I was recently going through some older posts, and was reminded of a series of posts from over 4 years ago by Dmitri Rotov over at Civil War Bookshelf. They explore the relationship between Irvin McDowell and William Franklin, and shed some light on the duo prior to First Bull Run (and beyond). Check them out – good stuff.
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Tags: Articles, Blogroll, Civil War Bookshelf, Digital History, Irvin McDowell, William B. Franklin
Categories : Articles, Civil War Blogroll, Civil War On the Web, Digital History, Soldiers
November 21, 2014 is the scheduled release date for a new Bull Run campaign study from University of Oklahoma Press: The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861, by prolific author Edward G. Longacre. I’ve not heard a lot of buzz about the book, but it weighs in at 648 pages and has an Amazon pre-release price of $21.74 for Prime members.
From the publisher:
This crucial campaign receives its most complete and comprehensive treatment in Edward G. Longacre’s The Early Morning of War. A magisterial work by a veteran historian, The Early Morning of War blends narrative and analysis to convey the full scope of the campaign of First Bull Run—its drama and suspense as well as its practical and tactical underpinnings and ramifications. Also woven throughout are biographical sketches detailing the backgrounds and personalities of the leading commanders and other actors in the unfolding conflict.
Longacre has combed previously unpublished primary sources, including correspondence, diaries, and memoirs of more than four hundred participants and observers, from ranking commanders to common soldiers and civilians affected by the fighting. In weighing all the evidence, Longacre finds correctives to long-held theories about campaign strategy and battle tactics and questions sacrosanct beliefs—such as whether the Manassas Gap Railroad was essential to the Confederate victory. Longacre shears away the myths and persuasively examines the long-term repercussions of the Union’s defeat at Bull Run, while analyzing whether the Confederates really had a chance of ending the war in July 1861 by seizing Washington, D.C.
Brilliant moves, avoidable blunders, accidents, historical forces, personal foibles: all are within Longacre’s compass in this deftly written work that is sure to become the standard history of the first, critical campaign of the Civil War.
And two pretty good blurbs:
“In this book, Edward Longacre has applied his considerable skills as a biographer to a vivid piece of American history, injecting humanity and fresh insight to the story of the Civil War’s first major battle. Practicing the lost art of personification and characterization with both flourish and wisdom, Longacre makes the players in this immense drama live anew.”—John Hennessy, author of Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas
“Extensively researched and full of fresh insights and information, Edward G. Longacre’s finely crafted Early Morning of War offers a remarkably thorough, highly readable account of the men and events that shaped the course of the first great campaign of the American Civil War.”—Ethan S. Rafuse, author of McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union and Manassas: A Battlefield Guide
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Edward Longacre, The Early Morning of War
Categories : Articles, Books
The 116th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division spearheaded the division’s assault on Omaha Beach seventy rears ago today, and suffered 341 casualties, including Co. A which lost over 90% of its men within ten minutes of landing. The 116th was – and is today – a Virginia National Guard unit. It’s also known as The Stonewall Brigade, and claims lineage from that as-of-then un-monikered command that gathered on the reverse slope of Henry Hill on July 21, 1861. The above is the regiment’s former shoulder patch. Does it remind you of anything?
You can read about the men of Company A in The Bedford Boys. And below, some vets of the assault talk about it:
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Tags: 116th Infantry Regiment, Articles, D-Day, Stonewall Brigade
Categories : Articles, History in General
The University of Nebraska Press battlefield guide series, This Hallowed Ground, is familiar to most seasoned battlefield stompers. Their covers are recognizable from a distance – a blue background with a red sun in the lower right hand corner. The most recent entry in the series is Ethan Rafuse’s Manassas: A Battlefield Guide. Both the 1861 and 1862 battles are included here, and of course you’d expect me to be a little disappointed that the first battle was deemed unworthy of a Fuller Monty. And you’d be right. However, it is what it is, and what it is is a compact, tight guide to both battles in classic staff ride format. First Bull Run gets 51 pages, while Second Manassas (see what I did there?) gets 166. Maps are by Erin Greb (plentiful and clear), illustrations are mostly from Battles and Leaders. Stops are set up with directions and orientation, synopsis of action, vignette (first person account), and analysis.
This is a tough little book, with heavy-stock cover, and it will hold up well in your backpack. And that’s exactly where this one belongs, out in the field with you. Good stuff.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Ethan Rafuse
Categories : Articles, Books
I can’t recall that I’ve posted anything much on this item here before. On Henry Hill there is a monument to Colonel (identified as General on the plaque) Francis Bartow. Here it is:
Shortly after the battle, and long before the installation of the above, there was constructed the first monument on the field, to the same martyred Colonel Bartow:
Sometime after the Confederate withdrawal from the Manassas line in 1862, the monument disappeared, perhaps courtesy of souvenir-seeking or vindictive Yankee soldiers. Well, it mostly disappeared. Very near the current monument, in a cluster of tree-trunks, you can see its last vestiges:
Be sure to check it out next time you’re on the field.
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Tags: Articles, Francis Bartow, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monuments
Categories : Articles, The Battlefield
Just a quickie here. New in the Emerging Civil War series from Savas Beatie is another by NPSers Daniel Davis and Philip Greenwalt, Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 26 – June 5, 1864. You know the drill: a concise narrative of the events of the campaign in question; good, clear, and plentiful maps by Hal Jesperson; a lot of illustrations including numerous modern-day photos; an order of battle; a driving tour; sites to see in Richmond; an essay on the campaign in memory; another on North Anna by Don Pfanz. Concise, manageable, portable. What’s not to like?
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Cold Harbor, Hurricane from the Heavens
Categories : Articles, Books
Friend Ron Baumgarten of All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac has forwarded a few images Fire Zouave ephemera he recorded at the Ft. Ward Museum in Alexandria, VA. You can check out more on the story of Elmer Ellsworth, James Jackson, and Francis Brownell here. Enjoy! (Click on the photos for larger images – click those images for great big giant huge ones)
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Tags: 11th New York, Alexndria, Articles, Elmer Ellsworth, Marshall House, Photos, Zouaves
Categories : Articles, Galleries, Soldiers
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness and The Overland Campaign, here’s the original version of my Collateral Damage article that ran in the August, 2011 edition of Civil War Times. For real time tweets of the tours this week, be sure to follow Sesqui tourist extraordinaire Craig Swain @caswain01 on Twitter and look for the Overland150 hashtag.
The Higgerson and Chewning Farms in The Wilderness: The Widows Permelia
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought in early May 1864, marked the beginning of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. For two days, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Ninth Army Corps battled Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a hellish tangle of thick, second-growth forest along and between the Orange Turnpike to the north and the Orange Plank Road to the south, in Virginia’s Spotsylvania County. Two farms, today located along Hill-Ewell Drive in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, were in 1864 situated at the center of the fighting; both were witness to singular events.
The northernmost farm, also known as “Spring Hill” and “Oak Hill”, was the home of Permelia Chewning Higgerson, 34. Her husband Benjamin, who was 20 years her senior, had died of smallpox in December 1862. One year later, Benjamin’s son from an earlier marriage, James, died in a Richmond hospital, also from smallpox, which he had contracted as a member of the Ninth VA Cavalry. Living with the Widow Higgerson were her five children – four boys and a girl aged two to eleven. In 1860, Benjamin Higgerson’s real estate was valued at $500, his personal properly was worth $1,370, and he owned two slaves. The house was a small, three room, one-and-a-half story frame structure which sat in a clearing about three quarters of a mile south of the Orange Turnpike.
About one mile to the south was the home of Permelia Higgerson’s parents, William and Permelia Chewning. Like her daughter, Permelia Chewning was a widow. William had died the previous June at the age of 73 as the result of an injury sustained in an accident at a local mill. In 1860, William Chewning’s real estate was valued at $1,500 and his personal estate at a respectable $14,400. He also owned thirteen slaves. The 72-year-old Widow Chewning lived with her 38-year-old daughter Jane and 30-year-old son Absalom in a two and one-half story frame house known as “Mount View”, situated in a clearing on a ridge on the 150-acre farm. The farm produced wheat, rye, corn, oats, potatoes, and tobacco. It also had a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.
Both farms played prominent roles in the battle. On May 5, Union general James Wadsworth’s division struggled westward through thick underbrush to keep pace with the rest of Union 5th Corps attack on Confederate General Richard Ewell’s lines. Colonel Roy Stone’s brigade passed through the clearing around the Higgerson house, tearing down a fence and laying waste to the garden despite the Widow’s loud objections and predictions of their impending defeat. After passing the house the men entered swampy ground near a tributary of Wilderness Run: “That’s a hell of a looking hole to send white men into”, shouted one soldier; another advised his comrades to “label” themselves, as death was certain. Soon they found themselves mired in waist-deep water, causing a gap to open in the Union line just as Confederate troops crashed into the isolated Pennsylvanians. Heavy casualties forced them to retire, and as they poured past the house, the Widow Higgerson again pelted them with taunts.
Farther south, the placement of the Chewning house on high ground from which enemy positions were clearly visible made it desirable to both sides, and possession changed hands over the two days. At one point, a group of Union soldiers had taken over the house and was inside vandalizing it and preparing dinner when Permelia Chewning flagged down her relative Markus Chewning (a scout for Confederate General Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee), who was coincidentally riding alone along the road from Parker’s Store to the south. After the Widow Chewning filled him in about what was happening, Markus rode rapidly around the house to convince those inside that they were outnumbered and should give up. The ruse worked – leaving their weapons inside the Yankees surrendered to Markus. Nevertheless, the writing was on the wall: Mount View was soon to become a hot place. The Widow Chewning gathered some things and left the house soon after.
On May 6, Confederate General A. P. Hill and his staff rode into the unoccupied clearing. They dismounted and soon heard the sounds of a body of nearby Federal soldiers breaking down a fence. Hill remained calm, telling them: “Mount, walk your horses, and don’t look back.” Although the Rebels were within easy range, the Federals held their fire and the party made their escape at a leisurely pace. A captured Yankee later told one of the escapees, “I wanted to fire on you, but my colonel said you were farmers riding from the house.”
The Chewning house and farm was in a shambles after the battle. Absalom later testified: “Everything was gone – all the crops, all the stock, all the fences. Also, a tobacco house, a shop, and an ice-house were destroyed. I found some of the materials in the breastworks around the house.” The Widow Chewning filed a post-war claim with the Southern Claims Commission for just under $3,600, including lost fence rails, cordwood, and livestock. The disposition of the Chewning claim is unknown. Fire destroyed the Chewning house in 1947.
The younger Permelia – Higgerson – remarried in 1867. She and William Porter had two children, Cyrus and Ann, and moved to Missouri on the Mississippi River to a place they called “Higgerson Landing”, consisting of a house, a store, and a one-room schoolhouse that survives to this day. Permelia’s second marriage eventually fell apart. About 1871 William Porter ran off to Louisiana and Montana with Permelia Higgerson’s 16-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. After fathering four children with her, Porter deserted Jacqueline as well. The Widow Higgerson passed away in 1897 in Missouri. The Higgerson House disappeared in the 1930s, but remnants of its chimney survive today.
Thanks to Josef W. Rokus and Noel Harrison of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP for their assistance in preparing this article.
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Tags: Articles, Battle of the Wilderness, Chewning, Civil War Magazines, Civil War Times, Collateral Damage, Higgerson, Overland 150, Overland Campaign
Categories : Articles, Writing About The Civil War
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.
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…
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Tags: Articles, Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable, McDowell's Plan, Speaking
Categories : Articles, Speaking, The Battle
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.)
First 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.) The 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.
The 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.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, No Turning Back: A Guide to the 1864 Overland Campaign, The Petersburg Campaign Volume II
Categories : Articles, Books