Untrue Rumored Civil War Stories

Friction Primer

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As a youth visiting my grandparents who lived near Gettysburg, I was told many stories about this battle. However, some stories, I later learned were pure hogwash, as they say. One such story, which stuck with me because of its poignancy, concerned the death of General Reynolds. It was told to me that the General upon being struck by the deadly bullet uttered these last words: "Egad, I am killed!".
It may be of interest to hear about some other fictitious Civil War statements and/or incidents that have been passed along.
 

Kurt G

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I always thought the story of Jefferson Davis disguised as a woman when he was captured was Yankee propaganda. Grabbing the wrong coat is not "hiding in female attire".
I was in a college history class ( Michigan History) in which the professor told the class the story about Davis wearing a dress when he was captured by the 4th Michigan cavalry. I knew at the time that it wasn't true , but this guy never let the truth get in the way of a good story .
 

James N.

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I'll contribute the well-known story told by Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon of how he found Union Gen. Francis S. Barlow seriously wounded on the field at Gettysburg and gave him water. Unfortunately that tale has been proven false, likely made up much later in a spirit of reconciliation. Or the equally touching story of troops from both sides filling their canteens at night from Spangler's Spring during a truce at Culp's Hill, another apocryphal tale.
 

KHyatt

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I always thought the story of Jefferson Davis disguised as a woman when he was captured was Yankee propaganda. Grabbing the wrong coat is not "hiding in female attire".

I seem to recall that Davis was using a woman’s shawl or scarf, perhaps to hide his face, and that morphed into the more colorful and denigrating tale of him being fully clothed in female attire. Can anyone confirm this?
 

KHyatt

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My wife’s maiden name was Davis, and a distant relation to Jefferson. Her family also owned slaves, but family lore claims that they treated their slaves well. I’ve heard and read this claim elsewhere, along with assertions that slaves were better off in bondage, loved their masters, couldn’t take care of themselves anyway, etc. ad infinitum. I think this thinking is the second greatest falsehood of the ACW, right behind, “It wasn’t about slavery.”

Perhaps not quite what the OP had in mind, but there it is.
 

jackt62

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I seem to recall that Davis was using a woman’s shawl or scarf, perhaps to hide his face, and that morphed into the more colorful and denigrating tale of him being fully clothed in female attire. Can anyone confirm this?

That's basically correct, Davis grabbed a shawl or an overcoat from his wife more likely to provide outerwear protection from the early morning air while quickly fleeing his camp that was surrounded by Union cavalry. The story that he was purposely trying to escape disguised as a woman has no basis in fact.
 

JerseyBart

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I think I remember from one of my Gettysburg tours that the Louisiana Tigers thought that the soldiers in the Union Army they were about to or did face in battle had animalistic skulls not human skulls. I think both sides had a story or two of believing that the bone structure of the soldiers on the other side were animal not human.
 

mofederal

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The whole story about Gen. Dan Butterfield writing the tune "Taps." At the most he helped revised the bugle call the Scott Tattoo, which was found in three Army manuals. The Winfield Scott Manual of 1835, Samuel Cooper's Manual of 1836, and William Gilham Manual of 1861. The call was mostly revised by a bugler, who mostly used the Scott Tattoo as the basis for revision. Another story related to this was the Union Captain, a father who found the written notes for the bugle call Taps in his dead Confederate son's pocket.
 

JerseyBart

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The whole story about Gen. Dan Butterfield writing the tune "Taps." At the most he helped revised the bugle call the Scott Tattoo, which was found in three Army manuals. The Winfield Scott Manual of 1835, Samuel Cooper's Manual of 1836, and William Gilham Manual of 1861. The call was mostly revised by a bugler, who mostly used the Scott Tattoo as the basis for revision. Another story related to this was the Union Captain, a father who found the written notes for the bugle call Taps in his dead Confederate son's pocket.
Um, it was in the movie Gettysburg so it must be true. Butterfield played it first for Buster Kilrain. I read it somewhere. :D
 

Ole Miss

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Regarding the Bloody Pond at Shiloh there is little if any basis for it being present during the battle. There was no mention of the pond in any official reports and in fact the only account is from a civilian after the battle who said it was a bloody.
Another untruth is the "Sunken Road" was sunken. Actually it was a wheel rutted dirt lane that may have been a few inches low but did not provide concelment for the Union soldiers defending the "Hornet's Nest" on Sunday.
Regards
David
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I seem to recall that Davis was using a woman’s shawl or scarf, perhaps to hide his face, and that morphed into the more colorful and denigrating tale of him being fully clothed in female attire. Can anyone confirm this?

I think I remember Varina stating she insisted he take her scarf- I think to hide his face, not to appear as a woman. I'd have to look it up.
 

KHyatt

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My favorite piece of fiction would be the bullet that became a father. You know the one.

I was also thinking about that story. I first learned of it maybe 30 years ago, and although I was sure it was some kind of joke the history book where I first read it reported it as fact. The first time that I visited Vicksburg, about 25 years ago, I saw that there is a display about the story in the old courthouse museum, complete with a Minie ball in a case that was purported to be the offending bullet. I don't recall that there was any kind of disclaimer. The story came up on CWT some time ago (I don't have time to hunt it down now) and in that thread someone wrote that the museum owner just put some random bullet on display together with the story because he thought it was too funny.

I love practical jokes, and this one really has legs! Recently I learned that the source was a Vicksburg doctor who sent it to a medical journal in 1874 as a prank. You can read about the good(?) doctor and the famous magic bullet here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legra...ers-,Legrand G.,impregnation of a young woman.
 

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