Assume the Position – Robert Wuhl

21 05 2008

Robert Wuhl

It’s not brand new, but it’s funny and interesting.  Newbomb Turk gives a lesson on history using PowerPoint.  If it takes awhile to load, try hitting refresh.  Warning – not for the prudish.  Strong language, occasionaly racy content.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine





Civil War Top 100

21 05 2008

I apologize for the sparse posting of late.  I’ll be back up and running in a few days – lots to talk about.

Chamion Night-Putter Ty WebbYou’ll notice a new icon in the right hand column, below that of Technorati.  This is the Civil War Top 100 Sites logo, and it allows me to compare myself to other sites in a manner similar to that preferred by Ty Webb (left): by height…err, by page views.  The simple fact that Bull Runnings is in the top 100 should tell you something.  In this case, it should tell you that there are not yet 100 sites signed up.  Apparently you can rank these sites by clicking on the logo and following the links, but I haven’t figured that out yet.  Check it out.





14th Military History Carnival

15 05 2008

Brett Schulte of TOCWOC nominated my recent series of posts (see here, here, and here) on the Family Ties of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick for inclusion in the 14th Military History Carnival.  I see from an incoming link that he was successful and I have been included.  You can find the Carnival at Investigations of a Dog, hosted by Gavin Robinson.  Thanks to Brett and Gavin.





Hagy’s Catfish Hotel

15 05 2008

Jim Hagy, co-owner of Hagy’s Catfish Hotel, left a comment on my post about my trip to Shiloh last year (see here).  Just so there is no misunderstanding, here’s Jim’s comment and my response – the bottom line is, no Civil War field trip to Shiloh is complete without a stop at Hagy’s:

Hi Mr. Smeltzer,

I happened across your blog. Very interesting and great reading. I wanted to apologize for your experience at the Catfish Hotel in Shiloh. My sister and I are the owners.

We are looking at expanding the waiting area to create a more comfortable space for guests that are on a list for a table. I apologize as well for the rude strange gentleman who made you the target of his discontent. I find it helpful to look on the 1% percent of the population who spill their unhappiness on everyone as a reminder to appreciate the other 99% of the human race who are so great.

Please come back to visit us. We appreciate your business.

Best,

Jim Hagy

My reply:

Jim,

There seems to be an impression that I was upset with my experience at Hagy’s, and I want to correct that: I really wasn’t. I think after a long hot day in the field such as we had, any fried fish was going to taste about the same unless it was badly done, and the most important thing was cold drinks! By no means was the flat-topped fellow (an assistant high school football coach type, with pants firmly ensconced above his belly button) representative of the customers. And it was a pleasant evening so waiting on the porch was not a problem at all. A long line is a nice problem for a restaurant to have, no? As Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore. Too many people go there.” If I’m ever in the area again, I’m pretty sure I’ll make a return visit to Hagy’s.





Out, Damn’d Spot! Out, I Say!

13 05 2008

When it comes to First Bull Run, historians and other chroniclers of the battle have a lot in common with Lady MacBeth: they tend to see red where there is no red, or at least it’s not where they think it is.

I’m making my way through Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army (see here).The first four chapters, while they have lots of really good information, were a real chore to read.  They remind me of George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which also contains lots of good stuff but could have been just as, if not more, effective in about half or two thirds the length.  Perhaps Glatthaar grew so enamored of the anecdotes he turned up he was loathe to part with them, with the result being that the relative importance of the various points being made is blunted.  Anyone frustrated with the seemingly excessive “stuff” that infuses Russell Beatie’s books should be similarly irked with the first four chapters of General Lee’s Army.  They should be, anyway.

But let’s get back to The Scottish Play, and how it applies to Glatthaar’s book.  In chapter six, the narrative framework of the story of Lee’s army – actually, the forerunners of Lee’s army – gets us to First Bull Run.  On page 55 the author writes:

Men of the 13th Virginia jumped off the train [at Manassas Junction on July 21] and raced to the sound of gunfire.  A private reported that “the dust was so thick that we could not see a man five paces immediately in front of us.”  Choking on dirt and craving water to soothe parched mouths, they eagerly rushed onward nevertheless.  Stragglers and wounded called out to them to “pick off the red pants [11th New York Infantry (Zouaves) and 14th New York Infantry], that they had injured us more than any other part of the enemy.”  But to their great dismay, they never got the chance.  By the time they reached the main battlefield, their comrades had swept the field.  The only Yankees in red pants they met were prisoners of war.

And they were also only members of the 14th Brooklyn.  As discussed several times on Bull Runnings (most notably here), the 11th New York Fire Zouaves were not wearing red pants at Bull Run.  Most of their Zouave pants had worn to tatters by then, and the majority of the men sported standard issue blue trousers.  In addition, the 11th New York Zouave uniform consisted of gray jackets, gray pants and red firemen’s shirts.  Not red pants.  They never wore ‘em.

It’s difficult to tell from the footnoting method (one note at the end of a long paragraph with a number of cites for the whole paragraph) whether Glatthaar used a participant’s identification of the regiments, or if he interpreted the description to apply to the 11th and 14th NY himself.  I really, really hate these footnotes.  But I’m willing to forgive them and the glacial pace of the first four chapters – and a disappointing, dismissive, pedestrian description of Joseph E. Johnston – because, like I said, there’s a lot of good stuff in General Lee’s Army.





O’Rorke’s Letter

11 05 2008

This letter from Patrick O’Rorke to his brother Thomas, describing the former’s experiences during the First Bull Run campaign, came to me from my friend Dr. Thomas Clemens of Keedysville, Md. (see here for an earlier article).  The transcript was given to him by the late Brian Pohanka of Alexandria, Va.  We don’t know where the original letter is, so we have a provenance problem.  The letter was referred to by Rev. Robert F. McNamara in Gettysburg Centenary Recalls Heroism of Rochester, an article in the June 28, 1963 Catholic Council Journal of Rochester, NY, but the article was not footnoted.  I contacted Brian Bennett, author of this biography of O’Rorke, and he is not aware of the location of the letter, but it may be part of a cache he examined a number of years ago, some of which he transcribed at the time and used in his work.  (Thanks to Mr. Bennett for providing me with a copy of the McNamara article, as well as pointing me to Robert Marcotte’s Where They Fell – Stories of Rochester Soldiers in the Civil War, which has lots of good stuff on the 13th NY.)

As far as I know, this letter has never been published.  Manassas National Battlefield Park did not have a copy on file.  I have posted it here as it appears in the transcription provided by Dr. Clemens, and have linked to it on the Private Correspondence – Union  page that you can find in the right hand column of this page.  I have not corrected the spelling or punctuation, nor have I annotated the letter – though I may do that in the future.  I’ll also write up a biographical sketch of O’Rorke.





Lieut. Patrick O’Rorke’s Account of the Campaign

11 05 2008

Private Correspondence – Lieut. P. H. O’Rorke (ADC to Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler) to his Brother, Thomas*

//Page 1//

Washington City, July 28th, 1861

Dear Brother

I saw P. J. Dowling and Mr. Buckley this morning over at fort Corcoran, and my heart was gladdened by the sight of some letters from home.  These are the first letters from my own family that I have received since I left West Point, a month ago.  I have been changing about from one place to another so much that my letters get lost in following me.  For instance I was told by one of Gen. McDowell’s Staff that there was a letter for me at their HeadQrs. on the other side of the river.  I went over there the next day and found that some of my friends had sent it to Alexandria thinking that I was there.  It will probably reach me in the course of a month.  You ask me for details of the Battle of last Sunday.  To give you a general plan of the Battle and its progress throughout the day would take more time than I have to spare, as I am now busily engaged in assisting Gen. Tyler to collect the reports of the several commanders in his Division, and engrossing them in one.  I shall limit myself to an account of my own experience since I left the Point.  On arriving in this city from the Academy, as you already know I was set to drilling a Reg’t of volunteers from N. Hampshire.  This continued about a week when I was ordered to //VERSO// report in person to Gen. McDowell at his Hd.Qrs. at Arlington.  He immediately sent me to Gen. Tyler at Falls Church a few miles this side of Fairfax to be one of his Aids.  Here we staid until the 16th, being all this time busily engaged in perfecting the organization of the different Brigades composing his division, inspecting Regiments etc.  The day after my arrival at Falls Church I went out with another member of my class Mr. Audenried on a scouting party towards Fairfax then strongly held by the enemy.  We approached to within two miles and a half of Fairfax when we came upon the pickets of the enemy and captured two of them.  I mention this to show that myself and Mr. Audenried were the first of our class within the enemy’s line of pickets, and that we had the first sight of the enemy.  On the 16th the forward movement of the army commenced.  Our Division moved on Vienna.  When we arrived there we found no enemy.  The next day, learning that the enemy had evacuated Fairfax we moved through Germantown and encamped beyond, towards Centreville.  Here we found a camp of the enemy which had just been deserted by them, and in which their fires were yet burning.  Our men picked up here quite a number of carbines and other arms left behind by the rebels in their haste to get out of our way.  The next morning at daylight we were again on the road on the track of the flying enemy, and on arriving at Centreville found that they were yet before us, having abandoned at this point a strongly entrenched position which fully commanded the road by which our Division //Page 2// arrived.  From this point roads diverged in various directions.  We learned here that the enemy had divided his forces, part of them taking a road which led to Blackburn’s Ford over Bull Run, in the direction of Manassas.  Now as we were approaching the strong position of the enemy, it was necessary to move with great caution.  Gen. Tyler now took a squadron of Cavalry and two companies of Infantry to make an armed reconnoisance in the direction of Blackburn’s Ford.

If you will take a good map of that vicinity you will easily follow me.  Well we proceeded without seeing anything of the enemy until we arrived on the crest of a hill overlooking the Ford and about half a mile from it.  From this point we could see the enemy pickets in the valley before us, and bodies of his troops on the high ground on the opposite side, but not in very large numbers.  Our object being to discover if possible something of the enemy’s numbers and the position of the Batteries we knew he had here, the General sent back one of his Aids to order up a couple of 20 pdr. rifled guns, and Richardson’s Brigade to support them.  These were soon on the ground and then we thought we would try to draw their fire, and thus make them discover to us their position.  A large body of Cavalry was standing in an open field about two miles and a half from us, who evidently thought they were beyond our range, from the confidence with which they showed themselves.  We aimed one of our 20 pdrs. carefully, and sent a shell whizzing towards them. //VERSO// In about ten seconds the shell fell and burst among them, and it certainly was amusing to see them scamper.  They got themselves out of sight in double quick time I can assure you.  We then aimed and fired at several prominent points, where the enemy could be seen, but for several minutes they maintained an obstinate silence.  At last when we had about concluded that they were determined not to show themselves, a battery of two pieces opened very unexpectedly, almost at the foot of the hill on the crest of which we were standing, sending their balls right amongst us as we were standing grouped around our pieces.  We immediately turned our pieces on this Battery whose position we could not see, but which we could determine approximately from the smoke rising through the trees.  In about four minutes they ceased firing and we heard nothing more from that point.

Our object being so far but very partially attained, Col. Richardson was directed to throw forward skirmishers into a small wood, between us and Bull Run, who were directed to feel their way cautiously forward, and see what they could discover, a couple of Regiments being marched forward and placed under cover in a ravine, within supporting distance.  In the meantime I had been sent back to Centreville to bring up Ayres’ Battery and Sherman’s Brigade so as to be prepared for any emergency, and I arrived on the ground with the Battery just as our skirmishers //Page 3// were entering the wood.  In a few moments we heard a scattered firing commence in this wood, as our skirmishers met those of the enemy.  The affair now began to get interesting.  Now men were thrown forward to  support our skirmishers, and as the General had discovered an opening in the wood in which  a couple of pieces of Art’y could be unlimbered, he now sent Capt. Ayres with two Howitzers to that point to open a fire upon the enemy within a short range.  Ayres took his pieces to the indicated point and sent a couple of charges of Canister among the enemy who appeard to be in great numbers a short distance in his front.  This was more than human nature could stand quietly, and the enemy answered by a thundering volley of musketry and artillery, thus showing us that they were in very great force, and also the positions of their Batteries.  This was all we wanted to know and the affair would have ended there, but before the General could interfere Col Richardson sent the 12th N. Y. Reg’t in line into the wood to clear it.  They went forward in excellent order, until they reached the edge of a ravine, in the bottom, and on the opposite side of which the enemy were posted.  Here they were exposed to the combined fire of three or four thousand troops, and two Batteries.  They returned the fire warmly for a few minutes, but the odds were too great, and they finally broke, and retreated in confusion.

Lt. Upton and myself had just ridden down into the woods to see how it felt to be under such a fire //VERSO// and we arrived behind our lines just before they broke and ran.  We rode about among the men and used every exertion to rally them and lead them again against the enemy.  We appealed to their pride and to their manhood.  We begged them for the honor of our state and of our flag to reform, and make another stand – but without effect.  Their officers I must say were worse than the men, and set them and example of tall running.  Only two companies stood their ground and were withdrawn in good order.  The object of our reconnoisance having now been attained the men were withdrawn to a safe position, while our two Batteries were directed upon the enemy whose position we now knew, and with terrible effect as we have since learned.  The enemy acknowledge a loss of 150 killed and more than twice that number wounded, at the same time claiming to have killed 1500 of our men.  The truth is we had but 19 killed and 38 wounded.  Col. Richardson remained in possession of the ground we occupied in the beginning of the engagement until the Battle on Sunday last.

I was now satisfied.  I had been under fire, and a pretty warm one too, and had felt no inclination to run.  The general and his staff returned to Centreville and I lay down that night and slept contented.  The next two days we lay encamped at that place.  On the night succeeding our action at Blackburn’s ford //Page 4// cars were heard constantly arriving at and departing from Manassas during the whole night.  Most of us felt confident that Johnston had effected a junction with Beauregard, and that we should have to fight their combined armies.  On Sunday morning we were ordered to march at half past two in the morning in the direction of Gainsville and take up a position just this side of Bull Run.  Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns took a road which crossed Bull Run about a mile and a half to our right, while Richardson’s Brigade remained to watch Blackburn’s Ford and prevent the enemy from flanking us.  Col. Miles was posted with the reserve at Centreville.  We arrived at the position assigned us about half past five – when I say “us”, I mean Tyler’s Division, about 12,000 men less Richardson’s Brigade – and fired the gun agreed upon to let the other column’s know that we were in position, and ready to sustain them.  In front of the centre of the line which we formed here was a Stone Bridge, obstructed by Abbattis and supposed to be mined, though it was not.  To the right and left were fords at short distances above and below the Bridge.  All these crossings were defended by Batteries placed so as to sweep them, and all the approaches to them, these Batteries being supported by large bodies of Infantry.  Our Division was composed of Sherman’s Brigade – in which were the 13th our Rochester Reg’t, the 69th, the 79th, and a Wisconsin Reg’t //VERSO// Gen. Schenck’s Brigade, and Col. Keyes’ Brigade.  We remained in position at this point until nearly 11 o’clock, amusing ourselves in the meantime by firing upon bodies of the enemy which we could see passing down the other side of the Run in the direction of Hunter’s column, of whose movement they seemed to be apprised.

The General sent me up into a large tree with a glass to see and report what was going on in that direction.  Using this tree as an observatory, I had a fine view of the beginning of the Battle and its continuance for half an hour before being engaged in it myself.  I saw Hunter’s column after it had crossed the Run, coming up towards us, or rather towards the enemy in our front.  The latter were at the same time moving large bodies of troops to meet him.

Finally they stopped in a open field, through which the road by which Hunter was advancing ran, and prepared to dispute his passage.  Here they placed a Battery to enfilade this road at the point at which it emerged from a wood, and posted their man in line of Battle on either side of their Battery, at the same time throwing out skirmishers into this wood to annoy him as he advanced.  Hunter advanced steadily driving the enemy’s skirmishers before him and deployed a portion of his column in the edge of a wood.  He then threw a section of one of his light Batteries up along this road into the open space in front, this Section being all this time under heavy fire from the enemy’s Battery.  As soon as it came out into the open space in front of the wood it unlimbered and opened its fire, the other sections coming up successively and opening as soo as they were in position.  At the //Page 5// same time Hunter opened a heavy musketry fire from the whole edge of the wood which he had occupied, and the engagement became general throughout the whole line.  The enemy stood it only for a few minutes when they broke and ran in the greatest confusion.  Hunter followed up his success and drove the enemy from one position to another, the enemy contesting every foot of the ground, until he arrived nearly opposite our position, when his column seemed to be arrested and I saw the enemy bringing down heavy reinforcements from the direction of Manassas.  I immediately reported these facts to Gen. Tyler when he at once ordered Sherman’s Brigade to cross the Run and support Hunter.  I then got down from my perch and joined the General.  In climbing the tree my cap had got knocked off, and when I came down I found some one had walked off with it.  I looked round and finally picked up an old straw hat, which some poor fellow had probably been killed in, as the inside and under side of the leaf was covered with blood & I wore that all day.  Pleasant, wasn’t it, wearing a dead man’s hat and expecting to follow suit every moment.  Sherman’s Brigade now crossed the run and on reaching the crest of the hill on the opposite side they encountered a portion of the enemy and routed them.  Here the Lt. Col. Of the 69th was killed.  This Brigade now joined Hunter’s column //VERSO// and I saw no more of them until the Retreat.  Consequently I can say nothing from personal observation as to the conduct of our Rochester Regiment in the action, though from all I can learn they behaved very handsomely.

Gen. Tyler, and of course myself, now crossed the Run under a heavy artillery fire at the head of Keyes’ Brigade.  We arrived on the high ground on the opposite side in good order and became immediately involved in the action.  We drove the enemy from point to point, until we finally arrived in front of a large house and its enclosure which the enemy had occupied with a large force and prepared for defence.  This position Keyes’ Brigade was ordered to carry, and in this operation Gen. Tyler and his staff assisted in person.  The Brigade was advanced in line, or rather in two lines nearly at right angles to each other against two sides of the position under a galling fire of musketry until within a short distance, when we opened a hot and continued fire upon the enemy.  Our men stood to their work bravely being entirely exposed while the enemy were sheltered.  Only once did they show any disposition to retire, and they were easily rallied.  We now made them lie down and continue their fire, which they did with a will for about five minutes.  During this time Lt. Abbott, Lt. Upton, and myself were the only mounted officers exposed to this fire and as we were necessarily very prominent, and only about fifty yards from the //Page 6// enemy were excellent marks for their riflemen.  Judging by the bullets which whistled by my ears, they must have taken particular care to fire at us, though we all escaped safely at that time.  I have got a hole in the skirt of my coat which I suppose was mae by one of their balls at this time.  The fire of the enemy now appearing to slacken a little, the order was given to charge with the bayonet which was done in splendid style, clearing the enclosure of the enemy and getting possession of the house in which we found a few of them, who could not get out in time and who were taken prisoners.  As soon as we found ourselves in possession of the house, a Battery which we had not seen before as it had been silent & was concealed, opened upon us and tore the old house all to pieces.  We found the place too hot to hold and retired into the road running in front of the house which happened to be cut down at this point thus giving us a shelter.  From this position we made a flank movement to turn this Battery intending to charge and take it if possible.  This movement was made under cover of a hill on which this Battery was placed.  We had just completed the movement and were about to charge up the hill on the Battery when we discovered that the other columns were retreating and a half mile distant, so that unless we took the back track instanter there was every probability of our being cut off.  The Retreat was consequently ordered //VERSO// and our Brigade joined the retreating column in good order.  I could scarcely believe the evidence of my senses when I saw that our army was retreating.  That portion of it with which I had been had been uniformely successful through the day, and I thought we were winning a glorious victory.  I was highly elated with success, and you can judge of the reversion of feeling which took place when I found we were retiring.

The Retreat was well enough and if it had been conducted with order there would be nothing to be ashamed of, for the number of fresh troops that the enemy had bought up to oppose us was overpowering, but after a short time when their cavalry charged upon our flank the Retreat degenerated into a rout.  It was at this time that my horse was killed under me.  We saw their cavalry coming down on us and tried to form enough men to repel the charge.  IN this, with considerably (sic) difficulty we were successful.  Some of the Ohio troops and Ayres’ Battery gave them a volley as they came down on us which emptied a good many of their saddles and sent them back again.  But they gave us one volley from their rifled carbines, one of the balls taking effect on my horse and killing him instantly.  He staggered forward a few steps and fell, throwing me on a pile of stones and bruising my right arm.  I got a Secession horse from a man in Ayres’ Battery, which he had just caught, and rode him to Centreville.  Of the Retreat from this point I do not care to speak.

I arrived a Falls Church at 5 o’clock the next morning having been in the saddle for twenty seven hours without anything to eat in the meantime, and without having eaten anything before going out, as I was sicj when we started.  I can assure you I //Page 7// was pretty well worn out.  After sleeping about three hours and getting a little breakfast I mounted my horse again and was out almost all day, in the midst of a heavy storm of rain bringing things down to Fort Corcoran and finally arrived here in Washington about 9 o’clock at night, having been thoroughly soaked to the skin for several hours.  I never slept so much in one night in my life as I did that night.  Since then I have been here in the City most of the time.  For the last two days I have been assisting Gen. Tyler to make out his official report.  He has been kind enough to mention me very honorably in it.  You will probably see it published in the N. Y. paper in a day or two.

Now, my dear Brother I have written here until I am tired and if you have read thus far I am sure you are too.  But I thought an account of the Battle by an eye-witness and an actor, would perhaps be more interesting to you than the newspaper accounts, particularly when the writer was your Brother.

I cannot find time to write any extended account of the Battle to all my friends, so if any of them want to know my experiences, you may show them this.  I saw Tom Bishop to-day he is all right.  I have not been able to see Charley Buckley but I hear that he is getting along very well.  Give my love to Mary, also to Mother and all our family.

Your affectionate

Brother Patrick

*For reference and citational info, see here





Tree Clearing at Manassas Part II

6 05 2008

Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns has this article on the tree clearing at Manassas National Battlefield Park, particularly on Matthews Hill.  Click on the thumbnail in his article, then click on the image again and you should be able to read the sign.  See here for my post on an earlier Washington Post article.





Black Horse Cavalry: Defend Our Beloved Country

5 05 2008

Defend Our Beloved CountryI received my autographed, limited edition (650/999) of Black Horse Cavalry: Defend Our Beloved Country by Lewis Marshall Helm a couple of weeks ago.  You’ll recall from my earlier posts here and here that I ordered this book from Don Hackenson’s website in large part because it contains a passage credited to Brigadier General William Payne regarding the meaning of the name Black Horse Cavalry.  I was happy to find that the book is footnoted (though very unevenly) and that the citation for the passage in question is indeed a March 29, 1903 article in the Richmond News.  If you have access to Richmond News archives and can get me a copy of the article, I’ll reimburse your expenses (copying and postage).

By the way, I’ve seen this book listed from various sources for as much as $75.  Don’s site has the book for sale at its original price.  It’s a hard cover book with dust jacket, 302 pages including a roster, with lots of illustrations.  Mr. Helm is a descendant of several members of the troop, and I have reservations about unit histories and biographies written by descendants in general, but if you’re one of those folks who just has to have every Confederate regimental, drop Don a note.





General Lee’s Army

4 05 2008

General Lee\'s Army

General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, the latest offering from Joseph Glatthaar, is making the blogger review circuit.  As of this date, the only full blogger review I’ve seen is John Hoptak’s, but I believe reviews are in the works by Patrick Lewis and Dmitri Rotov.  I received my review copy about two weeks ago, but won’t be able to read it until I finish Marion Armstrong’s “Unfurl those colors!”  McClellan, Sumner and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign, (which is, by the way, a very good corps level and below tactical study that loses cohesiveness as its analysis expands to higher levels).  So I’ll have a more in depth review in a few weeks when I finish the book, but for right now here’s an overview based on the prologue, table of contents, notes, and bibliography.

Joseph Glatthaar (at right from Simon & Schuster) is the Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History and chair of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His previous book length studies on the Civil War are The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolina Campaigns (1985), Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers (1990), and Partners in Command: Relationships between Civil War Leaders (1994).  As you can see, Glatthaar doesn’t crank these things out like Hershey’s Kisses.  It’s been 14 years since he’s written a full length Civil War book, and from what I’ve heard he’s spent most of that time working on General Lee’s Army.

Glatthaar announces in his Prologue that General Lee’s Army is a study of [that] “sinewy, tawny, formidable set of men” (at left in Frederick, MD) as well as their “brave and skilful” commander, Lee.  His intent is to tell, through the story of the Army of Northern Virginia, the broader story of the entire Civil War, because if you understand why [Lee’s] men fought, what hardships they endured, how they managed so much success against the vastly superior enemy, how they came close to winning, and why they lost, you understand fundamentally the war itself.  He attempts to do so by relying primarily on contemporary accounts of about 4,000 soldiers, using a statistically representative sample of Lee’s men in order to guard against cherry-picking evidence.  He seeks to examine the army from the top-down and from the bottom up in order to develop important issues that influenced the motivations, attitudes, feelings, and conduct of officers and enlisted men throughout the course of the war. 

Advance word on this book was that it would update D. S. Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants, but a look at the table of contents tells me that’s not quite accurate.  Chapter titles like Why They Enlisted, Becoming Soldiers, A Failure of Discipline, Camp and Recreation, Religion and Morality, Home Front, and Desertion imply that there is a significant social component to Glatthaar’s analysis.  Keeping the Army Together, Supplying the Army, Arms and Ammunition, Medical Care and Manpower indicate that logistics is also a focus.  Command topics include Clashes with the High Command, Lee in Command, Taking War to the Enemy, Lee’s Officer Corps and Army Culture, Combat, Lee and the High Command, Preparing for the Spring Campaign of 1864, The Trenches and The Grind of War.  These overlapping topics are covered within the framework of the history of the army’s operations from the days preceding the adoption of its famous name to its surrender at Appomattox.

The bibliography runs from page 543 to page 581.  Twenty-two of these thirty-nine pages list manuscript sources.  There are also sixty-four pages of end notes, nineteen maps, and two photo sections.  What does all this tell you?  Well, quite honestly, it tells you nothing – in fact I’ve heard some disturbing things about the citation methodology employed.  I’m more concerned with quality, but some folks are really into this kind of quantitative information, so I’m giving it to them.  Happy now?

How well does Glatthaar succeed in this ambitious project?  Like I said, I haven’t read the book yet.  I’ll give you my thoughts when I have.  But in the meantime, if you have actually finished General Lee’s Army, I’d love to know what you think of it.  Does it provide valuable new insight, or is it the same old story with new anecdotes?

See an UPDATE to this post here.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 838 other followers