Interview: Blaikie Hines, “The Battle of First Bull Run”

26 05 2012

Blaikie Hines is the author of The Battle of First Bull Run, Manassas Campaign – July 16-22, 1861: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide (you can order it from Mr. Hines’s website here). The book is a little hard to explain (though I tried to do so here), so I thought it best to let the author tell us all about it:

BR: Blaikie, tell the readers about your background.

BH: I was born in New York City in 1949 and grew up in Connecticut. I  am  a well-known fine art conservator who specializes in 19th century paintings and frames.  I am also a Civil War collector, historian  and author.  I grew up in a family steeped in Civil War history.  Along with two great, great Grandfathers  who served from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, my great-uncle was a Lutheran Minister who graduated from Gettysburg Seminary in 1909. He had first hand stories of that great battle from eye witnesses. My Massachusetts ancestor fought with the 1st Massachusetts Infantry at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18th, 1861.  In addition to my Bull Run book, I am also the author of  “Civil War Volunteer Sons of Connecticut”  Both are published by American Patriot Press.  I live in Thomaston, Maine with my wife Judith.

BR: What got you interested in the Civil War?

BH:  In 1963 at the age of fourteen, our family visited the battlefield at Gettysburg during that centennial year. My Lutheran minister uncle came with us and for the first time in my life I heard history become alive through his stories about that great battle. Some of his professors had been seminarians in 1863 and had actually witnessed the conflict. We were all so enthralled and eventually had a crowd that was following us around listening to Uncle Charlie’s stories.  After that, I remember my Dad began to buy Civil war books and when a my uncle passed away Dad inherited his books. For me, my youth took over and my interest in the Civil War lay dormant for about 30 years. When at the death of a great-aunt on my mother’s side I came into possession of a Civil War dog tag that had belonged to my great, great, Pennsylvania grandfather who had fought at Antietam and was eventually severally wounded at Fredericksburg fighting with the 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry. I began to look into the Civil War very deeply at first from his perspective and then from the perspective of my home state Connecticut. That research of seven years produced Civil War Volunteer Sons of Connecticut.

BR: Why did you decide to write The Battle of First Bull Run…, and what were you hoping to accomplish with it?

BH: In 2003 our daughter enrolled at American University located in Washington, DC. On one of our visits, my wife and daughter went off together to do “girl” things and I headed due west to the battlefield at Manassas about 30 miles away. I knew very little of the battle except for  the most elementary facts. I arrived at the visitor center and was very impressed by the facility and staff. Armed with the park service map I walked Henry Hill, then Matthews Hill, and finally the Stone Bridge  and Van Pelt area. I returned to the visitor center and went into the bookstore. I was surprised that there was no comprehensive guide-book. There were numerous books on 1st Bull Run but all were mostly narrative with a few maps and scattered photographs. The only book that came close to what I was looking for was Bearss’s map guide-book and accompanying maps. I found the maps so jammed packed as to be almost unreadable however the text part was extremely helpful but there were no photos or illustrations. I did not really know it at the time but I began to assemble, over several years, all of the components that would become my 1st Bull Run book. I finally set before me the task of putting together a fully illustrated battlefield atlas and guide. In essence I created what I thought someone else would have done years before.  In 2011 I finished writing and published that book I was looking for at the Manassas Battlefield bookstore eight years before.

BR: The layout/organization of The Battle of First Bull Run… is not conventional in any way. What was your concept of what you wanted the reader’s experience to be, and how do you feel you succeeded in that regard?

BH: Since the work before me was to create an illustrated atlas and battlefield guide, the landscape format served my needs very well. I wanted the text for each map or photo to appear right next to the accompanying  image so that one did not have to thumb through one page to connect with an image on another. A more traditional vertical format would have added not subtracted from this concern. I wanted the spread of two side by side pages to be as wide as practically possible. In my book it is about 24 inches.  I wanted the book to be as chronological as I could make it rather than divided up into separate geographical, organizational, uniform and artillery sections.  I was intrigued by the various uniforms and wanted to have an extensive treatment of them scattered through the time line.  I wanted every type of artillery piece engaged to have a separate photo with specs and organizational distribution. I wanted every photograph of identified individuals to include  rank, organization, state of birth and age along with any military training. West Point class and rank is intriguing to me. I have always loved historical photographs and wanted mine to be of the highest quality and of the largest size that could be reasonably confined to one page. I do not enjoy photos that spread across two pages mostly because of what is lost in the binding. I used enhancement techniques that were recommended to me by an Israeli defense photographic analyst. I feel that the quality of the period photographs in my book are superb. I also wanted a modern view to be placed right next to the period view hopefully from the same angle. With regard to the type of map I created, I used the most up to date satellite images. That way the modern vegetative pattern becomes the setting for the conflict even though the vegetation from the 1860’s in large part has changed. With my maps, it is much easier for an individual to locate oneself on the field relative to the map. I wanted the modern battlefield trails on the maps and an indication of the various battlefield markers. I wanted all significant distances to be indicated. One of my frustrations with my visit  to the field was my inability to judge where I was on the field and the distance to significant landmarks, not so much for historical purposes but for walking purposes. Inevitably I would run out of energy before I ran out of desire. The distances on the maps helps one plan the “walk”.

I am a perfectionist and in that light I can view my book with an eye to its weaknesses. By and large, I am very pleased. For those that have read the book, the overwhelming comment has been that I have been able to present the conflict in a very clear and compact manner. The one word that I often hear is that the book is  “beautiful”. I am aware of the grammatical errors and regret them  but I view them as minor and have tried not to confuse the baby with the bath water. I am also aware that 1st Bull Run was surrounded in much controversy so  I am very sure that not everyone fully agrees with my presentation of the events. Apart from the grammatical editing part (I know how to solve that), I would love for anyone to take my book and show me where it can be improved. I would have to trust that such an individual would do so from a constructive rather than a destructive point of view. My labor has been one of love. Nothing more than that. I simply love the study of the Civil War.

BR: Can you describe your writing and researching processes? How has the web impacted both?

BH:  Since my goal was primarily illustrative, my immediate challenge was to assemble as many images as possible.  Extensive internet searches led me to the major and minor collections of civil war images. Some I would visit personally, others I would buy specific images from, or in some instances hire someone to help me. The Library of Congress, United States Military History Institute, and the Montgomery County Historical Society in Dayton, Ohio were my major sources. Gettysburg College, Southern Methodist University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Georgia are just a few of my minor sources. Through Google Earth and Terre Server I was able to download amazing satellite images. There is also a web site called Historical Aerials were I found the 1949 battlefield aerials. I visited the battlefield many times and with a digital camera could fire away as much as I wished with no concern for cost of film, developing, etc.   With regard to the text, I read every First Bull Run history that I could find, from period writings to modern publications. The Internet Archive was hugely helpful for the period writings along with Google Books. The internet has had a gigantic impact on my research. When I came to writing the text I was not intent on discovering some new writing or anecdote.  I took the campaign day by day, hour by hour, and would compare text across many sources. I would use generally common knowledge, highlight differences when they occurred, and in essence boil down the narrative to fit a certain page space. The image, whether map or photo, along with the identifying labels was the most important component of each page.

BR: Why did you decide to self-publish, and what do you think are the pluses and minuses of self-publication.

BH: I decided to self publish because I wanted to make all of the critical decisions about every design aspect of the book from size, paper, layout, binding, font, etc. I did not want the quality of the publication left to someone else. I am pleased when someone says my book is unconventional. If I had gone to a regular publisher I fear I would have gotten conventional and lower quality.  I received 40 quotes from printers (not publishers) in the U.S. There is a general rule of thumb that the retail price of a book is eight times the cost of printing. My book at 225 pages, 9 x 12, softcover, and in edition of 2,000 copies was estimated at the low end to be $8 per copy all the way to $15. That means my book would have to have sold for $64 – $120. Who would buy that?  Hardcover would have been through the roof. Any regular American publisher would have had to lower the quality to have it printed here. I did not want that. Would they look offshore? I ultimately had the book printed in India for $5 per copy including shipping, customs etc. That is how I arrived at $39.50 retail. Another thing I did not want was for my book to be dumped to discount booksellers and sell for just above cost. Well, that is the upside of self publishing. Now to the down, the monetary risk is all mine, I should have hired a competent copy editor instead of having the editing done by an inexperienced editor, and finally I miss the wider distribution that would have come with a regular publisher. Even in that light I would do it all over again.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

BH: Apart from the remarks about grammar, the reviews have been excellent. It has been very satisfying. The battlefield park at Manassas now sells it along with the Manassas Museum, Amazon, Alibris, and the American Patriot Press website

BR: Do you plan to have any future printings, and what (if any) changes will you be making?

BH: I definitely plan future printings. In addition to the grammatical errors I would love to see some constructive changes that others may offer, be it historical or whatever. As along as it is done with the right spirit, I will listen.

BR: Are you working on anything else right now?

BH: I actually have three projects competing with one another. All are in the same vein and format as the Bull Run book. I have been working on the Battle of New Market, Battle of Fredericksburg, and Battle of 2nd Bull Run. In time one will begin to take the lead. Newmarket is perhaps the easiest  because of its size. The other two are huge and far more  daunting. The natural thing for me to do is 2nd Bull Run. I have most of the images already, am familiar with most of the field, and once again there is no comprehensive atlas and battlefield guide. Time will tell.





Letter to CWT on Gary Gallagher on CW Bloggers

24 05 2012

The August 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine includes a letter from yours truly commenting on Prof. Gary Gallagher’s Blue & Gray column in the preceding issue. The letter was pretty much a recap of thoughts I wrote about here. I really don’t think Gallagher’s “criticisms” were harsh on blogs and bloggers, any more than they would be if applied, as they can and should, to books and authors. However, I did find G’s implication (though it may simply have been my inference) that somehow the blogosphere can, in light of his criticism, be safely ignored by “serious” historians to be wrong-headed. As happens often in magazines, my letter was edited to fit the space available, so I present the original version below:

As a Civil War blogger, I read with interest Gary Gallagher’s “Blue & Gray” column in the June 2012 issue of Civil War Times. I found it to be a  molehill with lofty aspirations, if you will. Dr. G. sums up his position: “Overall, my limited engagement with the Civil War blogging world has left me alternately informed, puzzled and, on occasion, genuinely amused. I suspect these are common reactions to the mass of valuable information and unfiltered opinion that crowd the multitude of blogs out there.” In other words, the content of the blogs taken as a whole is uneven. As both a consumer and reviewer of Civil War books, I can say the same thing about the print world, including university presses. There’s a lot of crap out there. Unlike print media, with most blogs the comments feature helps to  keep the blogger honest, correct errors of fact, and facilitate an organic research process that can be wonderful to behold. Consumers have a responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff in any case. Anyone researching the American Civil War – or any topic, for that matter – can only ignore what is published in “non-traditional” formats at their peril. Just because they didn’t read it doesn’t change the fact that it has been written. Adaptation is the key to survival.





“Maps of Antietam” Trailer

18 05 2012





Up Next…

18 05 2012

OK, I think the next thing I’ll be working on for the Resources section is Official Correspondence. This will be from The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 2 (Serial No. 2). I just have to figure out how I’m going to set those pages up so they’re easy to find and use. I guess it would be best to set up pages by individual names, with an index for TO and FROM with dates. Any suggestions?





Scott Hartwig’s Maryland Campaign Magnum Opus Coming Soon

17 05 2012

Last night, Gettysburg NMP Supervisory Historian Scott Hartwig presented a program on The First Day at Gettysburg to the Western Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable. Before the program (which was of course first-rate) I spoke with Scott, and as usual our conversation turned to the status of his proposed 2 volume work on the Maryland Campaign of 1862, which he’s been working on at least as long as I’ve known him (about 13 years or so, I think). Good news: Johns Hopkins University Press will publish Volume I, To Antietam Creek, in time for the 150th anniversary of the campaign this coming September! At 800 pages it will pack a wallop, and I’m sure will prove to be a must have for students of the campaign. Pre-order it here. In the meantime, check out From the Fields of Gettysburg, hosted by Scott, John Heiser, and the staff at the park.





Pvt. William Z. Mead, Co. C, 1st VA Cavalry, On the Battle

16 05 2012

The First Virginia Cavalry.

Copy of a letter from a member of Col. Stuart’s 1st Virginia Cavalry Volunteers, to his friend on James River, after the battle of Bull’s Run, on 21st July, in which he was engaged:

Fairfax Station, Camp Lee,

Fairfax C. H., Va., 26th July 1861

My Dear Sir: It has occurred to me to-day (the first day of anything like rest, we have had for several weeks,) that I could not do better than to try and entertain my friends with some account of the battle of “Bull’s Run,” the grandest blow, probably, ever struck for freedom, and certainly the most complete, which hard won victory ever achieved on the American continent. If no one else, your little sons, who, I understand, are training themselves for the field of some future day, will surely be interested in knowing about the great and bloody struggle, by which the liberties of their country were preserved and secured to them forever. I say preserved, for the effect of the battle has certainly been to demoralize throughout the armies of the invader, and to change the public opinion of the North; perhaps, also, to win the sympathy of the great powers of Europe. You and the ladies must also have looked to the issue of that day, with anxious hearts,, for many of your friends were there – all to share in the glory – and some to give their blood in our holy cause. And still others, though I trust few, to yield their lives, to protect the homes, and the mothers, and the little ones there.

Friday, 19th July, was a stirring day in the camp at Winchester, occupied as you know, by the army of the Shenandoah, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. At 4 A.M. the division was put in motion, 25,000 strong, with our Cavalry 750 strong., under Col. J. E. B. Stuart at the head of the column.

The roll of the drums, and the sound of the bugles, awoke the whole town; and as the solid columns moved rapidly away, the astonishment and consternation of the people were plainly perceptible – for not one, civilian or soldier, knew the meaning of that sudden movement.

Gen. Patterson, with 30,000 men, was within twelve miles of the city, which was thus to be left to its fate, unprotected, save by a few thousand new troops. What could it mean? The end will show the consummate generalship which planned, and the patriotic zeal which perfect the manoeuvre. For at that very moment, Patterson was marching for Harper’s Ferry, there to embark on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for Washington – there to unite with McDowell, Crush Beauregard at Manassas, and advance to Richmond. Johnston saw through it all, and hastened by a forced march to join Beauregard, before Patterson could reach Washington, and there crush McDowell, and hurl his broken columns back on the Federal city. This he did. On Saturday night, Beauregard and Johnston had united – and that night the troops intended for the engagement, 35,000 in number, slept on their arms, on the North side of Bull’s Run, three miles North of Manassas Junction. Many thousand of the Confederate troops, who were to be in action, we detained by railroad collision, caused by the criminal conduct of a treacherous conductor, who was shot by order of the Commanding General.

On the following day, Sunday July 21, at 6 A.M., the troops were formed in line of battle, in the shape of the letter V, the apex toward the enemy. Gen. Beauregard took command of the right wing, Gen. Johnston of the left, and late in the day, President Davis, in person, took charge of the centre. He rode a splendid grey charger, and inspired the troops to almost frenzied enthusiasm, by his noble bearing and stirring words of encouragement. At 9 1/2 A.M. precisely, the first gun was fired by the enemy from a 32 pounder upon our right. The enemy were in three divisions, the right and left of 15,000 each, and the centre of 25,000 men. Gen. Scott himself was at Centreville, four miles off; and nearer in view of the battle field, were many members of the Northern Cabinet and Congress, and large numbers of ladies from Washington, who had driven out in elegant equipages to witness the demolition of the rebels, as one would look upon a game of chess.

The battle opened with artillery on both sides, commencing on our right and spreading rapidly to the distance of over three miles, from wing to wing. In about an hour the infantry were in position, and Jackson’s brigade fired the first volley. The cavalry was stationed on the wings. Our cavalry, 1st Regiment, under Col. Stuart, in rear of the left, and Col. Radford’s Regiment in rear of the right. We were then placed, and ordered to dismount and stand by our horses until needed. The battle commenced raging, with deadly ferocity, all along the lines – the roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry being almost deafening. By the large number of wounded and dead, brought by the ambulances to the rear, it was evident that the enemy were fighting well. For five hours, the storm of shot and shell raged, column after column being hurled in vain against our intrepid young heroes – so largely outnumbered and out disciplined, as they were, they never for a moment faltered or retreated. At half-past 2 o’clock it was rumored that the enemy was defeated on the right by Beauregard – not so, however, on the left, where, it id conceded, the hardest fighting was done. General Johnston saw that his division was being terribly mutilated, and was about to be surrounded by the New York Zouaves, and the New York 8th Regiment, with several other regiments of Regulars covered [...]. At 3. P.M., Johnston saw that he must withdraw his exhausted troops, for the enemy were, even then, deploying far over to the left, to surround and cut them to pieces. Then it was that he sent for Elzy’s brigade, consisting of the Maryland Regiment, the 1st Tennessee, and the 17th Virginia, and one Louisiana Infantry, Beckman’s small battery of artillery and Stuart’s Regiment of Cavalry. He told the officers that the day would be decided in 15 minutes, and they could turn the scale. The devoted column, in whose hands rested the great issues of the conflict, moved rapidly forward. Regiment after regiment, mutilated and exhausted, passed us with mingled looks of despair and hope. Not even the piles of dead and rows of wounded on the way, made one of those young spirits quail or fall from the ranks. As we approached the field, the victorious shouts of the enemy were heard behind the woods. The arrangement was as follows: To first break the column of flanking troops, by a cavalry charge, and thus give the infantry and artillery time to form – the first in front, and the last on the left flank. The brigade which we were about to relieve, was fighting on a wooded ridge, on the side of which, and running at right angles to our lines and the enemy’s was a lane through the woods, and emerging therefrom on the enemy’s right flank. Along this road, four regiments, headed by Ellsworth’s Zouaves, were deploying successfully, thus:

Just as the head of the flanking brigade of our enemy appeared in the wood, the bugle of our cavalry sounded “to the charge,” and on we dashed, with the heroic Stuart at our head. As we emerged from the woods, Sherman’s battery opened on us with grape, killing at the first fire 19 horses and 11 men, and wounding many. But there was no stopping, nor did the bugle sound “to the rear,” until we had completely broken the enemy’s lines.

The brigade of Elzy then formed on the hill, in the place of the noble Bee’s, and the artillery opened with terrible execution on the extreme left. Ten minutes more, and Gen. Johnston said the day was decided, the enemy routed, and one of the most precipitate and terror-stricken flights began, to be found in the history of warfare. The pursuit was conducted by Gen. Cocke’s Brigade with the entire body of cavalry, piously called by the Yankees, “those infernal hell-hounds,” and Beckman’s artillery. We pursued eight miles on the left flank. We cut off an immense number of prisoners, and found scattered along the line of the retreat, cannon, flags, arms, wagons, ambulances, provisions, haversacks, horses, saddles, &c., in any quantity. All the roads from Bull Run to Fairfax Court House, and beyond, were lined with articles thrown away by the panic stricken enemy.

At the latter place we captured several hundred stands of arms, and several loads of ammunition. They were at the depot, destined for Richmond. In fact, most of the prisoners say that they expected to go directly through Richmond.

The lines of our army now extend from Fairfax Court House off to the right and left, to a great distance. What the next move will be, nobody knows, but all agree that if Lincoln determines on prosecuting the war, the next battle will be fierce and more bloody than the last.    *   *   *

Last Sunday I was on the battle field where we fought so hard, as Sergeant of an escort for Gen. Beauregard. All the great chiefs of the Revolution were there to pay their respects to the comparatively young hero of the day. You have heard our Generals described so often, that I will not undertake a further description. I reviewed with mournful awe the hushed and peaceful fields which so lately re-echoed to the deadly roar of battle. I stood where the terrible Sherman battery stood and surrendered. I paused by the graves of many a dear, young and cherished friend, with its modest slab of wood and its simple inscription. I rode through the silent lane, down which Stuart’s terrible charge of light cavalry was made. I saw the mangled horses – and the graves of those who so heroically fell at the head of the column. And as I witnessed all this in the peaceful sunlight of the Sabbath, I could not restrain those tears which God has granted to relieve the pent up sorrow of human bosoms. Oh! this cruel war, those desolate hearth stones; those weeping mothers! where, where will it end? The glow of our victory is great – the lustre of our arms shines forth before the world; but I would give my right hand to-day if God would dry the weeping eyes of mothers and sisters, by permitting the war to cease.

W. Z. Mead

Augusta (GA) Daily Constitutionalist, 8/20/1861

Clipping Image

William Zacharia Mead on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Joseph Leavitt, Co. G, 5th Maine, On the Battle (2)

12 05 2012

[Date & Place Unknown]

Dear Father–I will now try to give you A full account of the Battle of Bulls Run which you have been  trying to know about, it is and Old Story but as you have written A number of times about it in you Letters I will set down & try to give you a full account of the affair when we Landed in Alaxandria the only  Regiment that was here was Elmore the Fire Zouaves which was guarding the City with the third & fourth  of Maine the Maine Regiments started from Washington one night before we left & our Regiment went &  Camped about two miles from the City in A place which they call Clouds Mills & staid there about A week & then changed the Camp to A place called Bush hill which was owned by A man by the name of [Strate?] which he said he was A native of Maine but that he had lived Thirty Five years out here & he called himself sixty years old & I should think he was about that we had not been here no longer than three weeks before we had orders to pack up our knapsacks & be ready to march to the Field of Battle which we started the next Morning & we got as far as Springfield that night when we rested for the night & next morning have to start about three oclock for another days march & then every halfe hour throwing out an advance guard to see wether they could see anything of any Masked Batteries we kept on so till dark when the hold Army had to cross A stream of water on A plank which time they were crossing was about three hours & then have to march about Four miles further & then rest for the night the next morning Companies E & G was put on Guard of A thirty two pounder which we guarded till we got to Centreville but there was A great accident in Company E in which A member of that company shott & he died instantly all on that March there was nothing but killing of Cattle Which we eat at noe house we had & plenty of honey we had three hives each one weighing about seventy five pounds we staid at Centreville a week & on the morning of the twenty first of July 1861 which was Sunday whe started for the field of Action which was six miles from Centreville the Brigade in which my regiment was in was put on A reserve one in about three or four hours from the time in which they commenced to Fire we was all on which time we was going three miles was only fifteen minutes when we was the last Regiment to go on & the last to retreat so that you see that the Maine Fifth had A hard chance on the retreat to get off the Maine Fifth has not the praise it ought to have at that Battle & it has dishartened most of its members & there has gone home A great many stories that is not true about the Regiment that retreat was only one day day getting back to Alaxandria when we was getting there at Bulls run three days on the march so that you can see that was A kind of hard march for me but I held out I have gone as far on that old scrape as I can now I must close my letter, I am well & hope by the time you get this that it will find you the same & the rest of the Family give my love to Aunt Remick if she is at home & tell her that I should like to have her to write me A letter

From your affectionate Son

Joseph Leavitt

MSS 66 Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, as transcribed at 150 Years Ago Today

Joseph Leavitt at Ancestry.com








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