Interview: Dr. Joseph Glatthaar, “Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia”

6 10 2011

I finally got the chance to meet – briefly – Dr. Joseph Glatthaar at the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute conference this past summer. At the time I expressed some interest in his new book, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee. I didn’t purchase it then – it’s a little pricey – but I eventually did get myself a copy, and Dr. Glatthaar was good enough to take some time to answer a few questions about the book.

BR: I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with your work, Dr. Glatthaar, but would you mind filling them in a bit on your background?

JG: My training is in both Civil War and American military history.  I received an MA at Rice University under Civil War specialist Frank Vandiver and a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under American Military history specialist Edward “Mac” Coffman.  Mac Coffman was a pioneer in the “New” Military history, which intrigued me since I read Bell Wiley’s books on Johnny Reb and Billy Yank years earlier.  My dissertation was The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Soldiers on the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns. I wanted to study soldiers on the march to see what factors motivated them and encouraged their behavior.  Among my arguments was that Sherman’s soldiers were veterans with strong ideological ties to restore the Union and destroy slavery and through years of military campaigning had established powerful bonds of camaraderie within their units.  My second book was Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and their White Officers .  What intrigued me was the intersection or friction between races within the confines of military units.  At the U.S. Army War College immediately after the First Gulf War, I taught a course entitled “Command Relationships in the Civil War.”  The object was to use history to get senior officers to think about the types of subordinates they should be seeking to work under them in future assignments.  That was the basis for my next book called Partners in Command: Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War.   I then wrote the volume on black soldiers for the National Park Service.  After that, I could not resist writing The Civil War in the West, 1863-65, so that I would be part of a larger volume with friends Gary Gallagher, Bob Krick, and Steve Engle.  Shortly thereafter, I published Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians in the American Revolution with James Kirby Martin.  Jim and I have been great friends for decades, and the story of the Oneidas was so dramatic that we could not resist the topic.  A consortium is currently working on a movie based on our book.  Since 1989, I had been working on Lee’s army, and it finally came together in 2008 under the title General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse.  It was under contract so long with The Free Press that my editor told me they would have terminated the contract years before but the money was so small that it was not worth the paperwork!  To my mind, it is my best piece of scholarship to date.  With all the extra statistics, Gary Gallagher urged me to publish a book, which became Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia.  I am currently working on my companion volume to Lee’s army, one on the Army of the Potomac, which is quite fun, since I love research and I am in the research phase.

BR: Your book General Lee’s Army made quite a splash when it was published in 2008, and it’s now considered by many – myself included, for whatever that’s worth – as the must read book on the Army of Northern Virginia. More than a modern version of D. S. Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants, it’s a study of the makeup of the army. Much more of a “social history”, for lack of a better term, it concerns the personality of the army, as opposed to a simple chronology of events. What did you learn about the army in the process of writing and researching General Lee’s Army?

JG: General Lee’s Army was an eye-opener for me.  I suspected those soldiers bore great burdens, but I was shocked to learn how many severe hardships they endured, how many losses they sustained, and how much of the fighting they bore for the Confederacy.  Rich, poor, and middle classmen came out to fight in the army.  Seventy percent who ever served in Lee’s army was killed, died of disease, wounded at least once, captured at least once, or discharged for disability.  That statistic does not include overlap, so many were wounded one time and later captured, or wounded in one battle and later killed in action.  Again, we knew they had clothing shortages, but in the wintertime, soldiers were eager for combat because if they won the field they could get shoes, blankets, and overcoats from the Yankees.  Some men appeared for inspection in late 1864 without pants because theirs were worn out!  In the last half-year of the war men lived on 900-1,200 calories per day.  Their intake of vitamins and minerals was so insufficient that they could not extract the nutrition from the food they consumed.  Yet so many of Lee’s men continued to fight.  I also love Robert E. Lee’s revolutionary way of thinking.  Contrary to the arguments of J.F.C. Fuller and so many scholars since, Lee was an extremely creative problem solver with ideas that were far ahead of their time, a truly innovative thinker.  In Partner’s in Command, I got a sense of how good Lee was, but in researching General Lee’s Army, I learned that he was truly exceptional.  Quite frankly, those who think otherwise simply have not done their homework.

BR:  The conclusions you drew from an impressive amount of data concerning the soldiery were not without controversy. Can you describe how that book was received in various circles? Were there any reactions that surprised you?

JG:  The reaction to the book was a bit surprising. Some people dismissed it immediately because I point out the ties to slavery.  Others know just enough statistics to voice an opinion but not enough to understand them properly. One person suggested I did not weight my sample, which of course I did.  One academic criticized me for mentioning Lee’s temper but not exploring the psychological dimensions of it—in effect, the root cause.  It is hopeless to explain that the book was not about Lee’s psychological makeup or speculations about his relationship with his father!  Rather, that is a book about an army.  One reader criticized me for not blaming O.O. Howard for Jackson’s successful flank attack.  Rest assured I shall do so in my study of the Army of the Potomac, but blaming a Union general in a book on Lee’s army still makes no sense to me.  Another scholar who wrote a regimental history complained that my sample was small—he, after all, had an entire regiment—or that none of his soldiers in the Tennessee Veteran’s questionnaire admitted that the war was about slavery.  Of course, he only had to look at four or five reels of microfilm for his service records data.  It took me months and months just to get the names of my sample and then I had to look in perhaps 800 or more reels of service records to gather my soldiers’ data.  And then I had to find them in census records and gather all sorts of other data, and this information probably totaled ten or twenty pages in a 600-page book!   I guess it never occurred to him that the reason no one admitted they fought for slavery was because by the second decade of the twentieth century most of the world had come to the irrevocable conclusion that slavery was immoral and that no veteran wanted to admit that they fought a war with 600,000+ dead for an immoral cause!  No doubt, Confederate soldiers fought for all sorts of reason—defense of hearth and home, their rights (which, incidentally, included their right to own slaves), spirit of adventure, community and government pressure, and other factors–but to deny slavery as a consideration is absurd.

Fortunately, the people whose work and opinion I value, such as Gary Gallagher, Jim McPherson, Bud Robertson, Jack Davis, Bob Krick, Bill Cooper, and Emory Thomas, to name a few, were pleased, and that thrilled me.

BR: Your new book, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia, is a different cup of tea. Not a traditional narrative, it’s a more in-depth look at the data behind the conclusions drawn in General Lee’s Army. I liken it, somewhat, to Joseph Harsh’s Sounding the Shallows which was a look behind the curtain of his Taken at the Flood. However, that book focused more on strictly military matters. Soldiering examines, among other things, the socio-economic backgrounds of the officers and men of the AoNV. First off, what is your object in publishing this as a separate work?

JG:  As I mentioned earlier, General Lee’s Army utilized a mere fraction of the statistics I generated.  For each chapter, I probably calculated close to 100 pages of tables, sometimes with three tables per page.  All this data was unused, and Gary Gallagher had a hunch it would be very interesting to publish on its own.  I viewed it as a chance to slice the army in various ways to catch a glimpse of these soldiers, their experiences, and their lives.  What I wanted to do is show readers some of the possibilities that were available from a research perspective.  Decades ago, historians moved toward statistics and then dismissed it.  Some of it was quality work, and other elements were not well done.  Lately, I felt like scholars had been cherry-picking evidence to support one argument or another, when the preponderance of evidence indicated otherwise.  Having read so many Civil War letters and diaries over the decades, I have a good sense of their contents.  What I hoped to do is to generate hard data that will help guide scholarly research—in effect, work in conjunction with more traditional, qualitative sources.

For that reason, I am trying to get funding to launch a massive research project on Confederate soldiers, with a purely random sample of 4,000 men.  In Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia, I gathered all my own data.  In that instance, with a sample of 4,000, I would need help from graduate research assistants.

BR: Now, to be clear, yours is not a compilation of data that attempts to support sweeping conclusions about subjective things like soldiers’ opinions or feelings, a somewhat dubious practice  we’ve been seeing a lot of over the past few years. You focus on specific, quantifiable, objective points.

JG:  I cannot calculate attitudes or other such things in Soldiering.  I merely explore what is measurable in the data.  The data that I have collected is from Compiled Service Records, Census Records, and some other sources.  I am only generating statistics that one can quantify from that data, such as year of entry, rank, how the individual left the service (killed in action, discharged for wounds, discharged for disability, deserted, prisoner at Appomattox, etc.), date they left the service, desertion, desertion dates, length of desertion, illness, wealth, slave ownership, and other things.  Attitudes and motivations are more a product of traditional sources.

I used a stratified cluster sample—a complex way of generating a random sample—on the recommendation of my friend, Kent Tedin, an expert in sampling.  Since we had no list of the soldiers in Lee’s army, and I wanted to compare branches, we chose this method.  It included 150 artillerists, 150 cavalrymen, and 300 infantrymen.  At 150, the data would be reliable for artillery and cavalry, but because the infantry was so large we needed a larger number.

I compiled a list of every unit that ever served in Lee’s army or its predecessor, the Army of the Potomac, by branch.  I then generated 50 random numbers each for the artillery and cavalry and 75 for the infantry.  I then generated three random numbers per artillery and cavalry unit and four for each infantry unit selected.  At that point, I simply went through and counted, so if the 652nd soldier was in my sample, I waded through the service records until I reached the 652nd CSR!  Fortunately, Tom Broadfoot published his roster for some of the states, so I was able to use that, which, needless to say, was much quicker to identify soldiers for inclusion in the sample.  I then gathered data from their service records, located them in census records, checked county histories, obituaries, family histories, pension files, and other sources for personal data, and loaded that into an ACCESS document.  Based on a tabulation of strength throughout the war, 81.8% of Lee’s army were infantrymen, 11.3% were cavalrymen, and 6.9% were artillerists.  These factors were used for weighting purposes.  The statistical weighting took into account the larger size of the infantry sample.  I then converted the database to STATA and wrote code to crunch the numbers in STATA.  The results were nearly as accurate as if the sample was purely random.  Several statistics experts have complimented me on the skill and sophistication of the sampling.  I cannot take credit.

There are some chapters where the sample size was not large enough for firm conclusions.  For example, only 3.4% were foreign-born.  I calculated foreign-born and northern born against southern born, but the results for those two categories do not allow for confidence limits.  Of course, they do for southern born.  In those instances I am explicitly clear about confidence limits.

BR: Pretty much all of the socio-economic data in the book is fascinating to consider, and the graphics help the numbers pop. The lightning rod as always is slavery – in this case the percentage of men and officers in the army who were stakeholders in the institution. Of course it’s impossible to quantify the number of people whose lives and livelihoods were dependent on chattel slavery, but you seem to have at least put to rest the age-old argument that “only blankety-blank percent of Confederate soldiers owned slaves” by providing hard numbers regarding those who belonged to slave-holding households. And that number is a lot higher than what normally gets tossed around. While doing the research into this particular aspect, was there anything that surprised you or confirmed previously held notions?

JG:  Certainly I was surprised that 37.2% of all soldiers either owned slaves or their parents with whom they lived owned slaves.  I was also surprised that 44.4% of all soldiers came from slaveholding households.  Other things, though, surprised me.  For example, I compared soldiers in Lee’s army with males of comparable ages in the states from which Lee drew his troops. The results were that Lee’s soldiers had a considerably higher median wealth and had more people in the wealthy class and fewer people in the poor class. I was surprised about the comparatively low percentage of middle-class folks in Lee’s army.  Upon thinking it over, though, many skilled workers whose talents were needed by the army and the people at home would have been in the middle class.  The very heavy casualties also surprised me.  All of us would assume infantrymen would bear the brunt of combat, but when 83.1% of those who joined the infantry in 1862 were KIA, WIA, died of disease, discharged for disability, or POW at least once, and 74.4% of those who joined the army in 1861 were, it is quite startling.

BR: “Soldiering” has a fairly narrow target audience, but how has it been received so far?

JG:  I have no idea how it has been received.  As you know, it is not an easy read; it is not the kind of book that you pick up and read straight through.  Despite all my efforts to write it clearly, the numbers are dense.  Plus, there are not all that many people who have backgrounds in both the Civil War and statistics.  As a result, it has not gotten much “play.”  I think that people who are willing to take their time and go through it with care will find it rewarding.  There is some fascinating information in there.  Ultimately, it will, I hope, have a real impact on how we perceive Civil War soldiers.  Recently, I was attending a talk by Jim McPherson and in the Q and A he began discussing issues on desertion and wealth, which he derived in part from Soldiering.  So, I have hope that it will have an impact.

BR: I’m very interested in how writers go about their business. Can you describe your research and writing process?

JG:  Much of research for a book like this is fairly tedious, but I actually don’t mind it.  In fact, I find all research wonderful.  The idea of discovery still charms me.  I love to go through archives and read letters and diaries.

When I embark on a project, I try to read all the primary materials I can find.   In a big project, no one can ever find everything, but I still try to be extremely thorough.  I go from archives to archives and see as much as I can find.  Needless to say, I am dependent on great archivists like Dick Sommers, John Coski, Lee Shepard, and so many, many more.  I also love researching at the National Archives (NARA).  Over the years I have been blessed with great archivists: Sara Dunlap Jackson, Mike Musick, Mike Meyers, Trevor Plante, Mike Pilgrim, Connie Potter, and a host of others.  They have helped me find new ways to exam old and new questions.  Because the research material is so vast, I still use 3×5 notecards.  Taking the equivalent of 10,000 or 15,000 notecards on a computer would be an organizational nightmare. Documents that offer information that won’t fit on a 3×5 get a numbered file and a notecard that summarizes briefly the information and the relating file number.

Once I have finished gathering my evidence I go through all the notecards and keep reading and sorting.  Then, I compile topical lists from the notecards and begin to try to outline the book, chapter by chapter.  In General Lee’s Army, the book had a chronological thrust so I had to plot matters carefully.  I did not want to quote an 1864 source when I was writing about 1862.  Moreover, I had to introduce themes early and leave them because later in the book they would become important.

For me, organization is the key.  When I have a good, clear outline and carefully sorted notecards, I am ready to write, and although I am no Jack Davis—Jack gets 16 pages of finished prose per day!—I am able to write reasonably quickly.

BR: What’s next for you? Do you have a particular project in mind?

JG: Way back in the in the mid-1980s, I began research for a book on the Army of the Potomac.  I have now turned my attention back to it.  Right now I am fairly far along on my sample.  I’ve looked at the Compiled Service Records and am two-thirds through with pension files at NARA.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of manuscript collections—perhaps 60 or so.  And, of course, there are fabulous amounts of records at NARA, and then published materials.  In short, I’ve got a ways to go.

As I mentioned earlier, I am also trying to get funding to develop a statistical database for 4,000 randomly selected Confederate soldiers.  I hope to get data from Compiled Service Records and Census Records first and then collect data on them for their entire life course, as well as the life course of their widows and children.  Not only would a project like this generate fabulous data (the database would be posted on the website at the Odum Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) for all to use, but it would allow us to explore topics like postwar adjustment and impact of soldiers and their families, widows, disabled veterans, orphans, and all sorts of other economic, health, and social issues.  Once it is open to the public, we could add photos, letters, diaries, and other materials, so that the database could be used in schools as well as by researchers.

It sounds like there’s more groundbreaking work ahead for Dr. Glatthaar. The Confederate soldier study is intriguing, but I for one am excited that he’s also turned his attention to the Army of the Potomac. I think you should be, too.





“Total Gettysburg” Interview

30 09 2011

Scott Sarich of TotalGettysburg.com has an interview up with the host of Bull Runnings. Check it out here, and while you’re there cruise around Scott’s site – some cool stuff there.





Interview: Terry Johnston, “Civil War Monitor”

21 09 2011

Terry Johnston and I have never met, but we’ve been corresponding and talking on the phone for at least a couple of years. Terry was instrumental in publishing my first ever Civil War writing to appear in print, a long letter to the editor that ran in an issue of North & South magazine a few years back. Over  a year ago Terry called me about an idea for a new American Civil War publication he was considering. At the time, it was nothing more than a vague notion – at least, it seemed that way to me. But after a few phone calls it started to flesh out. Terry didn’t just pick my brain – he talked to a lot of folks and you may have run across a few announcements to that effect already on the web (see here and here, for example). At long last, everything’s set to hit the fan. I received a copy of the new magazine last week, and it looks great. At left is the cover of the premier issue. But the project is more than a print magazine: Terry has integrated a strong web presence into the whole enterprise. Rather than tell you what I think it’s all about, I thought it better for you to hear from the source. In the interest of full disclosure, I appear on the masthead of the magazine as a digital history advisor, and may also contribute to the magazine’s website periodically.

BR: Terry, while I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with your work, can you tell them a little bit about yourself?

TJ: Well, I’m a native of New Jersey. I received my B.A. from Tufts University and my M.A. (history) from Clemson University. I’m also, at long last, nearing completion of my Ph.D. in history—my dissertation focuses on Irish immigrants who served in the Union army. I’ve written a few articles and one book, Him on the One Side and Me on the Other, an edited collection of the wartime letters of two Scottish-born brothers who fought on opposite sides [see extracts here]. I also spent eight years (between 1999 and 2007) on the editorial staff of North & South magazine, the last two as lead editor.

BR: What got you interested in Civil War history?

TJ: Basically, it was a children’s book on Abraham Lincoln. When I was a kid, my mother, a former high school English teacher, was so determined to get my sister and me to read that she’d excuse us from minor chores whenever we would sit down with a book. On one such occasion, the book I picked up was something called Meet Abraham Lincoln. And I was hooked. So, technically, it is true when I say that I became a Civil War enthusiast to avoid taking out the trash.

BR: So tell us about The Civil War Monitor.

TJ: In a nutshell, it’s a new quarterly magazine, the first issue of which will hit the newsstand toward the end of the month (9/27, to be specific). Our tag line is A New Look at America’s Greatest Conflict, which to us means we intend to provide our readers with well-written and engaging articles that either break new ground or cover well-known topics with a fresh slant. To help accomplish this, we’ve gathered together a terrific team of editorial advisors (with the exception, perhaps, of one fellow with the initials HS) and a battery of top authors, all of whom are well in tune with the latest avenues of Civil War scholarship.

BR: There are at least four other Civil War focused periodicals out there today. What will set CWM apart?

TJ: A number of things, we hope. For one, we’re excited about the magazine’s look. Our art director, Patrick Mitchell (www.plutomedia.com), a veteran designer of several nationally renowned publications, has brought his unique vision to the project. And frankly we’ve been blown away by the results, which I think stylistically might best be described as a perfect blend of old and new. Beyond appearance, we believe our content is of the kind you won’t find in the other Civil War magazines. This is not to say that everything we intend to do isn’t being done, in some fashion, in the other magazines—like footnoting articles, for instance. But in other respects, we will be offering—or delivering—content in ways our competitors do not. Take our book section, for example. We have no intention of publishing the cursory reviews that are regularly found elsewhere (you know, those 200-word appraisals of 600-page books that invariably conclude with some version of the sentence, “These faults aside, this is a book that should find its way onto the shelf of every Civil War buff”). Instead, our book section will consist of a rotating lineup of bookish columns. In our premier issue, these are: Russell McClintock’s take on the essential readings on the coming of the war; Robert K. Krick’s musings on recent battle books; and Steven H. Newton’s reflections on the various books that influenced his interest in, and writing on, the Civil War.

Another way in which we’ll be delivering content is through our website (www.civilwarmonitor.com), something we’re equally excited about. Visitors will find a variety of free material there, including regular photo essays and our two blogs: The Front Line (www.civilwarmonitor.com/front-line), where a diverse lineup of scholars, public historians, and talented buffs will post on a wide array of Civil War subjects; and The Bookshelf (www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf), our blog devoted to author interviews and clear, insightful, and substantive reviews of recently released books (the kind we like). Lastly, we’re also producing a digital edition of the magazine for our subscribers, viewable at our website, so that they’ll be able to read The Civil War Monitor online whenever they’d like.

In short, we truly believe that our coverage—in breadth, depth, and style, both in the magazine and on our website—goes beyond what you can get from the other popular magazines.

BR: Two blogs? Hmmm…not sure how to feel about that! How else can we follow CWM?

TJ: Facebook (www.facebook.com/CivilWarMonitor) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/#!/civilwarmonitor), of course! Our social media guru, Laura Davis, is a grizzled veteran of both, and while I must admit I’ve been learning about it all as I go, I’m starting to see the possibilities they offer for presenting Civil War history to a new generation of enthusiasts.

As far as I’m concerned, we can never have too many outlets for good Civil War writing. From the looks of the first issue, Terry is off to a great start.





Interview: Jim Morgan, “A Little Short of Boats”

13 08 2011

I’ve known James A. Morgan, III (Jim) for going on ten years now. We’ve been mutual members of a couple of email discussion groups, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with him a few times, incuding once for a personal tour of his “baby”, the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. Most recently, he introduced me before a meeting of the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable. The first edition of his book, A Little Short of Boats: The Battles of Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. Now Savas Beatie has released an updated edition, available here. Jim took some time to answer a few questions I posed via email.

BR: Jim, tell our good readers about yourself.

JM:  I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Pensacola, Florida.  We’ve lived in various places including Belgium and Romania while I was in the Foreign Service, but my wife, Betsy and I now live in Loudoun County, Virginia and have come to think of it as home.

My Civil War ancestors were all Confederates and served in the Pointe Coupee (La.) Artillery, the 6th Louisiana Battery, and the 41st Mississippi Infantry.   The Morgan family lived at Morganza plantation during the war.  It was about 40 miles upriver from Baton Rouge and is a site that will be familiar to readers with some western theater expertise.  The name pops up in the O.R. a good bit.  Of course, the damnyankees trashed the place during the war and my part of the family eventually settled in New Orleans.

For the past few years, I’ve been deeply involved in Civil War activities of various kinds.  I’m active in the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and the Mosby Heritage Area Association in addition to being a volunteer guide at Ball’s Bluff.  I used to reenact quite a bit; Union and Confederate artillery and infantry impressions plus occasionally as a civilian.  That was a lot of fun but, alas, I succumbed to the effects of what Abe Lincoln called “the silent artillery of time.” In other words, I got too old for it.  

Got into Civil War music for some years and did programs for roundtables and similar groups.  I even made a couple of cassette tapes which sold in NPS stores for a time.  One was titled “Just Before the Battle” after my favorite Civil War song.  The other was called “60’s Music.”  Both were compilations of Civil War standards though the second one included several alternate, less well known versions.  I never made them into CDs, however, so there probably are only a few old copies of the tapes left around.

In the late ‘80’s, while I was part of the Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery reenactment unit, I put together a small booklet, a thumbnail sketch history of Battery M, which Dave Zullo at Olde Soldier Press in Frederick, Maryland published.  It is titled Always Ready, Always Willing: A History of Battery M, Second United States Artillery, From Its Organization Through the Civil War.  The title is almost as long as the booklet.  I’ve actually seen it on amazon.com occasionally.

I’ve written articles for several Civil War magazines including Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Blue and Gray, and The Artilleryman among others.  That said, I’m most proud of my tactical study of Ball’s Bluff titled A Little Short of Boats: the Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, which originally was published by Eric Wittenberg’s Ironclad Publishing Company in 2004 and was just rereleased in July, 2011, in an expanded, updated, hardback edition by Savas Beatie. 

Not sure what else you want to know.  In terms of education I’ve got a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida and a master’s in Library Science from Florida State University.  I’ve been an ardent Seminole fan since I was about 13 so I’ve seen the ‘Noles through both the depths and the heights.  I’m looking forward to their return to greatness after these past few mediocre years.

BR: Battery M 2nd US was Peter Hains’s outfit: I guess I have to add one more to my “get” list. What got you interested in the Civil War in general, and in Ball’s Bluff in particular?

JM:  I suppose that, like all kids who grew up in the South when I did, I just breathed my interest in through the air. It was all around us even in Florida. Of course I grew up in north Florida which was and is very southern so I come by my interest naturally.  South Florida, largely populated by retired Yankees, is very northern and those people don’t care about anything but ice hockey and the slow, plodding brand of football they play in the Big 10. 

I don’t actually remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the war. Even as a kid I read a lot about it and, like many people, I owe a debt to Bruce Catton for giving me my first serious Civil War exposure. Growing up in Pensacola didn’t hurt. My brother and I were always at the beach and spent many hours playing in and around Fort Pickens long before it became part of the National Park Service and was restored. And, perhaps ironically, I spent the summer of 1980 as an NPS seasonal giving tours of Pickens and Fort Barrancas and the other historical military facilities in the area.

With regard to Ball’s Bluff, though, I can be more specific. In 2000, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority put out a call for volunteers to form a guide group for the little Ball’s Bluff battlefield not far from where I live.  That sounded like fun and I joined.  I didn’t know a thing about Ball’s Bluff at the time but I did my homework and soon began giving tours.  Having done that sort of thing at other Civil War sites, it was actually pretty easy.  That was 12 years ago and I’m still at it and still having fun with it.

BR: What’s different about this new edition of A Little Short of Boats?

JM:  First of all, the new edition is in hardback and has a new, more colorful  jacket so it draws the eye better than the original paperback edition did.  More importantly, however, there is quite a bit of new material in the expanded edition including more biographical information on many of the participants, additional participant anecdotes about the fighting, and more on some of the units which were involved.  I’ve rewritten the battlefield walking tour appendix so as to make it fit the improvements we’ve done on the battlefield since the first edition came out (new signage, more marked interpretive trails, etc).  And there are several previously unpublished photographs as well.  I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

BR: If there is one misconception about the battle or the individuals involved which you hope your book corrects, what would it be?

JM: To my way of thinking, it has always been extremely important that people understand WHY Ball’s Bluff was fought.  The traditional tale that it came out of a deliberate, pre-planned Union attempt to take Leesburg has been a huge stumbling block over the years because it is simply wrong.  Ball’s Bluff was totally unplanned, sheer accident, and had absolutely nothing to do with taking Leesburg. 

Because there were three separate Federal forces in the area and because everyone on both sides of the river was expecting some kind of Union advance in the near future, what happened at Ball’s Bluff appeared to be planned and coordinated.  Leesburg, with its critical road intersections and many nearby crossing points on the river, was an obvious target so people assumed that it was the Union objective.

Expectations and appearances combined to give us an elaborate story about a three-pronged Union encirclement of Leesburg.  It made perfect sense given what people knew or thought they knew and historians just repeated the story so that it gained credence by repetition over the years.

I believe – certainly I hope – that what I’ve done has corrected this mistake.  Understand, though, that I do not consider myself to be a revisionist.  I don’t like that word as it smacks of iconoclasm and personal agendas.  I didn’t set out to challenge anyone’s interpretation.  I simply went where my research led and it led to a fairly complete reinterpretation of why the battle of Ball’s Bluff happened. I suppose that is a kind of revisionism but a more limited one that essentially just involves correcting some honestly-made historical errors.

BR: The first edition was very well received. What’s the word so far on the new book? FYI I did see two copies on the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble today.

JM: So far, so good.  I haven’t seen any reviews yet (as of mid-August) but the book seems to be selling well and word-of-mouth is positive.  Frankly, I’m not surprised.  I’m proud of this book and believe that it improves the first edition as I intended it would. The additional information and general updating should make it worth buying even for people who already have the original.

BR: One of the things I try to do with the author interviews here at Bull Runnings is look at individual research and writing processes. Can you describe yours? What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the processes?

JM:  I doubt that I do much of anything that is out of the ordinary.  My research and writing are part-time endeavors as I still have a job which takes up most of my weekday hours.  Some authors enjoy research but don’t like to write or vice-versa.  Happily, I thoroughly enjoy both parts of the process.  I’m probably never happier than when I’m nosing around in musty old archives somewhere.  

BR: What’s next for you?

JM: For several years now, I’ve been chipping away at the research for what I hope someday will become a full biography of General Charles P. Stone.  When I was first working on the Ball’s Bluff book, I looked for a Stone bio and was surprised to discover that there isn’t one.  He deserves one and I’d like to write it.  I’ve got a very large amount of information on him but am held up by the fact that I’m eventually going to have to make an extended research trip to Egypt to go through the files from Stone’s twelve years (1870-82) as chief of staff to two consecutive khedives.  I know where the materials are and have made some preliminary contacts in Egypt but getting there is another question.  First, I can’t do it until I retire which I hope will be within another couple of years at most.  Second, I’ll have to find some funding, maybe a grant from somewhere, as I know I’ll need to be in Egypt for at least three months in order to do this right.  But, I’m working on it.

Other than that, I stay busy with a few  topics for which I have articles planned and, of course, there are the Ball’s Bluff tours and all the sesquicentennial activities to keep me busy as well. And, in truth, I’m loving it. I just wish that work wouldn’t keep getting in the way of the important stuff. 

BR: I see that Florida State has been picked as high as 5th in some preseason NCAA football polls. I’m sure you take some pride in that, even while you’re surely aware the ‘Noles will finish the season well below the Nittany Lions…

JM: Fifth is probably too high.  We had a good season in 2010 and things are looking up but we still have to prove that we’re back.  I’d rank FSU around tenth or twelfth to start the season but I’m cautiously optimistic that good things are about to happen.  While I’m not a Penn State fan, I have always liked Joe Paterno and considered him one of the good guys in college football.  But of course I still hope that the ‘Noles kick butt regardless of who we play.  As to who finishes where, that’s why they play the games and don’t just depend on pre-season rankings.  We shall see.  Scalp ‘em, Seminoles!!!





Interview: Garry Adelman, “Manassas Battlefields Then & Now”

7 07 2011

Garry Adelman, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and Civil War author (among other things), has a new book coming out next week, Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run. He recently took some time to discuss his work with Bull Runnings.

BR: While I’m sure many of the readers have heard of you or seen you on the tube, tell us a little about yourself.

GA: I became all but instantly obsessed with the Civil War at age 16 upon picking up William A Frassanito’s Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day. It changed my entire life. I was living outside of Chicago and just started digesting all the books I could. I had never before read history for pleasure. I got a business degree at Michigan State a few years later—Hotel and Restaurant Management to be exact—and then went back to Chicago to run restaurants.  In the meantime I started driving out to Gettysburg and Antietam whenever I could. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist moving to Gettysburg, which I did in the fall of 1992. Save for picking up that book in my high school library in 1983, I would not have met my wife, had my kids or been able to work what I think are the best set of jobs in the world.

BR: Whoa, that’s a lot! What happened after you moved?

GA: I didn’t have a job or even any prospects so I did the only thing I knew how to do—opened a restaurant. While running that place, I started writing for The Gettysburg Magazine, became a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, and explored the battlefield with what little time I had. I sold the restaurant to Gettysburg College in 1995, worked there for a few years and then for Thomas Publications, which specializes in Civil War books. In the meantime, I met my future wife on Gettysburg’s town square, published (with Tim Smith) Devil’s Den: A History and Guide (1997) and started working on more books. I got my Masters in History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and then I really entered the history world. After an 8-year stint at a historical consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland, I started working for the Civil War Trust as Director of History and Education, about a year and a half ago. I am still a Licensed Battlefield Guide and I regularly speak to Civil War groups. I have now written, co-authored or edited more than 30 Civil War-related books and articles.

BR: What is The Center for Civil War Photography?

GA: The Center was founded in 1999 and I have served as its vice president for more than a decade. The Center aims to teach people the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows of Civil War Photography. We aim to collect digital copies of, place into context and  make available every outdoor Civil War photo ever recorded. We hold an annual seminar at various battlefields every year and this October we are focusing (excuse the pun) on the Western Theater, at Chattanooga. Space is still available! It was a no-brainer to take the Manassas book to The Center as publisher.

BR: Why did you choose the Bull Run battlefields as the subject for your new book?

GA: No matter how many facets of the conflict I may research or address, I always go back to my first Civil War love—then & now photography. Frassanito pioneered the field of the study of Civil War photographs as primary documents and I am one of a small cadre of historians moving that work forward as he has slowed down. No historian had ever completed even a small book on Bull Run’s historic photography and the resources, mysteries and curiosities abound at Manassas and its surroundings. The topic was all but begging to be covered!

BR: Was there anything in particular that surprised you about the photographic history of the battlefields?

GA: Oh, my yes. Upon separating the various images into series by photographic team, it became clear that only one covered the actual battlefields field during the war—this was George Barnard and James Gibson’s team. Despite Matthew Brady’s attempt in 1861, and Timothy O’Sullivan’s coverage of Manassas in 1862, Andrew Russell’s in 1863, no other photographer secured plates of the iconic sites on the Manassas Battlefields. In June 1865, Alexander Gardner’s team was next to cover the field. This is extremely odd given Bull Run’s popularity and its proximity to Washington.  I suppose another thing that surprised me was how much work remained, even with Barnard’s 1862 series.

BR:  Can you describe your research and writing process?

GA: I first became familiar with and aimed to digitally secure every Bull Run-related historic photo I could. I had been doing this for more than five years already and the best stuff came from the Manassas National Battlefield, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and members of The Center for Civil War Photography. Upon collecting these and separating them into series, I did a bunch of field research, trying to find unknown photo locations and getting to know the photographers’ areas of operations.  This is not a lengthy book and yet this process took years.  I made most of the key discoveries, shot most of the modern photos and did most of the writing, however, in the last eight months.

BR: Any particular discovery you’d like the share?

GA: Indeed! I am most proud of having finally divined the location of five 1862 images that are usually labeled as Blackburn’s Ford. In close consultation with Jim Burgess, Museum Specialist at Manassas National Battlefield, who helped with almost every aspect of the book, I was able to pinpoint the location more than a mile upstream from Blackburn’s Ford. Finding a Civil War photolocation, that is, the place where photographers exposed their plates, is among the most satisfying and fun endeavors I know of. To put five photos into context—that’s more than were taken at Shiloh during the entire war!

 

The historic photo here (left), courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield, was found to show a wrecked Confederate Railroad bridge, upstream from Mitchell’s Ford. Next to it is the location today (right). Click the thumbs for larger images.

BR: What’s next for you?

GA:  I haven’t decided. My family, my work at the Trust and my various Civil War side jobs occupy a great deal of my time. I am playing around with the idea of a small Peninsula/Seven Days photo book. That series of photos remains one of the largest collections of largely unexplored Civil War photographs.

Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run can be ordered from Amazon.com or from The Center for Civil War Photography. Also see The Center’s press release here.





Interview: Jeffry Wert, “A Glorious Army”

9 05 2011

I first met prolific author Jeffry D. Wert (and his charming wife, Gloria) during a Civil War seminar almost 13 years ago, and the following summer spent an amazing few days riding at the back of a bus with him and the late Dr. Joseph Harsh during another conference. I probably learned more about the conflict in those few hours than I had up to that point, just by keeping my mouth shut (mostly) and my ears open.

Jeff’s latest book is A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph, 1862-1863, and below he discusses the project.

BR: While I’m sure my readers are very familiar with your works, how about telling us about yourself?

JW: I am a native Pennsylvanian and taught history at Penns Valley Area High School in the central part of the state for 33 years.  I am now retired from the profession.  I am an avid Atlanta Braves and Penn State football fan.

BR: Your new book is about the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862-1863, from Seven Days to Gettysburg.  What prompted you to look at this army for this period?

JW: Lee and the army’s record during those thirteen months is arguably unmatched in America’s military annals.  Although I have covered the army in previous books, I wanted to write a more analytical study on the reasons for their successes and do it, hopefully, in a smooth-flowing narrative.  My book is not a detailed tactical work but looks at leadership, morale, and the common soldiers’ fighting prowess.

BR: What did you turn up during your research that surprised you?

JW:  The amount of straggling in the army was endemic during 1862.  It reached a climax in the Maryland campaign but was a problem with the rank and file until Chancellorsville.  It appears from the evidence that straggling was minor during the Gettysburg Campaign.  Secondly, my research convinced me more that Lee’s aggressiveness offered the Confederacy its best chance for independence.  Admittedly, it is a controversial subject, but the results, I think, speak for themselves.  Finally, I address whether Lee took the so-called “bloodiest roads” and concluded that he chose the tactical offensive when circumstances dictated it, except for July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg.  Malvern Hill resulted in a tragedy because of misinformation.

BR: Can you sum up for us, in a nutshell, how Lee was able to be successful for most of this period, and what caused his setbacks?

JW:  When Lee assumed temporary command of the army on June 1, 1862, it was as though all the stars aligned for the Confederacy.  The Union Army of the Potomac’s subordinate leadership could not match the likes of Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart, Ewell, A. P. and D. H. Hill, and others.  To be sure, the caution of McClellan, the incompetence of Pope and Burnside, and the unraveling of Hooker contributed to the Confederates’ victories.  Lee’s infantry’s incalculable ‘élan in battle was a significant factor.

BR: What is your research and writing process? Did you visit archives and sites, and how much of a role did online research play?

JW:  I am old-fashioned in my methodology.  I put my research on note cards and write my books on legal-sized paper.  I am blessed with a wife who is an excellent assistant, and she transcribes my words into a word document.  I edit from printed pages.  During my research, I visit archives and libraries.  I use the internet to locate manuscript collections and fortunately for historians more institutions are putting letters and diaries online, making it unnecessary to travel as much.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

JW:  The book has been reviewed in a few places and has been praised.  None of the major Civil War magazines have had a review in as of today.  I am gratified to have been a main selection of History Book Club and Military Book Club.

BR: What’s next for you?

JW:  For the first time in many years, I am not under contract on another project.  I may do another book in the future but not at the present.

So for the first time in years, Mr. Wert is taking a break. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before something catches his eye and we hear from his pen – really, his pen! – once again.





Interview: Timothy Orr, “Last to Leave the Field”

2 05 2011

I first met Tim Orr on a tour in 2006. At that time he was a graduate student at Penn State and was on the faculty for that summer’s Mont Alto seminar. The photo below is from that trip and shows Tim and Adams County Historical Society director Wayne Motts. Tim had just opened his eyes after Wayne had placed an original and rare Sharps model 1859 used by Berdan’s Sharpshooters in his hands (you may be able to zoom in and see the two triggers). Tim was – and I believe still is – a Berdan’s Sharpshooters re-enactor. The look on his face when he realized what he held in his grasp was priceless: he had never been so close to one before.

Now Doctor Orr has edited and annotated Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. I contacted him and he agreed to answer a few questions about the book for Bull Runnings.

Tim Orr (L) and Wayne Motts (R)

BR: Tim, can you tell the readers out there a little bit about yourself? Education, where you have worked, anything else you’ve published.

TO: I’ve been a Civil War nerd since I was eight-years-old. It all started when my father put a book about the Battle of Gettysburg in my lap. I read it and I was hooked. I was mesmerized by the story of our nation’s costliest conflict. My father and I traveled to Gettysburg that year, then to Antietam the year after that. When I was ten, he and I became Civil War re-enactors. We did living history presentations at various schools and national parks, and nowadays—although I don’t dress up in nineteenth-century garb as frequently—I can still be found in my wool regalia from time to time. Although my thirst for Civil War knowledge began when I was a buff, it soon drifted toward public history and academia. In the late 1990s, I attended Gettysburg College and during the summers I stayed on campus and worked as seasonal ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. Upon graduation, I became a Nittany Lion, joining the graduate program at Penn State University, where I earned my master’s and Ph.D., the latter coming last year in May 2010. Presently, I am an assistant professor of history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.  Last to Leave the Field is my first book, but I’ve also published a few articles. Four years ago, I wrote an essay on Union soldiers’ anti-Copperhead resolutions. This essay got published in a delightful collection called The View From the Ground (University Press of Kentucky) edited by Aaron Sheehan-Dean. I’ve published two other essays for Gettysburg National Military Park’s scholarly seminar booklet series, and I have two other essays in the pipeline, one on the politics of promotion in the Union army and another on mutinous behavior and oath-taking in the Pennsylvania Reserve Division.

BR: What brought Ambrose Henry Hayward to your attention? Who was he?

TO: The Ambrose Henry Hayward collection is an assemblage of letters written by a twenty-one-year-old needle-maker who enlisted in the 28th Pennsylvania in 1861. Gettysburg College’s Special Collections Archive owns these letters, having purchased them from a rare book dealer back in 1968. I became interested in the collection during my junior year when a friend of mine who worked at the archives informed me that she was processing them. She said she had just read Hayward’s letter about the Battle of Antietam and it interested her. I asked, “He’s in the 28th Pennsylvania, right? Tyndale’s brigade?” I asked this rather offhandedly, mostly as an effort to practice my nerdy order-of-battle knowledge. “Yes,” she replied, “That’s the officer he carried from the field.” Her matter-of-fact comment surprised me. I had known that Lt. Col. Hector Tyndale suffered a wound at Antietam, but I knew nothing about the man who helped to rescue him. My curiosity awakened, I went to Special Collections and examined the letters myself. I discovered that Hayward had, in fact, dragged Tyndale from the field, while having his clothes slashed by Confederate lead, no less! Hayward’s valor saved Tyndale’s life and it seemed to me the public deserved to know his heroic story. But as I delved deeper into his letters, trying to understand more about the life of this young soldier, I became interested in the raw emotion that Hayward felt as he experienced the conflict and then also how he conveyed it to his family. I considered this—his open and honest explanation of the war’s sorrow and violence—to be the true value of his letters. The earliest letter in the collection—which was written by Hayward on April 14, 1861—declared, “They at the South are slave holders. We at the North are their slaves.” This comment intrigued me. Here was a young man, the same age as me, willing to give his life to bring America out of its “dark days,” as he described them. Right then and there, I thought the Civil War community ought to learn the full details of Hayward’s story: his enlistment during the passionate days of 1861; his rise to the rank of first sergeant; his bravery on the fields of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Taylor’s Ridge, and others; and his mortal wounding during the Battle of Pine Knob in June 1864. Although Hayward’s frequent moments of bravery enthralled me—and he participated in more reckless acts than just his rescue of Tyndale—I found it most interesting to analyze Hayward as a person caught in a world torn by violence. His story resonated more when I contextualized it as a tale of a young soldier struggling to hold onto his morals in a world gone mad.

BR: What was the most surprising thing about Hayward, either in what he wrote or what you turned up?

TO: The most interesting thing about Hayward was the way he wrote without censoring his inner-most thoughts. He wrote about the war as he saw it, not how he wanted it to be. This was uncommon for Civil War soldiers. Many of them shielded graphic material from their loved ones by self-censorship. Hayward departed from the customs of Victorian letter-writing. He wrote his letters as his stream of consciousness flowed from his mind to his pen. He made it clear to his parents and siblings that letters were to be written in the context of the moment, not as material presented in the “proper” vernacular. In Hayward’s opinion, he considered each and every thought unique, like a diamond of knowledge, and he believed that hiding his thoughts from his loved ones was akin to depriving them of valuable information about his feelings, even if those feelings were unpleasant. But still, despite his garrulousness, Hayward encountered trouble when he attempted to convey the depths of his emotion during those moments when he faced something altogether new and indescribable: the sorrow he felt at the loss of his friends who died in battle. As his pen and pencil scribbled and he tried to define his anguish, he deliberately cut his introspection short, telling his family that he had to repress these painful memories. This was intriguing. It is an aspect that scholars do not often see: the psychological wounds of war. Even more, I marveled at the occasional explosions of anger that appeared in Hayward’s letters. One of my favorite letters, written by Hayward in March 1863, described his irate feelings about the Copperheads, the northern Peace Democrats. Speaking of Copperhead Clement Vallandigham, Hayward wrote, “we thought we were doing much for the Great Cause, and it seemed that everywhere the work went Bravely on and that before another winter should come upon us Treason would have done its worst and this dreadfull Curse would disappear from our once Happy Country and restore us once more to our Homes and friends. but it seems that the good time has not yet come. they say the War must go on. I say let the war go on untill every traitor[,] Copperheads and all[,] are made to kneel to the Godess of Liberty. the army is yet true and Loyal but they feel as if there was not much chance for their lives with enemys on every side. I beleive that if such men as Vallandingham should come here and talk the way he does in Congress the Soldiers would kill him.” At first, I thought this was mere hyperbole, but the more I considered the importance of Hayward’s language, the more I respected the seriousness of his threat against Congressman Vallandigham and the Copperheads. Politically, Civil War soldiers lived within a frightening world of turmoil. Taking my cue from Hayward’s example, I made certain to use his letters to their fullest extent, to restore the sense of wonder and awe that came from the perspective of men who did not know how the Civil War would end.

BR: What was your research and writing process for this project? Did you make any archive or battlefield trips? And how do you go about writing – how does editing  letters and memoirs differ from a narrative project of your own?

TO: My process in writing the book was simple. First, I transcribed the letters, leaving in the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Then, I made editorial changes—as few and as un-intrusively as possible—so that casual readers could read Hayward’s writing without interruption. Third, I annotated the letters, going through each sentence and looking for hidden meanings and vocabulary that required explanation. These explanations came in the form of endnotes. Finally, I broke the letters into chapters that conformed to different epochs of Hayward’s military career, writing up short introductions for each chapter in order to place each grouping of letters into an understandable contextual narrative. It seems like a short process when it gets explained, but it’s not; it took a long time to complete.

Researching for an edited volume of letters was far more difficult than I imagined. In some ways, it was easier than writing a narrative project, in that, with these letters, I had a single focus: to tell the story of Hayward’s Civil War. However, to accomplish that task, I realized that I needed to tap into many different subfields of Civil War history to make sense of his letters. I am a military historian by training, so I found it easy to unravel the military jargon. However, when it came to deciphering matters related to politics, economics, or social issues, I had to extend my sphere of expertise. This required me to read more secondary and primary materials, delving into books and articles outside my comfort zone. For instance, in one of his last letters, Hayward wrote to his brother, “What makes you keep Gold up so high in N.Y.?” To an average reader, this offhand comment appears a mystery. But, to Hayward and his brother, it was an obvious reference to the New York City “gold hoax” of May 1864. So, off I went, for several days immersing myself in New York City newspapers to understand the substance of the gold hoax and then locating and reading the few articles and books that mentioned this unusual event. So, several days’ worth of reading helped me explain one sentence in one letter. On average, I annotated probably five to ten times per letter and the collection consisted of 133 letters. In addition to all the reading, I had to learn new research techniques. For instance, to piece together Hayward’s family history, I had to turn myself into a genealogist. I’d never done any genealogical work before, and while I learned plenty of helpful archival techniques at graduate school, none of them helped me decipher individual family history. In essence, plenty of my research skills had to be learned on the fly. I traveled to battlefields to see where the 28th Pennsylvania fought. I went to the Pennsylvania State Archives to look at regimental files and to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to see related collections dealing with Hayward’s life in Philadelphia. Finally, I went to Chattanooga National Cemetery to see his gravesite. In conclusion, this Civil War letter project involved a wider breadth of knowledge than I initially expected, and honestly, I think it required me to learn a more diverse array topics about the Civil War than I could have achieved within the parameters of any academically-supervised research project.

BR: How has the book been received so far? It’s probably too early for market info, but how was the peer review process: did anyone make particularly valid points?

TO: The book is brand new, so there are no reviews as of yet. I “debuted” the book at Gettysburg College with a talk I delivered to the public, and the folks who came to see it received it well. The peer review process was exceedingly helpful. Reviewers saw things in a way that I did not. For instance, by the time my manuscript went to peer review, I had scrutinized each letter more than fifty times. Even though I understood the exact meaning of each sentence, I couldn’t always “see the forest through the trees,” to use a hackneyed phrase. It takes well-toned advice to get an author to view the subject matter with a different lens. For instance, in 1861, Hayward wrote about how he and his comrades stole fence rails for firewood. I knew what Hayward meant when he said that. I knew my readers would know what he meant. But it was a reviewer who alerted me to the significance of stealing fence rails for firewood. He argued that it showed, by example, the process of confiscation of southern property—the development of “hard war” to use Mark Grimsley’s phrase—on the ground. In the back of my mind, I always knew this, but I needed a push in the right direction to perceive the significance of this and other subtle processes going on. So in this case, I could easily link Hayward’s letters to the work of another historian. That was a good feeling.

BR: What’s next for you?

TO: My next business is to publish my dissertation research. While I was in graduate school, Hayward’s letters were not my top priority; my dissertation was. As it happened, the Hayward project got completed first. Right now, I’m converting my massive manuscript called “Cities at War” into something readers will enjoy. My research examines mobilization in Northern cities. I unveil the complexities that surrounded the raising of troops, the production of materiel, and the maintenance of popular support for the war on the northern urban home front. I argue that Union victory emerged, in part, from Union efforts to strengthen its mobilization processes, but contrary to myth, successful Union mobilization was never a foregone conclusion in the cities. Plagued as they were with dissent and competing visions, northern cities nearly led the North to the path of defeat.

I have some other Civil War-related research projects in the works, but I plan to fill the void left by the completion of Last to Leave the Field with another “single-soldier study,” as it were, although this project will involve a different branch of service and a different war entirely. My wife and I are going to write a biography of a World War II dive bomber pilot named Capt. N. Jack Kleiss, a veteran who fought in the Battle of Midway. Kleiss won the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services in the Pacific Theater, and his well-placed bombs struck two Japanese aircraft carriers, the Kaga and the Hiryu, helping to send them to the bottom of the ocean. Last to Leave the Field has given me some perspective in recounting the life of a single person wrapped up in the turbulent forces of war, and I’m eager to interview Mr. Kleiss and take down his incredible story. Ultimately, I believe that these “single-soldier” studies are useful exercises in the craft of history. They remind us that war is a human experience. Too often, scholars are concerned only with the impact of history on rights, politics, technology, communities, nations, governments, gender, race, class, institutions, and other large-scale subjects. It’s all well and good that we historians focus on these elements, but I prefer to believe that we cannot forget the importance of history on the life of the individual. If human life has intrinsic value, then historians must strive to piece together the biographies of individuals, even if those individuals did not win everlasting fame. So far as military history goes, I’m eager to do that, to be the voice of the forgotten.

We haven’t heard the last from Tim Orr. I’m confident Last to Leave the Field is just the first in what will be a long list of valuable contributions he’ll make over the course his career.








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