1864 – 2014
An Uncivil War
by Jacquelyn Procter Reeves
[Reader: Arley McCormick]
I am Captain Jones. Ish Bein Welsh by birth, me “boy O”.
Confederate by Choice, and my occupation is Blockade Runner. I
bring in what you want, not what you need, and by 1863 I will be
rich beyond my wildest dreams.
In the next few minutes our august ensemble will entertain you
with music that was popular to both the union and southern
soldiers. The selections reflect the sentiment both joyous and
melancholy of the era.
That era was preceded by a decade political wrangling and as
1860 approached, talk of secession simmered in homes and
businesses all across America. National politics dominated even
casual conversation. Long into the cold dark nights, men gathered
to discuss the when’s, how’s, and where’s of war as they warmed
themselves by the fire and their favorite refreshment.
The United States were becoming increasingly disunited and
disgruntled. Women knew what war meant, many remembered the
War of 1812 and some of – their sons and husbands joined the
Texans against the Mexicans, then the Mexican war and more
young men and husbands answered the call. The ladies feared
their men folk would come home in pine boxes, or worse, lie
forever in unmarked graves without the benefit of clergy or family
to pray over their remains.
In January, 1861, Huntsville native, Clement Clay, delivered
Alabama’s farewell address to the U.S. Senate. The people of
Alabama were forever bonded to the Confederacy. Just three
months later, on April 10, Huntsville native Leroy Pope Walker
ordered the bombing of Ft. Sumter. The following day, the order
was carried out and the world in Huntsville would soon change and
never be the same. It came as no surprise. The fiery furnace of
secession had finally been lit. Many leaders on both sides of the
Mason/Dixon believed they would whip the other side in a few
And so the call came to fight the enemy, men who looked just
like us, spoke the same language, and hailed from the same
ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.
As the men eagerly signed up to fight, and they would, in places
they’d never heard of, the people at home, men too old or too
young to fight, mothers, sweethearts, and sisters, sent them away
with the promise of prayers and letters to come and frequently
their men folk, full of bravado, commented they would be home
before Christmas. Members of the First Presbyterian Church gave
Bibles to Huntsville soldiers and services were held at the First
Methodist Episcopalian Church in their honor. Huntsville ladies
met every Friday to roll bandages and sew uniforms.
As soldiers boarded trains to leave Huntsville, they left with the
sound of “Dixie’s Land” in the air and enthusiastic good-byes from
their worried families. The original score for “Dixie” was written
by Professor Herman Frank Arnold and it was a mainstay for the
Black face mistral shows that performed throughout the North and
the South. But, since it was played for the inauguration of
Jefferson Davis, as the only president of the Confederacy, it is
remembered most as the Confederate National Anthem.
For our first presentation this evening; we play Dixie.
*** [Dixie – instrumental, sing-along optional]
Daniel Decatur Emmett (1859)
3 of 6 verses
I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
In Dixie’s Land where I was born in,
Early on one frosty mornin,
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
Old Missus marry “Will the weaver,”
Willium was a gay deceiver;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
And when he put his arm around ‘er,
He smiled as fierce as a forty-pounder,
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie’s Land I’ll take my stand
to live and die in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Dar’s buckwheat cakes an Injun batter,
Makes your fat a little fatter;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
Then hoe it down and scratch your
To Dixie’s Land I’m bound to travel.
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
After centuries of bondage, the many slaves left behind watched
and waited. They hoped their children would grow up free and they
would grow old in freedom. Like those who left to fight, the world,
as they knew it, was about to change.
On June 10, 1861, Henry Figures, son of William Figures, editor
of the Southern Advocate, enlisted as a private in Company F of
the 4th Alabama Infantry, known as the Huntsville Guards. He was
at the Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861 when
Huntsville resident Col. Egbert J. Jones, sitting upon his horse,
took a bullet through both hips. Captain Edward Dorr Tracy, also
a resident of Huntsville, helped carry him from the field. Less
than two weeks later, on September 1, Col. Jones died of his
wounds. His body was escorted home by the Chaplain, Rev. W. D.
Chadick of Huntsville’s 1st Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Col.
Jones’s funeral procession to Maple Hill Cemetery was the largest
ever seen.
On September 4, Private Albert Russel died of typhoid fever at
Ft. Barrancas in Florida. There were many, many more to follow.
The funeral processions were too many and too often. T hey were
taken from the Depot, down Randolph Street, and the residents of
this very house watched the procession pass to the cemetery. By
the end of the year, an editorial in the newspaper complained that
the bodies of Huntsville’s dead were carried to the cemetery in
baggage wagons, and not in hearses. While the baggage wagon was
less expensive, it just wasn’t dignified. It was another indication
that the war would not be over in a matter of a few weeks.
The next tune was written by George F. Root who moved to
Chicago in 1859 after touring Europe and joined his brother’s
music publishing house. In 1862 this song became a favorite of
Union troops and was one of ultimately 35 war-time "hits" he
wrote. We present Just Before the Battle Mother.
*** [Just Before the Battle Mother]
Just Before the Battle Mother
George F. Root (1862)
Just before the battle, mother,
I am thinking most of you
While upon the field we're watching,
with the enemy in view.
Comrades brave are 'round me lying,
filled with thoughts of home and God
For well they know that on the morrow,
some will sleep beneath the sod.
Farewell, mother, you may never, (You may never, Mother,)
press me to your breast again
But, oh, you'll not forget me, mother, (you will not forget me)
if I'm numbered with the slain.
Hark! I hear the bugles sounding, 'Tis the signal for the fight,
Now, may God protect us, mother, as He ever does the right.
Hear the "Battle-Cry of Freedom,"
how it swells upon the air
Oh, yes, we'll rally 'round the standard,
or we'll perish nobly there.
The next song, popular during the era was also written by
George F. Root in 1861 and the lyrics were based upon a poem
written by H.S. Washburn after the death of Lieutenant John
Williams Grout of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry at the Battle of
Ball’s Bluff in October 1861.
We now present “The Vacant Chair”.
*** [The Vacant Chair]
The Vacant Chair
Henry F. Washburn and George F. Root (1861)
We shall meet but we shall miss him,
There will be one vacant chair;
We shall linger to caress him,
When we breathe our ev’ning pray’r;
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye,
But a golden chord is severed,
And our hopes in ruin lie.
At our fireside, sad and lonely
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story,
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear our banner
Through the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country’s honor,
In the strength of manhood’s might.
We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
When we breathe our ev’ning pray’r
True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Ever more will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o’er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, Oh early fallen.
In the green and narrow bed,
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.
[Reader: Kent Wright]
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Brigadier General Ormsby
McKnight Mitchel of the United States Army, commander of the
Third Division, Army of the Ohio. While most of North Alabama
remained pro-Union in the early stages of the war, all of that
changed on the early morning of April 11, 1862. On that morning,
I led thousands of soldiers in blue into town, surrounded the
Huntsville Depot, and captured the town in complete surprise.
Later that day, I wrote my official report: “After a forced march
of incredible difficulty, leaving Fayetteville yesterday at 12
midnight, my advanced guard, consisting of Turchin’s brigade,
Kennett’s cavalry, and Simonson’s battery, entered Huntsville this
morning at 6 o’clock. The city was taken completely by surprise,
no one having considered the march practicable in the time. We
have captured about 200 prisoners, 15 locomotives, a large
amount of passenger, box, and platform cars, the telegraphic
apparatus and offices, and two Southern mails. We have at length
succeeded in cutting the great artery of railway
intercommunication between the Southern States.”
The next day, I wrote another report: “The work so happily
commenced on yesterday has been completed today upon a train
of cars captured from the enemy at Huntsville. A heavy force…was
ordered to drive the enemy from Stevenson in the east, while an
equal force…was directed to seize Decatur upon the west….I
accompanied the most difficult one to Stevenson, in person, from
which place 2,000 of the enemy fled, as usual, at our approach
without firing a gun…. Thus in a single day we have taken and now
hold a hundred miles of the great railway line of the rebel
Confederacy. …We have saved the great bridge across the
Tennessee (from the enemy’s firing of the bridge) and are ready to
strike the enemy, if so directed, upon his right flank and rear.”
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, O. M. Mitchel.”
To my great surprise, Huntsvillians were bitter about my
attempts to reconcile them to the old Flag. Huntsville resident
Mary Jane Chadick wrote about our arrival in her diary, “Truly our
town is full of the enemy.” For four hours, the Meridianville Pike
was solid blue as soldiers made their way into Huntsville. Leading
citizens were arrested and ordered to sign an oath of allegiance to
the Union or face imprisonment. Dr. Thomas Fearn, a member of
the Confederate Congress, died while in captivity. He refused to
sign. Mrs. Chadick recorded that former Governor Clement Clay
was robbed of everything that could be carried away from his
plantation, with the promise that he would be reimbursed. His
request was denied later by Union General Rousseau who said, “if
there is one Secessionist in Alabama more bitter, violent, virulent
and hostile.
*** [Knot of Blue and Grey / Hard Times]
Knot of Blue and Gray
T. Brigham Bishop (1876)
as sung by Cathy Barton to the tune
“The Wearing of the Green”
You ask me why upon my breast
Unchanged from day to day
Linked side by side in this broad band
I wear the Blue and Gray.
Each fought for what he thought was right
And fell with sword in hand
One sleeps amid Virginia’s hills,
And one in Georgia’s sands
I had two brothers long ago,
Two brothers blithe and gay.
One wore the suit of Northern blue
And one of Southern gray.
But the same sun shines on both their graves,
O’er valley and o’er hill,
And in the darkest of the hours
My brothers they lie still.
One heard the roll call of the South
And linked his faith with Lee.
The other bore the stars and stripes
With Sherman to the sea.
That is why upon my breast
Unchanged from day to day,
Linked side by side in this broad band
I wear the Blue and Gray.
Hard Times Come Again No More
Stephen Foster (1854)
As we pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
Let us all taste the hungers of the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears:
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.
‘Tis a song and a sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.
While we seek mirth, and beauty, and music light and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say:
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.
There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.
[Reader: Mark Hubbs]
Not everyone was home to see the General Mitchell’s troop on
the streets of Huntsville. Many or her sons were already under
arms in the field serving their state and new nation.
In early September, 1862, Federal troops left Huntsville and
took the mules, the horses, and 1500 slaves. They left behind
fields that had been stripped clean of crops and burned bridges
and businesses. The town of Whitesburg was no more. While the
citizens of North Alabama rejoiced at the evacuation, their time of
celebration did not last, as news from the front begin to filter to
those at home.
On May 1, 1863, Brigadier General Edward Dorr Tracy, whose
wife, Ellen Steele was the daughter of Huntsville architect George
Steele, was shot at the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi. He died
in the arms of his brother. In the same battle, Limestone
County’s Colonel Daniel Hundley was shot in the hip and left on
the field to die. Lt. Col. Edmund Pettus was captured, but later
escaped, and Major Alfred S. Pickering was killed in action.
In July 1863, as an adjutant of the 48th Alabama, Henry Figures
wrote a letter to his sister after the Battle of Gettysburg: “Our
regiment charged up the mountain for two miles when it became
so steep that we could not go any farther …Tell Mr. Leftwich that I
have his son’s sword….” Captain William Leftwich died on the
slopes of Little Round Top. James Duff, also a member of the
Huntsville Guards, part of the 4th Alabama, died as well.
In July, five thousand Federal soldiers under Major General
David S. Stanley entered Huntsville and North Alabama was briefly
occupied again. On Sunday, July 19, Union soldiers surrounded a
church where slaves were assembled for worship services. As the
services ended and they left the building, the male slaves were
seized by force and taken away to work for the Union.
The home of the widow Calhoun was taken over to be used as a
Federal hospital. Many soldiers were sick and dying of typhoid
fever as an epidemic swept through their ranks. On September 1,
Mayor Robert Coltart was arrested. His arrest came with an
accusation that he was cruel to sick Federal soldiers left to
recover at the Calhoun House after the others left town.
Fortunately, a letter had been written on his behalf, and published
in the newspaper, by Federal Surgeon Goodwin. The letter
thanked him for his kindness to sick soldiers. Mayor Coltart was
released. Other residents were credited for their kindness as well.
In October, more Union soldiers began arriving in Huntsville.
This time however, the tone was different. These men, under
General Crooks, were said to be the “finest looking set of men and
officers that have yet visited Huntsville.” They brought rations of
food for their host families and fuel for the poor.
The war had gone on for 2½ long years. The invaders from the
North missed their families back home. They played ball with the
young boys of the households and asked to rock babies and small
children to sleep at night. No doubt they thought of their own
children so far away, and for a brief moment in time, all was right
in the world. There was no blue or gray, no union or secesh, and
no horrors of the battlefield.
*** [Lorena]
Rev. Henry D. L. Webster (Lyrics - 1856)
Joseph Philbrick Webster (Tune – 1857)
3 of 6 verses
The years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the ground again;
The sun's low down the sky, Lorena,
The frost gleams where the flowers have been.
But the heart throbs on as warmly now
As when the summer days were nigh;
Oh, the sun can never dip so low
To be down affection's cloudless sky.
It matters little now, Lorena,
The past is in the eternal past;
Our hearts will soon lie low, Lorena,
Life's tide is ebbing out so fast.
There is a future, oh, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part –
'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod.
But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart.
A hundred months have passed, Lorena,
Since last I held that hand in mine,
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena,
Though mine beat faster far than thine.
A hundred months – 'twas flowery May,
When up the hilly slope we climbed,
To watch the dying of the day
And hear the distant church bells chime.
By the winter of 1864, 13 regiments were stationed in and
around Huntsville. Every tree was chopped down and any fence
that had been left standing was burned for fuel. The fence around
the cemetery was gone, as were the wooden headstones over the
graves of the Confederate dead. Mrs. Virginia Cabaniss insisted
that all of her visitors open the front gate, left attached to the
frame, and walk through. Visitors were instructed to close and
lock the gate behind them, even though there was no fence
attached to it!
On April 30, 1864, most Union soldiers began leaving of
Huntsville to take part in a massive campaign aimed at the heart
of Georgia. Jenkins Lloyd Jones, a private from Wisconsin, wrote,
“The almost ceaseless rattle of trains keeps us awake. Upwards of
40 trains passed today, the whistles disturbing our slumbers at
every hour of night.”
On May 16, 1864, Private Jenkins Lloyd Jones wrote that a band
from Brodhead, Wisconsin arrived the night before. “Early in the
evening,” he wrote, “they formed a circle, and in the gentle
twilight played numerous airs, patriotic and melancholy; the
sweetest of all, ‘Home Sweet Home.’ The green was covered with
soldiers, lying at full length, dreamily enjoying the sweet music,
forgetful of all the past, in blissful forgetfulness of all things
On June 22, he wrote, “Reveille sounded at 2:30 AM and quietly
we broke camp and marched at 5 AM…through town in fine style,
and soon beautiful and dreamy Huntsville was placed among the
*** [Home Sweet Home]
Home Sweet Home (1822)
John Howard Payne (Lyrics)
Sir Henry Bishop (Tune)
'Mid pleasures and palaces
Though I may roam
Be it ever so humble
There's no place like home
To thee, I'll return
Overburdened with care
The heart's dearest solace
Will smile on me there
A charm from the sky
Seems to hallow us there
Which seek thro' the world
Is ne'er met with elsewhere
No more from that cottage
A gain I will roam
Be it ever so humble
There's no place like home
Home! Home!
Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home
There's no place like home
[Reader: Charen Fink]
In the late summer, the town was full of excitement. Federal
trains, riddled with bullet holes, arrived in town with supplies and
coffins. Horses pulled wagons through town at a full gallop, and
there was a rumor that Confederates under Roddey and Forrest
were coming from one direction and Wheeler’s men from another
for a fight over Huntsville. The citizens could only watch from the
safety of their homes. While the battle never materialized, the
constant cutting of rail lines by Confederate guerillas was a never
ending source of irritation.
One month later, Rebels at the edge of town on the
Meridianville Pike demanded an unconditional surrender. Union
General Grainger held his ground and ordered all citizens to get
out of town in two hours before the fight began. The Rebels
disappeared, and it was revealed that it had been a ruse to allow
General Forrest to get across the river with 200 captured wagons.
Life was changing quickly for the residents of Huntsville. In
November, the notorious Union guide – and Huntsville resident –
Kinch Britt was shot to death outside the plantation known as
Forestfield, which was burned in retaliation. Later that same
month, another Union evacuation began to unfold. Slaves rushed
to the depot to leave town and fires were set all over town. The
Greene Academy was set afire and a struggle to save the
prestigious boys’ school was too little and too late.
On November 28, 1864, the day after the last of the Federal
soldiers left town, Russell’s Cavalry arrived and Huntsville was
back in the hands of Confederates. It didn’t last long however, as
the men in blue came back on December 21. Two days later, a
skirmish was fought near the Avalon Plantation on the Old Athens
Pike. In the extreme cold, men fought with sabers. 49
Confederate prisoners, badly cut up, were brought in to town.
Mary Jane Chadick wrote that the young Confederates fought
Over the next few months, more Federal soldiers came and
went, and the citizens of Huntsville became accustomed to the
constant turmoil. Some local girls married Union soldiers, and the
names of the dead were reported all too often.
On April 10, 1865, Mrs. Chadick wrote that a dispatch had been
received by Federal soldiers, indicating that General Robert E. Lee
had surrendered. The entire town was strangely silent. “Oh my
God,” she wrote. “Can this be true?”
That evening, President Abraham Lincoln stepped out onto a
balcony of the White House as an impromptu celebration took
place all over Washington. The band asked what he wished for
them to play. “I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes
I have ever heard,” he answered.
*** Dixie
Daniel Decatur Emmett (1859)
3 of 6 verses
I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
In Dixie’s Land where I was born in,
Early on one frosty mornin,
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
Old Missus marry “Will the weaver,”
Willium was a gay deceiver;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
And when he put his arm around ‘er,
He smiled as fierce as a forty-pounder,
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie’s Land I’ll take my stand
to live and die in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
Dar’s buckwheat cakes an Injun batter,
Makes your fat a little fatter;
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
Then hoe it down and scratch your
To Dixie’s Land I’m bound to travel.
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
The confirmation came on April 14 when the occupying army
erupted in celebration. The brass band played, town bells were
rung, railroad engines shrieked, cannons were fired, and Union
soldiers were given until 6 PM to get drunk. And they did.
Only 24 hours later, the mood was completely changed when
word was received that President Abraham Lincoln was murdered.
It was announced that April 18 was the official day of mourning.
Businesses were draped in black crepe, a cannon was fired at 6 AM
and every half hour until sundown. Schools and businesses were
closed and as troops marched through town, their arms were
reversed. The band, which played in celebration only four days
earlier, now played a funeral dirge. Even Southerners knew that
the death of Abraham Lincoln would not bode well for them.
Although the war officially ended with General Lee’s surrender
on April 9, Confederate General Joseph Johnston did not
surrender until April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered a month
later on May 26. On that day, Mary Jane Chadick closed out her
war-time diary. “The War being over and the dear ones returned,
there will be little more of interest for these pages. Therefore, you
and I, dear journal, close friends as we have been, united by every
bond of sympathy, must part.”
*** [Battle Hymn of the Republic]
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Julia Ward Howe (1861)
Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the lord,
He is trampling out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed his fateful lightning
of His terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on
I have read a fiery Gospel
writ in burnished rows of steel,
"As ye deal with My condemners
so with you My grace shall deal,"
Let the Hero born of woman
crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on
Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah
Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on
I have seen Him in the watch fires
of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar
in the evening dews and damps,
I can read his righteous sentence
in the dim and daring lamps,
His day is marching on
He has sounded forth the trumpet
that shall never call retreat,
He is sitting out the hearts of men
before His judgment seat,
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!
Be jubilant, my feet,
Our God is marching on
[Reader: Elizabeth Wright]
Approximately 30% of the white male population in the South did
not come home alive. The people of the South were demoralized
and destitute, but the slaves were free. Life for them was not easy,
but they were free. The women rolled up their sleeves and did
what they had always done, put food on the table as best they
could and comfort their families for another day. The war was
finally over.
In the months that followed, war-weary men began to return
home. Daniel Hundley walked home from Johnson’s Island Prison
in Ohio, along with his brother Orville. Their brother William had
died as a result of his wounds in 1863. Thomas Jones Taylor
walked home from Johnson’s Island as well.
In the years that followed, the remains of some of Huntsville’s
slain men were finally brought home. William Figures went to
Virginia to bring his son Henry home. The battlefields, soaked in
blood, devoured the remains of the others.
*** [When Johnny Comes Marching Home]
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Patrick Gilmore (Lyrics, 1863)
When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we'll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.
The old church bell will peal with joy, Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we'll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.
Get ready for the Jubilee, Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give the hero three times three, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we'll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.