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    Our 41th Year 
    Meets Fourth Tuesday, January-November/Founded March 1964 
    Fletcher Branch Library, H & Buchanan (East of University Ave.), 
    Little Rock 
    Program at 7 p.m. 
    VOL. XLI, No. 10,
    Randy Baldwin, President  /  Charles O. Durnett, Editor, 
    Dues $15 Per Year VISITORS WELCOME! 


    May 2, 1862

    "I See Nothing"


    William J. Ikerman

    In the spring of 1862, western Union forces followed their victory at the Battle of Shiloh with an advance into northern Alabama by an 8,000-man division commanded by Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel. One of Mitchel's brigade commanders was Col. John Basil Turchin, a Russian known as "the Mad Cossack" who had brought his European method of brutally pillaging enemy civilians with him when he immigrated in 1856. Early in the war, Turchin's brigade, composed of the 18th Indiana Regiments, had already earned a reputation for unscrupulous foraging and for being "very much in the habit of taking everything they wanted..."

    During the middle of April, the 18th Ohio had occupied the prosperous little Alabama town of Athens, whose population was about 900. On May 1, a 112-man Confederate cavalry force arrived at Athens and forced the Ohioans to make a hasty retreat to Huntsville. The cavalrymen "were greeted with cheers & a waving of hats & handkerchiefs by the citizens on the square." Reports indicated that some of the townsfolk may have fired on the fleeing Yankees from the windows of their houses.

    The next morning Turchin and his entire brigade marched into Athens without opposition, for the Confederate horsemen had left as rapidly as they had arrived. What happened next has become known as the "Rape of Athens". Turchin assembled his men and told them: "I shut my eyes for two hours. I see nothing." He then rode to a meadow outside of town and stayed there for the remainder of the day as his soldiers looted the town and terrorized its citizens.

    After rampaging through stores and filling their pockets with jewelry and money, the soldiers plundered private homes. At least one girl was raped, and the violent behavior of the soldiers caused a pregnant woman to suffer a miscarriage and die.

    TURCHIN, John Basil, or Ivan Vasilevitch Turchininoff, soldier, born in the province of Don, Russia, 30 January, 1822. He entered the artillery-school at St. Petersburg in 1836, was graduated in 1841, and entered the horse-artillery service as an ensign, he participated in the Hungarian campaign, in 1849 entered the military academy for officers of the general staff, was graduated in 1852, and was assigned to the staff of the Imperial guards. During the Crimean war he was promoted till he reached the grade of colonel, was senior staff-officer of the active corps, and prepared the plan that was adopted for the defence of the coast of Finland. He came to the United States in 1856, and was employed in the engineer department of the Illinois Central railroad company until 19 June, 1861, when he was appointed colonel of the 19th Illinois volunteers.


    Jim Ikerman was born and raised in Selma, Alabama and served four years in the USAF and 11 years Alabama Army National Guard. He holds a Bachelor and Master degree in History from Auburn University, with work passed the masters at the University of Alabama and USMA West Point, New York.

    <>He married the Carol Sue Cruse Ikerman of Little Rock and have a total of 14 children and grandchildren.  He retired from the University of North Alabama, Florence Alabama after 38 years in the classroom. 


    Top : A one pound U.S. Ketchum grenade - Patented by William F. Ketchum of Buffalo, NY. 1861
    Bottom: A 2-1/2" C.S. Selma Arsenal Grenade - Inventor unknown.




    During the Civil War, two kinds of hand grenades were made, but they saw little use in combat. One of them, patented in August 1861, carried a percussion cap and an activating "plunger" that was not inserted until it was about to be thrown. Rated as effective at a distance of about twenty-six yards, this explosive piece was known by the name of its inventor, Ketchum.

    A more sophisticated grenade, "the Excelsior," was developed in 1862 by W. W. Hanes. Its cast-iron shell held fourteen nipples, to each of which a percussion cap was attached before it was thrown. Hanes insisted, correctly, that at least one cap was sure to trigger an explosion. In practice, men trying to use his device often hit a cap accidentally and had a hand or arm blown off. As a result, it seems never to have been used in battle.

    Soldiers who may or may not have heard of the Ketchum grenade or the Excelsior sometimes improvised similar weapons. At Vicksburg, Confederates in Louisiana units stuck short, lighted fuses into 6 and 12-pounder shells, then rolled them into ranks of Union sappers.

    One demonstration of this weapon was enough to make believers of opponents. Confederate Captain John M. Hickey said that when one of the city's forts was stormed, "the air was made black with hand grenades which were thrown at us by every Federal soldier who got inside the works." Similar explosive devices were made on the spot by Federals at Knoxville.

    Describing some of the action near Chattanooga, Union Colonel P. C. Hayes said an assault by troops under Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet reached a deep ditch dug by Federals. Confederates, he said, jumped into the ditch in order to raise scaling ladders.

    According to him, "This action was fatal to them. Our men, being unable to reach them with their heavy guns, lit the fuse of the shells, which they threw by hand into the ditch, where they exploded, slaughtering the helpless occupants by the wholesale."

    Records do not indicate the number of engagements in which improvised explosives were rolled or thrown against foes. Nevertheless, they were employed frequently enough to show that although technology to produce suitable hand grenades did not yet exist, the concept behind these weapons was fully developed by men in both gray and blue.

    "Billy Yank" and "Johnny Reb" got into a cannon ball "game" in 1861 that lasted for 4 terrible years. Several hundred thousand cannon balls were "thrown" from cannon during that time. Anybody who "caught" one usually lost, or at best, was put on the injured reserve list for a lengthy spell.

    There were other projectiles that did not require a cannon or gun to be thrown. These small explosive devices were hand held and hand thrown, and at times, they were literally played catch with. They were called "grenades" and were used by troops both within and without fortifications and from boat/ship to ship/boat. The throwers sometimes saw the same projectiles they had just lobbed at the other guy coming right back at them...and exploding!

    Ignition of the charge in the small round Selma Arsenal made Confederate grenade shown above was through a paper time fuse stuck in a tapered wood fuse plug. Lighting the fuse, prior to throwing it, had to be problematical.

    The thrower had to have some means of igniting the fuse, and things had to be relatively dry. It also had some other drawbacks such as blowing up in one's hands if held too long or it being thrown back by the enemy, if left sputtering too long at their feet.

    They were also catchable on the fly. I have not read or heard any stories or reports of this grenade being used, let alone, thrown back. Per Dickey & George's "Field Artillery Projectiles of the Civil War," spherical grenades of this type have been found in the Alabama River at the site of the Selma Arsenal and one was found on the site of the siege of Blackely, Alabama. Scattered reports of other finds have also been reported. 

    The Ketchum grenade utilized a firing cap set upon a nipple within the projectile body to ignite it's charge. A slightly convex metal plunger, at the nose of the grenade, had to be depressed through the striking of something hard and solid to drive it back upon the nippled firing cap. A small pressure spring attached to the side of the plunger stem held the plunger in place during flight. The flight was stabilized by 4 thin cardboard like fins set into a wood tail-piece protruding from the rear of the projectile. The wood tail-piece also held the powder charge within the grenade in place.

    The Ketchum grenade is known to have been used in Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. It was also carried on U.S. ironclads. Fort Desperate at Port Hudson was one scene where the opposing troops played catch with them. The defending Confederates picked up the initial salvo which failed to explode and threw them back at the Union attackers where they did explode.

    The Confederates laid blankets behind the parapet and the grenades fell harmlessly on them. They then threw them down, with some force, into the moat at the hapless Yanks gathered there. They apparently worked there but over 100 Ketchum 3 and 5 pounder grenades were recovered at Port Hudson but not one grenade fragment was found indicating that the success rate of this weapon left something to be desired. 

    It was not at all fool-proof but offered proof of a foolish design and made fools of those who approved of its testing and use. Eventually, as history has proved, man would get it more or less right and the game of throwing and catching grenades would become a lot less fun.



    November 22, 2005

    Dave Gruenewald

    Pat Cleburne's Ireland


    The Election of Officers

    December 2005

    No meeting Scheduled in December

    We Who Study Must Also Strive To Save!


    Randy Baldwin, President -

    Don Hamilton, Vice President -

    Brian Brown, Treasurer -

    Chas. Durnette, Secretary/Editor -

    (If you are interested in being an officer for the coming year,
    give Don Hamilton a call, or talk to him at the meeting.)



    If you missed last months program and the story of the three stooges of Vicksburg, you missed an excellent program.

    Many thanks to Historian Terry Winschel, who has served at Vicksburg National Military Park since 1977.

    Arsenal News

    Don Hamilton reports that Macarthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, as of the second week in October has surpassed the attendance for the entire 12 months of 2004 (24,250). 

    There are several events coming in October and November: Big Boo-seum Bash on October 31 and the site dedication for the Korean War Memorial on Nov. 12. This year will mark the fourth straight year of increases in our on-site attendance. 



    Massard Prairie Battlefield Park

    Fort Smith, Arkansas

    Massard Prairie Battlefield Park is located near the intersection of Red Pine and Morgans Way in Fort Smith, Arkansas. To reach the battlefield, take Geren off Highway 45 in southeast Fort Smith and then turn right on Red Pine. Red Pine ends at its intersection with Morgans Way. The battlefield is to the right.  <>


    Confederate Soldiers

    Buried In Arkansas


    by Rena M. Knight lists over 8400 Confederate Soldiers representing all Confederate states. Sources include tombstone inscriptions, archival film and over 120 cemetery books were researched. The book contains a brief background history, illustrations, poetry, a map of Arkansas counties and a comment column with additional information.

    Price:               $ 39.00
    Availability:    in stock
    352 pages 81/2 by 11 Soft Bound
    Arkansas residents add 9.25% sales tax


    Additional Civil War

    Soldiers In Arkansas

    by Rena M. Knight is in two volumes when combined contain over 5,000 new entries with biographical information on Confederate and Union soldiers. Within the combined volumes are images of 160 soldiers and veterans. Many veterans mention their war experiences. Civil War narratives and images of that era have also been included.

    Vol. 1.....350 pages 81/2 by11 Soft Bound

    Vol. 2.....344 pages 81/2 by 11 Soft Bound

    Arkansas residents add 9.25 % sales tax.
    Price:     $ 78.00
    Availability:       in stock


    Civil War Soldiers Buried

    In Arkansas'

    National Cemeteries

    by Rena M. Knight lists over 6460 (8% Confederate) Civil War soldiers buried in Arkansas' three National Cemeteries, located in Little Rock, Fayettville and Ft. Smith. Exact grave sites are listed. Sources Include the 1867 Military Roll of Honor, tombstone inscriptions and computerized cemetery records. Maps of the cemeteries and histories are included. Civil War burial sites list soldiers who also died after the war's completion.

    166 pages 81/2 by 11 Soft bound
    Arkansas residents add 9.25% sales tax.
    Price:     $ 29.00
    Availability:       in stock

    Contact Info
    Please remit payment to
    RMK Publishing Co
    512 Ricky Raccoon Dr.
    Jacksonville, Arkansas 72076
    Email address
    Please include RMK Publishing in subject line.

    Shipping and Handling charges are $3.00 for the first book and $1.50 for each additional book. Arkansas residents include 9.25% sales tax.





    Jim Ikerman and Col. Turchin

    The battle goes on...  Help if you can...