Skip to main content


Show more

A Narrative of the Civil War by Ann Eliza Snyder

A Narrative of the Civil War
Ann Eliza Snyder
Chapter I
“The Causes”

From the very character of the people that settled what is known as the Northern or, more strictly, the New England States, and those that settled in the Southern section of the country, one can easily see that in the course of the peculiar development of each natural and distinct lines of difference will be the result, Consequently in the narration of the momentous struggle of the eventful years from 1860 to 1865 it is eminently proper to briefly outline the causes that led up to it, going back to colonial days, to explain the heated antagonism that fell like the burst of a storm cloud upon the country. The emigrants that settled the New England States were, for the most part, religious malcontents. The memory of Marston Moor and Cromwell was still fresh, and the royal head of Charles rolling from the block was not the act of a distant past, but was close enough in time to be a reality. The restoration came, and with it the Puritan, who thought he saw all the result of his hard-fought victories swept away. He was against the house of Stuart and all the nobles that took their stand by its fortunes. Consequently, after having emigrated from the mother country, these feelings became more intense in character. In their new home, the foundations of which were laid from the persecutions which produced the civil war in England, they began to construct a civilization peculiarly their own—a civilization which was a compound of persecution and bigotry. Forgetful of their own unhappy past, they soon possessed qualities which made England to them an unkind stepmother. The district that they had settled was barren and rocky, consequently agriculture was followed only as a matter of necessity. This encouraged the growth of cities and city life, which proved a great success as time passed on.

Turning now to those colonies of the South, history shows a civilization purely imitative in character, differing in every essential feature from that developed at the North. These emigrants were neither political nor religious refugees, but were rather acting under the impulse of a venturesome age that made them leave their island home and seek the El Dorado of the new world. Now were they all English. The Huguenots came over. Those who had followed the white plume of good Henry of Navarre united their race and lineage with the descendants of the victors of Cressy and Poitiers. Here was a commingling of royal blood. The soil of this new country was fair and fertile beyond description. Consequently the greatest inducements were held out to the agriculturist, and, as a natural result, city life was here discouraged and the growth of large plantations inevitable.

The Slavery Question.

Into both sections—thus begun, indeed, under the same circumstances, but differing widely as to the character of the people who settled them and the nature of the civilization that must necessarily follow—negro slavery was introduced. Those who were in the civil war had no part in its introduction, but their ancestors before them. Little was thought that one day a great excitement would be kindled, which would light the world with its glare.

The slave was no profit to his owner save in agricultural pursuits. Therefore in the New England States he was very soon found to be out of place and a loss to his owner. Their owners found no difficulty in disposing of them at a fair price to the planters of the Southern States. It was soon discovered by their former owners that slavery is a curse and slaveholding a crime.

From the nature of the two questions as already outlined, one may see that a cause, however slight, may beget an antagonism which will grow in intensity as the years go by; until, finally, to natural divisions and distinctions artificial ones will be added. Among the latter differences the question of slavery became the all-important one; and one, too, that at a very early date in the history of the country created more bitter and more intense opposition than one would expect from the nature of the question alone.

As far back as 1787 controversies arose in regard to the slavery question.

In 1820 the admission of the State of Missouri furnished a cause for a battle with the discordant elements, the result of which was the forming of Mason and Dixon's line, which produced only a temporary peace. The aged Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend in regard to this measure: "It [the question of slavery] sleeps, but is not dead. A geographical line coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived of men, will not be obliterated; every new irritation makes it deeper."

The agitation of the slavery question became intensified into a kind of religious fanaticism. Failing to agree, the war had to come. 

States Rights and Centralization

When any community or association of men develop into certain principles and opinions that growand increase in force and intensity to such an extent as to call into existence two distinct divisions completely discordant with each other, so that the peace and welfare of either one or the other is threatened, then naturally a question of permanent separation arises.

There arose two very widely different interpretations of the questions: Federal Constitution, its power, its limitation, technically called "State rights;" and "centralization."

In the beginning the original colonies formed a defensive and offensive alliance in the war against Great Britain. At the termination of the Revolutionary war the league was formed and ratified into the United States of America, with the individual liberties of each State guaranteed. Therefore it cannot develop any particular right in any one section to interfere with systems recognized as legal and legitimate at the time of the original union of the States. It is that which Rome exercised over her provinces gained by the might of the sword, which Bonaparte exhibited after victories in Germany and Italy, and which England showed in her dealings with the American colonies.

Chapter II.
The Secession of the States.

Actual withdrawal from the Union began December 20, 1861, by the Legislature of South Carolina passing the ordinance of secession. Six days later Maj. Anderson, with the United States troops, evacuated Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor. In January, 1861, Florida seceded; followed by Mississippi on the 9th of the same month, Alabama on the 11th, Georgia on the 20th, Louisiana on the 26th, and Texas on February 1. Thus, in less than three months all the cotton States had left the Union by a unanimous vote of the people, and secured all fortifications except the one in Charleston harbor. Just one month from the secession of South Carolina, Jeferson Davis, of Mississippi; Messrs. Kilpatrick and C. C. Clay, of Alabama; and Yulee and Mallory, of Florida, resigned their positions in Congress. The State of Virginia was not quite ready to secede. Accordingly, February 4, 1861, the Legislature met and passed a resolution for a peaceful settlement of the difficulties. At first this line of procedure seemed to meet with a favorable response.

Shortly afterwards the Legislature was again called together, and an election was held, showing that a majority were opposed to an unconditional secession of the State. Subsequently Tennessee and North Carolina decided to call a convention. The apparent reluctance of these States to rush at once into the matter seemed to encourage the government authorities, believing that some of the slaveholding States on the border would remain in the Union.

The Confederacy Established.

Meantime the six seceded States began to take steps toward establishing a provisional government by a convention of delegates from each assembled at Montgomery, Ala., February 4, 1861. After four days' deliberation this body adopted a Constitution for the Confederate States of America, which differed very little from the Constitution of the United States of America. Hon. Jefferson Davis was elected President, and Alexander Stephens, of Georgia, Vice President. This new government began to make preparations to make good its claims among the nations of the earth. It began with gaining possession of different United States forts and arsenals. Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, at Charleston, were captured by State troops; Fort Pulaski, at Savannah; Mt. Vernon, Ala., was taken, with twenty thousand stands of arms; Fort Morgan, in Mobile Bay; Forts Jackson, Philip, and Pike, near New Orleans, together with the customhouse and mint; arsenals at both Baton Rouge and Little Rock, Ark. 

Martin Crawford and John Forsyth, both of Georgia, were sent as commissioners to Mr. Seward, Secretary of State at Washington, in regard to Fort Sumter. The United States government at this time was preparing for a siege, the commissioners being ignorant of the fact. The fleet, Avith reenforcements, appeared off' the harbor April 12, 1861, at the same time threatening the city of Charleston. Mr. Walker, Confederate Secretary of War, ordered Gen. Beauregard to demand the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter. In reply to the Confederate general Maj. Anderson wrote as follows: "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the surrender of Fort Sumter and its evacuation, and to say in reply thereto that it is a demand with wdiich my sense of honor and my obligation to my government prevent my compliance." Gen. Beauregard had now no other course save to accept the gauntlet of war thrown down to him. So April 12 he sent word by his aid to Maj. Anderson that he would open lire with his batteries one hour
from that time.

The First Gun.

The signal shell that opened in real earnest the great struggle between the States of our great republic of America vient from Fort Johnson with its red glare across the sky of that momentous dawn, April 12. This was followed by the fire from Fort Moultrie, Cummings' Point, and the floating batteries. The Federals endured in silence until evening, when they opened terrific fire. The bombardment of  the Confederates began to tell. The garrison was driven from the barbette guns, and the walls began to crumble away. The Federal fleet off the harbor remained passive. Why they took no part in the fight is explained by Capt. Cox: ''As we neared the land, heavy guns were heard, and the smoke and shells from the batteries that had opened fire on Fort Sumter were visible. Immediately I stood out to inform Capt. Rowan of the Pawnee, but met him coming in. He hailed me and asked for a pilot, declaring his intention of standing into the harbor and sharing the fate of his comrades in the army. 1 went on board and informed him I would answer for it that the government did not expect any such gallant sacrifice, having settled upon the policy indicated in the instructions to myself and Capt. Mercer."

On the shore Confederate troops were in raptures over the prospect of victory.

April 13 every Confederate battery opened tire upon Fort Sumter. In the afternoon a shot from Fort Moultrie tore the flagstaff from the walls of Fort Sumter. Seeing the desperate condition of the garrison, Gen. Beauregard sent three of his aids with a message to Maj. Anderson to the effect that, as his flag was no longer flying and his quarters in flames, he desired to offer him any assistance he might need. In a short time the flag of truce was flung to the breeze. After two days' bombarding Fort Sumter surrendered. Certainly it was a day of great rejoicing in Charleston. As a testimonial to the gallantry of Maj. Anderson, Gen. Beauregard not only agreed that the garrison might take passage for New York at their own convenience, but also allowed them to salute their old flag with fifty guns.

Proclamation of War. 

April 14, 1861, the great proclamation calling for troops was sent forth as follows: "Having thought fit to call forth, do hereby call forth the militia of the several States of the Union 75,000 strong, in order to suppress said combination, and to cause the laws to be duly executed and enforced."

Antagonism begets antagonism of like proportion md equal degree, so the Southern States, one softer another, refused to furnish the government troops. Gov. McGoffin, of Kentucky, tried to be neutral; while Gov. Ellis, of North Carolina, replied that he could take no part in violating the laws of the land. On April 17 Virginia adopted the ordinance of secession, followed by Arkansas, May 4; North Carolina, May 20; and Tennessee, June 8.

April 19 saw the first drop of fratricidal blood. The United States troops, in passing through Baltimore, were attacked by the citizens.

On the same day (April 19) President Lincoln issued his proclamation declaring all ports of the South in a state of blockade, and threatening that any interference upon the high seas would be considered nothing less than piracy. Letters of marque had already been issued by the Confederate government.

Just at this time Gen. Lee resigned his position in the regular army. He was at once placed in command in Virginia. The Federals evacuated Harper's Ferry on the same day of President Lincoln's
blockade proclamation.

On May 20 the seat of the Confederate government was removed to Richmond, Va.

The first invasion of Virginia was begun by the Federals occupying Alexandria May 4, the State troops falling back and taking position at Fairfax C. H., under command of Gen. Bonham, of South

Battle of Bethel.

On June 20 Col. J. Bankhead Magruder, who was intrenched at Great Bethel Church, nine miles south of Hampton, was attacked by Gen. Pierce, with four thousand Federal soldiers. A battery of Richmond howitzers were the first to receive them. They retreated from their guns, and Capt. Bridges, of the First North Carolina Regiment, retook them. They advanced to the charge bravely. After considerable amount of skirmishing and artillery firing, the Federals were heavily reenforced under command of Gen. Winthrop, who had excited the admiration of the Confederates by his conspicuous gallantry. 

The partial victory of the Confederates at Bethel was followed by a disaster at Rich Mountain. The main body of Federals was under Gen. McClellan, twenty thousand strong, advancing toward Beverly, with the main object to get in the rear of Gen. Garnett, who had been placed in command of Northern Virginia. Gen. Garnett had taken a strong position at Rich Mountain, his forces being arranged as follows: Col. Pegram, with one thousand six hundred men; Gen. Garnett, with three thousand infantry and six pieces of artillery, intrenched on Laurel Hill; and McClellan, with seven thousand troops. Gen. Rosecrans had started by a convenient route with three thousand troops to strike Gen. Garnett's rear. Gen. Garnett instructed Col. Pegram to defend his position at all hazards, which order he gallantly obeyed. The Federals moved in the midst of a pouring rain, through the tangled and pathless woods. They were disappointed when they failed to surprise the little band upon the mountain, but they continued to advance under a terrible artillery fire that seemed to tear the forest asunder. Assaulted by more than three times their number, both front and rear, the condition of the Confederates was hopeless. Col. Pegram saw that his only chance was to try to escape. Col, Tyler, with his command, succeeded in doing so; but Col. Pegram, hearing that Gen. Garnett had evacuated Laurel Hill, was compelled to surrender. At Carrack's Ford Col. Taliaferro, with the Twenty-Third Virginia, occupied the high banks upon the right of the ford, but, having exhausted every cartridge, ordered those brave boys who wore the gray to retreat. At the next ford Gen. Garnett fell while encouraging this brave little remnant, who had contested every inch of ground, with everything against them.

Confederates Win at Manassas.

Up to this time the battles had been comparatively skirmishes. The first real contest was soon to begin. The two armies of Virginia had maneuvered and watched each other warily, like two huge monsters preparing for mortal combat.

The Federals were under a commander of reputation, and one, too, in whom they had all confidence: Gen. McDowell. The Congress of the United States being in session, holiday was given to permit all to be present at the anticipated victory.

The brigades of Gens. Longstreet and Bonham confronted the Federals and consumed the 17th, 18th, and 19th of July in preliminary skirmishes along Bull Run and near the northwest junction of Manassas Gap.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was ordered at once to form a junction with Gen. Beauregard. He reached Manassas on the 20th, and united the Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments, and the Fourth Alabama, under Gen. Bee, to Jackson's Brigade. He then assumed entire command of the forces concentrated here, which numbered thirty thousand, divided into eight brigades.

Soon after sunrise the Federals opened lire with a heavy cannonading in front of Gen. Evans at the stone bridge. The infantry opposed each other for over an hour, during which time the main body of Federals were crossing the Bull Run on Gen. Evans left; Gen. Evans, finding that they had succeeded in making a crossing, moved to his left and was attacked by a column sixteen thousand strong, much in excess of his own numbers; while Gen. Burnside appeared in front near Wheat's Louisiana Tigers. The Federals were further reenforced by the Second Rhode Island Regiment and a mounted battery, while Sloan's Fourth South Carolina Regiment came to the assistance of the Confederates. The determined and never-faltering valor of Wheat's Tigers soon caused the Federals to retreat. To relieve this point against the overwhelming numbers that were being massed against it. Gen. Bee came in with the Seventh and Eighth Georgia (Col. Bartow), the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi, together with Imboden's Battery and two guns of Washington Artillery of Louisiana.

Thus reenforced. Gen. Evans moved across the plain and took up an advanced position, which he must hold against fifteen thousand Federals. A dreadful conflict of an hour's duration now ensued.

In the meantime Gen. Sherman had crossed the Bull Run and was threatening the Confederate right. Victory now seemed inclined to the Federals. The Confederates began to waver somewhat, but were checked for a time by Gen. Bee, and he too, having suffered terribly, was just on the point of being overwhelmed by the mere mass and dead weight of the vastly superior numbers of the Federals, when Gen. Jackson arrived. With the inexpressible grief of his heroic heart depicted on his countenance. Bee approached him and said: ''General, they are beating us back." ''Sir," said Jackson, "we must give them the bayonet." With renewed zeal and vigor. Bee rallied his men with the inspiring words: '' There is Jackson standing like a stone wall; let us determine to die here, and we shall conquer."

Now was the crisis of the battle. Orders had almost fatally miscarried, so that Gen. Beauregard had to change his plans, which required the greatest amount of maneuvering to retrieve the almost lost field.

By noon it seemed as if all the pomp and glory of war, together with all its horrors and terrors, had been turned loose in this valley, filled with smoke and reverberating and reechoing with the awful roar of the artillery, above which could be heard the old Southern yell, which had sounded its glad notes of victory before, in the w^ars with the savages, at New Orleans with Jackson, and on the plains of Mexico with Taylor and Scott, and in the war with Spain the old familiar yell is heard.

The Confederates left seemed to be overpowered. Gen. Johnston charged to the front with the Fourth Alabama. At two o'clock Gen. Beauregard issued orders for the whole line to recover the positions they had lost, which was done with a determination which meant victory, every regiment being in action: Holmes' Regiment, and a battery of artillery; six guns under Capt. Lindsay Walker, two regiments from Bonham's Brigade, with Kemper's four sixpounders, and live guns of Washington Artillery from New Orleans.

The brave Gen. Bee fell mortally wounded at the head of his regiment; a few yards from him a shot pierced the heart of Col. Bartow, while he was grasping the flag of his regiment. Col. Fisher was also killed. It now became the Federals' time to retreat, and, after a terrible resistance, they were driven across the pike. 

Gen. Kirby Smith, with Elzey's Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah and Beckham's Battery, had
reached Manassas. The Federals had rallied and turned again on the Confederate left. Gen. Johnson
ordered Gen. Beauregard to throw forward his whole line. The Federals were again driven back into the fields. They then scattered in every direction toward Bull Run. Early and Cocke's Brigades, and Beckham's Battery, with Stuart's Cavalry, continued to play upon the wagon trains. The fields seemed covered with the retreating blue masses, and the victorious Confederates continued to pursue. The wounded were left uncared for, and the dead left unburied.

No accurate account is given of the Federal killed and wounded at the battle of Manassas, which must have been enormous—it is stated 4,500. Confederate loss, killed, 369; wounded, 1,483.

Ann Eliza Snyder, A Narrative of the Civil War (Nashville: Publishing House Methodist, Episcopal Church, South, 1899), 9-22.


Popular posts from this blog

Was Secession Legal for the Southern States?

Was Secession Legal for the  Southern States? By Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

     Any time you might hear anything about American history, specifically from the 1860s, there is much conversation about slavery, taxes and States’ rights! And yes, each of these topics are worthy of discussion but discussing any one of them often leads to overlook a most fundamental question: “Do people or a state(s) have the right to live under abuses by its government or are there tools by which its people can throw off such abuses or even withdraw from an abusive government?” I want to focus of the issue of the right of secession.
     Many people heatedly condemned the secessionists when the first Seven States seceded from the United States in 1861, viewing it as unauthorized or as unconstitutional. And yet, no such
disparaging remarks are made about the Secession of the Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire in 1776—or the Secession of Mexico from the Spanish Empire in 1810—
or even the Secession of Te…

Origin of the Confederate Battle Flag

Origin of the Confederate Battle Flag
[The facts concerning the origin of the battle flag contained in this article are derived from a speech by General Beauregard before a special meeting of Louisiana Division, Army of Northern Virginia Association, December 6, 1878.—EDITOR.]
This banner, the witness and inspiration of many victories, which was proudly borne on every field from enemy. General Beauregard was momentarily expecting help from the right, and the uncertainty and anxiety of this hour amounted to anguish.
Still the column pressed on. Calling a staff officer, General Beauregard instructed him to go at once to General Johnston, at the Lewis house, and say that the enemy were receiving heavy re-enforcements, that the troops on the plateau were very much scattered, and that he would be compelled to retire to the Lewis house and there reform hoping that the troops ordered up from the right would arrive in time to enable him to establish and hold the new line.
Meanwhile, the unknown t…

Little Sermons In Socialism by Abraham Lincoln by Burke McCarty

WE do not claim that Abraham Lincoln was a Socialist, for the word had not been coined in his day. We do not claim that he would, if he had lived, been a Socialist to-day, for we do, not know this. We do claim, and know, however, that Abraham Lincoln was in spirit to the hour of his death, a class conscious working man, that his sympathies were with that class, that he voiced the great principles of the modem constructive Socialism of today, and that had he lived and been loyal and consistent with these principles which he always professed, he would be found within the ranks of the Socialist Party. BURKE McCARTY.
Away back in 1847 Abraham Lincoln uttered the following revolutionary language.
In the early days of our race the Almighty said to the first of our race, "In the sweat of thy  face shalt thou eat bread." And since then, if  we except the light and air of heaven, no good thing has been or can be enjoyed by us without  having first cost labor. And in as much as most go…