Uncommon History

An uncommon look at history


Sinking of the USS Hatteras

The USS Hatteras a Union blockade gunboat was sunk off the Galveston, Texas coast January 14th 1863.

The USS Hatteras a 1,126 ton side-wheeled steamer, was purchased from Harlan and Hollingworth of Wilmington, Delaware by the Union Navy September 25th 1861. She was fitted in the Philadelphia Naval Yard and placed under the command of Commander George F Emmons. She sailed for Key West, Florida November 13th 1861 to be part of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. By January the Hatteras had captured and burnt several blockage runners and a 22 man garrison in Cedar Keys. The Hatteras was then transferred to Berwick, Louisiana to be part of the Gulf Blockading Squadron. On January 27th 1862 she engaged the CSS Mobile, but did little damage. The Hatteras was very successful in the Gulf of Mexico, most ships taken as they made a run for either Havana, Cuba or the Sabine River in Texas.

The Hatteras was under new command January 6th 1863 when she was order to join Admiral David Farragut’s squadron off the coast of Galveston, Texas. On January 14th 1863 she had a run with the CSS Alabama. The Alabama under the command of Raphael Semmes began racking the Hatteras with her guns. For twenty minutes the ships fired at each other from about 25 to 200 yards. The Union Cruiser the Brooklyn was sent to render aid, but the Hatteras had already been hit twice and was beginning to sink. The Captain of the Hatteras flooded her magazines to prevent explosions, surrendered and asked for assistance. The CSS Alabama sent boats to help remove the crew of the Hatteras, with the last of the men pulling away as the Hatteras sank. It took about forty-five minutes.

Of the 126 men on the Hatteras, two were killed and five wounded. Six men managed to escape, but rest were taken to Port Royal, Jamaica to await parole.

For more information about this subject I recommend the web site Civil War Shipwrecks (1861-1865)

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam

September 17, 1862 marked a turning point in the United States Civil War. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had crossed into Maryland and was knocking on the back door of the US Capitol. It was up to the commanding officer of the United States Army of the Potomac, General George B. McClellan to protect Washington from almost certain attack from the Confederate forces massing in their direction.

The two forces met near Antietam Creek just outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. When the smoke had cleared, 3,654 Americans lay dead and another 19,000 wounded, captured or missing. 150 years later, this battle remains the bloodiest day on American soil.

For a wonderful look into the events that took place on this horrific day, CivilWar.org has produced a wonderful animated map which provides in striking detail how the battle unfolded.

CivilWar.org’s Animated Antietam Map

CivilWar.org's Animated Antietam Map

The Battle of Pea Ridge

Date of Battle: March 6-8, 1862

Names of the Battle

Union: Battle of Pea Ridge
Confederate: Elkhorn Tavern

In the middle of February, 1862, Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the newly organized Army of the Southwest, brought the troops under his command into the area of Springfield, Missouri.

The area had been previously occupied by a portion of the Confederate Army commanded by Major General Sterling Price.

Both armies had engaged in small skirmishes along the march, but when the Confederate forces withdrew to the protection of the Boston Mountains, General Curtis withdrew in order to try to draw an attack on ground of his own choosing.

His forces were divided into four divisions and occupied Cooper’s Farm (1st and 2nd Divisions), Sugar Creek (3rd Division), and Cross Timber (4th Division). In mid afternoon on March 5th, 1862, a large portion of Confederate forces advanced towards Union lines.

On the morning of March 6th, General Curtis began the process of restructuring and fortifying positions of the Union forces. During this time, a small detachment under command of General Sigel was attacked by Confederate forces. Curtis sent his 1st and 2nd Divisions to Sigel’s aid. As the larger Union force came into line, the Confederates fell back, allowing the Federals to take position along Sugar Creek.

Van Dorn realized his opponent had deliberately chosen this terrain, he moved his forces to the Union right in order to make an attempt to outflank them. The Union forces had already prepared for such an action and had spent the day felling trees and creating entanglements to slow or stop an outflanking maneuver. This delay gave Union General Curtis the opportunity to move his forces and advance a small attacking force. The Union forces began an attack on the Confederate center and was able to break their line. The Confederates then launched a counterattack and the Union attack withdrew. Shortly afterwards, Union General Curtis sent additional forces to aid in the center attack. Both armies poured reinforcements into the center of their lines and ferocious fighting ensued for hour upon hour until darkness signaled an end to the day’s engagement.

Each side maneuvered forces during the night and when the sun rose on March 7th, the fighting resumed. Confederate artillery had been placed in such a way as to wreak havoc on the Union right. To avoid disaster, the Union right fell back, using the geography to protect their positions. The Union then responded with their artillery batteries thus causing the Confederate forces to fall back. The resulting formation of the Union forces was then a semi-circle within which Confederate forces were becoming trapped in deadly crossfire.

By noon, the Confederate forces disengaged from the battle and made an attempt to escape. The Union forces made chase, but they were unable to contain the Confederate army.

Union Casualties:  203 killed, 980 wounded and 201 captured or missing.
Confederate Casualties: Not tabulated, but estimated to be much higher than Union losses.

 Some of the Field Correspondence

March 6, 1862.

CAPTAIN: Van Born, Price, and McCulloch are moving down on us. Have ordered all my detachments to concentrate here, and I am locat- ing my force to repel an attack. The enemy is reported at from 20000 to 30,000 fighting men. They burned the Seminole College, in Fayetteville, night before last, and last night their advance camp was at Elm Springs, about 21 miles from here. Sigel last night was 4 1/2 miles southwest from Bentonville, 14 miles from here, but he was to march at 2 this morning, and must be near by. A detachment under Colonel Vandever entered and took Huntsville last night,~ taking 2 prisoners. That detachment will also be in before the enemy can reach me. We will give them the best show we can. The weather is very cold and snowing.


Capt. N. H. MCLEAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Pea Ridge, Ark., March 9, 1862.

SIR: On Thursday, the 6th instant, enemy commenced the attack on my right, assailing and following the rear guard of the detachment under General Sigel to my main lines on Sugar Creek Hollow, but on that occasion ceased firing when he met my re-enforcements about 4 p. m. During the night I became convinced he had moved on so as to attack my right or rear. Therefore, early on the 7th, I ordered a change of front to the right on my right, my right thus becoming my left, still resting on Sugar Creek Hollow. This brought my line crossing Pea Ridge, my new right resting on the head of Cross Timber Hollow, which is the head of Big Sugar Creek. I also ordered an immediate advance of cavalry and light artillery – Colonel Osterhaus’ – with orders to attack and break what I supposed would be a re-enforced line of the enemy. This movement was in progress when the enemy, at 11 a. commenced an attack on my right. The fight continued mainly at these points during the day, the enemy having gained my position so hardly contested by Colonel Carr at the Cross Timber Hollow, but being entirely repulsed, with the loss of the commander, General McCulloch, in the center, commanded by Colonel Davis.

The plan of attack on the center was gallantly carried forward by Colonel Osterhaus, who was immediately sustained and superseded by Colonel Davis entire division, supported also by General Sigel’s command, which remained till near the close of the day on the left. Colonel Carrs division held the right nuder a galling, continuous fire all day. In the evening, the firing having entirely ceased in the center and there having been none on the left, I re-enforced the right by a portion of the Second Division, under General Asboth. Before the day closed I was convinced the enemy had concentrated his main effort on my right. I therefore commenced another change of my front, so as to face the enemy where he had deployed on my right flank in strong position. The change was only partially effective, but fully in progress, when at sunrise on the 8th my right and center renewed the firing, which was immediately answered by the enemy with renewed energy and extended line. My left, nuder General Sigel, moved close to the hills occupied by the enemy, driving him from heights and advancing steadily toward the head of the hollows. I immediately ordered the center and right wing forward, the right turning the left of the enemy and cross-firing on his center. This final position inclosed the enemy in an arc of a circle. A charge of infantry extending throughout the whole line completely routed the whole rebel force, which retired in great confusion, but rather safely, through the deep, impassable defiles of Cross Timber.

Our loss is heavy. The enemy’s can never be ascertained, for the dead are scattered over a large field, and their wounded too may many of them be lost and perish. The foe is scattered in all directions, but I think his main force has returned to Boston Mountains. General Sigel follows towards Keetsville, while my cavalry is pursuing him toward the mountains, scouring the country, bringing in prisoners, and trying to find the rebel Major-General Van Dorn, who had command of the entire force of the enemy at this battle of Pea Ridge. I have not as yet the statements of the dead and wounded so as to justify a report, but I will refer you to dispatch I will forward very soon. The officers and soldiers in this command have displayed such unusual gallantry I hardly dare to make distinctions. I must, however, name all my commanders of divisions: General Sigel, who gallantly carried the heights and drove back the left wing of the enemy; Brigadier-General Asboth, who is wounded in the arm, in his gallant effort to re-enforce the right; Colonel and Acting Brigadier-General Davis, who commands the center where McCulloch fell on the 7th, and pressed forward the center on the 8th; Col. and Acting Brig. Gen. E. A. Carr, who is also wounded in the arm, and was under continuous fire of the enemy during the two hardest days struggling, where the scattered dead of friends and foe attest the hardest of the struggling. Commanders of brigades Colonels Dodge, Osterhaus, Vandever, White, Schaefer, Pattison, and Greusel, distinguished; but for their gallantry and that of others I must refer to reports of division commanders. I must also tender my thanks to my staff officers, C apt. T. I. McKenny, acting assistant adjutant-general; Capt. W. II. Stark; Capt. John Ahlfeldt, and Lients. J. M. Adams and R. A. Stitt, all acting aides, and Lieut. A. Hoeppner, my only engineer officer. All the staff officers did gallant service in conveying orders and aiding in their prompt execution. Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri very proudly share the honor of victory which their gallant heroes won over the combined forces of Van Porn, Price, and McCulloch at Pea Ridge, in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,

Brigadier- General.

Capt. J. C. KELTON,
Assistant Adjutant- General.

March 9, 1862.

To the COMMANDING OFFICER Of the U. S. Troops on Sugar Greek, Arkansas: SIR: In accordance with the usages of war I have the honor to re- quest that you will permit the burial party whom I send from this army with a flag of truce to atten(l to the duty of collecting and interring the bodies of the officers and men who fell during the engagements of the 7th and 8th instant.

Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Confederate Army.

Pea Ridge, Ark., March 9, 1862.

EARL VAN DORN, Commanding Confederate Forces:
SIR: The general commanding is in receipt of yours of the 9th, saying that in accordance with the usages of war you send a party to collect and bury the dead. I am directed to say all possible facilities will be given for burying the dead, many of which have already been interred. Quite a number of your surgeons have fallen into our hands and are permitted to act under parole, and nuder a general order from Major-General Halleck further liberty will be allowed them if such accommodations be reciprocated by you. The general regrets that we find on the battle-field, contrary to civilized warfare, many of the Federal dead who were tomahawked, scalped, and their bodies shamefully mangled, and expresses a hope that this important struggle may not degenerate to a savage warfare.

By order of Brig. Gen. S. R. Curtis:

T. 1. McKENNY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant- General

Report of Major General Henry W. Halleck, U. S. Army.
Saint Louis, March 10, 1862.
The Army of the Southwest, under General Curtis, after three days hard fighting near Sugar Creek, Arkansas, has gained a most glorious victory over the combined forces of Van Born, McCulloch, Price, and McIntosh. Our loss in killed and wounded estimated at 1,000; that of the enemy still larger. Guns, flags, provisions, & c., captured in large quantities. Our cavalry in pursuit of the flying enemy.

Major- General

Major-General McCLELLAN, Washington.

Map of the Battle

Pea Ridge - March, 1862

Mexico Captures the Alamo

© Columbine

On March 6, 1836, Mexican forces under the command of General General Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna captured the Alamo after a thirteen day siege and a final, brutal assault. Although it is recorded that none of the defenders of the Alamo survived the attack, some the surviving women and children (families of the defenders) were allowed to leave.

The Alamo remains as a standing memorial to the struggles for Texas independence and for those who gave their lives to achieve it.

There is a danger in walking backwards

© gundolfAs many of my faithful readers know, my web host has been experiencing a great deal of troubles lately. The malfunction of their services did cause me to move one of my other blogs to a new home, but I did not have time to devote to the moving of all of my blogs. The ends result has been that some of them, Uncommon History included, have sat idle since almost October of 2011.

I regret that I have lost some of my valued readers and my subscription rate did decline, but I have become somewhat thankful for the downtime that affected this site. What the lull in activity eventually caused within me was an introspective look at what I was really doing here and where I was heading with Uncommon History.

As I looked back over the past year of posts, I realized that I was doing something fundamentally wrong in regards to my love for history. Rather than looking back at history with an objective lens and reporting on what I found, what I was actually doing, in essence, was walking backwards.

Walking backwards, in real life, can be potentially hazardous, not only to the person engaged in the activity, but also to innocent bystanders. When you are looking at where you have been instead of where you are going, it is inevitable that somewhere along the line you are either going to trip and hurt yourself or you are going to run into someone else, thereby causing them injury.

It really is no different in what I was beginning to do with this site and what many others are doing in ever growing numbers. Rather than forging a new road forward, those of us who were “walking backwards” were digging up traces of trail markers from the past and declaring those to be the only acceptable paths forward. The only word that comes to my mind now in thinking about that kind of behavior is; archaic.

Is it wrong to look backwards? Certainly not! We should always consider looking behind us to see where we came from, but the error is thinking that just because we came from this place or that, that we should continue to make the same decisions with the same criteria. There is, in my opinion, an inherent danger in looking at how people did things in the past and saying to ourselves. “Hey, that’s how they did it, so should we.”

To be more specific, as a Christian myself, I have seen the battles over faith in the past few years as dangerous. I am not alone in this observation and many people have taken up the charge to try to engage in this battle. The problem is that it seems that many of these people are utilizing the very same tactics that are being used against them.

The interpretation of history can be a very tricky business and historians should be very wary of peeling off a layer here and a layer there in order to create their own “Photoshop” version of history. While it is rarely possible to completely remove personal bias from any such scholarly work, every effort should be made to minimize it.

Case in point: The faith of our forefathers

Can we, with all information available to us today, be able to reconstruct with 100% certainty the very thoughts of those who founded this nation? I am sure we can come close, but to take a letter here and a letter there, compile them together and then declare with absolute knowledge that our findings are the infallible truth? I do not think so.

Can we instead draw a conclusion that this person or that person was or was not a Christian, an atheist or a believer in some other faith? I think we can do so, and it is acceptable to make those efforts.

The danger that I see facing us today is (and I have been as guilty about it as anyone else) is that we are saying things like “George Washington was a devout Christian and so we as a nation must live as Christians did in his time.” I don’t think for one minute that President Washington was sending that kind of message to his future countrymen.

Yes, I believe our nation has entered a critical time in which we have been losing our identity and wandering down some dangerous paths. That said, I don’t think we should strike forward by facing our backs to the future. We should be engaged in the study of history, but not for the sake of dredging up ritual and dogma.

The men and women of our past were not supernatural, infallible beings. Those people were borne of courage and fortitude, determined to strike a NEW way forward. The people who braved death at the end of a rope sought to free themselves from the very things many historians are trying to impose upon us today. Fear of the future should never be an excuse to lynch a nation by the ropes of the past. No, I say we look within ourselves and work together to forge a new pathway forward. We can still look toward the past with admiration and reverence, but to use small portions of the past as ammunition to fight our supposed enemies will only result in continued chaos.

We need leaders who can stand on moral principles, but lead us forward out of the rubble and ashes of a contentious past. Christian leaders, too, should refrain from idolizing the heroes of our past, but should instead realize that these people were looking for forward-thinking ideas. They were heroes because they unleashed themselves from the past way of thinking in order to create something completely new and different. Let us not now get stuck in the mire that they died to free us from.

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