Monday, September 19, 2011

Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma - Part Two

Honey Springs Battlefield
The Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma, sometimes called the Gettysburg of the West, was fought not far from the city of Checotah on July 17, 1863. Please click here to read the first post in this series.

The fierce artillery exchange having failed to dislodge either army, despite the destruction of a couple of cannon, the two generals now prepared for direct infantry assault. General D.H. Cooper, commanding the Confederate army had roughly 1,700 more men and was positioned as well as possible in the edge of the heavy timber that bordered Elk Creek.  Despite his superiority in numbers, many of his men were using antiquated arms and faulty ammunition.

Slope down which the Federals attacked.
The Federals, led by General James H. Blunt, while smaller in numbers, possessed superior artillery and much better small arms. Their ammunition was far superior to that of the Confederates and they also possessed the advantage of advancing down slope as they approached the Southern lines.

When he decided that his cannon had done as much as possible, Blunt ordered his infantry to advance. The men stepped off across open ground, with their lines of battle spread out along each side of the old Texas Road. The Confederate artillery punched holes in the battle lines, but they continued to advance. It took two hours, but Blunt finally broke the Southern lines. The Confederates fell back across the Elk Creek bridge and adjacent fords, fighting as they went.

Original Site of Elk Creek Bridge
The fight for control of the bridge, by which the Texas Road crossed the creek, was fierce. Troops from Texas held back Blunt's advancing soldiers while the Confederate artillerymen managed to get their cannon across.

As the Union army surged up the slope on the south side of the Creek, Cooper's Native American forces launched a courageous attack against them. This assault was beaten back and the Confederates, still skirmishing, had no choice but to withdraw from the field. Behind they left piles of supplies they had not had time to destroy, along with most of their camp equipment and other items.

While exact casualties remain unknown, Union forces reported losses of 16 killed and 61 wounded in the battle. The Confederates reported their losses as 134 killed and wounded, with another 47 lost as prisoners of war.

The site of the battle is now preserved at Honey Springs Battlefield State Historic Site. I'll take a closer look at the park in the next post. Until then, you can learn more by visiting

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Battle of Honey Springs - Rentiesville, Oklahoma

Monuments at Honey Springs Battlefield
One of the most fascinating battlefields of the Civil War is actually located far to the west of what many consider the main battlefields of the conflict, yet it was the scene of a fight every bit as brutal and significant as those fought on other fields far to the east.

The Battle of Honey Springs, fought on July 17, 1863, has been called the "Gettysburg of the West" by some historians. The site is now preserved at Honey Springs Battlefield State Historic Site just north of Checotah, Oklahoma.

Also called the Battle of Elk Creek, the battle took place when Union forces from Fort Gibson (then called Fort Blount) launched a preemptive strike against a Confederate army gathering at Honey Springs for an effort to wrest control of the Indian Nations (today's Oklahoma) from Federal troops. Commanded by Brigadier General D.H. Cooper, the Confederates were massing supplies and waiting for reinforcements to begin their long awaited campaign.

Union Major General James H. Blount, in command at Fort Gibson, learned of Cooper's efforts and, despite the fact that he was suffering from a high fever, organized an army of 3,000 men and began a secret movement across the Arkansas River.

Position at which Blunt's Army rested.
Moving down the historic Texas Road which led from Texas to the cattle markets in Kansas, Blunt's army reached Honey Springs on the morning of July 17, 1863. Cooper was far from ready to give battle. One of his best units, Stand Watie's famed Cherokee Confederates, was on detached duty and too far from the scene to reinforce the Southern commander.

Even so, Cooper moved his men into position to oppose the Federals. On the surface it appeared that the Confederates were more than a match for Blunt's army. Cooper's army outnumbered Blunt by around 1,700 men, but with the exception of an experimental rifled piece, his artillery was badly outclassed and his men were armed with inferior weapons and most would experience problems with bad ammunition during the battle.

Position of Confederate Army as battle began.
Having fought with Confederate skirmishers through the night and marched for long, hard hours, the Union soldiers were exhausted when they reached the battlefield. Blunt ordered them to fall out for rest on a hill overlooking the valley of Elk Creek. His artillerymen moved their 12 cannon into position on a ridge from which they could rain fire down on the Confederate army, which was forming along the edge of a skirt of timber near the creek.

Before the Federal cannon could open fire, however, the Southern guns opened up. A blast from one Confederate cannon blew apart the carriage of a Union artillery piece. The Federals returned the fire in a fierce artillery exchange that signaled the beginning of the Battle of Honey Springs.

I will continue to post on the battle over coming days. If you would like to learn more before then, please visit

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A new idea for Civil War Daily

Hello and sorry it has been so long since I last posted. There seem to be so many people out there posting about the daily events of the Civil War, that I thought I would change the concept here to something a little different.

Instead of just posting about events on their anniversary, I thought I might change this to a place to post daily about different fascinating aspects of the Civil War. We will take some online battlefield tours, talk about interesting events and just generally explore the history of the most critical four years in American history, possibly excepting the American Revolution.

I'll begin posting under this new concept tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6, 1861 - Virginia and North Carolina represented in the Confederate capital

First Capitol of the Confederacy
February 6, 1861

Reports from Montgomery dated 150 years ago today indicate that Southern states that had not yet seceded were reaching out to the two-day old Confederate States of America.

The Confederacy had been formed on February 4, 1861, by delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. It was widely expected, however, that other Southern states would soon join the new nation and a telegram from Montgomery, Alabama - now the capital city of the Confederacy - indicated that representatives from both Virginia and North Carolina were present in the city:

MONTGOMERY, (Ala.), Feb. 6 – The Commissioners from North Carolina presented their credentials and were tendered seats in the convention during the open sessions.

The Commissioners from Virginia are also in the city.

The Committee appointed yesterday in secret session, stated through their chairman (MR. MEMMINGER) that they would probably report on Thursday a plan for the Provisional Government . - Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 1861, p. 1.

Virginia and North Carolina had not seceded from the Union, but their outreach to the forming government in Montgomery illustrated the natural ties that existed between the Southern states and their willingness to work together and communicate, regardless of their current status.

You can read more about the historic Alabama Capitol Building, the first capitol of the Confederacy, at

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5, 1861 - Evacuees from Pensacola reach New York Harbor

Pensacola Navy Yard, 1861, by an Officer.
February 5, 1861

Having left Pensacola Bay in January with the noncombatants, paroled prisoners and families of soldiers from the U.S. military installations there, the U.S.S. Supply reached New York. 

The men, women and children had been forced to evacuate the bay after Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer moved his small garrison of fewer than 100 U.S. soldiers and sailors across the bay to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island from Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard on the mainland. State troops had occupied the mainland positions and an undeclared state of war held over the bay as secessionist and Unionist forces eyed each other across the sparkling water.

The following account of the arrival of the evacuees appeared in Northern newspapers:

Fort Barrancas & Pensacola Bay
Return of Officers, Men and Women from Pensacola.

The U.S. storeship Supply, Henry Walke, commander, at New York from Pensacola, brings as passengers the officers and marines lately stationed at the Warrington navy-yard and the Marine Barracks at Penscaola, but who were expelled by the Florida troops when those posts were seized. The families of these men accompanied them to New York on board the Supply. The following is a list of the passengers:

Mrs. Lieut. Slimmer, U.S.A., servant and child, Mrs. J.H. Gilman, U.S.A., servant and child; John Irwin, Lieut. U.S.A., lady and two children; Mrs. Saint, Robert Dixon, U.S.N., lady and two children; James Cooper, U.S.N., lady and four children; Miss Cooper; Robert Hunter; Lewis Holmes, U.S.N.; John Milan, lady and child; Wm. C. Knowles; John Tyler; Spencer Clarge. Also, John Flarety, Daniel E. Jameson, John Gallagher, Wm. J. Lodge, J.W. Barker, T. Massey, employees at Warrington navy-yard; also 9 invalids from the naval hospital, Warrington; 27 ordinary men from do., and 31 marines from the Marine Barracks.

The hospital quarters and barracks were taken possession of and occupied by the State troops of Florida and Alabama. The persons above named were released on parole, and were brought off under a flag of truce.

The following is a list of officers attached to the United States storeship Supply: - Henry Walke, commander; Joseph A. Domees, Henry Erban, Wm. L. Bradford, lieutenants; W.N. Allen, master; E.W. Dunn, paymaster; Wm. W. Ring, assistant surgeon; John Van Dyke, com. Clerk; E.W. Bowie, paymaster’s clerk. - Pittsfield Sun, February 6, 1861, p. 1.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4, 1861 - The Confederate States of America is Formed

February 4, 1861

On this day 150 years ago, delegates from the seven seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama, and declared the formation of a provisional government for the Confederate States of America.

The meeting took place in the historic Alabama State Capitol, which still stands atop Goat Hill at the end of Dexter Avenue in Montgomery. Eyewitness accounts indicate that large crowds gathered outside the building to await the results of the meeting as militia companies paraded in the streets.

The delegates had come to Montgomery at the invitation of the Alabama Secession Convention, which offered the capital city as a centrally located meeting place for a discussion of measures to provide for the common defense of the newly independent Southern states. They voted to declare themselves as a provisional legislature and quickly moved to unify their states. A committee was appointed to draft a Constitution for the new Southern nation, work on which began immediately. It would take four days to complete.

The Confederate States of America, however, was born with the meeting of the delegates at Montgomery, Alabama, 150 years ago today. To learn more about the historic First Capitol of the Confederacy, please visit

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 3, 1861 - Raising Money for Mississippi Independence

Mississippi River at Grand Gulf
February 3, 1861

The following account of Mississippi's efforts to raise money to fund its existence as an independent republic appeared 150 years ago today on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

RAISING THE WIND IN MISSISSIPPI. – The ways and means for the new “republic” of Mississippi furnish a great deal of matter for discussion. Like all of the seceding States, Mississippi is deficient in ready money. Two propositions are before the Convention – one to issue Treasury-notes and Bonds in such sums as from time to time are needed, not to exceed in the aggregate $5,000,000, nor to run for a longer time than five years; the other to establish a great State Bank, with a capital of $10,000,000, at Jackson; the State to be a stockholder in the bank to the extent of $5,000,000; and for the subscription a special tax to be levied and collected of the people at the rate of $500,000 per annum for ten years. The bank is not to issue more than three dollars to one of the capital stock after the 1st of March, 1862. The Legislature may compel the redemption of the notes in gold and silver.