Lewis Armistead

This tag is associated with 3 posts

Video Spotlight: Memories of Gettysburg

I recently took my long-time best friend, Maurice Barnes, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the first time. While we had less than 24 hours there, we managed to hit a lot of places. He captured it with his video camera and I used my trusted camera (though I already have over 4,000 photos from previous Gettysburg visits; you can never have enough, right?).

A few weeks after we returned home Maurice surprised me with a video keepsake. It is a compilation of the video he took, along with some photos I took, and a few “fillers” from the Library of Congress. The song he used, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, is one that I have listened to when I drive into Gettysburg, and as I drive along the battlefield roads. Words like “one step closer” and “every breath, every hour has come to this” seem fitting in their own ways.

I was so moved by this gift that I asked his permission to share it with all of you. As it turns out, we are launching our own companies today as well, so we are launching this video as our first collaborative project. The dedication he has to me is something he strongly wanted to keep, and I appreciate that. He has always been one of my biggest Civil War Project supporters, and as you will be able to tell from the video, he also has a sincere passion and respect for history. I hope you find it as moving as I do, and it will hopefully give those who have not been to Gettysburg an idea of what it is like, and for those who have been there I hope it captures a small piece of your own experiences:

(If you are on a mobile device, you can watch it here): Memories of Gettysburg

For those of you who want all the specifics on the images shown on the video, you can find them here.

In regards to our two companies: I just launched my company called Visions on Fourth St. It will not just focus on my own creations such as The Civil War Project, but will aim to help others achieve their own vision, whether it be for an event, business start-up, or marketing initiative. The other company, Firefly Productions, is owned by Maurice and his brother Michael. Firefly’s mission is to capture the fire of people, events, places, companies, etc. through a wide range of videography and production services. I think this video is a beautiful representation of the work they produce, and I look forward to doing many more with them in the future.

150 Years Ago: Sunday, May 26, 1861

In Galesburg, Illinois, a woman sits in one of the pews in the back of the Brick Church on South Broad Street. The Reverend Edward Beecher hurries in and begins the Sunday morning service. He reads a letter from his pulpit written by Dr. Benjamin Woodward, who has practiced medicine in the town for the last several years. Dr. Woodward is now an assistant surgeon with the 22nd Regiment of Illinois Volunteers and he is in charge of several hospitals in and around Cairo, Illinois. In that regiment are approximately 500 Galesburg boys and men. The Reverend describes how the volunteers are “dying like flies” from contagious diseases, filthy conditions and poor food. Beecher asks his congregation if they would like to discuss the letter rather than hear the sermon, and the decision is made to talk through what can be done to help these men. Immediately there are pledges of medical supplies, clothing, food and money, but someone needs to be chosen to take these items to Cairo. No one is stepping up for the task, so the President of the local Ladies Aid Society suggests the woman sitting in the back: Mary Ann Bickerdyke. Bickerdyke had previous nursing experience and is thought to be a hard working woman. It would take several days to gather what is needed, but Bickerdyke agrees to go.

Major General Robert E. Lee sends a letter to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown, calling attention to the fact that while many volunteers have arrived in Virginia from his state, most have come without arms. Lee expresses great concern, as Virginia’s own supply is quickly being depleted; the only thing that have not yet resorted to is utilizing the old flint-lock muskets. Lee asks for Brown to send any spare pistols, carbines or other weaponry to Richmond as soon as possible.

At Lee’s former Arlington home, the 8th New York Regiment continues to make themselves at home on the grounds and inside the large dwelling. The camp is settled at the rear of the mansion amid a beautiful grove of oak trees, where they also have a spectacular view of the Potomac River and Washington City.

In Washington, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair issues a statement that postal service will not be provided to the seceded states after May 31.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, sitting in a courtroom in Baltimore, issues the writ of habeas corpus for John Merryman. Merryman had been arrested and taken to Fort McHenry yesterday, and his lawyer had immediately asked for the writ – but U.S. President Lincoln suspended it. The marshal for the District of Maryland presents U.S. General George Cadwalader with the writ, demanding the appearance of the general and Merryman to come before the court. Cadwalader refuses to appear and sends the court a letter asking for a delay until he receives instructions from the President.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis leaves the old capital of Montgomery, Alabama for the new one in Richmond, Virginia. His family will follow him in a week or two.

After weeks of internal struggle, Captain Lewis A. Armistead writes a letter to resign his commission in the Union army. He has almost a four month long trip ahead of him from Los Angeles, California to his home in Virginia. Before he leaves, his close friend Winfield Scott Hancock and his wife Almira throw a farewell party for him. It is said that Armistead put his hand on Hancock’s shoulder at the end of the night, tears flowing, and said “Hancock, goodbye. You can never know what this has cost me.” Armistead would not wait for a response from Washington; instead he would leave for Texas with the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles.

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, May 14, 1861

On May 4, William Orton Williams had been taken to Governors Island in New York and held as a prisoner at the direction of his boss, General Winfield Scott. He had warned Robert E. Lee’s family of a takeover of their home and had tried to resign so he could join the Confederacy, but in a rare move Scott didn’t let him resign as he had let others. Today Williams writes Scott so he can explain his position; he wants Scott to reconsider his imprisonment and let him resign. His long letter includes the following text:

I do not approve of the course of the South Generally, nor the way in which Virginia has acted as a state; but individual disapprobation of her conduct will do as little towards bringing her back into the Union, on her former footing, as the marching of hostile armies into her Territory.”

If the policy is to conquer the seceded states by invading armies, they can only return to the government as devastated provinces. Which under the present constitution, the US cannot legally hold. Consequently at the end of this unhappy war, either the South as a subjugated Territory or the North as Victors, will be under a military dictator or other form of consolidated military jurisdiction (and I incline strongly to the belief that this first is the more probable) or there will be two governments each adapted to the customs and education of those over whom they will be established.

If the former of these two premises be true, I have to choose whether I will be one of the oppressors of my kinsman or share with them the tyranny with which I otherwise might have helped to burden them.

If the second hypothesis be true and I remain on the side of the north, I must become a stranger in a strange land – far from the sod under which my ancestors lie buried. I can never again revisit the scenes of my childhood without meeting at every step the ghosts of those who may well say – we deserved better things at your hands.

You can never tell the mental agony which I suffered, during the last three weeks of my sojourn in Washington….

With sentiments of the most profound admiration I remain

Yours with greatest respect, Orton Williams

The First Wheeling Convention continues today with John S. Carlile at the helm. He was a merchant, lawyer, slave holder and politician, and had served as a senator. He had been a delegate at the Virginia Constitutional Convention in April where he had voted against secession. Currently he is leading the movement of 27 northwestern Virginia counties for recognition of their anti-secessionist movement. Today he proposes a resolution to show their loyalty for Virginia and the Union by proposing to form a new state called New Virginia. His resolution is met with great enthusiasm and cheers for the Union.

Since the Baltimore Riots earlier in this month, the city has been under guard every night. The Maryland legislature has now convened, which will leave Governor Thomas H. Hicks to do as he pleases. The legislature did perform one last act before its departure, appointing two commissioners to visit Confederate President Jefferson Davis and United States President Abraham Lincoln.

Today U.S. General Benjamin Butler does the unthinkable: he seizes the city of Baltimore without the knowledge or permission of Washington.

Butler also issues a proclamation in Baltimore, Maryland, suspending the writ of habeas corpus. President Lincoln had already done this along the railway lines between Philadelphia and Washington, but this was the first time a city had been put under this rule. Butler goes to great lengths to spell out what will not be allowed and what will be considered treasonous and punishable. He also states that “No flag, banner, ensign or device of the so-called Confederate States, or any of them, will be permitted to be raised or shown in this department, and the exhibition of either of them by evil-disposed persons will be deemed and taken to be evidence of a design to afford aid and comfort to the enemies of the country.”

Butler’s proclamation gives the U.S. military the right to seize whatever they need to aid their cause; members of the 8th New York seize 2,900 muskets and 3,500 pipes which had been property of the Baltimore. The weapons are transported in 60 wagons to Fort McHenry, which had protected the city during the War of 1812 and had inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.” Newspaper correspondents who have traveled to the area are reporting that the Virginians have strongly fortified Harpers Ferry, Virginia and the Maryland Heights across the river.

John F. Reynolds is a former West Point graduate who served in the Mexican War with honor and earned the respect of many men. During this time he formed close friendships with Winfield Scott Hancock and Lewis A. Armistead, both who are currently serving in California – though Hancock is trying to get a transfer to help the war effort in the East and Armistead is leaning towards resigning and joining the Confederate effort. Reynolds was made Commandant of Cadets at West Point in September 1860 and has also been teaching artillery, cavalry and infantry tactics. He is secretly engaged to Katherine May Hewitt, but because she is a Catholic and Reynolds is a Protestant they have yet to marry or tell anyone about it. Several weeks ago he was offered a position as aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott, but Reynolds declined. Today he is appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 14th U.S. Infantry, which is originally organized in Connecticut.

In Ohio, George B. McClellan is promoted to Major General. Only one person in the U.S. military holds a higher rank: General Winfield Scott.

He doesn’t know it yet, but William T. Sherman is commissioned as Colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry regiment. This is a new regiment that has yet to be formed of three-month volunteers.

Tonight will be the last night Mary Custis Lee spends at her home in Arlington. Tomorrow she will depart, knowing she will likely never see her home again.

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August 2020

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