Why did Heth go towards Gettysburg on July 1, 1863?

Why did Heth go towards Gettysburg on July 1, 1863?

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In Shelby Foote's book about the civil war, he indicates that General Henry Heth send his men into Gettysburg looking after a "supply of shoes". They ran into Buford's men, Heth approached A.P. Hill, Hill said to get 'em… etc.

I've heard elsewhere that shoes were the proximate cause for confederate interest in Gettysburg that day. When I toured the Gettysburg battlefield with an official guide from the part, he insisted the shoes story was just a persistent rumor.

Is there any definitive evidence either way about she shoes? If not the shoes, why did Heth go to Gettysburg? Was it just recon in place of JEB's missing cavalry?

tl; dr

While obtaining supplies (including shoes) for the army was an important objective, Heth's advance into Gettysburg was a reconnaissance in force to determine the actual composition of Union forces that had been observed in Gettysburg by Brigadier-General Pettigrew on 30 June.

The evidence

In his report following the Gettysburg Campaign, Major-General Henry Heth wrote the following:

On the morning of June 30, I ordered Brigadier-General Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day. On reaching the suburbs of Gettysburg, General Pettigrew found a large force of cavalry near the town, supported by an infantry force. Under these circumstances, he did not deem it advisable to enter the town, and returned, as directed, to Cashtown.

Now, it is important to remember that at this point, a large part of the Confederate cavalry, and their best cavalry commander - J. E. B. Stuart, had been deployed on a raid intended to pass around the rear of the Union army. This raid has been the subject of ongoing controversy and debate ever since the battle, and I don't propose to add to that here.

Suffice it to say that many of the Confederate commanders, including Heth, do seem to have acted as if there was no cavalry available for reconnaissance. We can see this in his report where he observes:

It may not be improper to remark that at this time--9 o'clock on the morning of July 1--I was ignorant what force was at or near Gettysburg, and supposed it consisted of cavalry, most probably supported by a brigade or two of infantry.

He then goes on to give his account of the battle that followed. From that account, it is clear that Heth's mission on 1 July was essentially what we would now call a reconnaissance in force to determine whether the soldiers they had seen in the town were harmless 'home guard' troops or elements of the Army of the Potomac.

Of course, an element of caution is appropriate. Everything that was written after Gettysburg by those involved in making the decisions was in the context of the Confederate defeat, and attempts to avoid / deflect blame.


It is clear that one major objective for Heth, and indeed of the invasion as a whole, had been acquiring supplies for the Confederate army. His report of 13 September 1863 concludes with the following:

I take this occasion to mention the energy displayed by my chief quartermaster (Maj. A. W. Vick) and his assistants in collecting transportation for the division when in Pennsylvania, the division having a limited supply when it crossed the Potomac; also to Major [P. C.] Hungerford, chief commissary of subsistence, and his assistants, for their activity in procuring supplies.

It is also true to say that Heth's men - in common with much of the Army of Northern Virginia - were short of shoes. However, it is probably going too far to suggest that the shoes were the _proximate cause for confederate interest in Gettysburg that day.

Shoes were were certainly an important goal (as shown by the parenthetical comment in Heth's report), but they were far from being the only one.

One of the things that makes Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative! such a compelling read (quite apart from the research that underpins it) is the fact that Foote is an immensely skilled storyteller.

As Brendan Wolfe wrote in his article Shoes at Gettysburg on Encyclopedia Virginia:

"… "shoes especially" represents the perfect detail, quickly translating abstract historical forces into blisters on aching feet and the smell of new shoe leather. "

He went on to observe:

That it started by accident, over something so "pedestrian" as shoes, is too perfect for writers to ignore. Shelby Foote certainly did not, crafting a scene in The Civil War: A Narrative (1963) in which A. P. Hill airily dismissed the possibility that the Army of the Potomac was in Gettysburg:

In Foote's dialogue, Heth was quick to take him up on that. "If there is no objection," he said, "I will take my division tomorrow and go to Gettysburg and get those shoes."

"None in the world," Hill responded.

In fact, as we saw above, Heth's mission on 1 July was actually a reconnaissance in force to determine the actual composition of Union forces in Gettysburg. That mission resulted in a contact engagement from which neither side was able (or willing) to disengage.

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (locally /ˈɡɛtɨsbɜrɡ/ ( listen ) , with an ss sound), [6] was fought July 1–3, 1863. The battle took place in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War. [a] [8] Gettysburg is often called the war's turning point. Union Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac stopped attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This ended Lee's second invasion of the North. [9] Lee began to move his men back to Virginia on July 4. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle.

The Siege of Vicksburg ended on the same day, also a Union victory.

That November, a cemetery for those who died there was opened at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech called the Gettysburg Address at the ceremony to open the cemetery and honor the dead soldiers on both sides.

II. Looting Economic Equity from Black America

This transformative analysis begins by understanding what Black America currently faces. First, this Part addresses Black overrepresentation in the U.S. criminal justice system. Second, this Part discusses how Black overrepresentation in the criminal justice system and its footprint affects minority communities. Lastly, this Part examines how the recurring harms of the criminal justice system on Black communities are amplified in the time of COVID-19.

A. The Statistics of Black Overrepresentation in the Criminal Justice System

Since 1970, the number of persons who have been imprisoned for committing crimes in the U.S. has grown exponentially. 32 Every year, there are 10.6 million jail admissions in the U.S. overall. 33 The Prison Policy Initiative estimates that at least 4.9 million individuals cycle through jail each year. 34

The disparities of the criminal justice system are also prevalent in arrest statistics and the incarceration of Black Americans. “Despite making up only 13% of the general population, Black men and women account for 21% of all people who were arrested just once, and 28% of all people arrested multiple times in 2017.” 35 Black Americans are also overrepresented in incarceration. Incarceration statistics show that in the U.S., persons jailed three or more times (“frequent utilizers”) face severe economic and educational disadvantages. 36 According to national data, “42% of people arrested and booked [three] or more times [in 2017] were Black.” 37 Large urban courts also show statistically significant disparities in sentencing outcomes between white and minority defendants. 38

B. How Overrepresentation in the Criminal Justice System Affects Black Communities

The clear overrepresentation of Black America in the criminal justice system has created long-lasting effects on Black neighborhoods. 39 Of those admitted, there remains a disproportionate percentage of Black inmates compared to non-Black inmates. 40 In 2019, 33% of the U.S. prison population was Black, while only 12% of the adult U.S. population was Black. 41 “The [combined federal and state] imprisonment rate of black males in 2018 was 5.8 times that of white males, while the imprisonment rate of black females was 1.8 times the rate of white females.” 42

Social science research has shown that high arrest and imprisonment rates at the neighborhood level can have devastating collateral effects on economic stability, 43 marriage opportunities, 44 public health, 45 crime, 46 and other phenomena within the community. 47 These effects make it difficult or impossible for Black Americans to advocate for their own health and well-being because they are outside of conventional social systems. 48 Examples of these systems include homelessness, socioeconomic disadvantage, and other disruptions resulting from over-policing. 49

The disproportionate cultural and social consequences to those touched by the criminal justice “footprint”—both in arrest and incarceration—cannot be overstated. Indeed, subjected to life-altering imprisonment, individuals who were “frequent utilizers” (or those imprisoned three or more times) were found to have a number of collateral issues resulting in serious social and collective consequences. 50 Additionally, a majority of surveyed frequent utilizers suffered from substance abuse disorders, economic instability (a majority of frequent utilizers only attain an annual income of less than $10,000), 51 harms associated with schooling, 52 and a majority attaining only below a high school education. 53 Finally, taking as an initial premise that over-incarcerated and over-arrested communities experience a higher likelihood of segregation, there are a host of social-ills that arise from segregated and isolated communities, 54 including disparate effects on educational, 55 economic, 56 housing stability, 57 and health outcomes. 58 These negative outcomes also include that a statistically significant majority face severe health disadvantages, and are more likely to have been diagnosed with a chronic illness compared to persons incarcerated once or twice. Likewise, the differences between BIPOC and white-general populations are starkly disproportionate when considering the income earnings by household, due in part to the histories of redlining and segregation—which has been a catalyst for inequity, alongside mass incarceration.

The [U.S.] income gap is most pronounced among Hispanics and [Black] Americans, but its growth is notable among all segments of the population. In 2009, the highest quintile of earners collected 50 percent of the total income in the [U.S]. In contrast, the bottom three quintiles combined brought in just 26.7 percent of the total income that year (with the second-highest quintile earning 23.3 percent). 59

In terms of the disparate ratio on Black and Latinx families, “the median wealth for white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for [Black Americans].” 60 In 2009, the wealth gap between white and Black Americans was at its widest point since the census began collecting this data in 1984. 61 The U.S. racial wealth gap is substantial and driven by public policy decisions. According to one study in 2011, “the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings, compared to just $7,113 for the median Black household and $8,348 for the median Latino household.” 62 The policy implications are the continued lineage of laws and policies from “redlining on American homeownership to the retreat from [once-vibrant] desegregation [initiatives] in public education,” and other policy decisions across America that did not prioritize racial-awareness. 63

There has been a steady increase in this trend over the past forty years, such that the top 5 percent of earners in 1970 pulled in 16.6 percent. That number was stable a decade later but rose to 18.5 percent in 1990 and to 22.1 percent in 2000. In 2011, the top 5 percent of households earned 21.5 percent of the total income. 64

More attention must be done to change these outcomes and disrupt the systemic inequity that has been built into the criminal justice system and protect the health of our communities. This can be done by addressing the larger structural disparities and systemic racism that undergirds the economic laws, policies, and legislation affecting the U.S. justice system.

C. COVID-19 Amplifies The Looting of Black America

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified these trends in communities of color and low-income communities, which were already historically structurally marginalized. 65 In April 2020, Black Americans made up a statistically-significant percentage of the U.S. workforce in nine of the ten lowest-wage jobs considered most high-contact essential services. 66 Black Americans have a higher probability of being uninsured, specifically where “non-elderly Black people are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than white counterparts, despite the availability . . . [of] the Affordable Care Act.” 67 Black Americans were more likely to reside in a neighborhood or location that had “fewer adequate health and social services.” 68 Black Americans, on average from birth, have a life expectancy of about 3.5 years lower than white life expectancy, whose health outcomes are on par with poorer countries in the world. 69 According to a recent McKinsey report, “[B]lack Americans are 1.4-1.8 times more likely to live in counties” where there is a higher risk of contagion. 70 Another study from the National Health Interview Survey, the historical systemic inequity that undergirds these counties creates the possibility that secondary effects of the COVID-19 virus, such as economic disruption, community instability, and structural barriers to medical care will disproportionately affect Black Americans. 71 The top five indicators that were contributing factors to the lasting effects of the pandemic on Black America were: (1) the underlying health conditions of the community, (2) the poverty rate of the community, (3) the number of hospital beds in the local community healthcare facilities, (4) the percentage of people in severe housing conditions, and (5) population density. 72

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed America’s giant fault-lines that have pre-existed over centuries of structural inequality from slavery, the post-emancipation racial terror 73 associated with lynching and segregation during Jim Crow, the mass displacement of Black Americans in the Great Migration to northern cities, urban housing policies that harmed BIPOC communities, and finally, the current carceral state of mass incarceration and policing that led to the murder of George Floyd.


Note. --In the second and third columns the bracketed words and figures are dating of more or less certainly conjectured whilst those unbracketed give the actual the letter.
Title of Letter. Where Written. When Written. Where and when First Published. Page.
A Landslip near Giagnano NaplesFebruary 7, 1841 Proceedings of the Ashmolean Society202
Modern Painters: a Reply [Denmark HillAbout Sept. 17, 1843] The Weekly Chronicle, Sept. 23, 18433
Art Criticism [Denmark HillDecember, 1843] The Artist and Amateur’s Magazine, 184410
On Reflections in Water [Denmark HillJanuary, 1844] The Artist and Amateur’s Magazine, 1844191
Danger to the National Gallery [Denmark Hill]January 6 [1847] The Times, January 7, 184737
The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren, I. Denmark HillMay 9 [1851] The Times, May 13, 185159
The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren, II. Denmark HillMay 26 [1851] The Times, May 30, 185163
The National Gallery Herne Hill, DulwichDecember 27 [1852] The Times, December 29, 185245
“ The Light of the World ” Denmark HillMay 4 [1854] The Times, May 15, 185467
“ The Awakening Conscience ” [Denmark HillMay 24 [1854] The Times, May 25, 185471
The Turner Bequest Denmark HillOctober 27 [1856] The Times, October 28, 185681
On the Gentian Denmark HillFebruary 10 [1857] The Athenæum, February 14, 1857204
The Turner Bequest & National Gallery [Denmark HillJuly 8, 1857] The Times, July 9, 185786
The Castle Rock (Edinburgh) Dunbar14th September, 1857 The Witness (Edinburgh), Sept. 16, 1857145
The Arts as a Branch of Education PenrithSeptember 25, 1857 “New Oxford Examinations, etc.,” 185824
Edinburgh Castle Penrith27th September [1857] The Witness (Edinburgh), Sept. 30, 1857147
The Character of Turner [ 1857] Thornbury’s Life of Turner. Preface, 1861107
Pre-Raphaelitism in Liverpool [January, 1858] The Liverpool Albion, January 11, 185873
Generalization & Scotch Pre-Raphaelites [March. 1858] The Witness (Edinburgh), March 27, 185874
Gothic Architecture & Oxford Museum, I. [June, 1858] “The Oxford Museum,” 1859.125
The Turner Sketches and Drawings [November, 1858] The Literary Gazette, Nov. 13, 185888
Turner’s Sketch Book (extract) [ ] 1858 List of Turner’s Drawings, Boston, 187486 n.
The Liber Studiorum (extract) [ ] 1858 List of Turner’s Drawings, Boston, 187497 n.
Gothic Architecture & Oxford Museum, II. [January 20, 1859 “The Oxford Museum,” 1859131
The Turner Gallery at Kensington Denmark HillOctober 20 [1859] The Times, October 21, 185998
Mr. Thornbury’s “Life of Turner” (extract) LucerneDecember 2, 1861 Thornbury’s Life of Turner. Ed. 2, Pref.108
Art Teaching by Correspondence Denmark HillNovember, 1860 Nature and Art, December 1, 186632
On the Reflection of Rainbows [ ]7th May, 1861 The London Review, May 16, 1861201
The Conformation of the Alps Denmark Hill10th November, 1864 The Reader, November 12, 1864173
Concerning Glaciers Denmark HillNovember 21 [1864] The Reader, November 26, 1864175
English versus Alpine Geology Denmark Hill29th November [1864] The Reader, December 3, 1864181
Concerning Hydrostatics Norwich5th December [1864] The Reader, December 10, 1864185
The British Museum Denmark HillJan. 26 [1866] The Times, January 27, 186652
Copies of Turner’s Drawings (extract) [ ] 1867 List of Turner’s Drawings, Boston, 1874105 n.
Notre Dame de Paris [Denmark HillJanuary 18, 1871] The Daily Telegraph, January 19, 1871153
“Turners” False and True Denmark HillJanuary 23 [1871] The Times, January 24, 1871106
Castles and Kennels Denmark HillDecember 20 [1871] The Daily Telegraph, December 22, 1871151
Verona v. Warwick Denmark Hill, S. E.24th (for 25th) Dec. [1871] The Daily Telegraph, December 25, 1871152
Mr. Ruskin’s Influence: a Defence Denmark HillMarch 15 [1872] The Pall Mall Gazette, March 16, 1872154
Mr. Ruskin’s Influence: a Rejoinder Denmark HillMarch 21 [1872] The Pall Mall Gazette, March 21, 1872156
John Leech’s Outlines [ 1872] The Catalogue to the Exhibition, 1872111
Ernest George’s Etchings [Denmark HillDecember, 1873] The Architect, December 27, 1873113
James David Forbes: his Real Greatness [ 1874] “Rendu’s Glaciers of Savoy,” 1874187
The Frederick Walker Exhibition [January, 1876] The Times, January 20, 1876116
Copies of Turner’s Drawings PeterboroughApril 23 [1876] The Times, April 25, 1876105
Turner’s Drawings, I. BrantwoodJuly 3 [1876] The Daily Telegraph, July 5, 1876100
Turner’s Drawings, II. Brantwood, Coniston, LancashireJuly 16 [1876] The Daily Telegraph, July 19, 1876104
Modern Restoration Venice15th April, 1877 The Liverpool Daily Post, June 9, 1877157
Ribbesford Church Brantwood, Coniston, LancashireJuly 24, 1877 The Kidderminster Times, July 28, 1877158
St. Mark’s Venice--Circular relating to [BrantwoodWinter 1879] See the Circular159
St. Mark’s Venice--Letters [BrantwoodWinter 1879] Birmingham Daily Mail, Nov. 27, 1879169
On the Purchase of Pictures [BrantwoodJanuary 1880] Leicester Chronicle, January 31, 188055
Copy of Turner’s “Fluelen” London20th March, 1880 Lithograph copy issued by Mr. Ward, 1880105 n.
The Study of Natural History [ ]Undated Letter to Adam White [unknown]204


Custer's paternal ancestors, Paulus and Gertrude Küster, came to the North American English colonies around 1693 from the Rhineland in Germany, probably among thousands of Palatines whose passage was arranged by the English government to gain settlers in New York and Pennsylvania. [7] [8]

According to family letters, Custer was named after George Armstrong, a minister, in his devout mother's hope that her son might join the clergy. [9]

Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio, to Emanuel Henry Custer (1806–1892), a farmer and blacksmith, and his second wife, Marie Ward Kirkpatrick (1807–1882), who was of English and Scots-Irish descent. [10] He had two younger brothers, Thomas and Boston. His other full siblings were the family's youngest child, Margaret Custer, and Nevin Custer, who suffered from asthma and rheumatism. Custer also had three older half-siblings. [11] Custer and his brothers acquired a life-long love of practical jokes, which they played out among the close family members.

Emanuel Custer was an outspoken Jacksonian Democrat, who taught his children politics and toughness at an early age. [12]

In a February 3, 1887, letter to his son's widow, Libby, he related an incident from when George Custer (known as Autie) was about four years old:

"He had to have a tooth drawn, and he was very much afraid of blood. When I took him to the doctor to have the tooth pulled, it was in the night and I told him if it bled well it would get well right away, and he must be a good soldier. When he got to the doctor he took his seat, and the pulling began. The forceps slipped off and he had to make a second trial. He pulled it out, and Autie never even scrunched. Going home, I led him by the arm. He jumped and skipped, and said 'Father you and me can whip all the Whigs in Michigan.' I thought that was saying a good deal but I did not contradict him." [13]

In order to attend school, Custer lived with an older half-sister and her husband in Monroe, Michigan. Before entering the United States Military Academy, Custer attended the McNeely Normal School, later known as Hopedale Normal College, in Hopedale, Ohio. It was to train teachers for elementary schools. While attending Hopedale, Custer and classmate William Enos Emery were known to have carried coal to help pay for their room and board. After graduating from McNeely Normal School in 1856, Custer taught school in Cadiz, Ohio. [14] His first sweetheart was Mary Jane Holland. [15]

Custer entered West Point as a cadet on July 1, 1857, as a member of the class of 1862. His class numbered seventy-nine cadets embarking on a five-year course of study. With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the course was shortened to four years, and Custer and his class graduated on June 24, 1861. He was 34th in a class of 34 graduates: 23 classmates had dropped out for academic reasons while 22 classmates had already resigned to join the Confederacy. [16]

Throughout his life, Custer tested boundaries and rules. In his four years at West Point, he amassed a record total of 726 demerits, one of the worst conduct records in the history of the academy. The local minister remembered Custer as "“the instigator of devilish plots both during the service and in Sunday school. On the surface he appeared attentive and respectful, but underneath the mind boiled with disruptive ideas. [17] ”A fellow cadet recalled Custer as declaring there were only two places in a class, the head and the foot, and since he had no desire to be the head, he aspired to be the foot. A roommate noted, "It was alright with George Custer, whether he knew his lesson or not he simply did not allow it to trouble him." [18] Under ordinary conditions, Custer's low class rank would result in an obscure posting, the first step in a dead-end career, but Custer had the fortune to graduate as the Civil War broke out, and as a result the Union Army had a sudden need for many junior officers.

McClellan and Pleasanton Edit

Like the other graduates, Custer was commissioned as a second lieutenant he was assigned to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Regiment and tasked with drilling volunteers in Washington, D.C. On July 21, 1861, he was with his regiment at the First Battle of Bull Run during the Manassas Campaign, where Army commander Winfield Scott detailed him to carry messages to Major General Irvin McDowell. After the battle, Custer continued participating in the defenses of Washington D.C. until October, when he became ill. He was absent from his unit until February 1862. In March, he participated with the 2nd Cavalry in the Peninsula Campaign (March to August) in Virginia until April 4.

On April 5, Custer served in the 5th Cavalry Regiment and participated in the Siege of Yorktown, from April 5 to May 4 and was aide to Major General George B. McClellan McClellan was in command of the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign. On May 24, 1862, during the pursuit of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston up the Peninsula, when General McClellan and his staff were reconnoitering a potential crossing point on the Chickahominy River, they stopped, and Custer overheard General John G. Barnard mutter, "I wish I knew how deep it is." Custer dashed forward on his horse out to the middle of the river, turned to the astonished officers, and shouted triumphantly, "McClellan, that’s how deep it is, General!" [19]

Custer was allowed to lead an attack with four companies of the 4th Michigan Infantry across the Chickahominy River above New Bridge. The attack was successful, resulting in the capture of 50 Confederate soldiers and the seizing of the first Confederate battle flag of the war. McClellan termed it a "very gallant affair" and congratulated Custer personally. In his role as aide-de-camp to McClellan, Custer began his life-long pursuit of publicity. [19] Custer was promoted to the rank of captain on June 5, 1862. On July 17, he was reverted to the rank of first lieutenant. He participated in the Maryland Campaign in September to October, the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, the Battle of Antietam on September 17, and the March to Warrenton, Virginia, in October.

On June 9, 1863, Custer became aide to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Pleasonton, who was commanding the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac. Recalling his service under Pleasonton, Custer was quoted as saying that "I do not believe a father could love his son more than General Pleasonton loves me." [20] Pleasonton's first assignment was to locate the army of Robert E. Lee, moving north through the Shenandoah Valley in the beginning of what was to become the Gettysburg Campaign.

Brigade command Edit

Pleasonton was promoted on June 22, 1863, to major general of U.S. Volunteers. On June 29, after consulting with the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, George Meade, Pleasanton began replacing political generals with "commanders who were prepared to fight, to personally lead mounted attacks". [21] He found just the kind of aggressive fighters he wanted in three of his aides: Wesley Merritt, Elon J. Farnsworth (both of whom had command experience) and Custer. All received immediate promotions, Custer to brigadier general of volunteers, [22] commanding the Michigan Cavalry Brigade ("Wolverines"), part of the division of Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick. [23] Despite having no direct command experience, Custer became one of the youngest generals in the Union Army at age 23. Custer immediately shaped his brigade to reflect his aggressive character.

Now a general officer, Custer had great latitude in choosing his uniform. Though often criticized as gaudy, it was more than personal vanity. Historian Tom Carhart observed that "A showy uniform for Custer was one of command presence on the battlefield: he wanted to be readily distinguishable at first glance from all other soldiers. He intended to lead from the front, and to him it was a crucial issue of unit morale that his men be able to look up in the middle of a charge, or at any other time on the battlefield, and instantly see him leading the way into danger." [24]

Some have claimed Custer's leadership in battle as reckless or foolhardy. However, as English-born American author Marguerite Merington noted, he "meticulously scouted every battlefield, gauged the enemies [sic] weak points and strengths, ascertained the best line of attack and only after he was satisfied was the 'Custer Dash' with a Michigan yell focused with complete surprise on the enemy in routing them every time." [25]

Hanover and Abbottstown Edit

On June 30, 1863, Custer and the First and Seventh Michigan Cavalry had just passed through Hanover, Pennsylvania, while the Fifth and Sixth Michigan Cavalry followed about seven miles behind. Hearing gunfire, he turned and started to the sound of the guns. A courier reported that Farnsworth's Brigade had been attacked by rebel cavalry from side streets in the town. Reassembling his command, he received orders from Kilpatrick to engage the enemy northeast of town near the railway station. Custer deployed his troops and began to advance. After a brief firefight, the rebels withdrew to the northeast. This seemed odd, since it was supposed that Lee and his army were somewhere to the west. Though seemingly of little consequence, this skirmish further delayed Stuart from joining Lee. Further, as Captain James H. Kidd, commander of F troop, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, later wrote: "Under [Custer's] skillful hand the four regiments were soon welded into a cohesive unit. " [26]

Next morning, July 1, they passed through Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, still searching for Stuart's cavalry. Late in the morning they heard sounds of gunfire from the direction of Gettysburg. At Heidlersburg, Pennsylvania, that night they learned that General John Buford's cavalry had found Lee's army at Gettysburg. The next morning, July 2, orders came to hurry north to disrupt General Richard S. Ewell's communications and relieve the pressure on the union forces. By mid afternoon, as they approached Hunterstown, Pennsylvania, they encountered Stuart's cavalry. [27] Custer rode alone ahead to investigate and found that the rebels were unaware of the arrival of his troops. Returning to his men, he carefully positioned them along both sides of the road where they would be hidden from the rebels. Further along the road, behind a low rise, he positioned the First and Fifth Michigan Cavalry and his artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Alexander Cummings McWhorter Pennington, Jr. To bait his trap, he gathered A Troop, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, called out, "Come on boys, I'll lead you this time!" and galloped directly at the unsuspecting rebels. As he had expected, the rebels, "more than two hundred horsemen, came racing down the country road" after Custer and his men. He lost half of his men in the deadly rebel fire and his horse went down, leaving him on foot. [28] He was rescued by Private Norvell Francis Churchill of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, who galloped up, shot Custer's nearest assailant, and pulled Custer up behind him. [29] Custer and his remaining men reached safety, while the pursuing rebels were cut down by slashing rifle fire, then canister from six cannons. The rebels broke off their attack, and both sides withdrew.

After spending most of the night in the saddle, Custer's brigade arrived at Two Taverns, Pennsylvania, roughly five miles southeast of Gettysburg around 3 a.m. July 3. There he was joined by Farnsworth's brigade. By daybreak they received orders to protect Meade's flanks. He was about to experience perhaps his finest hours during the war.

Gettysburg Edit

Lee's battle plan, shared with less than a handful of subordinates, was to defeat Meade through a combined assault by all of his resources. General James Longstreet would attack Cemetery Hill from the west, Stuart would attack Culp's Hill from the southeast and Ewell would attack Culp's Hill from the north. Once the Union forces holding Culp's Hill had collapsed, the rebels would "roll up" the remaining Union defenses on Cemetery Ridge. To accomplish this, he sent Stuart with six thousand cavalrymen and mounted infantry on a long, flanking maneuver. [30]

By mid-morning, Custer had arrived at the intersection of Old Dutch road and Hanover Road. He was later joined by Brigadier General David McMurtrie Gregg, who had him deploy his men at the northeast corner. Custer then sent out scouts to investigate nearby wooded areas. Gregg, meanwhile, placed Colonel John Baillie McIntosh's brigade near the intersection and sent the rest of his command to picket duty along two miles to the southwest. After making additional deployments, that left 2,400 cavalry under McIntosh and 1,200 under Custer, together with Colonel Alexander Cummings McWhorter Pennington, Jr.'s and Captain Alanson Merwin Randol's artillery, a total of ten three-inch guns.

About noon Custer's men heard cannon fire, Stuart's signal to Lee that he was in position and had not been detected. About the same time Gregg received a message warning that a large body of rebel cavalry had moved out the York Pike and might be trying to get around the Union right. A second message, from Pleasonton, ordered Gregg to send Custer to cover the Union far left. Since Gregg had already sent most of his force off to other duties, it was clear to both Gregg and Custer that Custer must remain. They had about 2700 men facing 6000 Confederates.

Soon afterward fighting broke out between the skirmish lines. Stuart ordered an attack by his mounted infantry under General Albert G. Jenkins, but the Union line – men from the First Michigan cavalry, the First New Jersey Cavalry and the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry held. Stuart ordered Jackson's four gun battery into action. Custer ordered Pennington to answer. After a brief exchange in which two of Jackson's guns were destroyed, there was a lull.

About one o'clock, the massive Confederate artillery barrage in support of the upcoming assault on Cemetery Ridge began. Jenkins' men renewed the attack, but soon ran out of ammunition and fell back. Resupplied, they again pressed the attack. Outnumbered, the Union cavalry fell back, firing as they went. Custer sent most of his Fifth Michigan cavalry ahead on foot, forcing Jenkins' men to fall back. Jenkins' men were reinforced by about 150 sharpshooters from General Fitzhugh Lee's brigade and, shortly after, Stuart ordered a mounted charge by the Ninth Virginia Cavalry and the Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry. Now it was Custer's men who were running out of ammunition. The Fifth Michigan was forced back and the battle was reduced to vicious, hand-to-hand combat.

Seeing this, Custer mounted a counter-attack, riding ahead of the fewer than 400 new troopers of the Seventh Michigan Cavalry, shouting, "Come on, you Wolverines!" As he swept forward, he formed a line of squadrons five ranks deep – five rows of eighty horsemen side by side – chasing the retreating rebels until their charge was stopped by a wood rail fence. The horses and men became jammed into a solid mass and were soon attacked on their left flank by the dismounted Ninth and Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry and on the right flank by the mounted First Virginia cavalry. Custer extricated his men and raced south to the protection of Pennington's artillery near Hanover Road. The pursuing Confederates were cut down by canister, then driven back by the remounted Fifth Michigan Cavalry. Both forces withdrew to a safe distance to regroup.

It was then about three o'clock. The artillery barrage to the west had suddenly stopped. Union soldiers were surprised to see Stuart's entire force about a half mile away, coming toward them, not in line of battle, but "formed in close column of squadrons. A grander spectacle than their advance has rarely been beheld". [31] Stuart recognized he now had little time to reach and attack the Union rear along Cemetery Ridge. He must make one, last effort to break through the Union cavalry.

Stuart passed by McIntosh's cavalry- the First New Jersey, Third Pennsylvania and Company A of Purnell's Legion- posted about half way down the field, with relative ease. As he approached, they were ordered back into the woods, without slowing down Stuart's column, "advancing as if in review, with sabers drawn and glistening like silver in the bright sunlight. " [32]

Stuart's last obstacle was Custer, with four hundred veteran troopers of the First Michigan Cavalry, directly in his path. Outnumbered but undaunted, Custer rode to the head of the regiment, "drew his saber, threw off his hat so they could see his long yellow hair" and shouted. "Come on, you Wolverines!" [33] Custer formed his men in line of battle and charged. "So sudden was the collision that many of the horses were turned end over end and crushed their riders beneath them. " [34] As the Confederate advance stopped, their right flank was struck by troopers of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Michigan. McIntosh was able to gather some of his men from the First New Jersey and Third Pennsylvania and charged the rebel left flank. "Seeing that the situation was becoming critical, I [Captain Miller] turned to [Lieutenant Brooke-Rawle] and said: "I have been ordered to hold this position, but, if you will back me up in case I am court-martialed for disobedience, I will order a charge." [35] The rebel column disintegrated into individual saber and pistol fights.

Within twenty minutes the combatants heard the sound of the Union artillery opening up on Pickett's men. Stuart knew that whatever chance he had of joining the Confederate assault was gone. He withdrew his men to Cress Ridge. [36]

Custer's brigade lost 257 men at Gettysburg, the highest loss of any Union cavalry brigade. [37] "I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry", Custer wrote in his report. [38] "For Gallant And Meritorious Services", he was awarded a regular army brevet promotion to Major.

Shenandoah Valley and Appomattox Edit

General Custer participated in Sheridan's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. The civilian population was specifically targeted in what is known as the Burning. [39] [40] [41]

In 1864, with the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac reorganized under the command of Major General Philip Sheridan, Custer (now commanding the 3rd Division) led his "Wolverines" to the Shenandoah Valley where by the year's end they defeated the army of Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. During May and June, Sheridan and Custer (Captain, 5th Cavalry, May 8 and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, May 11) took part in cavalry actions supporting the Overland Campaign, including the Battle of the Wilderness (after which Custer ascended to division command), and the Battle of Yellow Tavern (where J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded). In the largest all-cavalry engagement of the war, the Battle of Trevilian Station, in which Sheridan sought to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and the Confederates' western resupply route, Custer captured Hampton's divisional train, but was then cut off and suffered heavy losses (including having his division's trains overrun and his personal baggage captured by the enemy) before being relieved. When Lieutenant General Early was then ordered to move down the Shenandoah Valley and threaten Washington, D.C., Custer's division was again dispatched under Sheridan. In the Valley Campaigns of 1864, they pursued the Confederates at the Third Battle of Winchester and effectively destroyed Early's army during Sheridan's counterattack at Cedar Creek.

Sheridan and Custer, having defeated Early, returned to the main Union Army lines at the Siege of Petersburg, where they spent the winter. In April 1865 the Confederate lines finally broke, and Robert E. Lee began his retreat to Appomattox Court House, pursued by the Union cavalry. Custer distinguished himself by his actions at Waynesboro, Dinwiddie Court House, and Five Forks. His division blocked Lee's retreat on its final day and received the first flag of truce from the Confederate force. After a truce was arranged Custer was escorted through the lines to meet Longstreet, who described Custer as having flaxen locks flowing over his shoulders, and Custer said “in the name of General Sheridan I demand the unconditional surrender of this army.” Longstreet replied that he was not in command of the army, but if he was he would not deal with messages from Sheridan. Custer responded it would be a pity to have more blood upon the field, to which Longstreet suggested the truce be respected, and then added “General Lee has gone to meet General Grant, and it is for them to determine the future of the armies.” [42] Custer was present at the surrender at Appomattox Court House and the table upon which the surrender was signed was presented to him as a gift for his wife by Sheridan, who included a note to her praising Custer's gallantry. She treasured the gift of the historical table, which is now in the Smithsonian Institution. [43]

On April 25, after the war officially ended, Custer had his men search for, then illegally seize a large, prize racehorse named "Don Juan" near Clarksville, Virginia, worth then an estimated $10,000 (several hundred thousand today), along with his written pedigree. Custer rode Don Juan in the grand review victory parade in Washington, D.C., on May 23, creating a sensation when the scared thoroughbred bolted. The owner, Richard Gaines, wrote to General Grant, who then ordered Custer to return the horse to Gaines, but he did not, instead hiding the horse and winning a race with it the next year, before the horse died suddenly. [44]

Promotions and ranks Edit

Custer's promotions and ranks including his six brevet [honorary] promotions which were all for gallant and meritorious services at five different battles and one campaign: [45]

Second lieutenant, 2nd Cavalry: June 24, 1861
First lieutenant, 5th Cavalry: July 17, 1862
Captain staff, additional aide-de-camp: June 5, 1862
Brigadier general, U.S. Volunteers: June 29, 1863
Brevet major, July 3, 1863 (Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)

Captain, 5th Cavalry: May 8, 1864
Brevet lieutenant colonel: May 11, 1864 (Battle of Yellow Tavern – Combat at Meadow)

Brevet colonel: September 19, 1864 (Battle of Winchester, Virginia)
Brevet major general, U.S. Volunteers: October 19, 1864 (Battle of Winchester and Fisher's Hill, Virginia)
Brevet brigadier general, U.S. Army, March 13, 1865 (Battle of Five Forks, Virginia)
Brevet major general, U.S. Army: March 13, 1865 (The campaign ending in the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia)

Major general, U.S. Volunteers: April 15, 1865
Mustered out of Volunteer Service: February 1, 1866

Lieutenant colonel, 7th Cavalry: July 28, 1866 (killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876)

On June 3, 1865, at Sheridan's behest, Major General Custer accepted command of the 2nd Division of Cavalry, Military Division of the Southwest, to march from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Hempstead, Texas, as part of the Union occupation forces. Custer arrived at Alexandria on June 27 and began assembling his units, which took more than a month to gather and remount. On July 17, he assumed command of the Cavalry Division of the Military Division of the Gulf (on August 5, officially named the 2nd Division of Cavalry of the Military Division of the Gulf), and accompanied by his wife, he led the division (five regiments of veteran Western Theater cavalrymen) to Texas on an arduous 18-day march in August. On October 27, the division departed to Austin. On October 29, Custer moved the division from Hempstead to Austin, arriving on November 4. Major General Custer became Chief of Cavalry of the Department of Texas, from November 13 to February 1, 1866, succeeding Major General Wesley Merritt.

During his entire period of command of the division, Custer encountered considerable friction and near mutiny from the volunteer cavalry regiments who had campaigned along the Gulf coast. They desired to be mustered out of Federal service rather than continue campaigning, resented imposition of discipline (particularly from an Eastern Theater general), and considered Custer nothing more than a vain dandy. [46] [47]

Saudi Arabia is Going Down

World War III over in the M.E. has ratcheted its way up here quite a bit in the last couple of days. Dominoes are falling fast and furious now.

Unlike in Egypt, el-Kabong has shown he isn’t going to exit stage left quietly, and while the MSM tiptoes around the subject saying “Libya MIGHT descend into Civil War”, the truth is apparent, there is ALREADY a full on Civil War going on there.

Obama-sama has declared “Nothing is off the Table”, and they are floating the idea of arming the rebel forces. Now exactly who to and how they will issue Assault Rifles and RPGs to isn’t exactly clear. Does a Container Ship pull up at the dock and Libyan Towel Heads line up for an issue of Guns and Ammo? Do they pay for the Ammo or we just hand it out for free? Nobody is handing me free Ammo! I am paying through the nose for it here! These folks live on $2 a day. How many rounds can you buy for $2 in Libya?

Then there are the Limeys and the Frogs, the ones most strenuously pushing for a “No Fly Zone” to be established over Libya. This because apparently for the Brits the boys at the London School of Economics were in bed with el-Kabong, and they are probably looking at losing a shit load of money here if they cannot protect their assets. For the Frogs, I suspect they along with the Ities get most of the shipments of Libyan Oil, its right across the Mediterranean Sea. They are getting hit first and hardest with the supply loss, which they have to try to make up from other sources, but this is pretty hard to do when all the other sources are having problems producing also and what they do produce already has been contracted for.

So, on the Gas shortages/lines/rationing problem, the Ities and the Frogs look like they will be the first Western Countries hit. I don’t know if either of those countries maintain any kind of SPR. Labor strikes have already hit the Frogs, if they start having trouble getting gas, France is going to be in the deep doo-doo very quickly. So these folks want to shut down the Libyan Civil War ASAP and get those Oil Wells producing quickly.

So if you figure its hitting them first, they should be the ones who sign up a bunch more Mercs for the French Foreign Legion to head over to Libya to guard the Oil Wells. Both the French and the Brits have plenty of their own Jets, and you don’t even need an Aircraft Carrier, you can sortie the Jets straight out of an airbase in Sicily. Its only about 300 nautical miles across the Med Sea for them to Bomb Tripoli back to the Stone Age. So if any Western Countries are about to drop in on this Clusterfuck, one suspects the Brits and the French will be the first to do so.

While the Civil War has been spinning up, the Refugee issue is getting rapidly bigger. Just yesterday I read in the MSM the Spin that the refugee issue was not too bad, 100K or so on the borders of Algeria and Egypt. Today, the number was jacked up an order of magnitude to 1M. “Humanitarian Crisis” has hit the pages of the MSM. An HC is ALWAYS the excuse for a UN “Peacekeeping” Force to be dropped into a War Zone. So I am figuring the UN is negotiating to set up Refugee Camps in Egypt and Algeria, where they will then drop in a shit load of French and Brit Mercs, using these refugee camps as a staging ground for sending in counterinsurgency Special Ops to try and Capture/Kill el-Kabong. They clearly have to try this before trying to stage up a massive INVASION with Tanks, the hope being if they can come out with el-Kabong’s Head on a Pike, the Rabble will calm down and they can then Restore Order. Trying alternatively to restore order here by Brute Force will take a LOT of military assets. Just think about all those WWII Tank Battles in North Africa between Patton, Montgomery and Rommel. This is a BIG patch of land to try to control this way.

The question here is just how well prepped is el-Kabong? How much fuel does he have stored up for his Jets? How many MREs does he have sequestered to dish out to his “Loyal” troops? How good a Bunker did he build with his Oil Billions? Is it better than Hitler’s Bunker? I’ll bet it is. Probably has its own Micro Nuke Hitachi Power Plant buried and a deep well drilled down to the water table left over from the Jurrasic Period, 50 years worth of Mountain House Freeze Dried Food and an Underground Hydroponic Farm for growing produce into the next century. LOL.

Even if he just has an average Bunker though, its unlikely that unless he makes a HUGE mistake and gets caught out in the open making a Speech that the Mossad will be able to take him out quickly. How LONG can he keep his war machine rolling with fuel and ammo? Can he hold his OWN Oil fields Hostage, and threaten the Brits and Frogs that if they try to get him he will blow the wells to Kingdom Come? El-Kabong is CLEARLY psycho enough to do this, you would have to believe he would do it.

Meanwhile, over in Saudi Arabia, its heating up fast as well. Despite the Diktat from the House of Saud that all demonstrations are Illegal under Sharia Law and political opponents being arrested and tortured willy nilly, there is a big Demonstration planned for Friday, and I suspect this will get the ball really rolling in Saudi Arabia as well. The Saudi Royalty has been watching all the shit go down all around them, so I cannot see them tolerating any kind of large demonstration. If there is one, I suspect the Saudis will go in and hit them hard and fast. This won’t work to stop the problem, it will make it worse and then Saudi Arabia goes down the same road as Libya. I certainly cannot see the House of Saud picking up and leaving quietly like the Hoser did from Egypt. Like el-Kabong, those Sheiks know if they cannot hold onto Power there, they are FINISHED, all their wealth goes Bye-Bye as the “Authorities” at the BIS freeze all their accounts. They’ll be back to Camel driving.

So, bottom line here, possibly in as short a time span as one month or so from RIGHT NOW, we could see along with Libya in full on Civil War, Saudi Arabia in much the same predicament. This basically completes the path of Anarchy and War stretching from Morocco in North Africa all the way across to Pakistan, easily triple the geographical area of Europe in WWII. This by itself is World War, but does not even take into account the shit going on between the Koreas, the shit going on in Chechnya, and the shit going on down on the Mexican Border, along with all the shit going down in Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia et al. Its WORLD WAR III folks, its here. So far YOU are still somewhat insulated from this anarchy, but its Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You in some fashion.

What will the “fashion” be that the Big Show comes to your Theatre? Well, remembering back to WWII, the Battles all occurred over in Europe and North Africa and China and in the Pacific Islands. We did not get Bombed over here, but we did have serious rationing. At the moment, for the most part it looks like that scenario gets repeated, but as I indicated in a prior post, it looks to be worse rationing this time because we do not have our own local supply of Oil in sufficient quantity to keep all the systems developed since running and we have a much larger population.

The Austerity required this time around here in the FSofA to support the War Machine I think will be too great for the society to bear, and so as this progresses we also will break down into Civil War. This isn’t going to happen overnight, its still likely a couple of years away. Still, you have to remember that down in Mexico they are already about in full anarchy as Cantarell stops producing, and this can only mean the border issues down in TX and AZ will increase. If/when we start having Blackouts/Brownouts in the Big Shities, the FSA in these Shities will take the opportunity to start Looting. Mad Max commences shortly thereafter. Forget subsisting on Grasshoppers and Mealworms, if you expect to survive in the Big Shities, you will need to develop a taste for Human Flesh. Stock up plenty of Curry, all meat tastes the same when Curried, just ask any Chef in an Indian Restaurant. Cats, Dogs, Mice, 4 th Grade Children, Nursing Home residents, whatever, you cannot tell the difference when you load it up with Curry. If/when we get Soylent Green, its about guaranteed it will be flavored with Curry.

Time is definitely RUNNING OUT now to make your ESCAPE. I do not recommend you try to escape outside the borders of the FSofA unless you have contacts and some connection to people wherever it is you are planning on evacuating to and you fit in racially, ethnically and religiously with the dominant population of the area. Do not head for South America unless you speak FLUENT Spanish and/or Portuguese and can pass as Hispanic. Do not head for Asia unless you speak FLUENT Mandarin and are at least half Han Chinese. If you are a White, the only places you should head for are the ones where Whites are dominant. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, the Falkland Islands, Norway, Tasmania, Tristan de Cunha-Edinburgh of the Seven Seas are about the ONLY places I would ever consider as reasonable to try to evacuate to if you were going to leave the FSofA as a White Person. Britain is OUT. Britain is TOAST. The Sun has SET on the British Empire and the little island they Ruled the World from for a while. Ireland might be survivable.

Inside the borders of the FSofA, Numero Uno BEST location for White Folks, ALASKA. Ranked in order on the FSofA Top Ten RE Doomer Holes List:

The Other Speech on Decoration Day

In my last post on George Hatton, I included a newspaper account of his participation in a Decoration Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The story noted that Hatton made “a short but eloquent address” that has, apparently, been lost. Sharp-eyed readers may have also noticed that, buried in the text of the article, was a passing reference to the presence there of one Frederick Douglass. You may have heard of him.

Oddly, the newspaper makes no reference to the speech Douglass gave that day, at the memorial to the Unknown Union Dead (above), which must surely rank as one of the most compelling of its type ever offered there. It’s a short address, worth reproducing in full.

The Unknown Loyal Dead

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.

The remarkable thing about this text is how well it resonates, how well it presages the ongoing arguments about how we remember the war even today, almost a century and a half after the guns fell silent. Douglass’ admonition — “we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic” — must necessarily ring as true today as it did then. This is what Confederate apologists do not, can not, accept: that regardless of their ancestors’ courage and sacrifice, and regardless of their individual beliefs and motivations, at the end of the day they fought for a nation founded on a terrible premise. To honor our ancestors demands that first we see them as they were, not as we’d wish they’d been.

Text of Douglass speech from Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings. Image: Monument to the Unknown Dead f the Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery. Library of Congress.

‘War, German style’ – the raids on Paris

From January to September 1918 Paris fell victim to a number of air raids conducted by German heavy bombers, popularly known as the ‘Gotha’ raids after the type most frequently used. These were just the latest in a series of attacks first launched at 12.45 pm on 30 August 1914, when a Taube overflew the city at a height of 1,000 metres and dropped five bombs, killing one civilian and wounding four others before flying off untouched by the guns of the city’s garrison, the Camp Retranché de Paris. Four armed Farmans operating as HF28 were immediately allocated to the CRP, but to little effect, and the raids continued over the next three months, killing eleven and wounding fifty. On 2 September one Farman did manage to get within range, but its machine gun jammed on the tenth round and the intruder got away unscathed.

Paris was also under threat from enemy Zeppelins, whose exceptional range required the capital’s air defences to be reinforced in all directions. ‘[Artillery and searchlights should be] located at key points outside the capital and linked by telephone, via the armies, to various posts distributed along the front,’ Joffre advised the minister of war. ‘This should give sufficient warning of the bearing of enemy dirigibles for our batteries to take the necessary action.’ General Gallieni favoured mobile motorized AA units but the lack of available chassis made his plan unviable. Instead, an outer ring of listening posts was set up about 100 kilometres from the city, with an inner ring of fifteen fixed batteries – each deploying two 75mm field guns, four machine guns and some searchlights – placed on the most likely access routes. As soon as the alert was sounded, a complete blackout would be imposed across the city. A second line of listening posts was soon added in a semicircle some 20 kilometres north and east of the centre, but all these dispositions remained untested until 21 March 1915, when two Zeppelins bombed the city with relatively little damage. The early warning system worked well enough, the artillery less so – the guns struggled to find the right range and tended to fire indiscriminately. An extra seventeen planes were added to the strength but during a raid on 28 May 1915 not a single CRP machine made it into the air. Standing patrols were then introduced, again with little impact. Details of the enemy bearing could only be conveyed via cloth panels laid on the ground, messages could take up to an hour to travel from listening post to airfield, and the latest and most powerful aircraft types always went to the front. In consequence, the planes seldom had time to reach interception height.

On 21 October 1915 Paris was cloaked by a thick blanket of fog: ‘We’ll cop it if we have to go up in that,’ remarked Adjudant Marcel Duret (CRP) to his observer Tavardon. But a Zeppelin was reported approaching the city and Duret received orders to mount a standing patrol. His comrade Sergeant Paul soon crashed, disoriented by the mist. However, Duret struggled on: ‘I was lost as soon as I left the ground,’ he later claimed. ‘I wanted to turn back after a near miss with a Voisin, then the drama began. I climbed to 2,200 metres, circling so I didn’t stray too far from the airfield. The pale moon cast an eerie light on my machine. It felt like the last dawn of the condemned man. I was starting to worry. “We’ve had it, old man,” I said, leaning towards Tavardon. “There’s nothing else I can do. I’ll try to hang on until we run out of juice.”’

Duret had plenty of fuel in the tank, time enough to find a landmark if he could. The lake at Enghien-les-Bains, just north of Paris, was the first obvious target. Then he spotted more lights. Convinced it was the centre of the city, he descended into a fog bank and promptly lost all vision: ‘My final recollection is of pulling back hard on the joystick. The next thing I was pinned beneath a pile of splintered wood. I called out twice without reply so I was pretty sure Tavardon was dead. I couldn’t breathe. I was choking. I couldn’t move. I thought, “If we’ve come down in the back of beyond, that’s it. I’ll suffocate before help gets to me.” Fortunately, a brave woman and two or three others came to my rescue just moments later.’

German planes penetrated the defences twice more, on 29 and 30 January 1916, when heavy fog again stopped the guns and searchlights from engaging the enemy. Twenty-six aircraft braved the weather on the first night, five spotting the intruder but none able to match it for height or speed. The following night a dozen planes went up, but the fog was thicker still, forcing them back to the airfield. ‘No use complaining!’ proclaimed La France illustrée. ‘It’s war. War, German style! Our enemies have handed us another lesson. We may equal them in will to win, but do we match them in our determination to develop weapons of war, acquire the technical superiority required to counter the threat of their evil genius, find new applications for science, or make new discoveries, however small?’

On 24 April 1916, a dark and cloudy night, several Farman MF.11 took off in search of a Zeppelin (probably LZ.97) returning from a raid on London. Their pilots included Captain Maurice Mandinaud (MF36/N81): ‘[Suddenly I spotted] a point, a long way off and very high in the sky. A point not of light but of darkness, more solid than the surrounding blackness. A cloud? No, it was moving too quickly. I thought at first it was a fellow pilot heading for home. I kept my eye on it. It seemed to be coming towards us, heading for the Belgian coast. Then another point appeared to its right. No sooner had I decided they were two of ours than I realized the first was a Zeppelin. It was very small, not much bigger than my finger end, so it was still a long way off. And it seemed very high. I circled to gain height, keeping my eyes trained upon it. It was still heading towards us and now we were both at the same altitude. At 2,000 metres it was clearly still oblivious to our presence. By the time it spotted us, we were at 300 metres, almost upon it, and my observer Lieutenant [Pierre] Deramond was preparing for combat. Then, to our astonishment, the gigantic airship reared up at an angle of at least 30 degrees and began to climb at … frightening speed, far beyond anything we could match…. Fortunately the Zeppelin stopped moving forwards while it climbed … so we could circle again to reach its new height.

‘By now the enemy was on the alert [and] we joined combat. We were close enough to obtain an excellent view down on to the envelope. Machine guns were mounted on platforms aft, right and left, and they opened fire. Our 130hp Farman only had seventeen bombs and a machine gun with a few tracer bullets, [but] we made seventeen passes around 100 metres above the enemy, returning fire each time. We were pretty certain we’d hit the target every time but we could see no outward signs of damage. With every pass came the same awful surprise…. It was no holds barred. We fired all our rounds from point-blank range without ever seeming to deliver the knock-out blow. But … the seventeen bomb holes must have compromised the airship’s buoyancy and produced a serious loss of gas. In an abrupt, daring and undoubtedly perilous manoeuvre, the huge mass began to dive towards the ground, zigzagging at speed before eventually crashing on to the Belgian plain. The ground was still swathed in darkness, but we were able to watch the Zeppelin fall by the first light of dawn. I wanted to spend longer observing its death throes, but the dense fire of the AA batteries and the state of our plane forced us to put safety first.’

Mandinaud had to put down in the neutral Netherlands, where he and Deramond were interned for a time before later escaping back to France. The Zeppelin survived the crash.

Night flying required particular skills, researched over the summer of 1917 by Captain Henri Langevin, CO of N313, from his base in the Dunkerque suburb of Coudekerque. He correctly identified the operational height of the German bombers (about 3,000 metres), so improving the accuracy of French anti-aircraft fire. He also demonstrated the effect of moonlit nights on visibility: aircraft silhouetted against the moon’s reflection in the water could be spotted over the sea but disappeared from view as soon as they crossed the coast. Impressed by his work, GQG transferred N313 to Avord to work up as a dedicated night-fighter squadron, an ill-timed move that removed it from the line just as the Germans stepped up their bombing campaign against Dunkerque. The French eventually set up a dedicated night-fighter school at Pars-lès-Romilly in September 1918, but only a handful of men had completed the course before the armistice.

The German Gothas first appeared over the front in the late summer of 1916 and began raiding London the following year. Maxime Lenoir (C18/N23) was patrolling the front lines when he encountered his eleventh and final victim on 25 September 1916: ‘No ordinary opponent … but a three-seater [Gotha] equipped with two machine guns, each with its own crewman … How did I ever manage to defeat this flying house? How was I not blinded by the explosive bullet that brushed my eye …? How did I struggle home despite all the damage inflicted on my Nieuport Bébé? How did I, a mere David, eventually come to see Goliath strewn in pieces across the sky? I don’t know. But I do know the delight I experienced on witnessing the eventual outcome of this encounter. My victim crashed close to Fromezey, the wreckage burying the mangled bodies of the three Boches who’d tried to shoot me down – and very nearly succeeded. My engine had holes in two of its cylinders. The bullets had passed clean through the tank, thankfully without igniting the fuel inside, severing a strut and two cables. What’s more – and this shows how close we came in combat – my plane was drenched with German blood. It was streaming down the wings and the engine cowling.’

Georges Guynemer (MS/N/SPA3) also found the Gotha a tough nut to crack: ‘On 8 February [1917] I set off on patrol with my comrade [André] Chainat. Of course, the Boches still thought themselves untouchable and were planning a brazen attack on Nancy, but we were keeping our eyes peeled. Suddenly we spotted a huge plane with two Mercedes 200hp engines and a three-man crew firing in all directions. It was a Gotha, a truly formidable aircraft, but relatively unknown [at the time]. Without hesitation, we both attacked full tilt from opposite directions. I wasn’t worried about Chainat. He was very easy to work with – brave, skilful and cool. The [Gotha] offered a number of blind spots for a counter-attack and we quickly sought them out. It really would have been harder to miss [them]. We fired off entire strips and managed to silence the enemy guns. We forced the aérobus down behind our lines at Bouconville with a hole in its radiator. All three members of the crew were taken prisoner. Their plane had taken 180 rounds.’

Between January and September 1918 the Germans flew 483 separate sorties over Paris. The capital’s air defences had been strengthened with extra weapons, sound locators and searchlights since 1914, and decoy cities were also planned for Conflans and Villepinte to try to fool the raiders. So intense was the defensive barrage that less than a tenth of the enemy raids reached the city centre eleven victories were claimed and many planes elected to drop their bombs on the heavily industrialized northern suburbs instead. The French hailed this as a moral victory, but the many factories in the area suffered significant damage, as did the important railway junction at Creil.

‘Everywhere – if one looks for them – large white cards are hung on doorways,’ wrote American Mildred Aldrich, visiting friends from her home near Meaux. ‘On them are printed in large black letters the words “ABRIS 60 personnes,” or whatever number the cellars will accommodate, and several of the underground stations bear the same sort of sign. These are refuges designated by the police, into which the people near them are expected to descend at the first sound of the sirènes announcing the approach of the enemy’s air fleet. More striking than these signs are the rapid efforts being made to protect some of the more important of the city’s monuments. They are being boarded in, and concealed behind bags of sand…. Sandbags are dumped everywhere, and workmen are feverishly hurrying to cover in the treasures, and avoid making them look too hideous. They would not be French if they did not try, here and there, to preserve a fine line.’ One night the alarm sounded: ‘My hostess and I tumbled out of our beds, unlatched the windows so that no shock of air expansion might break them, switched off all the lights and went on the balcony just in time to see the firemen on their auto as they passed the end of the street, sounding the “garde à vous” on their sirènes – the most awful, hair-raising wail I have ever heard – like a host of lost souls. Ulysses need not have been tied to the mast to prevent his following the song of this siren! We were hardly on the balcony when, in an instant, all the lights of the city went out, and a strange blackness settled down and hugged the housetops and the very sidewalk. At the same instant the guns of the outer barrage began to fire, and, as the night was cold, we went inside to listen, and to talk. I wonder if I can tell you – who are never likely to have such an experience – how it feels to sit inside four walls, in absolute darkness, listening to the booming of the defence, and the falling of bombs on an otherwise silent city, wakened out of its sleep. It is a sensation to which I doubt if any of us get really accustomed – this sitting quietly while the cannon boom, and now and then an avion whirs overhead, or a venturesome auto toots its horn as it dashes to a shelter, or the occasional voice of a gendarme yells angrily at some unextinguished light, or a hurried footstep on the pavement tells of a passer in the deserted street, braving all risks to reach home. I assure you that the hands on the clock-face simply crawl. An hour is very long. This raid of the 17th lasted only three-quarters of an hour. It was barely half-past eleven when the berloque sounded from the hurrying firemen’s auto – the B-flat bugle singing the “all clear” – and, in an instant, the city was alive again – noisily alive. Even before the berloque was really audible in the room where we sat, I heard the people hurrying back from the abris – doors opened and banged, windows and shutters were flung wide, and the rush of air in the gas pipes told that the city lights were on again.’

On 23 March 1918 the Germans also opened up with the ‘Paris Gun’, the so-called ‘Big Bertha’ – actually two weapons, both 210mm railway-mounted cannon, based near Crépy-en-Laonnois, 121 kilometres from the capital. The first shell landed at 7.15 am in the Place de la République the second, fifteen minutes later in the Rue Charles V and the third, in the Boulevard de Strasbourg. Over the next twenty-four hours a total of twenty-one shells landed in the city itself, and one in Châtillon. Only by reassembling the fragments did the French work out that they were dealing with artillery and not aircraft. René Fonck (C47/SPA103) was at the front that day. ‘We received a telephone message during the afternoon telling us they were shelling Paris,’ he recalled. ‘The news seemed so improbable that everyone burst out laughing. I preferred to keep my own counsel. How could a gun sited more than 120 kilometres away drop a shell close to the Gare de l’Est? Everyone thought the idea quite frankly ridiculous. But then, how could aircraft possibly conduct a daylight raid, pass unseen through a swarm of SPADs all positioned to stop them, and drop bombs all morning? The gun hypothesis offered the only possible explanation. Simply the range remained unexplained.’

Sound location gave the French the approximate position of the guns, quickly confirmed by the aircraft of SPA62. ‘Then we were over the Boches,’ recalled Lieutenant Jean de Brettes. ‘Nobody had fired at us yet. Not a good sign, it must mean that enemy patrols were around. North-east of the Saint-Gobain forest, the Germans suddenly opened up with anti-aircraft fire. The shells were all bursting at my exact height and I had to dodge to avoid them. My observer began taking photographs. Now we were over Crépy, the batteries still going hammer and tongs. The SPADs never left me for an instant. At one point they dived across me towards six German fighters. The [Boches] shot down one of our chaps, then headed towards Marie. Someone came spinning down. A Boche or a Frenchman? I got my answer five minutes later [when] just three SPADs followed me across our lines. I hoped our comrade had only been wounded. The mission was over: I was first to land and as each aircraft followed we all ran over in search of news. Once we were all down, we found out the missing pilot was Lieutenant Lecoq. We later discovered he’d been the one shot down over our lines by the six Boches. He’d taken a number of hits to the body. Although our photos weren’t great, they did show the exact location of the “Berthas”, so we could start correcting the fire of the guns detailed to destroy the enemy “colossi”. During the flight my colleague Adjudant [Charles] Quette spotted a flash that proved to be one of the Crépy guns firing. A few days later new photographs were deemed necessary to complete the information gathered during our first trip and to confirm the effects of our fire. I was picked again, with Lieutenant [Paul] Brousse as my observer. A second crew accompanied us: Adjudant Fabien Lambert (pilot) and Lieutenant [Robert] des Allées (observer). Despite adverse weather conditions, sustained and accurate anti-aircraft fire, and the continual presence of enemy fighters, we got [our] new photographs.’

French counter-battery work began immediately, but to little avail. The site lay hidden deep within woodland and was protected by a smokescreen as well as anti-aircraft guns. According to the authorities, 367 shells landed on Paris between 23 March and 9 August 1918, the most lethal attack taking place on 29 March, when the ancient church of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais in the fourth arrondissement took a direct hit during the Good Friday service: 91 worshippers died and 68 more were wounded. French artillery and bombers were all unable to halt the shelling, and only the allied advance during the second battle of the Marne in July prompted the Germans to withdraw the massive guns out of range.

‘Berthas by day, Gothas by night,’ proclaimed l’Illustration, ‘the dull rumble of the guns at the front, the uhlans just “five marches” from the boulevards … things should be pretty grim in Paris just now! [Yet] everyday life continues, no airs, no graces and no faint hearts. This is our Paris in wartime: no fuss, no panic, no bravado. A model of steadiness and self-control.’ Writing for the magazine Everyweek, Marie Harrison described the bombardment as a period of ‘acute unpleasantness’ because the shells arrived unpredictably, unlike an air raid which at least had a definite beginning and end. ‘Yet,’ she gushed, ‘I found Paris brighter than London, I found it more alive, more interested and so more interesting.’

Mildred Aldrich also detected few signs of panic: ‘Every one hates it. But every one knows that the chances are about one in some thousands – and takes the chance. I know of late sitters-up, who cannot change their habits, and who keep right on playing bridge during a raid. How good a game it is, I don’t know. Well, one kind of bravado is as good as another. Among many people the chief sensation is one of boredom – it is a nuisance to be wakened out of one’s first sleep it is a worse nuisance to have proper saut de lit clothes ready and it is the worst nuisance of all to go down into a damp cellar and possibly have to listen to talk.’

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, a Swiss national and trainee architect better known as Le Corbusier, was an unrepentant night owl. In February, when bombs fell close to his home and office, he stayed out on the Pont des Arts, ‘enthralled’ by the action overhead. He eventually decided discretion was the better part of valour. But, he boasted, he remained calm, unlike the females of his acquaintance: ‘The women are another set of bombs about to go off. They make such a fuss. [The raids] don’t worry me, although after the unusually lively events of the past few days I’ve decided to weave my way past the cellars each night. I’ll say it again. Danger doesn’t bother me … I’ll make a damn fine soldier.’

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