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The Jackson Cotton Works

On May 15, 1863, after capturing Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman decided to take a stroll about town.  They chanced upon a cotton mill, busily at work, oblivious of the fact that a battle had been fought for the town and that it was now occupied by Union troops.  Surprisingly, no one paid the least bit of attention to the pair of Yankee generals when they entered the place.  As the two wandered around the factory, they saw a great many women tending various machines which were turning out tent cloth by the mile, with "C.S.A." neatly woven into each bolt.  After they had toured the installation for a bit, Grant turned to Sherman, saying, “I think they have done work enough."  He then immediately ordered all work to cease.  Telling the women that they could take as much cloth as they wished, he ordered them to leave the premises.  When the workers had left, he had the place burned down.  As an incident of war, it was a minor one and soon forgotten. 

Forgotten that is, until years later.

One day during Grant’s presidency, a southern gentleman turned up in Washington and requested a meeting.  Show in to the President, the man explained that he had been the owner of the cotton mill in Jackson that Grant had put to the torch.  Claiming that the place was private property, he asked the president to provide him with written confirmation of the fact that it had been burned at Grant's orders, for he wished to lay a claim for recompense on the Congress.

Grant demurred, the laconic "I declined" which appears in his memoirs perhaps concealing somewhat stronger sentiments on the matter.

Civil War Note:  Readers are reminded that North & South has much more coverage of the Civil War than is common to CIC, not to mention an impressive website, featuring “Today in the Civil War”. 

 

French Battalion Officers on the Eve of the Revolution

For many years the French Army of the Old Regime had admitted members of the middle class and some deserving enlisted men to the officer corps.  Traditionally, certain special regimental officers were almost always commissioned from the ranks.  Generally older than "regular" officers, these men held posts such as the quartermaster-treasurer of each regiment (average age on appointment 40), flag carrier ranking as a sous-lieutenant in each battalion (39), , and the lieutenant (48) and sous-lieutenant of the grenadier company in each battalion.  Some of the younger among these officers would often become regular company officers, and a few even field grade officers.  As a result, there were usually two or three former enlisted men who were not of noble birth among the 200 generals.  Early in the 1780s, however, the nobility pressured dim-witted King Louis XVI into mandating that all new officers have “16 quarterings”, that is, that all 16 of their great-great grandparents were nobles.  By the eve of the Revolution of 1789 this decree had only just begun to affect the character of the officer corps:

Rank Age Pay  
Cadets-gentilshommes 20 unk livres  
Sous-lieutenants 21 720  
Lieutenants en second 27 800  
Lieutenants en premier 30 900  
Capitaines en second 37 1,300  
Capitaines commandants 45 2,000 *
Majors 47 3,000  
Lieutenant-colonels 50-51 3,600  
* The senior capitaine commandant in a battalion (i.e., senior company commander) received an extra 400 livres

On this table, almost all of the officers ranking as sous-lieutenants were members of the nobility, while some of those in the higher brackets were of bourgeois or even working class origins, technical specialists or former enlisted men who earned promotion to officer by skill or valor.

High noblemen serving in household and other special regiments were usually younger, with colonels of 36 not unheard of. 

Of course when the Revolution came along, sparked in part by the nobility’s insistence on their “ancient rights,” the requirement for 16 quarterings was immediately dispensed with. 

 

Improbable Wars - The Second German-Murcian War (May 29-30, 1937)

On the evening of May 29, 1937, the German panzerschiff (pocket battleship) Deutschland was lying in the roadstead at Ibiza, in the Balearic Island, held by the Spanish Nationalists.  The ship was part of the German component of the so-called “Non-Intervention” patrol established by the League of Nations to prevent foreign meddling in Spanish affairs, although Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union were in fact meddling quite a lot.  A little after 6:00 pm, two Soviet-manned Spanish Republican Tupolev SB bombers raided targets in and around the port of Ibiza.  Mistaking the Deutschland for the Nationalist heavy cruiser Canarias, they dropped several bombs on her, killing 31 of her crew and injuring about 100.

Claiming that the attack on the Deutschland was a deliberate “criminal act” by the “Red Valencia government”, on May 30th, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer hurled about 200 11-inch shells into the port of Almeria, in Murcia, on the southeastern coast of Spain, causing widespread damage and leaving 19 people dead and 55 injured, thereby satisfying “German honor.” 

To set this incident in context, it’s worth noting that, like all airmen of the times, neither Republican nor Nationalist aircrew were very good at identifying ships, and on several occasions dropped bombs on one of the many foreign warships that congregated in and near Spanish waters during the Civil War, including British, French, Italian, and even American vessels, occasionally causing deaths or injuries, without eliciting a similar retaliatory bombardment.

Although Hitler had sent the Legion Condor to support the Spanish Nationalists, that was done under the claim that it was a “volunteer” organization with no ties whatsoever to the German government, much as aid was being provided to one side or the other by Italy, Russia, and other countries. The attack on Almeria was the most overt German intervention in the Spanish Civil War.

 


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