Facts That Are Stranger Than Fiction

The Long Road Home

When the war ended in 1865, many prisoners of the Confederacy, were released from Northern prisons and were a great distance from home. The Federal government did not offer money nor transportation for their return home. In many instances, these young, homeless, Southern men had to resort to "bumming" in the countryside to survive. Several were arrested for being a vagrant. A few made it to Washington D.C. where they appealed directly to Gen. U.S. Grant, who then offered transportation, subsistence or knew whom they could contact for help.

That Damn Yankee Rifle

The Henry, an advanced repeating rifle saw limited but effective use during the war as the war drew to a close. The Confederates referred to it as "That damn Yankee rifle they load up on Sunday and fire all week." The Henry carried 15 rounds of .44 caliber ammunition in its magazine. It saw deadly service at Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks and Sayler's Creek.

"Mudwall" Jackson

William Jackson was a brigadier in the Confederate Calvary and saw many battles in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. He had proven his worth and mettle as a die hard Confederate. Because his famous cousin was "Stonewall Jackson," William's men aptly nicknamed him "Mudwall Jackson."

Civilian "Military" Medals

The only military medal ever awarded by the Confederacy was the Davis Guard Medal, awarded to The Davis Guards, a militia company originally formed in Houston, Texas. In gratitude for their participation at the Battle of Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863, the residents of Sabine City had the medals made and awarded. One was given to Jefferson Davis who was carrying it when he was captured and imprisoned at Fort Monroe.

Where were the "Swamp Rats"?

The great State of Louisiana saw no military action against it until May 1, 1862, primarily because of its bayous, swamps and marshes, which prevented normal military operations from being conducted.

The Hornet's Nest

The "Hornet's Nest" at Shiloh was named by Southern troops because so many bullets were buzzing in the air. The fierce defenses of Union Hurlbut, Wallace and Prentiss held for nearly six hours before being overrun by Rebels.

Quaker Guns?

"Quaker Guns," utilized by the Confederacy, were large logs, shaped to resemble cannon, painted black and positioned behind fortifications. Occasionally, a real gun carriage was placed beneath the log. These were used during the war for deception that a position was strongly held and sometimes, the ruse worked...

A REAL American

During the surrender at the McLean House at Appomattox, Gen. Ely Samuel Parker, a Seneca Indian was present in the parlor. Lee first believed Grant had brought a black person to the surrender, but soon realized his error and said, "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker replied, "We are all Americans." Parker, educated in two cultures and an attorney, was once denied practicing law in New York because of his race.

"Galvanized Yankees"

"Galvanized Yankees," was a term used to described Rebel prisoners of war who volunteered to join the Union army in lieu of imprisonment. Although mistrusted at first, these men, numbering nearly 6,000, proved their mettle and valor to the service. They were used primarily in the Trans-Mississippi Theatre in the west. After the war, many changed their names, never to return to the South again. The South also had "Galvanized Rebels."

"The Old Man of Gettysburg"

John L. Burns, the "Old Man of Gettysburg," was a cobbler by trade when the battle of Gettysburg began. He took his old musket and walked towards the scene of the action. Once there, he fought valiantly alongside Union veteran troops and was wounded three times. After the war, President Lincoln came to visit Burns and the veteran became a national folk hero. A statue today is erected of Burns at Gettysburg.

The Youngest Civil War General

Galusha Pennypacker, became a captain of the 97th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Just before his 21st birthday, he was made a brigadier general, thereby making him the youngest general in the Civil War.

Biological Warfare?

In the Spring of 1865, Northern newspapers discovered what they believed was a diabolical plot of the Confederacy to infest northern cities and its military with the yellow fever. A Doctor Blackburn, serving as a Confederate agent in Canada, allegedly packed clothing which was infested and sent it to northern cities and army bases to be used as second hand clothing. He was arrested, tried and acquitted for lack of proof. It would be years later before scientists learned the fever can only be transmitted by a type of mosquito.


Julia Dent Grant, wife of U.S. Grant, came from a slaveholding family. She often brought her four slaves to camp when she visited her husband. Grant never asked her to give up the slaves.

True Red White & Blue?

Union soldiers looted a Missouri home in 1864 and discovered a young woman's dress that was red, white and had 13 buttons down the front. The woman, Sue M. Bryant was arrested when she refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Union. Sue suffered many hardships during her imprisonment but she never signed the oath, saying she was, "yet true to the principles of the South that caused her to suffer for the Confederacy."

Who Was That Masked Man?

The spy, Harrison, who literally changed the course of the war at Gettysburg with his timely information on Union moment, was a real person. Researchers now believe he was most likely Henry Thomas Harrison, one of the original Mississippi scouts that served on the Potomac. He was a 2nd lieutenant assigned to intelligence duties in Mississippi. Harrison disappeared after the war, going to Montana in 1867. When or where he died and is buried is unknown.

Horse Meat Ain't Bad!

On March 9, 1863, Confederate Captain John S. Mosby, slipped into the town of Fairfax Court House, Virginia. Amid thousands of Union troops in the surrounding countryside and many in town, Mosby and his men captured Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton without firing a shot. Afterwards, President Lincoln expressed more concern for the horses than the general. Said Lincoln, "I can make brigadier generals, but I can't make horses."

America's Devil Island?

Fort Jefferson was not intended to be a prison for Confederate prisoners of war, but rather a prison for criminals of Union armies. It was built in the Dry Tortugas - a chain of tiny islands west of Key West Florida. It was truly America's Devil's Island. The suffering here was indescribable. It was here McClellan sent 63 rebellious soldiers from the 2nd Maine Infantry to toil building the prison. And, it was here, Dr. Samuel Mudd, the man who treated John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Another Shot? - Whiskey That Is!

Quinine was one of the most valuable medicines during the Civil War. It was in every doctors medicine chest. It was used from everything from malaria to dentifrice. The most prescribed medication on both sides of the conflict was alcohol. It seemed to cure everything . . .