Alexander was willing to objectively evaluate and criticize prominent Confederate officers, including Robert E. The result is a clear-eyed assessment of the long, bloody conflict that forged a nation. The memoir opens with Alexander, recently graduated from West Point, heading to Utah to tamp down the hostile actions of Mormons who had refused to receive a territorial goverr appointed by President Buchanan. A few years later, Alexander finds himself on the opposite side of a much larger rebellion--this time aligned with Confederates bent on secession from the Union.
In the years that follow, he is involved in most of the major battles of the East, including Manassas, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. Alexander describes each battle and battlefield in sharp detail. Few wartime narratives offer the insight and objectivity of Alexander's Military Memoirs of a Confederate. Civil war buffs and students of American history have much to learn from this superb personal narrative.
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Lee's artillery commander for most of the Civil War. After the Confederate surrender, he served as an executive at various railroad companies and became a respected author. Albert Sidney Johnston in what was then called the Mormon War. In the Mormons had refused to receive a governor of the territory, appointed by President Buchanan , and assumed a hostile attitude. Johnston was sent with about men to install the new governor, Alfred Cumming of Georgia.
The Mormons took arms, fortified the passes of the Wasatch Mountains , and captured and burned trains of supplies for the troops. The near approach of winter decided the War Department to halt Johnston and put him in winter quarters at Fort Bridger , east of the Wasatch, until he could be heavily reenforced in the spring. Six columns of reenforcements were ordered from [ 2 ] Fort Leavenworth , and, of these, our detachment and the 6th Infantry composed column No.
Our column was ordered to open a new route, following the South Platte to Lodge Pole Creek , and up that stream to its headwaters in the Southern Black Hills , and thence, via Bridger's Pass, to join the old road a short distance east of Fort Bridger.
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Only Fremont , some years before, had ever gone through by that route, and it was thought to be materially shorter. When we got into the mountains we found it necessary to leave the 6th Infantry in camp, and to go ahead with our company to make a practicable road. We also had to ferry, using iron wagon bodies as boats, the Laramie , the North Platte , and Green rivers. Fort Bridger was reached on Aug. The new route proved to be 49 miles shorter than the South Pass road. Brigham Young , on seeing the large force prepared to install his rival, Gov. Cumming , had wisely concluded to submit and forego his dream of independence.
Perhaps he was the wisest leader of a people seeking freedom, of all his generation. At first, the Mormons deserted their homes, and proposed to burn them and migrate to Mexico. Neither Confederate nor Boer was more devoted to his cause than the Mormons to their own. But Brigham Young knew when the time to surrender had come, and he deserves a monument for knowing it and acting upon the knowledge; even though by doing so he greatly disappointed many young officers, myself among them, anxious to see active service.
Meanwhile an important Indian war had broken out in Oregon , and the detachment of our company which had been left at West Point was now on its way there via the Isthmus under Lts. Casey and Robert. Orders had, therefore, been issued recalling our detachment to West Point , and directing the 6th Infantry to march on by land to Oregon. On Aug. We lay over eight Sundays, and one day at Laramie , and made [ 3 ] 47 marches averaging 22 miles each.
The longest march was 27 miles. These figures are of interest for comparison with marches made on special occasions in the war. The conditions of the march were the most favorable possible, being over good roads, in good weather, by a small body, with all ammunition and knapsacks carried in a train of nearly empty wagons, and officers and men all anxious to make a quick trip. Distances were carefully measured by an odometer. Rests during the march were about 10 minutes in each hour, and the average rate of movement on good ground was a mile in 20 minutes.
From Leavenworth we took a boat to St. The Plains at this period were in their pristine wildness, and I had enjoyed the march greatly. Buffalo and antelope were abundant, and I was fond of hunting. The Indians were armed but with bows and arrows, and dressed only in breech clouts, blankets, feathers, and paint.
Gold was first discovered on Cherry Creek , near what is now Denver , during this summer, and on our return we met the earliest emigrants going out to that section. Within two years there was a considerable city there, with theatres and daily papers. I remained at West Point a year as Assistant Instructor in Engineering, and during the summer of was put in charge of the Department of Fencing and Target Practice. In Oct. Myer to experiment with a system of military signals which he had devised and offered to the War Department. It was based upon the use of Baine 's telegraphic alphabet, which formed the letters by the use of only two elements — dot and dash.
The Morse alphabet uses four—dot, short dash, long dash, and interval between dashes.
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Myer had originally suggested its use as a language for the deaf and dumb, when he was a medical student. By the waving of anything to the left for dot, and to the right for dash, any letter could be indicated by a few waves. For three months we experimented with flags, torches, and glasses between Fort Hamilton and Sandy Hook , and, in Jan. A bill was introduced into Congress to adopt the system and Myer and I were directed to exhibit it to the Military Committees.
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I was also assigned to temporary duty on a board of officers experimenting with breech-loading rifles, of which there were several models being offered to the War Department. By April, , the Signal Bill having been favorably reported, I was relieved from special duty and ordered back to West Point , but was given a leave of absence for 60 days. Soon after returning to West Point I was ordered to relieve Lt.
Military Memoirs Of a Confederate
Robert at Fort Steilacoom in Washington Territory with the detachment of our company. All steamers of those days were side wheelers. The post was commanded by Col. Silas Casey of the 9th Infantry, and garrisoned by two companies of the 9th Infantry and our detachment of 36 Engineer troops under Lt. Thomas L. There were no duties but those of company routine.
The post was a very pleasant one, the woods and waters abounded in game and fish, the climate was mild and open, and the fall and winter passed rapidly.
But it was a period of great anxiety to Southern officers whose native states, after debating the question of secession, began one after another to take the step. There was generally little active interest taken by army officers in political questions, but, with few exceptions, the creed was held that, as a matter of course, in case war should result from secession, each officer would go with his state.
In Feb. There seemed then, however, strong probability of a peaceful separation.
In March came orders for the return of our detachment to West Point. No vessel was then running to any port in Puget Sound , and we had to wait until special arrangements for our transportation could be made. Our Quartermaster Department, however, maintained an armed vessel, the Massachusetts , upon the Sound to keep off invasions of the Stikane Indians , who made raids [ 5 ] from Alaska in their immense war canoes. This vessel was directed to take us to Port Townsend , and there the Cortes , which ran between San Francisco and Vancouver's Island, would call and get us.
We sailed from Steilacoom City in the afternoon of April 9, Four years later, to an hour, I saw Gen. Lee ride back to his lines from Appomattox Court House, where he had just surrendered his army. On April 12 we took the Cortes , and, after touching at Squimault and Portland , we reached San Francisco on the 20th. We were too late to catch the Panama steamer of that date, as we had hoped, and the next boat was May 1. As our steamer made fast to the wharf all my personal plans were upset. A special messenger, waiting on the wharf, came aboard and handed me an order by telegraph and Pony Express relieving me from duty with my company, and ordering me to report to Lt.
I was very sorry to receive this order, as it deprived me of transportation, leaving me, with my wife, over miles from home by the only available route, and it precipitated my own resignation, which I might have reasonably delayed until I was back in the East. But there was now no longer any doubt that war was inevitable, and, indeed, within a day or two the Pony Express and telegraph line brought news of the fall of Fort Sumter.
So when I reported to McPherson , in obedience to my orders, I told him that I must resign and go with my state, and I begged that he would forward my resignation, and at the same time give me a leave of absence, which would allow me to go home and await the acceptance of my resignation there. He had authority to give such leave, and, unless he gave it, I would be compelled to remain in San Francisco , which would detain me at least two months.
While McPherson proved himself afterward to be a great soldier, he was also one of the most attractive and universally beloved and admired men whom I have ever met. His reply to my request was like a prophecy in its foresight, and its [ 6 ] affectionate kindness appealed to me very deeply. I have always remembered the conversation vividly. But don't go. These urgent orders to stop you here are meant to say that, if you are willing to keep out of the war on either side, you can do so. They mean that you will not be asked to go into the field against your own people, but that you will be kept on this coast, upon fortification duty, as long as the war lasts.
Totten likes you and wants to keep you in the Corps.
Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative by Edward Porter Alexander
That is what these orders mean. This war is not going to be the ninety days affair that papers and politicians are predicting. Both sides are in deadly earnest, and it is going to be fought out to the bitter end. If you go, as an educated soldier, you will be put in the front rank. God only knows what may happen to you individually, but for your cause there can be but one result. It must be lost. Your whole population is only about eight millions, while the North has twenty millions. Of your eight millions, three millions are slaves who may become an element of danger. You have no army, no navy, no treasury, and practically none of the manufactures and machine shops necessary for the support of armies, and for war on a large scale.
You are but scattered agricultural communities, and you will be cut off from the rest of the world by blockade. Your cause must end in defeat, and the individual risks to you must be great. On the other hand, if you stay out here, you will soon be left the ranking engineer officer on this whole coast. Every one of the older officers will soon be called East for active service, and there will be casualties and promotion, and probably increase of the Corps.
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Meanwhile you will have every chance to make a reputation for yourself as an engineer, and you will have charge of this big Lime Point reservation, about 10, acres, all covered with wild oats. Buy a flock of sheep and put on it, hire a Mexican to herd them, and in four years you will be a rich man. The city of San Francisco , too, is filling in water lots, and the Engineer officers are consulted in fixing the harbor lines. This will give you information and opportunities in making good investments.
Briefly, remaining here you have every opportunity for professional reputation, for promotion, and for wealth. Going home you have every personal risk to run, and in a cause foredoomed to failure. It made me realize, as I had never done before, the gravity of the decision which I had to make. But one consideration was inexorable: I must go with my people.
But my situation is just this. My people are going to war. They are in deadly earnest, believing it to [ 7 ] be for their liberty. If I don't come and bear my part, they will believe me to be a coward. And I shall not know whether I am or not. I have just got to go and stand my chances. I never saw him again after our sad parting on the dock, for, as he had foreseen, he was ordered East, and, having been made a major-general and won high distinction, was killed at Atlanta in July, My resignation was duly accepted, and notice reached me in August, before the mails to the South through Kentucky were entirely discontinued.
We sailed on May 1 in the Golden Age , crossed the Isthmus on the 14th, and arrived in New York on steamer Champion on the 24th, having lost two days in a severe gale. We landed early, and had intended remaining in New York for a day or two, but while we had been upon our journey, events had been in progress. President Lincoln had called for 75, troops. All of the border states had refused to furnish troops, and had taken part with those which had seceded, and a small Federal army had been collected at Washington.
On the night before our arrival a part of this force was marched across into Virginia , and occupied Alexandria.
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