I'll try not to wake him. I've come all the way from Texas. I want to see my old commander.....The approach of the silent figure toward the bedside was like the tread of snowflakes upon the mountain air. But the old soldiers looked into each other's eyes ; they clasped each other about the neck; they talked of the old war-times."

~From Reminiscences of Famous Georgians by Lucian Lamar Knight, M. A., 1908.
 

diane

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David Farragut saw a lot of action at a very young age - he was the adopted son of Captain David Porter of the Essex, a ship that was very, very busy during the War of 1812. Farragut was a boy, around 11 or 12, and his first combat was a real teachable - and vivid - moment. It got hot and smoky in between decks where he was part of the gun crew, and he said to somebody he needed to get a breath of clean air and was going topside. "Best to stay down here, boy," said one of the sailors. "You will have your head blown off up there!" Farragut wanted some air, though, so he turned to go out when...a head rolled across the upper deck and came - thump...thump...thump - down the stairs of the companion way, and rolled away under some gear. Farragut quietly turned back to the guns. Nope, don't need that fresh air after all!
 

Michael W.

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I like the story (don't know if it is true) of Hood's Army of Tennessee on their miserable winter retreat after the disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville. Supposedly, as Hood was riding by a portion of a retreating column, one bedraggled rebel was singing these lyrics to the tune of the "Yellow Rose of Texas":
And now I'm heading southward
my heart is full of woe,
I'm going back to Georgia
to see my Uncle Joe
(Johnson)
You may talk about your Beauregard
and sing of Bobby Lee,
but the gallant Hood of Texas
played hell in Tennessee

:roflmao:
 
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civilken

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another one about general Braxton Bragg's it was in the middle of a battle and some of his men were retreat. He turned to the soldiers and ask them did they know they were retreating one of the soldiers replied of course we do. That's the one thing our general has taught us how to do quite well.
 
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