Archive for April, 2010


by Andy Mateja

April 6th was the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh.

This battle was significant for two reasons – the bloodiest two day conflict up to that point in the war and the unshakable perseverance of Ulysses S Grant.

Before Shiloh,  most Civil War battles were small in comparison which led the population  on both sides to believe the war would be short and almost bloodless. That all changed April 6-7 1862  when two armies met on a southwestern Tennessee battlefield  resulting in over 23,000 casualties which up to that moment, was greater than all the previous American wars combined. Neither side believed the passion for victory among its citizen-soldiers was as strong as was displayed during this conflict and were now convinced this war would be long and bloody.

It also was a pivotal point in the military career of Ulysses S. Grant. Like Lincoln , Grant was an ordinary man of simple means with his share of personal failures. At the start of the Civil War Grant was working at his fathers tannery in Galena IL after failing at other business ventures and resigning from the army for alleged drunkenness. Grant volunteered to serve the Union with the primary goal of ending the war as quickly as possible. His first successes  were somewhat bloodless, capturing two Confederate forts in  Tennessee. Shiloh however was a different matter – Grant was caught off guard by a surprise Confederate attack which almost destroyed his army and pushed him back to the banks of the Tennessee River. However, rather than retreating overnight , Grant, with fresh reinforcements decided to attack the next day and defeat the Confederate army that almost defeated him the day before. Grant never wavered in his confidence that he would win the battle even though all around him felt they were whipped. Grant believed in his troops and believed in himself. Grant went on to win other major victories with the same self-confidence and perseverance which propelled him to become General-in-Chief of all the Union armies and ultimately into the White House as our 18th President.

Had Grant followed the course of other Union Generals and retreated from the field, there is no doubt his military career would have been over and the outcome of the Civil War would have been dramatically different.


by Andy Mateja

When Lee evacuated Richmond and Petersburg the night of April 2nd 1865, he was fighting for his life and that of his army. Grant knew the end game was at hand and pushed his forces to cut off Lee before he joined forces with the other remaining Confederate Force in North Carolina under Joe Johnston which WAS Lee’s intention with the hope of first defeating Sherman’s army pursuing Johnston and then turning back and defeating Grant which was a one-in-a-million chance.
Lee was almost successful in escaping Grant except he had to give up one full day to forage for food for his men because the food train that was supposed to be waiting in Danville VA never arrived. This allowed Grant’s forces under Sheridan to catch up and close the trap.
After Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, many of his troops wanted to go on fighting guerrilla style from the hills and valleys. Lee would have none of it and told his troops and later the rest of the South to accept the surrender and become peaceful citizens of the United States once again.
Grant also showed magnanimity to his defeated foe- After Lincoln’s death, the Union government leaders wanted to arrest Lee and charge him with treason. Grant , the hero of the Civil War and most popular person in the North, furiously opposed that and threatened to resign his commission if they harassed Lee in any way. The threats of arresting Lee immediately ceased. Both Lee and Grant were AMERICANS with one in defeat who, like Lincoln, wanted to bind the nations wounds while the other in victory, refused to gloat or abuse his defeated foe.

by Andy Mateja

The left wing media made Governor McDonnell’s recent declaration of Virginia’s Confederate History Month an issue about slavery. Nothing could be further from the truth, as McDonnell only wanted to create a forum to increase tourism in Virginia. Virginia was the most famous state for Civil War battles with more pivotal ( and bloody) battles here than anywhere else. More battlefields are preserved in Virginia that any of the other TEN states that made up the Confederacy.

Also Virginia did NOT secede from the Union with the original seven states – it joined in later AFTER Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. The people of Virginia, realizing the Northern armies would have to travel through their state to wage war against the other southern states, were more interested in protecting their homes and farms than preserving slavery.

Also, contrary to popular belief, only 5% of Southerners owned slaves. Most Southerners were fighting for states rights- not to preserve slavery. WHY would they risk their lives and fight on for FOUR years when most of them never owned a slave ?????


by Andy Mateja

“April 14th was the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
With the recent surrender of Lee’s army earlier in the week, Lincoln and his wife Mary decided to go to the theatre and “unwind” for the first time in four years. This is where assassin John Wilkes Booth violently ended Lincoln’s life. Assassinating Lincoln was not Booths original plan – he originally wanted to kidnap him in the fall of 1864 to hold as a hostage for the release of Confederate prisoners at Camp Lookout Md. Lincoln was going to be snatched during one of his regular trips to the Old Soldiers home which he often did with aides or security (no Secret Service existed then).The timing did not work out for Booth and with the surrender of Robt E Lee and the collapse of the Confederacy, Booth modified his plans and decided instead to assassinate Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State William Seward and General U.S. Grant. Booth wanted to leave the victorious Union without their top government leaders.
Booths revised plan also went awry – the assassin chosen for Vice President Johnson got cold feet and Grant, who was expected to go with Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre, decided at the last minute to go to Burlington New Jersey to visit his son. Booth’s assassin followed Grant and his wife all the way to the train station and chose not to do the deed. Lincoln was also supposed to have a guard outside the door of his President’s Box at Ford’s Theatre who decided instead to remain in the War Dept telegraph office to monitor communications regarding the rapidly ending Civil War. Lincoln did finally find a couple to share the Presidents Box with him and Mary at Ford’s Theatre. Booth had prearranged entrance to the Presidents box earlier that day and drilled a hole in the door so he could see if Lincoln had bodyguards. At a little after 10:00PM that night booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head and escaped by jumping onto the stage while breaking his ankle. Booth escaped from Washington DC on the only bridge not guarded by Union sentries that night. Lincoln remained in a coma for nearly 9 hours as the bullet could not be removed. He died at 7:22AM on April 15th. Booth and several of his accomplices were hunted down and caught or killed- Booth himself was shot hiding in a barn on April 26th. Other accomplices were tired and found guilty of the assassination and a several were hanged – including Mary Surratt the first woman executed in American History.
The strain on Mary Lincoln was unbearable -first watching three of her four sons die and now her husband murdered right in front of her eyes. Many believed this was the final straw that drove her into madness. Her older son Robert, had her committed to an asylum a few years later.
Lincoln’s life was cut short just before he had the opportunity to bind up the nations wounds. He wanted the Southern states welcomed back into the Union without malice or bitterness, but that was not to be. The hatred toward the South intensified after Lincoln’s death which made the Reconstruction years some of the worst in American History. Lincoln did succeed in his goal of ending slavery –albeit posthumously. After Lincoln won reelection in Nov 1864, he instructed Congress to fast track the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery which they did and forwarded to the states for ratification in June 1865. Lincoln was truly a great man – As Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said at the moment of Lincoln’s death “Now He Belongs to the Ages”