“Blind Tom” Wiggins – Battle of Manassas

21 04 2014

See here for more on “Blind Tom” Wiggins.

 





David Kincaid – The Boys That Wore the Green

20 04 2014

Fun stuff. Listen along – can you figure out who everyone is?





Johnny Horton – Battle of Bull Run

19 04 2014

Thanks Craig Swain!





Ezra Walrath Court of Inquiry

24 03 2014

As concerns Col. Ezra Walrath, 12th New York Infantry, and the results of his efforts for a Court of Inquiry into his command of the regiment at Blackburn’s Ford to which he alluded in his correspondence here and here, I was able to locate this unidentified news clipping from this site:

NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS.—Hon. George Geddes only delays his acceptance of the Colonelcy of the Twelfth Regiment until his physician shall assure him that his health will admit of active service. The commissioned officers of the Twelfth were unanimous in selecting Mr. Geddes for commander. The Syracuse Journal says he is the only man now left in the county, whose education and ability fit him for the position. The Twelfth has now about 400 men left, all of whom have served six months, and are said to be under good discipline. Col. Walrath having resigned, and Major Louis having been killed, the regiment is sadly in need of a head, and it is hoped that Mr. Geddes will soon determine upon his course in the matter.

—Col. Walrath, of the Onondaga regiment, (12th) has been entirely cleared of charges cowardice and incompetency, by the verdict of a Court of Inquiry, which awards to the Colonel high praise for his conduct at Bull’s Run. Capt. Locke, of the same regiment, was charged with giving the order to retreat, unauthorized. This charge was not sustained before a Court of Inquiry.

—The commissioned officers of the Onondaga Regiment (12th) have unanimously chosen Hon. George Geddes for Colonel, in place of Walrath in whose hands the regiment has fallen into a deplorable state of demoralization. Desertion has reduced the number from 780 to two or three hundred available men. Recruiting for it has actively commenced, and Col, Geddes will restore the regiment to efficiency if any man can.

Once I’ve identified the newspaper and date, I’ll move this to the resources section. As always, any help is appreciated.





Hey Man, That’s Not Yours!

27 02 2014

f56392d4841f119aa49c9928a7883bc61cb8eefad4542341996522b7379f4f3aI recently overheard some discussion among civil war researchers who present their work in public through speaking and writing on the web. They voice concern regarding “lifting” of their work by readers and attendees. Some cite examples of their work being presented by others in public and print as their own – without attribution. I’ve written before that it’s a risk we all take, and should even expect it to happen. But I have to admit to being a little concerned in this regard about my upcoming talk – assuming anyone else would consider my notion more than harebrained.

Of course the whole idea of Bull Runnings is sharing things. Recently someone mentioned to me that I have all these great letters that no one else has, to which I replied “Well, really, they all have them too.” But now we’re talking ideas and interpretation, not just photos and documents. It feels different.

What are your thoughts? Any examples of which you can think? Has it happened to you? How has it affected your sharing? Here’s your chance to vent…





Presenting in Ohio Next Month

20 02 2014

Just a reminder that I’ll be making a presentation to the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on March 12. Here’s a summary:

Irvin McDowell’s Plan and Other Bull Run Misconceptions. This program will explore what the presenter feels are popular misconceptions surrounding the First Bull Run campaign, with primary focus on the Union army commander’s intentions up to the early hours of July 21, 1861. We will discuss how we have come to know the story of Bull Run as we know it, various primary sources and secondary accounts of the campaign, treatments by historians and institutions, the general interest (or lack thereof) of Civil War enthusiasts in the details of the campaign, and other related – or even unrelated – topics. As always, the audience will likely play no small role in the content of the program as it progresses.

I’m looking forward to this. It will be the first time I talk about my thoughts on what McDowell really intended when he set out from Washington for Manassas. It’s not what you think. Just gotta figure out how to set it down on paper and slides. You see, this is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Oh man, my thinking about this case has become very uptight. Let’s just hope I can get things straight by then.

Check out the details at the COCWRT website.





Hood and Me (But Mostly Me)

3 02 2014

JBHWhile reading John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General, I realized something about myself: the more ubiquitous the application of hyperbole to an individual or event, the more willing I am to consider challenges to the established line on them. Does that make me an iconoclast? To some extent, maybe, and certainly in cases where it appears to me writers have worked backwards from their fundamental diagnoses and bent evidence to fit their conclusion. Author Stephen M. Hood makes a compelling case that this is precisely what has happened over the years with his collateral relative. I think.

(It’s not hard to find “discussion” of this book on blogs and social media. Some clear thinking, some dogma, the usual “I haven’t read it, have no intention of reading it, but am happy to tell you what I think of its content” type comments. Some compelling arguments that author Hood committed some of the same crimes of which he is accusing others. Lots of folks talking past one another. Lots of pots shouting at kettles. Google to your heart’s content. You’ll find all of it out there.)

To me, the  book is strongest when it points out that sources cited as support in a particular work do not say what the author of that work claims they say. Author Hood does so often. And he does so convincingly. This is why you should read the book. In my opinion.

While I’ve had Wiley Sword’s The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah (aka Embrace and Angry Wind) on my shelf for years with every intention of reading it, I don’t see how I can possibly do so now with an open mind. Many of the indictments of Sword in author Hood’s book appear so cut and dry that I have difficulty perceiving of a scenario in which reading Sword’s book will make me think, “you know, with regards to these particulars, Sword is right and author Hood is wrong.” Again, that may say a lot more about me than about Sword or author Hood. And Hood doesn’t stop at Sword. He points out weaknesses in the works of Sword’s predecessors and followers. Out of necessity writers of non-fiction build upon the work of those who have gone before. Sometimes what they accept, they accept in error. I’ve seen it in my research of First Bull Run. I imagine everyone who has researched anything has seen it as well. Sometimes it’s purposeful, sometimes it’s not, but when discovered and proven it’s always wrong and should be corrected. At least, if you ask me it should.

Of note, author Hood points out that, despite what most students of the war believe, General Hood was not overly fond of frontal attacks, and rarely employed them of his own volition. Read that again. And he backs it up, too. Hey, don’t get mad at me. Relax. Count to ten. Now, if it’s true, does that affect your overall impression of General Hood? It affected mine.

On the other hand, I found the book weakest when it reached down deep in the ranks to find contemporary Hood praises; when it presented defenses consisting of “how could all these guys say such nice things” and “well, if Hood was so bad, why don’t you think so-and-so was bad for doing the same things?” Now, in a lot of instances author Hood is right, double standards have been established, but the exposition of double standards has rarely ever done anything but dredge up the old “you’re trying to tear down our guy to build up yours” response. That is to say, it’s an emotional thing, and the consideration of cold, hard facts carries more weight. With me.

I felt the Foreword and Introduction didn’t serve the book well. I was in fact concerned about the book’s prospects after reading them – they laid out a game plan that was inconsistent with my understanding of the focus of the work. After deliberation, I determined to forge ahead. I also found the author’s attempt to discredit Jefferson Davis’s writings about and dealings with Hood, coupled with his uncritical, face value acceptance of Davis’s criticisms of Joe Johnston, to be an odd and hypocritical juxtaposition. But maybe that’s just me.

Despite these and other, as I view them, weaknesses, I think John Bell Hood is an important book, and one that should be read by anyone interested in Hood and his tenure at the helm of the Army of Tennessee, and/or historiography in general. This book will make you think, whether or not you agree with the resurrection bit in the title. For this reason, it was picked as a runner-up for best book of 2013 in Civil War Monitor. By me.

I thought about this song a lot while reading this book, and while reading discussions of this book. I think sometimes it illustrates the relationship between authors and their subjects.





Preview: Ural, “Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades”

19 12 2013

HadesNew from Osprey Publishing and Dr. Susannah J. Ural is Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War In the Words of Those Who Lived It. I’m a little leery of collections of first person accounts from different sources, unless the theme is compelling. And that appears to be the case here. Dr. Ural has chosen letters and diaries to tell the stories of families (well-known and not, north and south, free and slave) during the war. There also appear to be a few memoirs in there – that gets my Spidey-senses tingling, as I’ve never been able to get over how the co-mingling of immediate and recollected accounts fatally flawed Richard Moe’s otherwise fine The Last Full Measure (the use of a lone memoir to provide a counter-point to overwhelming contemporary opinion really changed the tone, IMO.) We’ll have to see how that affects things here. But this one looks good at first glance, and as soon as I finish this light-weight, really kinda silly account of George Washington’s New York spy ring I’m going to dive in.





Preview: Cobb, Hicks, & Holt, “Battle of Big Bethel”

4 12 2013

Layout 1Brian Pohanka’s Vortex of Hell provides a pretty good account of the Battle of Big Bethel, in which the 5th New York Infantry played a prominent role. And typically those are the types of books you need to read to find out about the fight; Big Bethel, or Bethel Church, or Great Bethel, is a battle most often covered in works covering a wider time frame. Messrs. Cobb, Hicks, and Holt, with Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early Civil War Virginia, have turned a magnifying glass on this June, 1861 meeting of forces under Benjamin Butler and John Magruder. At 266 pages, it dwarfs any previous study of which I am aware (and if one exists out there, please let me know about it.) Cobb and Hicks are affiliated with the Hampton (Va) History Museum (the battle was fought near the York County town), while Holt is an attorney. The book includes numerous photographs and illustrations and clear Hal Jesperson maps describe the action. Footnotes – at the bottom of the page – have become a Savas Beatie staple. The bibliography lists a respectable number of unpublished primary sources and contemporary newspaper accounts, as well as the expected published primary and secondary sources (though not Vortex, which I imagine was published too late in the process.) I try not to give too much weight to blurbs (hell, even I wrote one, once), but endorsements from R. E. L. Krick and Edward L. Ayers bode well.





Snake’s Eye View of First Bull Run

30 11 2013

19521v

Blogger Craig Swain brought this one to my attention. Go to the LOC for a high res TIFF image that is easier to read. Here’s the description:

Cartoon print shows Union troops after the Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War from the point of view of a copperhead, that is, a northern Democrat supporting Confederate troops. The image is keyed to eighteen points in the image: Beauregard’s headquarters, Jefferson Davis’ headquarters, Johnston’s headquarters, Elzy’s Maryland battery, General McDowell, General Tyler, The Bull’s Run, Fire Zouaves, New York 19th Regiment, Sherman’s battery, Ely member of Congress, barricade for member of Congress, Lovejoy & Company, Ladies as spectators, Riddle Brown & Company, Blenker’s Brigade, Senator Wilson, and the U.S. Dragoon. Includes numbered key.








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