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I like whiskey. I always did, and that is why I never drink it… Robert E. Lee

 

 

from the US Army Center of Military History

After graduation from the U. S. Military Academy, Evans served on the western frontier with the dragoons and cavalry, before resigning in 1861 to enter Confederate service. He was commissioned a colonel and commanded a small brigade at the Battle of First Bull Run, where it was said his command went far toward saving the day for the South. During the thick of the fight, he was everywhere, closely followed by an aide carrying a jug of Evans’ favorite whiskey. His brigade later was assigned to guard the upper fords of the Potomac, above Washington. In October 1861 a Union force crossed the river near Leesburg and at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff Evans’ command drove the enemy into the Potomac River, inflicting great loss. Evans was promoted to brigadier general to be effective the day of the battle. Evans’ brigade participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam in September 1862 and was assigned to General Joseph E. Johnston’s army during the Vicksburg campaign as well as campaigns in North Carolina. His passion for alcoholic beverages led to constant difficulties with his superiors, and he was subsequently tried for drunkenness and acquitted and later for disobedience of orders and also acquitted. General P. G. T. Beauregard considered Evans incompetent and had him removed from command for a time.  

General George Nathan Evans – called “Shanks” because of his skinny legs

from the book

He won early fame at First Manassas, as a newly promoted colonel, when he disobeyed Gen. Beauregard’s orders to fall back against a superior Union force and, instead, attacked. Concludes the Army history center:

    “…his command went far toward saving the day for the South. During the thick of the fight, he was everywhere, closely followed by an aide carrying a jug of Evans’ favorite whiskey.”

Silverman quotes a colleague of Evans who says he used the Manassas jug chiefly for his wounded, as he had so many in his already-thin brigade.

    “Three times at the battle of Manassas, and several times at Sharpsburg, was it emptied and refilled, and then emptied again among the feeble ones who lay bleeding on the ground, the General himself dismounting, and on bending knee applying gratefully relief to the parched lips.”

The old rule is that the victors write the history, and in the case of the war of northern aggression for the most part they have, however eventually, by small increments, source documents come to life and we find a man who was a boon companion to Robert E. Lee on the Texas frontier having already successfully fought indians in his home state. They were not there for choir practice, they were men of action in the field, military men in the camp and just plain men when the swords and epaulets were removed. We can think of no higher honor for an officer than that he enjoyed the trust, confidence, admiration and friendship of Robert E. Lee.

Shanks : the life and wars of General Nathan George Evans, C.S.A.    Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, c 2002 Jason H. Silverman, Samuel N. Thomas, Jr., Beverly D. Evans IV Generals Confederate States of America Biography, Evans, Nathan George, 1824-1868 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 216 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 205-212) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The battle of Ball’s Bluff where Shanks drove a superior force back into the Potomac. Had the South launched an aggressive campaign after the first battle of Bull Run they would have occupied Washington before 1862.

Until now, little has been known about Nathan “Shanks” Evans, a prominent and highly controversial Confederate general who served throughout the Civil War in several theaters of operations. Thankfully, because of a recently discovered cache of his personal papers – long rumored to exist but never before seen – it is now possible to present his fascinating Civil War odyssey largely in his own words.

Shanks covers Evans’s entire amazing career, from his brave stand with a brigade at the famous stone bridge at First Manassas to his controversial months in North and South Carolina, where his erratic and harsh behavior earned the ire of much of his subordinate officer corps. Fighting in nearly every important campaign of the war, the famous brigade under his command was so well traveled it was known throughout the army as “The Tramp Brigade.” Viewing the Civil War and the actions of his men through Evans’s eyes is an engrossing new perspective and adds substantially to the literature of the Civil War.

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