Flag Story Rekindles Fond Memories

My grandfather, Richard B. Satterlee, served in Company K of the 16th Wisconsin Infantry. He was drafted in 1864 out of Westford in Richland County, Wis., and joined William T. Sherman after the Siege of Atlanta was over, staying with Sherman on his March to the Sea and up the North and South Carolina coasts. That campaign eventually cost him his life at age 54, due to chronic dysentery he suffered as the result of drinking bad water.

I know I am probably a rarity being the grandson of a Civil War soldier, but bear with me. Grandpa was 34 when my dad was born in 1875, and my dad was 54 when I was born in 1929.

Your article about battle flags in the July 2007 issue (“Fighting and Dying for the Colors at Gettysburg”) reminded me of a story my father once told me about a patriotic celebration in 1885 in which my grandfather delivered a rousing address to the crowd. Dad said: “Here was my mild-mannered, quiet, gentle minister father yelling, ‘They ought to hang all the Rebs up by the neck and let the wind whistle through their bones!’”

My father told me he couldn’t remember why my grandfather had said that, but I was later informed by a Civil War historian that President Grover Cleveland had suggested sending all the captured Rebel battle flags back to the Southern states as a goodwill gesture. The Grand Army of the Republic veterans apparently went through the roof upon hearing about it. When I heard that, Dad was fortunately still alive at 92, and he was thrilled to finally learn why my grandfather had been so angry that time.

I was driving my dad around Madison, Wis., during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. When he saw some cars flying Confederate battle flags, he really flared up. This was the first time I had ever heard him swear. “Look at that,” he yelled. “My father gave up many years of his life to put that blankety-blank thing down, and they’re flying it again.” I have a hunch that if he had had my shotgun there, he would have cut loose with it. To him, flying the Confederate flag was no joke.

Keep up the good work on your magazine, although sometimes it is hard for me to read about the horror the war must have been. I have three grandchildren in the military, two currently serving in Iraq.

John O. Satterlee Fort Atkinson, Wis. Did Ransom Demand Cost Early, Too?

Marc Leepson’s article “The Great Rebel Raid,” in the August 2007 issue, omits one notable reason why Confederate General Jubal Early missed a great opportunity to sack Washington, D.C., in July 1864. When Early reached Frederick, Md., after the Battle of Monocacy, he piddled around with Frederick Mayor William Cole over a $200,000 payment to spare the town. Even though Early obtained the ransom, those funds obviously didn’t help win the war for the Confederacy.

Leepson quotes Union General Ulysses S. Grant as saying: “If Early had been but one day earlier, he might have entered the capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent.” It’s likely Early would have arrived a day earlier if he had just marched his army straight to Washington without resorting to that ransom scheme.

Kathleen McKesson Washington, Pa. Update on Battle of Shiloh Story

As a former Shiloh National Park historian, I was very interested in the article about the battle (“A Loss of Innocence at Shiloh”) in your June 2007 issue. I was especially pleased to read that O. Edward Cunningham’s thesis was finally going to be published as a book, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2007).

Despite certain issues, I still support Major David W. Reed’s historiography of the battle, including the reports of 12 assaults on the Hornet’s Nest. Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles’ line, for example, did not contain 62 cannons, as Cunningham affirms in his thesis. That number originally came from Reed, who assumed that there was a full complement of guns for the 10 batteries and one section at the scene. Larry J. Daniel in his book Shiloh, using more detailed information, counted only 53.

The Hornet’s Nest held firm from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and at the end of the day the Confederates wasted an entire hour and most of their army encircling and capturing the Union defenders in the Nest, allowing time for the remainder of Grant’s army to form a successful last line of defense. I would love to have heard Dr. Cunningham’s comments on that.

We park historians at least were already aware that the Sunken Road at Shiloh was not particularly sunken, as Cunningham points out. I was told that in the 1930s a Civilian Conservation Corps crew was assigned to work on returning the road to its “historic” appearance. The crew started digging a trench, but the so-called restoration was halted after only a few feet were dug.

The Battle of Shiloh was far bloodier than the official numbers indicate. The Federals reported 1,754 killed, but Northern burial parties recovered 2,361 unidentified bodies. The Confederates tallied 1,728 killed, but Grant in his postwar memoirs said his men found 4,000 dead.

Donald F. Dosch Omaha, Neb. Correction

The photo of Richmond’s Libby Prison on P. 61 of the June 2007 issue was incorrectly identified as the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C.


Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here