Civil War with Cell Phones
The day Ambrose Burnside "Drove Old Dixie Down:"
Four forgotten hours help shape the world
Apologies to Mark Twain: a tale of "Time Travel:"
Projecting Technology Back into the Civil War Past
Reporting from under the bridge which carries the wounded;
See where some wounded will be treated
"The Burnside" is more than a carbine
Kayak back to March 1862 with Frederic A. Moritz
for an eyewitness "blog" of the New Bern day
which "began" the strangling of the South.
A New Bern Battle Summary
Spartanburg, SC Newspaper Battle Dispatch from New Bern
The Battle Without Cell Phones
Visit Burnside's July 1864 disgrace when
"The Crater" met "Cold Mountain"
Union General Ambrose Burnside
Burnside: a biography
Burnside reconsidered: insane or stupid?
North Carolina operations: McClellan's instructions to Burnside
New Bern battle map
The battle for New Bern: a brief profile
Eyewitness accounts New Bern battle
Bunside's official account
The battle for New Bern: letter from a soldier
"The Crater" meets "Cold Mountain"
Moritz Blog: "Exploring on the Roads Less Taken"
FROM VERACRUZ TO NEW BERN
"Old Fuss and Feathers" helped seal the rebel fate:
Winfield Scott had resigned at 75 - but in Burnside's hands his
"Anaconda" blockade strategy begins a later fatal squeeze.
Despite the best efforts of rebel re-enactors (above),
'Ol AMBROSE BURNSIDE clearly won the day
Click here for a "kayak's eye blogger's view"
of the topics below:
COMING OF THE GHOSTS
STUCK WITH THE MISSION....WHY ME, OH LORD?
BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE SOUTH? WINFIELD WINS HIS GAME
LET'S HYPE IT UP A BIT, BOYS! RACE TALK!!
WHERE FORMER SLAVES WILL LEAVE A MARK
I'VE HAD LOTS OF EXPERIENCE -- BUT MOSTLY IN THE FUTURE
THIS IS NO TIME TO "FLASH LAMINATE"
THE ROAD TO BATTLE: IN THE SHADOW OF VERACRUZ
'OL AMBROSE KNOWS HOW TO MOVE!
'OL AMBROSE WILL TAKE RISKS TO GET HIS WAY
SCHOOLED BY A QUAKER IN HIS DAY
WINFIELD'S DREAM IS UNDERWAY
"SHOCK AND AWE:" MOVIN' AND BOOMIN'
'OL ABE WANTS HIM A "TOP GUN"
HOW BURNSIDE WILL SCREW UP BIG TIME
AT "THE CRATER" - BURNSIDE MEETS "COLD MOUNTAIN"
THE ROAD TO "COLD MOUNTAIN"
BURNSIDE REDEEMED -- A LITTLE OR A LOT?
WHAT OF THE REBS?
A BLOODY RETREAT
A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
LAST TRAIN TO KINSTON TOWN!
THE YANKS ARE IN NEW BERN...FOR NOW
THE SKIRTS OF YANKEE LADIES FLUTTER
AH, SWEET VICTORY!
NEW BERN 1864
Maps: New Bern in the Pamlico/Neuse
region of historic North Carolina;
New Bern history and slide show
New Bern aerial view
Prelude to New Bern: Scott's amphibious assault on Vera Cruz in '47
D-day: Veracruz; a Grand Design .pdf
Harper's Weekly '62: Union fleet prepares for amphibious assault
New Bern and medicine in the Civil War: photos and images
Civil War medicine
Where ex-slaves gathered: the James City Settlement: (download .pdf1; .pdf2)
David S. Cecelski: "Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina"
Cecelski: After the war: oral history of ex-slaves in New Bern region's maritime life
Cecelski paddles into the past: "A Historian's Coast"
The Allen Parker slave narrative: a coastal slave's life 1838-1862
Parker serves US Navy off New Bern after fleeing to Yank gunboat, August, 1862
William Henry Singleton, born New Bern: "Recollections of My Slavery Days"
North American slave narratives: the UNC online collection
Voices From the Days of Slavery: Library of Congress
"Mark Twain's Rachel:" a tale of slavery set in Union occupied New Bern
Gender and race in post Civil War New Bern
New Bern: North Carolina's first capitol, Tryon Palace historic sites, gardens
Ah, Cheap Imports!
How 'Ol Ambrose Replaced Signal Flags
with Imported Cell Phones;
In Battle They Helped Turn the Tide;
What of Those "Cheap" Imported High Tech Enfield Rifles?
A TRACFONE Nokia 2126i (CDMA)
It was sunny today along the Neuse River.
But the scouts returning from their secret four day mission crossing and re-crossing the three mile wide Neuse had a mixed story to tell.
Old Ambrose sent them out in utter secrecy, leaving details murky for even his Yahoo group.
It is March now, yes 1862.
Now, as the scouts straggle back, it is clear there had been an evening of drizzle.
They have both bad and good news to tell.
To skip the bad news on cheap British imports, go directly to the good news: stunning revelations about those puzzling high tech Cellofonies imported from China and tested for the first time during the Civil War.
The bad news is those high tech Enfields -- cheap British imports, two and three band rifled muskets bought up by both North and South.
Water from the rain swelled up some stocks, jammed ramrods into sockets, made it damn slow to reload.
The high tech "rifled musket" had made its way into American arsenals by the late 1850's. It could be loaded with heavy "minie balls" at the speed of a smooth bore musket.
French inventors had forged this revolutionary marvel. The rifled musket first saw battle in the Crimean war. Its technology is making obsolete many of the mass frontal assault field tactics used by Napoleon. It is leaving carnage on Civil War battlefields.
When the base of those "minie's " expand into rifled barrels, long range accuracy can devastate a charging enemy -- without the cumbersome, slow patch and ball loading a traditional muzzle loading rifle demands.
Soldiers are spreading rumors that at 1,200 yards the bullet can penetrate a soldier and his knapsack and still kill anyone standing behind him, also killing any person in a line of 15.
That, no doubt, is an exaggeration. Yet now an infantryman can fire under best conditions as rapidly as up to three times a minute -- with accuracy once reserved for the careful slow loading of a rifle bearing sniper.
The modern fast loading rifled musket can kill at a half mile. The old smoothbores were ineffective beyond a maxium of 100 yards. It's damn risky now to try a frontal charge.
Back in March '62, while reporting from New Bern, I understood this well enough from interviewing battle survivors.
Old gambler Ambrose had not yet learned that lesson when in December of '62 he ordered that bloody failed assault up Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg.
I once had lunch with him at his headquarters in New Bern's lovely Stanly House.
He was always charming, but I was somewhat surprised by his risk taking frame of mind. I just chalked it up to that military thing: you know, "stay on mission."
Rifled muskets: truly a high tech marvel.
When the Civil War began, there were far too few rifled muskets to go around. Some volunteers showed up with muzzle loading shot guns, squirrel guns, flint lock smoothbores and every manner of obsolete weapons.
So it fell to foreign imports to fill the gap: British, Austrian, you name it, they are streaming into Union and Confederate arsenals.
"Cheap" imported British Enfield rifled muskets!
Enfield and Minie Ball
High tech they are -- but can they match the "Made in America" Springfield rifled muskets?
Damn, that drizzle had swelled up some musket stocks. Reloading could be difficult for those whose ramrods jammed in place.
The returning scouts argue over possible design flaws.
Too bad there are not enough American made Springfields to go around. Is there any way to tell in advance if an Enfield will swell?
One young officer calls this general malaise, lack of confidence with the Enfields the "Kyocera Factor."
He is ahead of his time. In the 1860's few know about the controversy 140 years later over the reliability of Kyocera cell phones.
Days later the Yanks will pay the price.
After the amphibious landing, the nine mile evening hike toward New Bern will be rain sprinkled -- leaving lots of Enfield muskets wet and swollen, hard to reload.
Fortunately after Cellofony reports from scouts about the problem, old Ambrose put out the word: "wrap your muskets against the rain, boys."
The question remains: is it a flaw endemic to the Enfield -- or is it the way some were handled -- unshielded against the rain.
There is plenty of anti-British feeling among Americans who still remember the burning of Washington in the War of 1812. The arrogance of those SOB's torching the American capital.
Resentment that the Federal army seems forced to rely on a good but inferior weapon being churned out for profit by a former foreign enemy.
Folks just seem to love that label on the Springfield rifled musket: "Made in America."
Plus the Springfields machine made parts are interchangeable. Gunsmiths are getting lots of headaches when they try to replace an Enfield part.
But there is good news, too.
Those Cellofonies that the "father of the telegraph" Samuel Morse found tucked amidst the porcelain vases he had ordered from China. Sam had no idea the Cellofone would sign the final death warrant for his invention of the 1830"s.
The Americans had been encouraging trade with China for at least 80 years. But Cellofonies were unexpected. Fine Ming vases are one thing, cheap Cellofonies quite another.
So Old Ambrose, a gambler at heart but always a skeptic, wants them tested.
Can cheap imports be relied upon? Or should the Federals stick with tried and true signal flags? In the heat of shifting battle Sam Morse's telegraph is not up to the job.
In the hands of Burnside's scouts those Cellofonies all work beautifully out on camouflaged long boat that ferries the three mile wide Neuse River.
That is because Ambrose is fed up with Verizon -- and has ordered Cellofonies be activated instead on Alltel or US Cellular.
In the hands of scouts the Motorola W315 on Alltel prepaid; the LG 200, a Tracfone operating on Alltel; a Kyocera K126, a Tracfone operating on Alltel; a Nokia 2126i, a Tracfone operating on US Cellular --- and even the Switchback on Virgin Mobile all perform flawlessly out on the water.
In the 1860's all of the above Cellofonies operate on CDMA technology, widely supposed to work better than GSM in remote locations.
Little do the Johnny Rebs know that Cellofonies help Federal headquarters receive a steady stream of Intel on the barrier hulks the badly outnumbered Confederates had placed across the river.
That Intel helps the Union fleet slice through to begin its devastating artillery barrage on rebel positions.
Indeed, as I drove my buggy through remote areas to board the Minnesott-Cherry Branch ferry for the three mile Neuse River crossing, two Tracs activated on Alltel had NO need to roam.
Just steady, strong Alltel all the way. The third Trac on US Cellular stayed with US Cellular -- although at some spots the signal seemed weaker than Alltel's.
Clearly the problem in my earlier tests was not with the phones, but with the earlier activation of two Tracfones on Verizon -- weak and spotty in eastern North Carolina in the days of Lincoln.
For some unknown reason Tracfone had chosen Verizon for my network when I activated from New Bern zip 28562.
Is it possible Tracfone seeks to sabotage the northern war effort?
Trac is Mexican owned. Could lingering resentment of the American invasion of 1847 mean a "hidden agenda" slants Tracfone against the Union cause?
That's a puzzler.
Carlos Slim is one of the world's richest men. This powerful Mexican of Lebanese descent controls America Movil and a vast worldwide telephone empire. Tracfone is an American subsidiary.
Surely Slim remembers it was the slave holding American South which agitated so strongly for the 1847 capture of his beloved Mexico City and the annexation of Mexican territory. If anything, Slim should favor the northern anti-slavery cause.
On the other hand consider that it was General Winfield Scott who established the Union Anaconda strategy of strangling the South in part by establishing a beachhead in North Carolina. The very same Scott who landed troops at Veracruz and marched inland to capture Mexico City.
Could Slim harbor a grudge? Perhaps he would like to see America split in two, weakened -- so that Mexicans could return to their former territory and gain employment and power in the land the "Gringos" stole. Some folks say he is in it just for the money, but still........
Perhaps it is no accident that many illegal or undocumented Mexican immigrants use Tracfones to keep their ties with Mexico and help send money home. The no extra charge "overseas" dialing service built into Tracfones helps do the trick.
It was Slim who first understood the potential to sell prepaid cell phones to undocumented immigrants who lack credit and do not want to be traced.
(Now, of course, virtually every American prepaid Cellofony company targets Mexican illegals.)
For whatever reason, when the Union Tracs were activated on Verizon, they were unable to roam out on the water to either US Cellular or Alltel. Even though both US Cellular and Alltel were strong upon the water. And even though the Verizon activated Tracs did those identical roams while driving buggies on land.
Still, it is a pleasant surprise to notice that with no further adjustment during earlier testing the basic entry level twelve dollar Motorola GSM C139, a Tracfone operating on AT&T (Cingular), came through loud and clear throughout the river crossing and on all lead-in roads.
This despite the common notion the GSM technology tends to fare poorly in remote locations.
At twelve dollars a pop (Civil War price adjusted to 2008 levels), old Ambrose could easily afford to equip his scouts with C-139's.
They left signal flags flapping in the breeze.
A TRACFONE Motorola C139 (GSM)
Now for you super cool ringtone loving teenagers a surprise: the Virgin Mobile "Switchback" works nicely on the waters, but a few blank spots on muddy lead-in roads. Virgin rides on Sprint, but unlike regular Sprint subscribers, cannot roam to other carriers when Sprint goes weak. Hence in the future many saw it as unreliable.
Some of Ambrose's officers puzzle over all this: in '62 this Cellofony stuff is still new. Many are befuddled by this technology. In the pulpit some Baptist preachers thunder against the Cellofony.
Why were the Verizons able to roam on land but not on the water -- and not on a few lead-in roads? Alltel and US Cellular signals are present on all these places.
Latest Intel: all three Tracs performed nicely -- but only when NOT activated on Verizon.
Old Ambrose scratches his balding head, tweaks his bushy whiskers and makes some notes.
Thinking ahead to a postwar world when he would sell Cellofonies on the side while running railways --- he decides that this activation question bears study.
"Do not assume Tracfone will automatically choose the best carrier for you based on zip code," Burnside scribbles.
"Study the carriers which perform in your area. Which are strongest? Then choose a zip code where Tracfone will hook you up to the appropriate System Identification Code (SID)."
In the 1860's very few people understand the importance of the SID. It had not yet become a household word.
Burnside decides to go for a Bayboro zip -- a nearby rural area where Verizon signals are virtually nonexistent -- where Verizon activated phones must roam to Alltel or US Cellular. He guesses that if he asks Tracfone to activate him at a Bayboro zip, they'll activate him directly on Alltel, or maybe US Cellular.
And that's precisely what Ambrose does. He has two Tracs deactivated from the New Bern zip 28562 and reactivated on the Bayboro zip 28515. Tracfone puts both phones on SID 01542, an activation to Alltel.
Take Burnside's advice.
If Tracfone hooks you up with a bad carrier for the locations you use, get them to reactivate you on a different zip which puts you on your favorite provider.
In peace or war solid cell phone connections could save our life.
That's the way old Ambrose does it.
He logs on to his Yahoo group and gets a "techie" there to send him back suggestions on where to reactivate his phones. An anonymous groupie posts: "try the Bayboro zip."
That Intel brings Burnside's two Tracs alive.
With communications secure, the battle nears.
It is small and quick -- about five miles south of New Bern between the river bank and a railroad line, across from where the porn shop will be build 130 years in the future,
Less than 200 dead on both sides -- despite the ravages of the rifled musket.
The badly outnumbered Rebs dam up the marshes -- hoping the Yanks will soak in the water as they charged.
But the steamers on the Neuse send in a withering bombardment.
And the rebs break and flee. Across the railroad bridge to New Bern....some catch "the last train to Kinston."
And now the Federals have a foothold on the North Carolina coast -- to begin their strangulation of the South.
It was the so-called "Anaconda strategy" developed by the brilliant aging Mexican War veteran Winfield Scott.
Too fat to ride horse, he had been forced to retire as chief military commander at the beginning of the Civil War.
But he will live to see the beginning of the Confederacy's end.
So Burnside will win the day.
It will be the first time Cellofonies had been used in battle.
And so it will come to pass that the world will never be the same.
Who will remember the minie ball?
But who will forget the Cellofony.
BURNSIDE WINS HIS NEW BERN GAMBLE,
THEN PLAYS HIS LAST CARD
AT "THE CRATER"
When you play the slots at Reno, Nevada casinos, remember Jesse L. Reno, the Mexican War veteran. He led the Union's left flank March 14 to break through rebel defenses along a line of mounds, trenches, and barricaded trees five miles south of New Bern.
Eight thousand of Ambrose Burnside's 12,000 had put ashore at Slocum Creek the day before in one of the most ambitious amphibious operations of the 19th Century. It was a game 'Ol Ambrose was destined to win, partly because he was so bold and partly because the rebels were so weak.
Ambrose Burnside was a "top gun" of the day. After his victory at New Bern, Abe Lincoln selected him for his daring to be the new top Union commander. Disaster courted him in reverses at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and the "Mud March."
Then came final disgrace in his disastrous attempt to mine the Confederate lines before Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864. See The Crater" meets "Cold Mountain.". Burnside took a leave of absence and was never called back to the war.
Burnside from Rhode Island was a risk taker, a man who in his youth loved to try his hand with river boat gamblers. No matter that his childhood teacher was a Quaker, that his Indiana father was influenced by Quaker teachings, that he was known for kindness and compassion.
'Ol Ambrose could pour it on, up the ante, send in wave after wave to be shot down, if necessary -- as he later did when commanding the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia in December 1862. As he was to do again at "The Crater" disaster before Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864.
At New Bern his star was high.
Burnside began implementation of the General Winfield Scott's Anaconda blockade strategy, designed to break Confederate supply lines by planting a Union presence on Confederate territory, blockading Confederate ports, then squeezing rail supply lines north to Confederate forces in Virginia. He received his marching orders after consultation with Scott's successor as supreme commander, General George McClellan.
Could it be that Burnside learned a bit about amphibious landings from what General Winfield Scott did back in the Mexican War? Few Civil War generals could be ignorant of the exploits of the venerable Winfield Scott.
Burnside was known for his interest in amphibious warfare, for training his Rhode Island regiments in those skills. True, the 8,000 men Burnside landed at Slocum Creek were a smaller force than the the 12,000 Scott landed at Veracruz in 1847 for the dusty six months march to take Mexico City. But the method was similar.
'Ol Winnie put his men ashore south of Veracruz -- to spare them from bombardment. Then softened up that Mexican coastal fortress by cannonade from land and naval guns.
Fifteen years later the Federals use similar tactics to take New Bern: landing at a safe spot, Slocum Creek, some nine miles south of Rebel defended Fort Thompson. Staying away from enemy guns, until the time was right.
The Confederate line stretched more than a mile from its left at Fort Thompson by the Neuse River (north of Thurman) across and to the west of the Atlantic Carolina Beaufort--New Bern railroad. Rebel General Lawrence O'Bryan Branch fielded some 4,500 men (Map).
The Confederates dammed a tiny eastern tributary of Brice Creek to create barrier marshes in front of their positions around their right flank west of the railroad. Trench fortifications were reinforced before the battle. But green rebel militia defending the brickyard near the rail line broke when thousands of bluecoats under Reno's command attacked north along the west of the tracks.
The 26th North Carolina under Col. Zebulon B. Vance, later wartime governor of the state, fought a delaying action on the Confederate right before retreating west across Brice Creek. Part of the area where the 26th did battle is now occupied by the Taberna golf and residential development. Not far from the center of the rebel defense, just east of Highway 70, is the Craven County Fairground, just across from the adult video shop.
Notes Will Gorges in the "Newsletter of New Bern Historical Society:"
"The majority of the Confederates had not yet been issued military uniforms and most were armed with second class muskets, antiquated flintlocks, and assorted sporting rifles and shotguns.
"The Union troops were armed for the most part with the modern Springfield rifled muskets and the English Enfield rifles, both of which utilized the deadly "minie" ball bullet.
"Amidst the roar of naval cannon bombarding the shore and woods in the direction of the Confederate line, blowing the tops of trees apart and showering the troops below with fiery fragments of iron and wood, the early hours of March 14, 1862, proved to be a fatal test of combat for the Rebel forces."
The quick Union victory after only four hours of fighting brought extraordinarily low casualties. Branch lost an estimated 68 killed, 116 wounded, and 400 captured or missing compared to Burnside's 90 killed, 385 wounded, and a single man captured.
Check online eyewitness battle accounts, including one by Union commander Ambrose Burnside.
Retreating Confederates straggled into New Bern, some on hand cranked railroad handcars, some swimming the Trent River after fighting a rearguard action across Brice Creek.
Back in New Bern travel with me by kayak "time machine" for my own blogger's eyewitness view of the Confederate retreat.
Pre-Civil War crank handcar
THE BATTLE FOR NEW BERN: 1862
A building block in Jim Lehrer's Civil War mystery:
No Certain Rest
THE BATTLE FOR NEW BERN: TODAY
New Bern Landmark: newly restored slave quarters now
on grounds of Craven Regional Airport, not far from
New Bern battleground. Originally at the location of current
Taco Bell, New Bern
This correspondent paddles toward a bridge to the past
Copyright ©2008 Frederic A. Moritz
All Rights Reserved
Citation Permitted Only With Credit
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