Sunday, November 27, 2016

Michigan in the American Civil War--part 2

A painting of the 24th Michigan at Gettysburg by the renowned artist Don Troiani

The Iron Brigade


At the battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army of the Potomac was made up of soldiers from the East Coast, except for one brigade of foot soldiers from the West.  Known as the “Iron Brigade” for their determination, they comprised the 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and 24th Michigan.  On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, the Iron Brigade bore the brunt of the Confederate attack.  The 26th North Carolina, an excellent unit (commanded by the youngest colonel in Lee’s army, and recently issued with new uniforms) attacked the 24th Michigan.  The Carolinians pushed the 24th Michigan back to McPherson’s Woods.  There the Michigan men made their stand.  The two regiments engaged in a furious firefight, shooting it out at short range.


The 24th Michigan finally brought the equally gallant 26th North Carolina to a standstill.  During the night of July 1-2, the Iron Brigade was withdrawn from its old position to rejoin the main Federal army.  A newspaper of the time stated: “It was to the Iron Brigade more than any other that the nation owes its salvation at Gettysburg, and we say not more than history will verify, that of all the heroic regiments which fought there, the Twenty-fourth Michigan stands preeminent for its devotion and valor.  Against the overwhelming hordes of the enemy, it stood for hours, a wall of granite, which beat back, again and again, the resolute but baffled foe.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Freedom of Speech Threatened

The Federal Government (in the form of the National Park Service) is attempting to abridge this Christian tour company's freedom to guide tours through historic sites in this country. This, my friends, is threatening the right of freedom of speech. If we are fined for guiding tours in federal parks (which are supposed to belong to the people!), it is only a matter of time before we cannot speak on any federal property...and from there, to any private property. Please read the article found in the link below.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Michigan in the American Civil War--Part 1

“Thank God for Michigan!” said President Abraham Lincoln, shortly after the American Civil War broke out. Michigan had been asked to provide four regiments of troops to defeat the newly-formed Confederacy, but they sent seven. Throughout the war, Michigan continued to contribute to the Union cause. I can only highlight just a few of the deeds of heroism performed by Michigan soldiers.
Custer and the Michigan Wolverines
Born in Ohio, George Armstrong Custer and his family moved to Michigan when he was young. He joined West Point, but did not distinguish himself in its classes. When he graduated, the Civil War had recently broken out and he was appointed to the 2nd United States Cavalry. Now a lieutenant, Custer was the first person to capture a Confederate flag. Just before the battle of Gettysburg, Custer was promoted from captain to brigadier-general of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. He was a flashy cavalry officer, sporting a red necktie. Eventually, his cavalry brigade all sported red neckties in his honor.
On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General J.E.B Stuart determined to circle around the Union infantry, hitting them hard from behind as George Pickett’s infantry attacked them from the front. Stuart’s troopers rode to a farmhouse owned by the Rummel family, where they encountered dismounted Union cavalrymen from the 5th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. Stuart tried to brush them away and keep riding, but the Michigan troopers had excellent Spencer repeating carbines, which could fire 20 rounds a minute. Stuart’s men charged them and scattered the troopers, only to receive a counter-charge from George Custer. “Come on, you Wolverines!” Custer shouted as he led his men of the 7th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry into the charge. His cavalry halted the forward movement of the Confederates for a little while.
More Confederate horsemen were hurried forward to break Custer’s resistance and they succeeded. Confederate General Wade Hampton was sent forward with his cavalry to finally break the Union cavalry. Only one Union reserve was left to counter him: the 1st Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. Their colonel, Charles Town, ordered the advance. “Draw saber! Remember men be steady, be calm, be firm! Think of Michigan! Forward March!” The Union troopers attacked the center of the Confederate cavalry.
Seeing this, the New Jersey cavalry hit Hampton’s men from the left. The retreat of Hampton’s cavalry meant that J.E.B. Stuart’s original plan was impossible to carry out now. The Confederate troopers retreated and the battered Union cavalry did not chase them. The Michigan cavalry had played a decisive role in stopping—for the first time—the brilliant Southern cavalry leader.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review of Bonnie Dundee: For King and Conscience by Magnus Linklater and Christian Hesketh

Bonnie Dundee: For King and Conscience by Magnus Linklater and Christian Hesketh

Among those who know the name of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, there are two vastly different perspectives on the man. It would not be too much to say that they are as different as black and white, light and shadow. Among those of a Covenanting or Presbyterian persuasion, he is a wicked persecutor of the true Church, enforcing a tyrant king’s edicts with vicious glee. But among Jacobites (both past and present), he is “Bonnie Dundee”, the gallant Scottish defender of James II against the usurper William of Orange.  

One man, two views. Was Claverhouse a villain or a hero? Books have written on both sides of the controversy, but Linklater & Hesketh’s Bonnie Dundee: For King and Conscience is a balanced look at one of the most remarkable Scots of the late 17th century.

This biography covers Claverhouse’s life from his service under William of Orange to his death at the Battle of Killiecrankie. All the facets of his life are covered in 17 chapters. The book opens with a foreword, describing his two differing reputations. 

The first chapter sets the stage for the troubled times in which Claverhouse lived, as the Archbishop of Saint Andrews is assassinated by nine Covenanters. This spurred the King of Scotland (1) to more strict enforcement of his laws. And one of his enforcers was John Graham of Claverhouse.  The next chapter follows Claverhouse through his birth and service with William of Orange in the French-Dutch wars. Claverhouse saved William’s life by mounting him on his own fresh steed, when William was near capture by the French. Ironically, the two men would be fighting each other 15 years later! 

A chapter introduces the group known as the Covenanters, who had signed the National Covenant and/or the Solemn League and Covenant. Upon his return from William’s Dutch army, Claverhouse was appointed a captain of Horse (2), with the responsibility of enforcing the King’s laws. He began his patrols in the Scottish countryside—only to meet defeat at the battle of Drumclog.  The Battle of Drumclog was his first and last defeat, where he ran into a stronger group of armed Covenanters who beat him back to Glasgow. This rebellion in Scotland brought an influx of English troops, who decisively defeated the Covenanters at the battle of Bothwell Brig.

With the suppression of this rising, Claverhouse turned his attention to courting Helen Graham of Menteith. He was ultimately unsuccessful, but quickly made a new friend in the person of James, Duke of York, who set up court in Edinburgh.  But all was not well for Claverhouse, however, and he clashed legally with Sir James Dalrymple over who ruled what jurisdiction. After confrontations, Dalrymple was brought to trial in late 1682. When the verdict was rendered, Claverhouse was praised for his enforcement of the King’s laws and Dalrymple was (briefly) confined to Edinburgh Castle for his false accusations against Claverhouse.
Shortly after, Claverhouse began to court another young lady, Jean Graham of Cochrane. Her family was Presbyterians and some in it were even Covenanters, in contrast to Claverhouse, who was a good Episcopalian. Apparently, Claverhouse’s church attendance convinced one Presbyterian lady who “could not believe a good thing of any person of his persuasion, till his conduct rectified her mistake.” But in an answer to those who whispered that his marriage would hinder his effectiveness for Charles II, Claverhouse wrote: “…let the world see that it is not in the power of love, nor any other folly, to alter my loyalty.” Claverhouse married Jean Graham, but their wedding day was disturbed by a report of armed Covenanters clashing with the King’s troops, forcing Claverhouse to mount and search the countryside for them.

Policing Scotland in search of illegal activities would take up much of Claverhouse’s time for the next two years. This book tackles Claverhouse’s actions in shooting John Brown, Andrew Hislop, and Matthew Meiklewraith. These have been used to blacken Claverhouse’s reputation, and the authors examine them closely.

Changes were brewing in 1688, for William of Orange—the same man whose life Claverhouse had saved—invaded England to take the crown from James II. Claverhouse, who had now been promoted to Viscount Dundee, supported James and opposed William. Dundee travelled to England, then back to Scotland, where he attended a convention convened to sort out the difficult situation. With James in Ireland and William a foreigner, who should be king? The convention decided on William and Dundee escaped to raise an army in support of James.

His army, the first Jacobite one ever assembled, was mainly raised among the Highland clansmen. Dundee guided them through Scotland, raiding enemy outposts and confusing his opponent, General Hugh Mackay. At last Dundee saw his chance, and he attacked Mackay at the Pass of Killiecrankie. In the ensuing battle, the Highlanders defeated Mackay’s infantry, but their daring leader John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, was killed.

Dundee’s last council of war (before Killiecrankie) contains a request that defined the character of the man: “…I beg leave of you, to allow me to give one ‘Shear-darg’ [a harvest-day’s work] to the King, my master, that I may have an opportunity of convincing the brave clans that I can hazard my life in that service as freely as the meanest of them. You know their temper, gentlemen, and if they do not think I have personal courage enough, they will not esteem me hereafter, nor obey my commands with cheerfulness.”

This is a well-written and balanced biography of an important Scottish character.  5/5 stars.

(1) Charles II of Scotland. This king was also known as Charles II of England. Scotland was not at this time ruled by England; instead Scotland and England were united in a personal union because they shared the same monarch. In much the same way, George I united Great Britain and Hanover in a personal union, and William III did the same with England and the Netherlands. Scotland would remain independent until the 1707 Act of Union incorporated it into Great Britain, with its capital in London, England.

(2) Heavy cavalry, not to be confused with dragoons. Dragoons were mounted infantry, riding to a battle and dismounting to fight. Horse (heavy cavalry) were trained to charge and skirmish on horseback. Since Claverhouse often commanded dragoons in battle, he is erroneously identified as a Captain of Dragoons.