“The Country Is So Poor You Can Hear It Groan At Night.”

“The Country is so Poor you can hear it Groan at Night.” This is the chapter title for Chapter Two which recounts the arrival of the East Tennessee Regiments to the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou at Vicksburg.  They straggled in, a unit at a time after a long, long overland march.

This title, like all the chapter titles in “A Fit Representation of Pandemonium:” East Tennessee Confederate Soldiers in the Campaign for Vicksburg, by William D. Taylor, are quoted from the first-hand sources used in the compilation of this remarkable Civil War history.   It was published  in 2008 by Mercer University Press, 1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon Georgia 31207.

In many ways, this is a very common soldier’s story.  What makes it uncommon, however, is the origin of the men fighting to defend Confederate interests at Vicksburg in late 1862 through July 1863.  These East Tennesseans have never had a voice, since it was the victors from their section of the state who wrote the histories.  At no other time during the war did this number of Confederates from the eastern end of Tennessee serve in one place in defense of the South.  Their service at Vicksburg was primarily as infantrymen, but some participated as cavalry scouts, others as artillery men. Indeed, it was admitted by many that the mightiest warship on the Mississippi during this period was sunk by the cannon of an East Tennessee battery.  Other volunteers manning cannon on the decks of a make-shift Confederate fleet would help in sinking of another powerful Yankee ironclad.  But mostly, these men experienced unrelenting bombardment and sharpshooter fire in the trenches around Fortress Vicksburg, or stood picket, or, with the exception of the Big Black River Battles, participated with valor in battles at Chickasaw Bayou, Baker’s Creek, or desperate sorties in the dead of night between the lines. 

Using a number of letters home, reminiscences, records, and diaries kept during the long hours in the hot and “filthy” ditches (as they called them), a story emerges of sacrifice and adaptability, of boredom and submission to inevitability.  As much as possible, this story is told in their own words.  They fought for Mississippians who often despised and belittled them against the most fearsome war-machine ever assembled during the War Between the States led by the most dogged single-minded general the United States has ever known:  U.S. Grant.  Interestingly, he was never mentioned by these rebels until the day of the surrender of Vicksburg when they could actually see him in person.   (cover jacket)

Civil War Confederate bios are often difficult to find.   The defeated side sort of loses interest in telling the story of their defeat.  Taylor corrects  some of this omission  in Appendix B,  Identified East Tennessee Confederate Soldiers Who Died in the Vicinity of Vicksburg during the Campaign.  He  provides mini-biographies for those men who gave their lives for the rebel cause here. 

Among the names of the dead are “lost” family members who were known to have served, for which no death dates were ever recorded by the family.  What a find.  And what a boon to be able to document some of the family stories as well as fill in the family charts.

I really encourage you to watch for books of this kind–told so many years later, but using the records created by the actual men themselves.  It is almost like being able to interview them in person!  Your favorite Tennessee Genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS   The response to this blog has been overwhelming–with registrations to comment, emails with suggestions for topics to cover, salutes for finally doing something on Tennessee.  Many thanks.  I left the first and inaugural episode up for extra days so that the flavor of the newsletter would be seen and read by the widest possible audience.  AE


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