Two Whitings at Bull Run

8 10 2008

I’m a slave to sounds.  If I hear something and it provokes that Jeez, that sounds familiar sensation in my brain, I have to figure out why it sounds familiar.  Then I have to reconcile my findings – OK, it sounded familiar because A is sonically associated with Z, so what’s the practical connection, if any, between A and Z? Such is the case with the author of report #55, Col. Henry Whiting of the 2nd VT infantry regiment.  And no, I don’t know what’s up with that report – it reads like a fragment, it’s not  dated, and it doesn’t indicate to whom it was sent.

This itch was easy to scratch – Col. Henry Whiting’s name sounds familiar because Confederate Army of the Shenandoah commander and ranking rebel at Bull Run General Joseph E. Johnston’s staff engineer was Major William Henry Chase Whiting.  The Confederate Whiting was the guy who actually transcribed Beauregard’s whacked out orders on the evening of July 20-21, Bory’s man Colonel Thomas Jordan, who would normally handle such things, having been laid out with the help of a prescribed narcotic.

The Yankee Whiting (left, from Hunt’s New England volume of Colonels in Blue, click the thumb for a larger image) was born in 1818 in Bath, NY, and graduated from West Point in 1840.  It doesn’t look like he ever lived in Vermont, and according to Cullum was in fact regent of the University of Michigan when the war broke out, so how he wound up colonel of a Vermont regiment is a little murky to me.  A Wikipedia entry says that the command was initially offered to Vermont native Israel B. Richardson, who turned it down and recommended his classmate Whiting.  Although Whiting in fact graduated West Point one year ahead of Richardson, the two did enter the academy in the same year, and Richardson also lived in Michigan, so this sounds plausible.  He rose to brigade command but resigned over his failure to gain rank in early 1863.  He died in Ypsilanti, MI in 1887.

The rebel Whiting (left, from this site) was born in 1824 in Biloxi, MS.  But he went to high school in Boston, MA, so maybe there is a New England family connection there.  He graduated from West Point in 1845 (after first graduating first in his class from Georgetown University in DC in 1840), having established the highest academic marks ever attained by a cadet, a record that would stand until broken by Douglas MacArthur in 1903.  He died a prisoner in New York harbor in 1865, from wounds received at Ft. Fisher in North Carolina.  Fort Fisher was named for the colonel of the 6th NC, who was killed at Bull Run.

If anyone out there can connect these Whitings, please let me know.

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