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!!!





John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

12 08 2011

From Virginia.

We have been favored with another letter from Mr. J. E. Poyas, a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton’s Legion, to his sister in this city, which we publish (even at the risk of repetition,) believing that every thing concerning the Stone Bridge battle will be interesting to our readers

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

My Dear Sister -

I trust my letter of Monday has flown to mamma on the wings of the lightning. I should have sent a telegram, but there were so many ahead of me, I thought it would be lost, or delayed until of no use.

The Legion has been baptized in blood, and have now a name to sustain, not to make. Would that we had been complete on Sunday, for with our artillery and cavalry we should have been equal to the hordes opposed to us, and instead of holding them in check, which we did for three hours, with scarcely any assistance, we would have driven them back or cut them to shreds before General Beauregard saw us on the field, and he would have been still more proud of his Carolinians.

On Sunday, 21st of July, at 7 A. M., the report of cannon was hard in the distance, and we knew that the battle had commenced. At eight we were formed into line and marched for the field.  After marching about four miles a scout came to us, saying the enemy were approaching in numbers on our left. The Georgia Regiment and a small battery (two pieces) of artillery were near us, and first engaged the enemy. We approached under cover of a slight elevation of the ground, but not unobserved, for before we were well in sight their batteries opened upon us, and we lay upon the ground with balls, grapeshot and fragments of shell falling thick and fast around us. Of course, our small force could not stand before their hordes in open field, and the Georgians with the artillery were forced back. We then approached, skirting a small wood on our right, and opened fire upon them. At our first fire their colors were shot down, and it was here than Bankensee and Phelps met their end.

We were soon obliged to fall back to a fence, and behind that to fight as long as we could stand, then to retire to a road in our rear, take to a ditch, and with a rail fence before us, to hold our position as long as possible.

It was here [Lt.] Col. Johnson was shot by the wretches who approached us with a Palmetto flag, and many of our men were wounded, but we made them pay dearly for their deception, by leaving hundreds of them stretched upon that portion of the field. Whilst we were in that ditch, Colonel Hampton, who had one horse shot, dismounted from his other, and joining us in the ditch, took a musket from one of the wounded men, and from that time until wounded late in the afternoon, fought with his men. I am happy to say that he is doing well, and was walking out yesterday. From that ditch and the fences around we fought from 11 A. M. to 5 P. M. At that time we took a park of nine pieces of artillery. The Richmond papers say the Virginians took it, but Gen. Beauregard says that ours is the credit, and it is certain that the Legion flag was the first over it, taken there by Corporal O’Conner, of our company – Sergeant Darby having become tired had given it to carry until he rested. Our company flags we were obliged to leave in Richmond. The staff of our Legion banner was struck by a ball. Colonel Kershaw’s regiment first came to our assistance from Bull Run. They were followed by Col. Cash’s regiment and (I think) Col. Jenkins’ regiment in the course of the afternoon. Old Jeff. [Davis] came upon the field at the head of a large body of cavalry, and completed the route of the enemy. Cols. Kershaw and Cash’s, one Mississippi regiment, Kemper’s battery from Alexandria, and a body of cavalry, with the Legion started in pursuit. Near Centreville they had halted – we formed the line of battle and Kemper opened upon them – and the Palmetto Guard, who were thrown out as skirmishers, gave them a volley, which sent them off howling, leaving their cannon and everything they had. As it was after sunset and cloudy, we could follow them no further, though the cavalry still kept up the chase. We have taken 1300 prisoners, 400 horses, 71 pieces of artillery, and property to an immense amount, in fact, I doubt if there has ever been so hard fought a battle or so complete a rout of an army on this Continent; perhaps never on either where there was such disparity of numbers.

According to the newspapers Gen. Johnston commanded our wing, but we never saw him, nor did we see Beauregard until 2 o’clock. Up to that hour, we could have been crushed at any moment, for the Yankees had ten to our one at the lowest calculation.

A Virginia traitor had furnished them with our countersign, and they had furnished themselves with a bogus Palmetto flag; had also recognized the Legion as soon as it appeared on the field, and paid it particular attention, but had not the pluck to press on and crush us.

Gen. Bonham, when last heard of, was in possession of Fairfax Court House, and is probably at this time in Alexandria, as a portion of our army has advance upon it, and report says taken it without firing a gun.

My opinion is that if we take Arlington Heights at once, we may be able to take Washington, and by so doing put an end to the war; but I am quite willing to leave the whole affair under God in the hands of those in whose care he has placed it.

As I have not mentioned Theo. G. Barker, our Adjutant, I must not close this rambling account of our first battle without saying, he was as cool and brave as it was possible for a man to be. After the fight we shook hands and congratulated each other on our safety. Our Captain is a trump – the ace of trumps – and we are all much troubled to think that he will be taken from us to be made a Major. Our Lieutenants all acted nobly; they told me they did not think I could have gone through with so much fatigue. I am very glad to say that Henry Middleton is doing well, ,and it is hoped he will recover. There is also hope for Green. Our frequent moves when the lines would necessarily be broken, made it particularly trying, for men when thrown into confusion are very apt to become panic stricken.

Virginians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Louisianians and Carolinians, all did their duty, and entirely routed the Grand Army of the United States.

Charleston Courier 7/30/1861

Clipping Image





John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton's Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother -

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy





Bull Run “Historian’s Forum” Available Online

10 08 2011

The forum in which I participated for Civil War History and which I mentioned here can now be read in its entirety here.





The Father of Pvt. Theodore W. King, 1st RI, Searches For His Son

10 08 2011

Washington D.C

July 29, 1861

Dear Sir,

I venture from the friendly acquaintance I had with you at Newport Rhode Island to write you on a most distressing calamity which [fallen?] upon myself and family. My son, Theodore Wheaton King a private of Company F 1st Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers, was severely wounded at Manassas on Sunday last. He enlisted on his way to school for three months for the defence of Washington. His term of service had expired, and we were expecting him to return home when the unfortunate resolve was made to advance into Virginia.

His wound was on the outer and upper part of the thigh, or hip. Though wounded early in the action, he was entirely neglected by the surgeons though the retreat did not commence for some hours after. Of the degree of severity of his wound it is impossible for me to judge. Some of the soldiers said that he walked by the aid of some companions to within thirty feet of the temporary Hospital, where he was left neglected, under the shade of some trees surrounded by the killed and wounded. Some stray fellow soldiers passed him about the time of the retreat, to whom he made inquiries as to the condition of things and asked to be taken along, but fear had destroyed all manly feelings. They said that his voice was then good and his countenance unaltered. He was then left among the killed and wounded near the Battlefield–several of the Confederate Army were dying near him.

Upon receiving a telegram of his being wounded and left near the field of battle I came immediately to Washington, hoping to reach him. But you may imagine my deep distress at not being able to come into Virginia to succor my son, if alive, or to protect, and possess his body, if dead.

My son was nineteen years of age of stout frame, with full muscular development, light brown hair, large forehead, and was about five feet eight or ten inches high. Should it not be too inconsistent with your army regulations, I wish to be allowed to come into Virginia to see my son if alive, or to search for his body if dead. If that privilege cannot be allowed, will you, my dear sir, act for his Father, and spare no expense in aiding him, if alive or in having his body found, and his place of departure designated. In the last case, I should like his hat and clothes preserved, if possible. I have no need to appeal to your humanity, and good feelings. I am sure that you will do all in your power to aid my family they, overwhelmed by sorrow and distress. I shall remain in Washington at 486 12th Street at Mr. CB King’s as long as may be necessary to hear of the condition or fate of my son.

Very Respectfully Yours

David King M.D.

of Newport R.I.

To Col Porcher Miles

of General Beauregard’s Staff

Richmond Virginia

P.S. I enclose a photograph of my son, though very poorly taken. If dead it may be the means of designating his body.

*************************************

Richmond

Aug. 10th 1861

W. Porcher Miles

Dear Sir-

Dr. King’s son, T.W. King, is in the main [St?] prison hospt. in this city. The surgeon in charge represents him as doing very well– I return the letter.

Very Truly Yours

[Samuel P. Moore, Surg. Gen.?]

Transcription and Photo & Letter Image

Notes








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