Battle of Shiloh Church

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Battle of Shiloh Church
7 April 1862

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It was spring 1862, the South had done fairly well in the war up until that time, but events were developing which could spell disaster for any chance of Confederate Independence.  The Confederacy was about to be overwhelmed by federal numbers and firepower on every front and cut off from the world by a naval blockade if it's ports and harbors.

It was obvious, if something did not happen and soon to change the odds in favor of the Confederacy, this war would be lost.  The Southland would then descend into a period of deep and severe darkness, out of which it might not arise.

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The arrival of General Albert Sidney Johnston's Army in the area of Pittsburgh Landing and Shiloh Church Tennessee set the stage for a devastating defeat by the Union Forces under General Ulysses S. Grants.   General Grant was caught by surprise, as the Southern Armies under General Johnston arrived on the battlefield from Corinth Mississippi.  Advance scouts had spotted Grant's Army encampment in an area between Shiloh Church and the Tennessee River near Crump Landing, in the general vicinity of an area later to be known as Bloody Pond.   So named after so many Yankees bled their wounds in the pond, resulting in the water turning completely red. 

The Confederate Scouts immediately relayed their information back to General Johnston, who was quick to take advantage. The Confederates moved silently but swiftly through the woods and struck the unsuspecting Yankee forces without warning.  The federals under General Benjamin M. Prentiss were literally caught asleep!  Among the heavy casualties suffered in the battle was Union General William "Bull" Nelson, who had just arrived in the area the night before, and was not even completely deployed for battle.
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General Ulysses S. Grant hearing the sounds of battle from his headquarters in Savannah, which was located just across and slightly north of his position.  General Grant rushed across the river and toward the scene of the battle, with little more then company of his headquarters guard.   Only to be caught in the cross fire and killed; his company of headquarters guard were chopped to pieces.  General William T. Sherman was severely wounded and died shortly after the fighting had ended.  Sherman had suffered his wounds in a separate skirmish, where he was caught on the march and out literally out maneuvered by Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and P.G.T. Beauregard, in a series of hit and run attacks.  Attacks, which served to critically, diminished Sherman's numbers!

Thereby leaving the road along the way to the Bloody Pond area littered with bodies, wagons as well as abandoned weapons and munitions, including a score of artillery pieces.   Nathan Forrest was said to have paused over the injured Sherman and stated, "My only regret, is that I did not have the honors!"   This left Generals P.G.T. Beauregard and Nathan Bedford Forrest free to attack the Union General W.H.L. Wallace, who was caught in mid-stream in an attempt to cross the Tennessee River and rescue General Grant's beleaguered Army from certain annihilation.  General Wallace himself was compelled to surrender after suffering heavy losses, and turning the river red with Union blood.

The Federal forces were now falling on critical times in Tennessee, and called upon General George H. Thomas to march his army from Camp Dick Robinson Kentucky down into west Tennessee, in an effort to halt the advance of Johnston's Confederates.  General Thomas anticipated the possibility of joining up with General W. Halleck's forces expected to march out of Memphis.  Suddenly the issue is not whether the Federals could take Tennessee, but can they even maintain any kind of foothold in Kentucky against the growing gray tide.


The surprise attack by General Johnston, added to a scenario whereby General Grant's divided forces, some of which had recently arrive and were not fully deployed for battle, gave Johnston the complete advantage.  This resulted in a low casualty rate for the Confederates, thereby increasing the magnitude of the federal defeat.  This enormous victory encouraged scores of sick and injured to return to their regiments much earlier, and also served to increasing recruitment in west Tennessee and northern Mississippi.  Thereby bringing the Southern Armies in that region to full strength!   Additionally the huge cash of weapons, ammunition, leather goods, medical supplies, rations and sundered items, allowed the Confederate Armies to march out of the Shiloh area in high spirits, rested and well equipped.


However as glorious as this victory may have been the danger of a disastrous reversal loomed on the horizon, in the person of General Henry W. Halleck who was actually General Ulysses S. Grant's Commander at the time of the Battle of Shiloh Church.  Even as General Johnston was finalizing his victory, General Halleck was moving his huge army of nearly 100,000 in the direction of Shiloh.  Having been re-supplied and reinforced from Missouri, as well as river transports and gunboats, moving down bound from the north.  The Confederates had few options, so they eagerly pounced on every opportunity or they'd likely face a devastating setback if they didn't take the initiative.  The Confederate's plan called for using the momentum brought about by the recent victory to punch through General Halleck's lines, in a divide and conquer strategy, or else perish in the attempt.


Towards these ends General Nathan Bedford Forrest was ordered north and west to interpose himself on Halleck's left flank.  General Beauregard would move swiftly to the south and west heading off Hallecks right flank.  Included in the orders to the several commanders they were to move as swiftly and as silently as possible.  Once the other commands made their move General Johnston would spearhead a drive straight through the middle.  General John Hunt Morgan's brigade would serve as provocateurs to throw Halleck's forces off balance in a series of hit and run raids against Union supply wagons, causing delay, stretching out and scattering Union lines.  Upon receiving this order General Morgan gave his usual well-healed grin at being ordered to do exactly what he loved most.  Terrorize the enemy on his terms!  Having the smaller of the several armies and being lightly equipped, he could move and strike at lightening speed, at various points along the Union lines.


General Johnston decided to leave a full brigade behind in order to finish with the business of the dealing with so many prisoners, and rounding up the remaining war booty from the Battle of Shiloh Church.  An overwhelming amount had already been accounted for, and redistributed among the various corps under his command.  The Confederates now had arms and ammunition and to spare.  Sufficient artillery to drive huge holes in the enemy lines!  But for now time was of the essence and at the very earliest possible moment, each of the Confederate Armies began to move out heading west.


The strategy was to position them selves early on, before General Halleck was aware of the Confederate approach.  If this was achieved the trap would be set!  The lead elements of Johnston's Army had traveled not more then 40 miles in the direction of Memphis, when they approached the crossroads community called Bolivar, where scouts detected the approaching Yankees Army.  Reports had arrived at Johnston's headquarters indicating his two corps were in place to the left and right.


All the signs indicated they had spotted the enemy well before their own presence became known, so General Johnston busied his entire army prepared a suitable reception.  Reports quickly came in from Beauregard and Forrest; indicating they're corps were dispersed and ready for the attack.  An attack, which was not long in coming; opening up with all the fury the Confederates could muster.  The federals had been caught on the march, unprepared and moving straight into a Confederate firestorm of musket and artillery fire.


The battle was later referred to as a turkey shut with the only danger being the possibility of a cross fire between the several elements of our own armies, which were operating in close proximity.  Thus the Confederate Armies had to stay tight, in order to prevent drifting in the heat of battle.   The victory was more costly then that suffered at Shiloh Church, when measured against limited Southern manpower.  Yet these losses would not be considered extreme!  General Henry W. Halleck's lack of knowledge of the swift but silent approach of the Confederate Armies, coming at him from three directions proved his down fall.  It was Halleck's belief the Confederates would take more time to collect and redistribute their war booty, plus deal with the numerous prisoners at Shiloh Church.  This miscalculation on General Halleck's part, proved to be a critical factor in his defeat.  This came directly on the after the second major Confederate victory, in less then a month.

These victories caused the inevitable celebrations to break out in many Southern cities, from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico.  Those loyal to the 'Union' clashed with those loyal to the Confederacy in Louisville Kentucky.  In many northern cities such as New York and Chicago the victories caused copperheads to be emboldened, with parades through the streets with picket signs declaring Southern Rights.  Cities such as Corinth, such as Jackson and Vicksburg Mississippi knew they would have been next to face the fury of Union Guns, had these battles gone the other way.  The federal effort to gain complete control of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers also turn out to be a lost opportunity.  It was if each victory was feeding off the growing numbers, which had proceeded!

The victory at Shiloh Church and later Bolivar reached the battlefields of Yorktown Virginia, causing the Confederates to become highly inspired and reenergized.   Reports indicated the gray backs charged over the ramparts of the sunken road with rebel yells just about the time General Joseph E. Johnston arrived in the area, after his march from the Rappahannock River some distance to the west with reinforcements.  As a result of a flanking move by General Johnston upon his arrival, the federals were caught between barrages of Confederate musket fire coming from several directions.


It is reported that Union General George McClellan and his 100,000 troops suffered a near 40 percent loss in the initial phase of the battle.  Everything from thereafter seemed to go down hill for General McClellan!  Thus ending the siege of Yorktown with General McClellan's complete and unconditional surrender.  Otherwise the whole lot of them would have been completely destroyed!   Meantime to the west Union General Nathaniel B. Banks was attempting to out maneuver General "Stonewall" Jackson.  A move on the part of General Banks which would prove a total failure, which put him in an untenable position and leads to his defeat.  These duel Union losses in Virginia all but broke the back of the Union drive toward the Capital of the Confederacy at Richmond.

These victories would result in President Jefferson Davis delaying his intended announcement for a call for the conscription of troops for the war effort, a move, which proved unnecessary due to the recent battlefield victories. These turn of events lead to a an upsurge in enlistments and a return to duty on the part of many others leaving their sick beds early, wanting to participate in the final push for victory.  In it's stead a war conference was held with Secretary of War L.P. Walker of Alabama and General Robert E. Lee, toward the goal of moving the war out Virginia at the earliest possible moment.  The recent surrender of George McClellan's Army of the Potomac, afforded the opportunity to gain additional victories over the remainder of the federal forces throughout Virginia.

President Abraham Lincoln is known to have expressed fears that "General Bobby Lee may soon be knocking at the gates of the federal capital, with the entire Army of Northern Virginia at his back!” At the scene of the Battle of Bolivar in Tennessee, General Albert Sidney Johnston divided his reinforced and re-supplied army.  The First Corps was assigned to the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard, who was first to move out in the direction of Columbia Tennessee with a mission to cut off the advance of General George H. Thomas.  General Nathan Bedford Forrest was given command of 25,000 and 50 cannon, many of which had been war booty from the surrender of Generals Ulysses S. Grant's and Henry W. Halleck Armies.

General Forrest was ordered to interpose himself on General Thomas's right flank, which would take place near a small hamlet called Jackson Tennessee.  Reports indicate General Thomas was at that very moment reported to be moving his forces in that very direction.  From that position Forrest would out flank Thomas as he arrives on the field of battle.  General Albert Sidney Johnson would again use his previous tactics and move his corps in a direct line-of-march toward General George H. Thomas's center as his army approached from the north.  A third major victory in west Tennessee would relieve badly needed forces to oppose the federals in New Orleans, Alabama and Georgia to the southeast.  If this could be achieved the new iron clads, the first of which is now under construction in New Orleans, may well set the stage for breaking the Union Blockade of our harbors.  Beginning in New Orleans itself!

Dateline 17 April 1862

General Van Dorn's Trans-Mississippi Army having been properly informed that reinforcements and badly needed supplies were on their way now found he himself in a good position to relieve the pressure on New Orleans.  Thus he changed his previous strategy of battle, and now prepared for the long march South to New Orleans itself.  Union General Benjamin F. Butler presently commanding the Union Department of the Gulf, and was opposed by Confederate General Mansfield Lovell, the Military Commander in New Orleans.Mayor John Monroe having been urged to surrender the city upon the landing of the U.S.S. Farragut and the sinking of the unfinished gunboat C.S.S. Mississippi responded, "I do not have the authority, but in any case my answer would be to decline the offer."  General Mansfield likewise refused but found it necessary to withdraw his troops from the city, in an effort to forestall disaster until the expected relief columns from General Van Dorn could arrive.   The Union Forces moved in and occupied the city, a feat, which would prove to be short-lived.

Forts Jackson and Fort Saint Philip now cut off and surrounded, had been seriously considering a possible surrender.  Until word came that a sizeable relief column was on its way from General Van Dorn.  The advance columns were expected to arrive at anytime!  It was reasoned that if the two forts could hold, a certain defeat might well be turned to victory.  According to the reports, arrive they did and none to soon!   The advance columns were not large in and of them selves and were insufficient for a complete defeat of Butler's Army, but they did allow for a stalemate in the fighting until Van Dorn's entire Confederate Army could arrive.

The arrival of the advance columns brought with them an order from General Van Dorn himself which read as follows;  "Pending our arrival let this order go forth, that General Benjamin F. Butler shall not be permitted the luxury of an honorable surrender.  He will be delivered either dead or in chains!  Courier, as a gift to the Honorable Mayor of Vicksburg, includes the chains.  Your obedient servant, General Earl Van Dorn Commanding"   The turn of events served to completely change the mood throughout New Orleans!  True the federal army still occupied the city, and naturally no one bothered to informed the Federals of General Van Dorn's march South nor of his rapid approach toward the city.


None-the-less General Butler had to know he was in trouble!   His forces were seen racing about the city all but ignoring the populace, save for a few quick and clumsy orders, followed by their giving irrational responses.  Whereas only a week earlier the Federals had been filled with arrogance, and actively committed all manor of despotic acts against the Southern people.  Word was soon circulated to the citizenry not to further provoke the Yankees in their midst, since help was on the way.  However any quiet and covert disruption of their progress would be most welcome.  However as to whether the Union General knew there was a death warrant on his head?  One could only hazard to guess!

Dateline 8 May 1862

President Davis appeared extremely elated at the good news, as he pranced back and forth at the Confederate Whitehouse in Richmond.   About then a courier appeared at the entrance to the parlor with a message, that the Battle of Columbia was now taking shape near the small community of Columbia Tennessee.  General Albert Sidney Johnston had given a full report to the Confederate President of conditions up until that time, soon after the victory at Shiloh Church with a follow-up after the Battle of Bolivar.  Included in his report to the President was his over all strategy for the coming campaign against General George H. Thomas, which would likely take place in the general vicinity northeast of Columbia.


General Thomas was expected to arrive in the area, prepared to off set the losses suffered by the defeat of Generals Grant and Sherman.  He was unaware of the magnitude of the Union defeat, as he crossed into Tennessee.  Unknown to him upon his arrival he would face off with General Albert Sidney Johnston's forces, the Confederates having a full compliment of troops, as well as being in possession a heavy cash of supplies and munitions.  Nor was General Thomas aware of the entrapment and defeat, which General Henry W. Halleck's Army had suffered, at the coming Battle of Bolivar.  Any hopes Thomas thought he might have had as far as support from General Halleck's previously huge numbers would soon be dashed.

Dateline 18 May 1862

Several members of the Confederate Congress as well as the Cabinet was in a conference with the President when once again, a telegraph messenger knocked at the door of the Confederate Whitehouse.  The servant escorted a young private toward the delegation approaching from the direction of the setting room.  President Davis greeted the private, returning his salute and reached for the message.  The President Davis reading it very carefully then began to look about the room at the others.  But it was the Secretary of War who spoke first!  What does it say Mr. President?  Let me read the telegram to you!

President Davis began to read the message from General Albert Sidney Johnston; "After five days of battle the complete defeat and surrender of General George H. Thomas and his army has been achieved.  It is my intention to dispatch General P.G.T. Beauregard corps to Georgia, General Nathan Bedford Forrest to Alabama and a portion of my corps will join General Van Doren's army of Trans-Mississippi.  The Kentucky Raiders under General John Hunt Morgan, who have also been reinforced is slated to return to Kentucky in an effort confront the remaining few scattered federals units operating in that region.  The remainder of my army will be on the march toward eastern Tennessee!   Your obedient servant, General Albert Sidney Johnston, Commanding."  The room suddenly light up with smiles and thanksgiving, as cheerful chatter broke out among their numbers.

Dateline 26 May 1862

In New Orleans General Benjamin F. Butler was finally receiving reports of General Van Dorn's approach, howbeit to late, to take any preventative measures or to receive reinforcements.  The longest gray columns of troops ever spotted since the beginning of the war, and were heading straight down the east banks along the MississippiRoad.  An kindly elderly black man living just southeast of Natchez and known throughout the region as Mister Moez, was reported to have been ask about the passing gray columns; "How long sir was the columns of Confederate Soldiers which passed by here?"  Well sir," he answered; "They started comin about a hour before that skinny old roster over yonder jumped upon on dat fence post and started crowin.  They were still passin by come the middle of the night!  I am believin every Southern man alive marched by here."  Well that wasn't exactly an accurate report but it was close enough to convince General Butler they were coming for him, and they meant business.

What was General Butler's response?   He decided that if he remained in town he would no doubt have to fight a hostile population, as well as General Van Dorn's angry Confederates.  So he rounded up his troops and marched rather smartly out of town, heading north in hopes of catching General Van Dorn's Army ferrying across the River.  What he couldn't know is the largest fleet of about everything Southern that would float, had arrived ahead of Van Dorn, and enough rope was made available for nearly every possible contingency.  By the time General Butlers Army arrived, there was nothing to be seen!

History will always guess at how many troops General Van Dorn brought with him, however generations yet unborn would no doubt tell the story of his magnificent and heroic march south to New Orleans.  Suffice it to say it was a huge number, and those numbers seemed to grow with passing miles.  Every Southerner within hundreds of miles wanted a piece of General Butcher Butler's hide.   General Van Dorn was said to have met a company of Black Home Guard along the way, who insisted on joining his numbers.

Given the circumstances the good general was not about to refuse their offer and welcomed them with handshakes, smiles and a few brief pleasantries.  It appeared their commander a free-black even before the war, had relatives in New Orleans, most of which were murdered under General Butler's orders for refusing to join the Yankee army.  They were all among General Earl Van Dorn's growing numbers, and each one of them wanted to have the pleasure of bringing down the man who was becoming known as the 'Devil in Blue.'   This march was taking on all the earmarks of a crusade, rather then a military campaign.  General Earl Van Dorn was beginning to appear more like King Arthur of the Knights of the Round Table, instead of a Confederate General.

Arriving on in an open area not far from the Mississippi River Butlers scouts took special care, observing everything within sight or sound.  But as much as they searched, no Confederate Army could be found anywhere!  Half the people in the South must have joined Van Dorn's Army by now, and they could not have all disappeared.   The scouts raced back and made their report!   Feeling extremely confident he had gotten the jump on his opponent, General Butler ordered his army forward but not all was as calm as it appeared.  The entire army in blue had managed marched right into what amounted to an old fashioned bushwhacking, Southern style.  Once General Butler was in the clearing where the scouts previously had stood, General Butler was just about to disperse his columns when the gray coats opened fire.  Only the Almighty God knows how they missed firing on their own troops!

The largest barrage of artillery and musket fire ever seen in one place, opened fire simultaneously.   When the firing ceased, what was left in the middle of that field could hardly be termed an army.  Those few remaining alive did not wait for a formal surrender, but threw down their weapons and their arms.  "We surrender, we surrender, don't shut no more!” While the surrendering Yankees were being rounded up, General Van Dorn himself pranced out onto the field; "Where's the "Devil in Blue?  Where is that criminal?  Be he alive or be he dead, I want him and now!  "Every Confederate Soldier present on that bloody battlefield knew precisely to whom General Van Dorn was referring.

General Benjamin F. Butler who had so arrogantly and cruelly treated others, that his bold, brash and vulgar Soldier of Lincoln's barbarians profaned the term army.  Where was he?  Well it seems that in the heat of battle; General Butler's horse had been shot out from under him.  Given the emergency circumstances and seeing most of his army dead or dieing, the general chose to hide in the nearest available space.  Thus he was found hiding behind a tree stump under thicket of bushes and weeds!  A young private seeing General Van Dorn approaching on horseback, waited in place.
What have you here private?  "Well sir, I figured on goin huntin and it seems I caught me a strange blue rabbit."  General Dorn replied; "Are they have been rather common in these parts of late, have they not private."  The private responded; "Didn't rightly know sir!  It has been said these critters have certainly been multiplying like rabbits.  But after today, maybe we'll have them blue bellied rabbits under control."  Let us see here said the general; come on out fella and let have a look, and sure enough this rabbit wore the blue uniform of a Yankee General.  The private spoke up; "Wow looks like I caught me a big rabbit, a huge sure enough blue bellied rabbit.

What would the folks back home say?"  As they were leading the general away, across the field rode the good and honorable Mayor of New Orleans John Monroe.  "General Van Dorn, he called out; pleased to met you sir and most welcome to Louisiana.  I've heard you were comin and felt it prudent to come this distance and extend my personal welcome.  Perhaps find a proper use for these cuffs and chains you sent ahead."  Very well your honor if you don't mind, how about we lend them to our distinguished guest General Butler for his personal use?   By all means general, I am sure he will take good care of them.  At that General Van Dorn laughed, as the Mayer of New Orleans equipped General Butler with shackles and chain, and lead him away prisoner, cuffed at the wrist and ankles.

Dateline 2 June 1862

It wasn't long before General Earl Van Dorn's victorious army marched into New Orleans amongst cheering crowds, whistles and waving arms.  Flowers were sewn in the way and gifts were handed to the passing gray columns.  The Emperor of Rome never received such a glorious welcome!  But not all was cheers and glory; General Benjamin F. Butler was paraded through the streets on the back of an open wagon.  The crowd turns angry, hisses and makes crude remarks as he passed.  These people would love for General Butler to have been turned over them, and the general knew what would await him, should that happen.

Seeing Mayor Monroe who had rode in ahead him and now waiting along the way.  General Van Dorn rode over to met him signaling as he rode, to have General Butler brought over.  Have you given any though general as to the disposition of General Butler; ask the mayor?  General Van Dorn spoke up; "Does not both the U.S. and C.S. constitutions guarantee a trial by a jury of one peers?"  Well yes they do General Van Dorn!  "Well then would you not agree, his peers are the multitudes of Southern Ladies he disgraced and tormented?"   I see general such a trial could be arranged, indeed it could!   Judge, jury as well as the attorneys, all Southern Ladies and these attorneys were educated in the heat of war.  Very well Mayor Monroe, all Southern Ladies it shall be!  General Van Dorn immediately orders General Butler to be delivered into Mayor Monroe's able custody, to face the reward of his deeds.

Mayor John Monroe became nationally known throughout the Confederacy, as the man who put General Benjamin F. Butler the Devil in Blue on trial before the very ladies he violated.  And quite a court it was; his jurors were among his most cruelly treated victims of Butlers Reign.  Among them could be counted the rape victims, floggings, the crippled and one fine lady had a severely scared face.  Among the victims which could not be present, were the children, murdered simply for being Southern.General Butler at one time had been quoted as saying of Southerners; "They aren't human."   The trial and the sentence, which followed, were placed totally in the hands of his victims.  After the painful death of General Benjamin F. Butler, General Earl Van Dorn receive the most heart rending letter from the judge, signed by the members of the court.  Among these ladies General Van Dorn was considered the finest among Southern Gentlemen.  No accolades could describe adequately their appreciation of him.  They felt their cruel treatment at the hands of this Devil in Blue had been vindicated!

Dateline 3 June 1862

President Davis had to nearly pinch himself to be sure he was not dreaming.  These recent victories would now mean the Confederacy could enter a new phase of the war.  Rather then fighting for survival we could now begin to push back, and the freedom and independence of the Confederacy was now a real possibility.   A telegraph message arrived by courier, who had to push his way through the throngs of people gathered before the Confederate Whitehouse.  The Confederate President was in conference with the Secretary of War Walker as well as several leaders of the Congress, when the commotion outside disrupted them.

The men all simultaneously arose and approach the foyer at the front entrance.  A young private in clean uniform, who likely had never seen a day of fighting in his life, was breathing hard as he made his way inside.  The door closed behind him, and having spotting his Commander in Chief, he gave a smart saluted.  "Mr. President Sir I have a report of extremely good news from New Orleans.  Exceedingly good new sir!   Let me have it private!  "Mr. President, it is my proud honor to present to you as a birthday gift, the defeat of General Benjamin F. Butler's Union Army, as well as the capture and imprisonment of General Butler himself.  As directed, General Butler was handed over for trial, which lead to his execution!   The manner in which General Butler treatment the Southern People, constituted criminal activity above and beyond the necessities of war.  Your obedient servant, General Earl Van Dorn, Commanding”

As President Davis finished reading and lowered the telegram he looked about the foyer at those assembled.  He turned to the private; would you wait outside for a possible response to General Van Dorn?   The private politely saluted his Commander in Chief with a pleasant smile and stepped outside.  President Davis turned first to his Secretary of War, then to the others.  Gentlemen, it appears as though we must not only plan for the conclusion of this war, but for the independence of the Confederacy which no doubt will occur afterward.  God has truly blessed our cause, and it is my plan to call for a national day of prayer and fasting.  Let us all pray gentlemen that we might be found worthy of His good graces!

God save the Confederacy.

 

 

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    "Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time
    for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may
    overtake me." He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: "That is the way all men
    should
live, and then all would be equally brave.” -- General Stonewall Jackson


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