Civil War "Urban Legend" Wrap-up

I had a little too much fun writing the Howard and Hunter pieces.  They went a little long, and I have run out of time to examine the other three stories I mentioned last week.  Dmitri is due back tomorrow, and I want to quickly summarize these while I have the opportunity.

Grant’s Right Turn

We’ve all read Bruce Catton's wonderful account of the reaction of the Army of the Potomac upon the realization that their orders were to head south, not retreat, after the fighting in the Wilderness at the beginning of May, 1863.  We’ve also all at one time or another heard the rhetorical question “Who but U. S. Grant would have done so?”; the more prescient  statement “No former eastern commander would have done so”; or the even more God-like expression of omnipotence “None but Grant would have done so”.  In brief, and taking nothing away from what Grant did, I am not so quick to dismiss the possibility that none other than the AotP’s commander, George Gordon Meade, may very well have “done so.”  I base this upon his aggressive nature, demonstrated numerous times throughout 1862 and 1863, but mostly upon what others are quick to point to as an indicator that moving south is most likely not what Meade would have done; the 1863 Mine Run Campaign.  After the failure of that campaign, Meade opted to fall back across the Rapidan River rather than “move south”.  But Meade made it clear right away to his boss, Henry W. Halleck, that he would have preferred to have moved around Lee’s right, but could not do so because running his supply lines through Fredericksburg had been specifically denied him.  The suggestion that Meade should have attempted a move around Lee’s right anyway, at that time of year (winter), in that part of the country, is I think deliberately ignoring the reality of logistics.  See A. A. Humphreys’ excellent, if dry, "From Gettysburg to the Rapidan" and Ethan Rafuse’s "George Gordon Meade and the War in the East" for more on this.  Add to this Meade’s immediate and enthusiastic agreement with Grant’s later decision and I think the rhetorical question above becomes much more practical.  This illustrates one of the pitfalls of the “counterfactual” – they usually fail to consider many important variables, and different individuals at different times are rarely, if ever, in the same situation.

Hood’s Laudanum Induced Fog

There really is no evidence that John Bell Hood was using, let alone abusing, laudanum to ease his various pains while in command of the Army of Tennessee in 1864.  Most arguments supporting this theory assume that Hood must have been using laudanum because it was a commonly prescribed drug for treatment of the side effects of wounds similar to Hood’s.  From this, the instant leap to the conclusion that Hood’s use of the painkiller adversely affected his decision making, specifically during the Spring Hill/Franklin phase.  No possibility of judicious use of the drug, which would possibly have helped Hood more than hurt him, is considered.  To me, it smacks of excuse making, though modern day Hood supporters, who also reject the “junkie” picture, see it more as a smack (pun intended) at The Gallant.  I think that Hood’s condition at Spring Hill and Franklin can more easily be explained as the results of exhaustion as well as of rest and recovery.  A 1998 Stephen Davis article in Volume XVI, Issue #1 of Blue & Gray Magazine (Averasboro issue) covers this all pretty well, but the myth persists.

Banks and Red River

Nathaniel Banks is one of those guys people just love to hate.  He serves as the punch-line to many 1862 Valley Campaign jokes (“Commissary” Banks, they call him), and is typically viewed as a dangerous buffoon when it comes to the Red River Campaign.  An e-ssociate, Will Keene (with whom I don’t always agree), recently made a very convincing argument that historical convention has Banks all wrong in the case of Red River.  Responding to a Stephen Woodworth post at Civil Warriors, Will challenged the author’s characterization of Banks using a previous post on the same blog by Mark Grimsley.  Check it out (there’s also a comment by me in there).  As of today, Will’s post has received no response from Woodworth or Grimsley.

Later today I hope to post some thoughts on internet discussion group dynamics.




The Burning of Darien Part II

On pages 43 and 44 of his book Emilio, who was an officer of the 54th, says that Shaw wrote two “official” letters on the incident, one to Governor Andrew and the other to Halpine.  The Halpine letter is reproduced, and Duncan’s summary is accurate, though Shaw did not refer to Hunter by name.  Then Emilio states:  “It is not known to the writer that any answer was vouchsafed to this letter; but Colonel Shaw afterward ascertained that Colonel Montgomery acted in accordance with General Hunter’s orders.”  Shaw lived for another month, and it’s possible that he told Emilio of his discovery directly.  But Emilio does not say how Shaw ascertained that Hunter issued the order.

On pages 110 and 111 of “One Gallant Rush”, Burchard discusses Shaw’s letter to his wife in which the Colonel described the Darien expedition as an “abominable job”.  He also summarizes the letter to Halpine and quotes some of the text of the Andrew letter.  He makes no mention of Shaw learning of any involvement of Hunter in ordering the burning of the town.  But he does say:

Lincoln heard about the raid and he didn’t like it.  It was the last in a series of straws that would break the back of the President’s patience.

Hunter, protesting, was removed soon after.  Lincoln, who was capable of writing and speaking plainly, answered Hunter’s protestations with a masterful display of double talk.  He wrote that the change in commanders was made ‘for no reasons which convey any imputation upon your own energy, efficiency and patriotism; but for causes which seemed sufficient, while they were in no degree incompatible with the respect and esteem in which I have always held you as a man and an officer.”

I think perhaps Burchard could reasonably conclude that Lincoln was double talking if in fact Hunter’s removal was a result of Lincoln having read of the Darien expedition in the newspapers, feeling aggrieved over Hunter’s scorched-earth policy, realizing his political life marched with the public opinion of black troops, and desiring to replace Hunter with a less vindictive commander.  But the problem with this notion that Hunter was relieved of command as a result of the burning of Darien, even as a “last straw”, can be found on the very first page of text (page 3) of Series I, Vol. 28, Part II of the ORs.  While these two documents don’t address the issue of Hunter’s involvement, they certainly cast light on any role Darien may have played in the removal of Hunter from command of the Department of the South.

            “General Orders No. 46

            Hdqrs. Dept. of the South

            Hilton Head, Port Royal, S.C., June 12, 1863

Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commanding Department of the South, hereby announces that he has been temporarily relieved of the command of the department, and ordered to report to the Adjutant-General, U.S. Army, for special service…

Note that this is dated one day after the Darien incident, hardly enough time for Lincoln to form an opinion on the final straw based on newspaper accounts and public uproar.  But wait, there’s more.

            “General Orders No. 47

            Hdqrs. Dept. of the South

            Hilton Head, Port Royal, S.C., June 12, 1863

I. By direction of the President, as announced in special orders from the headquarters of the Army, dated Washington, June 3, 1863, the undersigned [Q. A. Gillmore] hereby assumes command of the Department of the South.

II. All orders and regulations established by Major-General Hunter, and now in operation, will remain in full force until otherwise ordered.”

So, not only was Hunter officially removed on June 12, one day after Darien, he was notified of his removal on June 3, eight days before Darien.  As an aside, the “less vindictive” general chosen to replace Hunter was the same man who would employ the 54th MA in the performance of the manual labor needed to establish “The Swamp Angel”, which would be used to bombard the city of Charleston.

I think this pretty firmly establishes that the actions at Darien played no role in the removal of Hunter from command of the Department of the South.

But let’s get back to the question of Hunter’s involvement.  On June 18, Shaw wrote his mother that “I have not yet discovered if Co. Montgomery has Hunter’s orders to burn every thing, but expect to hear soon from Hilton Head.”  On June 20, he wrote his father:

“Col. Montgomery returned from Hilton Head, this morning, bringing us news of the capture of the ram ‘Fingal’.

He found General Gilmor very friendly and anxious to second him in every way, with the exception of the burning business – so that is satisfactorily settled.  Montgomery tells me he acted entirely under orders from Hunter, and was at first very much opposed to them himself, but finally changed his mind.”

It seems that by the 20th Shaw had still not received any official word that Hunter ordered the burning of Darien, and this was the last reference to this issue in the letters.  In addition, the story that Montgomery told Shaw appears odd considering two descriptions of Montgomery noted in Duncan’s book.  One is by Shaw in a June 20, 1863 letter to Charles Russell Lowell, in which he said that Montogmery “is a bush-whacker – in his fighting, and a perfect fanatic in other respects.  He never drinks, smokes or swears, & considers that praying, shooting, burning & hanging are the true means to put down the Rebellion.”  The other is from John Brown of Pottawatomie and Harper’s Ferry fame, and his 1848 statement can be found in one of Duncan’s notes on page 346:

“Captain Montgomery is the only soldier I have met among the prominent Kansas men.  He understands my system of warfare exactly.


I think that at best we can say that Hunter may have given orders to Montgomery to burn the town of Darien, but that there is no proof other than Emilio’s word and Montgomery’s tale - which may be the basis for Emilio’s word.  But the story of Darien playing a role in the relief of Hunter can be safely classified as an “Urban Legend”.




Memorial Day

Go here to read Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1884 Memorial Day address to the GAR.

It’s good to read at least once every year.


The Burning of Darien

About a year or so ago, I was observing a chat group discussion of Russell Duncan’s edition of the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, Blue Eyed Child of Fortune.  I’m a big fan of book discussions, where individuals read a book according to a schedule and gather (actually or virtually) to discuss it along the way.  In this case I was only observing because I had previously read the book and don’t like to participate when I’m not reading along with the group.  I think it’s distracting to the other participants because it’s difficult for me not to allow the fact that I have already finished the book color my comments.  Anyway, there was a sort of throwaway comment in the discussion concerning a controversial incident and its fallout that prompted my e-ssociate Steve and me to do a little detective work in real time after the chat ended.  I’m reopening the case here.

The incident in question was the June 11, 1863 burning of the town of Darien, GA, which was a short trip up the Altamaha River from the coast.  This is the incident depicted in the movie, Glory.  In the film, the principles are Col. Shaw of the 54th MA, Col. James M. Montgomery of the 2nd SC, and General “Harker” (a curious pseudonym for General David Hunter, who ordered the operation: I imagine since the film took a few liberties with the character, the producers decided to change the name).  The expedition degenerated into a liberal foraging (read: looting) operation – Shaw was a willing participant, and would later furnish his HQ with items confiscated from the town.  But when Montgomery, a veteran of "Bleeding Kansas" and an associate of John Brown, ordered the town burned, Shaw’s willing compliance ended.  Though a company of the 54th participated at Montgomery’s order, Shaw was outraged.  Newspapers picked up the story, with Southern journalists labeling the troops involved “vandals”, “wretches”, and “negro thieves” and Northern opposition organs calling them “nigger guerillas”.  Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., the fiancĂ© of Shaw’s sister, Josephine, wrote to the War Dept. complaining of the damage to the experiment of black soldiers that such incidents would produce, while at the same time the Northern opposition touted the burning as evidence of the absurdity of the idea of arming African Americans.

According to Duncan’s introduction to the letters (page 45), Shaw wrote to Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew that the raid disgusted him and that the men of the 54th were cut from better cloth than the “contrabands” in the 2nd SC.  He also complained to Hunter’s adjutant, Lt. Col. Charles Halpine, and here’s where “Urban Legend” kicks in.  According to Duncan, in that letter Shaw

“…complained about the ‘barbarous’ burning of the town.  Montgomery had told Shaw that if Hunter deemed future actions necessary, he would do it, but he did not like it.  It turned out that Montgomery had been acting on his commander’s orders.  Shaw, hoping that Hunter would change his policy, got better than that.  Lincoln too had been reading the papers and felt aggrieved over Hunter’s scorched-earth policy.  Lincoln knew his political life marched with the public opinion of black troops, so he replaced Hunter with a less vindictive general [all emphasis is mine].”

In this brief passage, the author lays out the story that Hunter ordered the burning of the town and as a result was removed from command by Lincoln.  The sources cited for this passage are Luis Emilio’s 1894 history of the 54th MA, "A Brave Black Regiment", pp 43-44, Peter Burchard’s  1965 "One Gallant Rush", pp 110-111, and Garth W. James’s ”The Assault Upon Fort Wagner”, a Wisconsin MOLLUS paper published in 1891, and the Official Records, Series I, Vol. 28 (no part or page noted).  I don’t have James’s paper, but I do have the other three sources here in my library.  I’ll also take a look at Burchard’s sources (Emilio did not use foot or end notes), as well as Edward A. Miller’s 1997 biography of Hunter, "Lincoln's Abolitionist General".  I’ll need more time to pull this all together, but I like how it’s looking so far.  You’ll have to come back tomorrow to judge for yourself.

(When I took on this assignment from Dmitri, I forgot all about this being Memorial Day weekend and all that entails for an 8 year old Cub Scout, and my Pirates season tickets and the fact that they are in the middle of a long home-stand.  Even so, I’ve only missed one day.)




Up Next:

It’s difficult to tell how this is going, but like Chief Dan George’s Lone Watie “I vow to endeavor to persevere.”

Later today or tomorrow I’ll post a bit on Robert Gould Shaw, the burning of Darien, GA, and what role David Hunter played in the incident.



Howard's Torpedo, Part II

All of this may be rendered moot by a bigger problem: there is no evidence to support the notion that Meade replaced Doubleday as commander of 1st Corps as a result of Hancock’s dispatch. The timing of Meade’s dispatch to Slocum, requesting him to forward 6th Corps division commander John Newton to replace Doubleday, might suggest that Meade made this decision upon learning of the death of John Reynolds, not upon the later receipt of Hancock’s dispatch. Meade certainly did not like Doubleday. In a letter to his wife on 1/23/63, Meade wrote “Doubleday has been assigned to the [Pennsylvania] Reserves, which is a good thing for me, for now they will think a great deal more of me than before.” It’s difficult to believe that Meade would have made such a critical decision at such a crucial time based solely on the word of Howard, especially if Meade, as the author of the North & South article asserted, considered Howard a “weak reed.” This reminds me of the story of a man named Achem and his razor…

After the war, Howard’s writings were complimentary of the performance of 1st Corps at Gettysburg, and he claimed to have been unaware of any controversy regarding “aspersions” cast by him upon Doubleday and his command until he read of it in the Comte’ de Paris’ history. He denied the allegation, and challenged anyone to support it. The author of the North & South article, when asked for some sort of support for his assertions in a subsequent letter to the editor, provided an 1874 Doubleday statement that Howard told Doubleday that he feared Meade would “relieve him on the spot” on July 1. I’m still trying to understand the leap.

When documents fail us, behavior patterns may be used to indicate what may have happened and why. To this, supporters of the Torpedo legend sometimes resort. Howard was critical of certain of his men after the failures of his commands at Antietam and Chancellorsville, and during the Battle of Gettysburg he reportedly told other officers that he was dissatisfied with the behavior of his 11th Corps. But none of these instances point to any tendency on Howard’s part to blame another’s command for the failure of his own.

Another tactic is to assail Howard’s morality: his reputation as a devout Christian is well established. And we all know that devout Christians are hypocrites. Therefore, Howard’s espousal of morality is evidence of his amorality - ergo, he would think nothing of smearing another to save his reputation. But among his fellow officers, many of whom were critical of his abilities, it seems Howard’s character was highly regarded.

Finally we get down to the nitty-gritty: results. Good arguments can be and have been made that Howard, at least up to and including the Battle of Gettysburg, was not a very good general. Therefore, he is fair game for criticism, regardless of any sound basis for the criticism. (A recent discussion on this topic on an online discussion forum devolved into criticism of Howard for having never ordered a counterattack during his career – which may be true but offers no insight into the Torpedo incident). Howard is of course not alone in this regard. But it is just piling on.

A man once said that truth is anything that is said loud enough and long enough. The truth of Oliver Otis Howard’s “torpedoing” of Abner Doubleday during the Battle of Gettysburg has been “established” by this method, and very little else. Does a lack of evidence prove that the story of Howard and Doubleday did not happen as it has been passed down? No. Anything is possible. But a nationally recognized author made what appears to be a statement of fact in a respected periodical, and cited a source. It is perhaps inevitable that some future writer will cite this same article as a source for the perpetuation of the legend.

Call me crazy, but I think we all deserve better than that.



Howard's Torpedo Part I

An article entitled “General Meade and the Second Battle of Gettysburg” in North & South magazine, Volume 8, number 1 included the following passage:

“On that bloody 1st of July, to conceal his own inept leadership of the XI Corps, the newly demoted [Oliver O.] Howard laid blame for the final Federal collapse in the day’s fighting on the other Union corps involved, the I Corps.  This was exactly contrary to fact – it was the rout of Howard’s XI Corps that precipitated the collapse, and it was the I Corps that held out to the last ditch.”

And later:

“However, the aspersions cast on the I Corps by Howard (passed on to [George G.] Meade by [Winfield S.]Hancock) provoked Meade to make a change.  He promptly displaced [Abner] Doubleday…”

As a rule, North & South articles include source citations, and this one is no exception.  But the source listed by the author for all of the above (and then some) was Hancock’s dispatch to Meade on 7/1/63, found in the OR Volume 27, Part 1, page 366.  The portion of that document which relates to O. O. Howard and what I call the Torpedo he allegedly launched at Doubleday consists of one line: “Howard says that Doubleday’s command gave way.”

There’s nothing new or exciting in the claims made by the author.  This story has been around and generally accepted for many years.  And it can be argued that it is the job of the historian to not only recount what can be verified by documentary evidence, but to interpret events when documentary evidence is lacking.  But when such interpretations cannot be supported by documentary evidence, and perhaps fly in the face of contradictory information, it is incumbent upon the author to clearly identify his opinion as just that – opinion; and to clearly identify the basis of that opinion.  In this case, the author failed to do either.

The problems with the statements in the article are numerous.  There is no documentary evidence to support the statements regarding Howard’s intent (to blame the Federal collapse on First Corps) or motive (to conceal his own inept leadership).  There is no evidence to support the statement that what Howard told Hancock (and the only evidence we have to that effect is the single line quoted above) did anything more than relay events as Howard understood them at the time.,  Even taken in conjunction with Howard’s dispatch to Meade that day (“The First Corps fell back, when outflanked on its left, to a stronger position, when the Eleventh Corps was ordered back, also to a stronger position”), neither the suggested intent nor motive are supported.  It is impossible to explain the presence of 1st Corps on the heights south of Gettysburg on the evening of July 1st without conceding that they did, in fact, give way or fall back.  (As an aside, it is also far from accepted fact among Gettysburg scholars that the collapse of 11th Corps precipitated that of 1st Corps.)  If the accepted story is true, Hancock’s use of the term “gave way” and Howard’s use of “fell back” are also curious, since “broke” or “broke and ran” would have been more commonly used to describe bad behavior.  In fact, a reader has to carefully parse these dispatches in order to find some criticism of Doubleday’s command.  If Howard’s intent was really as described, why would he fire such an obtuse projectile?

Part II Tomorrow

Harry (I apologize for the late post – life has a nasty habit of interrupting our hobbies)


"Urban Legend" Later Today

Check back later for some thoughts on O. O. Howard and his deliberate, premeditated effort to “conceal his own inept leadership” on July 1, 1863 by shifting blame to the command of Abner Doubleday.




"Who am I? Why am I Here?"

It came like a bolt out of the blue - a query from Dmitri Rotov:

“I'm going away for a week and wonder if you would act as guest blogger in my absence.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I have never met Dmitri.  He’s what I refer to as an e-ssociate, someone I know only from internet correspondence.  I’m a regular reader and great admirer of this blog – have been for the past year or so since being alerted to it by Tim Reese.  Later, due to interest in the historiography surrounding George B. McClellan, I became a member of the McClellan Society discussion group.  My published works consist of one letter to the editor of North & South Magazine (you can find it in Volume 8, #3).  My recreational reading for the past ten years has focused almost exclusively on the American Civil War, though I take a break now and again for other non-fiction and fiction.  Each year, I take from two to five battlefield trips, and these trips are the bases for my reading “schedule”.  I also belong to at least five Civil War email discussion groups, and a couple of online discussion forums.  My Civil War library consists of about 1,500 titles and stacks of periodicals, and being a very slow reader I have enough unread material to last me the rest of my life, though this doesn’t deter me from buying books like a drunken librarian.  I’ve considered blogging, but can’t get past the certainty that there are few out there anxiously waiting to catch any pearls dropping from my keyboard.

The above probably describes to varying degrees many of you reading this blog.  While I may be more qualified (for lack of a better term) to sub for Dmitri than some of you, I am certainly less qualified than many of you.  The immediate realization of this led me, before accepting his generous offer, to ask Dmitri “Why me?”

While his answer was certainly complimentary (I’m “independent”, a “deep reader”, and my favorite, “non-academic”), I reached the obvious conclusion:

Everybody else said “No.”

While I have no definite plan, what I’d like to do over the next week is examine some “Urban Legends” associated with the Civil War; stories and story lines that have been generally accepted as fact, but which are supported by little or no documentary evidence and are routinely repeated without any disclaimer identifying them as conjecture.  Possible topics include John Bell Hood and laudanum; Oliver Otis Howard and his deliberate attempt to discredit Abner Doubleday; Grant being “the only one” who would have made his famous right turn after the Wilderness; Robert Gould Shaw, David Hunter and the burning of Darien, GA; Nathaniel Banks’ incompetence and the failure of the Red River Campaign.

Other than this I have no real plan.  My only instructions are to treat the blog as if it were my own.  I’ll try to post at least once a day, and will attempt to post links to ACW news items.  Thanks to Dmitri for the opportunity to experiment on his well earned audience.

Harry Smeltzer



Goodbye to me and hello to Harry!

This will be my last post until next Thursday. Taking my first vacation in years and it is intended as a total rest. We'll pick up a couple of dropped memes when I return, including cataloging historians' failures surrounding the incident of McClellan's commission.

In my place, please welcome Harry Smeltzer. Harry is an independent, thoughtful reader of many years who should have more than few interesting observations to share with you. I'll let him introduce himself to the extent he may wish to do that. I appreciate his accepting this invitation and hope he gets a little fun out of it.

If dropping by this blog has been any kind of routine, dear reader, please do continue.

Is pink the new white for mansions?

Was pink the original color of the Cobb house in Georgia?

The Christian Science Monitor has a fine article on the mansion and the problems its restoration has presented over the decades.

I love these cross-currents of pop history and pop psychology:
"The real mystery is: Why did this nasty, mean, Confederate general paint his house pink?" says Jill Morton, author of "Color Voodoo," about how colors affect human psychology.
Hat tip to the reporter for collecting a quote so, so ... complex.

(Shown right: Lucy Cobb in 1859)


Getting a grip

Tales from the Desert has become Cromwell's Warts and there is quite a lot of American Civil War content on that blog. Poster fortyrounder says,
Some day when I'm finally locked away in the padded cell I so richly deserve I intend to sit down and read every good book on the American Civil War that I can get my hands on. For it has occurred to me that, for someone who intends to study the Civil War as a career, I really do not have a good grasp on many of the events, personalities and perspectives that defined the era.
I remember the first time I browsed Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. I thought, "I'll never understand a fraction of this war."

An learned friend recently speculated with me on what it would take just to become reasonably conversant in the Seven Days. He looked at the years he invested in getting a grasp on the Maryland campaign then gave up on the idea completely.

Paths of destruction

A tractor-trailer wipes out Port Republic's Civil War monument:
Rev. Stuart Wood, the rector of Grace Memorial who reported the accident to police, said a tractor-trailer had pulled off U.S. 340 and was attempting to turn around in the church parking lot when it struck the 2½-foot-tall memorial. The truck never stopped and had pulled back onto U.S. 340 by the time the pastor made it outside, Wood said.

"I can’t believe he didn’t hear or feel it, when I heard it inside my house," Wood said. Police searched U.S. 340 North and surrounding roads after the incident but were unable to locate the truck
Developer settles for destroying Confederate earthworks:
On July 11, 2001 a National Park Service (NPS) ranger discovered that an employee of Fawn Lake, a real estate development in Fredericksburg, Virginia, damaged approximately a half acre (24,000 sq. ft.) of Confederate earthworks on Longstreet Drive in the Wilderness Battlefield portion of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. [...] December 2005, NTS finally agreed to pay a reduced fine of $88,300.

"This is a textbook case of political string-pulling to impede protection of our heritage resources," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the Park Service is still withholding an estimated 40 pages of the most sensitive communications about the case.
NEWS | House allocates $400K for TN Civil War heritage * Civil War driving trail debuts Saturday in MO * Activist marches with girl fighting Confederate apparel ban


Sultana drownings - no mystery

David Woodbury pointed out to me that the river was over its banks and the shore was not so easy to find. Likewise, Mitch H. blogged that "the explosion occurred in the darkness of early morning, and that many no doubt couldn't even find the river-bank."

I had wondered about the number of drownings.

Civil War fort

Chris Wehner looks at the Civil War fort for sale on eBAY.

It was built on the New York/Vermont border, probably to frustrate a British advance.

Harney, the precursor

So that's where Brooksher went.

Drew is sounding good when he says Bloody Hill is out of date, sources not so good. I am sounding bad, like a McPherson reader, when I say I don't care too much that it's out of date and that it is innacurate. I like it for the reading pleasure it delivered me based on my personal notions of the correct proportions of civil and military info in an ACW text.

Pay attention to that shadowy figure in Harney's door with the exercise-at-will relief order in his pocket. He's a perfidious, pervasive Northern archetype making his first appearance just weeks after Sumter. Brooksher sees in him a pathology where the Centennialist sees in every relief the agency of Lincolnian meritocracy.

Here's to Brooksher's sensibility.
NEWS | Congressional library publishes rare images of Civil War * ACW fort for sale on eBAY * Yard sale yields Civil War-linked find



If I had been reading my fellow bloggers more often, I would not have duplicated Brett Schulte's 1:31 pm post at 5:06 pm on May 17. Drew Wagenhoffer noticed our parallel efforts and put some perspective on the Beatie project.

I would have noticed a new ACW blog, with a re-enactment focus.

And another that asks why there are no great ACW films.

I would have pondered, once again, why people who fall into the Mississippi cannot swim to the river bank. (Reading between David Woodbury's lines, I suppose broken health might be a reason.)

I would have caught Mike Koepke's post that Generals in Blue and Gray are now in paperback (and I would have issued some warnings about the failures of those books as references).

I would have seen Andy MacIssac's coverage of Maine's crackdown on bloggers and I would noticed Eric Wittenberg's response.

I would have laughed at the news from Brian Dirck that President William J. Clinton may join the ranks of Lincoln scholars.

I would have learned that Kevin Levin moved his blog.

I would have figured out that I have so far failed to link to Sean Dail's worthwhile and interesting blog: post more, my friend.

I would likewise have encouraged Brian Downey's fascinating explorations of digital history as a discipline, a topic close to my heart.

I could have counseled Michael Aubrecht: patience, humility, meekness. (Look who's talking, eh?)

I would have a sense, from Andy Etman, of the enormous amount of ACW programming on TV.

I would have noticed, via Mark Grimsley by way of Kevin Levin, that Mark is on a contingency bender - I hope he runs with this and makes a book of it.

I would have reminisced, reading this from Randy, about all those East European WWII stories told around the dinner table in my family.

And I wonder if Mitch H is writing poetry or quoting it. You owe us some ACW posting, mister.


Books I am reading

Grandmaster Emmanuel Lasker (right) developed his observations about chess games and players into more general propositions about people, psychology, social dynamics, and life. I was hoping, when I started it, that Jeremy Silman’s The Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery would shoulder the Laskerian burden of delineating a general description of amateurism, one that could be used to explain aspects of my Civil War reading. No paradigms here; just matches and self-help advice. This reading will not be completed.

Mark Neely builds his reputation one book at a time and with each book he takes more risk. With The Union Divided he explores party strife and its effects on the Union War effort. This is not a study that will sit well with the old thinking. It shows poisonous Northern politics permeating everything to do with the war; it resurrects elements of the Democratic critique of the management of the war; and it smudges the halo over the Republican Party. But it also tries to do too little, spending just 200 pages on a theme worth 1,000 at least. Work undone: Neely fails to trace the currently popular memes and themes of ACW writing back to their roots in the editorial pages of the Republican press of that time. Most Civil War history appearing today is history writing, but not history per se, and most of its "findings" and "conclusions" are mere political rhetoric from 140 years ago, dressed in the same fragmentary evidence and partisan handling of sources. Likewise, Neely toys with elements of the Democratic critique of Lincoln’s mismanagement of the war – good, most readers have never seen a shred of it – but without giving readers the complete accounting, which is a huge missed opportunity. (Readers are vaguely familiar with peace Democrats, also with the idea that Democrats wanted a negotiated settlement, but they have been thoughtfully protected from the more mainstream War Democrats’ critique of Lincoln’s military management of the war.) Neely paints for readers the outlines of a darker political reality than is found in the general run of Unionist histories. Also good. That aggressive party building in wartime incurs unnecessary risks and intensifies suffering needs to be understood and reflected in accounts of the Union effort.

John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship must send shivers down readers' spines. Politics! Generalship! Why that's apples and oranges - generals can't be political! Yup, this looks to be even more fun than Mark Grimsley’s Hard Hand of War, which grabbed squirming Civil War readers and forced the cod liver oil of politics down their unwilling gullets. General Schofield, for his part, was immersed in a pot of boiling political oil from the early war on, his Missouri command providing local, state, and federal form to every military consideration and decision. His memoirs – which run longer than this bio – show a political sensitivity capable of memorializing such oblique incidents as Grant telling him (Schofield) dramatically in early 1864 that he would not let the Administration "McClellanize" him (Grant’s word) once he arrived in the East. Schofield is one of those rare generals who arrives at the end of the war with rank and office comparable to that held at the start of 1862 – a fascinating window into the matter of personal growth under the stress of war. Downside: this is a biography. Upside: it’s analytical. Downside: the Civil War is over in about 100 pages. Upside: Schofield spent decades applying ACW lessons in civil-military relations to the postwar world. Gary Gallagher, the UNC Press editor responsible for this acquistion, deserves a salute.

Commanding the Army of the Potomac by Stephen Taafe was an impulse buy based on blurbs by Brooks Simpson and Steven Woodworth. It’s going to be an interesting read but I am in the throes of buyer’s regret. The secondary sources list, for example, will make you weep; time has stood still for this gentleman as there is not much new under the sun in Taafe country. The core of the problem he sets himself is typical. The Centennialists, recall, tried to answer all Civil War controversies and issues comprehensively through the use of storytelling techniques placed at the service of an 1862 New York Times editorial writer’s sensibility. The gaps and failures are embarrassing, however much you love your Nevins, Williams, Catton, Sears, and McPherson, so the game for their followers has been to work within that old general narrative framework to solve problems left behind by the masters. One of the more famous of these has been defined as – roughly – why was the AoP so screwed up? The short answer has always been "McClellan!" and Taafe here chips in to fill out the details by explaining how one man could screw up an entire army for years after he had gone. The answer is personal psychology (hello, Sears!) and mass psychology (hello, impossible generalization). Do have your psychohistory meters calibrated before picking this tome up, dear reader. And did we mention that McClellan only appointed his friends to command. (Yes, that gem appears as I have rendered it on page 215.) Despite it’s title, this is as much or more about corps commanders and Taafe has the good sense to try to trace the military and political patronage of this class of leader. His efforts are botched, however, by continuous solicitation for the old American Heritage editorial policy. And so he cannot – for instance – properly characterize the well-documented relationships of Sumner, Keyes, Heintzelmann, and McDowell to Lincoln. Nor will the author bring himself to violate the Centennial taboo that prohibits mention that these were pre-war Republicans and abolitionists; nor could he report (see Lincoln Day by Day) the level of social interaction with the president long before their appointment to corps command; and best of all, Mr. Taafe is not going to mention that the corps commanders appointed under McClellan were the only division commanders polled who stood against a water approach to Richmond. Never mind Sumner’s and McDowell’s blood relatives (Republicans) in the government, you can't choose your relatives and therefore we absolve historians from ever mentioning such things. And so, these corps commanders appear on the scene magically, as if washed ashore by the time and tide of Regular Army promotion. For Taafe, at this late date in the historiography of the ACW, repeats the Centennial wisdom that they were appointed because of their seniority in rank and opposed by McClellan because they were not his friends. Peacetime seniority implies some sort of orderly, impartial process but we are here talking of seniority in rank derived from Lincoln’s commissioning, and promoting, and dating commissions and promotions. Sins of commission, meet Taafe's sins of omission: the book fails, like so many before it, torecord that Lincoln created the date of rank for four generals he socialized with, who were Party members, and who went on the record against McClellan's plans prior to their appointments. And so it goes in a new book explaining how corps commanders got to where they were.

Upside: writers like Taafe inspired the creation of this blog. That's one good outcome, anyway.

How do you read Civil War history?

For entertainment or enlightment?
Will post some new book notes tonight.
(Hat tip to Tony Millionaire)


Beatie is back

... or will be in December. Hat tip to reader Bob Fuagte for noticing this.

Ted Savas had told me it was coming but gave no details, other than there would be lots of new information based on sources not mined before. Beatie used to post chapters of his works-in-progress and I actually have a couple of chapters of this book in draft collected in 2002. Very impressive.

Oddly enough, the publisher of the first two volumes is bestirring itself. Saw them together on the shelf of a Borders yesterday.

Let's get to the dustjacket copy of Volume III:

McClellan’s First Campaign, the third volume of Russel Beatie’s masterful series, covers the pivotal early months of General George McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign through the siege of Yorktown, the pursuit toward Richmond, and the fighting at Williamsburg. As he did in his first two volumes, Beatie tells the story largely through the eyes and from the perspective of high ranking officers, staff officers, and politicians. This study is based upon extensive firsthand research (including many previously unused and unpublished sources) that rewrites the history of Little Mac’s inaugural effort to push his way up the peninsula and capture Richmond in one bold campaign.

In meticulous fashion, Beatie examines many heretofore unknown, ignored, or misunderstood facts and events and uses them to evaluate the campaign in the most balanced historical context to date. Every aspect of these critically important weeks is examined, from how McClellan’s Urbanna plan unraveled and led to the birth of the expedition that debarked at Fort Monroe in Mach 1862, to the aftermath of Williamsburg. There were many reasons why the march to Richmond did not move as expeditiously as many hoped it would, though until now, few of these reasons have been satisfactorily (or even fairly) explored. President Abraham Lincoln’s interference, both politically and militarily, argues the author, lengthened considerably McClellan’s odds of success. Just one example was the president’s tampering with the corps command structure. Lincoln’s experiment undermined his army commander by elevating the wrong men to positions of importance, a sad fact amply demonstrated by the inept leadership displayed before Yorktown and during the important fighting at Williamsburg. Beatie is the first author to deeply investigate and expose the role of the Navy in the Yorktown episode. His sweeping and convincing conclusion is that if the Navy had done what it promised it would do—what it could have done, but refused to do—Yorktown would have fallen weeks sooner than it did.

McClellan’s First Campaign is a story about the men in command—their knowledge, intentions, successes, and failures. To capture the full flavor of their experiences, Beatie employs the “fog of war” technique, which puts the reader in the position of the men who led the Union army. The Confederate adversaries are always present but often only in shadowy forms that achieve firm reality only when we meet them face-to-face on the battlefield.

Well written, judiciously reasoned, and extensively footnoted, McClellan’s First Campaign will be heralded as the seminal work on this topic. Civil War readers may not always agree with Beatie’s conclusions, but they will concur that his account offers an original examination of the Army of the Potomac’s role on the Virginia peninsula.
NEWS | "Lincoln and Lee at Antietam - The Cost of Freedom" DVD Wins Top Award at WorldFest - Houston Film Festival * Historian seeks identities of Civil War veterans * Editorial: Public should protect Civil War cemetery


Guest blogger

This blog has been running since August 2003 without a break in posting. Blogger used to give word counts but stopped tallying after I passed 100,000. I think I'm at about 200,000 now.
A week from tommorow, I'll be taking my first vacation from the blog, out of town with Civil War out of mind. Will be back online after June 1.
Harry Smeltzer has graciously offered to keep the fire burning here while I'm away. Harry is a one-for-one replacement: a deep reader, non-academic, active discussion boards poster (I used to be one), and fellow member of the McClellan Society. Eric Wittneberg will vouch for him - a good guy. If things work out, maybe he'll start his own blog.
We'll have a change of command ceremony next week. Until then...

History anyone?

An old story:
"They are sanitized to avoid offending anyone who might complain at textbook adoption hearings in big states, they are poorly written, they are burdened with irrelevant and unedifying content, and they reach for the lowest common denominator."
A handy rationale:
Few elementary and high school textbook publishers "can afford to spend millions of dollars developing a textbook series and not have it adopted in these high-volume states," the Fordham Institute said.
The result:
American textbooks are both grotesquely bloated (so much so that some state legislatures are considering mandating lighter books to save students from back injuries) and light as a feather intellectually, flitting briefly over too many topics without examining any of them in detail. Worse, too many of them are pedagogically dishonest, so thoroughly massaged to mollify competing political and identity-group interests as to paint a startlingly misleading picture of America and its history.


The Hunley - a hole out of the water?

The State newspaper estimates $100 million has been spent on the Hunley thus far, calling to mind the old saw about a boat being a hole in the water you pour money into.

The article outlines the remarkable involvement of one state senator, Glenn McConnell (shown right). The good senator "he has personally authorized much of the spending of the project's public money in an arrangement the state's comptroller general says is 'obviously outside the framework the state has provided for disbursement of public funds.'"

Note: "The whole scheme involves rivers of underground money flowing to the Hunley from many sources, and the obvious intent is to not let people know."

Is all fair in love, war, and preservation?
as Hunley paymaster, apparently without any clear legal authority. McConnell has personally authorized the transfer of millions in public money from the State Budget and Control Board to a Hunley foundation whose members he has appointed for 10 years. No other lawmaker has such access to state accounts, access the state's comptroller general said is outside the state's normal framework for disbursing public money.
McConnel is a former Democrat turned Republican now drifiting towards the Libertarians.

The Hunley effort, as reported here, suggests that McConnell feels that if people knew the costs involved, they would oppose this project.

Do the means justify the ends in Civil War preservation?

The largest collection of ACW photos

... appears to be at Carlisle Barracks. I wonder if there is a catalog.
NEWS | NJ officials hope Walt Whitman draws tourists * C ivil War enthusiasts rally around tattered flag * Civil War cemetery for sale


Book collection for sale

A friend is clearing shelf space. I'm posting a list the ACW part of the collection he wishes to sell as a list below. If interested in some or all tieles let me know and I will put you in touch with the seller. You can write to me at this address:

keepartreal [at] yahoo [dot] com

Never say this is not a full service blog.

Here's the list:

Adams, Charles S. The Monuments at Antietam: Sharpsburg’s Silent Sentinels. Dagsboro, De.: the author, 2001.

Adams, Charles S. The Civil War in Washington County Maryland: A Guide to 66 Points of Interest. privately printed, 1996.

Armstrong, Marion V. Disaster in the West Woods: General Edwin V. Sumner and the II corps at Antietam. Sharpsburg, Md., Western Maryland Interpretive Assn., 2002.

Barrow, High W. Private James R. Barrow and Company B, Cobb’s Legion Infantry. privately printed, 1998.

Bedwell, Randall, ed. May I Quote You, General Lee? Observations & Utterances from the South’s Great General. Nashville, Tenn., Cumberland House, 1997.

Bernard, George S., comp. & ed. War Talks of Confederate Veterans. Petersburg, Va.: Fenn & Owen, Publishers, 1892.

Boatner, Lt. Col. Mark M. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: David McKay Company, 1959.

Campaign Chronicles: The Campaign for Atlanta & Sherman’s March to the Sea: Essays on the 1864 Georgia Campaign, Volume 1. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Woodbury Publishing, 1992.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal: A Guide to Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland, District of Columbia and West Virginia. Washington, D.C.: Division of Publications, National Park Service, 1991.

Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.

Connelly, Thomas L., Civil War Tennessee: Battle and Leaders. Knoxville: The Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1979.

Cooper, William J., intro. Thirty Years After: An Artist’s Memoir of the Civil War, Text and Illustrations by Edwin Forbes. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1993.

Cox, Jacob D. The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, A Monograph. Dayton, O.: Morningside Press, 1983.

Cox, Jacob D. The March to the Sea, Franklin and Nashville. Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Publishing, 1989.

Davis, William C. Rebels & Yankees: The Battlefields of the Civil War. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1991.

Davis, William C. Rebels & Yankees: The Fighting Men of the Civil War. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1989.

Davis, William C. Rebels & Yankees: The Commanders of the Civil War. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1990.

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. 3 vols., New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.

Ellingson, Paul, ed. Confederate Flags in the Georgia State Capitol Collection. Atlanta: Office of the Secretary of State Max Cleland, 1994.

Fonvielle, Chris E., The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Publishing, 1997.

Frassanito, William A. Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978.

Frassanito, William A. Gettysburg: A Journey in Time. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975.
Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Kent, O.: Kent State Univ. Press, 1989.

Gardner, Alexander. Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. New York: Dover Publications, 1959.

George, Kathleen R. The Location of the Monuments, Markers, and Tablets on Gettysburg Battlefield. Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1984.

Gilbert, David T. A Walker’s Guide to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Exploring a Place Where History Still Lives. Harpers Ferry: Harpers Ferry Historical Association, Fifth Edition, 1995.

Harsh, Joseph L. Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861-1862. Kent, O.: The Kent State University Press, 1998.

_____________. Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Kent, O.: The Kent State University Press, 1999.

_____________. Sounding the Shallows: A Confederate Companion for the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Kent, O.: The Kent State University Press, 2000.

History and Tour Guide of the Antietam Battlefield by the Editors of Blue & Gray Magazine with Stephen W. Sears and James V. Murfin. Columbus, O.: Blue & Gray Magazine, 1995.

Holien, Kim B. Battle at Ball’s Bluff: The Fateful Clash of North and South at Leesburg, Virginia -- October 21, 1861. Publisher’s Press, 1985.

Holzer, Harold and Mark E. Neely, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art. New York: Orion Books, 1993.

John Brown’s Raid. National Park Service History Series. Washington, D.C.: 1974.

Johnson, Curt and Richard C. Anderson. Artillery Hell: The Employment of Artillery at Antietam. College Station, Tx.: Texas A&M Univ. Press, 1995.

Johnson, Robert U. and Clarence C. Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols., reprint, New York: Castle Books, 1956.

Jones, Howard. Union in Peril: The Crisis over British Intervention in the Civil War. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Jones, Wilbur D. Giants in the Cornfield: The 27th Indiana Infantry. Shippensburg, Pa., White Mane Publishing, 1997.

Kelly, Dennis. Kennesaw Mountain and the Atlanta Campaign, A Tour Guide by Dennis Kelly. Marietta, Ga., Kennesaw Mountain Historical Assn., 1990.

Lacovara, Robert R. Regimental Flags and History of the New Jersey Volunteers during the Civil War. privately printed, 1993.

Luvaas, Jay and Harold W. Nelson. The U.S. Army War College Guide to the Battle of Antietam, The Maryland Campaign of 1862. Carlisle, Pa.: South Mountain Press, 1987.

Mahin, Dean B., One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War. Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1999.

Marvel, William. Burnside. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Maurois, Andre and Gen. James M. Gavin. A Civil War Album of Paintings by the Prince de Joinville. New York: Atheneum, 1964.

MacLachlan, Renae. A Lion to the Last: Lt. William J. Fisher and the 10th U.S. Infantry; Paths of Heroes, No. 1. Gettysburg, Pa.: Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, 2003.

McClellan, George B. McClellan’s Own Story. Scituate, Mass.: Digital Scanning, Inc., 1998.

McDonough, James Lee and Thomas L. Connelly, Five Tragic Hours: The Battle of Franklin. Knoxville: The Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1983.

Miles, Jim. Fields of Glory: A History and Tour Guide of the Atlanta Campaign. Nashville, Tenn., Rutledge Hill Press, 1989.

Murfin, James V. The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2nd printing, 1985.

Newell, Clayton R. Lee vs. McClellan: The First Campaign. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1996.

Nosworthy, Brent. The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003.

Palfrey, Francis W. The Antietam and Fredericksburg. [1882]. Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Publishing, 1989.

Price, William H. The Civil War Handbook. Fairfax, Va.: Prince Lithograph Co., 1961.

Priest, John M. Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Press, 1992.

Rafuse, Ethan S. McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

Ray, Frederick E. “Our Special Correspondent: Alfred R. Waud’s Civil War. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1994.

Reilly, Oliver T. The Battlefield of Antietam. Hagerstown, Md.: Hagerstown Bookbinding & Printing, reprint, no date.

The Returned Battle Flags: Presented to the Confederate Veterans at their Reunion, Louisville, Ky., June 14th, 1905, with the Compliments of the Passenger Department, “Cotton Belt Route”. privately printed, 1905, reprint, Redondo Beach, Calif.: Rank and File Publications, 1995.

Ridgway, James M. Little Mac: Demise of an American Hero. Xlibris Corp., 2000.

Sauers, Richard A. Advance the Colors! Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flags. 2 vols. Harrisburg: Capitol Preservation Committee, 1987, 1991.

Scaife, William R. The Campaign for Atlanta. Atlanta: the author, 1993.

Schildt, John W. Four Days in October. Chewsville, Md.: published by the author, 1978.

Sears, Stephen W. The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1989.

Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.

Sears, Stephen W., ed. The American Heritage Century Collection of Civil War Art. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974.

Snell, Mark A. From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002.

Snell, Mark A., ed. Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the Civil War, Volume 5, No. 3, Antietam: The Maryland Campaign of 1862. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Publishing, 1997.

Snell, Mark A., ed. Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the Civil War, Volume 6, No. 2, The Maryland Campaign and Its Aftermath. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Publishing, 1998.

Stegeman, John F. These Men She Gave: Civil War Diary of Athens, Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1964, reprint, Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, no date.

Stewart, George R. Pickett’s Charge: A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987.

Sword, Wiley. Embrace an Angry Wind: The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville. Columbus, O.: The General’s Books, 1994.

Tilberg, Frederick. Antietam: Antietam National Battlefield; Historical Handbook No. 31. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, no date.

United States Government. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 vols. and Atlas, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901. Volume 19, Parts 1 & 2, The 1862 Maryland Campaign, reprint, Harrisburg, Pa.: National Historical Society, 1971.

__________________. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records. reprint, New York: The Fairfax Press, 1978.

Voices of the Civil War: Antietam. Alexandria, Va.: Editors of Time-Life Books, 1996.

Voices of the Civil War: Atlanta. Alexandria, Va.: Editors of Time-Life Books, 1996.

Wiggins, David N. Images of America: Remembering Georgia’s Confederates. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

Wright, Steven J. Imports from the United Kingdom: 1861-1865. privately printed, no date.

Hallowed Ground Dairy Queens

The National Register of Historic Places proposes to make Rt. 15 in Virginia the Hallowed Ground Parkway. This overbuilt area serviced by a rustic, 1950s two-lane road, could benefit from development restriction. That's certainly what my county, Loudon, is all about.

The puzzle at the center of this is whether NR is a force for good (restricted development) or evil (injection of thousands of tourists into already unmanageable traffic).

NR has been talking the language of tourism and economic growth - This Hallowed Dairy Queen - and consequently Loudon has opposed the Parkway designation.

Good for them. They are the only polity en route from Gettysburg to Monticello to do so. If it is NR's intention to become an engine of economic development the preservation game is lost.
NEWS | National parks cutting back on services, raising fees * MO prepares ACW markers * Lincoln fellows named


No timeline tonight

We'll recommission McClellan's commission as a thread starting this weekend and beginning with the events timeline.

Name that baby

For the compleat Civil War buff - a baby naming idea. Forrest Jefferson Hooker.

Whoops, already taken.

Become a political re-enactor

Something interesting you might do today: join an anti-slavery society.

American Anti-Slavery Group

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

Anti-Slavery Society

Free the Slaves

Polaris Project

Miramed Institute

Project to End Human Trafficking

It's not too late to become an Abolitionist.


Where is Brooksher?

Air Force Brigadier General William Riley Brooksher was a Civil War reader who became a remarkable Civil War author. He was one of those very rare birds who understood the civil part of civil war and his handling of those issues has been as close to my own taste as I could ever likely see in print. He wrote well, had the military history part of it in hand while painting politics with short strokes of bright, rich colors.

He may have exasperated those looking for a Wilson's Creek battle book in his Bloody Hill ... but it delighted me with a pleasurable read I like to recall whenever trudging through the dark valley of the recapitulators. It appeared 19 years into his retirement from the service after a 30 plus year military career.

Brooksher's relating of the Harney affair in Bloody Hill - possibly a distraction and annoyance to many readers - etched a bright miniature of the next four years of war for those with eyes to discern patterns. The Harney affair is the war for the Union as waged by the Union condensed into a matter of a few weeks of intrigue, turf wars, backstabbing, and tragedy. If you have the book, rethink the war in the east through a Harney filter. And thank Brooksher for not sanitizing the North's war by excising the consistently awful politics to create a clean military narrative.

So where has Brooksher been for the last six years? We need him.
(Harney, top right, from a genealogy website.)

McClellan's Commission

This series has been withdrawn for a restart. We'll start with the timeline, then get into the compare and contrast.

Sears use of the word "intimation" in yesterday's post originates with McClellan's letter to Porter of 4/18/61 and needs more treatment than given. I'll put the timeline up late Thursday and relaunch the first post on Friday.

The matter of McClellan's commission is interesting to me as one of those quick-browse indicators that tells whether the author researcher or rehasher.


McClellan's commission

This post is coming together slowly and running longer than expected. Will put it up tommorrow afternoon or evening.

Compare and contrast

Tomorrow night, I will compare and contrast different treatments of McClellan's commissioning in order to portray "degrees of merit" in Civil War history.

In other words, to give flesh to my endless complaining about how incompetent Centennial history has been.

We'll baseline off of Bruce Catton's absurdly compressed acccount of events, then his protege Stephen Sears' erroneous and misleading version of the affair, followed by Ethan Rafuse's decent but incomplete treatment, capped by Russel Beatie's rich, full, but not quite right version.

I'll place the cherry on Beatie's sundae, the key fact/document, hidden once again in plain view, that no one had built into any account of McClellan's commissioning. If you are a deep reader of Civil War history, the surprise should equal that of Pope being ordered into the field against Lee during the Maryland Campaign.

Blogging has been light due to days like today: newly broken tooth, bad case of poison ivy, crisis at work, and emergency gardening after dark.

Got irritability?

See you later; thanks for visiting.


Special fines for special vandals

Lansing already has ordinances outlawing damage to public property, but officials would like to specifically address damage to public art.

Vandals attacking art objects will suffer especially stiff fines. Wonder if towns with old cemeteries would consider similar "specialized" laws and penalties.

"We Are Lincoln Men"

My favorite David H. Donald quote appears in We Are Lincoln Men:

Lincoln never lied, but he often tried out different versions of events with different visitors; by hearing himself, he was able to select the version that was most convincing.

And still avoid lying.


"Lincoln's wrath" - case dismissed

Finished the book Lincoln's Wrath to find out (quiet please) he didn't do it. Or at least he didn't order the shutdown of the newspaper in question in a way that could be traced back to him.

AL had the means to shut down newspapers, he had the motive to do so, but he could not be connected to the action at the center of this book except through Stanton. (Ah, Stanton. We meet again.)

In Lincoln's Wrath, a couple of novice ACW writers, Jeffrey Manber and Neil Dahlstrom, strive to convey a complex incident of Civil War repression throught the impossible means of telling it as a story.

Please open yourself to this paradox: complexity demands complexity, not reductionism. The story form cannot convey why and how any Democratic party newspapers - and this paper - were suppressed 1861-1862.

The authors' investigation into Lincoln's involvement in this particular incident - involving the West Chester Jeffersonian - lasted over a decade. No smoking gun found. Nevertheless, the book is set up as a whodunit, with Lincoln escaping conviction by the reader at the very last moment.

I enjoyed learning the economic ABCs of 19th Century newspaper ownership; and learning about Lincoln's secret ownership of an Illinois newspaper; and about his unsigned wartime editorials; I agree that he was the first "newspaper president" - it's a good term; I was shocked at the number of friendly newspaper editors he appointed to government positions; I did not know that parallel to Seward's recorded secret arrests of civilians, Cameron secretly arrested many more without recording their identities; I did not know that Cameron and Blair prevented papers critical of Lincoln from being carried on trains or through the mails; I was intrigued by the Republican managed mob violence against Democrats in the Summer of Rage; I well understood that the Adminsistration construed criticism of itself with discouragement of enlistments (the definition of treason under the Confiscation Act). Well and good.

All this has the makings of an interesting study that resonates with current events. Unfortunately, storytelling insticts rendered these mere points of interest instead of starting points for further investigation.

Dedicated to description and analysis of Democratic party-busting during the war years, this book would have had real worth.

In the frontmatter, one Peter Lynch is mentioned as the editor who guided this effort into "better" talespinning. He served his publisher well and the public poorly.


Children at work

From the Frederick paper (registration may be required), some Won Cause mythology:
Salman Kazmi, 13, cleaned gravestones in an area [in Antietam Battlefield] where soldiers from Pennsylvania are buried. "They sacrificed their lives saving the slaves' rights," he said, "and I thought that was pretty noble of them."
From the Hagerstown paper, some Reconciliation mythology:
"To imagine 23,000 people fighting for our country and dying all at the same time, that's really moving," Lingg said.
In case you were wondering what kids are learning these days. Taken from reports of the same headstone cleaning event. (Emphasis added.)


I can hardly keep up with the stories:

Morris County, NJ: Historic cemetery trashed by vandals

Plainfield, MI: The hunt goes on for vandals who smashed ACW headstones

Fitchburg, MA: Vandals target ACW headstones

(Top right: Fitchburg ACW monument)
NEWS | KKK plans rally at Antietam Civil War site * Judge awards $4 million to owners of razed Gettysburg tower * Phillipsburg to rededicate McAllister monument * Louisville plans Lincoln diorama