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.





More on the Blue & Gray BR1 Issue

4 03 2011

In this post I let you know that the next issue of Blue & Gray magazine will feature First Bull Run. For those who don’t know, since 1983 B&G has been publishing this very fine magazine about six times a year.  Each issue focuses on one campaign or battle, and sometimes very specific pieces of a campaign or battle. For example Gettysburg has been done about a gajillion times over the past 28 years. But believe it or not, this will be the first issue dedicated to BR1. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s a sneak peek of the cover, from the magazine’s site.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I asked Jim Burgess at Manassas National Battlefield to proof an article I was writing (I’ve since submitted my final draft, after rewriting the whole thing – that’s what editors are for, and good editors make good writers). At the time he told me about the upcoming issue, and that the feature was written by ranger Henry Elliott. Nobody knows Bull Run like the good folks who work there at the park, so this should be first-rate. I’m really looking forward to it – 20 maps! A driving tour! This will come as quite a surprise to those supposedly learned students convinced that this important battle was simply a meeting of two armed mobs, with no displays of tactics whatsoever and therefore unworthy of attention.

Of course, Blue & Gray won’t be the only publication focusing on our favorite topic in the coming months. Keep an eye out here for more news in that regard.





America’s Civil War May 2011

3 03 2011

Inside this issue:

Field Notes:

  • Wilderness battlefield preservation victory
  • The Lowry controversy
  • Budget woes affect sesqui efforts
  • Monitor restoration
  • Georgia Dept of Agriculture removes controversial murals

5 Questions:

  • Daniel Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop

Cease Fire:

  • Harold Holzer discusses historical honesty

Legends

  • Ron Soodalter points out some surprising lyrics in state songs that are unchanged to this day

Features

  • Jackson, Johnston and Conflicting Interests – Dennis Frye: differing opinions on holding Harper’s Ferry in 1861
  • Looking for a Few Good Men: recruiting poster photo essay
  • An Omen a Philippi – Gerald Swick: early fight in Western Virginia, with an interesting sidebar on James Hanger, an amputee whose prosthetic manufacturing company lives on today
  • The Common Soldier’s Recipe for Disaster: photo essay on the culinary delights of the Civil War
  • Diary of a Morgan Raider – John M. Porter: in fact, a memoir. Extract form One of Morgan’s Men, Kent Masterson Brown, ed.

Reviews

  • My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy – Nora Titone
  • God’s Almost Chosen People: A Religious History of the American Civil War - George Rable
  • Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose - W. Eric Emerson & Karen Stokes, eds.
  • A Young Virginia Boatman Navigates the Civil War: The Journals of George Randolph Wood - Will Molineux, ed.
  • Santa Fe Trail (Film)
  • Harry’s Just Wild About
    • John Bell Hood and the Fight for Civil War Memory - Brian Craig Miller
    • The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It - Brooks Simpson, Stephen Sears, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, eds.
    • Caught Between Three Fires: Cass County, MO, Chaos, & Order No. 11, 1860-1865 - Tom Rafiner
    • The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864 - Philip Secrist







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