Grant and Fort Donelson

General Simon Bolivar Buckner was in command at Fort Donelson when Union forces were moving by land in conjunction with a flotilla of gunboats to besiege the Confederate stronghold. They had known each other at West Point, classes of 1844 (Buckner) and 1843 (Grant), and remained friends after the war. General Gideon Pillow had been in charge of the Confederates who pushed Grant back to the river at Belmont the previous November.  The Tennessean had his men hold off the approaching Union forces but did not take advantage of a break in their lines.  He retired to the fort and took command at Fort Donelson when General John B. Floyd decided to make a hasty departure. Floyd was the senior Confederate commander.  As U.S. Secretary of State before secession, he had been under indictment in Washington for the questionable transfer of military stores to southern states before the hostilities broke out.  He desperately wanted to avoid capture by the Federals for fear of charges for treason.  Before this could happen, he loaded his two Virginia regiments and some artillery onto a steamboat and “skedaddled” upriver (to the southeast) to Nashville.  He turned over command to Pillow who had once echoed…

Continue reading →
Brigadier General U.S. Grant

Grant at Belmont

In late 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk occupied Columbus in southwestern Kentucky on the Mississippi River.  He broke the “neutrality” of the state and gave Union forces a reason to take aggressive action. Pro-union officers were actively recruiting Kentuckians to take up arms to support their cause and were breaking the neutrality in their own right.  Just across the river, in far southeast Missouri, was the sparsely populated ferry landing of Belmont, where the Confederates had set up an outpost. Missouri’s U.S. military commander, General John Frémont sent Brigadier U.S. Grant into the region with 3,000 troops.  Grant sent an initial force to overrun the Confederate encampment at Belmont.  However, Polk learned of their approach and sent reinforcements who forced Grant’s men out and re-gain control of that section of the Mississippi River. Grant’s plan was to capture the Confederate stronghold at Columbus, but first he had to take the Confederate garrison at Belmont. The 1,000 men that Polk had sent across the river to protect that bank of the river would be no match for Grant’s approaching numbers and Polk sent an additional 2,500 troops across the river to provide relief for his troops on the other side. He…

Continue reading →
The Tudors

History with Mark Bielski Upcoming Episodes

February 8 – Civil War New Orleans In 1861, the City of New Orleans prepared for an imminent invasion by Union forces after Louisiana joined the Confederacy. As a crisis loomed, leadership, politics and military shortcomings became evident. February 15 – Battlefield Monuments: Vicksburg General Parker Hills joins Mark to discuss the monuments at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.  Gen. Hills’ book Art of Commemoration catalogues and details the magnificent sculpture, architecture, the artists and interpretations that memorialize the Park. February 22 – The Band of Brothers: George Luz and Easy Company In this episode, guest George Luz, Jr. talks about his father’s experiences in WWII as a soldier in Easy Company, the Band of Brothers.  We discuss the training, toil, camaraderie and sacrifices of the men in E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. March 1 –  Hood’s Texas Brigade Susannah J. Ural, professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and co-director of the University’s Dale Center for the Study of War and Society discusses her recent book, Hood’s Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy’ts Most Celebrated Unit.  Published by Louisiana State University Press. March 8 – Civil War New Orleans General Mansfield Lovell…

Continue reading →

Christmas in Wartime Part II

This episode of the History with Mark Bielski podcast reviews some of the happenings that American and Allied soldiers experienced during WWII. There are a few items from the  home front and some from where the fighting occurred, as well as a few snippets from behind enemy lines. First, a mention that I forgot to include in the last episode. On Christmas Day 1868, US president Andrew Johnson extended amnesty and a full pardon “to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion.” The Civil War had ended more than three years before and most of the South was in ruins. In many ways, the country had come out of the war, just as divided as it had been at the start. Reconstruction and occupation were the rules of life in the South. The Radical Republicans who had opposed President Lincoln’s conciliatory tendencies wanted nothing more than further punishment for those who had supported Secession. Andrew Johnson, a staunch Unionist from East Tennessee was both feared and loathed by many Southerners. However, his Attorney General James Speed reminded Johnson of Abraham Lincoln’s planned policy of reunification. 1941 — Japan seized Hong Kong from…

Continue reading →

Christmas in Wartime Part I

This episode of the History with Mark Bielski podcast covers Christmas during wartime, including the Revolutionary War. A Christmas Victory in the Revolutionary War In the winter of 1776 the American Revolution was still young and things did not look so good for the Continental Army and its commanding General George Washington.  Lord Cornwallis and his experienced and well-trained British army had pushed the Americans out of New York and across New Jersey. Washington steadily withdrew, and, had he turned and fought, his rag-tag force of freezing and starved men surely would have been annihilated.  Once he reached the Delaware River his men procured every boat available to cross over into the relative safety of Pennsylvania. The Americans were desperate, but Washington decided to go back across the Delaware and launch a surprise attack on the Hessian mercenaries occupying Trenton. On Christmas night, he led 2,400 men in freezing temperatures, sleet and snow, through the ice river’s floes for an attack on the Hessians. The surprise worked, and in two hours, with few losses of their own, they captured nearly 900 of the enemy. A week later it was a precarious situation for the Americans.  Washington’s men were exhausted and…

Continue reading →

Patton II

General Patton’s Accident Site, Mannheim, Germany This view show where the driveway of the former quartermaster depot enters old Highway 38 (Kaefertaler Strasse). Note the old pavement still present in the driveway. Asphalt now covers the rest of Kaefertaler Strasse (unkown if this was the pavement in place at the time of the accident).

Continue reading →

Civil War New Orleans: Prelude to Conflict

Civil War New Orleans: Prelude to Conflict A comparative look at the economic differences between the Confederate states and those of the Union shows a staggering disparity. SEE COMPARATIVE CHART The Southern states had few advantages, except in certain agricultural areas and any semblance of parity here, arose from the Border States, primarily Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri. These three states were divided between Union and Confederacy in sympathies, and more concretely in supplying officers and men under arms.  Nevertheless, they remained in the Union and are represented accordingly in terms of these resource statistics. Wars are costly—certainly in terms of life and devastation of property—and since they are, those who wage them need money and goods to collect and trade. The chief cash crop for the South was cotton, to a lesser extent tobacco was significant but cotton was king.  King Cotton was one of the Confederacy’s mainstays and sources of income.  However, to collect payment for this white gold, the seller must be able to get it to market.  The textile mills of New England and for that matter, Old England, became starved for raw cotton.  And, because in 1860, the southern United States produced 90% of the world’s cotton,…

Continue reading →

Antietam Part I

Professor Gerry Prokopowicz joins Mark on History with Mark Bielski to discuss the events leading up to the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. We cover the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) that August, Robert E. Lee’s reasons for taking the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland and the beginning of the battle. Antietam Part I – Summary The Battle of Antietam took place near Sharpsburg, MD on 17 September 1862.  It is often referred to as the bloodiest day of the war.  The battle was the culmination of the Maryland Campaign which actually had its roots in earlier in actions that occurred in Virginia in the late spring and early summer of 1862. The Antietam Battle itself pitted rising star Robert E. Lee, the Virginian who had recently taken the reins of the Confederate army in the east, against the young, ambitious Union General George B. McClellan. Lee had faced McClellan a few months earlier in southeastern Virginia and had thwarted McClellan at the end of the Peninsula Campaign, his grand plan to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. During the spring and early summer, General McClellan had moved his army up the Virginia Peninsula, pushing the Confederates…

Continue reading →
Sons of the White Eagle book cover

Listen to Mark Bielski on The Donna Seebo Show

You can listen to historian Mark Bielski live on The Donna Seebo Show this Tuesday, September 19 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM EST, discussing his book, Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation. Donna Seebo features authors and experts from around the world who share their insights with her worldwide audience. Informative and fun, this show has been on the air for 15 years. You are welcome to call into The Donna Seebo Show during the second half of the program. Call in number is 253.582.5597. Click here to listen to Mark on The Donna Seebo Show>> ABOUT SONS OF THE WHITE EAGLE Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation describes the fascinating story of nine transplanted Poles who participated in the Civil War. They span three generations and are connected by culture, nationality and adherence to their principles and ideals. The common thread that runs through their lives—the Polish White Eagle—is that they came from a country that had basically disintegrated at the end of the previous century, yet they carried the concepts of freedom they inherited from their forefathers…

Continue reading →
Battle of Antietam painting

History with Mark Bielski Podcast Fall Schedule

On September 13, 2017 I will be posting a podcast, where I will provide a preview of the historical topics I will be covering on History with Mark Bielski this fall and the experts who will be joining me. To give you a sneak peek of upcoming episodes, following is the September schedule. Mark your calendars, follow History with Mark Bielski on SoundCloud or subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or Google Play. History with Mark Bielski Podcast September 2017 Schedule September 13 – Preview of the lineup leading into December Host Mark Bielski provides information on the background of the historical topics he’ll be discussing and the historians who will join him on History with Mark Bielski this fall. September 20 – Antietam Part I Gerry Prokopowicz joins Mark to discuss the events leading up to the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. We cover the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) that August, Robert E. Lee’s reasons for taking the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland and the beginning of the battle. September 27 – Antietam Part II Gerry Prokopowicz returns to discuss the battle, its consequences and aftermath and the response from both sides. We include Abraham…

Continue reading →