Senator Jim at Bull Run

30 11 2006

jim_lane.jpgFirst, here’s that Jim Lane image to which I referred in a previous post, Kansas at First Bull Run.  Thanks to reader Pat Jones for providing the link to Miller’s Paranormal Research.  No, I have no idea why Lane’s picture appears on a paranormal research website.  Maybe because his hair appears to defy gravity.  Is that top-hat-hair?  What was he thinking?  Why didn’t his peeps do a better job tending to his image?  You’ll never see a picture of John Edwards or Mitt Romney with such a tousled do.  But this picture does go a long way to explain the haircut on the mayor of Munchkin Land.  An homage to Dorothy Gale’s home state, perhaps?

As I was looking through my library for references to Lane at the battle – remember, I had the notion at the back of my noggin that he was there, but couldn’t remember how I knew that or if I was right – I found that Lane’s name does not appear in the indexes of any of the standard histories of the battle I have read.  It is not in Johnston, Hanson, Beatie, Davis, Bearss, Hennessy, McDonald, Rafuse, or Detzer (note to self: write a post summarizing these books).  While he had no specific recollection of Lane at Bull Run, an email from Ethan Rafuse reminded me of a John Hennessy article that appeared in an issue of Civil War Times Illustrated in 2001 titled War Watchers at Bull Run and available online here.  That article reminded me of another that appeared in Civil War History in 1998, The View from the Top of the Knoll; Capt. John C. Tidball’s Memoir of the First Battle of Bull Run, by Eugene C. Tidball (this article would be incorporated in a biography by the same author, “No Disgrace to My Country”: The Life of John C. Tidball).  The Hennessy article is not footnoted, but Capt. Tidball’s account appears to be the basis for some of it.   So, it would appear on the surface that the Tidball account of Lane’s presence is uncorroborated.  What follows has been cobbled from these sources.

Col. Dixon Miles’ division was deployed in reserve and to cover Blackburn’s Ford.  Tidball and his four gun Battery A, 2nd US Artillery were stationed on a knoll just west of Centreville, part of Blenker’s brigade of Miles’ division.  Centreville is situated on a ridge known generally as the Centreville Ridge, and the area of the knoll has been referred to as the Heights of Centreville.  On July 21st, this area five miles from the battlefield became a collection point for non-military personell who sallied forth from Washington for various reasons.  It was here that Tidball observed a group of civilians that included senators Wilson (MA), Wade (OH) and Lane.  Tidball observed that all of them were “full of the ‘On to Richmond’ fervor”.  The senators expressed some disappointment at the limited view, and Tidball urged patience.

But Old Jim was fiery, he said he must have a hand in it himself.  His friends not wishing to go so far as that tried to convince him that he could do no good in the fight without a gun.  “O, never mind that,” he said, “I can easily find a musket on the field.  I have been there before and know that guns are easily found where fighting is going on.  I have been there before and know what it is.”  He had been a colonel of an Indiana regiment during the Mexican War, and this was the old fire sparking again.  Nothing could hold him back, and off the party started down the slope and over the fields in the direction of the firing.  I saw nothing more of them until late in the afternoon.

The trio reached a point that provided a good view of the battlefield, on a ridge about a mile east of the Stone Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike.  Today this overlook is a large and deep quarry.  Not many civilians made it this far, and the senators joined a group which included some reporters, Ohio judge Daniel McCook, and a New Jersey politician named John Taylor.  During the day this group probably never grew to more than 50 people.

What Lane did after reaching this point is not clear.  Tidball did not see Lane again until the retreat.  By this time Tidball had advanced to another knoll, this one overlooking the Cub Run valley – he had been moving to the Stone Bridge, only to be ordered to clear the road, choked with retreating Union troops, by Col. William T. Sherman.  After establishing his position, he saw the three senators scurrying up the slope towards him:

Lane was the first to pass me; he was mounted barebacked on an old flea-bitten gray horse with rusty harness on, taken probably from some of the huxter wagons that had crowded to the front.  Across the harness lay his coat, and on it was a musket which, sure enough, he had found, and for ought I know may have done some various deeds with it before starting back in the panic.  He was long, slender and hay-seed looking.  His long legs kept kicking far back to the rear to urge his old beast to greater speed, and so he sped on.

That’s about all I’ve learned about Lane at Bull Run.  I’ll have to track down the account of Taylor that Hennessy also used in his article.  I’ve read an address given by Lloyd Lewis about Lane before the Kansas State Historical Society in 1939, The Man the Historians Forgot, available here.  I’ve also viewed an 1897 biography by John Speer, Life of General James. H. Lane, available here. These don’t mention Lane at the battle.  Let me know if any of you out there have anything more on Lane at BR1.  I think Lane is a fascinating character, and wonder if any modern biography may be in the works.

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Birthday Break

28 11 2006

I know I promised to write a little about what Jim Lane did at Bull Run.  So far, the only source I can find is the account of John Tidball as published in an article in Civil War History and in “No Disgrace to My Country” – The Life of John C. Tidball, both by Eugene Tidball.  I promise to get to it tomorrow.  Tonight, my son is taking me to a Penguins game for my birthday.  Well, he’s only eight, so I guess technically I’m taking him to the game.

My First Contract

25 11 2006

A few weeks ago, I received an “Author Agreement” in the mail.  It wasn’t exactly a surprise as I had spoken with the magazine’s editor numerous times on the phone.  But it was exciting nonetheless.  Somebody is actually going to publish, in a nationally distributed periodical, something I’ve written, and they’re going to pay me to boot!  It was weird – once I had the contract in hand, I had a hard time signing it and sending it back.  It took me a week to put it in the mailbox.  I’m not going to name the magazine or describe the article at this point.  Something my mom told me about eggs, chickens, and enumeration.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’ve been told the short article will be published in January.  I’ll have more to say then.

The experience was a little painful.  I am a great procrastinator, and came up with plenty of good reasons not to sit down and write.  And that really is the only way to finish any writing project – you have to sit down and write.  Of course once I did start, no sentence I wrote was good enough, so I wrote and rewrote the title of the article (which the editor may or may not even use) five or six times.  But once I got past the distraction the words, sentences and paragraphs came.  I’ve found that it’s better to just write, let it flow, then go back and rip it up.  It’s not like I’m etching granite. 

I’ve gathered up material to write another piece along the same lines, and I’m still having trouble getting started.  This one covers a broader topic and should be about twice as long.  I just hope it doesn’t take me twice as long to get it going.

Kansas at First Bull Run

23 11 2006


Much has been written of the civilians present at the First Battle of Bull Run, mostly in a dismissive, derogatory manner.  David Detzer treats the matter more practically and, I think, fairly in Donnybrook.  Many of these observers had familial or official ties to the men of McDowell’s army (I hesitate to refer to the army as “Army of Northeastern Virginia”, because while I have found that there was such a department, I can find nothing on any such officially named army).  Quite a few were politicians, including the Secretaries of State and the Treasury.  Secretary of War Cameron shuttled back and forth between Washington and McDowell’s HQ.  Various senators and representatives from congress were present, as many of the participants were their constituents.  These included Senator Wilson of Massachusetts, Senator Wade of Ohio, and  Congressman Ely of New York, who wandered so near the front that he was captured by the rebels.  Rhode Island governor Sprague – who later would capture one of the most sought after prizes of the Civil War, Secretary Chase’s daughter, the alluring Kate – took a hand in the direction of infantry and artillery on the battlefield.

And among those present at the battle were two senators from western states who would later become Union generals, John Logan of Illinois and James Lane of Kansas. 

“Jim” Lane was the proud owner of perhaps the worst hairdo outside of A Flock of Seagulls.  That’s his picture at the end of the Kansas Again post.  Here’s a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Lane:   


My favorite Lane photo can be found in Edward Leslie’s deeply flawed The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders.  That photo, showing an impossibly coiffed Lane, is reproduced courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society, but I couldn’t find it on their website.  I imagine it is a moneymaker for them.  If anyone has a digital copy of it, let me know.  

Senator Jim (not to be confused with Reverend Jim, pictured here)   


was born in either Boone County, KY or Lawrenceburg, IN, in 1814.  His father was a judge and politician, and at one time a member of Congress.  Jim followed his father into the law and politics, led Indiana troops in the war with Mexico, and eventually represented Indiana in Congress (1853-1855), where he voted in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska act.  

In 1855, Lane relocated to Kansas, perhaps to help organize the Democrat party in the territory.  Corruption in the party there led to the formation of the Topeka Movement, a free-state organization.  The movement was a coalition of New Englanders and Westerners, and Lane headed up the western contingent.  While no abolitionist, Lane was opposed to pro-slavery efforts to admit slavery into the territories through nefarious means.  He came to lead the military arm of the movement and took to appearing in military garb.

In 1856, on behalf of the free-state Topeka government Lane petitioned Congress for Kansas’ admission to the Union as a state.  Oddly, all of the signatures on the petition appeared to be written by the same person.  While he was in Washington, fighting broke out between pro-slavery and free-state forces in Kansas.  Lane raised an army and entered Kansas from Iowa and Nebraska.  Union army forces under territorial governor John Geary calmed things down, and Lane returned to his law practice and farm.

In 1858, Jim Lane killed another free-state settler over a property line disagreement.  He was acquitted of murder but maintained his political influence, and when Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 Lane represented the new state in the U. S. Senate.  In the early days of the war, Lane formed a group of Kansas men called the Frontier Guard and assigned them the role of protecting the White House.

Around this time, Lane and President Lincoln became friendly, and AL would later take sides with Lane in disputes with Kansas Governor Charles Robinson, the former leader of the New England contingent of the Topeka Movement.  Lincoln appointed Lane a brigadier general of US volunteers in August 1861.  You won’t find him in Generals in Blue – his commission was cancelled in March of 1862 because sitting congressmen were not permitted to hold a general officer commission.  However he was reinstated the following month.  As far as I know, Lane is the only person to hold both the office and the commission without being required to give one up, a sign of one hell of a politician.

During the war Lane directed some small operations along the Missouri-Kansas border.  He was reelected to his seat in the Senate in 1865.  At the end of the war, he directed Captain Redleg Terrell and Fletcher to apprehend the outlaw Josey Wales, telling Fletcher:   


“The war’s over. Our side won the war. Now we must busy ourselves winning the peace. And Fletcher, there’s an old saying: To the victors belong the spoils.”  To which Fletcher responded with the classic:  


“There’s another old saying, Senator: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.” Senator Lane came back with his own classic, in response to Fletcher’s outrage at the killing of his guerrillas after their surrender: “They were decently treated. They were decently fed and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more.”  It’s ironic that an actor named Schofield played Lane in the film, because the real Senator  had a run in with General John Schofield in the aftermath of the raid on Lawrence.

[Edit] Some folks didn’t “get it”: the above is a reference to the film “The Outlaw Josey Wales”.  The film is fiction.  

OK, sorry about that!  Anyway, after Lincoln’s assassination Lane unfortunately took the side of Andrew Johnson in his veto of the Civil Rights bill and drew the ire of the Radical Republicans.  Coincidentally, he came under investigation for some shady war contracts by which he may have illegally profited.  On July 1, 1866, while riding with two friends in Leavenworth, KS, Lane drew his revolver and shot himself in the mouth.  He died ten days later and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, KS (photo from  More on Lane and what he did at Bull Run later.



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Plagiarism Update

22 11 2006

In my last post I mentioned that I am most interested in seeing how older works stand up to plagiarism software scrutiny in the future.  Here’s a Slate article about how something as simple as Google Book Search is already being used.

Hat tip to Bob Huddleston of the CWDG Yahoo Group.

The P Word

20 11 2006

Once again a plagiarism controversy is heating up the blogosphere – at least, the Civil War blogosphere.  Joining the ranks of Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose, and James Lee McDonough is one R. Fred Ruhlman, author of Captain Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison: A ReappraisalI’m not going to rehash the details here, you can Google for them yourself.  Suffice to say it appears that some sizeable passages in the Ruhlman book are strikingly similar to some found in William Marvel’s Andersonville: The Last Depot.

I don’t think anything can be made of whether or not the individual authors involved are academics or non-academics, or whether the publishers involved are university or trade.  I can find no basis for an argument that one type of author or one type of publisher is more prone to, should be held more responsible for, or somehow (as one blogger seems to weakly argue) has an easier or tougher task in monitoring plagiarism than any other type.


What constitutes plagiarism has changed over the years.  Read enough newspaper articles from the Civil War period and you’ll find it was common practice.  Heck, read enough “eyewitness accounts” of battle and you’ll be amazed by how many individuals in different regiments on different parts of the same field saw exactly the same things and expressed themselves in precisely the same terms.

I think that plagiarism, by whatever definition you choose, occurs and has occurred more often than any of us can imagine.  And I (perhaps naively) believe that most of these acts are inadvertent.  The mechanical process of preparing a manuscript, particularly a non-fiction manuscript, has changed significantly over the past 15-20 years.  Lots more cutting and pasting.  The use of assistants increases the possibility of “borrowed” material being used without attribution or without sufficient modification.  Practically speaking, if one argues that plagiarism must be a conscious act, I think it can be persuasively demonstrated that not plagiarizing is a conscious act as well.  How many authors have struggled to find yet another way to say “Reynolds reeled in the saddle”?

As more and more texts become digitized, the use of plagiarism checking software like Turnitin should decrease the likelihood that new works will contain plagiarized material.  And the existence of these programs will in turn increase the liability of publishers who do not use them, and instead depend on imperfect peer review and author honesty and diligence.

What will be most interesting to me is what happens when older works are tested by the ever improving plagiarism software.  It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

Our Continuing Narrative of a Past that Never Existed

20 11 2006

I’ll be on the road much of today.  The list in my little notebook of post topics is getting longer and longer (I’ve got at least a month’s worth in there now), and I hope to weigh in on the plagiarism issue this evening.  Right now, I’d like to share a ellroy.jpgquote from the preface to James Ellroy’s American Tabloid.  I don’t read much fiction, but when I have over the last couple of years it’s been Ellroy more often than not.  He’s the author of L. A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, which were turned into motion pictures of which you may have heard.  Ellroy’s novels are like train wrecks – you don’t want to look, but you can’t help yourself.  Really good stuff about really bad people.  Anyway, this little quote sums up how I feel (at times) when reading about the American Civil War or watching films like Gods and Generals:

Mass market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed.  Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight.  Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight.  Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.

Kansas Again

17 11 2006

I was able to find a few more bits related to the Eldridge Hotel (and I’m sure I could find a whole lot more).  Various history organizations in the state have put beau coup stuff online.  Here’s an image of  Sheriff Sam Jones, courtesy of Kansas History Online by way of Google Images.


And here is an image of the ruins of the Free State Hotel after Sheriff Sam burned it down.  This is from Territorial Kansas Online


 It turns out that Shalor Eldridge vowed to rebuild the hotel with an additional floor were it ever destroyed by pro-slavery forces, and he was true to his word twice.  Here he is with his family, thanks to Territorial Kansas Online once again.  Click the image for a full size version.


And here are the rules for guests of his establishement from TKO again (click on the image to get a more legible one).


You see, this is the thing with pulling threads.  It’s really not conducive to the bleeding-kansas.jpgcompletion of a narrowly defined project.  I could go on and on with web research alone.  There are a number of books written on “Bleeding Kansas”, and here is a recent one.  It is by Nicole Etcheson, a history professor at Ball State.  I’ve not read the book, so if any of you have, I welcome your comments.

Now, some of you may be asking “What the heck does Kansas have to do with Bull Run?”  Well, come back within the next week or so and I’ll tell you.  And I promise it won’t be the standard “The Civil War started in Kansas” line (even though it is a valid link).  For now, here’s a hint:


I can hear him thinking to himself: “Will it be Delawarians, or Delawarites?”

A Test of Text

17 11 2006

OK, I had to make some changes to posts made today.

For some reason, if the view text option in IE is set to “larger” when I compose my post, it changes the appearance of that text even if the setting subsequently is reset to “medium”.  The good new is that the text will appear larger than text of posts composed when the setting was “medium”.  The bad news is that I have to be careful about switching between medium and large while I am editing posts, because their appearance gets fouled up and, particularly when images are involved, will appear “jumbled” depending on the setting of the browser.  So, from here on out I will compose with my browser text view option at “larger”.  Now, I know you’re going to say “Dude, that only affects the viewing of your text on your particular browser”, but I have learned that it does not.  So I have removed the post that was “More Kansas” posted earlier today and replaced it with “Kansas Again” above.

The Eldridge Hotel

15 11 2006

A few days ago on the To Purge This Land With Beer post reader Eldridge HotelPat Jones mentioned that the Free State Brewing Co. is located nearby the historic Eldridge Hotel.  I thought I’d flesh that out for everyone who may not be up on their Kansas history and did a little surfing.  I knew the hotel played a prominent role in “Bleeding Kansas” and in the Civil War, but I wanted to get a little more info so I went to the horse’s mouth, in this case the website of The Eldridge and that of the Kansas Historical Society. Like so many other historic hotels (Chattanooga’s Read House and Willard’s of Washington, DC), the present day Eldridge, while situated on the original site, is not the same structure which was present when the historic events with which it is associated occurred.  The first building, The Free State Hotel, was constructed in 1855 and was to serve as temporary living quarters for members of the Boston based New England Emigrant Aid Society.  This organization was funneling settlers and money to Kansas in order to assure its admission to the Union as a free (non-slaveholding) state. 

Pro-slavery forces under Sheriff Sam Jones burned down the Free State Hotel in Palmetto Guards Flag1856.  Prior to burning the building, a contingent of South Carolinians called the Palmetto Guards flew this flag from its roof.  Proprietor Col. Shalor Eldridge soon rebuilt the hotel, but in the infamous William Clarke Quantrill led raid on Lawrence in 1863 it was again burned to the ground.  Rebuilding the hotel once more, Col. Eldridge lent his own name to the establishment.   That hotel stood until 1925 when the deteriorated structure was torn down to make way for yet another incarnation of the Eldridge Hotel.  In 1970 the building was converted to apartments, but was renovated and converted back to a hotel in 1985.  In 2005, the current owners executed a multi-million dollar renovation. 

I’m sure I could write a lot more on the Eldridge Hotel.  That’s what usually happens when you pull a thread.  Pat really knows her Kansas history, and I encourage her to post as much as she likes about the Eldridge Hotel in particular or Civil War Kansas in general in the comments section here.  That goes for all of you…if you’ve got something you’d like to share, please do!  That’s why I have the comments feature turned on. 

Eldridge Hotel photo from Yahoo Travel Palmetto Guards Flag photo from Kansas Historical Society