Blogroll Update

8 12 2010

I’ve updated the blogroll once again.  There are a number of additions, some of them are new and some of them have been around for a little while.  Check it out, mostly good stuff there.  If you know of any sites not listed, let me know.  I’ll check them out and if in my magnanimity I deem them worthy, I’ll add them next time around.





In the Works

6 12 2010

Lots of stuff going on around here, but I’m way to busy to get to everything for a little while.  I’m teaching a class tomorrow and trying to get the PowerPoint done.  Then of course all day tomorrow will be taken up with that and winding down from same.  Then I have my next Collateral Damage to finish up – my editor was kind enough to give me an extension.  Hint: this story ties-in directly to the focus of Bull Runnings while at the same time being something of a departure for the column.  I received the paperwork for my Civil War Institute tour and need to figure and fill that out.  And of course (real) work has picked up just when I least expected it.  Once that’s all out of the way – or at least put in better order – I’ll have for you:

  • a new author interview – the longest one yet!
  • a preview/review of an upcoming PBS documentary on a Civil War personality
  • a preview of the new issue of Civil War Times
  • tentatively, an interview with two authors who have written a new Lincoln Book from a Different Point of View (thank you, Jimmy Buffett).  This book will challenge me, as I scored much higher in verbal than math on my SAT.  That’ll make more sense later.

Just let me get through this week and we should be good to go.





Interview: Tonia Smith, Author and Professional ACW Researcher

3 12 2010

Here’s an interview that’s a bit of a departure from the formula:  Tonia “Teej” Smith, while an established author in her own right, is probably most noted as a professional researcher (she’s even helped out Bull Runnings on occasion).  Her name may be familiar to you if you read the acknowledgements sections of a number of Civil War books published in the past 10 years or so.  Teej has also moderated a couple of Civil War email discussion groups and founded the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehust, NC, where I’ll be speaking for the second time this coming May.  Always a great friend, Ms. Smith graciously consented to answer a few questions for Bull Runnings and shed some light on a little known aspect of that there book-writin’ process.

BR:  Can you tell the millions of Bull Runnings readers a little about yourself?
 
TS:  I’m a native Tar Heel, born in Oxford, NC, but, my dad being a career soldier, I was an army brat for the first thirteen years of my life. We did a couple of tours in Germany and were stationed stateside in a number of posts such as Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Carson, Colorado and my personal favorite, Fort Knox, Kentucky. We came back to North Carolina when I was in the 8th grade and, except for a two year sojourn in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I’ve been here ever since. I now live in the golf capitol of North Carolina, Pinehurst, but I have no interest in chasing the little white ball. In 2001, with the urging and support of some dear friends, I started the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst. We began with fourteen members meeting in my sunroom and finished last year with eighty-one paid members in our third meeting place. I still serve on the board of the RBCWRT and am its program director.  Over the years I began doing research for various Civil War authors and eventually began writing articles myself. I also got involved in presenting Civil War programs at local schools and doing roundtable programs based on the articles I’ve written. 
 
BR:  What was it that got you interested in history, and in the Civil War era in particular?
 
TS:  You might say my dad, who was himself a history buff, planted the seed when he took me to my first battlefield, Stones River, and lifted me up so that I could touch a minie ball buried in a witness tree. What I remember most about that trip was the cold and mist (it was January) and the intense silence across the field.  I then took about a thirty-five year hiatus from studying the war when I got involved in school, marriage and raising a family. What brought me back may surprise you. While channel-surfing one Sunday afternoon in the mid 1990s I came across an advertisement for THE MOVIE aka Ted Turner’s Gettysburg. After watching it, I bought the book The Killer Angels, on which the movie was based, and joined an online discussion group that was and still is dedicated to the study of the Gettysburg campaign. I then began building my own library. At first I was all over the place with my studies, trying to learn about individual battles, whole campaigns, and commanders all at the same time. Trying to make up for lost time, you might say, but it didn’t take me long to realize I was going to have to narrow my field of interest if I didn’t want to become overwhelmed. From the very beginning, I was drawn to J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry. The first biography I bought was Manley Wade Wellman’s Giant In Gray.  However, what attracts me most to the Civil War period are the characters that you might say were created by the war. I don’t mean the central players like R.E. Lee, U.S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, etc but people such as Confederate nurse Abby House, or the Cape Fear Minutemen, or cousins Orton Williams and Walter Gipson Peter, both also cousins of Mrs. Robert E. Lee who were executed on June 9, 1863, for spying at Franklin, Tennessee. History has all but forgotten these people but, in my opinion, it’s their stories and stories like theirs, that add the richness and color, and in many cases, the humanity to that era. 
 
BR:  How did you get started as a researcher for other authors? 
 
TS:  As realtors like to say “Location, Location, Location…” Seriously, a writer friend of mine knew that I live just over an hour from the libraries at the University of North Carolina and Duke University. One day he asked me if I would be interested in taking a look-see at a couple of collections he knew to be at those two schools. Like so many researchers, I immediately fell in love with “the hunt,” but I also found out that I have a knack for digging out the arcane tidbit. More importantly, I’m pretty good at deciphering the flowery penmanship prevalent in Civil War era letters, diaries and journals. 
 
BR:  Can you mention some names, like who you’ve worked with and any specific books/articles?
 
TS:  Eric Wittenberg and I share a passion for all things cavalry so I’ve worked more with him than anyone else, most particularly, Glory Enough For All: Sheridan’s Second Raid And The Battle of Trevilian Station and The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and The Civil War’s Final Campaign. Monroe’s Crossroads is just thirty miles from my home so you can understand why I would be interested in it. I’ve also done some work for Dave Powell on his Chickamauga project and for Sheridan “Butch” Barringer whose biography of Brig.Gen. Rufus Barringer, commander of the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade is still in the works. Two years ago I assisted Stevan Meserve in researching his footnotes for an annotation of a journal that eventually became the book In The Shadow of the Enemy: The Civil War Journal of Ida Powell Dulany. If I had to choose a favorite it would be having contributed to A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, by Jim Morgan, both his original edition and the newly revised edition due out next spring. Those last two projects were a bit of challenge for me since they were not cavalry specific. 
 
BR:  Can you describe your research process?
 
TS:  It varies. Sometimes an author will send me to a list of collections found at a specific repository/archive with the request that I look for a  letter or letters known to be in that collection. Most often though, authors send me a list and an overview of what they hope to find in those collections. In which case, it becomes my job to look for references in those collections that are specific to my author’s needs. That often requires that I read every letter in a collection. And sometimes I do come up empty, but that is not as disappointing as it sounds. Often it simply means that the letter writer wasn’t present at an event or he did not find it important enough to write about it. What does take the wind out one’s sails is coming across the letter that begins, “Brother John should be home by now and no doubt has told you all about the battle of __________ so I will not go into the details again…”   Sigh…

It’s an entirely different process when I’m doing research for myself since I have to start from scratch. Often I can get an idea of where to start to search by looking at bibliographies of other authors who have written on  similar topics but most often it comes down to running names, events and locations through the search engines of various universities and other archival sites. I generally start with the universities closest to home and branch out from there. Even when I find what I think I need in the collections at Duke or Chapel Hill, I will still check other facilities to make sure that all of my bases are covered. Whether I’m working for myself or another author, the process has been greatly simplified by the growing number of research institutions that allow the use of digital cameras. In the same amount of time it used to take me to copy a few letters in a file, I can photograph the entire file and then decide what is truly needed at a later time. Another lesson I’ve learned is if the research facility has a card catalog as well as an online finding aid, use both. Often things in the card catalogs fall through the cracks in the transcription process.  
 
BR:  What are some of the surprises you uncovered in your research?
 
TS:  WOW…that’s actually a tough question as I have seldom completed a research project without finding some surprising tidbit that either confirmed what I originally had thought or told me that I was going in the wrong direction. But one that comes to readily to mind was a letter written by J.E.B. Stuart to Custis Lee, April 9, 1864, that I found at Virginia Historical Society while researching material for an article on Flora Cooke Stuart [wife of J. E. B.]. It was marked “confidential” and with good reason. Most cavalry folks know there was no love lost between Stuart and Wade Hampton but until I saw this letter, I had no idea of the extent to which Stuart was prepared to go to rid himself of the troublesome South Carolinian. Stuart also made a reference to the need for him and Custis to do what they could to keep cavalry chieftain, Fitz Lee, from drinking for the duration of the war. Her husband was barely cold in his grave before Stuart’s chief of staff, H.B. McClellan, wrote to Flora to warn her of the destructive nature of this letter and to suggest that she get the letter from Custis Lee and destroy it. Lee, too, was all for destroying the letter but Mrs. Stuart refused to do so.  The Jonathan Olds’ Flora Cooke Stuart Papers at Virginia Historical Society – which I was fortunate to be allowed to access even before they were cataloged – turned out to be a virtual gold mine of little known facts concerning the Stuart family after Yellow Tavern. 
 
BR:  Can you describe any instances where your research turned up anything that either conflicted with or confirmed your preconceived notions prior to starting a project?
 
TS:  One of the questions I’m most often asked when I do a program on Flora Stuart is whether there was ever reconciliation between the Stuarts and the Cookes. While I knew that Philip St. George Cooke reached out to his daughter when he heard about Jeb’s death, I hadn’t until recently been able to determine if she responded to him. Letters written by Cooke to his nephew, John Esten Cooke, which were recently posted on a website maintained by Cooke family descendants, indicated that she did. There is conclusive proof at Virginia Historical Society that Cooke also reconciled with his son, Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke, CSA.

The “smoking gun” that continues to elude me is proof positive that Orton Williams was not a glory hound so consumed with a desire to make a name for himself that he ended up getting himself and his cousin killed at Franklin, Tennessee. However, two years ago, I found a heretofore unpublished letter in the Mary Lee papers at Virginia Historical Society written April 7, 1863 by R.E. Lee to Orton Williams which totally debunked the often told story that Lee considered Williams a drunk and a failure. It also put to rest the notion that Orton’s immediate superiors, too, considered him a failure, and had removed him from command.  Add to that another unpublished letter I found at Duke’s Perkins Library which was written by J.E.B. Stuart at about the same time as the Lee letter to an unnamed colonel serving in the western theatre.  In his letter, Stuart stated he was he was pleased that the colonel was returning to serve in Virginia where “he should have been all along.” Lee, too, expressed a desire to have Williams back in Virginia. Not exactly resounding evidence that Williams and Peter had a legitimate reason to go to Fort Granger dressed in Union uniforms but if previous historians were wrong about the nature and character of Orton Williams which is the basis for their claim that Williams was unstable then in what other areas of the story might they have erred?

BR:  Can you tell us something about your own writing and speaking engagements?
 
TS:  My first article was titled Gentlemen, You Have Played This D____ed Well, published in the September 2005 issue of North and South Magazine. It was the story of the capture and execution of the aforementioned Confederate officers Colonel William Orton Williams and his first cousin, Lieutenant Walter Gibson Peter. Since then I’ve had an article on Confederate nurse Abby House published by America’s Civil War  and one in Civil War Times on the Stuart-Custis Lee letter. My article on Flora Cooke Stuart is still pending with ACW. I’ve done programs on Flora Stuart for the Loudoun County CWRT in Leesburg, Va., and the Eastern Loudoun County CWRT in Sterling Virginia, and for the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society in Richmond this past May. I’ve also spoken on Mrs. Stuart to various roundtables in my home state of North Carolina and will go to Huntsville, Alabama next June to tell her story of life without Jeb to the Tennessee Valley CWRT. In addition to the Stuart programs, I’ve also given presentations on Aunt Abby House, Confederate nurse; the capture and imprisonment of Brig. Gen. Rufus Barringer, the only Confederate general in uniform that Abraham Lincoln met; and the execution of Williams and Peter, most recently at the 2009 Longwood Seminar in Lynchburg, Virginia. 
 
BR:  What’s next for you?  

TS:  I’m very excited about a new research project that I will be starting next week for James Hessler, author of Sickles At Gettysburg. Jim’s next book will concern Lt. Gen. James Longstreet at Gettysburg and I will be going to Perkins Library at Duke and Wilson Library at UNC for him. On May 10, 2011, I will debut a new program based on the capture of Forts Caswell and Johnson on the North Carolina coast in January 1861 by a group of men out of Wilmington, NC who called themselves the Cape Fear Minutemen. Like my other roundtable presentations, this one will be based on an article that I am in the process of writing.

There are quite a few folks who owe Teej a lot, including writers, readers – and bloggers.  I have a couple of tidbits she scrounged up that I’ll be adding to the Resources section here in the future.  If you’re an author with research needs of your own and would like to explore the possibility of working with Teej, she can be reached at teej@nc.rr.com.





Winfield Scott’s “Operational Art”

2 12 2010

Dmitri Rotov has this interesting series going on Winfield Scott that looks at what Dmitri calls Scott’s “first two offensives” from a slightly different angle.  Check it out.





Manassas in the News

2 12 2010

Here are a couple of news items concerning the battlefield and surrounding area.

This one on cemeteries located on the battlefields of Manassas.

And this one on expectations for tourism in the coming year.





Gettysburg College Civil War Institute Conference 2011 Schedule

1 12 2010

The schedule for the 2011 Gettysburg College Civil War Institute conference, Mobilizing for War and the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run, has been announced.  They’ve put together quite a lineup of speakers and guides.  The conference runs from June 26 to July 1, with guided tours of the First Bull Run battlefield slated all day on Wednesday, June 29.  Each of the seven guides will be leading their own specialized tour.  The tours are part of the conference package and cannot be attended separately.   The guides are:

  • Ed Bearss
  • Ray Brown
  • Jim Burgess
  • Ethan Rafuse
  • Joe Rizzo
  • Harry Smeltzer
  • Greg Wolf

You can find the full conference schedule here; registration info here.  As more on the tours becomes available, I’ll let you know.





An Ohio Man’s Experience in the Rebel Army Part II

1 12 2010

The article is from the Steubenville Daily Herald on August 27, 1861.

The Long Lost “Teen Johnson” turns up at Washington – Has been Impressed into the Secesh Army – His sad Experience of Southern Hospitality and Respect for a “Mud-sill.”

The following letter, with accompanying report, came to hand this morning: 

Washington, Aug. 23d, 1861

W.R. Allison – Dear Sir:

The following I found in this evening’s Star – After reading it, in company with Ed. D. Collier, Esq., I repaired to the Central Guard House, and there found the identical, long lost “Teen” Johnson. He looks a little worse for the wear, but is in good spirits waiting a pass from General McClellan to get home. He will, no doubt, reach Steubenville in a few days, where I bespeak him a kind reception from his relation and friends; if coming through “great fires” and hard treatment should entitle him to such, he certainly deserves it.

Your friend, &c

W.H. Evans

——————————————————-

There is now at the Central Guard house in this city a man by the name of Augustine Johnson, who was formerly a citizen of Steubenville, Ohio, where has has or had a few months since a mother and four children living. In the last four months his experiences have not been of the most agreeable kind, as will be seen on reading the following narrative of his adventures during that time. He is quite intelligent, and gave us this morning a detailed account of his “moving accidents by flood and field,” his “hair breadth ‘scapes,” &c. from which we condense the following statement:

Early last spring he embarked on a flatboat for New Orleans, where he arrived after a trip abounding with the usual incidents of life on the river. On the 25th day of April last he and many other Northern men were impressed into the rebel service. To distinguish these Northern VOLUNTEERS from the chivalry their heads were closely shaved so that they might be easily spotted. It was Mr. Johnson’s fate to fall into the 1st Special Battalion of New Orleans, Major Wheat commanding. After much suffering for want of proper food and clothing the battalion found themselves at Manassas Junction, Mr. J. suffering more than his comrades because he was suspected on account of his northern birth. We omit an account of many painful incidents and come at once to the battle of “Stone Bridge,” or “Bull Run.” Major Wheat’s battalion was stationed on the extreme left – our extreme right. Near him was a South Carolina regiment under cover of the pines, separated by an open space from the Federal Infantry, also under cover. Major Wheat advanced his men into this open space and was fired on by the South Carolina regiment. Somewhat confused by this unexpected attack from friends, the battalion wavered, and a deadly fire poured in by the Federal troops, Major Wheat being the first to fall. The loss of life by that line was terrible. Near Mr. Johnson were two other northern men. One of them David Vance of Philadelphia, was instantly killed. The other, a comrade and warm friend of Johnson’s, an Illinoisan, named John H. Hutchinson, was shot under the eye. He was in such agony that Johnson carried him from the field a long way to the hospital, occasionally resting with the wounded man’s head on his lap.

After taking his friend to the hospital, he thought the time had come to try an escape, as in the confusion there were no pickets out. He took his gun and started westward, up a ravine. After getting a considerable distance from the battlefield, he threw away his gun and cartridge box. The uniform of the battalion was cotton pants of the mixed color known as pepper and salt, and a red shirt. Under his red shirt, Johnson had a checkered cotton shirt. He now changed these by putting the checkered shirt outside and the red one under, expecting instant death if he was arrested as a deserter. He heard the firing all day on Sunday and traveled away from it in a Northwest direction. At night he took two shucks of wheat and made a bed, on which he slept soundly, and was awakened by the rain on Monday morning. He shortly afterwards reached a Quaker settlement in Loudoun county, where he found a haven of rest, being kindly taken care of for some weeks. Being anxious to reach his home, he left Loudoun on Friday last and came by way of Harper’s Ferry to this city, where he is waiting for a pass to enable him to go over the roads without interruption, he having no funds to defray his expenses by railroad.

Mr. Johnson says he did not receive one cent of pay whilst in the Confederate service. He says that Loudoun county is devastated, as if it had been overrun by locusts. The horses and wagons have all been seized and the grain and other provisions carried off, barely leaving temporary subsistence for the old people and children left at home.

See Part I

See Notes








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