Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Mississippi Earthquake of 1931

Shortly after 2 a.m. on December 16, 1811, much of the mid-south was hit by a massive earthquake. Centered near New Madrid, Missouri, the shocks were so violent that people in far-distant Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were awakened from their sleep and the tremors caused church bells to ring along the East Coast of the United States. In Savannah, Georgia, the trembling lasted about one minute, and according to a newspaper sounded like "a carriage passing over a paved path way." Closer to the epicenter, in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys, the earthquake did much more than simply wake people up. Throughout portions of Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee, in fact, the devastation was significant and the tremors were even felt inside Mammoth Cave. With several aftershocks in the coming days, the New Madrid earthquake was so powerful that the Mississippi River flowed backwards. Along the rivers, islands disappeared and large fissures produced giant waves which capsized boats, drowning an unknown number of people. At Vicksburg, banks of earth crashed into the river and the earthquake in places changed the course of the Mississippi, creating, among other things, Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee. 

Although the population in 1811 – at least among whites – was not great in the affected area, the quake certainly left an impression on those who experienced it firsthand. According to an eyewitness account in Missouri, “The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do—the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi...formed a scene truly horrible.” After the earthquake, many people believed that a comet seen before the quake had been a sign. Others, according to a Lexington, Kentucky, newspaper, reported that the calamity had been “foretold by the Shawanne [sic] Prophet, for the destruction of the whites.” If Tecumseh had anything to do with the earthquake, of course, it ultimately did little to stop the flow of white settlers into the region. While precise measurements had not yet been invented, the New Madrid earthquake is estimated to have been approximately 8.9 on the Richter Scale, easily among the most powerful to hit North America. In Mississippi, the effects of the New Madrid quake were less severe. 

Exactly 120 years later – on December 16, 1931 – Mississippi experienced the most powerful earthquake in the state’s recorded history. The earthquake occurred at 9:36 p.m. and measured between 4.7 and 5.0 of the Richter Scale. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Charleston, in Tallahatchie County, but the shock was felt over a 65,000 square mile area throughout north Mississippi and parts of Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Reporting on the event the next day, the editor of the Mississippi Sun newspaper in Charleston described the earthquake as “a deep, undefinable rumble like heavy trucks bumping over an uneven highway, accompanied by a heavy rattling of windows and doors.” According to W.L. Kennon, who was the physics and astronomy professor at University of Mississippi at the time, the tremors were the strongest felt in Oxford in more than twenty years. Minor damage was reported in Belzoni, Water Valley and Tillatoba, mostly limited to fallen chimneys or broken dishes. In Charleston, the most serious damage was to the Tallahatchie Agricultural High School. 

Built in 1917, the Tallahatchie Agricultural High School was one of a number of similar schools constructed in Mississippi in the early years of the 20th Century. The campus was comprised of three main buildings, including an administration building and two dormitories, all equipped with steam heat, electric lights and "sanitary closets," plus a full complement of farm buildings for hogs, cows and chickens. The first principal of the school (and one of the agricultural teachers) was Avery Benjamin (A.B.) Dille. Dille (left) played football at Mississippi A&M and earned a letter in 1910 as a halfback. From 1914 to 1916, he taught in the agricultural department and was the head football coach at Mississippi Normal College (now the University of Southern Mississippi), where he compiled a record of six wins, ten losses and one tie. In 1916, Dille’s team went 0-3, losing by a combined score of 193-0 to Meridian High School, Mississippi College and Spring Hill in Mobile.* After the 1916 season, the football program was suspended, not because of the losses but because of World War I and Dille took the job at Tallahatchie AHS the next year. A.B. Dille died in 1964 and is buried in Adams County. Engraved on his tombstone is the following inscription: "Athlete, Teacher of Our Youth, Devoted Husband and Father, Herdsman and Tiller of the Soil, Friend to All Mankind, Servant of The Lord." 

Like other agricultural high schools, the Tallahatchie AHS was a boarding school and offered a full curriculum of academic courses in addition to training in agriculture and home economics, all designed "to improve and uplift the rural life, to lessen drudgery, to increase comforts, to make more attractive the home and the school and to lead in the development of a sufficient and satisfying country civilization." Students enrolled were expected to work on the school's farm and in the upkeep of the school and, interestingly, had uniforms. Much like the modern debate over school uniforms, the school required them in order to "do away with any class distinction that might exist because of different financial circumstances of parents." Girls at Tallahatchie AHS wore plain white dresses in warm months and plain dark dresses during the winter, while boys were expected to wear overalls and have "one nice suit, properly cared for" for the whole year. In its catalogue, the school made clear to parents that "the wearing of extra fine and expensive clothing of any kind will not be allowed." In addition to academics, students were also expected to attend some church and Sunday School each week and were required to participate in devotional periods each morning. The religious instruction was necessary, according to the school's catalogue, since "no training is complete unless the head, the hand and the heart are trained." Tuition for the school was free to any students from Tallahatchie County and very affordable for those outside the county (in 1920 it was $2 per month). Boarding fees were based on how much food, heat, etc. were used by the students, with the cost divided equally among all boarders. 

As a result of the 1931 earthquake, the Tallahatchie AHS suffered more extensive damage than other buildings in the area, including cracked walls and foundations and several toppled chimneys. No students were injured in the disaster, however, as there were no students left at the school. In fact, the Tallahatchie Agricultural High School had already been closed because of another, much more cataclysmic event: the Great Depression. As a self-supporting school, parents simply could no longer afford even the modest fees and financial support from the Federal and state governments had dried up. In place of the students, the WPA established an office in the former administration building and over time the dormitory buildings were lost. The administration building still stands and is now the Newsome Funeral Home (above) in Charleston. 

The 1931 earthquake might have been the strongest thus far in Mississippi but it was certainly not the last. In 1955, for example, there was a seismic event on the Gulf Coast, shaking houses and rattling windows along a thirty-mile-wide strip and in 1967 two earthquakes were centered near Greenville. While tornadoes, hurricanes and floods account for most of the natural disasters in Mississippi, the reality is that tremors occur here on a frequent basis. Though widespread damage from an earthwork might seem unlikely, it would be wise to remember that there is danger lurking just beneath the surface.

Although only three games are listed officially, there were apparently other games scheduled but not played in 1916 and at least one scrimmage against Ole Miss. That game, against an established powerhouse, was a narrow 13-7 loss for Mississippi Normal. Unfortunately, the football media guide for USM incorrectly lists Coach Dille’s name as “Dillie.” 

Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Savannah newspaper:
(2) New Madrid:
(4) Dille:
(5) Tallahatchie AHS:
(6) Students:
(7) Newsome Funeral Home:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mahned Bridge

Constructed in 1903, the Mahned Bridge is Perry County is a one-lane truss bridge. One of the first bridges built across the Leaf River, the bridge connected several rural farming communities with the town of New Augusta and beyond to Hattiesburg. The bridge has an interesting history and its remote location has made the site a local favorite in years. In modern times, though, Mahned Bridge has earned a much more sinister reputation.

The small community of Mahned was named for a Mississippi Confederate veteran, Joseph Wyatt Denham, born in 1849. In May 1862, Denham enlisted in Co. F (known as the "Renovators") of the 7th Mississippi Infantry Battalion. A little over a year later, he and the rest of the regiment was engaged in the siege of Vicksburg as part of Hebert's brigade and was originally posted near Stockade Redan. After surrendering with the rest of Pemberton's Army, the 7th Mississippi Battalion served throughout the Atlanta Campaign and fought its last battle at Spanish Fort, Alabama, in April 1865. After the war, Captain Denham settled near the Leaf River to farm. Although the community which sprang up there might well have been named Denham, there was already a place by that name in Wayne County, so it was called Mahned instead, which is 'Denham' spelled backwards. Joseph Wyatt Denham died on May 20, 1923. He is buried in a family cemetery.

The Mahned Bridge was built by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, which was founded in 1889. CB&I built hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of bridges, water tanks and standpipes across the country during the late 19th and early 20th century. In addition to bridges and tanks, CB&I was involved in early oil exploration overseas and during World War II, because of the company’s expertise in welding, was selected to build Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs), used to carry troops and supplies throughout the war in both the European and the Pacific Theaters. The company, which is still in operation, was also known for its spherical natural gas storage tanks. Although long ago replaced by gas pipelines, the round storage tanks were at one time the best option for storing natural gas and were an iconic piece of the industrial landscape. One of these gas spheres was located in East Hampton, New York. Known locally as the “Big Blue Ball,” the sphere was built by CB&I for Fester Blount, a millionaire who owned the East Coast Coal and Combustible Gas Corporation. Blount wasn't just a businessman, however. He also had an interest in art and was a major benefactor of abstract artist Jackson Pollack, who lived in the area. In December 1951, Blount slipped on some ice while carrying a propane tank to his garage and it exploded. He died soon thereafter. Pollack was among those at his deathbed and Blount whispered to Pollack that he wanted him to make the gas sphere “your greatest work” of art. The abstract work (above) he produced could be seen for miles around. While art critics raved over it, most locals apparently hated it. In 1956, Pollack was killed in an auto accident while driving drunk. Killed with Pollack was a young lady who was not his wife. Within a week of Pollack’s death, his spherical artwork had been completely painted over, presumably by someone who had little appreciation for either his art or his lifestyle. Over the years, layer after layer of blue paint was applied to the ball and it has since been demolished, much to the chagrin of art historians. The potential value of the gigantic ball of art would perhaps have been in the millions.

CB&I ultimately built approximately 3,500 gas spheres around the world and called them “Hortonspheres” for one of the company’s founders, Horace Ebenezer Horton. Born in 1843 in Norway, New York, Horton had no formal training as an engineer. Instead, he attended school at the Fairfield Seminary in Fairfield, New York, where Professor James M. Hall taught a variety of subjects, including art, science, geology and physics. According to another student at Fairfield, Professor Hall had few amenities but was nonetheless a gifted teacher. Despite his home-made instruments, “he extended our imaginations into the realm of the mystical to make up for the lack of material symbols. Open-mouthed and wide-eyed we country swains and lassies sat in the old laboratory and listened to stories of the celestial bodies, or the atoms and molecules of mother earth, or the laws which govern the universe.” Apparently Professor Hall’s methodology worked for Horace Horton (left). Graduating about 1864, Horton moved with his family to Minnesota, where he quickly displayed his talent in bridge building. By 1866, at age 23, he constructed his first bridge, a 186-ft. wooden span at Oronoco, Minnesota. The next year, he was named the town surveyor in Rochester, a post he held for a decade. In the meantime, he continued to build bridges and began to develop the use of iron. He also started working with various types of storage tanks. In 1889, he moved to Chicago and formed the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company. Horton’s success with the company ultimately extended across the nation and the world. In Mississippi alone, CB&I built more than thirty water tanks and standpipes for towns and companies, including water tanks in Raymond (built in 1905) and Mendenhall. Horton died at his home in Chicago on July 29, 1912. In a professional engineering journal, Horton was mourned as “an engineer of fine intellect, sound accomplishment, and pleasing personality.” A pioneer in the use of iron and steel in construction, Horton is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Rochester, Minnesota. The house where he died still stands. Designed by architect John T. Long, the Horton House was based on the H.A.C. Taylor House in Newport, Rhode Island, among the first Colonial Revival style houses. The Horton House was recently listed for sale with a price tag in excess of $1,000,000. *

The Mayned Bridge in Perry County is one of the few surviving examples of Horace Horton’s work in Mississippi. Based on its engineering significance, the bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Unfortunately, Mahned Bridge has taken on a new and darker association than its historic significance. In 1993, seventeen-year-old Angela Lee Freeman of Petal, Mississippi, disappeared. Her 1984 Honda Accord was found abandoned at Mahned Bridge. Tests indicated that blood found on the car belonged to Angela and her shoes were located nearby. Then, two years later, Robbie Bond and William Hatcher, both from Hattiesburg, went missing. After Hatcher’s truck was located at Mahned Bridge, authorities searched the area and found three bodies buried in shallow graves behind a trailer owned by Kenneth Moody. The third body was later identified as Michael James Lee of Mobile, who had also been reported missing. Authorities charged Moody with two counts of capital murder and he was convicted and sentenced to two life terms without parole. Because of the circumstances surrounding the deaths, the planks of the bridge have since been removed. The disappearance of Angela Lee Freeman (above) remains unsolved.  

* Ironically, Horton had a Mississippi towboat named for him. In 1943, the Horace E. Horton collided with an LST (built by CB&I, the company he founded) in the Mississippi River below Cairo, Illinois. In a court ruling, both the LST and the towboat were found to be at fault in the collision. 

(1) Bridge:
(2) 7th Mississippi Battalion:
(3) CB&I:
(4) Pollack:
(5) Horton:
(6) Mendenhall tank:
(7) Freeman:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Colorful Cast of Characters: Vicksburg's Division Commanders

During the Vicksburg Campaign, approximately forty men served at some point in command of a division (which in Civil War terms consisted of two or more brigades). While brigade commanders (those in charge of two or more regiments) were the ones most directly engaged in tactical fighting, the failure or success of an army in the 19th century often depended on how well division commanders translated the orders of a corps or army commander to the brigade level. When taken as a group, the division commanders who served in both the Union and Confederate army during the Vicksburg Campaign was definitely a mixed bag as far as experience and ability is concerned, and there were quite a few characters to boot. 

Of the twelve Confederates and twenty eight Federals,* twenty-four were born in northern states, eleven in southern states, and two from the border states of Maryland and Kentucky, while three were of foreign birth. Of the twelve Confederates, two were from northern states: Samuel G. French, who moved to Mississippi before the war, and Martin Luther Smith. A native of New York, Smith (right) was an 1842 graduate of West Point and spent most of his career in the old U.S. Army in the south. A topographical engineer, he mapped the valley of Mexico City during the Mexican War, and then met and married a woman from Athens, Georgia. With secession, despite his northern birth, Smith was compelled by his “associations, feelings and interests” to join the Confederacy. Conversely, none of the Union officers were natives of southern states, but all three foreign-born generals enlisted in the Union Army. Of these, Peter J. Osterhaus was a European revolutionary who sought exile in the U.S. After attending military school in Berlin, Osterhaus served in the 29th Regiment of the Prussian Army. Only one general - Earl Van Dorn of Port Gibson - was a native Mississippian. 

When education is examined, there are some interesting developments. Eight received no formal education (although most studied for the law or were trained as tradesmen). Eighteen attended organized schools and several graduated from prestigious colleges and universities, principally Frank Blair (Princeton), Alvin P. Hovey (Darmouth), John Milton Thayer (Brown) and Dabney Maury (University of Virginia). Of the twelve Confederates, only William W. Loring received no formal education, although he did study for the law. Nine Confederates were graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (or 75%). However, just five of the twenty-nine Union division commanders were West Pointers, comprising only 17% of that group. Of course, formal military education isn’t necessarily an indication of ability on the field and it must be noted that during the Vicksburg Campaign many of the “volunteer generals” performed quite well – so well, in fact, that jealousies frequently erupted over the perceived superiority of West Pointers and the better opportunities they usually had for promotion. For example, of the three corps commanders in the Union army at Vicksburg, the only non-West Point graduate was Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand, who was sent packing by Grant during the siege and replaced by another West Pointer, Edward O.C. Ord. Fifteen of the division commanders were promoted to either corps command or independent command after the Vicksburg Campaign. Of these were seven Confederates: John C. Breckinridge, Samuel French, William W. Loring, Stephen D. Lee, Dabney Maury (who later commanded the defenses at Mobile), Carter Stevenson and W.H.T. Walker. Of the eight Union generals promoted to a higher command, only one – Andrew.J. “Whiskey” Smith – was a West Point graduate. 

While only fourteen graduated from West Point, twenty-three had some military experience prior to the Civil War. At least eleven served in the army during the Mexican War, while others spent time at various posts out west fighting Indians, or, like Samuel Ferguson (who would become a Confederate cavalry commander), in action against the Mormons in Utah. In Mexico, a number of the future generals earned praise for their bravery and had the wounds to show it. William W. Loring, despite his seeming inability to get along with his superiors in the Confederate Army, was brevetted a Lt. Col. after losing an arm at the battle of Chapultepec. After being wounded, Loring reportedly “laid aside a cigar, sat quietly in a chair without opiates to relieve the pain, and allowed the arm to be cut off without a murmur or a groan. The arm was buried on the heights by his men, with the hand pointing towards the City of Mexico.” Meanwhile, future Union General George W. Morgan (above), a West Point drop-out due to “scholastic difficulties,” was wounded twice in Mexico and was a brevet brigadier general for gallantry – the youngest officer to gain that distinction during the war. Morgan Lewis Smith, who was wounded at Chickasaw Bayou, also served in the army before the war, but under an assumed name. Running away from home at age twenty-one, Morgan served in the regular army for five years before signing on as a riverboat man on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. 

While the majority of these generals had some previous military experience and a number chose the army as a profession, there is a great variety of prewar civilian occupations among the group. Eleven were involved at some level in politics, while seven were practicing attorneys. None, perhaps, had a better political pedigree than John C. Breckinridge, who at age thirty-five became the youngest vice president in United States history. A lawyer, Breckingridge (left) won a seat in the Kentucky legislature in 1849, after which he served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. A Democrat, he reluctantly ran on James Buchannan’s ticket in 1856. Nominated for president in the 1860 election, a warrant for Breckinridge’s arrest was ordered by Washington authorities in 1861, despite the fact that he was a sitting U.S. Senator from a still-loyal state. By the battle of Shiloh, he was in command of a Confederate corps and during the Vicksburg Campaign commanded a division in Joseph E. Johnston’s so-called “Army of Relief.” 

Certainly not to be outdone on the political front, however, is John A. Logan of Illinois. Logan attended Louisville University and served in the Mexican War in a volunteer regiment. A Free-Soil Democrat from the southern part of the state, Logan was elected four times to the Illinois legislature and served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a supporter of the fugitive slave act, Logan’s loyalty, like Breckinridge’s, was questioned by radical abolitionists, but he enlisted in the Union army and was among the most capable of the division commanders in Grant’s army during the Vicksburg Campaign. Logan was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service at Vicksburg. After the war, he reentered politics, this time as a Republican, and served in Congress until his death in 1886. 

While Breckinridge and Logan had stellar political careers, others were not nearly so successful or as publicly-minded. The worst has to be James Madison Tuttle, who commanded a division in Sherman’s XV Corps during the siege. Tuttle, a native of Ohio, moved to Iowa in 1846 and opened a store. Elected sheriff and county treasurer in 1857, he joined the army and was fairly successful as a field commander. Tuttle, however, liked to mix soldiering with politics, and during the Vicksburg Campaign actively promoted his war record in a bid for governor of Iowa. Tuttle lost the race in 1863 but tried again in 1864, this time using the Meridian expedition as a backdrop for his campaign. He lost again. Then, in March, 1864, Tuttle (left) was sent to Natchez as post commander – and his actions there give an indication why he was not elected governor of Iowa. Tuttle basically pillaged the army’s bankroll in Natchez, extorted money from citizens, took bribes, and regularly arrested citizens of Natchez on trumped-up charges and then ransomed them back to their families. Along with a U.S. Treasury official, he also engaged in profiteering. Politicians and other officers, somewhat used to corruption, were nonetheless appalled at Tuttle’s open lack of concern for his crimes. Within two months, Secretary Stanton ordered that he be relieved of command and Tuttle went home to Iowa. In examining the books in Natchez, the army determined that Tuttle should be apprehended and prosecuted, but he never was. After the war, in fact, he was elected the Iowa legislature and invested in meat packing plants and southwestern mines. Tuttle finally died at one of his mines, the Jack Rabbit Mine in Arizona, in 1892. 

Other than soldiering and politics, at least five of these future officers worked as civil engineers, mostly in designing railroads. After the war, more would enter the growing field of railroad design and construction. One of the best railroad men was Grenville Dodge. After graduating from “Captain Partridge’s school” in Norwich, Vermont, Dodge was trained as a surveyor and engineer. During the war, he was frequently called on by his superiors to rebuild railroads in the theatre of operation and after the war, he used this experience to get a lucrative position with the Union Pacific Railroad, becoming the company’s chief engineer in 1866. By 1869, Dodge had sited and laid nearly 1,100 miles of rail (only thirty miles of which had to be upgraded by as late as 1933). In 1873, he formed a partnership with financier Jay Gould, and together they laid another 9,000 miles of track, including a line in Cuba. In 1901, Dodge’s personal fortune was estimated at $25 million. In addition to engineers, the group included an architect, four farmers, one banker, three teachers, a doctor, a jeweler, the owner of an iron works company, a realtor, a clerk and a canal boat owner. 

The architect was Confederate General John Bowen, among the most capable of the division commanders in either army. Bowen was a West Point graduate who, less than two years after receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, resigned from the army and moved to St. Louis where he established an architectural firm. With the coming of war, Bowen was captured with the pro-southern Missouri State militia and upon his release raised the 1st Missouri Infantry, one of the finest combat units in the Confederate army. Bowen (left) fought at Shiloh and in most of the Vicksburg Campaign engagements. In fact, it was Bowen who single-handedly directed the stubborn defense of Port Gibson against John McClernand’s XIII Corps, and his troops were frequently called on in the midst of crisis. Unfortunately, this fine combat officer died from a bout with dysentery just nine days after the fall of Vicksburg. 

Besides Bowen, six others died during the war or shortly thereafter. Of these, five (including Bowen) were Confederates. William Henry Talbot Walker was killed by a sharpshooter during the Atlanta Campaign, John Gregg was similarly killed in action in the defense of Richmond, and Earl Van Dorn was also killed in action, but of a different sort: Van Dorn was murdered in Spring Hill, Tennessee, in 1863, supposedly by a jealous husband named Dr. Peters (the facts are still in dispute). Union General Thomas E.G. Ransom is the only Union division commander to die of wounds during the war. Ransom (right), who before the war worked as an engineer for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in Vermont, was wounded no less than four times – at Charleston, Missouri, Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Sabine Crossroads in 1864, where he was severely wounded. Still, he managed to recover and lead the XVII Corps (James B. McPherson’s old corps) in pursuit of John Bell Hood through north Georgia and Alabama. After the pursuit ended, Ransom was placed on a stretcher and finally died from his as-yet unhealed wounds in Rome, Georgia. 

Thomas Welsh, another division commander during the Siege of Vicksburg, was killed as a result of the campaign in Mississippi, but not by a bullet. Instead, Welsh contracted a malarial disease while serving at Vicksburg and left active service to recover. He didn’t recover, however, and died on August 14, 1863 in Cincinnati. Before the war, Welsh was a merchant, canal boat owner, lock superintendent and Justice of the Peace in his native state of Pennsylvania. Marcellus M. Crocker (left), another fine combat commander, also succumbed to disease, although his death was slower. A longtime sufferer of tuberculosis, Crocker was relieved of duty and sent to New Mexico in hopes that a better climate might improve his condition. Returning to duty, supposedly improved, he nonetheless died in Washington in August, 1865. Frederick Steele only made it to 1868, when he suffered a somewhat ignominious death, falling out of a buggy while on vacation in California. Others left the scene not because of death but because of resignation or having been relieved of command. Of the Union commanders, seven did not remain in the service through the end of the war. In fact, both Issac Quinby and George Washington Morgan left before the end of the campaign, Morgan supposedly because he was opposed to the use of blacks as soldiers, although he had also been blamed by Sherman for the loss at Chickasaw Bayou. Quinby, a former professor of physics who led the unsuccessful Yazoo Pass Expedition, had been ill for some time and left after the initial assaults before Vicksburg’s defenses. Jacob Lauman was summarily dismissed from the army for the disastrous attack of Issac Pugh’s brigade during the Siege of Jackson by E.O.C. Ord and Grant. It is interesting to note than none of the Confederates resigned or were dismissed from the army following the conclusion of the campaign. 

For those who survived the war, many went on to lead interesting and productive lives. Quite a number entered politics, often using their military exploits to their advantage. Four former generals obtained posts as U.S. consuls to Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, France and Honolulu. William Sooy Smith, who resigned from the army for “health” reasons (curiously just after his resounding defeat at the hands of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Battle of Okolona in 1864), went on to become a very successful civil engineer, building the first all-steel bridge in the world at Glascow, Missouri, and having a hand in designing and building almost every skyscraper in Chicago until 1910. Eugene Carr, who commanded one of the XIII Corps divisions at Champion Hill, went on to become the nation’s most heralded Indian fighter. After his retirement, Carr (right) was interested in and helped develop the National Geographic Society. Peter J. Osterhaus, the German immigrant, returned to Europe as U.S. consul to France, but also opened a successful wholesale hardware business in St. Louis. Not all were as successful, however. John McArthur, owner of the Excelsior Iron Works in Chicago before the war, returned to Chicago, and, unable to restart his business, became Commissioner of Public Works. Unfortunately for McArthur, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 occurred on his watch and as postmaster of the city he was further embarrassed by the loss of Federal funds in a bank failure in which he was held personally liable. Francis Herron, after serving as U.S. Marshall in Louisiana during Reconstruction, apparently never made a go of it in the business world and died a pauper in New York City in 1902. 

While most Confederates returned to a quieter life than their Union counterparts, Dabney Maury was active in establishing the Southern Historical Society, served as the U.S. diplomat to Colombia and was a nurse in post-war years, while William H. “Red” Jackson built a successful horse-breeding farm at Belle Meade near Nashville, producing several champion racing horses. Perhaps the most interesting post-war career of all, though, was that of William W. Loring. As mentioned earlier, there is no doubt that Loring was a brave officer and at times displayed flashes of military ability, but Loring had real trouble getting along with his superiors during the Civil War. He had a well-publicized spat with Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862; when Jackson threatened to resign if Loring wasn’t removed, Loring was promptly sent west to Mississippi (and promoted). At the time, Jedediah Hotchkiss, Jackson’s famed mapmaker, noted that Loring struck him as “lacking in nearly all the qualities necessary for command of an army designed to carry on an offensive campaign…[that] he was always hesitating [in] what to do, was always suggesting difficulties in the way of active operations, and worse than all in my mind, he was always filling himself with brandy…” Certainly, Loring’s ability to get along with his superiors did not improve when he came west, as he openly despised Pemberton. Loring’s performance during the Vicksburg Campaign can best be described as inadequate and perhaps even insubordinate. Regardless, Loring survived the war and in 1869, at the recommendation of his old adversary William T. Sherman, accepted a post with the Khedive of Egypt. While not everything there was rosy, Loring (above left) spent the better part of a decade in Egypt and attained the rank of Fareek Pasha (or Major General) in the Egyptian Army. He also managed to visit at least eighteen countries on an extended tour of Europe and the Middle East. After his return to the U.S. in 1879, he published a book called A Confederate Soldier in Egypt in 1884.

In their final moments, most of the division commanders who served in the Vicksburg Campaign died of natural causes. Excluding those who died during the war and in the years immediately following, the average age at death, despite the grievous wounds many suffered as a result of combat, was an impressive 71 years old. Fourteen, in fact, lived long enough to see the 20th Century. Samuel W. Ferguson, who died in the State Hospital in Jackson, and Peter J. Osterhaus, who returned to his native country, both lived long enough to see yet another war break out – and once again, they were on technically on opposite sides, as Germany and the United States went to blows in World War I. 

* Included for consideration are both Earl Van Dorn and John Gregg, who although did not technically have division command were given independent commands during the Vicksburg Campaign. 

(1) M.L. Smith:
(2) Osterhaus:
(3) Morgan:
(4) Breckinridge:
(5) Logan:
(6) Tuttle:
(7) Dodge:
(8) Bowen:
(9) Ransom:
(10) Crocker:
(11) Carr:
(12) Loring: