Preview: Ronald A. Hopkins, “Forget Not the Cry of the Humble”

31 08 2011

I have been remiss. Months ago reader Ron Hopkins sent me a copy of his Civil War novel Forget Not the Cry of the Humble. and I’m just now getting around to posting a preview. I should mention that I barely have time for the Civil War non-fiction I want to read, let alone fiction. And fiction is much more difficult to preview for me than non-fiction. But Mr. Hopkins was kind enough to send me the book, so the least I can do is mention it here. Here’s a link to a web page Ron has set up describing the book. This page is on a website for Ron’s other novel, which he also sent me, Sherman’s Creek, a non-Civil War murder mystery. Give either one a tumble if they sound like your cup of tea. From the web page:

Forget Not the Cry of the Humble, the moving Civil War novel by Ronald A. Hopkins, offers an undeterred and powerful view into the lives of young foot soldiers who waged the war’s bloody battles.

Simple Pennsylvania farmers when their country calls upon them to fight, Jesse Potter and George Zinnt are baptized by the fire of Fredericksburg and struggle to hold the line at Gettysburg, the place at which their – and their nation’s – lives change forever.

Set amidst the brutal Southern weather, conflicts within their regiment and turmoil within their own natures rage alongside the horrors of the battlefield to provide the reader with a new understanding of the term “war hero”.





Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

30 08 2011

Extract of a Private Letter

From a member of the Washington Light Infantry

Camp of the Legion
Manassas Junction, July 24,

On Friday afternoon, at [?] o’clock p. m., we left our camp at Richmond and started for this place. The distance is only a hundred and fifty miles, but as we were travelling as freight, and on a freight train, our progress was terribly slow. At some places we stopped three hours at a time, waiting for other trains to pass, but at last we reached the long wished for goal of our desires, Manassas Junction. Beauregard, as you are aware, commands here in person – the invincible, idolized Beauregard. When we reached this place, which was at daybreak Sunday morning, we understood that Gen. Beauregard was momentarily expecting an attack from the enemy, who were advancing on this place, in great force, via Centreville. Col. Hampton received a despatch ordering the advance of the Legion as soon as they had eaten breakfast. We pitched one large tent, crowded all our baggage into it, burned all our letters, eat a hasty breakfast, and took the road. Just as we were leaving camp we heard the artillery, about six miles distant, firing upon the enemy.

The morning was calm and beautiful; a clear, cool Sabbath morning; and while, at home, our friends were quietly preparing to go to Church, we were hurrying on to the field of battle. It was a strange Sabbath day! As we hurried along through the beautiful forest roads, the men in excellent spirits, conversing cheerfully and hopefully of the work before us, I was forcibly reminded of these lines from Byron’s Waterloo:

“And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Grieving, if aught inanimate o’er grieves,
O’er the unreturning brave.”

Alas! how true of many of them – unretruning. At the first fire, two fell, who never spoke again, one of them, young Phelps, of Charleston, the other a brave Pole, whose name was Blankenzie.

About five miles from camp we first saw the enemy. A dense column of them were steadily moving up a lane, about half a mile off, upon which our artillery was playing with fearful effect. At each discharge of our pieces a wide break would suddenly appear in the long line of glittering bayonets, and ere they reached cover, many a foeman bit the dust. While on a hill, the enemy turned their artillery on us. The miserable scoundrels, contrary to the usage of civilized warfare, fired chain shot at us; but their aim was not good, and they flew over our heads, whistling like a flock of blackbirds. One round shot struck under the belly of Col. Hampton’s horse, covering him with the red clay. Finding that we were too far off to attack the enemy here, we wound around the base of the hill in order to cut them off. As we came out from the cover of the hill and reached a little hollow sparsely covered with trees, the enemy poured a withering fire upon us – round shot, chain shot, shell, musket and rifle balls fell like hail among us; it seemed as if a great hurricane was sweeping the valley; bushes and trees were cut to pieces. Here the Legion lost their first man. I cannot tell how many fell. The Manning Guards had three men killed  by one grape-shot; they were terribly mangled, but the poor fellows did not suffer, as they were immediately killed. Here we paused a few moments, then hastily forming mad a rush up the hill, but could find no enemy. We then filed down a lane, deploying the men at the same time under cover of a rail fence. We could now see their columns advancing – one immediately below us of three thousand, one to the left about five thousand, and to the right about ten thousand strong. The column nearest to us had a palmetto flag, and by this means completely deceived us. An old Texan scout, who was along with us, told us they were enemies, but our officers would not believe him; he, however, advanced to the fence, and laying his rifle on a gate post, took a long and steady aim, and when he fired the smile of satisfaction that lit his rugged countenance showed that his aim had been true. The Texan’s shot drew the fire of the enemy upon us, and the musket balls flew in clouds above us. Some ten of our men fell; two of them partially blinded by splinters – Ancrum and Bob Baker, from Charleston. Ancrum’s face was fearfully disfigured. Bob Bomar was reported mortally wounded, and so was old Mr. Ga. Jervey of Mount Pleasant; others were wounded badly, but are in a fair way to recover. We now poured a deadly volley amongst the Yankees, and, jumping the fence, charged them; but they were too fast for us, and succeeded in joining their column to the right. We took one prisoner, who came up voluntarily to Lieut. Logan and told him that he surrendered himself a prisoner. Logan took his rifle – a magnificent breech loading piece (one of Sharpe’s patent) – and gave it to old Calvert – our Texan scout – a splendid shot. Calvert ensconced himself in a little hollow, and, with the Yankee’s rifle, picked off fifteen of the enemy. We now advanced by the right flank to another lane, where we lay for an hour or two under the fire of twenty thousand men. The air was filled with balls. We were partially covered by a ditch about eighteen inches deep; and here my Zouave drill helped me a great deal in loading lying down. Lieut. Col. Johnson was killed here by a Minnie ball passing through his temple and out the back of his head. He fell without a groan. As we lay in this ditch, the balls flying over us sounded just as if we were in a swamp, with clouds of mosquitos about our ears. Several times, when I raised my head to fire, the balls would cut the edge of the ditch, and throw the dirt in my face. One spent ball cut my upper lip, but gave me no pain. Three times we were driven from this position, and twice, unsupported, regained it. The third time several other fresh regiments assisted us. We fought through lanes, over fences, around farm houses and in all sorts of places. Once we came near losing our colors, and when our company rallied to its support, only thirty out of ninety were left together. Col. Hampton was shot, and our gallant Capt. Conner, senior Captain, took command. About 3 O’clock Kershaw’s regiment, with several others, reached the field, when they gave a cheer and firing one volley advanced at the charge; the enemy’s column broke in confusion, and fled like dogs. The battle raged along a line of several miles, and everywhere our troops, though badly cut up, were victorious, and about five o’clock the rout became general. President Davis arrived at this time from Richmond with seven thousand fresh troops, they were, however, too late to take part in the fight. The five hundred cavalry pursued the enemy some miles. Infantry followed them as far as Centreville. Every now and then the flying artillery would wheel into line and pour a deadly volley into their ranks. The enemy threw away everything. We captured sixty-two pieces of artillery, among which were Sherman’s celebrated battery and Doubleday’s famous big rifle cannon; whether we got all his pieces or not, I cannot say. Cochrane, of New York, was killed, and a great many others of the big men either were killed or captured. About two thousand of the enemy were killed on the road to Centreville. The Louisiana Zouaves fought like tigers; a squad of them with bowie knives in hand, chased some twenty-five Yankees into a thicket, and there cut them up with their knives. They are terrible looking fellows; a great many of them are Frenchmen, savage-looking brown fellows, with black, cropped heads and wiry moustaches. I could relate much more that is horrible to think of, now that the excitement is over, but will refrain on account of the ladies. Such a battle was never before fought in America. For ten or eleven hours seventeen thousand men were opposed to seventy five thousand, and at the end of the time utterly routed them, capturing all their artillery and taking one thousand or more prisoners, and killing thousands of others. Seventeen thousand is the highest estimate of our men who were actually engaged, and seventy five thousand is the lowest estimate of the enemy. Some of the prisoners say that they had eighty-five thousand, and others ninety. The enemy were so confident of victory that they took only three days’ provisions, thinking that would suffice to take them to Richmond. Letters were found among their effects, written to their families, informing them that on Sunday they would attack Beauregard, and then push right on to Richmond. Alas for all human calculations, they never reached Manassas. About one thousand visitors [came from?] Washington to see us whipped, among them numbers of Congressmen. When the news reached them that their troops were in retreat, they fled like sheep, leaving wagons and carriages behind them, stored with champagne and good things of all kinds. I have not told a tenth part of the events of that day, but hope at some future day to tell you[all in person?]. The retreat of the enemy from Fairfax was very amusing. An old gentleman from there says that all of their [forces?] who were beaten here fell back on that place, together with Congressman, Members of the Cabinet, &c., and that at 12 o’clock at night a scout brought them word that our troops were advancing. He says that such fear and confusion were never seen before. In a few moments the place was deserted, baggage, arms, ammunition, everything was left behind. President Davis says that he has all the arms he could wish for, and that the 21st of July was Southern Independence day.

Among the wounded was Sweat, whom I have mentioned in one of my letters. He and I were in a ditch, when the Company was ordered to fall back. We both turned for a parting shot. Just as he fired he fell back wounded in two places, in the side and arm – severely but not mortally. There are not more than one-third of the Company who have not received a scratch of some sort. There are more holes through coat tails and hats, than one can count. But I have written enough.

Charleston Mercury 8/5/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

29 08 2011

Private Letters

Extract of a letter from a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers

Manassas Junction, July 23, 1861

We were thirty six hours coming from Richmond without any food or sleep. Arrived at Manassas Sunday morning, swallowed a few morsels and immediately proceeded to the field of battle. Arriving there we were placed in the advance position. We saw the enemy approaching as in solid columns. As soon as they came within musket distance we gave them a volley which caused them to retreat. They again rallied, and supported by Ellsworth’s Zouaves, advanced an poured a volley of fire amongst us which was most disastrous. Johnson was then killed, and we were compelled to retreat. Beauregard then appeared amongst us, inspired us, and volunteered to lead us if we would follow. We gave him cheer after cheer. The order was then given to charge, which the men obeyed, and carried Doubleday’s batteries of six guns at the point of the bayonet.

The flower of the U. S. Army were against us. The Legion has the honor of carrying the day, and keeping 18,000 men at bay for two hours, subjected to the most galling fire of musketry, shells and cannonry. We went upon the field with six hundred and returned with three hundred.

We pursued the enemy as far as Centreville. The road along which they retreated was strewn with their dead and dying – horses, guns, ammunition, clothing, baggage, provisions, &c., literally covered the ground – fifty-three pieces of artillery captured.

I had the honor of bearing our banner, when we captured the celebrated Doubleday battery. My gun is torn up, and I escaped almost miraculously. None of the boys are hurt. Our Company lost thirty-nine killed, wounded and missing. Captain Conner behaved gallantly. I am sorry we lose him, as he now commands the legion.

Charleston Courier 8/7/1861

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Still More Hampton’s Legion Resources Coming

29 08 2011

I still have a few more letters from members of Hampton’s Legion to post. However, the writer’s of these letters were not identified in the newspapers in which they were printed. So, if you’re one of the Legion’s devoted, umm, legions and can help me out with some ID’s, I’d really appreciate it. And it’s a way for you to live forever on the internet. So , you’ll have that going for you. Which is nice.





Chaplain, W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry]., Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle and Aftermath

24 08 2011

Camp Johnson, Va., August 5

Hardships of our Volunteers – Cooking – Need of Rice and Grist – Sunday after the Battle – Incidents of the Camp – Shooting with one Eye – Gen. Beauregard’s Address – Strict Discipline, etc, etc.

In  commencing this letter, I would, through you, urge upon all those who are sending contributions to the sick soldiers, to remember, as well, whose who are not; for, believe me, the fighting part is but a portion of all our brothers are enduring for the sake of home and honor. The Department furnishes flour, salt and water; and the fried, heavy fritters, and the raw, doughy biscuits, are doing as much damage as Minnie balls and patent shells. Send our men rice and grist in flour barrels. In that size it is more easily moved. Send it, and pay the expenses to Manassas, cost what it will. Also send peas and beans. Send them each week; it will save the lives of many who, else, will perish under the present fare and wretched water they are compelled to use. Our wounded are all doing well. Sweat, poor fellow, has lost his arm. Bomar is recovering. Green is getting on well; he is still at Manassas. We have not been able to move him yet. Chapin is well cared for in Richmond. I saw him yesterday; he says he wants for nothing. Sergeant Gardner, whose gallantry I have heard much of, is also there, getting on well. George Wear is improving, and will return to camp this week. Baker’s eye has recovered; he has gone back to camp; also, Hutson and Atkinson. They report on the well list again. Thompson is at Gordonsville, with a relative, doing well.

Sunday before last we gathered together under the shade trees which skirt our camp in the rear, and there offered our prayers and praises to Almighty God. The contrast between the two Lord’s days, and the difference of occupation, seemed to strike impressively the whole congregation, and I have seldom preached or prayed with a more solemnized people. I hear there has been a marked difference in the Legion since the fight. I am sure all at home will join me in the prayer that the impression may be lasting, and God’s work may be blessed by Him among them.

You may judge the coolness of some of our men on the day of battle by the following incident: Corporal Baker was shot in the eye, and , unable to see, he remarked to the Colonel, “My eye is shot out; what am I to do?” “Shoot with the other eye,” said the Colonel. “But I always shut one eye when I shoot.” “Well,” said the Colonel, “you are saved that trouble; one is shut for you; open the other and shoot.” Baker tried, but finding it impossible to see, he left the field; worn out, he took his seat at the foot of a tree, where, a few moments after, he found a companion. “Neighbor, where are you from?” said the Corporal, “Massachusetts,” said the fellow. “O, you are a Yankee, are you?” “Yes,” was the reply. Baker looked at the man, and, as well as he could see, he had no wound, and was armed. The Corporal had not even a pen-knife with him; he looked all around for a weapon, and his vision being very short, he could find nothing. After being in this disagreeable proximity for some minutes, he, in his usual quiet way, informed the Yankee he was going, and the fellow making no objections, the Corporal retired. There was a narrow escape. Gen. Beauregard’s remarks to the Legion, as near as I can remember them, were: Soldiers: You are all Carolinians, and it is not the custom of Carolinians to be conquered – forward!” One of the Zouaves said he had been wounded and taken prisoners, and carried to the rear of a South Carolina regiment, and while lying on the ground he saw one of the South Carolinians, who was severely wounded himself, crawl up to a stump, and load and fire his gun eleven times as he sat there waiting to be taken from the field. Who can conquer such a spirit as this? There is a very amusing anecdote told of Adjutant B. When in full pursuit, near Centreville, and officer appeared among them, moving around quite briskly. The Adjutant was quite suspicious of the stranger. “Who are you, sir, and what are you doing here?” “Me, sir, I am General S—, of Virginia.” “You may be General S—, but I don’t know you, sir.” “Don’t know me, sir?” looking around with great indignation, “why, everybody knows me about here. I am General S—.” “That may be, sir,” said the Adjutant, “but for the present you must keep in the rear.” At length a happy thought suggested itself. “Show me your shirt, sir.” “My shirt, sir, my shirt!” and with boiling indignation the General showed his shirt where the name was written in full, and the General received the apologies and the pass from the Adjutant. A hint to the home folks to mark all the clothes in convenient places. We don’t know when some more of us may find the same useful.

I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon,

Yours, the
Chaplain W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry].

Charleston Mercury 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





New Jackson Bio

24 08 2011

Just a quick note to let folks know that a new biography of Stonewall Jackson by friend Ethan Rafuse is now available for order from Amazon.com. Ethan has not been one to simply repeat what others have written about familiar characters like Meade and McClellan. This is a short one at 150 pages, but I’m sure it will be worth your while.





William C. Heriot, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

23 08 2011

Hampton’s Legion

We have been furnished with the following extract from our fellow-citizen, William C. Heriot, Esq., of the Washington Light Infantry, Hampton’s Legion, to his father in this city. It is dated:

Manassas Junction, July 23, 1861

My Dear Father: – I wrote to sister from Richmond, two days previous to our departure for this place, stating that Hampton’s Legion would move forwards for the seat of war in a few days. The Legion experienced very rough times on the passage to this place. We were two days and nights on our journey. The fare was very bad, but we had an abundance of water, which, you know, (being an old soldier) is a great desideratum. The inhabitants of the country were very loud in their demonstrations of joy on hearing that the Legion was on board the cars.

The face of the country is certainly grand and picturesque. You have a very fine view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The eye, as it ranges over the beautiful fields, is greeted everywhere with the sight of green foliage. This is a very abundant country. The stocks of cattle and sheep are equal to any in Kentucky or Tennessee. Large fields of clover are to be seen on all sides. The original soil is extremely fertile, and immense quantities of guano are used annually.

But I must endeavor to give you an account of the greatest battle ever fought in America, which occurred on Sunday, 21st July, 7 miles from this place. The battle commenced at daylight on Sunday morning at Bull Run. Hampton’s Legion arrived here at daylight on that morning, while the battle was going on. We partook of a cup o coffee and some dry bread, and marched immediately for the scene of action. We arrived on the battle field at 8 o’clock, and immediately commenced operations. Oh, what an awful day! The heart sickens at the sight of so much misery. We literally had to walk over the bodies of the living and dying. The force of the enemy is variously estimated. Some say 45,000 and I have heard it put down at 60,000. The Confederate forces consisted of about 20,000 men, commanded in person by Gen. Beauregard. What a noble fellow he is. We came very near losing him. His horse was shot under him. The immediate scene of operations extended about eight or nine miles. The battle continued until night put an end to the dreadful scene. Oh what a glorious, though dearly bought, victory for us. I, thank God, escaped with a little scratch over my nose, and a bullet struck me on the finger – pretty close shooting, don’t you think?

I have some Yankee trophies to show you, if I live to see you again, in the shape of a splendid overcoat and pistol case. The enemy fled in great confusion. We followed them as far as Centreville. We lost our noble Colonel, B. J. Johnson, and Col. Hampton was badly wounded in the face. I was standing within six feet of him when he was shot.

We expect to leave for Alexandria to morrow, when I will write you. God bless you, my dear father, sisters and brothers – guide and protect you. And should it be His will that we may meet on earth again, what pleasure, infinite pleasure, will it afford me to again shake the hands of those I love so affectionately. But these are dangerous times, and life is very, very uncertain. Again, God bless you all.

Affectionately, your son,

William

Charleston Courier 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Back

21 08 2011

I tell ya – I go away for a week and this place goes to hell! Hits counter tells me Bull Runnings has been a ghost town in my absence.

Well, I’m back and hope to get to regular postings very soon. In the mean time, John Hennessy has this very interesting post that brings into some question the Benson-Rice story I wrote about here.

Also see part 3 of Gettysburg Daily’s coverage of the Bull Run sesqui events (links to the first two parts are also provided therein).

And Craig swain has this Bull Run post over at To the Sound of the Guns.

And check out this series of illustrated maps and paintings of Bull Run by commenter Brian Kammerer – remeniscent of the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War (hat tip to John Hennessy).





More Good Stuff Coming, and Some Already Here…

13 08 2011

…well, not here, exactly.

I’ll be away from the blog for about a week. When I get back to blogging, I have more good John Hennessy stuff on Hampton’s Legion to post. In addition to the Legion stuff, John has sent a batch of Rhode Island accounts which I’ll also be getting to.

Right now you’ll find some interesting Bull Run news in this post by Craig Swain.





Interview: Jim Morgan, “A Little Short of Boats”

13 08 2011

I’ve known James A. Morgan, III (Jim) for going on ten years now. We’ve been mutual members of a couple of email discussion groups, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with him a few times, incuding once for a personal tour of his “baby”, the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. Most recently, he introduced me before a meeting of the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable. The first edition of his book, A Little Short of Boats: The Battles of Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. Now Savas Beatie has released an updated edition, available here. Jim took some time to answer a few questions I posed via email.

BR: Jim, tell our good readers about yourself.

JM:  I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Pensacola, Florida.  We’ve lived in various places including Belgium and Romania while I was in the Foreign Service, but my wife, Betsy and I now live in Loudoun County, Virginia and have come to think of it as home.

My Civil War ancestors were all Confederates and served in the Pointe Coupee (La.) Artillery, the 6th Louisiana Battery, and the 41st Mississippi Infantry.   The Morgan family lived at Morganza plantation during the war.  It was about 40 miles upriver from Baton Rouge and is a site that will be familiar to readers with some western theater expertise.  The name pops up in the O.R. a good bit.  Of course, the damnyankees trashed the place during the war and my part of the family eventually settled in New Orleans.

For the past few years, I’ve been deeply involved in Civil War activities of various kinds.  I’m active in the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and the Mosby Heritage Area Association in addition to being a volunteer guide at Ball’s Bluff.  I used to reenact quite a bit; Union and Confederate artillery and infantry impressions plus occasionally as a civilian.  That was a lot of fun but, alas, I succumbed to the effects of what Abe Lincoln called “the silent artillery of time.” In other words, I got too old for it.  

Got into Civil War music for some years and did programs for roundtables and similar groups.  I even made a couple of cassette tapes which sold in NPS stores for a time.  One was titled “Just Before the Battle” after my favorite Civil War song.  The other was called “60’s Music.”  Both were compilations of Civil War standards though the second one included several alternate, less well known versions.  I never made them into CDs, however, so there probably are only a few old copies of the tapes left around.

In the late ‘80’s, while I was part of the Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery reenactment unit, I put together a small booklet, a thumbnail sketch history of Battery M, which Dave Zullo at Olde Soldier Press in Frederick, Maryland published.  It is titled Always Ready, Always Willing: A History of Battery M, Second United States Artillery, From Its Organization Through the Civil War.  The title is almost as long as the booklet.  I’ve actually seen it on amazon.com occasionally.

I’ve written articles for several Civil War magazines including Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Blue and Gray, and The Artilleryman among others.  That said, I’m most proud of my tactical study of Ball’s Bluff titled A Little Short of Boats: the Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, which originally was published by Eric Wittenberg’s Ironclad Publishing Company in 2004 and was just rereleased in July, 2011, in an expanded, updated, hardback edition by Savas Beatie. 

Not sure what else you want to know.  In terms of education I’ve got a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida and a master’s in Library Science from Florida State University.  I’ve been an ardent Seminole fan since I was about 13 so I’ve seen the ‘Noles through both the depths and the heights.  I’m looking forward to their return to greatness after these past few mediocre years.

BR: Battery M 2nd US was Peter Hains’s outfit: I guess I have to add one more to my “get” list. What got you interested in the Civil War in general, and in Ball’s Bluff in particular?

JM:  I suppose that, like all kids who grew up in the South when I did, I just breathed my interest in through the air. It was all around us even in Florida. Of course I grew up in north Florida which was and is very southern so I come by my interest naturally.  South Florida, largely populated by retired Yankees, is very northern and those people don’t care about anything but ice hockey and the slow, plodding brand of football they play in the Big 10. 

I don’t actually remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the war. Even as a kid I read a lot about it and, like many people, I owe a debt to Bruce Catton for giving me my first serious Civil War exposure. Growing up in Pensacola didn’t hurt. My brother and I were always at the beach and spent many hours playing in and around Fort Pickens long before it became part of the National Park Service and was restored. And, perhaps ironically, I spent the summer of 1980 as an NPS seasonal giving tours of Pickens and Fort Barrancas and the other historical military facilities in the area.

With regard to Ball’s Bluff, though, I can be more specific. In 2000, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority put out a call for volunteers to form a guide group for the little Ball’s Bluff battlefield not far from where I live.  That sounded like fun and I joined.  I didn’t know a thing about Ball’s Bluff at the time but I did my homework and soon began giving tours.  Having done that sort of thing at other Civil War sites, it was actually pretty easy.  That was 12 years ago and I’m still at it and still having fun with it.

BR: What’s different about this new edition of A Little Short of Boats?

JM:  First of all, the new edition is in hardback and has a new, more colorful  jacket so it draws the eye better than the original paperback edition did.  More importantly, however, there is quite a bit of new material in the expanded edition including more biographical information on many of the participants, additional participant anecdotes about the fighting, and more on some of the units which were involved.  I’ve rewritten the battlefield walking tour appendix so as to make it fit the improvements we’ve done on the battlefield since the first edition came out (new signage, more marked interpretive trails, etc).  And there are several previously unpublished photographs as well.  I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

BR: If there is one misconception about the battle or the individuals involved which you hope your book corrects, what would it be?

JM: To my way of thinking, it has always been extremely important that people understand WHY Ball’s Bluff was fought.  The traditional tale that it came out of a deliberate, pre-planned Union attempt to take Leesburg has been a huge stumbling block over the years because it is simply wrong.  Ball’s Bluff was totally unplanned, sheer accident, and had absolutely nothing to do with taking Leesburg. 

Because there were three separate Federal forces in the area and because everyone on both sides of the river was expecting some kind of Union advance in the near future, what happened at Ball’s Bluff appeared to be planned and coordinated.  Leesburg, with its critical road intersections and many nearby crossing points on the river, was an obvious target so people assumed that it was the Union objective.

Expectations and appearances combined to give us an elaborate story about a three-pronged Union encirclement of Leesburg.  It made perfect sense given what people knew or thought they knew and historians just repeated the story so that it gained credence by repetition over the years.

I believe – certainly I hope – that what I’ve done has corrected this mistake.  Understand, though, that I do not consider myself to be a revisionist.  I don’t like that word as it smacks of iconoclasm and personal agendas.  I didn’t set out to challenge anyone’s interpretation.  I simply went where my research led and it led to a fairly complete reinterpretation of why the battle of Ball’s Bluff happened. I suppose that is a kind of revisionism but a more limited one that essentially just involves correcting some honestly-made historical errors.

BR: The first edition was very well received. What’s the word so far on the new book? FYI I did see two copies on the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble today.

JM: So far, so good.  I haven’t seen any reviews yet (as of mid-August) but the book seems to be selling well and word-of-mouth is positive.  Frankly, I’m not surprised.  I’m proud of this book and believe that it improves the first edition as I intended it would. The additional information and general updating should make it worth buying even for people who already have the original.

BR: One of the things I try to do with the author interviews here at Bull Runnings is look at individual research and writing processes. Can you describe yours? What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the processes?

JM:  I doubt that I do much of anything that is out of the ordinary.  My research and writing are part-time endeavors as I still have a job which takes up most of my weekday hours.  Some authors enjoy research but don’t like to write or vice-versa.  Happily, I thoroughly enjoy both parts of the process.  I’m probably never happier than when I’m nosing around in musty old archives somewhere.  

BR: What’s next for you?

JM: For several years now, I’ve been chipping away at the research for what I hope someday will become a full biography of General Charles P. Stone.  When I was first working on the Ball’s Bluff book, I looked for a Stone bio and was surprised to discover that there isn’t one.  He deserves one and I’d like to write it.  I’ve got a very large amount of information on him but am held up by the fact that I’m eventually going to have to make an extended research trip to Egypt to go through the files from Stone’s twelve years (1870-82) as chief of staff to two consecutive khedives.  I know where the materials are and have made some preliminary contacts in Egypt but getting there is another question.  First, I can’t do it until I retire which I hope will be within another couple of years at most.  Second, I’ll have to find some funding, maybe a grant from somewhere, as I know I’ll need to be in Egypt for at least three months in order to do this right.  But, I’m working on it.

Other than that, I stay busy with a few  topics for which I have articles planned and, of course, there are the Ball’s Bluff tours and all the sesquicentennial activities to keep me busy as well. And, in truth, I’m loving it. I just wish that work wouldn’t keep getting in the way of the important stuff. 

BR: I see that Florida State has been picked as high as 5th in some preseason NCAA football polls. I’m sure you take some pride in that, even while you’re surely aware the ‘Noles will finish the season well below the Nittany Lions…

JM: Fifth is probably too high.  We had a good season in 2010 and things are looking up but we still have to prove that we’re back.  I’d rank FSU around tenth or twelfth to start the season but I’m cautiously optimistic that good things are about to happen.  While I’m not a Penn State fan, I have always liked Joe Paterno and considered him one of the good guys in college football.  But of course I still hope that the ‘Noles kick butt regardless of who we play.  As to who finishes where, that’s why they play the games and don’t just depend on pre-season rankings.  We shall see.  Scalp ‘em, Seminoles!!!








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