Thursday, July 21, 2011

Civilians and the First Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861

On July 16, the great Union army, marched out of Washington City to meet the Confederates at Manassas Junction. On July 21, 1861, the two great armies grappled. By evening the lives of the people of Manassas had changed forever.


JUDITH CARTER HENRY OF “SPRING HILL”

Judith Carter was born at Pittsylvania in 1777 in the midst of the Revolutionary War. She was the daughter of Landon Carter, who inherited the plantation in direct descent from Robert “King” Carter, who from 1702-1732 managed to patent some 300,000 acres in Northern Virginia for himself and his children.

In 1801 Judith Carter married Dr. Isaac Henry, one of the first surgeons in the United States Navy. Dr. Henry established himself and his family on 333 acres purchased from the Pittsylvania estate. He called this estate “Spring Hill.” The doctor died in 1829 but the family continued living at Spring Hill.





On July 21, 1861 the eighty four year old, invalid Judith Henry lay in her bed, as the battle began around Pittsylvania, her childhood home. Shells from Union artillery began to fall around the widow’s house. Mrs. Henry’s two sons, shocked to find Union troops on their doorstep, decided something must be done to move their mother to safety. Mrs. Henry was unwilling to leave, but after several shells struck the house, the terrified woman gave in.

The two sons placed the old woman on a mattress and carried her out of the house, intending to carry her to the Reverend Compton’s house, which was about a mile away. The small party was quickly caught in the open, between two opposing armies engaged in a furious battle. Terrified and hysterical, the old woman begged piteously to be taken back to her own home. The three Henrys returned to the house, and Mrs. Henry was returned to her bed. She was only there a short time before a shell burst in the room where she lay. She was struck by five shell fragments and lived for several agonizing hours, dying about nightfall. Rosa Stokes, a young slave who had been caring for the old lady was wounded by the same shell that killed Mrs. Henry.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Massacre of General Edward Braddock

In 1755 war raged across the American frontier. The English colonies were locked in a death grip with the French and their Indian allies. In February, 1755, the English General Edward Braddock landed at the port of Alexandria, Virginia, with 1,000 British regulars. An additional seven hundred Virginia militia, in which George Washington served, joined the regulars. Braddock’s mission was to march on the French Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) and destroy the main French army. Braddock, trained in the parade ground tactics of Europe, anticipated a quick and glorious little campaign. He regarded the militia’s fear of the Indians as highly exaggerated.

General Braddock in Alexandria, Virginia



The Massacre of Genral Braddock



The Death of General Edward Braddock




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Saturday, July 09, 2011

William Hull: History's Worst General?



At 10:00 A.M. on August 16, 1812, a white flag appeared over Fort Detroit. Despite the vehement protests of his officers and men, Brigadier General William Hull surrendered his command without a fight. The British captured an American army of 2,500, some thirty-three cannon, four hundred rounds of 24-pound shot, one hundred thousand cartridges, 2,500 rifles and bayonets, and a newly built 16-gun brig Adams.

Hull was subsequently exchanged for a high ranking British prisoner of war, only to face court-martial charges of treason, cowardice, neglect of duty and un-officer like conduct. During his court martial, Hull tried to shift blame for the debacle at Detroit to his officers and men, accusing the officers of conspiring against him and the men of cowardice. Hull argued that he could not engage in battle with such men who were obviously not up to the contest. Hull continued to assert, “I have done what my conscience directed. I have saved Detroit and the Territory from the horrors of an Indian massacre."

Ultimately, William Hull was found innocent of treason but guilty of the other charges and sentenced to be shot. The court recommended that the sentence be commuted because of his previous honorable service. President Madison commuted the death sentence. William Hull is the only American general to have ever been sentenced to death by a court-martial.

Hull was drummed out of the Army, the court-martial concluding, “The rolls of the army are to be no longer disgraced by having upon them the name of Brigadier General William Hull.” Hull spent the rest of his life blaming others for his own mistakes.



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