Hang in There!

12 11 2008

hang-in-there1I’ve been experiencing a spike in readership in November but work has me a little behind in my blog postings (and book reviews, and manuscript reviews). I’ll be back to writing in a day or two.  I’ve got a few draft posts written, so it’s not a question of the dreaded block.  Keep checking back!


9 11 2008


In case you’re missing it, there’s some very interesting discussion going on between some Civil War bloggers who are looking at the medium and its role in digital history in general and “information compilation” in particular.  The conversation has become a little unwieldy.  As a recap, you can find it spread over the following posts (listed oldest to newest on each blog):

Battlefield Wanderings

Bull Runnings:

Cenantua’s Blog

Crossed Sabers

Draw the Sword and Throw Away the Scabbard

To the Sound of the Guns

And now, Brian Downey of Antietam on the Web and Behind Antietam on the Web has helped us all out by setting up a Wiki for the whole shebang:

ACWDev Collaboration Wiki

Hey Brian: maybe one of the first things we should do is move all the comments from the above posts, and perhaps the posts themselves, to the Wiki?

This has been one of the most rewarding exchanges I’ve had with fellow bloggers.  It’s forced me to rethink some things (though I have to admit I’m irked that you guys who convinced me to use tags are now convincing me that I don’t need them!).  I think good things will come of it.

Davies Court of Inquiry

6 11 2008


I mentioned here the request of Col. Thomas Davies for a court of inquiry regarding McDowell’s report and the description of Davies’s brigade therein.  I contacted my friend David at NARA and asked if he could find any info.  Today I received this from David:

One of our reference archivists checked the Court-Martial Name Index that covers RG 153, Entry 15, Court-Martial Case Files, which includes military commissions and courts of inquiry. He was unable to identify a file for Colonel Thomas Davies.

So it looks like Davies’s request for a court of inquiry was a dead end (unless it’s in some unlabled or mis-filed, red-taped stack of papers somewhere).

Sausage Making

5 11 2008

sausage-makingRecently I was asked by a publisher to contribute to one of his projects by reviewing the manuscript of a book to be published in 2009.  I consider it an honor to be asked, and I’m finding the experience fascinating.  While I’ve reviewed friends’ manuscripts before, as the publisher describes it, I am now learning “how sausage is made”, the book publishing process from the inside.  The manuscript pages are sent to me as Word documents and I’m supposed to “mark them up”.  Nowadays that means using a word processing feature that allows the reader to quickly identify the changes.  But I’m old fashioned: I actually print out the pages and use something called a “red pen” to make corrections or suggestions or ask questions.  My intention is to compose another Word document with my suggested changes in a clear narrative.  I feel uncomfortable actually changing someone else’s text, as I think it imposes my voice over the author’s and I don’t want to do that.  One of the challenges is to make my suggestions in such a way that the author won’t feel defensive about his work.  Not because I’m worried about offending him, but because I want him to take my suggestions!  In the meantime, the author, publisher and I have been exchanging emails and clearing some things up as we go.  Unfortunately, I’ve been busy with work and teaching and my son’s flag football, so while I’ve finished my initial pass on the part of the manuscript I’ve been sent, I haven’t had time to organize my thoughts on paper.

This is fun!

New Blog Category

4 11 2008

If you’ve been following the conversation here, you already know that Robert and I have added a new blog category to our sites, Civil War “Information Compilation” Blogs.  This is to identify those Civil War websites that, like Bull Runnings, use blog platforms to also serve as a repository for data.  Not all the same types of data, not all in the same ways.  For instance, you’ll find my stuff listed under Bull Run Resources over to the right and in the header, with pages set up for indexing.  It’s not perfect, but so far it works.  Some of the blogs I’ve listed in this category don’t organize by pages (though I think they should, of course!).  I’m hoping – and I think Robert’s hoping too – that this may help bring other similar blogs out in the open, and more importantly help us like minded folks to make our projects more user friendly and organized, and to more fully realize potentials.  If you have a similar blog and think you should be listed, or if you know of anyone you think should be listed, let me know.

Two Years Blogging

2 11 2008

I made my first post on Bull Runnings on November 2, 2006.  It’s been a fun two years, and I’m hoping for a few more (at least), the Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.  By way of a recap on the digital history part of this site, I’ve posted all of the Official Reports (After Action Reports) for Bull Run proper, at least all of those included in the Official Records; citations for all Bull Run MOH awardees; Orders of Battle for both armies; a few biographical sketches; links to beau coup digital books; one previously unpublished contemporary letter from a prominent participant; transcripts of one witness’ testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War; and three photo galleries.  Lots of miles to go yet.

Bull Runnings has been featured in one print magazine, and I was interviewed for an Internet Civil War radio program.  One series of posts was included in the 14th Military History Carnival.

Bull Runnings remains ad free.

Blog stats.  I’ve written 463 posts in 36 different categories, and received 940 comments (a useless stat since it includes links between articles).  I’ve also received (and blocked thanks to Akismet) 10,798 spam comments. At the suggestions of Craig and Robert, I’ve started using something called “Tags”.  I don’t understand the difference between tags and categories, but I’ve created 25 of the former in the past couple of days.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll go back and tag every old post, but may do so as I revisit them for whatever reason.

As of right now, my pages have been viewed 72,551 times.  For the 2 months I was up in 2006, I averaged 63 pageviews per day; 73/day for all of 2007; and 137/day so far in 2008.  Right around 90 different computers visit Bull Runnings each day.

Not very impressive numbers, I realize.  But I’m OK with it if you are.  I know of a few sure-fire ways to increase traffic, but writing about such things would violate the few very simple rules I established when I first set out, and I’m not willing to make that sacrifice.

Thanks to each and every one of you who read my stuff – even you who come here via Google searches for striated glutes.  Thanks to you who have provided great information that has helped make the Bull Run Resources on this site a meaningful tool.  Thanks to all my fellow bloggers who have been so helpful over these past two years.  And last, thanks to my wife and son who have had to ask distracted dad the same questions or give him the same instructions repeatedly while he taps away on this keyboard.

Sorry – Sherman’s Battery Yet Again.

2 11 2008

For some reason that escapes me now, I was looking at this site today, specifically at this picture:

This picture isn’t new to me.  I’ve used it in my round table program, and I’ve posted it here before.  It appeared in the June 8, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly.  The caption reads SHERMAN’S BATTERY OF LIGHT ARTILLERY, NOW IN VIRGINIA.  The word SHERMAN’S is hyperlinked to another issue of Harper’s Weekly featuring a story on William T. Sherman.  You’ll also notice that the Son of the South page is titled General William T. Sherman’s Artillery.  As you may recall from this series of posts, I contend that this battery, which is undoubtedly Company (Battery) E of the 3rd US Artillery, and which was undoubtedly attached to William T. Sherman’s brigade at Bull Run, was referred to as Sherman’s Battery not because of the commander of the brigade to which it was attached, but rather because of its commander in the War with Mexico, Thomas W. Sherman, who was not with McDowell’s army.  Seeing this link on this particular web page today set me off, and I had to find more to support my belief that people making this I.D. get it wrong.

It doesn’t seem that anyone at the time got it wrong – the mistakes get made later, by historians and other writers, including big shots like C. Vann Woodward.  On page 105 of Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, editor Woodward footnoted Chesnut’s mention of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, explaining that she probably meant Ricketts’s battery, “which was not a part of the brigade commanded by Col. William Tecumseh Sherman”.  She probably DID mean Sherman’s Battery, which was famous for its Mexican War service and just happened to be part of Sherman’s brigade, because ill-informed Confederate reports of its capture abounded.  But she probably never heard of the obscure colonel at the head of the brigade to which the battery was attached.

At the time, people writing about Sherman’s Battery knew just what they were talking about.  It seems obvious to me that artillery batteries simply were not named for the commanders of the infantry brigade to whom they may have been temporarily attached – can you imagine an artilleryman happily serving in a battery named for an INFANTRY commander?  But I wanted to see if I could find any mention of the battery in the ORs prior to the battle.

I found two, in the same volume of the ORs (Series I, Vol. 2) that contains the Bull Run reports and correspondence.  On page 39, NY militia Major General Charles W. Sandford wrote in a report on the advance of Federal forces to Arlington Heights and Alexandria, dated May 28, 1861:

Sherman’s battery of light artillery rendered prompt and efficient service throughout the movement, and one of the sections captured the troop of Virginia Cavalry at Alexandria.

On page 40, Samuel Heintzelman’s report of the same action mentions Sherman’s battery again, but that report is dated July 20:

Captain Brackett commanded the company of cavalry (I, Second Cavalry) that crossed the Long Bridge, and the artillery, I think, belonged to Maj. T. W. Sherman’s battery.

That seals it for me, in two ways.  First, Heintzelman refers to the battery (which was indeed Battery E, 3rd US: even the compilers knew that, because I found these two pages in the index under that heading) as T. W. Sherman’s.  Second, Sandford’s report, in which he mentions Sherman’s battery, was written on May 28, 1861.  William T. Sherman didn’t receive a brigade to command until a month later, on June 30.