Society of (Mostly) Civil War Historians – Part IV

22 08 2008

I apologize for taking so long to make this promised entry in my series detailing the first biennial meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians held in Philadelphia’s Union League Club this past June.  One thing led to another… you know how it goes.  Anyway, in this concluding installment I’ll tell you a little bit about the venue, which was every bit as impressive as the program and the presenters.

The Club is situated on Broad St., south of City Hall (that’s the view to the municipal HQ), and is easily identified by its red hue and ornate double curving staircases.  The Broad St. entrance is flanked on either side by monuments to two city militia regiments, the First Pennsylvania National Guard Infantry Regiment and, oh, somebody help me out with the other one:


I won’t go into great detail on the history of the Club/League.  Suffice to say it was formed early in the war as a way for citizens of the city to publicly profess their support for the Lincoln administration.  You can read a little about its founding on the historical marker above, and here is a commemorative book, published on the 40th Anniversary of the Club.

One is immediately struck by the massive art collection that adorns the walls of the club, much of it with a Civil War theme, which makes sense considering the League’s origin.  And we ain’t talking Bradley Schmel or Don Stivers here.  The club has the original oil paintings of Xanthus Smith’s USS Kearsarge vs. CSS Alabama and The Monitor and the Merrimac, paintings you’ve doubtless seen reproduced dozens of times.  Right there, at eye level!  Click on the thumbs for a larger image – click on the larger image for a ginormous one:


This being Philadelphia, favorite sons were prominent, including this massive full-length portrait of George Gordon Meade, and the Philadelphia Brigade HQ pennant used by Alexander Webb at Gettysburg:


The Union League raised nine infantry regiments and 5 companies of cavalry during the war, and this piece was commissioned to commemorate them:

But the club doesn’t limit itself to the collection of Civil War art.   Check out this massive portrait of George Washington by Thomas Sully, and his original smaller study (sorry I didn’t provide a sense of scale – trust me, this sucker is HUGE):


The Union League is one of the few – maybe the only – private clubs in the nation to employ a full-time director of library and collections.  Jim Mundy guided a tour of the club for conference attendees following the afternoon sessions on Monday, and about 40 or so opted to follow.  Afterwards, he mentioned that he had a few more items in the club’s huge library (the general library, not to be confused with their very impressive Lincoln Library which houses the Civil War volumes) that he would be happy to exhibit to anyone who was interested.  About ten of us took him up on the offer.  If you were one of the 30 or so who chose to bug out, you might want to stop reading now.

First this very proper gentleman in a bow tie yanks out of some vault a printed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation which was one of 24 sold to raise funds for the war effort.  And it was signed.  By Sec’y of State William Seward.  And Lincoln’s secretary John Hay (although it could have been Nicolay, I can’t remember).  And oh yeah, by Abraham Lincoln, too – in a very firm hand.  And I got to hold it.  In my hands.  In a frame, sure, but I held it, one of only 12 known to exist.  It sold for $10 back in 1863.  I offered Mr. Mundy $20.  He looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.

Next Mr. Mundy produced a home-made book, made up of paper sheets attached to each side of linen leaves.  It was in very good shape, with clear handwriting.  On April 14, 1865, after having been shot in Ford’s Theater, President Lincoln was removed to a nearby house owned by William Petersen.  There Secretary of War Edwin Stanton began to interview eyewitnesses to the assassination attempt, in order to make some sense out of a developing and chaotic situation.  The amount of information coming in was getting hard to handle, so Stanton sent out feelers for someone skilled in taking shorthand.  Next door they found their man, James Tanner, a veteran of the 87th New York Infantry (aka 13th Brooklyn) who had lost both legs at 2nd Bull Run and learned shorthand to earn his living clerking at the War Department.  As the evening wore on, Tanner took shorthand notes of the witness interviews, periodically taking breaks to transcribe the notes to long hand.  The next day (the 16th, I think), Tanner copied all of his long hand transcriptions and gave them to Stanton.  He kept the shorthand notes and original transcriptions.  These were the pages attached to the linen leaves of the book.  Very cool.  Understandably this item was not passed around to the group.

Lastly another framed item magically appeared.  The rustic display included newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, a couple of photographs, and a piece of cloth.  All pertained to the story of a gentleman who helped prepare Lincoln’s body, at some point in its movements from the Petersen House to the White House, to the autopsy, to the embalming.  I’m sorry, but I can’t recall the details.  I was overwhelmed and had forgotten my notebook.  The piece of cloth was one of six relics given to the gentleman and five companions who helped with the body: pieces of the President’s undershirt.  For the rest of his life, the man wore the scrap pinned to the left inside of his coat, so it rested next to his heart.  Upon close examination – yep, I got to hold this frame, too – I could make out the dozens of tiny pinholes.  I think you can see them too, if you look closely:


The conference was a great success, and I’m glad I went.  And it was very affordable.  Consider membership – it’s open to non-eggheads like me and you.  All the info you need is right here.  The 2010 conference will be hosted by The University of Richmond.

Part I

Part II

Part III

CSA Cavalry OOB Up

19 08 2008

In response to an inquiry concerning the command of Capt. John F. Lay, Bull Runnings’ favorite NPS Ranger, Jim Burgess of Manassas National Battlefield Park, has once again come through with flying colors.  Jim provided me with a Confederate Cavalry order of battle for First Bull Run.  I’ve added a page for this OOB under First Bull Run Resources in the right hand column. 

Thanks Jim!

Don Troiani print above (First at Manassas) from this site.

Tree Clearing at Manassas Part III

18 08 2008

Here’s another Washington Post article on the tree clearing project at Manassas National Battlefield.  Please read through the comments – there are a ton of them.  While not all well reasoned or well written, they are enlightening.  We who consider ourselves battlefield preservationists need to have a clear understanding of the perspectives of those who do not share our interests.  Their priorities are often different from ours, but no less valid as far as they are concerned.

See earlier articles here and here.

Hat tip to pal Brian Downey.

Above photo of tree clearing from

Blogroll Update

17 08 2008

I’ve added a few links to my blogroll in the right hand column, so I should point out my criteria for linking.  Basically, I look for good writing on the American Civil War.  Whether or not I agree with a blogger’s opinion has nothing to do with my selection process.  If it’s well researched, well reasoned, and well written, I think it’s worth your time and recommend that you visit.  My one rule concerns the discussion of modern politics.  Whether or not I agree with the blogger’s modern political viewpoints is, again, immaterial.  If a blog to which I link regularly posts on modern politics, I’ll remove it from the blogroll.  The removal of the link is in no way a judgement.  I believe I have a responsibility to you readers to only direct you to blogs in which I think you’ll be interested, based on your interest in Bull Runnings – where discussion of present-day politics (and present-day religion) is strictly verboten.

With the approaching presidential election, some of the blogger’s to whom I link may be tempted to “enter the fray” with their opinions.  I read all these blogs pretty regularly via a feed reader.  They’ll be removed from the blogroll as political posts become, in my estimate, frequent – with no fanfare.

#122 – Capt. E. P. Alexander

15 08 2008

Return of Captures and Abstract of Prisoners Taken

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 571


October 12, 1861

Return of captured ordnance and ordnance stores turned in to the Ordnance Department, Army of the Potomac, up to August 16, 1861:

One 30-pounder Parrott gun, with 300 rounds of ammunition; 9 10-pounder Parrott guns, with 100 rounds of ammunition each; 3 6-pounder brass guns, with 100 rounds of ammunition each; 3 12-pounder brass howitzers, with 100 rounds of ammunition each; 2 12-pounder boat howitzers, with 100 rounds of ammunition each; 9 James rifled, with 100 rounds of ammunition each, field pieces; 37 caissons; 6 traveling forges; 4 battery wagons, splendidly equipped; 64 artillery horses, with harness; 500,000 rounds small-arm ammunition; 4,500 sets of accouterments, cartridge boxes, &c.; 4,000 muskets.

No accurate return of drums, swords, pistols, knapsacks, canteens, bridles, &c., can be obtained. One 6-pounder gun and one 12-pounder howitzer were found spiked, but they were easily withdrawn. One of the enemy’s caissons exploded in the field in addition to those captured.

Hospital equipments turned in up to August 16, 1861-5 medicine chests, partially filled; 6 cases surgical instruments; two sets of panniers, 7 ambulances.

Returns of litters, instruments, supplies, &c., are all very incomplete, so much having been appropriated by surgeons of regiments, &c., besides the loss from plundering by privates and citizens.

Quartermaster’s stores turned in up to August 16, 1861:870 axes, spades, and intrenching tools; 2 sets carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ tools; 12 sets harness; 23 extra traces for artillery; 7 platform and other scales; 1,650 camp cooking utensils; 2,700 camp mess utensils; 302 pairs pantaloons, drawers, and socks; 700 blankets; 22 tents and flies; 21 wagons, 33 horses, 25 trunks and carpet-bags; 1 coil of rope.

Incomplete returns of many miscellaneous articles, such as bed-ticks, buckets, coffee-mills, halters, picket-pins, saddles and bridles, ten barrels commissary stores, and a few handcuffs left from a large lot captured, but carried off by individuals as trophies.

Abstract of prisoners and wounded of enemy sent to Richmond and the hospitals at other places since July 21, 1861: Prisoners not wounded sent to Richmond, 871; prisoners wounded sent to hospitals, 550. Total, 1,421.

These prisoners represent themselves as belonging to 47 different volunteer regiments, 9 regiments of Regular Army, and the Marine Corps. Besides these regiments, in the reports and orders of the enemy are mentioned by name one regiment of volunteers and companies from two regiments of regulars in Hunter’s division, six volunteer regiments in Miles’ division, and Runyon’s entire division of at least five regiments from New Jersey, from which we have neither prisoners nor wounded, giving as his entire force fifty-nine volunteer regiments and detached companies and battalions from marines and eleven regular regiments. From the most reliable data his volunteer regiments averaged 900 men each, making in all 63,000 men.


Captain Engineers, General Staff

#119 – Maj. Thomas G. Rhett

15 08 2008

Troops of the Army of the Shenandoah Engaged in the Battle of Manassas

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 569


August 23, 1861

COLONEL: In accordance with your request I send you a list of the regiments actually in the battle of the 21st of July, 1861:

Jackson’s Brigade.–Second Regiment. Virginia Volunteers, Col. J. H. Allen commanding; Fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Col. James F. Preston commanding; Fifth Regiment Virginia Volunteers Col. Kenton Harper commanding; Twenty-seventh Virginia Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols commanding, Colonel Gordon absent; Thirty-third Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Col. A. C. Cummings commanding.

Under General Bee, consisting of a part of his own and a part of Colonel Bartow’s brigade.–Seventh and Eighth Regiments Georgia Volunteers, Bartow’s; Second Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, Fourth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, Sixth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, and two companies Eleventh Mississippi Volunteers, Bee’s.

E. K. Smith’s brigade.–Colonel Elzey, Tenth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, Third Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, and — Regiment Maryland Volunteers.

Batteries in action.–Colonel Pendleton’s, four pieces; Captain Imboden’s four pieces; Captain Alburtis’, four pieces; Captain Stanard’s, four pieces, and Lieutenant Beckham’s, four pieces.

Cavalry.–Col. J. E. B. Smart’s, with twelve companies.

I cannot furnish the strength of the regiments, companies, &c.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


Assistant Adjutant-General


Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Corps, Army of the Potomac

#116 – Col. Wade Hampton

14 08 2008

Report of Col. Wade Hampton, Commanding Hampton Legion

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp.566-567


Camp Johnson, Broad Run, July 29, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that with six hundred infantry of my command I reached Manassas on the morning of the 21st, after thirty hours’ detention on the cars from Richmond. In obedience to orders to take position in the direction of stone bridge, ready to support any of the troops engaged in that quarter, I advanced with six infantry companies to Lewis’ house, the headquarters of General Cocke. On my way to this point a scout informed me that the enemy in great force had turned our left flank and were rapidly advancing. I immediately turned to my left at a right angle to the course I had been pursuing, and guided by the sound of a heavy fire which had just opened, marched towards their advancing lines.

Finding one of our batteries engaging the enemy, I took position to support it and remained for some time near it, but seeing that the enemy were closing in on my right flank, I moved forward to a farm house belonging to a free negro named Robinson, and took possession of the ground immediately around it. After being exposed to a heavy fire from Ricketts’ battery and musketry, I formed my men on the turnpike road leading to stone bridge in front of the farm-yard. A large body of the enemy, who were in advance of the main column, and who were within two hundred yards of the turnpike, opened fire on me as the line was formed. Under this fire Lieut. Col. B. J. Johnson fell, and in his fall the service sustained a great loss, while the Legion has met with an irreparable misfortune. He fell as, with the utmost coolness and gallantry, he was placing our men in position. In his death Carolina is called to mourn over one of her most devoted sons. As soon as my men came into position they returned the fire of the enemy and drove them back with loss into the woods on the top of the hill in front of us.

Their right wing then opened upon us, but after a brisk exchange of fire they retreated and planted a battery in the position they had just left. After this had played upon us for some time a strong force was thrown out, apparently with the view of charging upon us, but a single volley dispersed them in great confusion. They then formed beyond the crest of the hill and moved down to the turnpike on my left flank out of the range of my rifles. As soon as they reached the road they planted a battery in it, enfilading my position. As I was entirely exposed, I made my men fall back and form over the brow of the hill, where they were protected from the fire of the guns but not from that of the rifles. Here we were attacked by a column which came from the direction of the headquarters of General Evans, almost on our right, and we were nearly surrounded, the enemy being on three sides of us, and Generals Bee and Evans having both advised me to fall back, I gave orders to this effect, having held this position unsupported for at least two hours in the face of the enemy, greatly superior in numbers and well provided with artillery.

A short time before we retired, General Evans and Bartow, with the remnants of their commands, came upon the ground, joined with us in our fire on the enemy, and fell back with us. My men retired in good order to the hill just in our rear, bearing off our wounded, and formed near a battery (Imboden’s and Walton’s), which was just then put in position. Here, after indicating the place you wished me to occupy, you directed me to remain until you sent for me. The order to charge soon came from you, and we advanced to the Spring Hill farm house, (Mrs. Henry’s) under a heavy fire of cannon and musketry. In the face if this my men advanced as rapidly as their worn-out condition would allow, and after delivering a well-directed fire, I ordered them to charge upon the battery under the hill.

In leading this charge I received a wound which, though slight, deprived me of the honor of participating in the capture of the guns which had done us so much injury during the day. After being wounded I gave command of the Legion to Capt. James Conner, the senior officer present. He formed the Legion on the right of the regiment of Colonel Withers (Eighteenth Virginia), advanced directly upon the battery, passing by the right of the farm house down upon the two guns, which were taken. Captain Ricketts, who had command of this battery, was here wounded and taken prisoner. The enemy being driven back at all points, began to retreat before the forces which were rapidly brought up, and in the pursuit which followed the Legion joined, advancing two miles beyond the stone bridge.

The death of Colonel Johnson in the early part of the day having deprived me of the only field officer who was on the ground, I was greatly embarrassed in extending the necessary orders, and but for the constant and efficient assistance given to me by my staff officers in the extension of these orders, my position would have been rendered as critical as it was embarrassing.

The unflinching courage of the brave men who sustained their exposed and isolated position under the trying circumstances of that eventful day inspires in me a pride which it is due to them I should express in the most emphatic terms, under the terrible uncertainty of the first half hour as to the positions of both friend and foe. Compelled frequently during the day from the same cause to receive an increasing fire from different quarters while they withheld their own, the self-devotion of these faithful soldiers was only equaled by the gallantry of the officers whom they so trustingly obeyed. To the officers and men who followed and upheld our flag steadfastly during the bloody fight which resulted so gloriously to our army I beg to express my warmest thanks. Their conduct has my unqualified approbation, and I trust it has met the approval of their general commanding.

I regret to report a loss of fifteen killed upon the battlefield, four since dead, one hundred wounded, and two missing.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Legion

Brigadier-General BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Army of the Potomac