Dr. Elizabeth Hoole McArthur was kind – and yes, savvy – enough to send me a copy of her short book, Bound for Glory: A Brief History of the Darlington Rifles, Precursor Volunteer Militia to Company A, Eighth South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A, Origin through First Manasas, for review. I finished off the 68 pages of text pretty quickly. This is a readable, concise account of the company from its militia days, beginning in 1834, through the end of the First Battle of Bull Run. However, it draws primarily upon official reports of 8th SC commander Col. E. B. C. Cash, Army of the Potomac commander P. G. T. Beauregard, and memoirs of D. A. Dickert of the 3rd SC, which along with the 8th was part of Bonham’s brigade at Bull Run and afterwards. Because Dr. McArthur is working on a biography of Co. A’s Captain Axalla John Hoole (her great-grandfather) as well as a history of the 8th SC for Broadfoot’s SC Regimental-Roster series, I suppose I expected more extracts from letters, diaries and memoirs of members of Co. A and the rest of the 8th SC. But for folks looking for detail on Co. A, the author has included several appendices, including a listing of the members of the Darlington Rifles on 2/9/1861, a listing of the members of Co. A of the 8th SC on 10/18/1861, and three additional rolls for the company from after the war. I’m hopeful that Bound for Glory represents a good start for Dr. McArthur as she continues her work on her ancestor, his company and his regiment.
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Tags: 8th South Carolina, ACW Books, Articles, Reviewing
Categories : Articles, Books
Second Guessing Dick Ewell by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White: Is it fair to blame General Richard Ewell for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg? Plus Five Battle Maps by David Fuller
The Great Libby Prison Breakout by Steven Trent Smith: Engineering the war’s most daring escape – one furtive shovel at a time.
Unwritten History by Noah Andre Trudeau: The war memoirs Robert E. Lee chose not to write.
“Villains, Vandals and Devils” by Ken Noe: Rebels fought to the bitter end because they hated the Yankee invaders. See Ken’s book.
This month’s Civilians In Harm’s Way (the name change took me by surprise) by yours truly features Chickamauga’s Snodgrass house. Once again, thanks to friends Dave Powell and Lee White for their assistance. I didn’t get to travel for this one, so I don’t have any additional photos to share here. That won’t be the case with next installment.
I also make an appearance in a feature on Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s recent Confederate History Month proclamation, The Proclamation and the Peculiar Institution. Though it’s not the longest bit I’ve ever published, it’s certainly the largest and boldest font in which my stuff has appeared. I share space with William Marvel, Susannah Ural, Lesley Gordon, S. Waite Rawls III, Kevin Levin, Catherine Clinton, Harold Holzer and Michael Fellman. Here’s my full, unedited contribution (though I think the edited version was well done and a fair representation of my thoughts):
I think the Governor’s proclamation was nothing more than a dusting off of previously issued proclamations, made at least in part in fulfillment of promises given prior to his election. I believe not much thought at all went into it, and that the apology issued was genuine.
I find most of the reactions to the proclamation and the apology repugnant, outside of the obvious disappointment of those who objected to either and, in curious cases, both. Pendulums are funny things, and after watching them for a while you get the impression they spend most of their time at either end, and not much in the middle. At the extremes, we see reactions ranging from claims that Confederates were nothing more than terrorists, that slavery had little or nothing to do with the Confederate cause, that the Tea Party movement is primarily a gathering of neo-Confederate racists, and that the same movement reflects frustrations similar to those felt by the slaveholding south. All are gross distortions of the truth, and politically motivated. Unfortunately little attention has been given to valid historical issues raised by the issuance of the proclamation, notably that of the diversity of the people of the State of Virginia before and during the Civil War. I’m left with the feeling we let an opportunity slip through our fingers in favor of forwarding political agendas.
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Tags: Articles, Civil War Magazines, Collateral Damage, Confederate History Month, Writing About The Civil War
Categories : Articles, Civil War Magazines, News, Writing About The Civil War
Over the past few weeks, I’ve received four books from publishers and authors. Sorry for the delay, but I hope to get three of them previewed and one reviewed here in the next week. I also have one highly anticipate release that I just received from Amazon – it’s not Bull Run related, but concerns another campaign that is near and dear to me. It’s a very important book, probably the most significant ever produced by its publisher. I’ll have a preview of that, too. Of course, just when I have this backlog work has picked up as well. A good problem to have, I suppose. Stay tuned!
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Reviewing
Categories : Articles, Books
Back in October 2009, a reader requested some information on Richard Welby Carter of the 1st VA Cavalry (you’ll find most of the Carter comments here). My response:
Per Allardice “Confederate Colonels”, Col. Richard Welby Carter of the 1st VA Cav. died 12/18/1888 in Loudon County and is buried in the Carter family cemetery at “Crendel” in Loudon County. “Carter was widely disliked by officers and men, with such comments as ‘white livered,’ ‘a coward,’ ‘fat and looking greasy.’ He and his regiment broke at Tom’s Brook, largely causing the Confederate rout there.”
That reader – who linked to this somewhat misinformed website – didn’t have any further questions, but over time a couple of others did: Henry A. Truslow and Jim Whitin, who identified themselves as great-grandchildren of Carter. While their greater argument seems to be that Col. Carter has received the short end of the historical stick, they specifically disputed the death date and burial site of their ancestor. The correct name of the family estate, they informed me, is “Crednal”, and the correct year of Carter’s death is 1889. I confirmed that “Crednal” is indeed the correct spelling via this site, and Mr. Truslow provided me with the following photos, saying the date of death was confirmed by family bibles:
So, if I were to write a biographical sketch of Carter, at this point I would go with “Crednal” and “1889”.
Mr. Truslow is interested in any information anyone can provide on his ancestor. He told me about this article covering the recent family reunion at Crednal. You’ll see that this branch of the Carter family is related to Robert “King” Carter over whose lands most of the battle of First Bull Run was fought.
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Tags: Articles, Biographies, C. S. Cavalry, Descendants, Richard Welby Carter
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
The letters from Lt. Robert Hitchcock, USMC to his parents prior to the Battle of Bull Run were part of a larger article published in the March/April, 1992 Civil War Times Illustrated. The article consisted of several Hitchcock letters, annotated by David M. Sullivan and including biographical information on Hitchcock.
Robert Emmett Hitchcock: born 9/29/1839 Shoreham, VT; B. S. Norwich University, 1859; appealed to Vermont congressional delegation for a Marine Corps commission 4/1861; drilled recruits of 2nd VT Volunteer Infantry, Waterbury, VT 4/61 – 5/61; reported to Marine Barracks, Washington DC 6/12/61, and appointed 2nd Lt. to date from 6/5/61; with 1st Lt. Alan Ramsey commanded Company C of four companies of the battalion assigned to Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s Division of McDowell’s Army, 7/16/61; while providing support to Hasbrouck’s section of Griffin’s Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery on Henry House Hill during Battle of First Bull Run, struck in the face by a Confederate shell and killed instantly, 7/21/61; body assumed buried by Confederates on the field and not recovered; memorial in Lakeview Cemetery, Shoreham, VT.
Photos from Findagrave.com.
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Tags: Biographies, Resources, Robert Hitchcock, U. S. Marines
Categories : Resources, Soldiers
U. S. Marine Barracks
Washington, D. C.
July 14, 1861
Your letter came to hand yesterday. I was very happy to hear from you at this time in particular. Last night, after I passed down the line to receive the reports of the companies, I was met by Capt. Jones, who said to me, “Mr. Hitchcock, prepare to take the field on Monday morning.” So tomorrow morning will see me and five other Lieuts. with 300 Marines, raw recruits in every sense of the term, on our way to Fairfax Court House to take part in a bloody battle which is to take place, it is thought, about Wednesday. This is unexpected to us, and the Marines are not fit to go into the field, for every man of them is raw as you please, not more than a hundred of them have been here over three weeks. We have no camp equipage of any kind, not even tents, and after all this, we are expected to take the brunt of battle. We are to be commanded by Major Reynolds, I suppose. We shall do as well as we can under the circumstances: just think of it, 300 raw men in the field! We shall drill all day and work hard. I have been very busy all day thus far but have taken a little time to write you. I have left my things with Lieut. Wm. H. Parker, and my watch also. He has my address and will take good care of my clothes, watch, etc. By writing to him you can find out about my matters. In case anything happens to me, he will send my things to you, and you can do as you like with them. Lieuts. Baker, Burrough and Parker will be left here at the Barracks, and any of them would be pleased to ive you information in regard to me or my matters. I hope the God of Battles will give me strength and wisdom to act wisely, and do my duty well. I am not prepared to die, but I am prepared to serve my country, and stand by the Stars and Stripes till the last. I am well and in good spirits. May God bless you all, is the wish of your
P. S. My love to all, and best regards to all my friends. I am just informed that we leave tomorrow evening.
Camp near Centreville, Virginia
Head Quarters Battalion Marines
Col. Porter’s Brigade,
July 20th , 1861
We have been in the field nearly a week now and have not had an engagement yet. The enemy has fled before us as we approached their different positions. We expected to have a fight at Fairfax Court House but as we approached their works they fled leaving a great quantity of flour, Ham, Pork, spears, shovels, etc. The works at Fairfax were good and they could have held us in check for a while, but would have been routed after a while by a flank movement. The Confederates made a stand at Bull Run which is between our camp and Centreville an about two miles from us.
A fight took place at Centreville day before yesterday, the result of which we cannot get at, there are so many different reports. We have been at this encampment about 36 hours waiting for Patterson’s and McClellan’s to come up with their columns in order to make a combined attack upon Manassas Junction where the rebels are collected in great force. We shall bring a force of nearly 129,000 men against them: how the battle will terminate I know not. At Centreville the forces engaged were the N.Y. 69th and 12th Regts. The 12th did not stand fire well after a little and went in. They were in a tight spot. They were in an angle in the road which was covered by a masqued battery that opened upon them rather unexpectedly. The killed and wounded amt. to 29, six I think were killed. I do not know when we shall advance, we may take up the line of march today, and may not leave here for a number of days. We are without tents or anything of the kind, still we manage to live very well. I am well. This is rather a rough life after all, in the field as we are without the usual convenience of camp. The 23rd Regulars are next to us commanded by Maj. Stiaso, I think. Just now as I write, four men of the Regt. are receiving 50 lashes for desertion; rather hard I tell you. I shall write as often as I can. I cannot write more today. I was on guard last night and must get rest as to be ready to advance. I hope you are well at home. Much love to you and the family. Give my regards to all that inquire after me.
As every, your aft. son,
[Civil War Times Illustrated, March/April 1992 - courtesy of reader Mike Pellegrini]
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Tags: Blackburn's Ford, Resources, Robert Hitchcock, Soldier's Letters, U. S. Marines
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources, The Battle
Thanks to Nick, I now know that Mississippi State University has made the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant available online. Check it out here. Given the current focus of my studies I probably won’t find a need to go there often, but I’m sure I’ll want to, and as a result will find myself sucked in. I think you get a different picture of Grant when you read what he wrote before and during the war as opposed to what he wrote in his memoirs. But that’s just me – your mileage may vary.
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Tags: Articles, Digital History, U. S. Grant
Categories : Articles, Civil War On the Web, Digital History
On April 8th I interviewed NPS Historian Emeritus Ed Bearss (via telephone) about his new book, set for release tomorrow, May 18. I’ll get to the interview in a minute, but first here’s what I submitted to America’s Civil War for my July 2010 previews, courtesy of the good people at the magazine:
Ed Bearss is known as the Pied Piper of the National Park Service. His battlefield tours are legendary, as are his photographic memory, stentorian voice, and physical stamina. If there has been one criticism of Mr. Bearss’s work it is that his ability to spellbind tourists on the battlefield has not translated to his writings. The good folks at National Geographic tried to remedy this deficiency – if it can be called that, since Bearss’s The Vicksburg Campaign is a tour de force after 25 years – with 2006’s Fields of Honor, which consisted of transcriptions of Bearss tours of about twenty Civil War sites. This year they follow that up with Receding Tide, which uses more detailed transcriptions to focus more narrowly on the period from the end of 1862 through the early days of July and the twin Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg.
I was a little nervous about the interview, which was set up courtesy of Penny Dackis at National Geographic. I bought a digital recorder for the event, and like most of you I really hate the way I sound on tape (or digital). Add that to the fact I was going to be talking to possibly the most recognizable name – definitely the most recognizable voice – among students of the war, and you see where I’m coming from. I tried my best to throw my questions in quickly, step back and let the man speak.
BR: Your new book, Receding Tide, covers a broad period and is concerned with more than simply the campaigns of Vicksburg and Gettysburg.
EB: It starts with the Union setbacks of Fredericksburg and Chickasaw Bayou, when the Union has run into severe difficulties. It follows through to the early stages of the Vicksburg Campaign when the Confederates are doing fairly well, and through Chancellorsville, playing [the two theaters of operation] off against each other, and ending for all practical purposes on the Fourth of July, 1863, though Gettysburg doesn’t really end until Lee crosses [the Potomac] and Vicksburg doesn’t end until Sherman drives the Confederates out of Jackson.
BR: The concept behind this book is similar to that of Fields of Honor, which National Geographic published in 2007?
EB: Yes, both books are basically transcriptions of recordings of my tours at the various sites. In Receding Tide, [co-author J. Parker Hills] edits them down and fills in the connecting parts.
BR: In what ways do these projects differ from traditional works, like your Vicksburg Campaign?
EB: I’m standing on the spot when I’m talking about what happened there. People who liked the first volume said it comes across like I’m talking, that it’s like being on the field with me. Talking in the field, you can get more emotions in than if you’re writing and footnoting everything. People who like oral presentations like it the best. Fields of Honor has sold better than any book I’ve written.
BR: How do you think the two types of works, the tour transcriptions versus traditional works like your Vicksburg set, differ – that is do you like one better than the other, or are they really apples and oranges?
EB: The three-volume Vicksburg study is for people who want to know everything. Receding Tide looks more at the highlights, interesting facts and personalities. It has more of an emotional appeal.
BR: Would you say it tells a better story?
BR: What different challenges are presented when conducting a tour of Vicksburg versus Gettysburg?
EB: Gettysburg is much better known – in the English language, there are more books on Gettysburg and Little Big Horn than any other campaigns because they sell well. Little Big Horn sells well because nobody really knows what happened in those last thirty minutes or so. Gettysburg sells well because so much has been written and is known about it, particularly the controversies. I can do a complete tour of Vicksburg, for a well-informed group, in about three days: two on the campaign up to the seige, and one on the seige. Gettysburg, because of the knowledge of the general public and the interest in the personalities, the fighting of the Lost Cause, the Meade/Sickles controversy, and the fact that more people know a lot more about Gettysburg, it takes longer to tour. The buffs know a lot about Vicksburg, but the general public doesn’t.
When I took the job with the National Park Service at Vicksburg in 1955, I did so because it was the only Civil War site that had an opening. If I had had my choice, I would have said “Give me an eastern battlefield, give me Gettysburg”. That’s what everyone wanted, what everyone was writing about. Catton had just finished his trilogy, and Lee’s Lieutenants focused primarily on that. But when I got out there I found out Vicksburg had a lot going for it. I’d more or less become convinced that the Vicksburg Campaign is why Grant became General-in-Chief in February of 1864. Meade’s result after the Battle of Gettysburg was not what the President wanted. In his mind, Vicksburg was a more important victory than Gettysburg – except for the address he gave there.
You can argue that the worst day of Meade’s life was when he issued the congratulatory order to his troops on July 7th, where he calls on them for “further exertion to drive the enemy from our soil.” Lincoln will say “My God, my God! What does the man mean? It is all our soil!” On the same day, Lincoln gets the message from Grant that Vicksburg has fallen. And not only had Grant accomplished the military objective, he has opened the Mississippi river to divide the Confederacy, and has destroyed a Confederate army of 40,000 men.
BR: The letter that Lincoln wrote to Meade, the one he never sent, it has always struck me that we can give so much import to a letter like that, one that Lincoln thought better of and didn’t send, when we don’t have any idea how many other letters like that were written and to whom.
EB: We only know about this one because he kept a copy.
BR: And because Nicolay and Hay made sure it was preserved.
BR: Are there any similar studies like this from National Geographic in the works?
EB: Yes. Because of the increased interest in the Revolutionary War, we’re considering doing a book on those conflicts similar to Fields of Honor, which will again be based on my battlefield tours.
There was more, but we moved far afield from the focus of the book, talking a lot about Meade and the bad spot into which he was put after Grant was named General-in-Chief and how history has perhaps misrepresented what Meade would or would not have done had Grant not come east; the influence of surviving correspondence (or lack of same) on the way history has treated various commanders; and even an interesting tidbit regarding why he doesn’t spend much time on the internet and what influenced his decision to retire from the NPS (in short, in the 1940s real men didn’t type). Maybe at some later time I’ll cover that material here.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Ed Bearss, Interviews, NPS, Reviewing
Categories : Articles, Books, Interviews
Friend Tom Clemens gives a quick lesson on Confederate flags:
In case you’re wondering, the Confederate flag in use at First Bull Run was the First National. The Battle Flag didn’t come into existence until after the battle. It’s possible that some units had Bonnie Blue flags, but I’ve seen no positive evidence of that.
Hat tip to Kevin.
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Tags: Articles, Artifacts, Confederate Flags
Categories : Articles