Civil War Blogs – What I Look For

24 01 2008

While we’re on the subject of my rules, I think it’s time to let my readers know what I look for in a Civil War blog.  Let me preface this by saying a blog can be, and should be, whatever the blogger wants it to be.  It can be focused, or it can be a stream of consciousness.  It can strictly manage the comments of readers, even to the extent of not allowing reader comments, or it can let readers post whatever they want to the comments sections.  It can discuss any and all topics, or it can ban some.  There are no rules for blogging.  That’s the beauty.

What gets me to revisit a blog?  A few things:  I want the blogger to be true to how he or she has characterized the blog.  That’s not to say we can’t change what our blog is about over time as our blog develops (notice I gave myself some wiggle room, and some limitations, in my About over to the right).  Just don’t tell me that your blog is about one thing, then consistently post about something else over and over and over.  I’m not talking about folks discussing their personal lives or boosting their favorite football or baseball teams on their site, within reason.  Just be honest with your readers about what your blog is about, for cryin’ out loud!  Bait & switch: not for me.

I also look for a blog with a sense of humor, and yes, a positive outlook.  I don’t pursue this line of study to raise my blood pressure.  My cardiologist thinks this rule is a good one.  The angry, brooding genius who sees clearly all that is wrong with the stupid little people who don’t agree with him won’t mind if this stupid little person doesn’t give him hits.  Angry: not for me.

I don’t read a blog to find out what the blogger thinks about what other bloggers are writing (more specific, more personal than what I’m doing in this post).  I sometimes point readers to other blog articles that I find interesting, and may also expand the discussion of the topic here.  I may even publicly disagree.  But I try not to get personal in what I write or to theorize on and question the blogger’s integrity or motivation.  I leave that to his readers.  Harping on other bloggers: not for me.

If I want to read opinions on modern (post, say, 1876, though there are some exceptions) politics or religion, I’m not going to seek such out on a blog that advertises itself as being focused on some aspect of the American Civil War.  The same goes for getting tips on rewiring my house.  Modern politics & religion on a CW blog: not for me.

Bloggers who violate my rules for consistent viewing – I can’t say that I never revisit a blog that commits the transgressions listed above – are not doing anything wrong.  They’re not doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.  And they’re not bad people because of how they run their blog.  Their stuff is just not what I’m looking for.  That’s all. 

I try to follow my own rules.  Be sure to call me on it when I don’t.

A Rose by Any Other Name

23 01 2008

I have in my life taken aspirin when I’ve had a headache.  I have installed new copper plumbing throughout a two story house.  I have offered opinions on the legality of certain actions when asked.  However, I’m not a doctor.  I’m not a plumber.  And I’m not a lawyer.

You may have noticed that on this blog I’ve referred to individuals as historians.  I’ve referred to some as “historians”.  I’ve referred to others as herodotus.jpgwriters, and to others as chroniclers.  There’s a reason for that.  I have a rule.  It’s my rule, and not necessarily yours.  But since you’re reading my blog, you should know what my rules are.

In order for someone to be referred to as a (yes, for the 100 millionth time, it’s “a”, check your style manual!) historian by me, they must have earned an advanced degree – at least a master’s degree – in history.  That’s pretty simple.  There are no exceptions.  None.  Nada.

Whether or not I refer to someone as a historian has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of his or her work in the field of history.  It’s simply recognition of their membership in the profession: a profession that, like others, has requirements for membership (educational requirements, peer review requirements, ethical requirements).  It’s out of respect for the profession and for those individuals who have satisfied the minimum requirements for membership – requirements that I, at this late stage, will never satisfy – that I don’t throw the word historian around loosely.  There are good and bad doctors, plumbers, lawyers, and historians out there, but that does not change the fact that they are who and what they are.  And I yam what I yam, whatever that is.

Don’t get upset if I don’t refer to you or to someone you admire as a historian when you or they don’t meet my requirements.  If it makes you feel any better, the guy in the picture doesn’t meet them either.  But feel free to let me know when I make a mistake. 

I got the picture of Herodotus from this site – no, I can’t read a word of it.

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New Blog Alert

22 01 2008


Friend Chris Army has a new blog up.  I think it’s called Angel’s Share, but what you’ll see on the marquee is Musings of a bourbon sipping ACW Student, which fits him quite well if you replace sipping with swilling.  You’ll find it here, and in my blogroll to the right.

I think this is going to be a good one.  I’ve known Chris for awhile; he’s one of those Gettysburgaholics, but not a Frassanidiot to the extent of some of his compadres.  He’s published an article in Blue & Gray magazine on the most interesting day of the battle, July 1st.  Chris has a methodical, logical approach to his research, and never allows where he suspects something may lead actually do the leading.

By his latest post, it looks like Chris is trying to figure out what his blog, and blogs in general, should be.  All I can tell you is it should be what you want it to be, and it may take a little while for you to figure out what that is.  But you’re the only one who can do that.  Good luck Chris and good blogging!

I’m Speechless

21 01 2008

Here’s a clip from Don’t Say Videos.  I reached down deep for a comment on this, but I got nothin’.  Forget all you know about the First Battle of Bull Run.

Speak of the Devil

20 01 2008

The boys over at Touch the Elbow are back up and blogging after a long absence.  Today they put up an article that concerns the current topic here, the 11th New York Fire Zouaves.  Check it out here.

Stuart’s Report…and “Zouaves”!

20 01 2008

There’s a curious bit in Stuart’s report that is part of some confusion that permeates much of the history of the battle.  He mentions charging on a regiment “dressed in red”, and later identifies that regiment as the Fire Zouaves, the nom de guerre (gee, I hope I’m using that term correctly) of the 11th New York.  Stuart’s description was a little vague, but his subordinate W. W. Blackford was more detailed in his memoir, War Years with Jeb Stuart (from page 28, emphasis is mine):


Colonel Stuart and myself were riding at the head of the column as the grand panorama opened before us, and there right in front, about seventy yards distant, and in strong relief against the smoke beyond, stretched a brilliant line of scarlet – a regiment of New York Zouaves in column of fours, marching out of the Sudley road to attack the flank of our line of battleDressed in scarlet caps and trousers, blue jackets with quantities of gold buttons, and white gaiters, with a fringe of bayonets swaying above them as they moved, their appearance was indeed magnificent.

This illustrates a common thread of confusion that runs through much of the documentary evidence which has served to construct the First Bull Run narrative.  Stuart’s conclusion that this unit was indeed the 11th NY is based not on his observation, but on what he was told afterwards.  While it’s not positively known when Blackford wrote his memoir (D. S. Freeman thought it was “considerably before” 1896) and his memory could have been affected by inumerable influences, Blackford’s account contradicts Stuart, and himself, with his detailed description of the uniform of the enemy.

The 11th NY at Bull Run by most accounts was clad in red firemen’s shirts and standard issue blue pants.  Their original Zouave uniforms, which by the way featured gray coats and pants, had worn out by July 1861.  Blackford’s description matches quite well the uniforms of the 14th New York State Militia (later the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry), known as the 14th Brooklyn, who were clad in an outfit of the French chasseur pattern.  (The photo at the top of the page, which is from this 14th NY, Co. E reenactment website, shows the men in uniforms that could have used Blackford’s description as a design template.) But folks seem to have commonly referred to the uniform as a Zouave uniform.  Since the 11th NY was the only wholly Zouave New York unit on the field that day (even though they weren’t wearing Zouave uniforms), the New York regiment in the Zouave uniforms with red pants has over time become the 11th NY.

There are reports of red trousered Fire Zouaves that may be referring to the 14th B’Klyn, or that may be referring to the 11th NY with the author tossing in red pants for effect, or that may be pure flights of fancy.  I even found one account that referred to the Brooklyn Fire Zouaves!  Adding to the confusion is the fact that the 14th B’Klyn fought on the same part of the field as the 11th NY, the 1st Minnesota regiment (red shirts), the 4th Alabama (red shirts), and a whole bunch of artillerymen who were commonly known as “redlegs” due to the red trim on their coats, hats and, yes, pants which denoted their arm of the service.

This is not something to be resolved overnight.

Next up for the Confederate ORs is #84, P.G.T. Beauregard.  This one takes up 31 pages!  It may be the only report I put up next week.

#83 – Col. J. E. B. Stuart

20 01 2008


Report of Col. J. E. B. Stuart, First Virginia Cavalry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 482-484


July 26, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my regiment in the battle of Manassas:

I received your order to charge the enemy’s flank, and proceeded immediately across the run to his left flank, but finding that it would be easier to attain his right flank, I immediately returned and marched rapidly towards the heaviest fire. As I approached the ground General Jackson, whose brigade was then engaged, sent me word to protect his flanks, but particularly his left flank. I divided the regiment, giving Major Swan half (I had but 300 men for duty), and with the remainder hurried up to Jackson’s left, leaving his right to Swan. Entering a skirt of woods, I received intelligence that the enemy was rapidly outflanking us. I hastened forward through several fences just as a regiment dressed in red was running in disorder towards a skirt of woods where the fire had been heaviest. I took them to be ours, and exclaimed with all my might: “Don’t run, boys; we are here.” They paid very little attention to this appeal. When passing in column of twos through a narrow gap to gain the same field and very close to them I saw in their hands the U.S. flag. I ordered the charge, which was handsomely done, stopping their flank movement and checking the advance upon Jackson. I rallied again for another charge, as only a portion of my command was in the first, owing to the difficulty of closing up; but finding the enemy had gained the woods to my right and front, leaving no ground for charging, I retired to the next field to give them another dash if they penetrated beyond the woods, which, however, they did not attempt.

In this encounter the enemy’s line, or rather column, was broken and many killed. Captain Carter’s company, on which the heaviest of the action fell, lost 9 men killed or mortally wounded, and — wounded, and 18 horses killed. Captain Carter’s horse was shot dead as he was gallantly leading his company in to the enemy.

Of the gallantry of those engaged I cannot speak in too high terms. The regiment charged was the Fire Zouaves, and I am informed by prisoners subsequently taken that their repulse by the cavalry began the panic so fearful afterwards in the enemy’s ranks.

Just after the cavalry charge our re-enforcements arrived upon the field and formed rapidly on right into line. The first was Colonel Falkner’s regiment (Mississippians,) whose gallantry came under my own observation. As these re-enforcements formed I gradually moved off to the left, where I soon found myself joined by a battery, under the direction of Lieutenant Beckham, which my cavalry supported. This battery made great havoc in the enemy’s ranks and finally put them in full retreat. The principal credit here was due to this battery; but having thrown forward vedettes far out on the eminences, the important information I was thus enabled to give the battery as to position and movements must have contributed greatly to its success, and here I may add that this information was also sent back to the infantry, which was still far to our right, notifying what woods could be gained, &c.

The enemy being now in full retreat, I followed with the cavalry as rapidly as possible, but was so much encumbered with prisoners, whom I sent as fast as possible back to the infantry, that my command was soon too much reduced to encounter any odds, but I nevertheless followed our success until I reached a point twelve miles from Manassas, when, by sending back so many detachments with prisoners, I had but a squad left. The rear of the enemy was protected by a squadron of cavalry and some artillery. We cut off a great many squads, many of whom fired upon us as we approached, and the artillery gave us a volley of grape. One man of ours was killed and another wounded at this point. I have no idea how many prisoners were taken.

I encamped that night on Sudley farm, where was a large church, used as a hospital by the enemy, containing about 300 wounded, the majority mortally.

I cannot speak in too high praise of those whom I had the honor to command on the field, but to Mr. L. T. Brian and Mr. P. W. Hairston and J. F. Brown, having no commissions, whose meritorious conduct and worth have been made the subject of previous letters to the general, I was specially indebted for valuable assistance.

Of my regiment the acting chaplain, Rev. Mr. Ball, was conspicuously useful, while my attention was particularly attracted to the adjutant, Lieut. W. W. Blackford; the sergeant-major, Philip H. Powers, and Lieutenant Cummings, whose good conduct on this as on every other occasion deserves high commendation. Lieutenant Beckham deserves high praise for the success of his battery, as he acted as gunner to each piece himself. In the pursuit Lieut. William Taylor alone captured six of the enemy with arms in their hands. A large number of arms, quantities of clothing and hospital stores, and means of transportation were found abandoned on the road.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel First Virginia Cavalry