What’s in a Name?

12 01 2007

Interesting.  I’ve received not one comment regarding the misspelling of McDowell’s name on his headstone.

A note regarding the Union OOB:  I can’t find any documentation of the existence of a Union Army of Northeastern Virginia.  This is the name typically used for McDowell’s army at Bull Run.  The Department of Northeastern Virginia was created on 5/28/1861 from part of the Department of the East with boundaries enclosing Virginia east of the Allegheny Mountains and north of the James River with the exception of a sixty mile radius around Fort Monroe.  It was commanded by McDowell until 7/25/1861 when it was attached to the Military Division of the Potomac; it was merged with the Department of the Potomac on 8/17/1861 (see Eicher and Eicher, Civil War High Commands, p 837).  But none of the reports or correspondence from First Bull Run reference an Army of Northeastern Virginia – instead they refer to the Department or simply “McDowell’s Corps.”  The moniker appears to be an after the fact creation, and that is the story I’m sticking with unless you can prove otherwise!

Just the facts, Ma’am

11 01 2007


The sketches of First Bull Run personalities and units which I have promised to post periodically will be similar to what you saw today on Irvin McDowell.  These are not for editorializing.  If I have any opinions or anecdotes they’ll be posted separately.  I will not post any factual information without confirmation of its accuracy.  As I find out more or use a new source (for instance, McDowell’s bio does not yet include info from his Cullum biography or his West Point necrology), I’ll update and edit the bio pages and post a message that I have done so.

Initially I will leave the comments feature turned on for the biographies so that you can provide additional info – however, I will probably delete those comments at a later date after I have considered them.  This will help keep the “digital history” part of this blog clean.

Irvin McDowell

11 01 2007


Irvin McDowell born Columbus, OH 10/15/18; son of Abram (one-time mayor of Columbus) and Eliza Seldon Lord McDowell; and brother of John A. McDowell, colonel of 6th Iowa Infantry and brigade commander under W. T. Sherman at Shiloh, and Malcolm McDowell, who served on Irvin’s staff; married Helen Burden of Troy, NY 11/13/44; four children: Irvin, Helen, Elsie, and Henry Burden; early education in France (College de Troyes); West Point class of 1838 (23 of 45); Bvt 2nd Lt 1st Arty 7/1/38; 2nd Lt 7/7/38; instructor of tactics at USMA 1841-1845; 1st Lt 10/7/42;  ADC to Gen. J. E. Wool in Mexican War; received a brevet to captain Ass’t Adj. Gen, for gallantry at Buena Vista 5/13/47; Bvt Maj Ass’t Adj. Gen. 5/31/56; appointed BGUSA  5/14/61 (n 7/16/61, c 8/3/61); Dept. of NE VA, 5/27/61 to 8/17/61; commanded forces now known as Army of NE VA, 7/8/61 to 8/15/61; McDowell’s Div. Army of the Potomac (AotP) 10/3/61 to 3/13/62; First Corps AotP 3/13/62 to 4/4/62; MGUSV eff. 3/14/62 (n 3/3/62, c 3/14/62); Dept. of Rappahannock, 4/4/62 to  6/26/62; wounded 6/18/62 when his horse fell on him; Third Corps, Army of VA, 6/26/62 to 9/5/62; Dept. of the Pacific, 5/21/64 to 6/27/65; Bvt MGUSA 3/13/65 (n 4/10/66, c 5/4/66) for the Battle of Cedar Mountain; Dept. of CA, 6/27/65 to 3/31/68; mustered out of volunteers (MOV) 9/1/66; Fourth Military District, 6/4/68 to 7/4/68; Dept. of the West, 7/16/68 to 12/16/72; MGUSA 11/25/72; Depts of East and South 12/16/72 to 76; Division of the Pacific 1876 to retirement 10/15/82; became San Francisco Park Commissioner; died 5/4/85, San Francisco, CA; buried San Francisco National Cemetery (Presidio), San Franciso, CA; marker reads “Irwin McDowell, Maj Gen US Army May 4, 1885”.

Sources: Boyd, The Irvines and their Kin, pp. 152, 171; Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands, pp 377-378, 704, 708, 716; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I p 664; Simpson, ed, Sherman’s Civil War, p341; Sifakis, Who was Who in the American Civil War, pp 414-415; Warner, Generals in Blue, pp 297-299; http://genforum.genealogy.com/cgi-bin/pageload.cgi?irvin::mcdowell::2682.html


 Photos a, b, c, d – www.generalsandbrevets.com; e – www.findagrave.com


A Blogger’s Passion for Order

8 01 2007

I’m moving forward with my plan to provide accessible BR1 information right here on this blog.  I know it’s not the best or most useful way to present it, but for now it’s better than nothing, and I still intend to build that big, sexy website.

When you look at the order of battle – to the right, under “Pages” – you’ll now notice that some of the names have been hyperlinked.  You can tell when text is hyperlinked because it appears much brighter than the other text on the page.  When you click on a name (of a unit or an individual) that has been hyperlinked, you will be magically transported to a page showing the results of a search of this blog for that name.  You will then have easy access to any entries I’ve written that include that name in the text.

Periodically, I will post biographical sketches for individuals – soldiers and civilians – associated with the campaign and battle of First Bull Run.  Use the Orders of Battle to access those at any time.

You See? You See? Your Stupid Minds! Stupid! Stupid!

6 01 2007

eros.jpgI have to admit I’m making scant progress with the ins and outs of web design and databases.  It’s all due to limitations of time, experience, and probably intellect (thus my borrowing from Eros [Dudley Manlove] of Ed Wood’s classic Plan 9 from Outer Space).  Family, work, writing, this blog and my stupid mind have all conspired to hamper my Bull Run research and data compilation.  So, taking a hint from friend Brian Downey, I’ve determined to put up here some of the BR1 stuff I was saving for my site, in a kind of test format.  Over to the right on this page, in the sidebar, you’ll find a section titled “Pages”.  Right now there are only two entries there, Squinting?, which gives some tips on how to make the text on this page a little larger, and Union Order of Battle.

The order of battle (OOB) is the starting point for all my BR1 data, so it’s appropriate that this is the first bit I’m making available here.  Right now it lists all Union personnel from army command down to regimental and battery command, including staff.  I’m going to try some other things with it in the days and weeks ahead, add notes, maybe some photos, so check back.  I have a Confederate OOB and will post it, too.  There are some glitches in copying a Word document into html on WordPress so give me some time.

As always, if you see any glaring errors or have any questions or suggestions, please use the comments feature.


A Man of Many Hats

4 01 2007


Fellow blogger Mannie Gentile sent me this picture of him reading the latest issue of America’s Civil War magazine in his basement.  Sweet collection, Mannie!  Check out his most recent post on the restoration of the Poffenberger wagon shed on the northern end of the Antietam Battlefield.

Now Reading…

4 01 2007

“No Disgrace to My Country”, the Life of John C. Tidball, by Eugene C. Tidball.  I chose this as my next Bull Run book tidball.jpgbecause artillerist John C. Tidball wrote an influential account of the battle, because this book has considerable material about West Point and the antebellum army, and because it is a front-loaded biography.  Eugene C. Tidball is one of the many lawyers trying his hand at writing Civil War history.  I have mixed feelings about lawyers as historians, in spite of their training to gather, evaluate, and present evidence, because at the same time they are trained to be advocates for their clients.  But it can’t be denied that some of them turn out some really good work.   As a lawyer and apparantly as a distant relative of his subject Tidball seems to have elements of birth  and profession standing in the way of objectivity.  We’ll see how he does – I’m only 50 pages in.

When I say this is a front-loaded biography, by that I mean it gives lots of detail on the subject’s life leading up to the “critical event”, in my case the Battle of Bull Run or the Civil War in general.  In most cases, at least in recent years, biographers of Civil War personalities give only cursory treatment of their lives leading up to the war.  This of course renders the biography only marginally useful in evaluating or even understanding the decisions made by the subject.  Decisions should not, and really can not, be evaluated based on their results.  They must be evaluated based on what was known at the time of the decision.  When it comes to biography, what we need to know more about is what shaped the actor prior to the events – the decisions.  As promised in ‘Splain it to me, Lucy!, I’ll talk about my ideas on this more, hopefully as early as this evening.  For now, I’ll say that a great example of how biography should be written can be found in Ethan Rafuse’s  McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union.