Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXVII, #5

26 04 2011

For twenty-seven years, Blue & Gray magazine has been putting out about six issues every year, each issue focusing on a battlefield in minute detail. Do the math: that’s about 160 issues, right? Subtracting the 130 issues that have featured Gettysburg, that still leaves about 30 opportunities to cover First Bull Run. Amazingly, the current issue is the first to highlight our favorite little skirmish.

Well, better late than never.

The magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park ranger Henry Elliot have produced a fine work with an overview of the campaign, detail of the battle, solid tour guide, and wonderful maps of First Bull Run. Hurrah for this issue! There are twenty maps and a full Order of Battle. Footnotes. Illustrations. The works!

Buy this one today.

(Quibble: I disagree with Mr. Elliot’s assertion on page 8 that “McDowell needed to preserve his numerical advantage over Beauregard.” I’ve said it many times before and am comfortable with the fact that I sit way out here by myself in my position: McDowell never thought he would have a numerical superiority – he never thought he would maintain or gain one at any point in his planning, and therefore his plan did not depend on numerical superiority. For my most recent post on this, see here.)





Special: Weider History Group, “1861″

25 04 2011

I received a copy of Weider History Groups 1861: Hell Breaks Loose in the mail a couple of weeks ago. This $9.99, 106 page magazine features “31 stories of the Civil War’s first year by those who lived it.” Other than Harold Holzer’s introduction, all of the articles are either contemporary accounts or memoirs. I’m guessing that we’ll be seeing additional issues for each year of the sesquicentennial.

The articles cover a road range of subjects, and appear in chronological order. The usual suspects appear: The Anaconda Plan; Sumter Under Attack; Ugly Defeat at Bull Run; A Victor Remembers Ball’s Bluff. But some less well-known stories are told as well: Buchanan Blames the North; Sam Huston Defies Confederacy; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Wish; Woman Jailed Without Trial. The final article looks back on 1861 in review.

Nicely illustrated with many full-page images, 1861: Hell Breaks Loose is a nice overview of the first year of the war.





CWT Video Blog – Arlington House

18 04 2011

Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf at Arlington House:





Hallowed Ground Spring 2011

6 04 2011

Various magazines are out which include good stuff on First Bull Run. In fact, I’ll wager that more Bull Run material will be published in periodicals this year than have been published in the last 50 years. So with no further ado, lets start with Hallowed Ground, the quarterly publication of the Civil War Trust.

And on page 25, you’ll find an interview with the host of Bull Runnings. That alone is worth the price of membership! There’s other good stuff in here, too. This issue of Hallowed Ground is a must have for your Bull Run collection.





A New Civil War Magazine…Maybe

29 03 2011

Civil War Quarterly

At Barnes & Noble about a week back I picked up a new magazine, Civil War Quarterly. I had heard nothing about the magazine, and still can’t find a website for it, or any mention of it on the web. So I had to resort to prehistoric methods and technology, namely reading the masthead and publication information and making a few phone calls (keeping in the pioneer spirit, I used my land line.)

The long and short of it is the magazine is an experiment by Military Heritage and Sovereign Media. I got in touch with Carl Gnam, a mucky-muck there who has been in the biz a long time, and he told me that the magazine has been floated out there to test the waters. If the reaction of the public is strong enough there will be a Volume 1, Number 2 (that’s Number 1 to the left).

This is a thick-papered, glued magazine, like other quarterlies you see on the stand. The editor is Roy Morris, Jr, whom you may know from several books on the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Other than him I’m not familiar with the other writers in this inaugural issue. According to Mr. Gnam these fellows write on a broader range of military history topics and are not Civil War specialists per se. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that – there are lots of Civil War specialists out there, but not all are outstanding writers.

The offerings here are of a more general nature: articles on Lincoln’s election, Ft. Sumter, Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, Ball’s Bluff and Belmont (see the 1861 theme?), with a few more specialized pieces on “interforce amphibious operations”, Jefferson Davis in the War with Mexico, and life in Union camps.

There are a few print errors, most notably one which deleted the end of the Bull Run article by Earl Echleberry. And at another point in the magazine there were some funky font choices, but I imagine these will be one-time things if the publishers decide to move forward with this endeavor. I’d personally like to see a little info on the authors included.

It’s hard to comment much on the Bull Run article due to the printing SNAFU, but the author does make the standard claim that McDowell’s plan required that Patterson hold Johnston in place in the Valley in order for it to succeed. I don’t want to sound like a broken record – just keep your eyes peeled for an article addressing this issue in an upcoming issue of America’s Civil War.

There’s also not a lot of advertising in Civil War Quarterly. While that may change a little if the magazine survives, I for one can live without another advertisement for schmaltzy Forrest and Jackson products.

UPDATE: Starting with the Early Summer 2013 issue, the publication is now published on a regular quarterly schedule.





Civil War Trust “Hallowed Ground” Spring 2011

14 03 2011

The Spring 2011 issue of Hallowed Ground, the Civil War Trust’s members publication, is out. Happily it focuses on First Bull Run. 

There’s plenty of good stuff inside on the battle and the battlefield – see here for the table of contents. NPS historians Greg Wolf and John Reid have pieces on some battlefield detective work and the Centennial reenactment; museum specialist Jim Burgess writes on civilian spectators at the battle, and superintendent Ray Brown has an interesting article on the owner of the Van Pelt house. The folks who work and have worked at the park are the real experts on the battles that were fought here. These articles should not be missed – and yes, they’re all available online for free. While I don’t see it listed, there is supposed to be an interview with yours truly in this issue as well. Perhaps I wound up on the cutting room floor? I’ll let you know once I see the magazine itself.

One article in particular caught my attention: An End to Innocence, The First Battle of Manassas by Bradley Gottfried. Here’s the passage that stuck out:

While Lincoln and his Cabinet members listened, McDowell laid out a plan to attack the 24,000-man Confederate Army under Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, deployed near the winding Bull Run creek about 25 miles southwest of Washington. The general intended to use about 30,000 troops in the effort, marching in three columns, while another 10,000 men were held in reserve. With such numerical superiority, it appeared McDowell would overwhelm his Southern counterpart.

OK, I’ve talked about this in the past and you’re probably sick of hearing it by now. I have met Mr. Gottfried – he’s a good guy. I worked closely with him in proofing his book, The Maps of First Bull Run. But what he has written here conflicts with my understanding of McDowell’s plan. Here’s the text of the portion of McDowell’s plan regarding the force he expected to meet at Manassas (emphasis and brackets mine; you can read the whole thing here):

The secession forces at Manassas Junction and its dependencies are supposed to amount at this time [June 24-25, 1861] to–

Infantry          23,000

Cavalry          1,500

Artillery           500

Total               25,000

We cannot count on keeping secret our intention to overthrow this force. Even if the many parties intrusted with the knowledge of the plan should not disclose or discover it, the necessary preliminary measures for such an expedition would betray it; and they are alive and well informed as to every movement, however slight, we make. They have, moreover, been expecting us to attack their position, and have been preparing for it. When it becomes known positively we are about to march, and they learn in what strength, they will be obliged to call in their disposable forces from all quarters, for they will not be able, if closely pressed, to get away by railroad before we can reach them. If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than ten thousand men. So we must calculate on having to do with about thirty-five thousand men.

And here’s where he described the size of the army with which he proposed to take the field:

Leaving small garrisons in the defensive works, I propose to move against Manassas with a force of thirty thousand of all arms, organized into three columns, with a reserve of ten thousand.

I’ve not yet found any evidence that McDowell expected he would have numerical superiority in his strike against Beauregard. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming article in America’s Civil War.

UPDATE 3/15/2011: Let me make this clear for everyone, if for some reason you got a different impression from this post: my problem is with the notion that McDowell’s plan assumed a numerical superiority for his army over that which he expected to face around Manassas. To quote Wilfred Brimley in Absence of Malice: “That’s a lot of horse-puckey. The First Amendment (in this case McDowell’s plan) doesn’t say that.”

McDowell’s plans regarding this are clear, as stated above.





Civil War Times April 2011

28 01 2011

Inside this issue:

Letters:

  • Ron Soodalter disagrees with Stephen Budiansky’s take on George Custer

Blue & Gray

  • Gary Gallagher looks at The War’s Overlooked Turning Points and argues for the importance of the Seven Days’.

Collateral Damage

Your host writes about the Benson family and their compassion toward a wounded New Hampshire soldier at First Bull Run.  Thanks to a couple of readers who jarred my memory of this a while back.  Even though the house wasn’t and isn’t there (you’ll have to buy the magazine to figure that one out), it’s a great story that deserved retelling.  More on this in a later post.

Field Guide

  • Robert Behre leads us around Charleston, SC.

Interview

  • James I. “Bud” Robertson recalls the Centennial.

Letter from the Editor

  • The Sesquicentennial kicks off

Features

  • The Butcher’s Bill - Edward Bonekemper argues that U. S. Grant’s management of the war in Virginia wasn’t as bloody as represented.
  • Eye on Arlington – Kim O’Connell’s text and Robin Holland’s photos document the ongoing renovation at Arlington House.
  • First Blood at Big Bethel - John V. Quarstein on the June 10, 1861 battle in Virginia.
  • Last Letter Home - Dana Shoaf presents a poignant communique from a 14-year-old Third Class Boy aboard USS Galena.
  • Cradle of Secession - Joe Loehle photo essay on Charleston, SC.
  • ‘Black Jack’ at War - Paul Bradley sketches John Logan’s war career.

Reviews





The Jacob Weikert Farm

11 01 2011

The February 2011 edition of Civil War Times magazine (previewed here) includes my Collateral Damage article on the Jacob Weikert farm south of Gettysburg, just outside the park boundaries on the Taneytown Rd and the back of Little Round Top.  I had visited the property and toured the house twice over the years prior to my return this past summer.  Friends Gerry and Beth Hoffman bought the place in 2002 and are wonderful stewards – they also run an antiques business from spring to fall each year in the barn (Tillie’s Treasures).  Unfortunately I had left my camera on a low res setting when taking my photos to accompany the article, and none could be used in the magazine.  So I’m displaying them here, along with some I shot on an earlier visit in 2006.  Click the thumbs for larger images – it might be a good idea to have my article handy.

Keep in mind that the Weikert farm is private property.  The Hoffman’s are “finest kind”, but please respect their privacy.

First the low res photos from my most recent visit:

  

The house from southwest, south and southeast.  

  

The carriage house and corn-crib; the barn from Taneytown Rd; the barn from the rear.

  

The dining room was used as an operating theater; bloodstains are still evident on the dining room floor; the site of the wartime well and the Weikert’s enduring legacy.

These are from 2006:

  

General Stephen Weed died here in the basement, where the washer and dryer sit today; rough-hewn beams in basement; the basement fireplace and oven where the Weikert’s and Tillie Pierce baked bread for hospital staff and wounded – note the charred beam above the oven.





America’s Civil War March 2011

9 01 2011

Inside this issue:

Letters

  • It turns out that newly elected Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is the great-grandson of Union Captain Andrew Hickenlooper, who commanded an Ohio battery at Shiloh and is depicted in the famous Thomas Corwin Lindsay painting of The Hornet’s Nest.

5 Questions

Cease Fire

  • Harold Holzer looks at current Virginia Civil War controversies brewing, and brings up an old one by yet again mentioning the governor’s proclamation from earlier last year.  He seems to have a little trouble letting go.

Legends

  • Ron Soodalter discusses David Twiggs’s choice between loyalty and, well, not-loyalty.

Features

  • A Shot in the Dark by Winston Groom – The Crisis of Fort Sumter
  • Lee, Grant and Their Steadfast Steeds by Ron Soodalter – Self explanatory
  • The Teenage Terrorist of Roane County by H. Donald Winkler – Rebel guide and scout Nancy Hart
  • Survival in an Alabama Slammer by Peter Cozzens – The Confederacy’s Cahaba Federal Prison was pretty well managed, all things considered
  • The One-Way Voyage of the Stone Fleet by Greg Bailey – A fleet of old ships, mostly whalers past their prime, set out from New Bedford, CT in November 1861 to become an integral, if stationary, part of the southern blockade.

Reviews

  • The New York Time Complete Civil War, 1861-1865, Harold Holzer & Craig Symonds, eds.
  • Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg, Earl J. Hess
  • Shadow of Shiloh: Major General Lew Wallace in the Civil War, Gail Stephens
  • Roughshod Through Dixie: Grierson’s Raid, 1863, Mark Lardas
  • Wicked Spring (Film from 2003)

And I was Just Wild About (or maybe I wasn’t)… 

  • The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” About the “Lost Cause”, James Loewen & Edward Sebesta, eds.
  • Sacred Ties: From West Point Brothers to Battlefield Rivals: A True Story from the Civil War, Tom Carhart
  • The Mechanical Fuze and the Advance of Artillery in the Civil War, Edward B. McCaul, Jr.
  • The First Assassin, John J. Miller (novel)




North & South Magazine January 2011

5 01 2011

I picked up this current issue of North & South, to which I don’t subscribe and which I don’t typically purchase, for the editorial and one article.  Editor Keith Poulter has finally seen Harry Crocker’s The Politically Correct Guide to the Civil War and noticed the absurdity of the front cover, which I wrote about here nearly two years ago.  He expands on exactly why the blurb “The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave” is factually incorrect (he calls it a “Crocker you-know-what”).  Poulter’s piece is good stuff, though I disagree with him regarding the author’s and publisher’s intent.  I really don’t believe it was ideologically based.  I think it was more likely financially based – considering their target market, it was intended to sell books.  And I think on that basis it was not a bad idea.  I’m sure there were a lot of folks out there who read that and thought “this is for me.”  And if they thought that, they were right: it is for them.

Also in this issue is an article by George C. Rable, Gott Mit Uns, with the following description: In the aftermath of First Bull Run, each side offered religious explanations for the outcome.  I suspect this is an excerpt from Rable’s most recent book, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War.  And a long while back, I implied I would look into an essay of Rable’s in Civil War History in which he “uses First Bull Run as a backdrop for his discussion of the role of religion on the battlefield”, but I never got around to it.  Maybe I’ll read the two together and comment in the future.  Then again, maybe I won’t.

Here’s a really interesting tidbit from this most recent edition: in each issue there is a section called “Do You Know”, and there is one “teaser” question to which readers may submit answers to win a prize, typically a book.  There were no correct answers submitted for the prior issue’s question, “Did the Confederate government ban the export of cotton?”  The correct answer was “No.”  A “yes/no” question had no correct answers submitted?  What the…?








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