Sunday, July 26, 2009

This has been a busy two weeks

I have been grading research papers and finals from my classes in addition to trying to wade through the final court martial transcript. I have finally finished the transcript, all 164 pages of it!

What a case. It has it all. An officer accused of conduct unbecoming etc. A pro-Southern crowd in the Varieties Theatre in New Orleans threw him out with the aid of the police. In the process he was bitten on the thumb and stuck in the head.
Whom does he run into when returned to a camp of the 1st US Infantry? Captain DeRussy, his old nemesis from the previous court martial. This provokes another incident and HCR tells him to “go to Hell” and offers that if he will come out of his tent “I will shoot you through the heart!”
Most telling in some ways was his written defense. He opens with a few comments on honor. They are included below.

"In order to fully comprehend the consequences of your decision in such a case, particularly if it be unfavorable to the accused, you must know the appropriate value and price of a Soldier's honor! A Soldier is the only man of all men, who feels himself rich indeed "when all but life and honor's lost!"

This is an Irish song from HYLAND'S MAMMOTH, AFTER THE BATTLE

Night closed around the conqueror's way.
And lightnings showed the distant bill.
Where those who lost that dreadful day
Stood, few and faint, but fearless still!
The soldier's hope, the patriot's zeal,
Forever dimmed, forever crossed.
Oh, who shall say what heroes feel,
When all but life and honor's lost!

The last sad hour of freedom's dream
And valor's task moved slowly by,
While mute they watched, till morning's beam
Should rise and give them light to die.
There's yet a world where souls are free,
Where tyrants taint not nature's bliss;
If death that world's bright opening be.
Oh, who would live a slave in this?

The last sad hour of freedom's dream
And valor's task moved slowly by,
While mute they watched, till morning's beam
Should rise and give them light to die.
There's yet a world where souls are free,
Where tyrants taint not nature's bliss:
If death that world's bright op'ning be,
Oh! who would live a slave in this?

Powerful stuff!

He continues:

“but to the Soldier All things Else sink into insignificance in comparison to his honor! Now, gentlemen, depriving the Soldier who has Sustained his own and his Country's honor on more than one hard and desperately fought-field of battle-learning the Evidence of his devotion to Country and of his own heroism to much the battle plain--of his hard earned reputation, by degrading him; strip him of all his well earned honors and his Soldierly pride, by passing a sentence in severity greater that the Criminality of the Offense. 'per se' would justify, then you send back to 'civil society' a person, who, if not forever afterwards deprived of, is forever prohibited....By sentencing away his character his former life as a Soldier, and his future history, whatever it may be, that time can never effase! You take from him a Soldier's all 'his honor'.”

"The affair at the Varieties Theatre....was a sheer and wanton violation of the rights of a gentlemen, and stamps it as an uncalled for, brutal, outrageous and cowardly and shameful attack upon an Officer of the United States Army. The incentives to such an outrage, and the cause of the perpetration thereof, being the deeply rooted, prejudices engendered in the bitter five years War of the Rebellion of the Southern States.”

"It is clearly shown…that the accused was laboring under a high state of mental excitement ? Under and by the brutal, unhuman, cowardly and shameful treatment he received…Treatment that would have almost made frantic and maddening with anger any gentleman who possessed the spirit worthy of a Soldier! What true man, what Soldier, we ask, would brave the indignities and insults offered to and the outrage perpetrated upon the person of the accused....and in consequence - of have been almost bordering upon madness itself....those who are so high-spirited and repellant in their natures that they cannot brook with indifference an affront or shameful and disgraceful indignity, but who loose entire control of that Devil-attribute of our nation-passion-and there commit acts which others of a cooler and more phlegmatic nature would never be guilty of."

He also cites in conclusion all the battles he served in, I need this as it was incomplete in my mind.

“Purdy Bridge May 2d 1862
Siege of Corinth-Battle of Corinth 3&4 1862,
Champion Hills and Big Black River in the Miss. Campaign of 1863
Siege of Vicksburg being interruptedly engaged and under fire for 45 days and on duty each day of the protracted Siege
New Market Heights 25 Sept 1864, where for the first time a permanent advance position was gained on the north side of the James,
First Hatcher Run
movement of the Army of the Potomac about Petersburg to the left by the Brotherton Plank Road Oct 25th 1864
Second Hatcher's Run Feb 6th 1865
Battles around Petersburg 30 - 31st March and 1 & 2nd of April1865.
The pursuit of the Rebel Army of Northern Virginia the finale of that brilliant and wonderful 21 days.
In each of the above battles and engagements the accused has borne an honorable part. And has received the approval and commendation therefore of his different immediate commanding officers, and in several instances of the Commanding Generals."

In the next few weeks, I will be meeting with a Army behavioral psychologist along with an expert on military suicide, and a neuropsychologist.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Court Martial # 1, 2, 3

Yes three. I have put Corinth aside for a while as I await some more documents in the mail. For the past week I have been looking at the three times HCR was in serious trouble with the Army.

I'll let the documents speak for themselves:

Charge CM #1 Camp St., LA @ the Brook's House Charge 1 "Conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline." HCR said "I will put my baggage in this wagon." When told by Major M. Maloney that his baggage could not be put into the wagon, did repeat the same words, and that he "would like to catch any person putting it out." And make use of other words in a disrespectful manner. Charge 2 "Using contemptuous and disrespectful language to his superior officer" When MAJ Maloney told him to consider himself under arrest HCR said in presence of Officers & Citizens, that "You are not my Commanding Officer," and that 'I will not respect your authority,' and did further say 'you are a damned fool.' or words to that effect.

"The Major General Commanding (Sheridan) trusts that the rebuke given ... will be sufficient warning to him of the enormity of his offense, and regrets that he should be obliged thus publically to reprimand an officer of a Regiment noted for its discipline, for so gross an offence as disrespect to an officer greatly his superior, in both years, rank, and experience."

Believe it or not, before this case was settled he was brought up on charges again:

Charge CM #2 Camp & Lafayette St, NO, Saloon incident "Conduct unbecoming on Officer and gentleman. In this that Lieut. Henry C. Robinette…while in a state of intoxication, enter the saloon of one Andrew Kiplinger on the corner of Camp and Lafayette Streets, with two enlisted men of his Regiment and call upon the barkeeper to give said enlisted men something to drink and upon being refused by the said Barkeeper did forcibly and by means of threats cause said Keeper to come from behind his bar, upon which he, 1st Lieut. Robinett went behind said bar and did use such violent and ungentlemanly language and threats as to cause the Barkeeper to call to his Assistance the "Officer of the `Day" on duty at Headquarters Mil. Div. of the Gulf."

"Conduct to the prejudices of good order and Military Discipline…did say to two enlisted men of his Regiment when ordered by Captain J.D. De Russey 1st US Infantry to leave the saloon, "You are not going to obey that order are you?" or words to that effect, thereby prejudicing the authority of said Captain De Russy and inciting a mutinous spirit on the part of the said enlisted men"

HCR was found guilty and dismissed from the service. EXCEPT:

"The recommendation [to be reinstated] of Lieut. Genl Grant is approved. Referred to the Adjutant Genl to issue order. by order of the Sec of War [Stanton]"

And then #3 about a year later:

"While is a state of intoxication behave in a manner so unbecoming (as to disrupt and annoy the audience and actors in the said theater); and when requested by the usher And police officer in attendance to desist from such conduct, did persist in making a disturbance (and did use loud and insulting language to said usher and police-officer), and did continue to behave in such an unbecoming manner (as to interrupt the performance on the stage) and to cause the said usher and police-officer to forcibly eject him from the said theatre, and to take him as a prisoner to the First district police station."

Again found guilty and dismissed from service.

But wait:

"Sec. of War respectfully submits report of the JAG in the case of Capt & Bvt. Maj Henry C Robinett to the President."

"Judge Advocte General advises that the sentence be mitigated to suspension from rank and pay for a limited period. Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War whose attention is called to the action of the President [Johnson]."

Yes, all three in New Orleans after the war. Yes, Grant stepped in on the second and President Andrew Johnson on the third.

Much more to read in the records...more later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thursday morning: October 4, 1862 @ Corinth

I spent the last three full days pouring through the sources for the events surrounding Battery Robinett on that day and I am still not done! I wanted to share a few snippets from the primary sources. These few hours were some of the most brutal, bloody and vicious in the war.

"All the night we lay under the brightest moon I ever saw. Under the same moonlight, and only 600 yards away from us, also lay the victorious rebel army. They believed Corinth as good as taken but they had only taken our outer line of forts. Yet it looked bad for us....out there lay thousands of others in line, only waiting the daylight to be also mangled and torn...."

"With the earliest dawn of day, the enemy's [CSA] battery in front opened its fire. What a magnificent display! Nothing we had ever seen looked like the flashes of those guns. No rockets ever scattered fire like the bursting of those shells!"

"Lieut. Robinette did not respond for some twenty minutes; in the meantime, training his guns to the point of attack so as not to send one useless shot"

"After Lieut. Robinette opened his battery of Parrot guns the scene soon changed - as only a few shots were necessary to drive the Rebels from their position."

"Suddenly we heard something, almost like a great whirlwind….amazed to see a great black column, ten thousand strong, moving like a might storm-cloud out of the woods and attacking the troops and forts to our left. Instantly we changed direction a little and, without further firing, witnessed one of the greatest assaults of any war. It was the storming of Fort Robinett....These recklessly advanced on the forts, climbing over the tress and bending their heads against the awful storm of grape and canister from all our cannon....Even an enemy could feel pity to see brave men so cruelly slaughtered."

“In front of us was the most obstructive abattis that it was my misfortune to encounter …, “the forts belched destruction into our ranks; yet our men did not waver or halt …. when about half through the abattis, Robinett changed shells for grape and canister on us. Our yells grew fainter and our men fell faster, but at last we reached the unobstructed ground in front of the fort …”

"Upon the advancing lines the 47th were pouring a deadly enfilading fire with telling effect, the guns of Robinett were double charged and the redoubt was a circle of flame. Magnificently mounted and bearing the Confederate colors aloft, Colonel Rogers of Texas [2nd Texas Infantry-leading the charge on Robinett] led the line of gray, led them to the very edge of the ditch which he was in the act of leaping when the Ohio Brigade arose and delivered a murderous fire, before which the Confederates recoiled …”

"I shall ever remember looking at the face of the rebel Col. Rogers, when not more than 30 paces, and noting the peculiar expression it had, He looked neither to the right or left, neither at his own or our men, but with eyes partly closed, like one in a hail storm, was marching slowly and steadily upon us."

"The fighting in front of Robinett was desperate in the extreme. Many of the gunners from the 1st Inf. were disabled, and when the cannon ceased to belch forth its hail it was soldiers from Capt. Spangler's co. A. 43rd Ohio, who sprang into the fort and assisted in manning he guns until the close of the struggle"

“It seemed as though hell was holding a jubilee." "It was a bloody contest and we could see men using their bayonets like pitch forks and thrusting each other through"

"Lieut. Robinett, of the battery, severely wounded in the head, fell senseless under one of his guns. At this most of his men ran to the rear. A moment later, some of the men of Co. A. of the 43rd Ohio, entered the battery, aided the few brave fellows who had stood their ground, to man the guns.”
“Oh we were butchered like dogs,”

"When the assault had failed and the noise of the battle was stilled, I hurried down in front of Robinett. My canteen was full of water and I pressed it to the lips of many a dying enemy--enemy no longer. Our grape shot had torn whole companies of men to pieces. They lay in heaps of dozens, even close up top the works."

"The rebel dead lay every few feet from the embrasures of Ft. Robinette, a mile to the front."

"In front of Fort Robinett the Confederate dead lay piled from three to seven deep; for a hundred feet the bodies lay so close it was almost impossible to walk between them.”

"They had been cut to pieces in the most intense meaning of that term. Such bravery was never been excelled on any field as the useless assaults on Robinette."

"That night I stood guard under an oak tree. On the battlefield under the unburied dead. Many of the wounded, even, had not yet been gathered up. The moon shone as brightly as the night before, while thousands who had laid there under its peaceful rays before the battle were now again sleeping, never to awaken again."

Battery Robinett

COL Rogers (w/ beard) & Confederate dead.

Keep History Alive