One time in rush hour, my wife and I broke down on the Washington Bridge. Being a Perceptive Spouse, I sensed her stress at the honks and yells of helpful NYers as we shoved our car to the shoulder, so I said: “Honey, relax. The 54th Massachusetts hauled a TRAIN once.”

The 54th Mass (yes, of “Glory” fame, but you won’t see THIS scene in the movie cuz there was no Brave White Officer to center the narrative around) had a helluva week back in 1864. They made a bold stand at Olustee, Florida’s only major Civil War battle, covering the retreat … Image
But they didn’t just COVER it, they covered it IN STYLE. As their comrades broke and fled, the 54th Mass waded in shouting, “For Massachusetts and Seven Dollars a Month!" to protest being paid less than the white soldiers WHOSE ASSES THEY WERE SAVING.

#WakeMeWhenDenzelPlaysYOU Image
What did Olustee have in common with Fort Wagner, the doomed battle at the end of Glory? They were both the “brainchild” of Gen. Truman Seymour--whose very name would be as cursed as King Joffrey or Jar-Jar if this country cared as much about real history as dumb fictional shit. ImageImage
Consider this damning stat, from scholar William Nulty: “One analyst ranking assaults on fortified positions listed Olustee first among the bloodiest defeats for the Union and Battery Wagner second. What is appalling is that the same man, Gen. Seymour, commanded at both battles.” Image
Today, Seymour’s bungling at Olustee is rightly overshadowed by the horrid Rebel massacre of wounded black soldiers, witnessed and reported by a shocked Confederate officer. But the story of the 54th’s role, and the Herculean task they performed the next day, is less well-known. Image
How's this for exhausting? The day after an excruciating battle, the 54th Mass awoke at 4 a.m., stood around for 3 hours, marched 4 miles, halted, turned around, and marched back -- because a train loaded with wounded Union soldiers was broken down, and Rebels were closing in. Image
“It was a hard trial for the footsore and hungry men to retrace their steps; but the thought of the cars laden with wounded nerved them to the task,” wrote the 54th’s regimental historian. “So they faced about cheerfully.”

CHEERFULLY? Let's be honest: There was a grumble or two. Image
When they got back, a quartermaster scrounged up some bread for them to eat -- cuz “eat your hardtack” was the “eat your Wheaties” of the 1860s -- then the 54th started HAULING THE TRAIN for 3 miles.

The fact there aren’t a million folks songs about this is a FAILURE, America. Image
A Sanitary Commission doctor described it: “Here the Immortal Fifty Fourth did what ought to insure it higher praise than to hold the field in the face of a victorious foe -- with ropes it seized the engine (now useless) and dragged it with its doomed freight for many miles …” Image
Alluding to the fate of the massacred black prisoners on the Olustee battlefield, the doctor wrote of the 54th Massachusetts: “They knew their fate if captured; their humanity triumphed.”

“Does history record a nobler deed?”

#TheRealThingWasEvenBetter Image

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More from @CivilWarHumor

21 Feb
Stuck inside on a cold winter’s day? Gather the kids and let’s head out west, cuz #OTD in 1862, the zaniest Civil War battle went down in New Mexico, featuring sloshed generals, celebrity Mountain Men, Napoleonic cavalry charges in a WAY-too-modern era, even suicide-bomber mules!
And it was all cuz this guy, Henry Sibley, pitched an idea to Jeff Davis: to conquer the West for the Confederacy, seizing the gold and silver mines in Nevada and Colorado before securing an ocean port in California to break the Union blockade.

Okay, so it was a TAD ambitious …
Let's run down the Ill-Fated Civil War Expedition Checklist(™):

Did Sibley have enough men? No.

Were they packing outdated weaponry? Yep: shotguns.

Did they prep for weather? (Tips canteen over; it’s dry.)

Don’t tell me Sibley packed booze instead of water? (clink; cheers!)
Read 15 tweets
19 Feb
Yesterday in 1865, two black regiments of Union soldiers entered Charleston, S.C., as the last of the Rebel forces withdrew. The city was surrendered by its mayor, Charles MacBeth, who, we hope, muttered, “Something wicked this way comes” as the Federal soldiers filed past …
MacBeth had been in a tricky spot, where fair is foul and foul is fair. Bands of Rebel cavalry were rounding up able-bodied men both black and white, so the city’s firefighters were in hiding, which made the fires engulfing the city, set by hard-line Rebels, even more dangerous.
But watching intently from afar was Union Lt Col Augustus Bennett and his OUTRAGEOUS sideburns, which, when I showed my wife his picture just now, elicited such a GENUINE GROAN OF DISMAY that I don’t think I can shoot for them even if I said they were "pandemic sideburns."
Read 13 tweets
17 Feb
It is, apparently, an immutable law of History that traitors must have a villainous Pillow Guy who invites humiliation and scorn. This week in 1862, Rebel Gen. Gideon Pillow earned himself a place in the Disgraced Pillowmen Hall of Shame--and US Grant got a new nickname.
/THREAD ImageImage
The Battle of Fort Donelson was a brutal days-long affair, fought in a rare cold snap for that part of Tennessee (sound familiar?) As at Shiloh, Grant was caught off-guard; he was conferring with Admiral Foote on a ship downriver when the Rebels attacked his siege lines at dawn. Image
Pillow’s surprise assault worked, driving back Union troops whose hands were too numb to load their guns, and opening an escape route. If Pillow could defend his position and “hold the door open” while the rest of the Rebel army sneaked through behind him, they might get away. Image
Read 23 tweets
14 Feb
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, here's a Civil War love story about Rufus Dawes of Antietam and Gettysburg fame. In his memoirs, which are great, he tells of wooing his future wife, Mary, at the start of the war. And (cute nerd alert!) he framed their courtship in military terms ...
“Having ample time to plan campaigns,” Dawes writes, “and pursued by an increasing curiosity regarding a young lady then attending the seminary…I threw out skirmishers in that direction. I sent sundry illustrated papers with pictures of our camp.”

Threw out skirmishers = flirt.
“and received from the enemy a return fire of catalogues ... I was then a devout admirer of General McClellan and I received with disgust one of those missives directed to the ‘Army of the Potty Mac.’”

How’s THAT for a power move? She talked shit about Lil Mac WHILE FLIRTING.
Read 8 tweets
14 Feb
“Uncle CivilWarHumor, I'm weary and full of despair. My hope is all but extinguished.”
“Then relight it.”
“Hope isn’t a JOINT, uncle.”
“That’s your first problem.”
“There must be some tale you can tell to raise our spirits.”
“You’re in luck. It’s Gen. John Rawlins’ birthday …”
At sundown on April 16, 1861, a week after Fort Sumter, John Rawlins walked to the courthouse in Galena, Ill., for a town hall meeting. The place was packed -- from leading politicians in the front row to the grungiest store clerk in the back. The country was on a knife’s edge …
A staunch Democrat, Rawlins’ friends urged him not to attend the meeting; Fort Sumter was "fake news," they said, it was just a false-flag pretense for enlisting in Abe’s War to Free The [term redacted].

But Rawlins walked on, and pushed through the door.
Read 12 tweets
9 Feb
One of my frustrations is the shit Benjamin Butler gets from Civil War buffs who view the conflict through a strictly military lens; he was no general, sure, but he was one of the smartest dudes around. I lay awake at night imagining him taking up Lincoln’s VP offer in ‘64 …
… which makes it all the more fascinating that Butler, at an ailing Thaddeus Stevens’ request, was the lead prosecutor in Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial--two men with vastly different visions of Reconstruction and America. C’mon, is this not a face that inspires CONFIDENCE?
Butler began with a 3-hour speech in a hot, stuffy Senate chamber (and you thought THIS shit was tough to watch) that drew heavily on History rather than Legalese. This would be a central criticism of Butler’s argument: Sure, Cicero raged, but he also dropped brutally cold logic.
Read 5 tweets

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