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Vol. 24 No. 7- July 2011


Volume 24, No. 7
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 Assembly
Monroe Ackerman will treat us to his views on Stephen A. Douglas, the "Little Giant."

President’s Message

I am so pleased that Monroe Ackerman will be our speaker in July. Welcome back from the injured reserve speaker list. If you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail, please place your name on the sign-up sheet at the July meeting or contact Steve Seftenberg, our newsletter editor, at Getting the newsletter by e-mail reduces our printing and postage expenses.

Raffle tickets will be sold before the meetings begin as well as during the break. Please remember to bring any Civil War related books or DVDs for the raffle.

We are making our schedule for program speakers for the rest of the year. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please talk to me at the meeting. Short talks can be stimulating -- two short talks even better!  Gerridine LaRovere

June 8, 2011 Assembly

"Civil War Reflections," a talk by William D. McEachern, reprising a speech by Professor James I. Robertson at FAU on March 5, 2011, and additional research by Mr. McEachern.

Robertson’s thesis is that the Civil War is the defining moment for us today. The North was fighting to preserve the Union and democracy. If the North had lost the Civil War, democracy might disappear from the earth. The Constitution was only78 years old in 1861. If the South had won, the two resulting nations might have broken up into Balkanized states and proven easy prey for European powers eager to restore their hold on America. The Southern elite led the South into what they called the "War Between the States" to preserve their way of life and their human property which they feared would be lost forever if they were defeated. The Civil War changed the very form of our government: before the war the title "United States" was plural; after it, singular! The Northern victory brought about a strong central government and, eventually, civil rights for blacks and women.

Many subtle, intangible things affecting modern life sprang out of the Civil War. Professor Robertson listed 20, Mr. McEachern added two.

1. Clothing and shoe sizes: At the onset of hostilities, Northern uniforms and shoes came in one size! Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster of the Union army, quickly recognized that soldiers do not come in one size. He instituted small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes in clothing as well as left and right and sizes in boots and shoes!

Who was Meigs? Meigs was born in Augusta, Georgia. His family moved to Pennsylvania and he initially attended the University of Pennsylvania, was appointed to the United States Military Academy, and graduated in 1836. He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery, but most of his army service was with the Corps of Engineers, in which he worked on important engineering projects.

In his early assignments, Meigs helped build Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River and Fort Wayne on the Detroit River. He also served under then-Lieutenant Robert E. Lee to make navigational improvements on the Mississippi River. Meigs also was involved with the construction of Fort Montgomery on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Meigs and Lieutenant Colonel Erasmus D. Keyes were quietly ordered by President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward to draw up a plan for the relief of Fort Pickens, Florida. In April 1861, together with Lieutenant David D. Porter of the Navy, Meigs and Keyes embarked secretly. While en route the operation was diverted to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. But for a change in their orders, the Civil War might have started in Florida!

MeigsOn May 14, 1861, Meigs was made a colonel, and on the following day promoted to brigadier general and appointed Quartermaster General of the Army upon the resignation of Joseph Johnston, who became a general in the Confederate Army. Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time! Meigs established a reputation for being efficient, hard-driving, and scrupulously honest. He molded a large and somewhat diffuse department into a great tool of war. He was one of the first to appreciate fully the importance of logistical preparations in military planning. Under his leadership supplies moved forward and troops were transported over long distances with ever-greater efficiency.

Of his work in the quartermaster's office, House Speaker James G. Blaine remarked, "Montgomery C. Meigs, one of the ablest graduates of the Military Academy, was kept from the command of troops by the inestimably important services he performed as Quartermaster General. Perhaps in the military history of the world there never was so large an amount of money disbursed upon the order of a single man ...  The aggregate sum could not have been less during the war than [$l.5 billion], accurately vouched and accounted for to the last cent." Let’s put that sum in perspective. The value of all of the slaves of the south in 1860 has been estimated at $3.5 billion. This exceeded in 1860 all of the factories, including real estate, all of the railroads, again including real estate, and all other business holdings of the North.

2. The Income Tax: How do you finance a war? The Tax Act of 1861 stated that "there shall be levied, collected, and paid, upon annual income of every person residing in the U.S. whether derived from any kind of property, or from any professional trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any source whatever." Rates were set at 3% on income above $800 and 5% on income of individuals living outside the U.S. This Act was never implemented. To enhance revenue, the Tax Act of 1862, effective on July 1, 1862 raised the rates to 3% on income above $600 and 5% on income above $10,000. Rates were again increased in 1864 to 5% between $600 and $5,000, 7.5% between $5,001 and $10,000 and 10% over $10,000. You could deduct the value of your home up to $200! The Commissioner of Revenue stated "The people of this country have accepted it with cheerfulness, to meet a temporary exigency, and it has excited no serious complaint in its administration." Acceptance may have been primarily due to the need for revenue to finance the Civil War, but compliance was not high: 276,661 people actually filed tax returns in 1870 (the year of the most returns filed) when the country's population was approximately 38 million. Senator Garret Davis said the guiding principle of taxation was "a recognition of the idea that taxes shall be paid according to the abilities of a person to pay."

With the end of the Civil War rates were changed to a flat 5% over $1,000 and from 1870 to 1872 the rate was a flat 2.5% over $2,000. In 1872 was repealed and replaced by significant tariffs that were the major revenue source for the United States until 1913, when the 16th Amendment was passed, taxing income from whatever source derived.

The Civil War income tax acts were challenged in court several times. During the war, the Supreme Court unanimously supported the tax, but after the war the tax was declared unconstitutional by the same court because it represented direct taxation on the citizenry.

3. Cans: When Stonewall Jackson’s troops fell upon Manassas Station shortly before the Battle of Second Manassas, they were thrilled to find thousands of cans of hams, oysters, clams, and other meats and fish. They described this day as being the best day the Army of Northern Virginia ever had from a logistical standpoint. When you eat Spam or Hormel meats or pork and beans from a can, you are eating a wonder from the Civil War. Again, Meigs saw early on the necessity to get good food to the soldiers in a manner which would preserve the food and be easily stored and transported.

4. Well balanced diets: A doctor at Camp Chase, Ohio, decided to experiment to find out what soldiers needed to eat. For two weeks, he had 12 volunteers eat nothing but hardtack and coffee. Not at all surprisingly, these 12 volunteers became soon sick. Then the doctor changed the diet to beef patties, green peas, and milk. After two weeks, the 12 volunteers were all well and felt great. The doctor was Dr. James Salisbury and his beef patty became known as a "Salisbury Steak." Salisbury was one of the earliest health food faddists and taught that diet was the main determinant of health, his theories and his steak fell out of favor, World War I came along and people wanted to have another name for foods that sounded German. The hamburger became well known as the Salisbury Steak and the name lived on.

5. Women and Welfare/Charitable Agencies: During the Civil War, charitable and welfare agencies were formed for the first time founded by women looking for a way to help the war effort. These organizations became a springboard for women to enter upon the national scene and to enter, in some cases, the work force. How this came about is a story worth recounting.

The Sanitary Commission (1861-1866) was created in the spring of 1861 by private citizens, including Henry Whitney Bellows and Dorothea Dix, to promote clean and healthy conditions in the Union Army camps. The Commission raised $5 million in money and $15 million in donated supplies, with which it staffed field hospitals, provided supplies, and educated the military and government on matters of health and sanitation. Dorothea Lynde Dix (April 4, 1802 – July 17, 1887), an American activist on behalf of the indigent insane, successfully lobbied for the creation of the first mental asylums. During the Civil War, she served as Superintendent of Army Nurses.

Thousands of women volunteered for work with the Commission. Some provided direct service at the field hospitals and camps, organizing medical services, acting as nurses and performing other tasks. Others raised money and managed the organization. The Commission also provided food, lodging, and care for soldiers returning from service. After the war the Sanitary Commission worked with veterans in obtaining promised pay, benefits, and pensions. Well-known women associated with the Sanitary Commission, included Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Mary Livermore and Louisa May Alcott

After the war, most of the women volunteers returned to their families and to traditional female roles as wives and mothers, but many, emboldened by their Sanitary Commission experience, found work in jobs often previously closed to women. Some, expecting more opportunities for women but not finding them, became activists for women's rights.

Clara BartonThe United States Christian Commission also provided nursing care for the Union, with the objective of improving the moral condition of soldiers, incidentally providing nursing care. The USCC passed out religious tracts and Bibles, provided food, coffee and even liquor (!) to soldiers in the camps and also provided writing materials and postage stamps, encouraging soldiers to send their pay home. The USCC is estimated to have raised and spent about $6.25 million in money and supplies during the war.

The American Red Cross was founded by Civil War nurse Clara Barton. Barton was a teacher and a U.S. Patent Office clerk before devoting herself to nursing. She earned the nickname "the angel of the battlefield" and in 1864 was named superintendent of all Union nurses. In the 1870s, officials of the International Red Cross invited her to help form a branch of the service in the U.S.; which she led its first 26 years.

6. Why is mail delivered to your home? During the Civil War, in many towns and villages throughout the Union, the local post office was the only official government building. Farmers would come to town to pick up their mail. Lists of the wounded and dead were posted on the walls so that people could know the fate of their loved ones. This made post offices the venues where people discovered the deaths of their fathers, sons, and brothers. People would congregate often for days around the post office crying, lamenting, and hoping against hope that the next list would say the report of the death of their loved one was erroneous. This hampered the mail operations. In 1864, the post master general initiated delivery of mail to homes to break up the congregations of people inside and outside post offices.

Leg7. Prosthetics: On June 3, 1861, at the Battle of Phillipi, a furniture maker named William Hanger, had just left college and joined the Confederate Cavalry. He was struck by a cannon ball that carried away his left leg below the knee. He was captured, had his leg amputated and was sent to Camp Chase in Ohio. No, his doctor was not Dr. Salisbury! He eventually was exchanged. He did not like the wooden peg leg he had been given, so he vowed to make himself a better one out of whittled barrel staves and metal components. He invented the world's first moveable artificial limb, rubber bumpers and hinges on both the knee and the foot for greater mobility and comfort. His Hanger Limbs became the choice for replacement for many wounded soldiers. After the war he patented his invention, formed his own company in Richmond and was commissioned by the state legislature to manufacture artificial limbs for his fellow Civil War amputees. He also went to England and France and observed the casualties occurring during the Crimean War. He was awarded contracts by both the French and British Governments. His articulated artificial limbs were widely used all subsequent wars. William Hanger died in 1919. Today, Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc., is the world's premier provider of orthotic and prosthetic services and products, offering advanced technology, clinically differentiated programs and unsurpassed customer service.

8. Birth of Modern Medicine and Specialization: Although there some advances before the Civil War, such as the invention of Plaster of Paris in 1851, it is in the Civil War that major advances were made. In 1861 an amputation of a leg or arm took 12 minutes; by 1865, it took two minutes or less! The nickname "Sawbones" was coined in the Civil War. Orthopedics originated in France. RathgebLewis Sayre, who later became the first Orthopedic surgeon to become President of the American medical Society utilized Plaster of Paris for various orthopedic usages. Dr. Jonathan Letterman is considered the "Father of Battlefield Medicine," because he organized the Union Army’s medical service and was the first to use "triage" (dividing casualties into three classes: treat now, don’t treat and safe to defer treatment) He established field hospitals and an ambulance corps. The huge Union medical encampment that served Union and Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg after the battle was even named Camp Letterman. The first chair of Orthopedic Medicine was established at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1861.

According to Dr. John M. Rathgeb, curator of the National Civil War Medical Museum, "The Civil War is really the beginning of modern medicine in the United States. Before the war, German and French surgeons were considered the best in the world, but afterward, American surgeons were considered on a par with their European counterparts. . . The war was a turning point for medicine. . . . Many of the surgeons who came out of the war were the movers and shakers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."

The Civil War happened at the end of the medical dark ages or, conversely, at the beginning of the modern medical era. The story of how physicians and nurses of the time approached a number of diseases in the military context is varied, long and complex. Needless to say there were advances in many diseases including sexually transmitted diseases, scurvy and nutritional disorders, smallpox and hospital gangrene.

9. Dermatology: "Army itch" was a chronic, severely itchy skin eruption which first appeared among soldiers and some civilians early in the Civil War. As the war progressed, so did army itch, becoming epidemic in the Potomac Valley of Maryland in 1862 and in Virginia in 1864. Immediately after the war, civilian cases traceable to contact with returning soldiers focused attention on the disorder, but the postwar outbreaks were short-lived and the army itch disappeared by the end of 1867. Army itch had a well-deserved reputation for intractability and its cause and cure eluded medical observers of the time, though some correctly suspected a form of scabies to be the cause.

History still resonates in our modem practices. Some examples: the helmet-like gauze compression dressing still used to bandage large scalp incisions is known as a "Nightingale dressing" and scabies and lice are treated today with pyrethroids first used in the Civil War! Our American Red Cross is a direct descendant of the Civil War Sanitary Commission.

10. Lee’s Heart Attack: In March 1863, General Robert E. Lee suffered a major heart attack that was misdiagnosed as "inflammation of the heart-sac." In a 1992 article, Dr. Richard D. Mainwaring proposed that his illness had a profound influence on the Battle of Gettysburg. In October 1870, as Lee lay dying, his physicians, Howard T. Barton and Robert L. Madison, who later wrote an article published in the Richmond and Louisville Medical Journals, reported their observations and treatment in detail, in great contrast to today’s emphasis on patient privacy required by the Health Insurance and Portability Act ("HIPAA"). One problem faced by these two doctors was that due to a severe storm they were unable to consult with any other doctors. We take for granted, in this age where atherosclerosis has become epidemic, that in 1863 and 1870 coronary artery disease was less common and physicians did not recognize the symptoms of angina or stroke as doctors would today.

In 2005, Dr. Richard D. Mainwaring and Dr. Harris D. Riley, Jr., wrote an excellent article, "The Lexington Physicians of General Robert E. Lee," Southern Medical Journal," August 2005, pages 800-804. In an earlier article, Dr. Mainwaring speculated that Barton and Madison may have published the article to exonerate themselves for having "lost" their famous patient. Nevertheless, Mainwaring and Riley conclude that Barton and Madison "were keen observers and dispatched their responsibility faithfully" and that "we are indebted to them for documenting [General Lee’s] clinical course and their care."

11. Flowers at Funerals: As Southern women’s ability to observe strict Victorian mourning rituals of dress and behavior declined, the number of funerals increased. Funerals, once private affairs, became daily, public events, taking on a more political tone. Most Civil War soldiers were buried where they had died instead of in family plots. Following the death of Turner Ashby in June 1862, his body lay in repose in Charlottesville, Virginia, while hundreds of tearful mourners covered it with wreaths of laurel and roses. The following year, Virginians mourned an even more popular Confederate leader, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. His remains were first viewed in Richmond, then moved to Lexington and buried at VMI, where he had taught. Confederate cemeteries became sites of national mourning and pride, both during the war and afterward. The practice of laying flowers on graves persists today.

12. Music: During the Civil War at least 3,000 songs were written, many still sung today without thought to their original meaning. Before the Preakness horse race, we all sing "Maryland, My Maryland." "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," was popular in both World Wars. "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "Dixie’s Land," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Going Home," "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," and, especially popular in certain Southern bars, "The Bonnie Blue Flag," are still sung today. At Appomattox, in 1865, the Union bands played "Auld Lang Syne." You can hear some of these songs at and other web sites by keying in "Civil War Songs."

13. Photography: The gruesome battlefield of Antietam was the very first time a battlefield was ever shown in a newspaper. During the rest of the war, photographs and drawings of the dead and dying were widely circulated, especially in the North, which presented a problem for the Lincoln Administration somewhat similar to that faced during the Vietnam War by President Lyndon Johnson. Soldiers on both sides carried pictures of their families and loved ones into battle. The first color photographs were taken during the war.

Santa14. Santa Claus, Tammany Hall and Thomas Nast: Nast was born in Germany in 1840 and died penniless in Ecuador in 1902. After a varied career here and abroad, in August 1862 he visited Civil War battlefields and sent sketches back to Harper’s Weekly. When he was in his office, he drew backwards directly on the boxwood printing blocks with a soft pencil. He was a fierce supporter of the Union cause and a cartoon published just before the 1864 election was widely reprinted by Lincoln’s reelection supporters and credited with helping Lincoln’s reelection. Lincoln himself commented that Nast was his "best recruiting sergeant." Nast was the first cartoonist to be published weekly in a magazine with national circulation.

Nast is also famous for popularizing the image of St. Nicholas as a jolly, fat, bearded Santa Claus. He drew dozens of such illustrations between 1863 and 1881. Between 1868 and 1871, Nast turned his attention to the corrupt New York administration of Tammany Hall Democrats led by TweedWilliam Magear "Boss" Tweed with such effectiveness that Tweed and his compatriots were thrown out of office in 1871. Allegedly Boss Tweed sent his thugs to "Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see the pictures!

15. Memorial Day: Memorial Day, originally called "Decoration Day," is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the first to hold one. Southern women’s groups were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. A groundswell for remembrance led General John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, to proclaim that flowers beginning on May 30, 1868, should be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York became the first state to recognize the holiday. By 1890, all Northern states had adopted this day. The South refused to acknowledge the day until after World War I, when the day honored Americans who died in any war. In 1971 an act was passed setting the holiday for the last Monday in May. Eight Southern states have an additional day honoring the Confederate war dead.

16. Thanksgiving: Until 1863, each state scheduled its Thanksgiving Day on different days. At the urging of a 74-year old lady named Sarah Joseph Hale, who had lobbied unsuccessfully for an official day of thanksgiving for several decades, President Lincoln on October 3, 1863, signed a Proclamation setting the last Thursday of November as a "day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

MOH17. Congressional Medal of Honor: Winfield Scott rejected the idea of medals as a European affectation, but the Navy got a resolution passed which Lincoln signed on December 21, 1861, "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war." By July 12, 1862, the Army got a similar resolution honoring "noncommissioned officers and privates." In 1863, Congress made the medal a permanent award. Since then over 3,400 men and one woman have received this award.

18. Taps: Taps (also called "Day is Done") is played nightly to indicate "lights out." It is also played during flag ceremonies and funerals, generally on a bugle or trumpet. In July 1862, Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield rearranged a bugle call (the "Scott Tattoo") used by the Army since 1835. Within months it was used by both sides and was officially recognized by the Army in 1874.

coin19. "In God We Trust:" In God We Trust was adopted as an official national motto in 1956, but is has appeared on U. S. coins since 1864. Its usage went from permissive to mandatory for coins by 1935 and extended to all paper money by 1957.

20. The Yale Lock: In 1860, Linus Yale, Jr., developed a cylinder pin-tumbler lock, based on a mechanism first employed by the ancient Egyptians over 4,000 years ago. The design has changed little since then.

21. National Cemeteries: National cemeteries were first developed in the United States during the Civil War. In 1862, Congress empowered President Lincoln to purchase military cemetery grounds. Congress determined that defenders of the nation who volunteered to serve in the military to keep the Union intact were deemed worthy of special burial places for their sacrifices. There are now 14 national cemeteries from Brooklyn to Keokuk Iowa and from Danville, Kentucky to New Albany, Indiana. The Soldiers and Sailors Home Cemetery in Washington, D. C. was filling up, so our old friend Montgomery Meigs took over 200 acres of the Custis property that had been General Lee’s home before the war. Despite major efforts to locate and rebury all soldiers the task proved impossible due to the chaos of war.

22. Monuments: Only six weeks after the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), soldiers from Colonel Francis S. Bartow’s brigade placed a marble column on Henry Hill to honor his name. Monuments were subsequently erected on the sites of many battles in memory of the patriots who fell. The following picture was taken on June 10, 1865 as one of the first monuments was dedicated on the battlefield of Bull Run, Virginia:


Bill McEachern received a well-deserved round of applause for an entertaining and educational talk.

Last changed:  06/22/11

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