Elsewhere in Blogsville

9 03 2011
 
This is the first in what promises to be an interesting series of posts over at Civil War Bookshelf. I’ve discussed before (see here and here, for example) the murky origins of Irvin McDowell’s (left) rise to power in 1861. Dmitri proposes to delve into it more deeply – I think – with the added attraction of William B. Franklin (right). Franklin was a brigade commander in Heintzelman’s division of McDowell’s army at First Bull Run, but was apparently associated with McDowell in other ways.

Check it out.





While You’re Waiting…

9 03 2011

…for me to post something new, check out this post from 2009. Goofy stuff.





Twitter

7 03 2011

OK – it’s been a week and we’re tweeting away. Some pretty cool joints are following Bull Runnings there – 37 in all, including the Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia Historical Society, U. S. Dept. of the Interior, and folks who also follow the blog directly or on feed readers, Facebook, and other middlemen.

If you have a Twitter account, it’s easy to follow. Just click on the link over to the right, cryptically labeled Click here to follow Bull Runnings on Twitter. Links and short bits that don’t necessarily make it to “the Big Site” will show up there.





More on the Blue & Gray BR1 Issue

4 03 2011

In this post I let you know that the next issue of Blue & Gray magazine will feature First Bull Run. For those who don’t know, since 1983 B&G has been publishing this very fine magazine about six times a year.  Each issue focuses on one campaign or battle, and sometimes very specific pieces of a campaign or battle. For example Gettysburg has been done about a gajillion times over the past 28 years. But believe it or not, this will be the first issue dedicated to BR1. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s a sneak peek of the cover, from the magazine’s site.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I asked Jim Burgess at Manassas National Battlefield to proof an article I was writing (I’ve since submitted my final draft, after rewriting the whole thing – that’s what editors are for, and good editors make good writers). At the time he told me about the upcoming issue, and that the feature was written by ranger Henry Elliott. Nobody knows Bull Run like the good folks who work there at the park, so this should be first-rate. I’m really looking forward to it – 20 maps! A driving tour! This will come as quite a surprise to those supposedly learned students convinced that this important battle was simply a meeting of two armed mobs, with no displays of tactics whatsoever and therefore unworthy of attention.

Of course, Blue & Gray won’t be the only publication focusing on our favorite topic in the coming months. Keep an eye out here for more news in that regard.





Shelby Foote Estate Sale

3 03 2011

An estate sale at, and of, Shelby Foote’s house in midtown Memphis is coming up.  Check out this article, and these photos, one of which is at left.

That old boy had some really cool stuff! In addition to this sheet music, he had lots and lots of…butterflies?

Thanks to Facebook friend Russ Bonds.





America’s Civil War May 2011

3 03 2011

Inside this issue:

Field Notes:

  • Wilderness battlefield preservation victory
  • The Lowry controversy
  • Budget woes affect sesqui efforts
  • Monitor restoration
  • Georgia Dept of Agriculture removes controversial murals

5 Questions:

  • Daniel Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop

Cease Fire:

  • Harold Holzer discusses historical honesty

Legends

  • Ron Soodalter points out some surprising lyrics in state songs that are unchanged to this day

Features

  • Jackson, Johnston and Conflicting Interests – Dennis Frye: differing opinions on holding Harper’s Ferry in 1861
  • Looking for a Few Good Men: recruiting poster photo essay
  • An Omen a Philippi - Gerald Swick: early fight in Western Virginia, with an interesting sidebar on James Hanger, an amputee whose prosthetic manufacturing company lives on today
  • The Common Soldier’s Recipe for Disaster: photo essay on the culinary delights of the Civil War
  • Diary of a Morgan Raider – John M. Porter: in fact, a memoir. Extract form One of Morgan’s Men, Kent Masterson Brown, ed.

Reviews

  • My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy - Nora Titone
  • God’s Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War - George Rable
  • Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose - W. Eric Emerson & Karen Stokes, eds.
  • A Young Virginia Boatman Navigates the Civil War: The Journals of George Randolph Wood - Will Molineux, ed.
  • Santa Fe Trail (Film)
  • Harry’s Just Wild About
    • John Bell Hood and the Fight for Civil War Memory - Brian Craig Miller
    • The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It - Brooks Simpson, Stephen Sears, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, eds.
    • Caught Between Three Fires: Cass County, MO, Chaos, & Order No. 11, 1860-1865 - Tom Rafiner
    • The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864 - Philip Secrist




Blue & Gray Does First Bull Run!

2 03 2011

Finally! Jim Burgess told me about this a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to Drew for alerting everyone to this!





Manassas Sesqui Shindig

2 03 2011

Go here for details on tickets for the upcoming sesquicentennial commemoration at Manassas.





The Bensons of Sudley Church

1 03 2011

An edited version of this story ran in the April 2011 issue of Civil War Times.  I’m running it here with additional photos with permission of the publisher.  It is titled as it appears in the magazine.

Repaying a Debt of Compassion

Ruins of Christian Hill

Ruins of Christian Hill

Today a pile of rubble, hard by the cut of the still unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad and across the road from the impressive bulk of the Sudley Church, is all that marks the site of what tradition holds was the home of Amos Benson and his wife Margaret.  Precisely when the Bensons occupied the house is not clear, but it was not until after the war was over. By most accounts it was to the modest dwelling known appropriately as “Christian Hill” that John L. Rice, erstwhile private of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, made his way on horseback from Washington, DC in October, 1886.  He had a debt to pay.  How he had incurred that debt and how he went about paying it is the stuff of legend, a story of compassion and reconciliation.

Amos Benson

The pre-war history of the Bensons is sketchy.  Amos was born in September, 1825, in Maryland;  Margaret Newman was born in May of 1821 and grew up in the vicinity of Sudley Springs.  The two were married sometime prior to 1850.  Census records and maps indicate that at the time of the Battle of First Bull Run the Bensons were living east – the “other” side – of Bull Run, in Fairfax County.  In March of 1862, Amos would leave Margaret to go to war with Company A of the 4th Virginia Cavalry, a unit whose roster was thick with names from the area.  He eventually rose to the rank of third corporal.

On Sunday morning, July 21, 1861, members of the congregation to which Amos and Margaret belonged made their way along roads and trails to the Sudley Methodist Church along the Sudley Road south of the fords over Bull and Catharpin Runs.  They were no doubt startled to encounter columns of soldiers marching down the main road.  The worshippers had run headlong into the advance of Union General Irvin McDowell’s army as it moved to turn the forces of Confederate generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston from their positions along Bull Run.

John Rice

At the head of that column was Colonel Ambrose Burnside’s brigade of Col. David Hunter’s division, which included Rice’s 2nd NH.  Despite initial success in the morning, later in the afternoon McDowell’s forces were driven back from the Confederate position near the Henry house.  Prior to the retreat Rice was wounded, shot through the lungs by a musket ball.  His fellows carried him towards the rear and Sudley Church where Union surgeons had set up shop, but with the enemy closing in and Rice apparently dead, they laid him in under a fence and made good their escape.  Two days later, Rice recovered consciousness, still under the fence where his comrades had left him.  His wound had putrefied and become infested with maggots.

Later that evening, as they were making their way back to their home from Sudley Church where they had been assisting with the care of wounded Union soldiers, the Benson’s found Rice in his dire state.  Amos went back to the church and returned with a Confederate surgeon.  The exhausted doctor dismissed Rice as a hopeless case and returned to his duties, but the Bensons were determined.  Margaret brought some food from their home and Amos stripped and washed Rice and cleaned out his wound.  He was too seriously injured to move, so for ten days the Benson’s clothed, fed, and cared for Rice under the fence, until he was well enough to move to a freight car in Manassas for treatment and eventual imprisonment in Richmond.

Rice was later exchanged and re-enlisted to serve again in the war, becoming an officer.  But even twenty-five years later he had not forgotten the Bensons and the debt he felt he owed.  In 1886 while on a trip to the nation’s capital he determined to revisit the site of his near-death experience.  He made inquiries in the area and found the Bensons.  They took him to the place where they had nursed him and visited the battlefield.  Rice learned of Amos’s service in the war and was surprised to realize that he had doubtless faced his benefactor on the battlefield.

Rice of course thanked the Bensons for their kindness and attention in his time of need, and they modestly said they were simply “obeying the dictates of humanity”.  Rice persisted in his efforts to find some way to repay the Bensons, and Amos hit upon a solution:

Rebuilt Sudley Church

“If you want to do that you can help us poor people here pay for our little church yonder.  We owe $200 on it yet, which in this poor country is a heavy burden.”

Rice determined then to not only contribute, but to return to his home in Massachusetts and raise the entire sum of the debt remaining on the rebuilt Sudley Church, which had been destroyed during the war.  On November 24, he told story of his wounding, the kindness of the Bensons, and the plight of the congregation in the pages of Springfield’s “The Republican”:

“I do not know what creed is taught in that church, but it cannot be wrong in any essential of Christian faith when it bears such fruit as I have described…There must be still living many Massachusetts soldiers who can bear testimony with me to the timely aid rendered by those people when so many of our wounded were left uncared for on that disastrous field.”

By November 28, Rice had received $235 from seventy-nine people, including twenty-seven veterans.  The donations ranged from $0.50 to $20.00.  In describing the religious and political backgrounds of the contributors to the Bensons, Rice quoted Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

“Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in welcome of thee”

And in a letter of thanks to Rice, Amos said the value of the act was more than financial.  In fact, it had “converted” the previously un-reconstructed Margaret.  John Rice’s debt to the Bensons was repaid.

Amos Benson Headstone

Margaret Benson Headstone

A history of the Sudley Church states that once the war ended Amos and Margaret moved to Warrenton, and in the early 1880′s had come back to the area of the Springs and were living in a house located 1/8 mile south of Sudley Church and owned by Reverend Henry Cushing – probably Christian Hill.  Margaret died in 1898, and Amos followed her in 1901.  They are buried together very near the southern door of the modern Sudley Church.  The shared marker says of Amos: “He was a good man and full of faith”; of Margaret: “She was a child of God, lived a happy life and died in peace.”

As is often the case, there are some parts of the story of what happened after Rice’s wounding that are in doubt. See John Hennessy’s post here.








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