Unwilling to break their military servitude to the American Empire, many Southern-born officers (really traitors by any meaningful definition) remained loyal to the Union, but a surprising number of amicable and sympathetic Northerners (Copperheads and other patriots) joined the Confederacy. These sometimes conflicted men were usually disavowed by their families and considered as turncoats in their native states. Some, but certainly not all, were treated by suspicion by Southern soldiers and officers.
Some died in battle, others imprisoned and many left destitute and penniless after the war. The sad fact that these brave men have been forgotten is a testament to the war on our history. This article looks at two in particular – the feisty and rebellious Ohioan, Bushrod Johnson, and the honorable and beloved New Yorker, Archibald Gracie III.
Major General Bushrod Rust Johnson – Belmont County, Ohio
Old Bushrod took an interesting and unlikely path, to say the least, to become a Confederate general. Born in Ohio to a family of staunch abolitionist and pacifist Quakers, Johnson enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point against his do-gooder parents’ wishes. He would later fight in both the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War (Johnson saw action at the Battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterrey).
In typical Yankee fashion (it’s in the blood), his budding military career came to an end in 1847, when he was caught setting up a Yankee scheme to sell contraband government equipment. You could say the man was unscrupulous, but you could never call him a coward. Forced to resign from the army, he spent the next several years working as a professor at military schools in the Upper South (Kentucky and Tennessee).
By the time the War of Northern Aggression started, Bushrod Johnson had reinvented himself as an unrepentant die-hard Southerner. After sending his young son (unfortunately, born sickly and with mental health issues) to live with his relatives in the North, he joined the Army of Tennessee as a colonel. Johnson quickly rose to the rank of brigadier general, and earned a reputation as a savage fighter at the Battles of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville and Chickamauga.
Johnson was certainly brave, there is no doubt about that, but you would be hard pressed to call him a brilliant strategist (that’s not to take away from his loyalty to the South or his fighting spirit, but just calling a spade a spade).
His actions at Fort Donelson were one of the few encouraging performances for the besieged Confederate defenders as he led a successful assault on the Union’s right at one point during the battle. During the Battle of Shiloh he led his own Tennessee brigade in heavy and intense action. His brigade suffered 740 casualties at Shiloh, and an exploding shell killed Johnson’s horse and he suffered a concussion. Johnson’s Brigade was comprised of the 17th, 23rd, 25th, 37th and 44th Tennessee Infantry regiments and the Jefferson Artillery from Mississippi.
At Perryville, Kentucky, the Ohioan led his men in the assault across Doctor’s Creek on Oct. 8, 1862 and had five horses shot out from under him in the failed 1862 Kentucky Campaign.
On the eve of the battle of Chickamauga, Johnson was given interim command of a division. Throughout the battle, he led it through all three days. He was on the receiving end of the first shot of the battle and then, on the final day, he was positioned in the front line of Longstreet’s acclaimed breakthrough, which Bushrod described as:
The scene now presented I was unspeakably grand. The resolute and impetuous charge sweeping out of the shadow and gloom of the forest into the open fields flooded with sunlight, the glitter of arms, the onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of fire-arms, of whistling balls and grape-shot and of bursting shell made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur. Here, General Hood gave me the last order I received from him on the field, ‘Go ahead, and keep ahead of everything.’
It was the highlight of his military career. It should be noted that Johnson’s men captured 19 cannons, a wagon train and a Union hospital, and killed and captured hundreds of Yankees.
Unfortunately, from there on out, his career suffered, finally ending in the tragic disaster along the muddy and bloody banks of Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865. Bushrod Johnson’s command was crushed in the fighting, and he and his men fled from the field.
Although, Johnson wasn’t alone in his flight. Fellow division commander George Pickett and their corps commander, Richard Anderson, also escaped, though many of their men did not (three of Johnson’s four brigade commanders were captured).
After the war, the “Yankee Quaker” returned to academia and become a professor and co-chancellor of the University of Nashville and eventually moved back to the North, settling in Illinois.
Brigadier General Archibald Gracie III – New York City, New York
Gracie, of Alabama!
‘Twas on that dreadful day
When howling hounds were fiercest,
With Petersburg at bay.
Gracie, of Alabama,
Walked down the lines with Lee,
Marking through mists of gunshot
The clouds of enemy;
Scanning the Anaconda
At every scale and joint;
And halting, glasses levelled
At gaze on “Dead Man’s Point.”
Thrice, Alabama’s warning
Fell on a heedless ear,
While the relentless lead-storm,
Converging, hurtled near;
Till straight before his chieftain,
Without or sound or sign,
He stood, a shield the grandest,
Against the Union line:
And then the glass was lowered,
And voice that faltered not
Said, in its measured cadence,
“Why, Gracie, you’ll be shot!”
And Alabama answered:
“The South will pardon me
If the ball that goes through Gracie
Comes short of Robert Lee!”
Swept a swift flash of crimson
Athwart the chieftain’s cheek,
And the eyes whose glance was “knighthood”
Spake as no king could speak.
And side by side with Gracie
He turned from shot and flame;
Side by side with Gracie
Up the grand aisle of Fame.
The above is the somber poem – Gracie, of Alabama. Written by Francis O. Ticknor as a eulogy to New York born, but defender of the South, Brigadier General Archibald Gracie III.
On December 2, 1864, one day after his thirty-second birthday and the birth of his daughter, Adeline Gracie – Archibald Gracie was killed by a Union shell during the siege of Petersburg.
Gen. Gracie had not been born in the Heart of Dixie (Alabama), nor anywhere else in what would become for five bloody years The Confederate States of America. He was born in New York City, in the ancestral home that has since become the official residence of New York City’s mayors, to a prominent family. After his elementary education, Gracie traveled to Germany for five years of further studying at the University of Heidelberg.
After graduating from West Point, Gracie served two years in the United States Army. He then relocated to Mobile, Alabama, where he became a successful banker and joined the militia, attaining the rank of captain in the Washington Light Artillery. He also ended up marrying a local belle from one of the city’s prominent families. By the time of the Secession Crisis, young Archibald had become “native.”
When called upon Governor Andrew Moore to seize the Federal Arsenal at nearby Mount Vernon, Gracie unhesitatingly moved his men to take the property. When word of his action reached New York, he was burned in effigy.
Gracie and his troops joined the 3rd Alabama Infantry, and were eventually sent to Virginia. At the age of 29 he was promoted to brigadier general on November 4, 1862, he fought in the Battle of Chickamauga, the Siege of Knoxville and the fighting at Bean’s Station, where Gracie was seriously wounded (he was shot in the arm, causing temporary paralysis of his fingers). He recovered, and was assigned to duty under Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, fighting on the Petersburg siege lines.
During the Siege of Petersburg, General Robert E. Lee was at “Gracie’s Mortar Hell” inspecting Gracie’s defenses. When Lee raised his head over the wall to glance at the Union position, Gracie climbed the wall in front of him. Lee then said, “Why, Gracie, you will certainly be killed.” To which Gracie replied, “It is better, General, that I be killed than you. When you get down, I will.”
General Lee wrote of the death of Gracie, whom he had known at West Point: “The death of General Gracie was a great grief to me. He was an excellent officer and a Christian man…He had just received a telegram announcing the birth of his daughter and expected to visit his wife the next day. Our loss is heavy…”
Of the 425 Confederate generals commissioned during the War of Southern Independence you may find it surprising to learn that 33 were Northerners. The Empire State (unusual, for sure) was the leader – with seven Confederate generals, followed by Pennsylvania and Ohio who had six each. Massachusetts had five, New Jersey three, Maine two, and one each from Iowa, Connecticut, Indiana and Rhode Island.
Of the 33 Confederate generals born in the Northern states, five would be killed defended Dixie. All five were brigadier generals. They were Gracie (Petersburg), Richard Griffith (Savage’s Station), Robert Hopkins Hatton (Fair Oaks), Clement Hoffman Stevens (Atlanta) and Otho French Strahl (Franklin).
I’ll signal and argue against Northerners all live long day, but let’s not forget the brave men who served and died for Dixie – even if some of them were Yankees.
Many of our Alt-Right Yankee brethren hope for a free Dixie and to preserve our heritage. We should respect both them and honor their dead, they deserve at least that gratitude.