1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

James Henshall on the Civil War, John Hunt Morgan, and George St. Leger Grenfell

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Joshism, May 16, 2018 at 1:13 PM.

  1. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    Dr. James Alexander Henshall (1836-1925) was born, raised, and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. He moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio as a teenager but returned later to Baltimore to earn his medical degree. Describing himself as sympathetic to the South, but not supportive of the Confederacy he volunteered as an assistant surgeon for a 90-day Union regiment in Ohio, but the regiment was disbanded due to the change to 3-month enlistments. During most of the American Civil War he was a civilian doctor in Cynthiana, Kentucky (north of Lexington). He subsequently practiced medicine in New York City and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin before returning to Cincinnati on and off.

    During his lifetime he made several winter trips to Florida, the first two of which were compiled and published as Camping and Cruising in Florida. Henshall subsequently became a friend and travel companion of Judge Nicholas Longworth, future son-in-law of Theodore Roosevelt. His greatest interest in life, besides traveling, was fish and fishing, particular black bass. He wrote several books about fishing, most notably Book of the Black Bass. He spent 20 years supervising US Fish Commission fish hatcheries in Bozeman, MT and Tupelo, MS.

    After retiring in 1917, Dr. Henshall penned a series of 27 autobiographical articles for Forest & Stream magazine that were published 1919-1921. He worked to edit the articles for subsequent publication as a book, but was hindered by failing eyesight. The autobiography was never published and his revised manuscript probably lost, but in 2008 the original magazine articles were compiled and published with an Introduction and Annotations (as Endnotes), but unfortunately no Index. The 2nd Edition adds an Epilogue with information about the autobiography's troubled history.

    Having just finished reading this book and finding that, according to the search, Henshall's name has never before been mentioned on these forums, I thought I would share some of the Civil War related material covered in the book in this thread (more posts to follow).
     
    WJC, captaindrew and donna like this.

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    While in Baltimore, Henshall became friends with three brothers: John Nelson Stuart, a "lecturer on electro-biology and mesmerism"; William Brewer Stuart, bookkeeper for the Poole & Hunt iron company; and Henry Waters Stuart, a printer and comedian who worked under the stage name "Stuart Robson." Henshall, the Stuarts, Henshall's childhood best friend whom he only ever refers to as "Johnnie", and three other young men had a combination dramatic, glee, and minstrel club. One of the others was Nelson Sanderson, son of the county sheriff, who went on to become a professional blackface actor as part of Bryant's Minstrels under the stage name "Nelse Seymour." The Stuart brothers moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. They enlisted in the Washington Artillery of New Orleans during the Civil War and all three died in the war.
    (Henshall, Autobiography, 58-59)

    "Early in the summer of 1860, I was surprised to receive a visit [in Cincinnati] from Johnnie, who had resigned from a good position in St. Louis, and was returning to Baltimore to await the culmination of the struggle between the politicians of the North and South, and in the event of a war between the two sections he had resolved to cast his fortunes with the South. I was much perturbed and concerned at his determination, and used every convincing argument I could think of in the endeavor to dissuade him from his intention. Johnnie really had nothing at stake but mere matter of sentiment."
    "Mr. Lincoln had been already nominated as presidential candidate, while the Democratic convention had been split into two factions... Johnnie was much concerned about his 'Southern Rights' of which he was fearful he might be deprived in the event of Mr. Lincoln's election. Although my sympathies were with the South, I could see no reason for following or obeying the dictation of a few hot-headed politicians who were committed to the policy of rule or ruin. I said as much to Johnnie, and added that, in the event of any infringement of Southern Rights by Mr. Lincoln or the Congress, I was ready to cast my lot with him, but that I was not ready to endorse, much less to aid, any cold-blooded, cut-and-dried scheme that might end in dissolution of the Union. I tried to impress him with the fact that the only way for the South to preserve its rights was to remain in the Union and under the protection of Old Glory."
    (Henshall, Autobiography, 79-80)

    In 1863, Henshall revisited Baltimore on his honeymoon. During this time, he visited a Cincinnati "militia regiment" on guard duty at Fort McHenry and learned his friend Johnnie was imprisoned there as well, whom he paid a brief, sad visit. Johnnie was subsequently transferred to a "military prison at the capes of the Chesapeake." He had served in the Maryland Guard then as a Lt. in Mosby's Raiders. Johnnie returned to Baltimore undercover to secretly raise funds to buy horses for Mosby, but was caught and arrested as a spy. Henshall only met his friend once more, a few years later in New York City. From Johnnie, James learned that they had lost a mutual friend at Chancellorsville (side not specified) and another friend had become a Union Captain but died at Gettysburg. Johnnie "had not regrets to offer. He did his duty as he saw it, and was proud to think he had done his best in a lost cause." Johnnie died a few years after that (contextually, ca. 1870) having been broken not only by his wartime experience, but by being defrauded of inheritance by a relative during the war and swindled by a business partner after the war.
    (Henshall, Autobiography, 89-91)

    Any sleuths want to try to do some detective work and try to figure out who "Johnnie" really was? I've got no idea myself, but his service with Mosby and subsequent capture & imprisonment at Fort McHenry should be a good lead.

    Henshall's views of the war seem to fall into the "great mistake" school of thought not uncommon at the time he was writing. Interestingly, while he talks about the Civil War there is no apparent mention of Reconstruction, nor much in the way of political commentary at all other than his later involvement with the US Fish Commission and a passing comment in the late 1880s during a visit to Spain about how corrupt Spanish government was at the time, but that he thought the US government even more corrupt.

    Henshall's writing reveals much casual racism typical of his era. He had a fondness for Stephen Foster's music (recently discussed on CWT) and minstrel shows. His personal encounters with African-Americans in Baltimore, Charleston, and Florida as well as some stories about them he relates have their speech written in vernacular and show them as superstitious and simple-minded, but sometimes cunning.
     
    lelliott19, WJC and captaindrew like this.
  4. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    26,267
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Interesting. Waiting for me. Very interested in what he writes about John Hunt Morgan.
     
  5. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    Dr. Henshall was a participant in the First Battle of Cynthiana in June 1862 as a member of Cynthiana's (Union) Home Guard under a Col. Berry. During the battle, he carried a shotgun but remained in cover in town intending only to fire only in self-defense. "As I stood behind a tree-box an officer on horseback, wearing a red fez, came galloping out of a side street waving his sword and encouraging his men by shouting 'Give the ****ed Yankees Hell!' He made a pass at me with his saber as he rode furiously by." Unharmed, Henshall fired both barrels of his shotgun at the officer, apparently missing. He estimated the man was about 50 and English. After reloading, he saw the officer come riding by again. "While I admired his reckless daring, I despised his bombastic bravado and insolent war cry. I stood out boldly as he galloped by, but either he did not see me or perhaps again ignored me and passed on. I fired both barrels at his retreating figure, and I saw him wince at each shot, but as he made no other sign he probably flinched at the sound of the bullets as they whizzed by."
    (Henshall, Autobiography, 83-85)

    "The next morning the prisoners were lined up in the courthouse yard to hear their fate. Some of them expected to be shot or hung. Then General Moran appeared, and addressing the prisoners, said he had been informed that some of them claimed to be Southern sympathizers and had taken no part in the fight, and commanded them to step forward; about half a dozen did as ordered. Then, addressing the 'squealers', said in substance that, whenever they took up arms, willingly or not, especially when in defense of their homes, they should fight like men and do their whole duty. He then called for a detail of his men and ordered them to kick the cowards out of the yard into the street; which being done he paroled the rest of the prisoners. This proved to me that John Morgan was a gentleman and a soldier."
    (Henshall, Autobiography, 85)

    Henshall states he was visiting Cincinnati on business at the time of Morgan's Great Raid. While there he was persuaded by a friend to be temporarily made a member of the friend's independent cavalry company in pursuit of Morgan, for some "fun" and because the doctor would be able to positively identify Morgan should he be caught or killed. A short and somewhat farcical nighttime pursuit ensued during which they came nowhere near Morgan or combat, but did capture a dozen of Morgan's men whose horses had become too exhausted to continue. "At sunrise we were assembled at the sound of the bugle, and with our prisoners rode back to town covered with glory and limestone dust."
    (Henshall, Autobiography,86-88)
     
    donna, James N. and WJC like this.
  6. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner
    Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    8,505
    Location:
    East Texas
    This would have been George St. Ledger Grenfell, who was indeed an Englishman, a soldier-of-fortune, and, I believe either Morgan's Chief-of-Staff or serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 1:12 PM
    Joshism likes this.
  7. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2015
    Messages:
    6,535
    Thanks for posting these excerpts.
    It seems to me that there is more to learn from such personal records about 'why they fought' than in all the attempts made by professors and some here over 150 years removed.
     
    James N. likes this.
  8. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    Dr. Henshall returned to Cincinnati and the end of the war to resume medical practice there. By chance, a Union prisoner was brought to his office that summer for medical attention. The doctor was surprised to recognize him as the fez-wearing English officer whom he had twice shot at during the Battle of Cynthiana. To which the officer replied that battle was "the hottest scrimmage I was ever in; I was hit four times!"

    The officer revealed he was English soldier of fortune "Col. St. George Leger Grenfell" [sic - George St. Leger Grenfell]. Grenfell told Henshall he had served in the Turkish [i.e. Ottoman] army and had been involved in several South American revolutions. He was [nearly] 60 years old. Grenfell was confined to McLean Barracks, being held on charges of conspiracy to stage a prison break at Camp Douglas in Chicago, but claimed innocence.

    Grenfell claimed to have decided the Confederacy was a lost cause and so went to Washington, DC where he "divulged to the Government all that he knew of the Confederate plans." He then went to St. Louis to meet General Marmaduke and the two men were making arrangements for a buffalo hunt on the plains when they were both arrested on the conspiracy charges.

    To this, Henshall said "I believe you are guilty. A man who would desert his cause at the last minute and deliberately give it away to the enemy is unworthy of belief. I almost wish by buckshot at Cynthiana had been more effective."
    Grenfell replied "My word! If your advice and medicine are no better than your sympathy, sir, I want no more of them!"

    Henshall comments that he stalked out in such a huff he didn't pay, but " was glad to be rid of him at any price" and notes Grenfell was convinced and imprisoned in the Dry Tortugas [at Fort Jefferson]. The doctor then goes on to recall a visit to the fort in early 1890 while on a scientific expedition. Henshall saw Grenfell's cell "the walls of which had been liberally decorated with his name and certain sentiments and outpouring of his pent-up spirit." He also saw Dr. Mudd's cell as well and expresses some rather strong opinions on "the unjust punishment" of his fellow doctor: "a cruel, shameful, and scandalous act, a travesty of justice, perpetuated on an innocent man, who had simply performed his professional duty as a physician, and emulated the example of the Good Samaritan in the cause of suffering humanity. It was a vile political act, unworthy the sanction of a victorious nation."

    (Henshall, Autobiography, 91-92)
     
  9. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    WJC and donna like this.
  10. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    Yes and no. The personal accounts can be incredibly interesting and useful. They can also be limited. Henshall talks about his friend's deep concern over "Southern Rights" without giving any indication what that term meant to either of them.

    Likewise, why Johnnie fought for the Confederacy and why Henshall did not only tells us the beliefs of two men. A researcher (or more likely team of researchers) reading hundreds or thousands of personal accounts can put all those accounts together to paint a larger picture and attempt to derive conclusions far beyond what any one of us could do by ourselves, especially if they use a statistically-meaningful representative sample.
     
    WJC likes this.
  11. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2015
    Messages:
    6,535
    Thanks for your response.
    One of my favorites is Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007).
    Manning does exactly that.
     
  12. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    26,267
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Thanks for adding my thread on Grenfell. I still can't believe he would turn on Confederacy. What I had read on him, he seemed to always admire John Hunt Morgan. I need to check Basil Duke (Morgan's brother-in-law and 2nd in command) on what he wrote on Grenfell. I don't have book here. Will check out more on him.
     
    James N. likes this.
  13. Joshism

    Joshism First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,403
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    That's the problem with mercenaries: they're in it for themselves.
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)