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Fort Donelson National Battlefield, TN (7-22-14) : The conquest of Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 marked the first major Union victory of the Civil War.  Up until early that year everything seemed to be going the Confederates way.  Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia had chased the Federal Army out of Virginia and in the Western Theater little had been done to break the Southern defensive line stretching from Arkansas across Kentucky.  To Union planners the soft spot along that line, however, seemed to be along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, two waterways that would provide an open highway into the interior south if only they could be brought under U.S. control.

Protecting these waterways were two newly constructed Confederate forts, situated a dozen or so miles apart.  Fort Henry was built to protect the Tennessee River while to the east the much more imposing Fort Donelson protected the Cumberland.  In early 1862 a joint army/navy task force was sent out down the Tennessee to capture Fort Henry.  Commanding the naval squadron was Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote while the Army expedition would be led by a new-to-command and relatively unknown Brigadier General by the name of Ulysses S. Grant.  Due to it's poor location, the reduction of Fort Henry was a relative cake-walk.  While Grant was approaching with his army on February 6th, Foote attacked the fort with four of his ironclads.  In a ferocious artillery battle which lasted about an hour, the Confederate commander at Henry determined he couldn't hold out against the oncoming force and abandoned the stronghold before Grant even arrived.  Over 2,500 soldiers from Fort Henry escaped towards the next objective on Grant's list, Fort Donelson.

In contrast to Fort Henry, Fort Donelson was very well-planned and situated amongst high hills which dominated the Cumberland River.  The fort itself was some 15-acres in size and was surrounded by 10-foot earthen walls and abatis.  Facing the river were three batteries containing over a dozen heavy guns.  In addition, with the expectation of a land attack, nearly 3-miles of earthworks were constructed in a ring a half mile to a mile outside the fort.  To man these defenses were nearly 17,000 determined Confederate soldiers under the combined commands of Generals John B. Floyd, Gideon J. Pillow, and Simon B. Buckner.  Pleased with the ease at which Fort Henry was reduced Grant's plan for the bigger prize of Donelson was initially the same as his earlier victory.  He would approach with his army by land and surround the fort while Foote and his gunboats approached via the Cumberland.  Foote's ships would pummel the fort's heavy guns and force the then all-but-defenseless fort to capitulate.  As it turned out Fort Donelson would be a bit tougher nut to crack.

In the following album I take a tour around the National Battlefield as it is today.  As with other albums I tried, at least in part, to arrange this album as events took place at Donelson.  Because the landscape (particularly the thick forest) has changed so much since the time of the battle it was quite hard at times to keep myself oriented to how different positions correlated to one another.  Otherwise, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to walk amongst the earthworks and gun emplacements where a relatively unknown general became "Unconditional Surrender" Grant and the tide was irreversibly turned in the Western Theater of the war...

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, T...

Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

The conquest of Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 marked the first ma ...

Updated: Aug 24, 2014 8:51am PST

Fine Art :

Fine Art


Updated: Aug 23, 2014 10:06am PST

Shiloh National Military Park, TN (7-22-14) : The spring of 1862 found the war going very badly for the Confederacy in the west.  Kentucky had been lost to the Union Army, Fort Henry on the Tennessee River had fallen opening the interior south to federal gunboats, and most disastrously Fort Donelson had surrendered on February 12th along with one-third of the Confederate forces between the Mississippi and the Appalachians.  The interior south seemed wide open for invasion by the northern hordes.

The general tasked with the defense of these southern states was General Albert Sidney Johnson, a former U.S. soldier considered by many to be one of its most promising future officers.  Johnson's allegiance was firmly with the south, however, and in his mind at this crucial juncture it was critical to maintain the only remaining communications and supply link between east and west, the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.  His widely scattered forces also would need to be concentrated if he were to have any hope of threatening the Union army.  To accomplish these tasks he set up his base of operations in Corinth, Mississippi.  During March of that year scattered units of his army converged on Corinth as well as reinforcements from wherever they could be spared.  By the end of March, General Johnson had around 45,000 soldiers ready to stand against whatever next move the Union Army might make.

Moving against Johnson was the supremely confident 48,000-man force under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant.  After the capture of Fort Donelson Grant quickly pushed south and invested the Tennessee capitol of Nashville.  From there it was his intent to keep pushing south through the Mississippi Valley with the goal of splitting the Confederacy in two and, if possible, bringing Johnson's army to a decisive battle in the process.  Learning that Johnson was concentrating at Corinth Grant moved his army south along the Tennessee River to a ford known as Pittsburg Landing.  Setting up camp on the west bank of the river, Grant intended to gather the rest of his forces in the region before advancing further.  He was quite confident that in the interim Johnson's Confederates would stay safely behind their defenses at Corinth.

General Johnson wasn't planning on playing by Grant's rules.  First off he could do the math.  By the end of March he had near parity in numbers with Grant, but he knew that wouldn't last as Grant had more reinforcements on the way.  Also, he regarded Grant's choice of camp sites, with the river at his back, as a serious blunder.  Therefore it was Johnson's intent not to wait for Grant but to make the first move and catch the Union Army unawares.  His plan was simple, catch the Union Army by surprise with overwhelming force driving against the enemy's left flank and cutting off his route of supply and escape across the river.  Thus cut off Grant would be virtually surrounded and forced to surrender.  Such was the plan...

The Confederate Army began the 20-mile march north from Corinth on April 3rd.  The march quickly deteriorated into an almost comical mess.  Weather hampered the movement of men and artillery, green troops tired easily and slowed the march, and believe it or not <i>one whole division</i> got off track and went missing for the better part of a day!  The attack that should have commenced the morning of the 4th had now been pushed back to the morning of the 6th.  Johnson was sure his most crucial advantage, the element of surprise, had been lost.

He should have been right.  Though General Grant and most of his subordinates confidently stated that the Confederates were still camped at Corinth, the 4th and 5th of April had brought numerous reports of minor skirmishes and cavalry raids to the south.  One battalion of Ohio cavalry on April 4, in hot pursuit of Confederate raiders, crested a hill and were astounded to see long lines of Confederate infantry backed by artillery and immediately came under heavy fire.  When this information was brought to General Sherman he dismissed what the cavalry had seen as a Confederate reconnaissance mission.  A good glimpse into the mindset of the Union high command can be seen in a missive sent from General Grant to his superior General Halleck on April 5th when he stated, <i>"I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack (general one) being made upon us, but will be prepared should such a thing take place."</I>  Unfortunately, these preparations didn't include building any earthworks or strengthening picket lines.  As the light faded on April the 5th, 1862 Johnson's 45,000-man army, despite two days of delay, were about to collide with a Union Army which didn't think there was a Confederate within 20-miles.  Over the next two days a titanic struggle the likes of which the nation had never seen before would bring into startling clarity that the war had entered a new and much bloodier stage...

Shiloh National Military Park, TN (7-...

Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

The spring of 1862 found the war going very badly for the Confederacy ...

Updated: Aug 19, 2014 10:50am PST

Kennesaw National Battlefield Park, GA (1-14-14) : <i>"All that has gone before is mere skirmishing--The War now begins..."</i>

These words, uttered by Union Major General Tecumseh Sherman 10 days before the opening of the battle at Kennesaw Mountain, gives soul-stirring insight into the type of campaign that he intended to launch in Georgia in the coming months of 1864.  With the Civil War slaughtergrounds the likes of Shiloh, Gaines Mill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg still vivid in the country's memory, anyone who heard these words must have shuddered down to the very fiber of their being.

General Sherman and his 100,000-man army had departed Chattanooga, Tennessee on May 7th, 1864 with the objective of both destroying the opposing Confederate force under General Joseph E. Johnson, and capturing the major southern city and rail hub of Atlanta.  The month or so prior to the battle at Kennesaw saw the two armies engage in numerous small actions while Sherman moved inexorably South by performing a series of flanking movements around Johnson, forcing his withdrawal closer and closer to Atlanta itself.  By June 15, Sherman's advance had stalled out 15 miles short of Atlanta, however, as Johnson's army took up positions along the steep ridgetop of Kennesaw Mountain and three neighboring peaks known as Little Kennesaw, Pigeon Hill, and Cheatham Hill.  Due to the dominating position these peaks offered the Confederates, astride Sherman's intended railroad supply line, the Union army could not afford to simply bypass the Rebel army.  Kennesaw Mountain <i>had</i> to be taken.

Sherman's plan was a simple one.  His Army of the Cumberland, under Major General George Thomas, would make a general assault on the center of Johnson's line at Pigeon and Cheatham Hills, while the remainder of his force would make strong demonstrations against Johnson's flanks at Kennesaw Mountain and the Kolb Farm preventing Johnson from sending reinforcements to the point he intended to break through.  At 8:00am on June 27, 1864, 200 Union cannon opened up along the 8-mile front signaling the start of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain...

Kennesaw National Battlefield Park, G...

Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

"All that has gone before is mere skirmishing--The War now begins..." ...

Updated: Jul 19, 2014 8:21am PST

GCVM 2012 Civil War Re-enactment : Use slide show to view.

GCVM 2012 Civil War Re-enactment


Use slide show to view.

Updated: Apr 30, 2014 1:24pm PST

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Reenactment : Includes images from the 2013 Civil War reenactment.

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Reenactment


Includes images from the 2013 Civil War reenactment.

Updated: Mar 30, 2014 12:28pm PST

Moorpark 2013 : Moorpark, the largest Civil War reenacting event in Southern California, is always a thriller. The setting on a working farm with the hills surrounding the battlefield is a great location. Dozens of horses and hundreds of Civil War reenactors, history buffs, and battle enthusiasts gather for the annual event rain or shine. This year it was sunny and hot! Unlike other Civil War reenacting events, the one thing that makes this one really special is the night battle. If you're lucky enough to catch the guns exploding or the cannons expoding at just the right time, you will feel the excitement of capturing a great image. I enjoy capturing the faces of the reenactors more than anything else, especially when they don't know they're being photographed. For me it is just a much more natural expression than the ones I get when I ask them to pose for me, although, I do that too! Second favorite thing I love to shoot at these events is the horses. Maybe it's because my grandfather raised thoroughbred horses and was an incredible jockey in Europe, but I just adore the horses. This year did not disappoint and the horses were thrilling. It was a long, tiring, dusty, and dirty weekend for my husband who is in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, but he wouldn't have it any other way. I enjoy the weekend also and look forward to next year and the excitement that ensues on the Moorpark battlefield! I hope you enjoy the gallery of images and please feel free to leave a comment for any of the photos you like. I appreciate the feedback. Enjoy!

Moorpark 2013

Elizabeth Heath

Moorpark, the largest Civil War reenacting event in Southern Californi ...

Updated: Jan 31, 2014 9:57am PST

It's Cold in Macon :

It's Cold in Macon


Updated: Jan 08, 2014 7:38am PST

Soldiers & Sweethearts Ball  2008 : Dance hosted by the 3rd VA Infantry was held on February 16, 2008 in Virginia Beach, Va.

Soldiers & Sweethearts Ball 2008

Bob Mislan

Dance hosted by the 3rd VA Infantry was held on February 16, 2008 in V ...

Updated: Oct 11, 2013 10:33am PST

Fort Sumter National Monument, SC (9-8-13) : The predawn stillness of April 12, 1861 belied a nervous tension that enshrouded the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina.  In numerous batteries and battlements ringing the harbor soldiers from the surrounding region sat quietly near their guns waiting, and in many cases hoping, for the order to strike out at those who would defy their home state.  Arguably the most nervous men in Charleston that morning were those who huddled within the walls of Fort Sumter, men who had been caught up in a sudden whirlwind of historic events, men who occupied the last federal outpost in a state that had, at least in their minds, gone suddenly and terribly mad.

Three months earlier, in response to the election of President Lincoln and the subsequent succession of South Carolina, U.S. Major Robert Anderson, had moved this small garrison from the nearby but indefensible Fort Moultrie to the isolated and as-yet unfinished Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor.  Tactically, this was a good move as Fort Sumter's 50-foot high, 5-foot thick walls would offer a good deal more protection against any violent attempt to take the fort.  Sumter was built to house 135 cannon which, when properly manned, could certainly repel any attempt by the upstart rebels to take it.  Unfortunately, Major Anderson commanded only 127 men, far short of the fort's 650-man full compliment, and only about 60 cannon.  As such, the troops inside Fort Sumter were acutely aware that they were at the mercy of the ever-increasing forces surrounding them.  Knowing that any aggressive action on their part would likely spark a war, Major Anderson wisely resolved to hold his position as long as his dwindling supplies would allow.

Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the South Carolina forces, was also acutely aware that time was running out for Anderson and he was under increasing pressure to force the issue.  He had made repeated attempts over the previous weeks to achieve the surrender of the fort through negotiation.  Without resupply, he knew, the fort could not hold out much longer.  Though many in the south wanted him to take the fort by force of arms Beauregard also knew that blame for starting the war would rest upon the South and, more specifically, on him.  President Lincoln, however, forced his hand.

Lat on the evening of April 11, 1861 Union resupply ships began to arrive off the entrance to Charleston Harbor not far from Fort Sumter.  If the supplies contained within those ships were allowed to reach Fort Sumter Major Anderson and his forces would be able to hold out indefinitely.  That same evening Beauregard sent a small delegation of men with the message that this would be the last chance for Anderson to surrender the fort peaceably.  Major Anderson flatly refused.  At 4:30am on the morning of April 12, 1861 a loud report pierced the morning sky as a single mortar round ascended from Fort Johnson towards Fort Sumter.  Within minutes, at this signal, batteries on all sides of the harbor opened up and Fort Sumter was bathed in a ring of fire.  The conflict so long anticipated and feared had arrived.  The U.S. Civil War had begun.

Major Anderson and his small band of beleaguered troops held out for 34 hours, but it was a futile resistance.  Realizing the hopelessness of his situation, Anderson surrendered the fort on April 13th.  The flag of the Confederacy flew over the fort without incident for the next two years when, in 1863 the Union finally began efforts to retake the facility.  The various Union attempts to force the surrender of the fort followed a simple strategy...pummel the fort into submission.  From 1863 to 1865 Fort Sumter underwent no less than --- periods of bombardment  by the end of which Fort Sumter was little more than a giant pile of bricks, but still it defiantly stood.  It wasn't until February 17, 1865 as General Sherman's army occupied Charleston itself that the fort was abandoned and the Stars and Stripes once again flew over its battered ramparts.

After the war the rubble was cleared and walls were partially repaired but the fort was left unmanned.  It wasn't until 1897, with the commencement of the Spanish-American War that the government was prompted to garrison the fort once again and construction was begun on a huge concrete battery which would bisect the old parade grounds.  Named Battery Huger, the fort served as a lookout and coastline defense post off and on for the next 50 years though it never saw action.  After World War 2 the fort was officially decommissioned and was handed over to the National Park Service as a National Monument in 1948.

Today, any visit to Fort Sumter should begin at the visitor center located on the west shore of the Cooper River in Liberty Square in downtown Charleston.  Numerous displays tell the history of the fort and on display are many period artifacts, including the flag which flew so defiantly during those furious 34 hours in the spring of 1861.  After the visitor center two ferry's are available to take visitors out to the fort itself, one from the docks adjacent to the center and one from across the river at Patriots Point Park.  This album represents my third visit to the fort and I haven't tired of going back.  Walking along the walls still marked and gouged by shot and shell from 150 years ago bring those momentous events back in a very tangible way.  As the ignition point for the greatest conflagration this nation has ever endured, Fort Sumter is a must-see for any enthusiast of American History...

<center><i>"Our Southern brethren have done grievously; they have rebelled and have attacked their father's house and their loyal brothers. They must be punished and brought back, but this necessity breaks my heart." </i>       <br>- Major Robert Anderson</center>

Fort Sumter National Monument, SC (9-...

Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

The predawn stillness of April 12, 1861 belied a nervous tension that ...

Updated: Sep 26, 2013 7:01am PST