Stone Bridge Flooding

3 05 2014





McDowell’s Real Plan

1 05 2014

Sorry this has taken so long.

The good folks at the Central Ohio Civil War Round Table – they’re in the Columbus area – invited me out to speak to them on the topic of my choice this past March 12. They invited me, jeez, must have been at least 18 months ago. They get really good speakers out there so the schedule is set many months in advance. This is the second time I’ve spoken to the group. I really like being invited back to a group, as I rightly or wrongly interpret that to mean they like what I do. Regardless, I’m to the point now where I won’t speak to any group unless they say “Hey, you want to speak to our group?”

My wife actually accompanied me on this trip; she’s never seen me speak before, and only once did she even attend a class I taught – because our soon to be son was due any day and she hoped discomfort and boredom would help spur things along. So this was an unusual trip right from the start, and continued on the unusual path when we got a flat tire very near our hotel. I changed the tire and we made it over to the hotel where our host Mike Peters (the historian of the COCWRT and the talent-booker) was waiting to take us to dinner.

After a nice meal we headed over to the venue in Westerville – a cool room in an old building at Otterbein University where veterans held meetings post-war. I renewed a couple of old acquaintances and made some new ones, and finally got to meet Phil Spaugy, with whom I’ve been “friends” on Facebook for awhile, and his posse from Dayton. Check out Phil’s blog here.

Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Meeting Room, COCWRT, Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Meeting Room, COCWRT, Towers Hall, Otterbein University

I was told by Mike that I had about 30 to 45 minutes for my presentation. I went over by about half an hour, but only one of the 20 or so in attendance left before the end (he is a lawyer, and I heard a siren going off only minutes before he left – coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.)

The gist of the presentation in a nutshell – my opinion, which I hope I supported adequately:

McDowell’s plan for the First Bull Run campaign was not a quick, tactical flank attack meant to overwhelm his outnumbered opponent and defeat him in the field. It was a deliberate, strategic turning maneuver, meant to compel a superior opponent to abandon his carefully chosen position, allowing McDowell to cut his line of communications. It did not fail because of slow movement, a complex plan, or the arrival of last minute Confederate reinforcements. It failed because McDowell was unable to establish his own line across Bull Run and move on the rail line at Groveton, and was instead drawn into a series of frontal assaults against a larger force occupying a superior position.

Sacrilege, I know. Of course, I had more to say than these four sentences, and that’s the fun part. You can read a recap of my talk here. I can quibble with a few things, but I’m not sure if the misunderstanding was due to a failure on my part to be clear. For now let’s just say that not all the details jive with what I meant to say. I really like this bit, though:

[Harry Smeltzer] reacts to consensus like a bull to the matador’s cape. Charge! And he lays waste to conventional wisdom. He doesn’t trust accepted “facts” and easy generalizations about battles, strategies, troop movements, and other assumptions that have been passed down as gospel over generations.

Yep, that’s me. I’m a loner. A rebel.

Afterwards we took a chilly walk to a nearby college pub where a few of us quaffed ales and had a generally ribald time. The next day, Mike and I went on a little field trip to nearby Lancaster, OH, while the wife made some sales calls and got the flat fixed. But that’s another story…





Heavy Rains at Manassas National Battlefield Park

1 05 2014





Springfield Armory “Organ of Muskets”

30 04 2014

Hat tip to Phil Spaugy (see his blog here)





Previews: New from Savas Beatie

25 04 2014

Three new(er) releases from Savas Beatie have hit the shelves. I do apologize for the delay in announcing these, but now that our government has exacted it’s pound of flesh (that is, I have rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s), I’m hoping to get back to more regular posting beyond the stuff I find and share on the blog’s Facebook page (which you can follow by clicking on the link over to the right.)

PETERS_CAMP2_lgFirst up is Volume II of Ed Bearss’s writings on the Petersburg Campaign, entitled The Petersburg Campaign Volume II: The Western Front Battles September 1864 – April 1865. The title is self-explanatory. You can read an interview with co-author/editor Bryce A. Suderow about the project here. This interview addresses to some extent who wrote what. 557 pages of text for you muddy trench fans. No order of battle, but clear George Skoch maps abound, and if you need more on the organization of the forces, check out Brett Schulte’s site here. And don’t miss the interview with Mr. Bearss on the back of the dust jacket.

We also have two new entries in the Mackowski and White edited Emerging Civil War series (see ECW’s site here.) Layout 1The first, No Turning Back is a guide to the Overland Campaign from Wilderness to Cold Harbor, and is the product of the combined efforts of National Park Service current and former employees Robert M. Dunkerly, Donald C. Pfanz, and David R. Ruth. Unlike most other ECW series entries, in which the battlefield tours are more or less appendices to a narrative, this is 165 pages of touring, supplemented with numerous maps and illustrations. Siegel’s No Backward Step has thus far been my go-to Overland guide, but the cheap binding really doesn’t lend itself to use in the field. No Turning Back relies on a more narrative flow and less reproduction of large chunks of text from eyewitnesses.

Layout 1The second new ECW title is Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, by NPS alums Daniel Davis and Phillip Greenwalt. This format will be more familiar to readers who have viewed other entries in the series. The narrative is concise at 90 pages, and, as the action is so spread out, appendices include four separate driving tours and an essay on battlefield preservation by one of my favorite rangers, Eric Campbell of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

 





Manassas NBP Superintendent Jon G. James

25 04 2014





Stone Bridge, 1940

24 04 2014








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