How I spent my summer vacation

Well, it hasn't been a vacation really: a half day here and there. But I am awaiting a book delivery that will enable me to conclude my McClellan-Lincoln Illinois Central RR research/writing and I am terribly pleased at what I have found so far. I'm not stopping for nothing ... I think I have run out of material.

When you put the scraps together, the dots produce wonderful surprises. Stay tuned.

Author Conclave July 28-30

The Savas-Beatie author conclave convenes shortly. It's free and these are wonderful authors.


Some Sam Hood interviews

My intention was to dissect some of the Wiley Sword assertions about Gen. John B. Hood using author Sam Hood's new book and the OR references Sword used. But there is a lazy way out: link to some good Hood interviews given in 2012.

Here is Eric Wittenberg's with its overview of the content of the discovered Hood family papers.

Kraig McNutt, part 1, is not an interview with Hood but a collection of reactions from authors with "skin in the game" to the discovery of the papers. Sword has two responses, well worth reading, and the authors in general are very protective of the established work. Hood responds to them in the comments section.

Kraig McNutt, part 2, offers a single question and answer with the author and presents comments with responses from Hood.

(Here's a link to all of the relevant McNutt postings.)

I am impressed by Hood's criticism of Sword's handling of sources in John Bell Hood, but I say that as one without familiarity with the relevant material. I should also confess that how deeply I hate pop culture outbursts like these Swordisms collected by Hood for what might be called the Beauregard edition. Page numbers are in parentheses:

"Beauregard was thoroughly shocked" (107); "exasperated" (107); "very much disturbed" (107); "fuming about the callous treatment by Hood" (107); PGTB was "determined to retaliate" (110); "callous treatment by Hood [caused] smoldering resentment until finally another heated confrontation occurred" (110); Beauregard was "livid" (111); "frustrated" (110); "exasperated" (110).

The best parts of this new book is watching author Hood disassemble each emotional assertion using Sword's own sources. And Sword is not the only one getting this treatment. Our problem in Civil War history is much bigger than Wiley Sword.


Wiley Sword - an interesting historian

From Sam Hood's John Bell Hood. The author is quoting from Sword's book The Confederacy's Last Hurrah and has added the emphasis:
"Already when en route to South Carolina, he [Gen. Hood] had passed through Augusta and probably met with a distant relative, Gustavus Woodson Smith, the crusty old army engineer who was Hood's good friend. Hood apparently poured out his bitterness to Smith, who then may have published the long, rambling article that appeared in the Augusta, Georgia, Daily Constitutionalist on February 5, 1865."
Now that's history made interesting!

Cannonballs are terrifying...

... if you don't know shot from shell.

You wonder how artillerymen mustered the courage to handle these mysterious, unstable and unpredictable items of "ordinance."

(H/T R. Bonds.)


Fuller and Hawthorne on older generals

From JFC Fuller's Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure:
In my book – The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant – I pointed out that, in 1861, the average age of twenty Federal and Confederate officers who, as generals, played leading parts in the war, was thirty-eight and a half years. [...] In war it is almost impossible to exaggerate the evil effects of age upon generalship, and through generalship on the spirit of an army. In peace time it may be otherwise, but in war time the physical, intellectual and moral stresses and strains which are at once set up immediately discover the weak links in a general’s harness. First, war is obviously a young man’s occupation; secondly, the older a man grows the more cautious he becomes, and thirdly, the more fixed become his ideas. Nothing is more dangerous in war than to rely upon peace training: for in modern times, when war is declared, training has always been proved out of date. Consequently, the more elastic a man’s mind is, the more it is able to receive and digest new impressions and experiences, the more commonsense will be the actions resulting. Youth, in every way, is not only more elastic than old age, but less cautious and far more energetic.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne's article "Chiefly About War Matters":
... we were received by the commander of the fortress [John Wool] with a kind of acid good-nature, or mild cynicism, that indicated him to be a humorist, characterized by certain rather pungent peculiarities, yet of no unamiable cast. He is a small, thin old gentleman, set off by a large pair of brilliant epaulets,—the only pair, so far as my observation went, that adorn the shoulders of any officer in the Union army. [...] There can be no question of the General's military qualities; he must have been especially useful in converting raw recruits into trained and efficient soldiers. But valor and martial skill are of so evanescent a character, (hardly less fleeting than a woman's beauty,) that Government has perhaps taken the safer course in assigning to this gallant officer, though distinguished in former wars, no more active duty than the guardianship of an apparently impregnable fortress. The ideas of military men solidify and fossilize so fast, while military science makes such rapid advances, that even here there might be a difficulty. An active, diversified, and therefore a youthful, ingenuity is required by the quick exigencies of this singular war.[...] It is a pity that old men grow unfit for war, not only by their incapacity for new ideas, but by the peaceful and unadventurous tendencies that gradually possess themselves of the once turbulent disposition, which used to snuff the battle-smoke as its congenial atmosphere.
(Wool would have been 78 during Hawthorne's visit.)
p.s. Of related interest...
General Wool writes a letter
Generals who faint
"Why senior military leaders fail"

And for a blow-by-blow account of Wool's machinations against McClellan during the first Richmond campaign, see the most recent volume by the late, great Cap Beatie.


Trenton Iron Works - some notes and conjecture

It was something like a couple of decades ago that Trenton historian Charles Webster and I were sitting in that city's library speculating about the oddities of G.B. McClellan being posted to Trenton and then being buried there (along with his wife and father-in-law Randolph B. Marcy, sans Mrs. Marcy).

Charlie proposed that the outcome was tied to Trenton Iron Works, where Marcy had served as an Army inspector and where the owners had been influential Democrats. He didn't have anything specific but was working on it. We filed what "explanation" we had under "ties to the city."

I am not sure Charlie called it Trenton Iron Works. We locals called the site "Cooper Iron Works" and the business went through name changes. At one time there was a 19th Century companion firm, same owners, called Trenton Steel and Iron Works. For purposes of this post, I'm going to refer to the complex as Trenton Iron Works.

To get where we are going, we'll need a timeline.

1838 - New York's illustrious Albany Regency ends with the defeat of William Marcy (D) at the hands of William Seward and Thurlow Weed (W) in the NY governor's election.

1847 - Trenton Iron Works is incorporated by Peter Cooper (photo, right), Abram Hewitt, Edward Cooper (son) and James Hall, strong, moneyed New York Democrats.

1848 - The barnburners split the Regency, burying this Democrat faction. Peter Cooper is a barnburner.

1849 - Capt. Randolph Marcy, of the Regency Marcys, blazes the Marcy Trail, from Fort Smith to Santa Fe.

1851 - Marcy is on the Belknap expedition in Texas.

1852 - Marcy and McClellan are on the Red River expedition.

1855-1859 - Maj. Robert Anderson is "... assigned to the light duty of inspecting the iron beams produced in a mill in Trenton, New Jersey for Federal construction projects."

1856 - Gustavus Woodson Smith (a civilian) becomes chief engineer of the Trenton Iron Works (Odyssey of a Southerner). Marcy is on a Texas survey. G.W. Smith introduces McClellan to Abram Hewitt, co-owner of Trenton Iron Works and director of the Illinois Central Railroad (McClellan's War, Odyssey of a Southerner).

1857 - Marcy wars on the Seminoles and then "received national fame for a winter march of over a thousand miles" during the Mormon war. McClellan resigns from the army for a position with the Illinois Central (McClellan's War). G.W. Smith becomes a director of the Illinois Central (Odyssey of a Southerner). McClellan begins his supervision of a contract railroad attorney named Abraham Lincoln.

1858 - Marcy prepares his book The Prairie Traveler. G.W. Smith goes to work for Peter Cooper, co-owner of Trenton Iron Works, as the deputy NYC Streets Commissioner. Cooper resigns after six months and Smith steps up to the full title(Odyssey of a Southerner).

1859 - Marcy becomes a regimental paymaster. Peter Cooper founds Cooper Union.

1860 - Peter Cooper sells out his stake in Trenton Iron Works to the other owners. McClellan takes up the presidency of the Ohio & Mississippi RR Eastern Division through the good offices of S.L.M. Barlow, Democratic activist.(McClellan's War). Barlow is a member of New York's Union Club as is Edward Cooper, co-owner of Trenton Iron Works. Abraham Lincoln is offered position as staff legal counsel to the New York Central Railroad based on his work for McClellan and the Illinois Central (Abraham Lincoln as a Railroad Attorney and, better, Ellis and Ellis in Billings).

1860 - (Worth its own entry and emphasis) G.W. Smith becomes Chairman of the National Democratic Committee for the City and County of New York. (He backs the Breckinridge ticket.)

Perhaps this is too nebulous for many readers, but I find it interesting. One missing piece here is Randolph Marcy. His whereabouts are given to show what few opportunities he would have had to be posted to the Trenton Iron Works, as Charlie believed he had been. The Marcy-Trenton connection remains mysterious.

Anderson's place here might also confuse but there is a familial McClellan connection that appears in Whitelaw Reid's history of Ohio in the ACW. Robert Anderson, worked with Smith, the Coopers, Hewitt, and Hall for years. As McClellan settled into Cincinnati society in 1860 (his entrée into the principal literary club having been managed by John Pope), his military future is taken up by the city's business roundtable headed by one Larz Anderson II, nephew of the major. Larz and company petitioned both Gov. Dennison and Ohio's politicians in Washington for McClellan's leadership of Ohio troops. Perhaps there was an Ironworks connection at work.

Lincoln's possible connection to the Trenton Iron Works is a notion "under development," if it ever gets developed. The offer of a job with the NY Central would have come from the company of a powerful New York Democrat, Erastus Corning, who knew the Regency, likely had dealings with some combination of Barlow, Cooper and Hewett and who certainly had many dealings with Lincoln backer Thurlow Weed. Interlocking boards? Word of mouth? And from where? More work to do.

Democrats Edward Cooper (Peter's son) and Hewitt would both eventually serve as mayors of New York, Hewitt gaining fame as the man who planned for a city subway system. The New York mayor who opened the subway system for business was Max McClellan, the general's son. Will the circle be unbroken? Not in 1904, anyway.

Meanwhile, here's Marcy's obit. The Trenton burial is not explained although we know GBM has predeceased him and we guess his daughter has committed to be buried in some future time next to her husband. Could this be the motivation for siting Marcy's gravesite?

We have not solved the mystery of McClellan's (or Marcy's) posting to Trenton but have some meat for informed speculation - the best kind.

The Ironworks were a political mill where power, money and Democratic politics mixed with military celebrity.


Ethan Rafuse

Ethan Rafuse has opted "to spend my time in other ways than blogging." This is a good thing since he is one of a small number of Civil War authors doing new and interesting books. We need the books more than the posting, so I have wished him a good riddance from Civil Warriors.

Earlier this year, Brooks Simpson linked to an interesting paper by Rafuse that I intend to write about here. I have also sketched notes for a long post collecting what we know about McClellan's supervision of Lincoln before the war -- relying much on Ethan's research and the work of another, more obscure author.

So, one can still be in the blogosphere without having to be of the blogophere.

Hood on Hood

Sam Hood weighs in at Kevin Levin's blog on the subject of my book review of a few days ago.

p.s. I have a medium length post in preparation illustrating the sins of Wiley Sword ennumerated by author Hood.

Comic book heroes

I thought this painting by Ann Null was over-the-top.
But then I looked at the source/inspiration. Super Stonewall comes to you courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield Park.


Guelzo's immense power to disappoint

Anytime you think Allen Guelzo cannot disappoint more (and more and more), he's back with another surprise. Mitch Hagmaier writes from Pennsylvania,
I noticed this book in the "books others bought" list on the page with your review of that Hood book. The more historically-minded inhabitants of Chambersburg would be astonished to be so informed that the 1863 Gettysburg campaign was "the last invasion", presumably by a Confederate army of a northern state.

(And now that I google a bit, I see I'm not the first one to make that joke... sigh.)

And it looks like Guelzo was fool enough to respond that the two Early incursions were exempt because they were "raids" and not an invasion. As if Lee's 1863 campaign was anything other than a raid of monumental proportions. I suppose it's more respectable to kidnap people and seize vast amounts of goods under color of foraging than to straight-up ransom towns against the threat of arson.
I myself also notice on Amazon one reviewer complained that
Allen C. Guelzo accepts the Sickles, Butterfield account as gospel. This book is an account of the Gettysburg Campaign that the anti-Meade faction would love. Every discredited story from Mine Run to the Staff Meeting is here. The idea that Meade was dragged kicking and screaming into battle is the heart of the book.
Treating controversy as settled history is "fresh," "exciting," "new" (taken from Amazon quotes).

Harry Smeltzer recently interviewed Guelzo who appears to have taken a strong dislike to Meade based on the man's correspondence and politics. However, the intriguing part of the interview has Guelzo complementing himself for adding what could be an interesting twist:
I think Gettysburg (and the Civil War in general) could benefit hugely from being understood in a larger international context, especially when it comes to military thinking and tactical doctrine (which is, after all, a species of intellectual history). The Civil War did not occur in a vacuum; the experiences of the Crimean War (1854-56), the Sepoy Mutiny (1857-58), the North Italian War (1859) all offer important illumination for why Civil War generals thought as they did. That’s why Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is constantly invoking comparisons to the Alma, Solferino, and Koniggratz. In that sense, I’m trying to claw away from the blinkered view imposed on the Civil War by American exceptionalism.
One of the charming stories about McClellan's railroad period is that he had maps of the Franco-Austrian Italian war spread out all over his office and well marked. His marks were based on the newspaper stories that may have been followed by any number of other officers and ex-officers. To make the connection between those newspaper stories and the military punditry flowing therefrom would make for ... uh... scholarship. But I see from a review of this book, that is not what is going on here. In John Derbyshire's book report, he notes, for instance, that Lee (according to Guelzo) had good reason for Pickett's charge:
The assault failed, as military actions often will, but Guelzo denies it was the egregious folly it has sometimes been portrayed. He raises encouraging precedents surely known to Lee: Lord Raglan’s successful assault on even more formidable Russian lines in the Crimea, for instance, during which:

...the Russians were not only driven back, but driven away in “such a confusion as no person ever saw.” The same tactics had won the day for the French at Magenta and Solferino in 1859…. If Lee needed a rationale for the attack on July 3rd, he did not have far to look for it, [Confederate corps commander James] Longstreet’s objections notwithstanding.
Wouldn't Lee's personal experiences outweigh the recollection of some distant newspaper reports? He wouldn't even have to go back to his Mexican War time for frontal assault memories. Anyway, wouldn't we want to see references to foreign triumphs in his correspondence if there's a connection? Isn't this attribution by implication an astonishingly fatuous and lazy use of contemporary history?

Meanwhile, the many blurbs and reviews on Amazon fail to impress. I want to see the Gettysburg buffs weigh in. Guelzo has done very well to reap so many reviews in a downtrend for ACW reviews but look at the quality:
As for Gettysburg I have (sadly) only four books on my shelf, Stephen W. Sears excellent study and Harry W. Pfanz’s trilogy; and on top of that, I have never read any of the four from cover to cover. I skim and pick and choose based on my interest or research specific needs.

So with this in mind I cracked open Guelzo’s book and prepared myself for a good hour or so of reading before I tossed it onto my stack of stuff and maybe got to a review a month or so from now… but then it happened! I encountered a master storyteller who captured my imagination.
Good grief. The wise author would ditch this audience.

This posting is not a review of the book but a reaction to its public effects. If I have to eat crow, let me know.

Goodwin speaks about/at/to Gettysburg

... on the topic of this and that. Tony Lee is outraged at the orgy of self praise and prattle. I feel sorry for the saps who paid her monumental speaker's fee (click on fee code next to "6").

We noted some years ago that in terms of fee structure, DKG is now classed with "motivational speakers." At Gettysburg, you wonder whom she was motivating.