Turtles All The Way Down

Corb Lund's Counterfeit BluesAmericana Music for 2014

“I saw the light from heaven shining all around.” -Dry Bones, traditional, as performed by Graham Lindsey

This weekend we endure the shortest day of the year—all about the darkness and all about the light.  The glass is half-empty.  The glass is half-full.  All the way to the bottom, it’s always the same…  Like Hank Williams, we can wander aimless, life filled with sin, or we can can open our eyes and see the light.  Since time immemorial, we both fear and celebrate the hibernal solstice.  Music also, done well, expresses our primal fears and celebrations, our hopes and dreams.  This has been a good year for hopes and dreams in Americana music.

Corb LundCounterfeit Blues (CD+DVD)

I’ve been a fan of Corb Lund since my radio days at KRFC-FM.  This year’s release from New West Records is the result of a CMT-Canada TV special—Corb is a Canadian cowboy through and through.  Just like Elvis, Corb & his Hurtin’ Albertans recorded live at the infamous Sun Studio in Memphis.  I don’t usually rate Live albums very highly, and I’ve not yet actually caught Corb live in person, yet this effort captures songs he and his band know inside and out, recorded with a classic live-in-studio sound rather than a distorted live-in-concert cluttered sound.  This is a good buy if you’re an old Corb fan, or just looking for some solid Outlaw country like it oughta sound.

As a seasonal aside, Corb has a solid thinking-man’s holiday song on New West’s new Americana Christmas holiday album.  “Just Me And These Ponies (For Christmas This Year)” is a mature effort by a talented songwriter and performer.  The album also features cuts from John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and (scroll down) Nikki Lane among others.

Graham LindseyDigging Up Birds: A Collection of Rarities & Others [Explicit]

I lost track of Graham Lindsey for awhile, and missed him when he played a late live slot in Fort Collins last.  Last I heard from him he’d moved up to my old stompin’ grounds outside Bozeman, Montana.  Good country for his alt.country/psycho-folk vibe.  This year he released this collection culled from a dozen years of recording, including the track “Dry Bones” originally recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, which Graham had recorded to Youtube from his snowy cabin side.  I can verily feel the dark and light playing tug-of-war with my own dry bones in the snowy night.

Sturgill SimpsonMetamodern Sounds in Country Music

I don’t know what to make of Sturgill.  His name sounds like a fish.  The first track of his debut album tells a tale of turtles—like the common folk belief that the world is perched on a never-ending stack of turtles, country music may be said to be perched on a never-ending stack of traditional music mores and conventions.  No Depression founder Peter Blackstock observes, in relation to Simpson, that ‘the simultaneous existence of “two country musics” is almost a tradition in and of itself’.  As Willie & Waylon played the outlaw to John Denver’s country pop of the 70s, Simpson is poised to channel the outlaw side of country for a new generation.  I’m just as inclined to simply track the original Waymore, but there’s an awful lot of critics I trust who think the AMA Emerging Artist of 2014No Depression members’  chart topper and Grammy nominee is the real deal.  At least he might get the kids listening to the good old new Country Music.

Old Crow Medicine Show -Remedy

OCMS is a high-energy, fun collaborative.  This year’s release continues this tradition, with an up-beat string band sound.  (Except the first track. The very first cut is really annoying.)  The album’s nominated for a Grammy as Best Folk Album, although I can’t think of anybody outside the Grammy’s would consider this Folk music, but when recycled 70’s music is posing as radio-friendly pop country, I’ll take folk-friendly music any day.  You can score a free copy of OCMS’ track Firewater on the ATO Records Winter Sampler.

Karen JonasOklahoma Lottery 

I’m not sure I’m qualified to rank Karen Jonas’ music.  I didn’t even notice her until the December ‘best of’ lists started populating the Twitterverse and I haven’t bought her album (yet).  For some reason I did notice Twangnation’s Top 10 rank:  “This isn’t just an inflected interpretation, but the very evocation through herself of the troubled ghosts of the story —not just wrapping herself in their clothes, but walking a mile in their shoes, and then conveying the pain she knows they felt from the aching of her own blisters.”   I went immediately to Spotify and “Wow” is all I could say.  This is honest, evocative and well-produced real country music played with heart and soul.  Jonas is based out of the DC-area, but is making a visit to Austin,  Albuquerque and Santa Fe in January.  Weather willing, I expect I’m planning a trip to the state capital next month.

Willie NelsonBand of Brothers

Willie also released another album this month, December Day, but I haven’t really given it a listen.  While Band of Brothers doesn’t rise to the creative level of, say, 1998’s Teatro, it’s a solid album with a couple catchy tracks.  Willie did my fave track “Hard to be an Outlaw” with Billy Joe Shaver on Letterman this week.  Look it up.

Lucinda WilliamsDown Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Lucinda is not easy.  Her music is not country music, but it’s country blues not to fit radio-friendly pop or rock ‘n roll (as if they played rock ‘n roll on the radio any more than they play tradition country anymore).  Lucinda is blues for country people, or country for rock people, or something like that.  She’s also not on Spotify—the service even seems to block her off my mobile playlist I built with one of her tracks I have on the old Mac at home.  I get that, because if you’re a Lucinda fan you’ll make the effort.  If you’re just getting to know Lucinda, listen for her on Americana radio, since she’s on the top of the charts the last few weeks.  For the now, check out her NPR Tiny Desk concert, including my pick single “West Memphis”.

Drive-By TruckersEnglish Oceans

I miss Jason Isbell’s contributions to the Truckers, but Mike Cooley seems to have stepped up to fill the gap and make the band more of a partnership with Patterson Hood.  This is an album, rather than a collection of songs, but these guys usually come across that way and I’ve let the album run more than a few times since it was released in March.

Nikki LaneAll Or Nothin’

New West records brought out this record in May, but I didn’t pay it much attention.  There was something there, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I’ve remedied that in the last few weeks as I noticed her pop up on the end-of-year lists.  Nikki reminds me of Neko Case, when Neko first came out with The Virginian.  This is alt.country, AM radio Country, sparse and echoing and fun.  At first this was distracting, but I got over it.  When I gave her my ears she broke my heart.

Rosanne CashThe River & The Thread

I like Rosanne Cash.  She’s smart, talented and a real leader in the music industry today.  A lot of people like this album, sending it to the top of the AMA Radio chart for 2014.  The first track is catchy, and I streamed the album—the full album, front to back—several times trying to catch the vibe.  The vibe is there.  I was just hoping for a bit more, but her OK is still better than most anything on pop radio these days.

Nickel Creek, Rodney Crowell, and John Hiatt also all released strong albums that placed in the Americana Radio Top 10.  On first listen I liked the new Nickel Creek but the goofy electric jive just didn’t hold up for me.  It was good to see them back together anyway.  Initially I also rated highly Mary Gauthier’s Trouble and Love, Justin Townes Earle’s Single Mothers, Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt’s For Keeps, and I do really like them a lot.

Some live music I saw that reminded me not to forget the good stuff from 2013 (and 2012…)

Jalan Crossland

Ten Sleep, Wyoming’s most famous performing songwriter, Jalan Crossland would probably be world-famous if he would play Nashville’s Music Row game.  He’s happy to do his own thing from his Rocky Mountain home, and I appreciate that dedication to quality over quantity.  Equal parts profound and obscene, traditional and modern, Crossland is both entertainer and artist.  I would likely have rated highly his new album, No Cause for Despair, if I would have laid my hands on it (or if he had put it up on Spotify, oh well something to look forward to).

The Sweetback Sisters

West Virginia Appalachia via Brooklyn, the Sweetback Sisters have a sweet sound I am so glad I got to experience first-hand.   I put their 2011 album Looking for a Fight right onto my iPod and it quickly rose to top of my personal rotation with several fine cuts, original and cover.  I wanted to be sure of my initial impression before I posted my review on No Depression, and their record held up with a great variety of traditional country, Bakersfield and Texas Swing.   The Sisters are now touring the NE states with their Christmas show.

Bonnie & the Clydes

Bonnie Sims is a Northern Colorado country music crackerjack.  She & her Clydes played a barnburner show at the buffalo camp south of Cheyenne, good old real country music you can two-step to.  She’s also played around Denver with my friends in Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams.  That’s a win-win for everybody as far as I’m concerned.

Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams

Halden Wofford and the Hi*Beams are Grade A, guaranteed real country music from the heart of Denver, Colorado.  I’m a long way from Avo’s in Ft. Collins and the Swing Station in LaPorte, but I hope they swing down to Durango or I can catch them on a big city trip up north.  In the meantime, their last CD Rocky Mountain Honky Tonk is a rip roaring good time.

And a couple other 2013 releases that held up well:

  • Jason Isbell, Southeastern – coming into his own and out of the shadow of the Drive-By Truckers, this album earned Isbell both Artist of the Year and Album of the Year from the Americana Music Association (AMA).
  • Brandy Clark, 12 Stories – after winning CMA song of the year for Kasey Musgrave’s hit “Follow Your Arrow”, Ms. Clark brings a touch of twang to this year’s Best Country Album Grammy nominations. It could just be considered new again, as Warner Brothers recently signed her to a major label deal and will be re-issuing the record.
  • Jus Post Bellum, Oh July – OK, I’ll fess up, I just heard this rootsy Minnesota-by-way-of-Brooklyn indie-folk, Americana-ish group just the end of this year.  So their release Oh July is new to me, and it is on Spotify.  I’m thinking Lumineers with lefsa.  Keep an eye on this foursome, friends.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 20, 1864

Savannah, GA Nov 8, 1860

Diary of Orrin Brown—

Tuesday–Dec. 20th

Our men are building a fort about 25 rods in front of us they have to work at it nights for it is right in front of a rebbel fort so that our men cannot work even when the moon shines. The fournoon was warm and pleasant but it is cool and cloudy this evening and some sign of rain. There has been heavy Canonadeing this afternoon all along the line. I wrote a letter to A. S. Hamilton today. Read 3 Chapt. in Testament.

Savannah had played an important role in secession and prosecution of the war.  From the Visit Historic Savannah website (which itself looks like it was coded in 1964):

Georgia became the fifth state to secede from the United States in January 1861, and in March, a convention at Savannah ratified the constitution of the new Confederate States of America. Local militia units began to ready themselves for war. The Chatham Artillery, Georgia Hussars, Jasper Greens, Phoenix Riflemen and Oglethorpe Light Infantry, were now joined by colorful new outfits like the Rattle Snakes and Hyenas. Young boys enlisted in the Savannah Cadets.

After the state of New York refused to release a shipment of guns to the South, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown ordered all New York vessels in the port of Savannah seized. In retaliation, a Federal fleet of 41 vessels sailed to South Carolina and landed just 25 miles from Savannah in October 1861. Federal cannons breached the walls of Fort Pulaski after only a few hours of bombardment, and the Confederate forces surrendered. That would be the last of the fighting in the area around Savannah, but only the beginning of the hardships for Savannahians during the long four years of the war.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 19, 1864

Wiliam J. Hardee, Lieut. GeneralDiary of Orrin Brown—

Monday–Dec. 19th

We had a nice warm night to stand Picket and it is so warm today that the boys all feel like hunting for a shady place to sit down in. I borrowed a V. B. C. Advocate of a fellow in our Company last night and have improved my leasure hours in reading my old favorite paper. It made me feel while reading it as though I was at home. We were relieved from picket at 4.30 PM went to Camp got our supper ready and while we were eating it the rebs threw shell over our tent only a few feet above our heads but doing no damage. The rebs have been very quiet today untill this evening they have done some heavy Canonadeing on our right but I have not heard the result. I wrote a letter today.

Confederate Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee was a career army officer from Georgia.  He graduated from West Point in 1838, two years before William T. Sherman, and both served against the Seminole in Florida.  In fact, later on Hardee invested with Sherman and other West Pointers in San Francisco, California—a bad investment which Sherman honored.  In the Mexican-American War, Hardee served under future President Zachary Taylor, then under Gen. Winfield Scott.  After that war, he served in the Texas Rangers.  In 1855, Hardee published a book of infantry tactics which became the standard drill manual during the Civil War. The “Hardee hat“, the model dress hat for enlisted men, widely adopted by cavalrymen, is named for the general.

Hardee resigned from the U.S. Army when his home state seceded in 1861.  He served in Alabama and Arkansas, then joined Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston as a corps commander at the Battle of Shiloh, and with Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.  After a brief stint as a Department Commander, Hardee returned to Bragg’s army before the Battle of Chattanooga, where he failed to stem Federal Maj. Gen. George Thomas’ assault on Missionary Ridge.  Hardee didn’t get along with Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, when Hood assumed command Hardee transferred to command the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida… which happened to be next in Sherman’s sights.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 18, 1864

Sherman's March to the Sea - Allan Pinkerton House

Diary of Orrin Brown—

Third Part of Journal

We have made a long and tiresom march of 330 miles, the first 200 of which was very rough in regard to hills and rocky mountaneous country, but the last 100 was very level and sandy, the timber consists of Norway or Pitch pine with occationaly a scrubby Hickory and Oak, we have had good dry roads all the way with the exceptions of 2 or 3 days that it was a little muddy, the last 100 miles was rather hard marching on account of the sand. We also found pretty pleanty of forage after the 3rd or 4th day in the line of Beef Cattle, Hogs, Sheep, Geese, Turkeys, Chickens, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Molasses, Rice, Corn, and Corn Meal, and Flour, Salt, Beans, Peanuts, and any amount of feed for Horses Mules and Cattle. The army also burned an immense amount of property in the line of buildings Cotton, and Cotton Gins and Presses, & they have torne up all of the railroad that we came in contact with. Taking all things into consideration we have fared very well for soldiers.

Sunday–Dec. 18th

The mail came in today for the first time since we left Atlanta but there was none for me. We had to go on Picket at 4 PM, the day has been very warm. The rebs threw several shell past the left of our regt. today cutting down trees from 8 to 12 inches through but doing no other damage.

Pvt. Brown provides a fine summary of the March to the Sea:  300+ miles on foot, over hill and dale, sand and swamp.  The forage had been good, although he doesn’t mention the forage running lean the closer the army got to the ocean.  And he does acknowledge the destruction of King Cotton and the railroad, although never in the preceding pages does he dwell on what we know were difficult and often deadly operations against both military and civil sites across Georgia.  As the Washington Post wrote earlier this year:

The March to the Sea, which culminated with the fall of Savannah in December 1864, cut a swath of torn-up railroads, pillaged farms and burned-out plantations through the Georgia countryside… With the march, Sherman hoped to deprive troops of food and other material support. Guided by his view of Southern culpability for the war, Sherman had another objective as well — the demoralization of the Southern civilian population.

“It’s very much about saying, ‘Here’s the power of the Union army,’ ” said historian Anne Sarah Rubin, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Sherman’s purpose, she said, was to convey to the South that “you cannot stop us. You cannot resist us. You just need to give up.”

This way of war was about winning—leaving philosophical and chivalric ideals behind and picking up the very practical idea that if you’re going to go to war, then you Go To War.  There is ample evidence that Sherman himself was a chivalrous commander who followed the rules of war as he understood them, and repeated records of his offering fair and forgiving terms to any enemy who yielded the field.  Yet William Tecumseh Sherman will always be remembered for how he treated those who failed to yield.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 17, 1864

Review of the Artillery of Sherman's Corps

Diary of Orrin Brown—

Saturday–Dec. 17th

We had orders to be ready for drill this morning at 7 AM and drill two hours but did not go out till 9 AM. The rebs threw some shell into our camp again today but no harm done but there was two men of the 17th NY wounded pretty bad about 20 rod from our camp. The weather is still very warm and dry.

Stalemate at Savannah

The chessboard was set, with both US Gen. William T. Sherman and CSA Gen. William J. Hardee, who had attended West Point at the same time, grandmasters of war games.  From The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records… , Sherman wrote to Hardee:

You have doubtless observed from your station at Rosedew that sea-going vessels now come through Ossabaw Sound and up Ogeechee to the rear of my army, giving me abundant supplies of all kinds, and more especially heavy ordnance necessary to the reduction of Savannah. I have already received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also, I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied; and I am therefore justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah and its dependent forts, and shall await a reasonable time your answer before opening with heavy ordnance,. Should you entertain the proposition I am prepared to grant liberal terms to the inhabitants and garrison; but should I be forced to resort to assault, or the slower and surer process of starvation, I shall then feel justified in resorting to the harshest measures, and shall make little effort to restrain my army – burning to avenge a great national wrong they attach to Savannah and other large cities which have been so prominent in dragging our country into civil war.

Hardee’s reply refused the offer:

The position of your forces, a half a mile beyond the outer line for the land defenses of Savannah is, at the nearest point, at least four miles from the heart of the city. That and the interior line are both intact. Your statement that you “have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison can be supplied” is incorrect. I am in free and constant communication with my department. Your demand for the surrender of Savannah and its dependent forts is refused. With respect to the threats conveyed in the closing paragraph of your letter, of what may be expected in case your demand is not complied with, I have to say that I have hitherto conducted the military operations intrusted to my direction in strict accordance with the rules of civilized warfare, and I should deeply regret the adoption of any course by you that may force me to deviate from them in the future.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 16, 1864

Civil War - December 1864 Diary of Orrin Brown—

Friday–Dec. 16th

We cleaned up our street this morning then went out on drill for one hour but had no duty to do in the afternoon. The day has been very warm. The rebs are throwing shell up through here this evening and our battery is returning the complement. The weather is still clear and warm.

The Confederate collapse at the Battle of Nashville, and Sherman’s siege of Savannah, Georgia, left only Virginia firmly in Rebel hands by mid-month December, 1864, and that hold was loosening as well.  Lee and Grant sat entrenched in front of Richmond and Petersburg, but by this time Lee was feeling the worst of attrition with his 57,000 Southern troops defending against 125,000 Federal troops.  Earlier in the month, Grant had sent Maj. Gen. G.K. Warren on a raid towards Stony Creek against the Weldon & Petersburg Railroad, destroying track along the way.  In Southwest Virginia, Maj. Gen. George Stoneman brought 5,500 cavalry from Knoxville against CSA Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge at Saltville, scattering the Kentucky troops before returning to Tennessee. Later in the month, Gen. Phil Sheridan would send cavalry under George Custer on a raid into the Shenandoah as well.

In the wake of Sherman’s March, Confederate militia forces had re-occupied Atlanta, but posed no real threat to Federal authority.  Gen. John Bell Hood retreated from Nashville to Corinth, and then Tupelo, Mississippi, before being relieved of command of the Southern Army of Tennessee.  Both Confederate and Federal cavalry continued raiding behind enemy lines—Brig. Gen. Hylan Lyon‘s long ride as far north as Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Brig. Gen. John Wynn Davidson‘s unsuccessful Federal raid out of Baton Rouge on the Mobile & Ohio railroad in southern Mississippi, and Gen. Benjamin Grierson‘s successful late-month raid out of Memphis on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad in northern and central Mississippi.

In retrospect it may be easy to see December, 1864, as the beginning of the end of the Confederacy.  On the ground, there was hope but certainly much trepidation for the new year.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 15, 1864

Civil War Preservation Trust - Battle of Nashville Day 1 map

Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Savannah, Georgia

Thursday–Dec. 15th

We had to put our camp in order today. The rebs threw some shell into our camp today but done no damage, we also improved our breastworks today to shield us from the rebs shell. The day has been very warm.

Back in the Western Theater, Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s campaign to cut Sherman’s rear lines came to its zenith at the Battle of Nashville on 15-16 December.  On 30 November, Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield held off Hood at the Battle of Franklin.  On 1 December, Schofield relinquished his position and retreated into Nashville which had been heavily fortified by both sides through the duration of the War.  For the next weeks, Hood’s 30,000 Confederate troops waited for Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’ 55,000 Federal troops to make their move.  Gen. U.S. Grant and army brass back in Washington, DC, were also impatient for Thomas to get on with it, fearing Hood would bypass Nashville and raid into the Midwest.  Grant, in fact, started out on the road to take personal command, but by mid-month Thomas felt ready to do battle.

Rebel positions commanded the ground south of the city, across the Franklin-Columbia Turnpike, Granny White Pike and Hillsboro Pike between the railroad lines.  The morning of 15 December, Thomas first sent two brigades against the Confederate right as a diversion, with his main force wheeling on the Confederate left about noon.  An afternoon of heavy fighting saw Hood’s lines fall back about two miles south and reform by dark on what became known as Shy’s Hill and Overton’s Hill.  Thomas ran the same plan the next day, and 16 December saw Hood’s forces in full flight south, with Union cavalry in pursuit throughout the end of the month.  Federal casualties numbered 3,061 vs. Confederate casualties of approximately 6,000.  Hood returned to Tupelo, Mississippi, and resigned his command.

Most of the Battlefield has been developed over intervening years, south of where I-440 now loops around the south side of Nashville.  The renowned Bluebird Cafe would have offered a front seat on the battle those many years ago—sacred ground now for songwriters, sacred ground for 150 years soaked in the blood of Blue and Gray.  The Battle of Nashville Preservation Society has preserved several historic sites connected with the battle, including parts of Shy’s Hill, where this November the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force dedicated a memorial to Minnesota volunteers.

(map from Civil War Trust website.)

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 14, 1864

Union Patriotic Cover 1861

Diary of Orrin Brown—

Wednesday–Dec. 14th

We were relieved at 6 AM, the night was a little chilly but it is warm and nice today. We were relieved from Picket at 4 PM. Those that were on post through the night did not have any duty to do through the day. The report came in this evening that Communication was opened with the fleet so I set right down and wrote a letter.

Every time I’m fortunate enough to travel to Washington, DC, I make sure to make time to visit one of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, although I’ve not yet visited the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, which opened in 1993.  As a long-term philatelist—stamp collector that is—this is a serious oversight.  When the Civil War tore the nation apart, it also tore apart the U.S. Mail.  In August 1861, the US Postmaster cut off mail service to the states in rebellion and demonetized stamps then in circulation.  Although Confederate stamps were issued, the Confederacy wasn’t a recognized government and the CSA Postmaster’s service did not benefit from the usual treaties and cooperative agreements to trade off mail.

Mail is a soldier’s lifeline home.  In the best of times it can be difficult for letters to find their intended destination, with units on the move and soldiers moving between units.  Later in the war, soldiers did at least have a sort-of franking privilege, where they could mark their name, rank and unit and their mail would be delivered postage due.  In November, 1864, the US Post Office introduced the money order system, making it safer for soldiers to send money home.  Although Officers discouraged sharing information that might be intercepted by opposing spies, most soldiers’ letter weren’t yet censored, a practice that become common in the First World War.  We draw on that treasury of first-hand accounts today, a wealth of insight on America’s Civil War.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 13, 1864

Big gun at Fort McAllister 1864

Diary of Orrin Brown—

Tuesday–Dec. 13th

We had a quite a frosty night but it is getting warmer and the sky is clear. There is considerable canonadeing all along the line today and there has been quite a battle on our right this afternoon with success to our forces, we captured a fort and a brigad of rebbels, the report came into camp today that our fleet captured Fort McCalester yesterday. My mess had a nice dish of Pigs feet today, we go on Picket tonight at 4 PM and stay 24 hours. We left camp at 4 PM and were plased 5 privates and a Corporal on a post to stay all night & relieve on another every two hours. We were only about 20 rods from the rebbel line so we could hear them talking.

On the 13th of December 1864, three brigades of Gen. William B. Hazen‘s 2nd Division, XV Corps (on the Right Wing) moved on Fort McAllister, defended by Confederate Maj. George A. Anderson with about 250 veteran troops.  The fort had withstood a half dozen attacks from the sea, but this time the challenge came by land.  Hazen’s 4,000 Union troops spread out in the woods and advanced through artillery fire and buried torpedoes.  It took them all of 15 minutes to take the fort, opening the Ogeechee River to Federal control.  Most importantly, this allowed supplies (and mail) to reach Sherman’s troops as they quickly ate through forage from the March to the Sea.

The site is a Georgia State Park today, 10 miles of I-95 south of Savannah.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 12, 1864

Robert Knox Sneden - Map of Savannah Nov 1864

Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Savannah, Georgia

Monday–Dec. 12th

We have had a freezeing cold night and the men are shivering around their camp fires this morning. Our foragers came in this moring with a nice lot of rice four. There have been occational Canonadeing all along the line today. The weather was a little warmer in the middle of the day but cool again toward night.

The Union Army now settled down for a siege of Savannah, a city of 22,292 in 1860.  In 1732, British Gen. James Oglethorpe founded the first settlement in Georgia based on an elaborate town plan that is still considered a monument to urban design. However, in 1864, Confederate Gen. William J. Hardee had entrenched about 10,000 Rebel troops in the city awaiting the 62,000 troops in Sherman’s vanguard.  Hardee had flooded rice fields surrounding the city, leaving only narrow raised roads like a medieval castle.

The XX Corps dug in on the far Left flank on the Savannah River, near Williamson’s Plantation extending across the Charleston & Savannah railroad.  The XIV Corps camped next across the Central railroad, extending to the XVII Corps on the Right Wing taking position astride the Savannah and Ogeechee canal near Lawson’s Plantation.  The XV Corps then set its right on the Atlantic and Gulf railroad.  As Slocum recounted (p.158 in the Official Records):

Our line was established as close as possible to that of the enemy, and the time spent in preparation for an assault upon his works.  Batteries were established on the river in such positions as prevented any boats from passing.

On the 12th, two gunboats (the CSS Macon and CSS Sampson) and a side-wheel tugboat (the CSS Resolute) tried to run downriver.  The Resolute was captured by the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry after running aground on retreat.

For a much more detailed discussion of this setting up for the siege, see this post on To The Sound of The Guns blog.

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