This Weekend

31 03 2007

Later this weekend I’ll comment on some recent purchases and book buying in general, and also give some thoughts on the biography of Samuel Heintzelman I finished reading a couple of weeks ago.

Chris Wehner has made me feel wholly inadequate as a blogger.  He says he gets about 10,000 hits a month, which is more than this site has received since its inception last November.

Thanks to Dave Powell for helping me find a word for which I was searching.  After reading about a new book titled McClellan and Failure: A Study of Civil War Fear, Incompetence and Worse by Edward Bonekemper, III (sorry, I provide no links as I won’t take any responsibility for anyone buying this thing), I was curious what word would be the opposite of hagiography.  Dave suggested “hatchetography”.  Works for me.


28 03 2007

I belong to an email discussion group, The Civil War Discussion Group (CWDG), which for the past five springs has gathered for battlefield tours.  Each year has alternated between eastern theater and western theater battlefields.  Last year featured the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign with guide Gary Ecelbarger. 

This year, June 8-10, the plan is for three days of touring at Shiloh.  Guides will be the group’s own Dave Powell, who you may recognize as the author of several magazine articles and the designer of a few popular war games, and longtime NPS ranger Charlie Spearman.  Operations will be based out of Corinth, MS.

If you’re interested in attending or want more info, leave a message here in the comments section.  Be sure to use a valid email account when you leave your message.  The fee has yet to be determined, since it is dependent upon the number of attendees.  But the group is not in this for profit.  The price will include the tour bus, guide expense, any park fees, lunches and one dinner.  Lodging and other meals are on your own.

Update – Yes, the one dinner will be at Hagy’s.

John Lyman Chatfield

25 03 2007

In July 1863, John Chatfield would receive wounds in the assault on Battery Wagner from which he would not recover.  At that time he was in command of the 6th CT volunteer infantry.  But on July 21, 1861 he was the colonel of the 3rd CT in Erasmus Keyes’s brigade of Daniel Tyler’s federal division. 

John Lyman Chatfield: born Oxford, CT 9/13/26; journeyman builder, worked as a mechanic for the Waterbury Lumber & Coal Company, and partnered with his brother in the building business; was a captain of the Waterbury City Guard; major, 1st CTVI, 4/23/61; Lt. Col. 5/10/61; Col. 3rd CTVI, 5/31/61; mustered out of volunteers 8/12/61; Col., 6th CTVI, 9/13/61; commanded 1st Brigade, 1st Div., Dept of the South, 4/62 to 7/62; commanded District of Beaufort, SC, 10th Corps, 10/62; wounded right leg at Pocotaligo, SC 10/22/62; wounded left leg and right hand during assault on Fort Wagner, SC, 7/18/63 (the same action which claimed the life of Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th MA); died of his wounds on 8/9/63 in Waterbury, CT; buried in Riverside Cemetery, Waterbury, CT, Section G, Lot #13.  

Click on thumbnails for larger image: 


 Photos: a & b – Hunt, Colonels in Blue: The New England States; c – Civil War Monuments of Connecticut


Hunt, Colonels in Blue – The New England States, pp 20-21

Chesson, Colonel Chatfield’s Courage, or A Share of “Glory”, 9/24/2006


Henry Walter Kingsbury

21 03 2007

Henry Walter Kingsbury: born Chicago, IL 5/25/36; resided Washington, DC; son of Maj. J.J.B. Kingsbury, 3rd US Infantry; son-in-law of BG Joseph P. Taylor; brother-in-law of CSA Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner; brother-in-law of Bvt. BG John McLean Taylor; his widow married Bvt. BG Albert G. Lawrence; West Point Class of 1861 (4th of 45) 5 year program; Bvt 2nd Lt and 2nd Lt ordnance 5/6/61; 1st Lt 5th US Arty 5/14/61; Acting ADC, Staff of BG & MG Irvin McDowell, 6/8/61 to 12/13/61; Colonel, 11th CTVI, 4/25/62; MW (GSW leg, foot, shoulder, abdomen) at Antietam, 9/17/62; died 9/18/62, Henry Rohrbach Farm, Sharpsburg,  MD; buried Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, DC (Lot 640) with cenotaph in Congressional Church Cemetery, Hamburg, CT.  Sources: Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, Vol. II, pp 771-772; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I, p 601; Hunt, Colonels in Blue – The New England States, p 30.

Click on thumbnails below for larger view. 


Photo credits: a, b, c – Hunt, Colonels in Blue: The New England States; d –; e – detail of 11th CT monument at Antietam, author’s collection



Willie Hardee

13 03 2007

A couple of years ago, I took a tour of Civil War battlefields in North Carolina put together by my friend Teej Smith.  We visited Monroe’s Crossroads with Eric Wittenberg, Averasboro with Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky, and Forts Fisher (Bull Run thread #1) and Anderson with Chris Fonvielle.  We also spent a long, hot day at Bentonville with Mark Bradely, author of the definitive study of the battle, Last Stand in the Carolinas.  It was there I was able to put a “face” to one of the most poignant stories of the war, that of General William J. Hardee and his young son, Willie.

Born in Georgia in 1815, “Old Reliable” William Hardee was an 1838 graduate of West Point, winner of two brevets in Mexico, one time commandant of cadets at his alma mater, and the author of the standard U. S. Army manual Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen (Bull Run thread #2).  A Lieutenant Colonel before the war, he resigned his commission when Georgia seceded.  He served at high levels in the Confederate armies in Kentucky and Tennessee, but when offered command of the Army of Tennessee after Chattanooga, Hardee demurred.  He served under Joe Johnston (Bull Run thread #3) and John Hood through the Atlanta Campaign; after the battle of Jonesboro he requested a transfer out from under Hood’s command.  He was in command of the forces that surrendered Savannah and Charleston to William T. Sherman (Bull Run thread #4).  As the war wound to a close, Hardee found himself once again under Johnston’s command, in an army group that boasted an officer corps reminiscent of a Confederate Old Home week.  General officers present at the climactic Battle of Bentonville included blasts from the past Braxton Bragg, D. H. Hill, LaFayette McLaws, William Loring, and William Taliaferro. 

 I won’t get into the details of the Battle of Bentonville.  It was a hard fought affair that lasted three days, March 19, 20, & 21, 1865, and is perhaps most famous for what didn’t happen at its close.  On the 22nd Sherman, in command of two armies, turned away from Johnston knowing his old foe was significantly outnumbered and backed up to a stream (Mill Creek) with only one crossing, to march east toward his original objective, Goldsboro.  There Sherman intended to add the forces of generals John Schofield and Alfred Terry (Bull Run thread #5) and commence the final march to join Grant at Petersburg.  But earlier, on the 21st, Maj. Gen. Joseph Mower led his division of Frank Blair’s 17th Corps of Oliver Howard’s (Bull Run thread #6) Army of the Tennessee against the Confederate left in an effort to cut the rebels off from their escape route over the Mill Creek Bridge.

Mower’s advance slammed into the Confederate left, overrunning Johnston’s headquarters, forcing the General to flee on foot.  Johnston had charged Hardee, in command on the right, with gathering troops to mount a defense of the bridge.  “Old Reliable” scraped together a force consisting of infantry and cavalry.  One of these units was the 8th Texas Cavalry, aka Terry’s Texas Rangers (Bull Run thread #7).

In the ranks of the 8th Texas that day was the General’s 16 year old son, Willie.  Young Hardee had first joined the Rangers in the first half of 1864, but the regiment sent the boy, who had run away from a Georgia school to sign up, to his father.  In order to keep better watch over him, the General  gave his son a position on his staff.  Except for a brief stint with a battery, Willie served on his father’s staff up until the march toward Bentonville.  Reunited with the Rangers on the march, the boy pleaded with his father for permission to serve with them.  After an enticement of an officer’s rank and a position on Johnston’s staff was resisted by the son, the father relented.  He told Capt. Kyle of the regiment, “Swear him into service in your company, as nothing else will satisfy.”

As Mower’s attack reached a climax, Hardee assembled the Rangers and the 4th TN cavalry of Col. Baxter Smith’s command.  One eyewitness reported that the General and his son tipped hats in salute to each other as the line formed.  “Old Reliable” personally led the assault with drawn sword.  The cavalry attack pushed the Union skirmishers back on their main line, and the rebel infantry followed.  Mower’s assault came to a halt.  Sherman, who was not happy that Mower’s action was started in the first place, ordered Blair’s corps to disengage, much to the chagrin of army commander Howard (who as a professor of mathematics at West Point before the war had been entrusted with tutoring the son of the commandant of cadets, William J. Hardee).

Hardee was pleased with the performance of the troops in dealing with the threat to the Mill Creek bridge.  As he headed to the rear he joked with Wade Hampton (Bull Run Thread #8), but his high spirits were dashed by the sight of of young Willie’s limp body being supported in his saddle by another Ranger riding behind.  He had received a mortal chest wound in the field (pictured below) in front of the Federal line. 






The General directed his son be taken to Hillsboro to the home of his niece, Susannah Hardee Kirkland, wife of Brig. Gen. William W. Kirkland, one of Bragg’s brigade commanders (Bull Run thread #9).  It was there that Willie Hardee died three days later on March 24.  In a small military ceremony which his father attended, he was buried in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church cemetery.

As my friend Mike and I travelled back to Pittsburgh from Wilmington after the last of our tours, we decided to make a little detour to Bennett Place (the site of Johnston’s surrender to Sherman is one stop all enthusiasts should make).  Checking with the staff at the site we learned that Hillsboro is not far away and decided to go a little out of our way to find Willie’s grave.  It took quite a bit of searching.  Once we found the cemetery we still had no idea what the marker looked like.  But we found it; actually, I think Mike found it, and it required the brushing away of quite a few leaves.  My camera batteries were out of juice, and Mike’s were dying, but with the last photo on his camera we recorded the image below (I’m not sure why the marker says he was 17 – everything I’ve read says he was 16). 




I can’t imagine what the General must have felt while standing on that same spot so long ago.  Surely he second guessed his decision to allow Willie to join the Rangers.  But did he question the cause that had led him, his family, and his countrymen to this state of affairs? Hardee survived the war to become president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad and coauthor of The Irish in America.  He passed away on Nov. 6, 1873 in Wytheville, VA and is buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, AL.  But I have to believe a big part of him died that day in that churchyard outside Raleigh.

Bull Run Threads

1 – This fort was named for the commander of the 6th NC, Col. C. F. Fisher, killed at First Bull Run.

2 – This manual describes tactics that would have been employed during First Bull Run.

3 – Johnston commanded the Confederate forces at First Bull Run.

4 – Sherman commanded a brigade in Daniel Tyler’s federal division at First Bull Run.

5 – Terry commanded the 2nd CT Infantry in Keyes’s brigade of Tyler’s division at First Bull Run.

6 – Howard commanded a brigade in Heintzelman’s Federal division at First Bull Run.

7 – The 8th TX Cavalry was recruited by Benjamin Franklin Terry and Thomas Lubbock, who both served on the staff of James Longstreet, a brigade commander in Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at First Bull Run.

8 – Hampton commanded the Hampton Legion at First Bull Run, and was wounded in the battle.

9 – Kirkland commanded the 11th NC Volunteers (later the 21st NC Infantry) of Milledge L. Bonham’s brigade of the Army of the Potomac at First Bull Run.


Bradley, M. L., Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville

Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands

Hughes, Jr., N. C., Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston

Hughes, Jr., N. C., General William J. Hardee, Old Reliable

Moore, M. A., Moore’s Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville

Warner, E. J., Generals in Gray

In Print Again

9 03 2007


Welcome to all you readers visiting as a result of the nice review of Bull Runnings in the May issue of America’s Civil War magazine.  Thanks to Kim O’Connell who wrote the piece.  I suspect I’m getting some traffic as a result, because my hit counts have been holding up despite the fact I have not made a new post here in over a week.

There’s a really interesting bit on some J. E. B. Stuart correspondence in this same issue written by my friend Teej Smith.  Congratulations to her on a job well done.

I do apologize for not posting this past week.  I’ve been working on an article with tangential Bull Run ties and I hope to finish it up this weekend.  Then I’ll get back to putting together some biographical information on Bull Run individuals and units.

Assassination Vacation

1 03 2007

vowell1.jpgI decided to read Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation as a distraction, primarily from a pretty dry biography of Samuel Heintzelman I’m reading (is using dry and Heintzelman in the same sentence redundant?).  A few years back I read The Partly Cloudy Patriot by the same author, and really enjoyed it.  Sarah Vowell is known for her work on public radio, and also as the voice of Violet Parr, the daughter in The Incredibles.  Say what you will about her politics (but remember, you can’t say it here – see About, over to the right), she knows her US history, she can turn a phrase, and she’s funny.  Very funny.  And the content of the book is relevant enough that I am giving it space in my Civil War library, in the embarrassingly large Lincoln Assassination section.

In addition, her approach to the subject is very similar to that of this blog, described earlier as pulling threads.  That’s a kind of free form research, allowing the stories to lead you, going along for the ride.  Vowell mentions in the book that a friend compared her ability to relate anyone and anything to Lincoln’s assassination to The Kevin Bacon Game, in which the object is to connect any given actor to Kevin Bacon by naming other actors they worked with until you hit one that worked with Kevin Bacon.  I used to be pretty good at that game, and have long thought my processes when it comes to the study of the Civil War are much more similar to playing it than to any method taught in a school or writer’s workshop.  The result is usually the revelation of unexpected, sometimes meaningful (sometimes not) relationships between people, places and things.  Vowell excels in not only uncovering these interrelationships, but in weaving a compelling narrative from those threads.

Assassination Vacation chronicles Vowell’s travels to various places associated with three assassinated presidents, Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.  Her trips are to various and sometimes unexpected locations – like Alaska.  She visits the one-time location of a strange, biblical sex-cult in New York (the Oneida Community) that served as a refuge for Garfield’s killer, Charles Guiteau.  She explores the relationship between McKinley assassin Leon Czolgosz (shol-gosh) and anarchist Emma Goldman (Maureen Stapleton in Reds).  She even goes to Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks, where Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was hiking when summoned to Buffalo as McKinley lay dying.

Vowell devotes the most pages to people, places and events surrounding the Lincoln assassination.  She goes to the usual haunts, Ford’s Theater, The Wok & Roll restaurant (formerly Mary Surratt’s boarding house).  She visits places that “used to be there”, like Secretary of State Seward’s DC home – that’s how she wound up in Alaska, I guess.  Vowell treks to Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum (I now must go there).  For God’s sake, she even sails to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortuga’s, where Dr. Mudd and other convicted conspirators were imprisoned.  The descriptions of these trips are top notch, insightful, and often amusing (“I used to think John Waters movies were on the outlandish side until I came to Maryland”).

There are some drawbacks to the book, but they are relatively minor.  For one thing, Vowell often ends sentences in prepositions and uses the aristocratic affectation “an” historian/historic.  (I understand they’re teaching kids these days that the former practice is now “OK”, but I’ve never seen a style manual approving the latter, and I doubt she would write of “an” histrionic display or “an” hysterical outburst.  And why do these people who say “an” historian invariably say “a” history?  Huh?  Why?)  The other is the previously alluded to references to current politics. The fact is, parallels between today and the past can be made to say whatever one wants them to say.  It’s a parlor trick.

For instance, Vowell makes much of the circumstances surrounding the presidential election of 1876.  In what she views as a precursor of things to come, she notes that the Republican party essentially “bought” the election by agreeing to end reconstruction, thus “selling out” African Americans in the south.  Factually correct, her analysis ignores the other end of the deal.  In order for the Republicans to buy the presidency at the cost of reconstruction, someone had to accept payment and make delivery.  Neither party was unsullied in the transaction.

All in all, Assassination Vacation appeals not only to those interested in Lincoln, or the Civil War era, or presidential history, but to any lover of history.  If you’re one of those people who can’t understand why other people can’t understand that the fact that the stone wall over there is the same wall that was there when IT happened is, well, way cool, this book is for you.