Other Bull Run Projects

30 11 2008

You’ll notice on my Civil War Blogroll and Links List two sites with the same name, First Bull Run.com.  Both sites are maintained by the UK’s Jonathan Soffe.  Jonathan has decided to separate his blog and his data compilation website.  The latter has been around a long while, longer than my site, and includes Orders of Battle down to company levels.  Johnathan has graciously permitted me to incorporate his research into my own OOBs, and I’ll be doing that gradually.  Johnathan will be listed on the OOBs as a contributor – currently I have listed only Jim Burgess of the NPS, whose name you’ll find at the bottom of the Artillery OOBs.

Johnathan’s blog just launched today.  He has set up the blog as a place “for users to share comments and information about the content of the [Bull Runnings.com web]site.”

Check both the blog and the website out when you get a chance.





Notes on “Facts and Incidents of the Battle”

29 11 2008

The basic building block of Civil War armies was the company.  Typically raised in the same, small community, they were often formed from existing militia units.  Especially early on, the companies were better known by their militia or nicknames than their regiment number and company letter.  For the most part, that is how the author of the Richmond Daily Dispatch article posted here referred to the companies.  So, with help from Robert of Cenantua’s Blog, First Bull Run.com, and Vol. I of William Frayne Amann’s Personnel of the Civil War, I’ll try to make a little sense out of the article here.

Latham’s Battery

Captain H. Grey Latham’s Lynchburg Artillery consisted of two sections of two model 1841 six pound guns.  Two guns of one section were commanded by Lieutenants Davidson and Leftwich.

Seventh Virginia Regiment

Captain J. H. French’s company of the 7th Virginia was D, the Giles Volunteers (see here).

The Botetourt troops

The Botetourt troops on the field included Co. F of the 28th VA Infantry (Botetourt Springs Rifles, Capt. F. G. Rocke, see here), possibly Co. I of the 28th VA (Capt. J. W. Anderson’s Mountain Rifles, later the Botetourt Artillery, see here), and Company C of the 30th (2nd) VA Cavalry (Botetourt Dragoons, Captain A. L. Pitzer – Lieut. C. Breckenridge commanding, see here).

Capt. Rippetoe’s Company

Robert informed me that Capt. W. D. Rippetoe’s Page Grays was Co. H of the 33rd VA Infantry.  This company  may have been credited with temporarily capturing guns of Griffin’s West Point Battery.  Rippetoe was a Methodist minister for whom Bull Run was his last battle.  Apparetnly his behavior after the battle was less than admirable.

“Victory or Death”

The West Augusta Guards was Capt. J. H. Waters’ Company L of the 5th VA Infantry (see here).  They were briefly the West Augusta Artillery for a period.

Another gallant soldier gone

Capt. T. L. Yancey’s Rockingham Cavalry was Co. K of the 1st VA Cavalry.  Later they became Co. C of the 6th VA Cav (see here).

The Rockingham boys

The Rockingham Regiment was the 10th VA Infantry (thanks Robert – see here).

Deceived the enemy

The Valley Guards was Capt. C. A. Sprinkel’s Co. G of the 10th Virginia Infantry (see here).

Record of Brave Men

Col. J. W. Allen’s regiment was the 2nd VA Infantry (see here).

  • Capt. W. L. Clarke commanded the Winchester Riflemen, Co. F.
  • Capt. J. Q. A. Nadenbusch commanded the Berkeley Border Guards, Co. D.

The Rockingham Regiment

All of these were in the 10th VA Infantry (see here).

  • Southern Greys – Co. C, Capt. J. N. Swann.
  • Valley Guards – Co. G, Capt. C. A. Sprinkel.
  • Page Volunteers – Co. K, Capt. W. T. Young.
  • Bridgewater Grays – Co. D, Capt. J. B. Brown
  • Chrisman’s Infantry – Co. H, Capt. G. Chrisman

Second Regiment Virginia Volunteers

See here:

  • Co. A – Jefferson Guards.
  • Co. B – Hamtramck Guards.
  • Co. C – Nelson Guards.
  • Co. D – Berkeley Border Guards.
  • Co. E – Hedgesville Blues.
  • Co. F – Winchester Riflemen.
  • Co. G – Botts Greys.
  • Co. H – Letcher Riflemen.
  • Co. I – Clarke Riflemen.
  • Co. K -Floyd Guards.

The Wythe Grays

This was Capt. J. T. Kent’s Co. A of the 4th VA Infantry (see here).





Facts and Incidents of the Battle

26 11 2008

Richmond Daily Dispatch, July 29, 1861 (see source here, see notes here)

Facts and incidents of the battle.

Our exchanges furnish some interesting facts connected with the great battle, which we copy:

Gallant feat of arms.

The Fredericksburg News records a feat performed by W. C. Scott, of that town, as follows:

Though not strictly speaking in the fight, his position being that of Private Secretary to Gen. Holmes, whose command was not engaged in the action, his proximity to the scene of conflict was rewarded by an unexpected encounter with four straggling Yankees, whose muskets were somewhat out of order and who were endeavoring to escape. Our young Virginia hero “surrounded” the squad, instantly dispatched two with his revolver, and marched the other two into camp as his prisoners. We’ll venture to say not a man of his inches did as much on that great day of triumph. The soul makes the hero and one Southern boy is good for a dozen Yankees at any time.

Latham’s Battery.

A correspondent of the Lynchburg Republican writes that “God never made a braver man than Capt. Gray Latham.” He noticed him frequently in the battle, and says the Latham Battery saved the 28th Regiment, (Preston’s.) He believes they did as much or more execution than the famous Washington Battery. He saw one shot from Latham’s Battery kill 40 men. This is the testimony of one competent to judge, and not connected with the Battery or any of its members.

Seventh Virginia Regiment.

The killed and wounded of Capt. James H. French’s company, from the county of Giles, Va., 7th Regiment, Col. James L. Kemper:

Killed.–Edward Bane.

Wounded.–Lloyd Fry, Harvey Bane, Stuart Johnson, William Lewey, Mr. Lee, (son of Rev. J. B. Lee, of the Baptist Church,) Samuel Shannen and Lewis Skenes.

The Botetourt troops.

The Valley Sentinel says that out of some four hundred Botetourt men upon the field, young Calvin Utz is the only one that is certainly known to have been killed. He was struck in the head by a fragment of a shell.

Capt. Rippetoe’s Company.

Among the killed in the battle of Manassas was Robert Newman, Esq., formerly one of the editors of the Front Royal (Va.) Gazette. He was a member of Capt. Rippetoe’s company. Some twenty or more of this gallant company were killed and wounded. Capt. Rippetoe’s escape was miraculous, his sword and belt being shot off.

Gen. Barnard E. Bee.

The following is from the Richmond correspondence of the Charleston Mercury:

The name of this officer deserves a place in the highest niche of fame. He displayed a gallantly that scarcely has a parallel in history. The brunt of the morning’s battle was sustained by his command until past 2 o’clk. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, and compelled to yield before a fire that swept everything before it, Gen. Bee rode up and down his lines, encouraging his troops, by everything that was dear to them, to stand up and repel the tide which threatened them with destruction. At last his own brigade dwindled to a mere handful, with every field officer killed or disabled. He rode up to Gen. Jackson and said: “General, they are beating us back.”

The reply was: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet”

Gen. Bee immediately rallied the remnant of his brigade, and his last words to them were: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

His men obeyed the call; and, at the head of his column, the very moment when the battle was turning in our favor, he fell, mortally wounded. Gen. Beauregard was heard to say he had never seen such gallantry. He never murmured at his suffering, but seemed to be consoled by the reflection that he was doing his duty.

“Victory or death.”

The Rockingham Register contains the following:

Among the gallant spirits who fell in the battle at the Junction on Sunday last, was Wm. C. Woodward, of the West Augusta Guards. To those who knew him, it is need less to say that he died like a patriot and fell at his post. He was in the battle from its commencement until three o’clock in the afternoon, when he fell in the ranks, struck by a musket ball and buck shot in the head, just above the left ear. Throughout the whole fight he evidenced the highest gallantry, all the time urging his comrades to deeds of heroism and bravery. His last words to his friends before he fell were, “Victory or death.” He was a noble, generous spirit, and was a favorite of his company. His remains were brought to Staunton on Monday and followed to their last resting place by a large concourse of sincere friends, amongst them the I. O. O. F., of which he was a faithful and worthy member, and Captain Skinner’s company.

Another gallant soldier gone.

We learn (says the Register) that our young friends, George W. Messick, son of Gessner Messick, of this vicinity, a member of Capt. T. L. Yancey’s troop of cavalry, was killed in the battle of Sunday last, near Manassas Junction. He had, we learn, been ordered to make a charge for the rescue of some prisoners, when he received a shot in the head, which killed him instantly. He was a gallant soldier, and met his death like a patriot.

The Rockingham boys.

We are proud to learn that all the boys from Rockingham, in the late battle, conducted themselves with spirit and gallantry.–Not a man quailed — not a nerve that trembled. They were in the thickest of the fight, and at one time were assailed by three times their number; but they stood their ground like men, and drove the enemy back.

Deceived the enemy.

During the fight on Sunday last, Maurice Guiheen, of the Valley Guards, was captured by the Lincolnites; but his wit saved him — He succeeded in persuading his captors that they had a friend, and they let him off.

Record of brave men.

The Winchester Republican, alluding to the gallant conduct of Colonel Allen’s regiment, says:

Capt. Wm. L. Clarke received a painful but not dangerous wound. Capt. W. N. Nelson, of Clarke, was seriously wounded in the breast. Hopes are, however, entertained of his recovery.

The “Winchester Riflemen” lost 5 killed and 14 wounded. The bodies of the killed reached here Tuesday evening. They were Lloyd Powell, Isaac Glaize, Owen Burgess, Chas. Mitchell and Chas. Young.

Capt. Nadenbousch’s company, of Martinsburg, performed good service. The bodies of four of his company were sent on through here Tuesday. We were pained to learn that two of them were the sons of Holmes Conrad, Esq. They were killed by the same fire and fell side by side Peyton R. Harrison was also one of the killed: the name of the fourth we could not learn.

The Rockingham Regiment.

The Harrisonburg (Va.) Register furnishes the annexed list of the killed and wounded of the Rockingham Regiment, which was in the thickest of the fight:

Killed.–Southern Greys, Edinburg.–Lt. John W. Heaton, shot in the heart with a musket ball; died a few hours after he was shot.

Valley Guards, Harrisonburg–Privates John W. Bowles, printer, of New Market, and Isminius A. Moore, of Mt. Jackson. Mr. Bowles was instantly killed by a musket shot through the heart. Mr. Moore was shot and received a bayonet wound. He died on Monday morning.

Page Volunteers, Luray.–Privates Ambrose Comer, John W. Kite, and James H. Gaines, all instantly killed by musket shots.

Wounded–Southern Grays.–Geo. W. Sibert, badly wounded — shot through the breast. P. H. Grandstaff, flesh wound in the thigh.

Valley Guards.–Lieut P. Bryan, slightly wounded in the head. Corporal M. D. Coffman, severely wounded through the left side. Private John J. Roof, badly wounded in the foot, Private David Harrigan, badly wounded in the foot and ankle.

Bridgewater Grays–Private Jas. Minnick, wounded slightly in the heel.

Chrisman’s Infantry.–Lieut. Jas. Ralston, slightly wounded in the forehead. Private William Whitmore slightly wounded in the left hand.

Page Volunteers.–Corporal Trinton O. Graves, badly wounded in the leg. Private James H. Cubbage, badly wounded in the thigh.

Second Regiment Virginia Volunteers.

The Winchester Republican furnishes the annexed list of the killed, wounded and missing of the Second Regiment (Col. Allen) Virginia Volunteers:

Company A, of Jefferson County–Capt. J. W. Roan–Wounded–Capt. J. W. Roan, wounded in the ankle; Privates T. J. Hurst, shot through the body; Ogden, in the hip; Edmonds, in the hip; Triplett, thumb shot off; G. N. Myers, shot through the leg.

Company B, Jefferson County.–Capt. V. N. Butler–Wounded–Private A. R. Botles wounded slightly on the knee by a piece of spent shell.

Company C., Clarks County.–Capt. W. N. Nelson. –Killed–Privates George S. Whitter, Benjamin E. Grubbs, Scott Dishmar Wounded–Captain W. N. Nelson, severely wounded in the left breast; Corporal T. H. Randolph, wounded in left breast; Corporal Hibbard, thigh; Privates Basil Burnett, in the right shoulder; Alex Parkins, left arm Bush Fuller, in shoulder Samuel Ritter in neck, breast and arm; Adam Thompson, in the back; C. F. Whiting; left arm and stomach; J. E. Ware, left arm; John Welsh left breast; Noland, in the neck.

Company D, Berkeley County–Captain J. Q. A. Nadenbousch–Killed.–Lieutenant Peyton R. Harrison. Sergeant Holmes A. Conrad, Privates H. Tucker Conrad and John Fryatt. Wounded.–Sergeant J. A. Dugan, in the thigh; Privates William Light, face an neck; W. H. McGary, neck; J. H. Lashort in the head; J. S. Armstrong, in the arm; T. E. Buchanan, in shoulder; George D. White man, in thigh; Color Sergeant Edmund P. Dandridge, in foot; David Hunter, slightly or left arm; Lambert S. McMullen, in foot; Charles McFarly, in the leg; Joseph C. Simmons, in two places.

Co. E, Berkeley County–Capt. R. T. Colston. Killed–Lieut. D. H. Manor. Wounded-Privates C. Manor, in the face; G. Miller mortally. Missing — E. Tobin, J. Frizer, J. Turner, N. Keesecker.

Co. F. Winchester–Capt. Wm. L. Clark, Jr. –Killed — Serg’t E. O. Burgess, Serg’t I. N. Glaize, Privates Lloyd Powell, William Young, Charles Mitchell. Wounded–Capt. W. L. Clark, Jr., in the thigh; Privates R. Meade, lost an arm; S. Barton, in the leg, McCarty, head; Kidd, back; Beatty, leg; Hobson, leg; Coontz, ankle; J. Sherrard. slightly wounded; James Rines lost a leg. Missing–Ten men, supposed to be at the Junction.

Co. G. Jefferson County–Capt. E. L. Moore Wounded–Lieut Robert M. English, wounded in the arm, leg and breast; Sergeant Middlecough, in forehead; Privates Aisquith, in neck; F. G. Butler, in chest, since dead; Foster, in both legs; W. Manning, in breast and face; L. Page, mortally, in arm and abdomen; Painter, in the thigh; J. Timberlake, neck; S. Timberlake, both legs; C. Wiltshire, in the leg; T. Briscoe in the side.

Co. H., Jefferson County, (near Daffield’s)–Capt. J. H. L. Hunter.–Killed–Private Hendricks. Wounded–Privates H. M. Snyder, wounded in the thigh; G. E. Curry flesh wound; George Gall, in thigh; James Crussell, leg broken; Joseph Colbert, George Ashby, breast and arm; John Christfield flesh wound; Corporal Henry Billings, flesh wound.

Company I, Clarke County.–Capt. S. H. Bowen. –Wounded–Corporal Holmes McCuire; in the arm; Privates Geo. W. Ketly, in the leg; A. May, in the cheek; Wm. Niswanner, bayonet wound in the arm and breast.

Company K. Jefferson County, (Harper’s Ferry,)–Capt. G. W. Chambers–Killed–Corporal McArdell. Wounded–Privates McCabe, dangerously; Foley, slightly; Kennedy, Hudson, Dovle.

Total killed, 2 officers and 13 men. Total wounded, 72. Missing, 14.

The Wythe Grays.

This company was in the hottest of the fight. The following list of killed and wounded is from the Wytheville Telegraph:

Killed — N. D. Oglesby, James R. Pattison, Thos. J. Kavenagn, T. W. Cooper Wounded — Samuel Crockett, badly; W. H. Locket, Sanders Harsh, W. H. Harrison, Wise, Ferguson and Bryant, wounded slightly. Balance all safe — officers not touched.





Bull Run on Film

25 11 2008

Oh, just for the hell of it.  If you like, we can discuss the accuracy of this clip in the comments section here.  It might be fun!  But let’s limit the discussion to the clip, please.  I don’t want to rehash bad acting, bad screenwriting, bad cinematography, or the whole general badness of this film.

By the way, Ride with the Devil is on AMC tonight.  I think it’s an under rated film, skillfully directed by Ang Lee with some fine, nuanced performances and beautifully filmed.  In my opinion, the writers skillfully and thoughtfully handled the characterization of a free black man who fought alongside his former master, though I’m sure it angered some folks and caused quite a few knees to jerk.  Here’s the raid on Lawrence (look for the Eldridge Hotel):





Wheat Photo

24 11 2008

I received a packet from Mike Musick in the mail on Saturday with all sorts of neat info on the newly discovered photo of an individual who looks a lot like Rob Wheat of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion (see here and here).  It included quite a few testimonials from big shots in the ACW field as to their opinions on the photo.  I’ll be posting more on this later.





The New York Times Tackles the Sherman’s Battery Controversy

24 11 2008

w-t-sherman

Thanks so much to reader Linda Mott for once again coming up with a link to a topical newspaper article, this time a New York Times piece from August 11, 1861 (see here).  A couple of things: 

Note that T. W. and W. T. were not classmates at West Point.  T. W. graduated 18th of 49 cadets in 1836.  W. T. was 6th of 42 four years later, 1840. (Cullum)

During the Bull Run campaign, T. W. was in Pennsylvania recruiting for the 5th U. S. Artillery. (Cullum)

As for the two men being “great friends”, they did serve together at Ft. Moultrie in Charleston, SC in 1846.  T. W. rejoined W. T. in the Army of the Tennessee very briefly after Shiloh, and ran into him again briefly in New Orleans in March, 1864.  W. T.’s references to T. W. in his memoirs are cursory, giving no hint that they were ever “great” anythings, friends or otherwise. (Memoirs of General William T. Sherman)

Notice too that the article refers to the famous Sherman’s Battery.

I wish I could figure out that mouseover trick of Robert’s – it would save me having to make these explanatory posts.





The Two Shermans

24 11 2008

The New York Times, August 11, 1861 (see here)

The Two Shermans.

From the Cincinnati Commercial.

Not a little error and confusion has been created by writers in the newspapers, especially since the recent battle before Manassas Junction, by confounding the names of two meritorious officers in the Army.  There are two Col. Shermans in the Army: Col. William T. Sherman, of Ohio, and Col. Thomas W. Sherman, of Rhode Island.  The former is the only one of the two who was engaged in the battle at Bull Run.  He is a brother of John Sherman, Senator from Ohio.  He is not the Capt. Sherman who first organized the famous Sherman’s Battery.

There are some points of remarkable similarity in the case of the two Shermans, which have easily led those ignorant of their history and position into confounding them together.  Their initials are similar – one being W. T. and the other T. W. Sherman; they both graduated in the same class at West Point; both entered the same regiment – the Third Artillery; both served in the Mexican War; and both have been recently appointed Brigadier Generals.

It is T. W. Sherman, of Rhode Island, who commanded and gave his name to “Sherman’s Battery,” which he organized in Mexico, where he served under Taylor and Scott, and which was doing duty on the frontier (Minnesota) when the difficulties with the seceded States broke out.

W. T. Sherman, of Ohio, was found at the beginning of these troubles at the head of a State Military Academy in Louisiana, and upon the secession of that State he resigned, refusing to serve in a State disloyal to the Government.  When the new regiments of the regular Army were formed, Sherman, of Ohio, was appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Infantry, and Sherman, of Rhode Island, was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fifth Artillery, and shortly after, by promotion of Col. Hunter, became Colonel of that regiment.

Sherman’s Battery, although it still retains the name, is now really Ayres’ Battery.  It was Col. Sherman, of Ohio, who commanded the Brigade in the battle fo Bull Run composed of the following regiments:

Seventy-ninth New-York (Highlanders,) Col. Cameron.

Sixty-ninth New-York, (Irish,) Col. Corcoran.

Thirteenth New-York.

Second Wisconsin.

He also had accompanying his Brigade, and under his orders, the Battery of Capt. Ayres, (Shermans Battery,) which was not captured by the enemy, as claimed by all the rebel newspapers, but after a desperate contest every gun was brought off in safety, and was replanted on Capitol Hill, from whence it has since been removed across the Potomac.

Col. Sherman, of Rhode Island, was not in the battle, but was on duty elsewhere.  Both of the Shermans are regarded in the Army as among its best officers.  Both are now Generals, and there is little doubt that they will distinguish themselves in the service, and very probably their actions will be confounded in future as in the past, and each receive the credit due the other.  At this, the two Shermans will not complain, for they are great friends, although not related to each other.

(See explanatory comments here).





Looking for Lincoln

22 11 2008

looking-for-lincolnI was cruising Costco for free food the other day when I ran across a new photo-book, Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon, by brothers Philip and Peter Kunhardt and nephew/son Peter Kunhardt, Jr., the fourth and fifth generations of the famous Meserve-Kunhardt family of Lincoln scholars and collectors.  First, let me say that if you pay full list of $50 for this book there is something seriously wrong with you.  Not because it isn’t “worth it”, but because you can get it from lots of sources for a much lower price.  For example, at Costco I paid $30 (while this has been a year that has seen my Lincoln section balloon, I couldn’t resist).

The oversize, coffee-table style book is full of wonderful photos, paintings, drawings and etchings,  including a section at the end with all 114 known photos of Lincoln.  But what sets it apart from dozens of similar volumes is its chronology.  Looking for Lincoln starts with the President’s assassination and progresses to the death of his son Robert in 1925, showing how the Emancipator’s image developed over the years.  A cool concept and a cool book.  So while you’re munching on tilapia out of a paper cup, head on over to that huge table of books and check it out.

By the way, the book is meant as an accompaniment to a two-hour PBS special with the same title due to air in the winter of 2009.





The Figure a Poem Makes

20 11 2008

In this post, I tried to explain – ineloquently – my “vision” for this site (I’ll use the word “site” to include both the blog part and the digital history (DH) part, though some might argue that the blog is DH too, and I guess it is, but by “DH part” I mean the Bull Run Resources).  This time, instead of using philosophy as a way to differentiate between DH and what I’ll call TNH (Traditional Narrative History), let me try poetry.  Prose, poetry, neither better than the other, like oysters and clams (as Crassus explained to Antoninus in that scene deleted from Spartacus).  But just as I’m not a philosopher, neither am I a poet.  So I’ll let a poet do the talking.

Robert Frost wrote the following in 1939 as an introduction to a collection of his poems (see here):

robert-frostAbstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day. Why can’t we have any one quality of poetry we choose by itself? We can have in thought. Then it will go hard if we can’t in practice. Our lives for it.

Granted no one but a humanist much cares how sound a poem is if it is only a sound. The sound is the gold in the ore. Then we will have the sound out alone and dispense with the inessential. We do till we make the discovery that the object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other, and the resources for that of vowels, consonants, punctuation, syntax, words, sentences, metre are not enough. We need the help of context – meaning – subject matter. That is the greatest help towards variety. All that can be done with words is soon told. So also with metres – particularly in our language where there are virtually but two, strict iambic and loose iambic. The ancients with many were still poor if they depended on metres for all tune. It is painful to watch our sprung-rhythmists straining at the point of omitting one short from a foot for relief from monotony. The possibilities for tune from the dramatic tones of meaning struck across the rigidity of a limited metre are endless. And we are back in poetry as merely one more art of having something to say, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound, because deeper and from wider experience.

Then there is this wildness whereof it is spoken. Granted again that it has an equal claim with sound to being a poem’s better half. If it is a wild tune, it is a Poem. Our problem then is, as modern abstractionists, to have the wildness pure; to be wild with nothing to be wild about. We bring up as aberrationists, giving way to undirected associations and kicking ourselves from one chance suggestion to another in all directions as of a hot afternoon in the life of a grasshopper. Theme alone can steady us down. Just as the first mystery was how a poem could have a tune in such a straightness as metre, so the second mystery is how a poem can have wildness and at the same time a subject that shall be fulfilled.

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life – not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood – and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad – the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may Want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.

I tell how there may be a better wildness of logic than of inconsequence. But the logic is backward, in retrospect, after the act. It must be more felt than seen ahead like prophecy. It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader. For it to be that there must have been the greatest freedom of the material to move about in it and to establish relations in it regardless of time and space, previous relation, and everything but affinity. We prate of freedom. We call our schools free because we are not free to stay away from them till we are sixteen years of age. I have given up my democratic prejudices and now willingly set the lower classes free to be completely taken care of by the upper classes. Political freedom is nothing to me. I bestow it right and left. All I would keep for myself is the freedom of my material – the condition of body and mind now and then to summons aptly from the vast chaos of all I have lived through.

Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields. No acquirement is on assignment, or even self-assignment. Knowledge of the second kind is much more available in the wild free ways of wit and art. A schoolboy may be defined as one who can tell you what he knows in the order in which he learned it. The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic. More than once I should have lost my soul to radicalism if it had been the originality it was mistaken for by its young converts. Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

Yeah – for me history, like life, is more like poetry than prose.  More like art than science.  I guess that’s why I bridle at anything more than very general boundaries for it.  And why I’m so excited about the possibilities for the presentation of history on the web.

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout a new way of walkin’.  Do ya wanna lose your mind? Walk right in, sit right down.  Daddy let your mind roll on.

What do you think?

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Battlefield Preservation: Ox Hill/Chantilly

19 11 2008

chantilly

Here’s a link to an article in the current America’s Civil War magazine by Chris Howland, Ox Hill: Honoring 2nd Bull Run’s Bloody Postscript.  Check it out…good work being done by good people.








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