On this day in 1863 the famous “Battle Above the Clouds” took place high atop Lookout Mountain just west of Chattanooga, TN. General Joseph Hooker commanded the right flank of General Grant’s army and was determined to sweep the 3,000 Confederates off the mountain. On the morning of November 24, 1863 Hooker’s 10,000 men crossed Lookout Creek and began the 1, 400 ft., climb up the fog-shrouded mountain. At around 11 A.M. the Yankees made contact with the Rebels atop the mountain but the outnumbered Confederates had no choice but to retreat back into the dense fog. The all-day battle resulted in 408 Union casualties and 1,251 Confederate. That night a total lunar eclipse helped screen Confederate General Bragg’s troops who were moving over to Missionary Ridge for one last stand against Grant.
Today marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle at Orchard Knob in Chattanooga. Orchard knob is a small knoll about 100 feet high east of Chattanooga that was occupied by 600 Confederates on November 23, 1863. To take the knob 14,000 Federal soldiers advanced from their positions in a parade formation only to break and run toward the knob at the last minute taking the Confederates completely by surprise. The Confederates fired one volley before fleeing the knob and falling back to Missionary Ridge. The battle resulted in no great loss on either side, but it was a portent of bad things to come for the Confederacy. In the following days General Ulysses S. Grant and General William T. Sherman would defeat the Confederates in a series of battles that would lay the groundwork for the advance on Atlanta and ultimately Sherman’s march to the sea, thus crippling the Confederacy. After his forces seized the knob Grant realized the value of the vantage point so he established his headquarters there where he conducted the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.
Kennedy loved his country and he loved his sons so they killed him for that. He was a family man and they killed him for that. He taught his sons what was right so they killed him for that. Like himself, his sons were loyal to the United States, so they killed him for that. At age 66 in 1862 Kennedy was an old harmless man. He spoke up for what he believed in and wasn’t afraid to die for it, so they killed him. He wasn’t a Southern plantation-owning aristocrat who owned hundreds of slaves, so they killed him. Because he lived in Alabama and was loyal to the United States, they put a rope around his neck and hung him until he was dead.
From the scant records and testimonies that exist David Stephenson Kennedy lived at what is now known as Hackleburg, Alabama in Marion County. Hackleburg is about 15 miles north of Hamilton- the town where I grew up. During the Civil War many people in Marion County and the surrounding Northwest Alabama counties of Fayette, Franklin, Walker, Lawrence and Winston were staunchly Unionists. A majority of the people in these counties didn’t support the Confederacy and fought to preserve the Union. Many men who were conscripted into the Confederate army chose not to fight for the Rebels and fled to hiding places in the hills and mountains of north Alabama. The Confederate army hunted these men down and gave them a choice; either join the Rebels or die. Some chose death. And quite a few loyal men escaped to the Union lines at Corinth, Mississippi and joined the Federal army. And that’s what David Stephenson Kennedy’s son did. They joined the 1st Alabama Cavalry United States Volunteers, a Federal unit composed of men from Northwest Alabama.
On March 4, 1863 the Nashville Daily Union published the sworn testimony of William H. Smith who had knowledge of the Kennedy murder. An excerpt from the paper reads:
“William H. Smith appeared before me and on his oath says that the rebels was hunting men down with dogs and also two women had been torn up by the dogs. On his way to Corinth, he heard that a man named Kennedy who had two sons in the Union army was taken and hanged by Roddey's men, charged with having visited his sons. They gave a negro a plug of tobacco to bury the corpse.”
November 18th marks the passing of James Armstrong. Armstrong died at age 86 in 2009. Armstrong was a veteran of WWII, a barber, and a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement. After returning from Europe at the end of the war, Armstrong opened a barbershop in the College Hills section of Birmingham, Ala., It was here that he took an active role in the Civil Rights Movement and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., became one of his clients. In 1957 Armstrong filed a lawsuit that led to the desegregation of Graymont Elementary School in Birmingham. Armstrong was jailed numerous times during his Civil Rights efforts. On Sunday March 7, 1965 Armstrong carried the American flag at the head of the Selma to Montgomery March. As the marchers crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma they were met by a phalanx of Alabama State Troopers. After ordering the marchers to disperse the troopers attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Armstrong dropped to his knees and was beaten but never dropped the flag witnesses said. That day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” became a national outrage after footage of the event aired on television.
In September 2004 I met James Armstrong by chance in front of his barbershop. I had just returned from New York after flying there to retrieve my camera gear that was in the custody of the New York City Police Department. A friend and photographer at the Birmingham News agreed to pick me up at the Birmingham airport and drive me over to Tuscaloosa where I lived at the time. But first she had to stop off and shoot a photo assignment at a middle school in the College Hills area. I remained outside and walked around the neighborhood with my Holga 2 and 1/4 film camera. I turned a corner and found Mr. Armstrong locking up his barbershop. I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes and he told me of the 1965 march across the bridge in Selma. He asked me about myself and I told him I was a photographer. I asked if I could make a photo of him in front of his barbershop. He agreed and I snapped the final frame on my last roll of 2 and 1/4 film. I thanked him and shook his hand and returned to the school where my ride was waiting.
A few years later a documentary film maker from California produced a film about Mr. Armstrong. A preview of that film can be found here.
Today I want to wish a happy birthday to Benjamin Banneker, the 18th Century American astronomer, mathematician, surveyor and almanac author. Banneker was born on November 9, 1731 in Baltimore County, Maryland. His mother was a free black woman and his father was a former slave from Guinea. Some historians and biographers have speculated that Banneker’s grandmother, Molly Welsh, was a white indentured servant from England. After she became free she purchased a slave named Bannaka to help establish a farm. She eventually freed him, married him and had children with him, one being Banneker’s mother. Banneker became well known in his early twenties for a wooden clock that he created by drawing the internal workings of a pocket watch.The clock struck the hour and worked till the time Banneker died in 1806. In 1791 the surveyor Maj. Andrew Ellicott hired Banneker to help finish the survey of Washington D.C. after George Washington fired the first surveyor Pierre L’Enfant. Banneker’s duties were to make astronomical calculations to establish the starting point for the survey. Banneker left the survey due to illness and returned home where he began calculating solar and lunar eclipses that he included in his almanac. His first almanac called Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris For the Year of Our Lord 1792, became so popular in the northeast that by 1794 it was being published in multiple editions. In his 1793 almanac Banneker published his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. In the letters Banneker chided Jefferson for his hypocritical views on freedom and slavery. Banneker died in his log cabin one month before his 75th birthday. He is buried in Oella, Maryland at the Mt. Gilboa African Methodist Episcopal Church. Banneker's grave is unmarked but a memorial was placed there in 1977 to commemorate his legacy.
On this night 200 years ago Chinnabee Selocta arrived at Fort Strother to warn Andrew Jackson of the impending danger at Talladega. Talladega was a Creek town that chose not to join the Red Sticks in their war against the Americans. At daybreak on November 7, 1813 the Red Sticks, lead by William Weatherford, surrounded the town and the fort located there (known as Lashley’s Fort) and demanded they join the Red Sticks or else be destroyed. Later that evening Chinnabee Selocta, one of the principal chiefs of the town, donned a hog skin and escaped through the Red Stick lines by rooting around on the ground and pretending to be a wild hog. He made his way directly to Jackson’s newly built fort located 30 miles north on the Coosa River. Upon hearing this news Jackson immediately organized 1200 infantry soldiers and 800 cavalry. By midnight they were marching toward Talledega.
In Selocta, Jackson immediately recognized a fearless and brave warrior. Selocta, who spoke Natchez, Creek, and English became a guide and interpreter for Jackson. After the Creek War Jackson recognized Selocta’s service by conferring upon him the rank of general. Jackson presented to Selocta a silver mounted rifle with the inscription “Presented to General Chinnabee by General Andrew Jackson.”
Chinnabee Selocta was killed on February 10, 1835. After drinking too much whiskey at a local tavern in Talladega County, Chinnabee took off on his horse and struck a tree. In his book Insight Into An Insane Asylum (University of Alabama Press), the Rev. Joseph Camp, one of the last people to see Selocta alive, remembers what happened on that fateful night. Camp states that Selocta and fellow Creek Chief Jim Fife “put out on their horses at full speed.” Selocta and Fife, Camp wrote, galloped towards Talladega through the small town of Mardisville. “About a quarter of mile above Mardisville there was a large post-oak standing in the middle of the road. The road ran on both sides of the tree. It seemed the horse was aiming for one side and Chinnabee for the other. Chinnabee was dashed against the tree and his skull broken.”
Chinnabee’s grave is located on McElderry Road in Talladega County, Alabama.
On the night of November 6, 1917 armed workers allied with the Bolshevik party began an insurrection that resulted in the overthrow of the Russian provisional government. Today marks the 96th anniversary of the Bolsheviks taking power and instituting Communism in Russia. In August 2003 I was standing in Moscow, Russia’s Red Square just outside the Kremlin, Moscow’s seat of government. I had just snapped a few pictures of one of Moscow’s numerous street dogs when I saw a group of men in religious outfits walking my way. They were obviously monks of some sort. I immediately recognized the photographic potential of these guys so I moved quickly to a spot a few yards away where I could frame the men as they passed just under the Spasskaya Tower. I plopped down on the large paving stones of Red Square and snapped three photos with my old Nikon FM2 film camera. The monks didn’t veer off course and my calculations for the spot were correct and I made a pretty cool photo. I later learned that these men were Russian Orthodox monks. After the Bolshevik Revolution the Soviets declared a separation of church and state and officially claimed atheism as the only scientific truth. They began destroying churches and persecuting the faithful. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed. But in the late 1930s, under the brutal hand of Joseph Stalin, is when the real killing began. In 1937 eighty-five thousand three-hundred Orthodox clerics were rounded up across Russia and shot dead; in 1938, 21,500 shot dead; in 1939 nine-hundred were shot dead; in 1940 one-thousand one-hundred shot dead. Just about the only thing that saved the Russian Orthodox Church was World War II. In an effort to increase patriotic fervor for the war Stalin lifted the persecutions and allowed the citizens of Moscow to worship in public just as the Nazi's were knocking on Moscow's door. Now I look at the men in this photo as a group of rare birds flitting across Red Square. Incidentally, in 1935 the Russian government placed a Soviet Star atop the Spasskaya Tower, which was built in the year 1491.
Do you or does someone you know possess an artificial leg? Well, if so, you can thank Benjamin Franklin Palmer, of Meredith, New Hampshire. Palmer was a 19th century inventor who received a patent for his prosthetic on November 4, 1846. The legs became known as "Palmer Legs." After the American Civil War, in which thousands of young men lost their lower appendages, the "Palmer Legs" became quite popular. In September 1862 just as the maimed soldiers were returning home by the thousands, the New York Times reported that the United States Congress had set aside fifteen thousand dollars for the purchase of artificial limbs for the maimed soldiers. “And Mr. PALMER,” the paper stated, “whose invention is recognized by the various scientific bodies of Europe and America as infinitely beyond that of any other, desirous that the soldiers should have none but the best, has generously offered to take the sum specified, and to apply it, without profit to himself, to the construction of as many of his artificial limbs as the amount will pay for.
Such an offer, at a time when selfishness and avarice might reasonably look for a vast fortune to be made from the necessities of our wounded men, deserves the highest commendation, and Mr. PALMER, should receive, as he deserves, the thankful recognition of the public for this promotion of the National good and of much individual happiness."
Well I was up early this morning to try an photograph a little piece of the solar eclipse but it was already over by the time the sun peeked over the horizon in West Alabama. However, I was able to get this cool looking photo, so enjoy. I'm looking forward to photographing a partial solar eclipse which will occur on October 23, 2014.
On this date 200 years ago General John Coffee and 1,000 Tennessee troops surrounded the Muscogee/Creek village of Tallushatchee and began a systematic slaughter of the inhabitants. Andrew Jackson invaded Creek Country with 2,500 Tennessee Militia to retaliate for a massacre that took place the previous August at Fort Mims. Mims was a stockade located on the Alabama River north of Mobile. At Fort Mims militant Creeks known as Red Sticks attacked the Fort in retaliation for an even earlier battle that took place at Burnt Corn. The Red Sticks were a militant faction of the Creek nation who sought a more traditional Native American way of life. The Red Stick movement was a reaction to loss of Creek tradition and land brought on by the American encroachment into Creek Country. A Creek civil war was simmering that pitted those Creeks friendly to Americans against those Creeks who were not, the Red Sticks. That Civil War spilled over into the larger War of 1812 at Fort Mims where the Red Sticks sought vengeance against the Metis or mixed-blood Creeks who were siding with the Americans. Historians estimate that perhaps 300 people were killed inside Mims. At Tallushatchee Andrew Jackson reported killing 200 Creek men. An untold number of woman and children were also shot or burned to death inside their homes. Davey Crockett, a soldier in Coffee’s company, reported seeing a 12-year old boy too injured to walk crawling from a burning house, “the grease stewing out of him.” But the child begged no quarter Crockett recalled. “We shot 'em like dogs,” Crockett said of the Creek men, women and children. Andrew Jackson, writing to Tennessee Gov. Willie Blount after the battle stated, “We have retaliated for the destruction of Fort Mimms."
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com