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Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

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Our 45th Year  
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November 
Founded March 1964 

Second Presbyterian Church

600 Pleasant Valley Drive

Little Rock  
Program at 7 p.m.   
Jan Sarna, President 

Rick Meadows, Editor /   
Dues $20 Per Year 

“I am too late”

Joseph E. Johnston


Terry Winschel

And the fall of Vicksburg 

Terry Winschel, historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, will present the monthly program at the . His talk is titled: 

“I am too late.” Joseph E. Johnston and the fall of Vicksburg.  

Terry Winschel is a native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Pennsylvania State University; with graduate degrees from Mississippi College. A 33-year veteran of the NPS, he has served at Gettysburg NMP, Fredericksburg NMP, and Valley Forge National Historical Park.  Terry is the 2004 recipient of the Nevins-Freeman Award by The Civil War Roundtable of Chicago. 

His works include:  

  • The Corporal’s Tale, 1979.

  • Alice Shirley and the Story of Wexford Lodge, 1993.

  • The Fall of the Confederate Gibraltar: the Vicksburg Campaign, 1999.

  • The Civil War Diary of a Common Soldier: William Wiley of the 77th Illinois Infantry, 2001.

  • Vicksburg is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River. With William Shea, 2003.

  • Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, 2004.

 Winschel has also written for Blue & Gray magazine (fall 2000) and for the National Park Civil War Series.  (NPCWS) 2007

 The Importance 

In his book, Vicksburg is the Key, Winschel writes, “The struggle for the Mississippi River was the longest and most complex campaign of the Civil War. It was marked by an extraordinary diversity of military operation, including naval engagements, cavalry raids, amphibious landings, pitched battles, and the two longest sieges in American history.” Coupled with the defeat at Helena and Gettysburg in the same week, the Confederacy never recovered. Much need supplies from the Trans-Mississippi Theater were curtailed with the loss of Vicksburg. The Federal forces now had complete control of the Mississippi River, cutting the South in half.  

Abraham Lincoln recognized Vicksburg’s significance. In a strategy session with some of his military officers, the Union President pointed to a map and commented, “See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key. Let us get Vicksburg and all that country is ours. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” (NPCWS PG 3) 

The Battles 

While most battles fought during the Civil War lasted for the most part only one to three days, the Campaign for Vicksburg lasted for months and encompassed many battlefields, cities, bluffs, and rivers.  

Beginning with Sherman’s action at Chickasaw Bayou in December 27,1862 and concluding with the ending of the siege of Port Hudson on July 25, 1863 daring raids like that of Col. Benjamin Grierson on April 22, 1863 kept the Confederate forces off guard, not knowing where Grant was going to strike next. Grierson left La Grange, Tennessee on the Mississippi state line with 1,700 cavalry troopers zigzagging down the eastern part of the state and tore up tracks along the Southern Mississippi Railroad at Newton Station and destroying two trainloads of ammunition bound for Vicksburg. Confederate Cavalry were dispersed in north Mississippi watching for Grant’s next move. Pemberton had been weakened by the transfer of Van Dorn’s horseman to Braxton Bragg. Pemberton resorted to using infantry to catch the fleet footed Grierson as he made it to Baton Rouge.  

Grant continued his daring by making the largest amphibious landing on U.S. soil south of Vicksburg and Grand Gulf between April 30 and May 1, 1863 at Bruinsburg.  Immediately 25,000 men from James McPherson Corp crossed the Mississippi River and were on the move. Instead of attacking Vicksburg from the south, Grant chose to strangle the Gibraltar of the South by cutting the rail lines from Jackson. Traveling northeast subsequent battles were fought at: Port Gibson on May 1, Battle of Raymond on May 12, and Battle of Jackson on May 14. Now Grant turned west along the Southern Railroad of Mississippi (present day I-20) and continued the pressure at Champion Hill on May 16, The Big Black River Bridge on May 17, before laying siege to Vicksburg on May 18.  

Our friend tonight Joseph E. Johnston

Joseph Eggleston Johnston was born in 1807 near Farmville, VA. He attended West Point and graduated in the Class of 1829. He fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars and was made Quartermaster-General in 1860. Johnston resigned his commission on April 22, 1861. During the battle of the first Bull Run, Johnston was able to move many of his troops from the Shenandoah Valley to support Beauregard at Manassas Junction. Following the battle at Bull Run, Johnston became involved in what would be a controversy with President Jefferson Davis over seniority. He thought that he should be the senior general due to the fact that he was the senior general to leave the old service.  Johnston was given command of the Department of Northern Virginia. Soon he was to face McClellan east of Richmond. At Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, he was wounded and Robert E. Lee was to assume command of the Army of Northern Virginia for the duration of the war. Upon his recovery, Johnston was given charge of the Department of the West, which included John C. Pemberton and the garrison at Vicksburg. This is where Terry will pick up the rest of the story. For details read pages 124-125 in his book.  

Following the Battle of Raymond along Fourteenmile Creek on May 12, the Confederates retreated thru the tree-shaded streets northeast toward Jackson. McPherson, tasting battle for the first time as a corps commander, lost 446 men, while Confederated Brig General John Gregg suffered 515, mostly from the Third Tennessee and Seventh Texas. This engagement played an important role in the Vicksburg campaign. After receiving McPherson’s exaggerated report of Confederate strength, Grant was reluctant to leave a sizable enemy force in his rear. Instead of wheeling north toward the Southern Railroad as he had originally planned, Grant decided to continue marching northeast, driving Gregg before him.  This movement would bring the Army of the Tennessee within striking distance of the Southern Railroad near Jackson, the state capital and a vital railroad intersection.  

Late in the afternoon of May 13, as Union columns converged on Jackson from two directions, a train arrived in the capital city carrying Confederate general Joseph Johnston.  Ordered to Jackson by President Davis, Johnston was supposed to use his vaunted military skills to salvage the deteriorating situation in Mississippi. Instead he demonstrated the defeatism that blemished his Civil War career.  Johnston was apprised of available troop strength and the condition of local fortifications.  He concluded with unseemly haste that all was lost, wiring his superiors in Richmond, “I am too late.” He directed Gregg to cover the withdrawal, then boarded a train and departed for Canton, twenty-five miles to the north. (Vicksburg is the Key PGs 124-125)


Thoughts on some of the Leaders

From epilogue, Vicksburg is the Key 

David G. Farragut – Flag Officer of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Became famous at Mobile Bay in 1864 when he shouted “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” 

Stephen D. Lee – Youngest Confederate Lieutenant General. After the war became President of what is today Mississippi State University. He helped to establish Vicksburg National Military Park and served as first chairman – only former Confederate to serve in such a position. He also served as commander of the United Confederate Veterans. 

James B. McPherson – Later succeeded Sherman in command of the Army of the Tennessee. In 1864 he was killed in action outside Atlanta, the only Union army commander to die in battle. Military installation was built in southwest Atlanta in his memory. It too will be killed on September 15, 2011 by the Department of Defense in the base realignment and closure.  

William T.Sherman  - Later succeeded Grant as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Perfected his concept of hard war, which was rehearsed in Mississippi in 1863 to his epic marches across Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65. 

John C. Pemberton – Resigned his general’s command after the surrender of Vicksburg and served as a lieutenant colonel of artillery until the war’s end. Lived out the remainder of his life in Philadelphia and died in 1881. His passing was largely ignored in the South. However, in 1917 a statue of Pemberton was unveiled in Vicksburg NMP; a signal of honor denied Joseph Johnston and a host of other Confederate generals. 

Kirby Smith – Continued in command of the Trans-Mississippi Department following the loss of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. After the war he served as chancellor of the University of Nashville, then as mathematics instructor at the University of the South. He died in 1893 and is buried on the campus at Sewanee, Tennessee. 

Richard Taylor – Was promoted to lieutenant general for his efforts in the Red River Campaign in 1864. He was the last Confederate general east of the Mississippi River to surrender. After the war, he worked tirelessly, using his personal friendship with Presidents Andrew Johnson and Grant to promote leniency toward the Southern states. He also penned Destruction and Reconstruction, one of the best memoirs of the Civil War. Taylor died in 1879. 


Shoppach House Historic Park

 The Shoppach House Historic Park will hold its annual Quilt Exhibit and Open House on Saturday, May 2, from 9:00am to 3:00pm.  The Shoppach House is the oldest house in Benton, having been built in 1852, and was headquartered by Union forces during the occupation of Benton during the Civil War. In April 1861, the ladies of Benton presented a flag to members of Company E, First Arkansas Infantry, as they went to Virginia. This unit arrived in time to participate in the first Battle of Bull Run. 

 Members of the Saline County Quilters Guild will be displaying their quilts in the Pilgrim Rest Church building on the park site.  Additionally, the Shoppach House will be open for tours and board members of the Shoppach House Historic Park will display heirloom quilts in the Shoppach House.   

The event is free of charge, and the park is located at the corners of Military and Main Streets in downtown Benton. 


By Rebecca B. Drake

  The Coker House, located on the Raymond-Edwards road three miles southeast of Edwards, is known for the role that it played during the Battle of Champion Hill. The one-story Greek Revival house was built circa 1852 by H. B. Coker who was a prominent planter in the area. After the Battle of Champion Hill, Coker and his family abandoned the house and took refuge in Alabama.

  The Coker House was one of five houses to play a prominent role during the Battle of Champion Hill. Other prominent houses on the battlefield included: Hiawatha, located on the Raymond-Edwards road near the crossing at Baker’s Creek; the Isaac Roberts House, headquarters of General John Pemberton, located a short distance north of the Coker House; the Cook House, located on the westward stretch of the Jackson-Vicksburg road; and the Champion House, located on the Jackson-Vicksburg road within sight of the Southern Railroad.

  Unfortunately, except for the decaying ruins of the Coker House, none of these houses can be seen on the battlefield today. The Champion House was burned by the Yankees soon after the Siege of Vicksburg. The Roberts House was bulldozed years ago, but the old cistern remains in the weeds. Another old cistern is all that survives from the original Cook House but the land was recently purchased by the Civil War Preservation Trust. Hiawatha, the only house left standing, was moved from the battlefield to the nearby city of Raymond where it was restored and is now a private residence. A pair of old Magnolia trees marks the site where the house once stood.

  On May 16, 1863, three Confederate divisions (Loring, Stevenson, and Bowen) commanded by General John Pemberton met General U. S. Grant’s army in the Midway Station area situated near the Southern Railroad, the Jackson-Raymond Road, the Raymond-Edwards Road, and Baker’s Creek. The encounter turned out to be a day-long battle with the tactical advantage shifting numerous times. By late afternoon, as the Confederates faced defeat, Pemberton ordered a retreat to the Big Black River near Bovina. During the retreat, General Lloyd Tilghman, (Loring’s Division) was killed as he defended the escape route across Baker’s Creek. His body was carried from the battlefield to nearby Hiawatha. During and after the battle, the Coker House was used as a Union hospital while Hiawatha served as a Confederate hospital.

   I saw the house in similar condition in the fall of 2007. House has now been razed. - (Editor)

  Around mid-century, the Coker House was bought by Cal Main Industries which later donated it to the Jackson Civil War Round Table. Mississippians and Civil War historians were hopeful that the house, one of Mississippi’s Civil War treasures, would be restored. In the year 2000, the house changed hands once again when the Jackson Civil War Round Table made the decision to donate the house and property to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. By this time, however, the house was in desperate need of repair and nature had begun to take its toll. By the year 2003, the cost of trying to save the historic structure had soared to almost two million dollars.

  Recently, in the December 2007 issue of the national newspaper Civil War News, a feature article by Deborah Fitts entitled, “Coker House to Come Down at Champion Hill Battlefield” stated the news that all Mississippians and Civil War historians hated to hear: “The Coker House, the last remaining structure to witness the battle of Champion Hill, was expected to be ‘deconstructed’ in November and placed in storage.” Sources say that a replica will be built in its place but this is yet to be determined.

  Mississippians and those passionate about Civil War history will bemoan the loss of the Coker House but will wait to see what plans are in the making to replace the structure. It is our dream that the Champion Hill battlefield will be developed in a way that will attract tourists to Mississippi while at the same time preserving the pristine qualities of one of the most famous battlefields in the South. With the combined efforts of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, the Civil War Preservation Trust, and the Vicksburg National Military Park this dream is sure to happen.

  Hopefully on Tuesday night, Terry Winschel can give us an update on the Coker House and the planned restoration project.


Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society

Thank you Jacksonville!

Steve Shore and Jack Danielson, with the RBBPS, made a presentation to the Jacksonville A&P Commission on Monday, April 20, requesting funding for 2 cannons for the seven acre core Battlefield Site. Each cannon sells for $6,200 which includes the cannon barrel and carriage. The A&P Commission has agreed to donate $5,700 to the purchase! Thank you….Thank you….Thank you….With funds already collected, the RBBPS needs $4,100 to complete the purchase of the 2 cannons.

When 41 individuals donate $100 each, the cannons can be ordered!

 In addition, the RBBPS is currently having a membership drive. Annual memberships are only $25. (For those interested in a Life Time Membership, the cost is $300) 

Send your membership payment and/or donation for the cannon to:

 Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society

100 Veterans Circle

Jacksonville, AR 72076

Work continues at the Battlefield. This winter, undergrowth and small trees have been removed. New fencing has been erected along Hwy 161. Plans are to construct two replica civil war era cabins and a barn by Christmas. Drive by and see the progress! 

Reed’s Bridge Battlefield is located on Hwy 161, just south of the junction of Hwy 161 and Hwy 294.


We look forward to seeing you Tuesday Night at the Roundtable Meeting!