New Superintendent

25 06 2008


Manassas National Battlefield has a new superintendent.  See the press release here.

Death of Judith Henry

25 06 2008


Maggie at Civil War Women has this post up on the death of Judith Henry.  Check it out.

Society of (Mostly) Civil War Historians Part I

25 06 2008


Last week I attended the first biennial meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians (SCWH) in Philadelphia, at the historic, exclusive Union League.  Rather than bounce back and forth between the conference and the venue, and in the interest of brevity, I’ll write four separate articles: one on each day of the conference, and one on the Union League.

The meeting kicked off on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM; I showed up about five minutes after four, but the program in the club’s second floor Lincoln Hall had started on the dot.  By the way, the League’s dress code for guests is business casual from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with jackets required and ties preferred in the member’s only areas.  My uniform for the three days was collared silk shirts and khakis, so I was “in bounds”.  But while there were two or three other fellows who were similarly dressed, most of the male participants opted for jackets and ties.  So I felt a little conspicuous right off the bat.  That feeling would be exacerbated by frequent references by speakers to a commonality of academic experience between the presenters and the audience.  While I have an advanced degree, neither it nor my bachelor’s is in history.  There couldn’t have been more than a handful of similarly unlettered folks like me among the 200 or so in attendance (see here for my definition of a historian).  I was a fish out of water.

Like I said, I was about five minutes late, and the SCWH are apparently a punctual bunch.  Mark Neely of my alma mater, The Pennsylvania State University, had just begun his opening night address, “Reconsidering Nationalism in the American Civil War”.  One of the thrusts of his talk was that, in the North, rather than the press inciting nationalism in the populace in the early days of the crisis, it was the other way around, with rallies, arranged and impromptu, resulting from the actions of citizens.  In some cases, mobs descended upon newspaper offices to voice their opinions.  Taken with, among other things, Mark Grimsley’s writing recapped here, I’m scrapping my notions with regards to traditional interpretations of the influence of the press in the 1860’s.

A cocktail hour and buffet followed Neely’s talk, during which I ran into acquaintances Jeff Prushankin and Susannah Bruce and friends Carol Reardon and Tom Clemens of SHAF and his wife Angela.  Seeing Tom and Angela was a pleasant surprise indeed – we spent a good deal of time together over the three days.  I also met the Museum of the Confederacy’s John Coski, with whom I have corresponded before, and the former Executive Director of Jefferson Davis’ Beauvoir, Patrick Hotard.

The evening program was a roundtable discussion, “Beyond Inside War: New Perspectives on Guerilla Warfare”, with panelists Daniel Sutherland, John Inscoe, Paul Anderson and Michael Fellman.  This discussion focused on issues raised in Fellman’s Inside War: The Guerilla Conflict in Missouri during the Civil War.  In the end, Fellman disputed conclusions in Neely’s The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction and Grimsley’s The Hard Hand of War that Yankee “atrocities” were exceptions and that the North fought the war with restraint.  He was not gentle in his criticism of Neely’s work, though the author was sitting in the front row. 

After the session, I toured around the second floor with Tom and Angela, checking out some of the incredible artwork that decks the club’s walls.  We ran into Kevin Levin and his wife Michaela in the process.  I’d never met Kevin before and would run into him periodically during the conference, but never long enough to have a full fledged conversation.  After a visit to Tom and Angela’s room in the club to find out what had happened at the U.S. Open that day, I walked the six or so blocks to my friend’s townhome on Locust St., where I stayed while in town.

Part II

Part III

Part IV

So Long To Some Old Friends

22 06 2008

A Piece of my Library

I have made the decision to retire – or at least send on sabbatical – most of my hard copies of the Official Records.  Granted, they do look spiffy on the shelves I installed on the wall above my desk, but I hardly ever use them.  I rely on my DVD version, though I use my volume of the Bull Run records to fine tune what I post on this site (the digital version contains lots of typos).  This will clear up about 20 feet of shelf space, so I’ll have fewer books on the floor and jammed flat on top of other shelved books.

Enjoy the attic, fellas.  Except the lucky First Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg volumes, and those last few volumes of Series I with the stuff that’s out of order.

Recap Soon

18 06 2008

I’m back from a most excellent adventure with the Society of Civil War Historians at the Union League in Philadelphia.  I saw some old friends and made some new acquaintances, all while having the time of my life, hob-knobbing in a ritzy joint, holding some artifacts I never thought I’d get within 20 feet of, and learning a lot.  But I have Cub Scout day camp to deal with the rest of the week, and baseball playoffs and work to catch up on over the weekend.  I’ll post a full summary of the conference next week.  Promise.

Henry Hill Trail

13 06 2008

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill

Craig over at To the Sound of the Guns has this post up featuring the HMDB marker set for the Henry Hill Trail.  Some refer to the area as Henry House Hill, and that’s the name I typically use.  I don’t know if the reason for it has anything to do with that whacky Goodfella (portrayed above by Ray Liotta) so many came to love (or loathe) for his appearances on the Howard Stern Show.

You can find some of my photos of Henry House Hill here.

#35 – Maj. George Sykes

12 06 2008

Report of Maj. George Sykes, Fourteenth U.S. Infantry, Commanding Battalion of Regulars

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 390-391


Camp Turnbull, Va., July 24, 1861

CAPTAIN: In compliance with your circular of the 23d instant, I have the honor to report the following casualties that occurred in my command during the recent battle before Manassas: Three commissioned officers wounded; one assistant surgeon missing; 13 rank and file killed, 17 wounded, 12 of whom are missing; 42 missing. A list is inclosed.(*) Many of the latter are supposed to have taken the Alexandria road by mistake, and will no doubt rejoin their colors to-day.

This battalion, composed of two companies of Second U.S. Infantry, five companies of the Third U.S. Infantry, and one company of the Eighth Infantry, left its camp near Centreville about 3.30 a.m. on the 21st instant, and after a circuitous march of ten or twelve miles arrived on the enemy’s left, and was immediately ordered to support the force under Colonel Burnside, which was suffering from a severe fire in its front. Our line was rapidly formed, opening fire, and a column under Colonel Heintzelman appearing at the same moment on our left, the enemy fell back to the rising ground in his rear. My battalion was then advanced to the front, and took a position on the edge of a wood immediately opposite a masked battery and a large force of the secessionists posted about a house and the fences and trees around it. My three left companies were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry, and did great execution among their ranks. At this time the whole battalion became actively engaged, and a Rhode Island battery coming into action on my right, and having no support, at the request of its commanding officer, and seeing myself the necessity of the case, I remained as a protection to his guns. For more than an hour the command was here exposed to a concentrated fire from the batteries and regiments of the enemy, which seemed doubled when the guns of the Rhode Islanders opened. Many of my men assisted in working the latter battery.

As the attack of our Army became more developed on the right, and the necessity for my staying with the guns ceased, I moved my battalion in that direction, passing through crowds of retiring troops, whom we endeavored in vain to rally. Taking a position on the extreme right, in front of several regiments of the enemy, I opened an effective fire upon them, and held my ground until all our troops had fallen back and my flank was turned by a large force of horse and foot. I then retired a short distance in good order, and facing to the enemy on the crest of a hill, held his cavalry in check, which still threatened our flank.

At this stage of the action, my command was the only opposing force to the enemy, and the last to leave the field. By taking advantage of woods and broken ground, I brought it off without loss, although the guns of our opponents were playing on our line of march from every height. While thus retiring, I received an order from the brigade commander to cover the retreat of that portion of the Army near me, which I did as well as I was able, remaining in rear until all of it had passed me.

After crossing Bull Run my command was threatened by a large force of cavalry, but its order and the regularity of its march forbade any attack. We reached our camp beyond Centreville at 8 p.m. It is but proper to mention that our officers and men were on their feet from 10 p.m. on the 20th until l0 a.m. on the 22d. Without rest, many without food, foot-sore, and greatly exhausted, they yet bore the retreat cheerfully, and set an example of constancy and discipline worthy of older and more experienced soldiers. My officers, nearly all of them just from civil life and the Military Academy, were eager and zealous, and to their efforts is due the soldierly retreat and safety of the battalion, as well as of many straggling volunteers who accompanied my command. The acting major, Capt. N. H. Davis, Second Infantry, rendered essential service by his coolness, zeal, and activity. Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry, commanding the skirmishers on the left, was equally efficient, and to those gentlemen and all my officers I am indebted for cordial co-operation in all the movements of the day. Lieutenant Kent, although wounded, endeavored to retain command of his company, but a second wound forced him to give it up. He and Lieutenant Dickinson, acting adjutant, wounded, and Dr. Sternberg, U.S. Army, are believed to be in the hands of the enemy.

I beg to call the attention of the brigade commander to the services of Sergeant-Major Devoe, of the Third Infantry, who was conspicuous for his good conduct on the field. The arms and equipments of my command are in good condition, but the men are destitute of blankets, and in want of necessary clothing.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, Fourteenth Infantry, Commanding Battalion

Capt. W. W. AVERELL,

A. A. A. Gen., Porter’s Brigade, Arlington, Va.

*Embodied in division return, p.387