An Unusual Battlefield Souvenir


Perhaps one of the most unusual battlefield souvenirs I’ve ever seen, though not completely unique. On the back is written:
“Taken from the pocket of a Confederate soldier dead on the battle-field of Stone River.”

Source: Originally published on the site of The American Stamp Dealer & Collector.

Confederate Officer 1st Lt. James Trimble Brown Participated in Forrest’s 1862 Raid

By Ron Coddington

Before dawn on July 13, 1862, about 1,400 gray horsemen led by Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and launched a surprise attack on its unsuspecting 934-man garrison. At one point during the ensuing fight, Forrest rode up to one of his subordinates, Maj. Baxter Smith, and asked him if his Tennesseans could capture part of a hastily formed Union line held by the Third Minnesota Infantry, supported by four cannon. The major turned to his troopers. He looked upon the face of his nineteen-year-old aide, 1st Lt. James Trimble “Trim” Brown, and saw a young man “eager for the fray.” His expression, and those of the other men, inspired the major to answer in the affirmative. The Tennessee cavalrymen promptly charged and took the position. Forrest’s force later captured the entire garrison and a vast quantity of supplies. Maj. Smith said of Trim: “No one on that memorable day bore himself more gallantly or acted his part better.”
Those who knew Trim would have expected nothing less, for he hailed from a family of leaders. Neill Brown, his father, served as governor of Tennessee during the Mexican War. His uncle, John C. Brown, became a Confederate general. Trim grew up the eldest of eight brothers and sisters in Pulaski. “Carefully educated” by his parents, he taught in a Nashville public school after graduation. He joined the army after the war began, and served in all three branches of the military.

Trim started as an artillery lieutenant. In 1862, he learned that Forrest had received permission to organize a cavalry brigade to operate in middle Tennessee, which included his home in Union-occupied Nashville. He sought out Maj. Baxter Smith, and asked to join his staff. Smith agreed, he later said, “because of my knowledge and admiration for his father and the family.” In September 1862, about two months after the great raid on Murfreesboro, his Uncle John, an infantry brigadier in the Army of Tennessee, nominated him as one of his aides-de-camp. Trim joined his uncle, and served with distinction in the 1863 battles of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. The following year he left the staff as a captain, an unconfirmed rank, and returned to the cavalry as an assistant adjutant general in the Army of Tennessee, where he remained until the surrender of the army in North Carolina in April 1865.

Brown returned to Nashville, married, and started a family that grew to include two sons and a daughter. He became an attorney and, driven by a burning ambition tempered by a modest, affable nature, established a reputation as one of the most promising young members of the city’s bar. He became a candidate for district attorney general in 1878. On May 31, during the campaign, he participated in Decoration Day ceremonies honoring Union war dead. He became overheated and afterwards stopped at a restaurant for a cup of tea. He complained of feeling poorly. His condition worsened. Someone on the scene sent for Trim’s brother-in-law, a physician. Concerned citizens carried the ailing young man to the doctor’s residence. By this time he lapsed into unconsciousness, and remained in this state until his death at 12:30 a.m. the next morning. He was thirty-six.

Some blamed his death on the fatigue suffered while paying respects to his former foes on Decoration Day. Griefstricken lawyers met and spoke of his untimely passing and praised a life cut tragically short. One attorney compared Trim to former Nashville-area resident and U.S. president Andrew Jackson: “In war he exhibited the heroism of a soldier. He possesses as high an order of courage as ever characterized the Hero of the Hermitage, and was as knightly and heroic in his bearing.” A formal statement issued by the bar included the phrase, “His life was brief, beautiful and brilliant.”

“Few funerals that were as largely reported have ever occurred in Nashville,” recounted the local newspaper. A lengthy procession included the local militia to which Trim belonged, with two guns suitably draped for the sad occasion, and a hearse trimmed with black plumes and drawn by four white horses. Trim’s rider-less horse followed, “in trappings of mourning, the helmet formerly worn by Lieut. Brown resting upon the horn of the saddle.” After the memorial service, the procession moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery for the interment of his remains. Artillerymen fired a six-gun salute after the burial.

Source: Faces of the Confederacy: An Album of Southern Soldiers and Their Stories, 2008. Published with kind permission of Ron Coddington.

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Robert Gordon of the 36th Indiana Infantry Writes Home About the Battle

In the Wood near Murfreesboro
Monday Jan 5th 1863

Respected Brother & Sister,

After nine days almost incessant fighting, we are again left the heros of another of the Bloody Battles of our day. We retired late last evening from the Battle Field, and enjoyed for the first time for nine long days, a nites sleep exempt from the stench of decaying bodies, and unmolested by the roar of Musetry and Artillery. I washed my face and hands this morning for the first time this year, and thought I would drop you a few lines that you may know I am well and unhamred. You no doubt know more concerning the fight than I do, but one thing I do know, that men had no business of being where there is any harder fighting and heaveier charges made than where we had been and the greatest wonder, is, that there is as many of us living this morning as is. For we have not only fought day but at the dead  hour of nite. And it has been raining most fo teh time since we left Nashville, so that we have had to Cook, Eat and Sleep in mud half knee deep, the day before. Our supply train was taken and destroyed to such an extent, that we were reduced to the robbing the Havarsacks of the dead, using wheat for coffee, and many east the flesh of Horses. Our Regiments loss the first day in killed and wounded was estimated at near two hunderd. Major Kinley was wounded the first charge, also every horse belonging to the Regiment but one was shot at the same time. There has been a few rations divided to us this morning, but it did not amount to one full days allownace, it is supposed however that there ia  train on its way from Nasvhille with provisions. It was reported last evening that one of our divisions was in Murfreesboro,
but it was contradicted this morning, but it is the general belief that the Rebs had all left. I wrote to you just before leaving Camp at Nashville, and stated that there was already a box in Camp for Cap Freeman in which I expected my OverCoat and such things as you sent was, but as the Captain hasent got the box, he not getting to go back to Camp anymore, we dont know yet what the contents of the box is. I had not herd from Clark since we left Nashville. The rest of the boys of your acquaintance are still alive and well. There has a detail went from our Regiment to help finish burying the dead, We had one killed and four wounded in our company. The Rebels fought ferotiously here,charging upon our Ambulances, and Hospital, and at one time when I had charge of a detail a burying some dead, they opened on us with their Artillery so that we were compelled to abondon our work and leave
the dead half buried. But here is a man collecting the letters so I can’t write more now.

R. R. Gordon

Robert Gordon joined Company A, 36th Indiana Infantry on October 23, 1861 and was made a corporal. He was a resident of Henry County, Indiana when he enlisted. He mustered out of service on September 21, 1864 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Source: This letter was found on the Museum Quality Americana website. They have the original for sale and were kind enough to give permission to use both the letter content and the photo.

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Diarist Kate Carney Rejoices at the Fall of Fort Sumter

Confederate Flag flying in Fort Sumter after t...

Image via Wikipedia

Kate Carney was the daughter of a prominent Murfreesboro family. Her father was a successful merchant and plantation owner. Their home, named The Crest, was located north of the Murfreesboro square between Spring and Maple Streets. Her mother was the granddaughter of Captain William Lytle, who had donated the land for the town of Murfreesboro. The family was prosperous and Kate was well educated. She kept a diary on and off for many years, most notably from the beginning of the Civil War through the middle of 1862. Her diary gives a personal view of Civil War Murfreesboro. Kate Carney was an unabashed, outspoken supporter of the Confederate States of American and secession.

When Kate began making her entries in April 1861, she was coming to the end of an extended stay at her uncle’s plantation in Yazoo City, Mississippi. On April 15, 1862 she simply wrote five sentences, including news she had just received from South Carolina:

“I heard good news, Fort Sumpter has been taken by our men. Rejoice-Rejoice.”

Kate Carney became a teacher and married William Poindexter in 1875. Kate and William were married and lived in Clarksville, Tennessee for nearly 15 years until William died of pneumonia. Kate continued to live in Clarksville for several years, but eventually moved to Florida where she died in 1930.

A tough, stubborn and persevering woman, Kate Carney left us a legacy in her diaries. She apparently viewed her writings as childish foolishness as she burned a number of them after she married. However, several survived and are an invaluable resource that give us a glimpse into life in 1860s Murfreesboro. This blog will make use of her writings in the future to help explore and understand Civil War Murfreesboro.

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Impressive Civil War Infographic Map

The Washington Post has compiled a very impressive animated map of the battles and casualties of the Civil War. Press play and watch the skirmishes and battles break out across the landscape through an animated timeline. There is also a graph at the top of the page showing casualties by month. The magnitude of impact across thousands of lives and places is just inescapable when you watch this.

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More On the Life and Death of Fisher McKee, 19th Ohio

After a bit more research, a little clearer picture can be had of Fisher McKee, who was written about in a previous post. Fisher McKee was mustered into the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 5, 1861. One must guess that he felt a deep sense of duty to serve his country and the Union because he left behind a wife and four young children and his absence must have been a hardship on them. McKee didn’t have to wait long to see battle. His unit took part in the Battle of Shiloh in early April 1862, where McKee was seriously wounded.

After recovering, he returned to duty with his unit. At the end of December of that year, the 19th Ohio was part of General William Rosecrans Army of the Cumberland, which moved on Murfreesboro, Tennessee, resulting in the Battle of Stones River from December 31, 1862 till January 2, 1863. Once again, McKee was seriously wounded. After weeks of healing, Fisher was finally released to go back to his unit. He took a train from Nashville to Murfreesboro. For reasons unknown, McKee seems to have been riding on top of the train cars. Perhaps the trains were over capacity carrying back to the army  soldiers who had recovered from battle wounds. Perhaps it was just a nice spring day and McKee wanted to enjoy the weather and ride in the open. In any case, Fisher’s train ran off the track on March 4, 1863 and he was thrown and killed instantly.

An officer of Fisher’s company, Company G, wrote a letter to the postmaster of the last town in which the McKees were known to have lived asking if the postmaster knew the family or their whereabouts and, if so, could he deliver the sad news to Fisher’s wife. An image of the letter is at the bottom of this post.

From the reports of his former commanders, Fisher McKee seems to have been an honorable and reputable soldier. There are dozens of post-war documents filed on behalf of Fisher’s widow, Lucinda McKee, which helped her get a widow’s pension in 1867 or 1868. The pension continued until her death in 1916.

It is currently unknown where Fisher McKee was buried. It can be assumed the train derailment occurred somewhere around LaVergne, Tennessee, about 14 miles from Murfreesboro as one of the letters states that Fisher’s body was left in LaVergne and could be retrieved there. However, no information has turned up yet about what happened to Fisher after that.

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Fisher McKee, Private, 19th Ohio Infantry Killed in Train Derailment


While doing some genealogy research on a cousin, I ran across this interesting document. My cousin was a former Union soldier and, after the war, a postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service. He was called upon to sign this affidavit about a minor child whose father had been killed during the war. What I found interesting were the circumstances of the father’s death:

“Fisher McKee died at Murfreesboro in the state of Tennessee on the 4th day of March A.D. 1863, by being thrown from the top of a car which was thrown off the track.”

According to the record, Fisher McKee was a private in Company G of the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. I have, as yet, been unable to find a record of the train derailment in or near Murfreesboro at that time or details on the death of Fisher McKee. However, if I find more, I shall post it here.

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Public Tiff Over Lincoln

Fifty-seven years after the end of the Civil War, veterans both North and South had a minor public tiff over Abraham Lincoln’s culpability in the war.

Lincoln Caused and Directed the Civil War
RICHMOND, Va, June 21 – The Sons of Confederate Veterans today took action looking to the comfort of the Confederate Veterans rather than to shower luxuries and regal entertainment on teh hundreds of sponsors and maids of honor and the like that always attend the reunions. The resolution to the end was adopted without dissent. It is known that there have been reunions when the comfort of the veterans was made secondary tot he maids and sponsors and they declare that the time has come to call a halt.

The Sons also voted against any consolidation with the veterans, saying they prefer to suppor the veterans and to devote their energies to that task.

Possibly the oustanding feature of the entire session of the Confederate Veterans was the adoption of the report on history and declaring taht the war between the states was teh work and under personal direction of President Abraham Lincoln, who conceived the idea and put it into execution. “Johnston’s Truth of the War Conspiracy of 1861″ was endorsed and recommended for use in school and colleges of the South.

The great parade for tomorrow will formally end the reunion and the details for that are completed. Twenty bands will ahve a part in that event. By tomorrow night the veterans and visitors will be leaving for their homes. it has been the largest and most successful reunion in the history of Richmond.

The Bee (Danville, Virginia), June 22, 1922

G.A.R. Veterans Defent “Abe”
SYRACUSE, N. Y., June 22 – Roused to indignation over action of the United Confederate Veterans, who at the closing session of their convention at Richmond, Va., adopted a resolution charging that Abraham Lincoln “personally and deliverately conceived” the war of secession. Civil War Veterans of this city, members of Root Post number 151, department of New York, G. A. R., braved a storm here tonight to attend a meeting of the post to protest against “slandering of teh name of the great emancipator.”

The following resolution was adopted:”Whereas, at a session of the United Confederate Veterans held at Richmond, Va., on June 21, 1922, a resolution was adopted charging Abraham Lincoln with being responsible for forcing the civil war upon the South, therefore, be it resolved that Root Post number 151, department of New York, G. A. R., pronounce this statement to be unqualifiedly false in every respect adn that the use of such statements in the textbooks of teh South would be disoyal and treasonable.”
The Bee (Danville, Virginia), June 23, 1922

Lincoln Greatest of Americans Missouri Confederates Declare
By Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 30 – Abraham Lincoln was endorsed as “one of the greatest and noblest Americans who ever lived,” in resolutions proposed here today at the annual reunion of the United Confederate Veterans of Missouri. The veterans convened today for a two-day session.
“We want the world to know,” said A. A. Pearson, brigadier general of the Missouri organization, “that the majority of the Confederate veterans believe that Lincoln was one of the greatest and noblest Americans that ever lived. We think that the recent criticism of Lincoln is unfounded and foolish.”

Gen. Pearson said that he would present resolutions tomorrow disapproving those adopted June 21 by the convention of the Confederate Veterans at Richmond, Va., charging Lincoln with being responsible for the Civil War. Gen. Pearson’s resolutions declared “we do not believe anyone responsible for the war between the North and South.”

San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas), October 31, 1922

One final note: There was one more article (of which I don’t currently have the text) that ran in The Bee a few days after the initial Richmond report. It seems the commander of the United Confederate Veterans and the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia (a section of the UCV) both publicly denied having voted for the resolution pinning the war on Lincoln and both stated they did not believe Lincoln responsible. They stated that the vote was held in some confusion at the end of the reunion and they believe most of their colleagues held a similar view.

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Interactive Map of Fortress Rosecrans

After the Battle of Stones River, the Union army knew they were eventually going to have to move after General Bragg’s Confederate army. They decided to build a fort which would serve as a forward supply base and support center for their march southward. After six months of work, Fortress Rosecrans was completed. It was the largest fort built during the Civil War and was built to hold 50,000 troops and 90 days of supplies. The fortress covered about 200 acres and was built mostly of earth and timber. Union troops scoured the city and the surrounding area, tore down any unoccupied buildings and used the wood in the construction of the fort.

Today, almost none of the fort remains. Time and erosion combined with growth and development have eaten away all but 2 lunettes, 1 redoubt and 1 curtain wall. The National Parks Service has taken over and preserved what remains. Walking the remains, it is difficult to tell exactly what you’re looking at and how it may have looked nearly 150 years ago. However, I’ve recently come across an outstanding website that has a digital map of the fort, explanations of the parts of the fort and really nice graphics. Once you’ve looked through this site, a visit to the remaining fort is much improved. You get a clear understanding about what  you’re looking at and how it all  looked and worked. The map is a team effort from former student Floris Moriceau and Philip Loubere, assistant professor of journalism at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The interactive map can be accessed at

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Tennessee Sesquicentennial License Plates

The Tennessee State Legislature has authorized a Civil War sesquicentennial license plate. The catch is the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Trust has to get 1,000 preorders before June 2011. If you live in Tennessee, consider preordering the new Civil War plates and support the 150th anniversary remembrance.

Get more information and place your preorder at

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