Troiani blasted over Franklin battlefield remarks

The letter-writing continues; it's about Franklin giving up a Country Club to create a battlefield park. Painter Don Troiani weighed in as an aye; the nayes respond:

The preservationists can better spend their money on property that was actually part of the battlefield. [...] We do not want taxpayers’ money used for this purpose and will continue to use our freedom to express our opinions.

The CWPT is implicated in this controversy, as well:

The Web site for the Civil War Preservation Trust does not show this land as a part of the battlefield.

Which is to say, CWPT is being used to justify an anti-preservation position.

NEWS Weekend to celebrate Third battle of Winchester * Twelfth Annual Conference on Civil War Medicine convenes in October * Artist may pull out of Dixie flag performance at Gettysburg


Bugle resounding for book party in in Shepherdstown

Mark A. Snell and Bruce C. Kelley will feature in a party organized for their September release, Bugle Resounding: Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era. This title is from the University of Missouri Press, of whom I cannot say enough good things (see here and here, for example).

But about the event. It's at 8:00 p.m., Sept. 17 in Reynolds Hall, Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia: "All Quiet Along the Potomac - A Night of Civil War Music." This is followed by a book signing and wine reception at the Conrad Shindler House, home of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War.

Perhaps I'll see you there.

Underground Railroad's stations are disappearing

As the grand museum honoring the Underground Railroad opens officially this week in Cincinnati, Quarles' group says many of the 400 sites where slaves hid more than 140 years ago are in danger of being lost. The preservationists are frustrated that they struggle for every dollar while millions flow to support the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Millions flowing into a museum instead of into actual sites; why would that be? Hint: this is not about history or heritage.

The center is expected to generate $40 million a year in income and tourism-related revenues.

The whole story is here, thanks to the History News Network.

Franklin battlefield: the golfers speak

The Franklin battlefield controversy continues, with this very interesting letter from a committed golfer. Leave their country club alone: "The actual battle took place between the railroad tracks and the Pizza Hut!"

Put that on your monuments, Tennessee.
NEWS Veteran's memoir discovered in folder * Civil War ancestor unites distant cousins * Gettysburg to hold controversial flag event indoors, says president


McClellan poetry: Maryland themes, cont.

SATURDAY I mentioned last week my failure to find the Union words for "Maryland, My Maryland," a Rebel song closely associated with Lee's 1862 Maryland invasion. More looking, however, has produced this site, which has unattributed federal-versioned lyrics. I've also found words here.

The song plays off the grubbiness remarked on by the citizens of Frederick and various loyal folk in Lee's army's path. How close in time, then, can these words be to the invasion itself?

Regret the lack of documentation; take this for its entertainment value.

My Maryland (Union Version)
by Anonymous

The Rebel feet are on our shore,
Maryland, my Maryland!
I smell 'em half a mile or more,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Their shockless hordes are at my door,
Their drunken generals on my floor,
What now can sweeten Baltimore?
Maryland, my Maryland!

Hark to our noses' dire appeal,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Oh unwashed Rebs to you we kneel!
Maryland, my Maryland!
If you can't purchase soap, oh steal
That precious article-I feel
Like scratching from the head to heel
Maryland, my Maryland!

You're covered thick with mud and dust,
Maryland, my Maryland!
As though you'd been upon a bust,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Remember, it is scarcely just,
To have a filthy fellow thrust
Before us, till he's been scrubbed fust,
Maryland, my Maryland!

I see no blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland, my Maryland!
It's not been washed for many a week,
Maryland, my Maryland!
To get thee clean-'tis truth I speak-
Would dirty every stream and creek,
From Potomac to Chesapeake,
Maryland, my Maryland!


One year later

This blog went up on August 27, 2003 and it hardly seems a year despite 795 posts, 119,199 words (not all my own), and 1,814 links.

Civil War Bookshelf will be more bookish this year. That will be the editorial change to look for.

Civil War publishing will shift further off-center in the next year; remarkable things are happening, changes that are worth more than a few posts, at least.

It will be an interesting year two.

And thanks for your interest, too.

Troiani decries Franklin wrangling

Civil War painter Don Troiani has weighed in with comments on the Franklin Battlefield situation; read his long letter to the editor here.

I hope he is joking when he quotes someone as saying that Franklin was “an inconsequential battle fought after the outcome of the war was determined.”
NEWS Confederate currency show tours Alabama * Metal detector hobbyist finds hundreds of ACW artifacts * Virginia Roundtable corrects historical marker near Ball's Bluff


Apologies to Hartwig

A reader who knows Scott Hartwig noted that in my 8/25/04 entry I unjustly linked his views as an historian with the copy someone else wrote to describe a speech he is to give on 9/13/2004. I painted him as closed to the idea that Crampton's Gap was a battle apart from South Mountain and said, I said "For Hartwig, it's not even an open question." Apologies for conclusions unfairly jumped to.

As a personal disclosure, I should say I don't view this matter (of a single Battle of South Mountain) as an historical question at all. I think it entirely within the competency of U.S. military doctrine to decide what is a battle - and my reading of current doctrine answers clearly and smartly that CG was a battle, not an action within a battle.

I plan to attend Steve Stotelmyer's talk to try to better understand the alternative viewpoints.

Gettysburg tourism boycott in the works

A black performance artist's planned desecration of a Rebel flag as part of a Gettysburg College exhibit has prompted the Sons of Confederate Veterans to organize a rally and tourism boycott of the town.

The event is happening September 3 at the Schmucker Art Gallery, no less. Alert the cheap laughs department, immediately.
NEWS Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation unveils new heritage area * Penn State Alumni to take Mosby tour * County supports re-enactors


Maryland wonders if a battle was fought at Crampton's Gap

Thanks to Timothy Reese for pointing out this strange speech slated for next month:

The Battles of South Mountain? Gathland State Park, 9/13/2004, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Description: Steve Stotelmyer, local Civil War historian and author, will discuss whether "the Battle" or "the Battles" of South Mountain is correct. Should the engagements at Turner's, Fox's, and Crampton's Gaps on September 14, 1862, be considered parts of the same battle or as separate and distinct actions?

Note that Steve Stotelmeyer is not holding a public meeting for the purpose of correcting the park service's naming mistakes: he's just giving a talk which may or may not contradict the official state dogma - that there was no Battle of Crampton's Gap. I think I know what he's going to say: "separate and distinct actions" points to a belief in a single battle, the building blocks of which are "separate and distinct actions." I don't want to second-guess the talk, and I hope it turns out NOT to be on the lines of "What's all this silly stuff about three battles?"

Witness this absurd entry from the same calendar:

The Battle of South Mountain Gathland State Park 9/13/2004 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Location: 21843 National Pike Description: Scott Hartwig, ranger and historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, will speak on the Battle of South Mountain in the context of the Civil War. Points to be discussed include what led up to the battle, the battle itself, its aftermath, its consequences, and its place in the history of the war.

For Hartwig, it's not even an open question. The Battle of South Mountain? Hey, I want to play too, Mr. Hartwig:

The Battle of the Eastern Seaboard, 1861-1865

"Step over here, you heritage tourists, and let me tell you about this mighty, prolonged and widely dispersed Battle of the Eastern Seaboard."

Click here for the calendar.

(P.S. additional note on this posted 8/26.)
NEWS | Collectors worry about South Carolina's tactics against letters owner * Morgan surrender marker returned to historic spot * Lost Union sub holds 'very human story


Last witness to the assassination

We're on a Lincoln jag this week and I would be remiss by failing to note that the last living witness to Lincoln's assassination appeared on a game show on TV in 1956.

A film of this game show will be shown on Staten Island on Sunday.

Accessing history through game shows: that's one for the edu-tainers at the Lincoln Library and Museum.

New Lincoln site is Declaration friendly

It looks like the Natural Rights crowd has organized a series of Lincoln websites to apply shock treatment to moderns who imagine they love Lincoln. People like former NY governor Mario Cuomo.

Lincoln did not simply say "Let us revere the Declaration of Independence." He took it farther than modern political discourse allows: "I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence."

Never? Isn't the Constitution supposed to be the touchstone of every political thought in America? Lincoln, Jaffa says, saw the Declaration as "a rational, nonarbitrary moral and political standard" - which, of course, the Constitution is not. Can we imagine Cuomo ever saying "I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence"?

The sites are maintained by the Lincoln Institute, headed by Mario Cuomo's one-time opponent for governor, Lew Lehrman. It gives the Lincoln Prize every year.

I would certainly prefer a conversation about Lincoln with Lehrman and company rather than with Cuomo, Holzer and other philosophically impoverished New Dealers. In the article linked here, they simply use Lincoln as a stage prop around which they can strike what they believe to be sophisticated and attractive political poses.

Sample the sites for yourself, here, here, here, and, with special pertinence to Lehrman and Cuomo, here. And get your Natural Law game together before you go.

[P.S. At least one of these sites is one I've seen before, so they may not all be new. Tip of the hat to Abraham Lincoln Online.]

Heritage tourism: offer them "great product"

They are sending Richard Norton Smith, executive director of the Lincoln presidential library and museum, to the Illinois state fair to try to drum up visitors. His carnival barking skills may be needed but he is ready:

"We've got an incredible product to sell, and this is a great place to sell it."

"When we decided to come, I told vendors they'd better lock up their corn dogs," he joked. "I'm on my way."

Why not serve corn dogs to Lincoln library visitors?
NEWS | Gettysburg attractions get state help * "Most radical white who grew up in the antebellum South" is honored * Carolina erosion may uncover island's ACW artifacts * Lincoln briefcase donated to Illinois


Keyes on reparations

This columnist reminds us that it was onetime U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes who said about reparations that "The price for the sin of slavery has already been paid, in blood."

Keyes is an interesting personality - quite close to Lincoln in his political principles. For instance, he is a Natural Rights philosopher and he views the Declaration of Independence as this country's foundation document to which the Constitution is clearly subordinate.

In fact, Keyes often revives Lincoln's old arguments about fixing the Constitution's imperfect applications of the Declaration's stated intentions.

All this is to say, merely, that if people are finding Keyes' reparations talk odd, they are looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope. For someone who has long opposed income taxes in general, it is a small step to propose that a large segment of the population be freed from income taxes on whatever grounds. And if that exemption is gained for blacks on grounds of reparations, it will not be very long before the non-black majority finds reason to reform away the income tax altogether, to make the system "more equitable" for all.

Tax reform through reparations credits. Too clever by half? So was Lincoln.
NEWS | Vicksburg historian publishes book of Civil War letters * Public allowed to dig at Kentucky ACW sites * Coastal N.C. sites added to Civil War Trails


McClellan Poetry: Maryland themes

Another McClellan poetry day and as September approaches, I thought I would develop some Maryland Campaign material for the next few weeks.

The song most closely associated with the Maryland Campaign is the very strange "Maryland, My Maryland." Most of us know it as a hymn-like carol, full of the sombremost Christmas feelings: "O Tannenbaum." It's odd to think of "O Tannenbaum" as a marching song, or as rabble-rousing music. It's doubly odd that modern Marylanders can't get a less Christmasy or rebellious state anthem.

I cannot help but hear the Vienna Boys' Choir singing...

Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,

The lyrics go on and on, so allow me to merely link them here. If you would like an out-of-body musical experience while you read these, you can hear a verse of this sung on a turn-of-the-century Victorola recording here (scroll down and click on the link). I imagine these vocal mannerisms to be very Civil War.

Truth be told, "Maryland, My Maryland" was heartily sung by Rebels in Jackson's Valley Campaign while McClellan was still on the Peninsula. The song gets quite a bit of ink in Randolph Harrison McKim's Recollections. McKim recalls tromping the Valley with Jackson while singing these alternate verses:

Cheer up, brave sons of noble sires,
Of Maryland, my Maryland!
Strike for your altars and your fires,
Maryland, brave Maryland!
The tyrant's power must soon grow less,
Virginia feels for thy distress,
Thy wrongs she surely will redress,
Maryland, brave Maryland!

"When the despot's power is flown,
From Maryland, dear Maryland;
And liberty's regained her throne,
In Maryland, old Maryland;
Then shall her sons once more be free,
Her daughters sing of Liberty,
And close united ever be
Virginia and Maryland.

He records another non-standard set of verses from a newspaper. He does not say if this material was sung:

What will they say down South,
When the story there is told,
Of deeds of might, for Southern right,
Done by the brave and bold?
Of Lincoln, proud in springtime,
Humbled ere summer's sun?
They'll say, ' 'Twas like our noble South,'
They'll say, ' 'Twas bravely done.'

"What will they say down South,
When hushed in awe and dread,
Fond hearts, through all our happy homes,
Think of the mighty dead?
And muse in speechless agony
O'er father, brother, son?
They'll say in our dear gallant South,
'God's holy will be done!'

"What will they say down South,
The matron and the maid,
When withered, widow'd hearts have found
The price that each has paid,
The gladness that their homes have lost
For all the glory won?
They'll say in our dear, noble South,
'God's holy will be done!'

'What will they say down South?
Our names both night and day
Are in their hearts, and on their lips,
When they laugh, or weep, or pray.
They watch on earth, they plead with Heaven,
Then foremost to the fight!
Who droops or fears when Davis cheers,
And God defends the right!"

Sorry to say that although I believe there to be a Union version of this song, I have not found it yet. Let me close with a bit of a mystery: something called the "My Maryland March." Whether this is that Union adaptation I have been searching for, I don't know. There's no Tannenbaum about it at all. It seems to be a Civil war piece, beyond which all is mystery. Do listen to it in this unearthly turn-of-the-century recording.


High-Water Mark, final thoughts

We have spent the last few weeks going through High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective because it is exemplary of good work done in an awful discipline. And I felt the need to offset my daily citations of history offenders with a positive example.

What makes this book good is worth summarizing.

Author Tim Reese argues a point that has been made before, that the Maryland Campaign represents the high-water mark of the Rebellion's national potential. Although this offends a widespread Gettysburg bias among Civil War readers, it is still a safe enough view to be extolled by consensus mongers like James McPherson in his Crossroads of Freedom. (McPherson does make Antietam the high-water mark, rather than the campaign itself.)

The way McPherson handled his responsibilities in Crossroads of Freedom underscores problems with the discipline of Civil War history in general: the commercial interest is foremost (the book sports an anniversary tie-in) and old content is arranged into familiar patterns to produce stale conclusions that repeat everything you have already read - this in exchange for your new money. It's the history-writing equivalent of lounge bands skating through jazz standards.

With Reese, both old and new material are combined into new patterns, after which new arguments deliver us to a familiar conclusion from strikingly new directions.

Why all this trouble to reach conclusions generally shared (outside of Gettysburg fandom)? Finish the question and you have your answer: "Why all this trouble to reach conclusions arrived at through old, bad and incomplete effort?" The broken clock may be right twice a day – yet we fix it. If you take pleasure in how the clock works, and in making it work, you are the deeper sort of history reader and Reese is your writer.

New content is always exciting to encounter; it strengthens or weakens the pre-existing scholarly equations; these discoveries, together with the responsible handling of their meaning, produce the best sort of reading and thinking experiences. High-Water Mark is a book rich in new findings and Reese's discoveries will be the starting point for anyone's next works on the Maryland campaign.

In addition to discoveries, a great book is marked by revisiting commonly known "facts" and exploding or recasting them: the potential British intervention is given flesh and bones by assembling published data on Royal troop movements; McClellan's famous telegram to Lincoln on September 13 is correctly dated to midnight, not noon, bursting old timelines; Lee's quotes on the significance of Crampton's Gap are collected and presented in one place as a concentrated testimony about cause and effect. And, of course, the *full* Union order to Franklin on the 13th, so little known or understood, in analyzed in detail.

These new combinations not only create a symphonic crescendo, but they open major new avenues of research and discussion for the future:

  • Can we get McClellan's decision and processing timelines correct for the 13th of September?

  • What is the full story of the strange McClellan/Franklin silence on the Crampton's Gap order?

  • Are there other "lost" pieces of McClellan orders outlining strategic contingencies?

  • How do British navy deployments overlay the Canadian land forces buildup?
I could go on at length but if you are a certain type of Civil War reader, these points already resonate with you.

After years of concentrated Civil War reading, I know of only two other living ACW historians who can function at Reese's level. So when a book like High-Water Mark comes out, it is a rare and wonderful treat, one demanding mind-space as much as shelf-space.

If you would like to revisit earlier HWM posts, here are the links:

General | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven

Morgan's raids and heritage trails

It would be interesting to identify that point at which local governments stopped pretending that heritage toursim had anything to do with love of history, their history. Actual headline:

CASHING IN ON HISTORY: Community leaders hope Civil War sites will attract tourists

The body of the story has this predictable squib:

The hope is that once heritage tourists come to Hardin County they will visit other attractions, stay in hotels and eat in restaurants.

The kicker, apart from the headline, are these deep thoughts by the Hardin County History Museum Board President Tim Asher:

"We're giving the folks who are interested in these things a reason to get off the interstate."

The folks who are interested in these things are not us, we're sensible people. We don't run around looking at crap markers leaking money all over the countryside. We're safe and sane tourism professionals with a box full of psychological studies trying to make sense out of what makes you heritage tourists tick.
NEWS | Name finally associated with Civil War grave * National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration joins Navy in hunt for Union sub * New Yorker in gray remembered at Port Hudson


High-Water Mark, part eleven

Author Timothy Reese concludes High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective with a recapitulation of his central arguments and some thoughts about the Lee and McClellan stereotypes.

For Reese, the Maryland Campaign marked the apex of Confederate prospects and Crampton's Gap was the acme of the Maryland Campaign:

Offensive fortune played itself out in five key points like a row of dominos, each in turn yielding to the inertial force of the one preceding it. Once set in motion, the sequence became irrevocable …

The five dominos are: (1) The lost dispatch is found (2) McClellan moves to divide and conquer at Crampton's Gap (3) Lee abandons South Mountain (4) The armies battle at Antietam (5) Lincoln drafts an emancipation document (five days after Antietam).

What begins as the outer ring of a bull's eye – Britain's military build-up in Canada – spirals inward toward the central event of the proclamation.

Gettysburg? It was the "monumental but macabre high-water mark of [the] Army of Northern Virginia" itself - not the prospects of the Confederacy.

The stock characters "Lee" and "McClellan," "predigested and pigeon-holed for easy consumption – cardboard stereotypes of real flesh and blood men" impede our understanding events. In fact, both operated out of the same matrix of "rights, honor, and respect … the operative words…" "In truth, we see that Lee and McClellan were actually made of similar stuff…"

As for the high-water mark of the Great Rebellion,

The Lost Order was its monolithic thunderclap of predestination, South Mountain its frantically heroic deadlock, Crampton's Gap both its triumphal and alarming pivot, Antietam its tragically thunderous climax. Prying open the door for Lincoln's proclamation, it reverberated at Northern polls and imposed silence in foreign halls.

Final thoughts tomorrow.
NEWS | County planners left in the dark about Chancellorsville talks * MO College department makes Civil War film * Republican senate candidate proposes reparations through tax relief


The dirt on Willard's

Still obsessing about the Civil War's most famous hotel and this recent article helps sort out Willard's lineage issues:

Of course, the hotel there today [14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue] is not the structure at the site during the Civil War. In a major renovation at the start of the 20th century, the building we see today went up. [...] By the end of World War II, the Willard had fallen on bad times. The Willard family sold the property in 1946. The hotel closed in 1968 and remained vacant for almost two decades. [...] Restored to its [1904] elegance and beauty, it reopened in 1986.

No mention of the block-long bar. Still there? What is this Round Robin bar? It can't be a block long if it's round. Regarding these "Most Bodacious Bow Tie" contests - can I bring anthropologists and just watch?

John Brown: still a revolutionary symbol

Rather interesting to stumble across a radical today who uses John Brown and his Pottawatomie Creek massacre as emblems for his modern political views.
NEWS | After 139 years, Confederate private gets a fitting farewell * Owner of rare ACW letters seeks bankruptcy protection * Kingston, NY, diplay to be stored at Gettysburg


Regrets that "More High-Water Mark later today" is not possible; please tune in Thursday for the conclusion to this thread as we review the last two chapters of this important new work.

A missionary to ACW re-enactors...

Family makes living through re-enactments:

... Re-enactors Missions for Jesus Christ [is] a not-for-profit Christian outreach ministry to the Civil War re-enacting and living history community...

There's a novel in this, somewhere.
NEWS | Lecompton site offers 'treasure trove' of state history * Man makes most of Grant likeness * Harpers Ferry rangers to interpret early civil rights movement for visitors


C-Span to close down Booknotes

C-Span founder Brian Lamb is closing down his Sunday night book program in December when show number 800 is taped. The burden, it seems, has been that he requires himself to actually read the book before seeing the guests.

Lamb's Civil War histories were few and far between and he occasionally seemed a practitioner of the "star and prize system." Nevertheless, it was a fundamentally good show, run by a man of integrity with many good nonfiction moments.

This was an interesting exchange with Mario Cuomo, for example:

CUOMO: [Lincoln] was walking down the street with somebody [and] saw the sign "T.R. Strong," the name of a company, T.R. Strong. And he looked at it and said, "T.R. Strong? But coffee are stronger..."

LAMB: Why do you hate puns?

CUOMO: I don't know. They torture humor. I mean, they're too -- they're too crude a use of humor. And for a guy like him, whose subtlety I so admire -- so I'm glad I never heard any of the bawdier stories he told when -- when he was a young guy.

Transcripts will remain online, I expect.

Book reviewer jargon reviewed

From the Telegraph (UK):

The book world has a language all of its own ... This literary lingo consists of words, constructions and formulations few English speakers use, but that sound true if used about books. I started to notice it everywhere, and began keeping a list of phrases that recurred and jarred.

Here's an example pertinent to ACW history:

As good as any novel – why should writers of fact aspire to the standards of novelists?

This piece may require registration.

"Well worth the trouble." - Civil War Bookshelf

Let Ness be Ness

Noah Van Buren Ness was a Civil War corporal with a statue of his own and a town and county named after him.

Suddenly, along comes trouble to inform the good people of Ness City in Ness County Kansas, that the man spelled his name Kness until 1862.

"Noah was Jewish and when he married his wife, Eliza Jane -- who was Christian -- he promised to convert to Christianity," [descendant Peter] Grace said. "He dropped the K so it wouldn't be the Jewish spelling."

A Civil War buff from Georgia recently walked into the Ness County Historical Museum wanting to know if the city and county were going to change their spelling. After all, the buff pointed out, Cpl. Ness was born and raised a Kness.

The man's name was Ness when the town and county were founded but "original" is more "historically accurate" to a lot of knuckleheads in this field. The problem is bigger than a mere K.

"He asked what it would take to change the name of Ness County and I said not a chance," said Mary Hall, the newly elected president of the historical society. But Hall said it did cause people to do some talking.

ACW paintings explained

John Paul Strain:

"To be able to portray American historical events and bring them to life adds a lot to people's understanding of it," he said. "I think it brings people closer to the characters, like baseball cards do."

(Emphasis added.)
NEWS | Expedition targets shipwrecked blockade runner * Man tries to salvage parts of Rebel currency press * Imboden's great-great-great-grandson speaks at Maryland event


McClellan Poetry: Marching Along

SUNDAY | Well, here we are a day late with summer laziness in full bloom.

One of the most popular McClellan songs of the Civil War - "Marching Along" - is a bit of a mystery. I have been unable to find an audio file of the music, nor can I find the date of publication.

It's a marching song by that giant of 19th Century sacred music, William B. Bradbury, which is what makes this so odd. Bradbury was the principal in a sheet music company and it seems that the lyrics were changed a little to serve in churches after the war - in Armenian translation, the Turkish empire suppressed the song.

The music was durable enough to serve other commanders later, with names inserted where "McClellan" appeared. Which brings me to an unattributed anecdote:

"Quartermaster Bingham of the First South Carolina Volunteer Regiment (Colored) is reported to have taught the song to his troops, although the phrase 'Gird on the armor' proved troublesome and was changed by his soldiers to 'Guide on de army.'"

That would have been in the command of the Radical Republican general, David Hunter. If his black soldiers were marching around his camps singing about McClellan, it might have stung a little because Hunter told friends that McClellan had tried to negotiate a commission with Jefferson Davis before his Union rank came through. After being relieved of his South Carolina command, the ship that brought him out of theater was named the McClellan. Hunter must have had all the McClellan he could stand.

If the text setting below is too plain for you, try this.

Marching Along

By William B. Bradbury

The army is gathering from near and from far,
The trumpet is sounding the call for the war.
McClellan's our leader, he's gallant and strong--
We'll gird on the armor and be marching along.

Marching along, we are marching along!
Gird on the armor and be marching along,
McClellan's our leader, he's gallant and strong,
For God and for country we are marching along.
The foe is before us in battle array,
But let us not waver or turn from the way.
The Lord is our strength and the Union's our song,
With courage and faith we are marching along.

Marching along, we are marching along!
Gird on the armor and be marching along,
McClellan's our leader, he's gallant and strong,
For God and for country we are marching along.
The flag of our country is floating on high,
We'll stand by that flag 'til we conquer or die!
McClellan's our leader, he's gallant and strong,
For God and for country we are marching along!

Marching along, we are marching along!
Gird on the armor and be marching along,
McClellan's our leader, he's gallant and strong,
For God and for country we are marching along.


CWPT in secret Chancellorsville talks

This preservation story is timeless:

In the 1920s, a group of Kansas City citizens and Civil War veterans sought to purchase the land on which the Battle of Westport was fought for the purpose of creating a battlefield memorial. The widow of Jacob Loose, a local biscuit maker, had other ideas. In 1927 she outbid the citizens group and deeded the land to the city, stipulating that it be designated as Jacob Leander Loose Park. When confronted by a civic leader as to why she would not cooperate with the effort to dedicate the land as a memorial, she is reported to have said, “Sir, the Battle of Westport does not interest me in the least.” (Emphasis added.)

That's the whole dynamic in a nutshell: conflicts of purpose, preservationists underbidding on battlefield land, and the usual after-the-fact preservationist astonishment sitting like a cherry on the finished sundae.

We had a replay of the Widow Loose affair out at Mullins farm in Chancellorsville this year, when Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) (assets = $16 million) failed to buy "overpriced" battlefield land on the market ... land that happened to be "right priced" for the Toll Brothers housing developers, who scooped up large tracts of historically significant land. The Battle of Chancellorsville does not interest them in the least, so they were not distracted from calculating and bidding fair market values.

Nothing is simple with CWPT, however, and having lost these hundreds of acres, they have re-engaged Mullins, Toll Brothers, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and who knows who else, in murky discussions partially described in this story.

It looks, from this report, as if CWPT is trying to get a smaller slice of the Chancellorsville battlefield, in exchange for allowing more, higher density housing to be constructed on those parts of Chancellorsville Battlefield land that they have lost by underbidding.

It seems this may be another example of heritage groups making things much worse for battlefield land. Greater density means more individual parcels and owners; it becomes more complicated and expensive to get the land away from them in the future; and, of course, there is more digging and building on the land.

I dread seeing what comes out of these negotiations.
NEWS | Laurel MD honors founder, ACW cavalry leader who developed Hokkaido * Connecticut remembers its slaves * Virginia to honor abolitionist


High-Water Mark, part ten

We have reached the fascinating and complex eighth chapter of High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective where author Timothy Reese notes that our understanding of Crampton's Gap and the campaign has been hurt by McClellan and Franklin turning their backs, after the war, on the contingent paragraphs of McClellan's September 13 orders to Franklin. Said text disappeared from the record and was not alluded to again – even in Congressional testimony. In Reese's memorable phrase, their silence created "a yawning pitfall into which future analysts would obligingly slide."

The word "obligingly" is important. In order to slide, historians have had to miss reading and understanding the full order – long available - as well as dismiss or quibble with the testimony of Lee himself on the strategic implications of losing Crampton's Gap. Lee is on the record in three instances linking his withdrawal to Sharpsburg with Franklin's victory. Reese:

Modern analysts tend to overlook Lee's three preceding statements in making other points, irrespective of what was clearly meant via plain-spoken, unambiguous language. It remains pointless to liberally construe the sense of his precise words, especially after they were uttered three times. Nor is it necessary to try because Lee will always remain the final arbiter of his own actions and motives. (Emphasis added.)

People may grind their teeth when reading, "Lee will always remain the final arbiter of his own actions and motives." Too many Civil War readers are like Evelyn Waugh's Anglican priest who, asked if he believes in the immaculate conception, answers "up to a point."

So we have a double bind. McClellan and Franklin allow the popular "relief of Harpers Ferry" to crowd out other missions and intentions; historians – especially pop historians – rationalize away Lee's testimony to accommodate a quick, easy, and accessible interpretation of intentions and events. They believe Lee "up to a point."

I think the treatment of Crampton's Gap symbolizes the corruption of Civil War history as a discipline.

As a low-grade McClellan specialist (and partisan), I would add that aside from writing his official report, McClellan twice placed himself in situations where he would have to explain his Maryland campaign intentions in detail; he gave himself two more chances to explain the strategic opportunity and the failure.

At the end of his life, he began a military memoir never finished – he did not reach the Maryland topic before dying and it had to be constructed out of old notes and previously published stuff. Lost chance. Immediately after the war, McClellan wrote a long, detailed Civil War book, the only manuscript copy of which was destroyed in a warehouse fire. Some notes survive, but the book's contents are gone. Lost information. Did he/would he have revisited Crampton's Gap and the campaign-winning strategy placed in Franklin's hands? Would he have shared the full meaning of the Lost Order?

We have High-Water Mark in any case. More on Tuesday.

Preserving Franklin the right way

A tip of the hat to Franklin's Mayor Tom Miller who has laid out a plan for pulling Franklin Battlefield together.

Oddly enough, his plan makes no mention of those easements so beloved of Civil War preservationists - Miller is a throwback who believes, quaintly, in actually owning battlefield land.

Miller has outlined for Franklin’s aldermen a way to create a national battlefield park here including donation of city and privately held properties as well as public-private acquisition of the golf course on Lewisburg Pike.

"The creation of a national battlefield park in Franklin is a possibility, but not without a great deal of time and effort on everyone’s part," Miller said. "The approximately 100 acres of the Country Club of Franklin ... would have to be an integral part of such a plan."

The cost? "... if preservationists and Civil War buffs can raise $2.5 million to help buy land for a battlefield park, then the city board should match that to buy the Country Club of Franklin."

I believe the mayor has issued a challenge. According to its tax filings, Civil War Preservation Trust is sitting on $16 million in assets. It's time to make a difference.

(Story here; may require registration.)
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The anguish of military history

Hate to publish the word angst for a second time in one week, but angst is what you get over at Mark Grimsley's blog: What good is military history? What's wrong with military history? Why do they dislike military historians?

This resonates with me. See especially, The field that isn't, Still struggling, and The neglected audience.

Grimsley runs with a very bad bunch - the Nevins/McPherson storytelling society that styles itself the AHA - but his cries of pain show him to be an altogether different type than theirs.

Have some bittersweet historiography; Grimsley is dishing it out.
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High-Water Mark, part nine

In his seventh chapter of High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective , author Timothy Reese briefly recapitulates the (non)events that lost the victory at Crampton's Gap. I think analysis of the underlying questions here could make a satisfying 1,000 page book, however Reese's focus in this volume is to unravel the Maryland Campaign's central meaning, not to dwell on the whys and wherefores of individual failures.

Franklin unavoidably failed in this most consequential moment of truth, but McClellan must take the blame for placing him there alone. Realizing that the "key point of the whole situation" lay at Crampton's Gap, it was McClellan who shrank from matching the key moment with a key man – himself.

The conventional accounts of the campaign typically lament the lost opportunity to relieve Harpers Ferry or punish McLaws in Pleasant Valley. As Reese points out, it was Franklin's waste of McClellan's strategic opportunity that was much more damaging to the cause. This is the large point made in this chapter.

McClellan's anxious urgency to seize the moment was repeatedly deflected by Franklin's categorical uncertainty, which in turn was taken up by a readily disquieted McClellan who could only offer contingency advice for each concocted worry.

I will now detour around Reese's points to speculate briefly on the Franklin - McClellan dynamic after the battles in the gaps. Reese touches on Franklin's behavior as reflecting, in part, an engineering mindset and skill set misapplied to operations and tactics. Mark Snell mentions this in his Franklin biography.

Whether or not this was a factor, I think Franklin accepted an assignment he was uncomfortable with – we do that in life when we hate to say "no" – and this was exacerbated by the form of McClellan's communication on September 13. The orders to Franklin were pre-emptory, allowing only a "yes, sir." They came out of the blue and Franklin had no input until after the the order was in play, at which time he could input contingencies and (im)possiblities in status reports, as well as exercise his discretion to the detriment of McClellan's intentions. Franklin at this point strikes me as someone leading an ambitious project who has not bought into it - who has major issues with it. For my money, and this is intuitive, the failure after Crampton's Gap may have begun in McClellan not having Franklin in his tent to receive orders both orally and in writing. There are times one needs to look a subordinate in the eye and measure the conviction in his spoken agreement and to allow misgivings a voice. Having experienced the the soldier's reaction to the orders issued, one decides how much personal supervision is needed.

McClellan probably needed to be at Crampton's Gap regardless. Reese would say "definitely, not probably." That brings us back to the key to his chapter seven. There was a great waste of a vastly important victory and again, the opportunity created by Crampton's Gap was not about defeating McLaws in detail; nor does the failure to exploit this victory negate McClellan's intent; nor does it diminish the magnitude of the strategic disaster handed to Lee.

Thoughts to keep in mind until we return to High-Water Mark on Thursday.
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I should acknowledge review copies publishers have recently taken trouble to send me:

* After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans. A handsomely designed hardback from University of Kansas Press, this work is divided into topical chapters with the author, Donald Shaffer, addressing each in turn. I'm afraid these are very broad and that they serve merely as bins in which to pile relevant anecdotes. It's a unique first try at this subject; the anecdotes and photos are interesting and that makes this a strong candidate to add to one's personal reference trove.

* The Correspondence of Sarah Morgan and Francis Warrington Dawson: with Selected editorials Written by Sarah Morgan for the Charleston News and Courier. A nice hardcover package from the University of Georgia Press, this is part of a trend in publishing literate, private correspondence between ACW couples. I feel uneasy looking at the private correspondence of lovers, even at this remove but there is broad human interest here - fine writing by physically attractive young people living through great events - and one of them a lady editorialist who marries her man only after her secret career in journalism provides her financial means. Editor Giselle Roberts is trying to break this duo out of the regional studies pen. I don't think she'll succeed, but good try.

* I wrote previously about Chickamauga: A Battlefield History in Images based on printer's proofs. In final form, it is an attractive coffee table book offering the one thing we demand of the genre - intermittent browsing pleasure. I am not sure Chickamauga specialists will learn anything, and am too ignorant to know if the author's commentary is sound, but the organization of the book is interesting and should provoke even experts to visit less well known corners of this battlefield. The whole book, you see, is organized around sub-battlefields, providing an historic illustration or photo for each (e.g. Dyer field). There's a labeled aerial (or satellite) photo in the front, but in my case it did little to orient me geographically for the writing that followed.

* Blind Horses is a novel by Brian Massey from iUniverse and quite a nice paperback product it is. It's a very much dialog-driven western novel about those ACW veterans Jesse James and Cole Younger evading the law in - hang on - Minnesota. Author Brian Massey has fairly good control over his material and offers a unique take on these two legendary badmen: "Patriots turned rebel, Christians branded outlaw, their angst cries out in a wilderness not unlike that of Modern America." Gutsy. I hate outlaws but like gutsy.

I'll recap August ACW book releases later this week, with links.

The indispensible tourism aid

This web page is a pretty impressive "must check" list of ACW events in the east. Here's the home page for the same site.

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McClellan poetry: more happytalk

SUNDAY | I mentioned last week the amount of trivial "feelgood" war material in the periodicals of the Civil War and that it often took the form of bad verse. Last week we had an example from a Union point-of-view ("Skedaddle") and this week switch sides with a Rebel lampoon of McClellan's perceived delay in opening the first Richmond campaign.

Frank Moore's Anecdotes, Poetry and Incidents of the War: North and South; 1860 – 1865 anthologized a lot of this material and this piece, "McClellan's Soliloquy," comes from that source too. It'not poetry, per se, but it has been written to scan like Shakespeare's monologue for Hamlet.

I think it was in Harvard's Houghton Library collection of McClellan papers that I saw a letter from General Thomas (Tim) Sherman to McClellan written wrom South Carolina, where Sherman was contending with Lee and Pemberton. He said something along the lines of, Your waiting strategy has strained every nerve in this section of the country. Keep it up. They are going crazy.

In light of Sherman's insight, we have this bit of whistling in the graveyard from "a Daughter of Georgia" who seems to want the Northern Army unleashed on Virginia ASAP.

McClellan's Soliloquy
by A Daughter of Georgia

Advance, or not advance; that is the question;
Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer
The jeers and howlings of outrageous Congressmen,
Or to take arms against a host of rebels,
And, by opposing, beat them? - To fight - to win -
No more; and by a victory, to say we end
This war, and all the thousand dreadful shocks
The flesh's exposed to - 'tis a consumation
Devoutly to be wished. To fight, to win,
To beat! perchance be beaten; - ay, there's the rub;
After a great defeat, what would ensue?
When we have shuffled off the battle-field,
Must give us pause; there's the respect
That makes calamity a great defeat.
But shall I bear the scorn of all the North,
The "outward" pressure, and Old Abe's reviling,
The pangs of being scoffed at for this long delay,
The turning out of office (ay, perchance,
When I myself might now my greatness make
With a great battle)? I'd not longer bear
To drill and practice troops behind intrenchments,
But that the fear of meeting with the foe
Or dread Manassas, from whose plains
Few of us would return - puzzles my will
And makes me rather bear the evils I have,
Than fly to others which are greater far.
These Southerners make cowards of us all.


History in the service of pleasure

Since we read history for pleasure, it suits us to force history to pleasure us in other ways.

We might use a Civil War blockader for our private parties, for instance.

We might turn kids loose in a public toychest themed to Lincoln's attic ("In Mrs. Lincoln's Attic, children will be able to play...")

We might build little models of lost gunboats using our imaginations, lots of fiberglass, and a diesel engine (the actual plans were mislaid), then run them in lakes and rivers for the edification and enjoyment of all.

Springfield has this kind of history experience very much in mind. Take a look at these statues. The mayor says, "this sculpture will be the closest thing yet to bringing our 16th President back to life." It was made by a competitor of Seward Johnson, and, like Johnson's kitsch, it spells F-U-N.

"It's a made-up moment in time ... that probably didn't happen," but which represents the Lincolns' day-to-day activities before Lincoln ran for the presidency, [sculptor Larry] Anderson said.

You've got history, and you've got made-up-moments-in-time. It's like the hair's breadth between genius and madness.

Party on, history lovers.
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High-Water Mark, part eight

In going through Timothy Reese's new book High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective, we've reached the sixth chapter which deals with tactical issues surrounding the battle.

Since every chapter in this book adds value to what we know about the Maryland Campaign, it may be worth distilling these points from Reese's view of that battle:

(1) Brigade commander Col. Joseph Bartlett essentially ran the Union's battle; he was the seniormost officer to personally reconnoitre; he remained on the scene throughout; and he deployed all three of Slocum's brigades in the battle, Slocum and Franklin minimizing their own involvement.

(2) Despite perceptions about flighty Georgians under Cobb, Cobb's outfit was instrumental in delaying entry into Pleasant Valley and allowing enough time for the Rebels to concentrate at Sharpsburg.

Reese makes other interesting points but the key to this chapter is that any telling of this battle from Franklin's and Munford's perspectives is distorting; Bartlett and Cobb are its heart.

The author also here comments on the importance of the battle, which is the subject of lengthier analysis in the next chapter. This is worth quoting at length:

Without fear of overstatement, Cobb's command held on just long enough, at great cost, to forestall Franklin's entry into Pleasant Valley that night. In this it can accurately be said that the Georgians just barely shouldered the door long enough for Lee to abandon his positions at Turner's and Fox's gaps and to begin his nocturnal retreat to Sharpsburg before Franklin could intervene...


Titanic tactical standoff that it was, Antietam most certainly accrued no significant war-winning [military] results beyond the expulsion of Lee's army ... Crampton's Gap, the sole clear-cut campaign victory, is the astounding exception to the rule [that size of battle matters], very much akin to Thermopylae (480 BC) or The Alamo (1836) as seen from Lee's perspective when it drove him to Sharpsburg, his "expedition" in ruins. At Antietam, neither Lee nor McClellan could then achieve the finality of a Salamis, a Plataea, or a San Jacinto. In this glaring Crampton's Gap instance, size didn't matter at all, but its impact was devastating.

We return to this book on Tuesday.

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Diving for truth

It seems as if this passage is about shipwreck divers:

Shipwreck interiors can be terrifying places, collections of spaces in which order has fractured and linearity bent until human beings no longer fit.

Here's what I was thinking when I read those words:

Pop history can be a terrifying collection of spaces in which primary order has fractured and historic linearity bent until human beings no longer fit.

The shipwreck diver tries to imagine the original form of the ship before entering the wreck. The primary researcher surveys the wreck of pop history for surviving outlines of historic truth that can be used as starting points in primary research ... starting points for reconstructing the true form of events.

How is deep sea wreck diving like primary research? Like this:

Raking leaves or watching a Giants football game or walking the grocery's dairy aisle, Chatterton stitched together his experiences on the Doria, and gradually his eyes adjusted, until the quilt of separate experiences aboard the shipwreck formed a single picture in his mind. "This is why I dive," he told Nagle. "This is what I want diving to be."

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High-Water Mark, part seven

We have been working our way through Timothy Reese's High-Water Mark: The 1862 Maryland Campaign in Strategic Perspective and have come to a chapter where Reese must defend the idea that a battle was fought at Crampton's Gap.

I never knew this was an issue until I moved to Maryland and discovered that there is a notion that holds only one battle was fought, called "South Mountain," and that this one fight is made up of parts. This idea holds sway over the state park service, unfortunately.

Unless they are accidents, battles are tactical manifestations of operational intent. If the operational intent for subordinate commands is different, the battles are different. It is simplistic to lump actions together because they are close in time or space.

Objectors to this formula might cite hierarchy of command, i.e. that Franklin was a subordinate; his operations were subordinate by definition. There are two answers to this. First, Reese has shown that Franklin's orders contained separate objectives and wide discretion. I would say those orders divided McClellan's army and raised Franklin to something like interim commander of the lesser part. Secondly, today's Army well understands that "The intended purpose, not the level of command, determines whether an Army unit functions at the operational level." Thus a corps can function at the army's (operational) level. This modern doctrinal statement embodies a philosophical truth that applies to all battles at all times. Franklin fought his own battle in a place apart with a unique purpose and wide discretion.

If Franklin, at Crampton's Gap, was operating at least on the operational level, which I suggest as a minimum threshold, then he was working one level higher than the commanders at Fox's and Turner's who served a simple, tactical end – forcing the passes. Reese argues that Franklin was also serving strategic goals – I agree with him. If he is correct, then Franklin was operating two levels above Burnside, Hooker and the others, and it is slovenly thinking to lump them all together.

Reese says: "Crampton's Gap was without question a fundamentally strategic operation, exclusively triggered by the Lost Order."

This last point is important. There would have been a battle of the gaps at Fox's and Turner's whether or not McClellan found the Lost Orders – they would have flowed from a meeting engagement and from Longstreet's orders. They would have happened about when they did due to the tempo of McClellan's advance prior to finding Lee's dispatch. McClellan's orders to Franklin, on the other hand, sought a battle to exploit the possibilities seen in Lee's dispersion.

I should let Reese speak:

Through size [of engagement] alone, precedence must be assigned in descending order of gaps north to south, Turner's, Fox's, and Crampton's. Measured in Federal tactical success, they would be prioritized Crampton's, Turner's, and then Fox's. Strategically speaking, however, Crampton's Gap again surpasses both northern gaps individually and collectively by merit of its impact on Lee's rapidly dwindling options. South Mountain froze the campaign initiative. Crampton's Gap wrenched it from Lee's grasp and conclusively closed his expedition into Maryland. […] Therefore Crampton's Gap and South Mountain were, and remain, two wholly separate though synchronous engagements, fought independently by autonomous wings of both armies for wholly distinct campaign objectives.

More on this new book Thursday.

The Williamsburg tragedy

Here is a sad Williamsburg fact: "only three lonely acres of land have been purposely saved as a remembrance to the battle in the 142 years since it was fought."

This is a moving letter.

All is not lost. Developed battlefield land remains in the private sector and can be bought back as said developments grow old and shabby and then fail. What is now or will be lost at Williamsburg are the unique string of earthen fortifications on the Warwick Line, bulldozed into oblivion.
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Foreshadowing with Sherman and Lee

The text of a Robert E. Lee letter going to auction reminded me that there is no book-length treatment of Lee, commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida. It was a period in which he earned the nicknames "Granny" and "King of Spades." From the letter:

"The strength of the enemy, as far as I am able to judge, exceeds the whole force that we have in the state; it can be thrown with great celerity against any point, and far outnumbers any force we can bring against it in the field," Lee wrote to Gov. Francis Wilkinson Pickens on Dec. 27, 1861.

You'd think he was up against the legendary juggernaut that pop history fashioned out of McClellan's army, but no, he is up against BG Tim (Thomas West) Sherman's expeditionary force. A recent newspaper column points toward a similar Lee letter to the Rebel SecWar:

Lee remarked in a letter to Benjamin that if Sherman had elected to be bold, there would have been little to stop him from cutting the railroad and establishing a major force on the mainland.

From the same article:

The Federal forces landed more than 10,000 troops that first day, and thereafter continued to add to their force almost daily, so that a month later there were more than 30,000 Federals ensconced on Hilton Head and in nearby Beaufort.

This author seems to be using contemporary Rebel sources without reference to the Union records. Here's what Sherman told his own SecWar on January 6, 10 days after Lee's "celerity" letter:

The actual force under my command is 14,768, rank and file, including about 600 in Saint Helena Sound, 3,000 on Port Island, 200 at Fort Seward, 1,400 at Tybee [Island], leaving about 9,500 on hand at Hilton Head. I calculate to have available for the field out this force, say 9,000 men. These troops are all infantry except one company of light artillery. Before a step can be taken towards the enemy's force we should have a full regiment of good cavalry and at least another battery of light artillery.

No sign here of 30,000 federals. No sign that this expedition can be thrown with great celerity against any point. Sherman's mission had been to seize a Southern port for use by the blockading squadron; his force was tailored for port defense, not for field operations against a mobile enemy. Meanwhile, what were Lee's forces? Our newspaper columnist gives this:

At the time, Lee commanded one full regiment - North Carolina's Volunteers, six companies from the South Carolina Volunteers, and one South Carolina cavalry regiment ...

Classic mistake: this recap does not give the forces under Lee's command throughout South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, but only the non-militia strength at Port Royal under BG Pemberton. And the info is wrong, shortchanging the Rebels by at least two companies and two batteries, according to this document.

And this is precisely where Lee, in his to-be-auctioned letter, misleads his superiors, newspaper columnists, and perhaps himself: "[Sherman's expedition] exceeds the whole force that we have in the state [SC]..."

That is the sort of conversation you might have with the governor about his own state; but it does not address all the forces you have at your disposal to protect his state.

Sherman's actual forces were divided between Georgia and South Carolina; they could not possibly have outnumbered Lee's actual forces in the three states under his command; even to claim that they outnumbered all South Carolina forces was a big stretch, unless militia was excluded and forces not on the coast were ignored, and if a high estimate of Union strength was being referred to ("as far as I am able to judge"). Sherman had seized no major ports in November or December in part because the seaboard was well garrisoned and fortified. Port Royal was going to be a consolation prize. To take it, he would need to beseige with green, garrison troops and almost no artillery.

But the tone was struck. Lee had brought it with him from Western Virginia; he would take it with him to Northern Virginia. He faced a juggernaut that could move in any direction. He needed reinforcements. His units could not be transferred for any reason. As for Sherman's failure to launch the Union colossus against poor Lee, why that hearkened back to an insight from their old army days together. Lee told people that Sherman was overly cautious.

Which reminds us that the bold patterns of historical truth are to be sought in primary material, like letters, and not in the received wisdom of pop history.
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