The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War

21 03 2009

pigIn the current issue of America’s Civil War magazine, I gave a rating of one-half can (not one full can, as has been reported) to H. W. Crocker III’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.  At least one blogger didn’t like the review (thanks for taking the time to prove my point about the EP thing.  By the way, the claim that the EP did not free a single slave is repeated on page 39, and in fact is not refuted anywhere in the book’s text so far as I could see.) 

My Six-Pack reviews are brief, informational reviews, 100-150 words for each book.  They are meant to give the reader an idea of whether or not the book in question is one they might be interested in reading.  The folks at the magazine asked me to provide some indication of whether or not I think the book is worth my time (the actual graphics were their idea).  At the same time, I try to give enough info to let the reader know if, regardless of my rating, the book is worth their time.  If any one of the six reviews in this column did that, it was the PIG book.  Whatever flavor tea you prefer, you should be able to tell from the review whether you want this book in your cup.

Book covers and blurbs are meant to attract readers, as well as to give them an idea of what they can expect to find between them.  The bullets on the front cover of this book do a fantastic job in both cases – I found them consistent with the content:

You think you know about the Civil War, but did you know:

  • That secession was legal
  • That the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave
  • That the South had the moral high ground in the war (and the editorial support of the Vatican’s own newspaper)
  • That Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis expected slavery to fade away naturally
  • That if the South had won, we might be able to enjoy holidays in the sunny Southern state of Cuba

What’s truly wonderful though are the praise quotes on the back cover (I don’t know who any of these people are, but my favorite is the one from Hays –  I’m not sure how the fairly neutral one at the end snuck in):

You can’t understand America until you understand the War of Northern Aggression, and Mr. Crocker tells the story in such a delightful, politically incorrect way that you can’t wait to get to the end of his book to see whether Marse Robert actually pulls out a stunning upset.  Great Scholarship, great story-telling, and great fun.

—Wesley Pruden, editor emeritus of the Washington Times and political columnist

In short order, Harry Crocker has lifted the modern veil of misinformation surrounding the major actors in the War.  In the process, he has rescued the character of Robert E. Lee and shown Union heroes such as Grant, Sherman, and Lincoln to be more human, complex, and in some cases loathsome than contemporary history texts suggest.  The South becomes more admirable and the North more contemptible.  Here is the war, warts and all, for everyone to see.

—Brion McClanahan, Ph.D. in American History, University of South Carolina

The only way this idiosyncratic take on the wa-wuh could be any better is if we’d won.  Even Harry Crocker couldn’t do that, but he has written a witty book full of history and insight.  If I’d ever gotten around to joining the United Daughters of the Confederacy, I bet my chapter would thank him.  Yankees will enjoy it too.

—Charlotte Hays, Southern gossip columnist and co-author (among other books) of Being Dead is No Excuse, The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral

I had supposed it wasn’t possible these days to talk reasonably, as well as informatively, about our great national cataclysm, the Civil War.  H. W. Crocker III brings off that extraordinary feat with style, verve, and wit.  Give that gentleman a medal for gallantry and public service.

—William Murchison, nationally syndicated columnist

OK, well there you have it.  I stand by my informational review.  The book isn’t necessarily chock full of misinformation.  But it has an agenda, for sure, and a slant, for sure.  It is bent on increasing the prestige of the Confederacy and its supporters, and on tearing down the Union cause and its proponents.  But it’s not like the author was acting surreptitiously – he is quite up front about it.  Such an agenda requires selectivity and nuance.

Bottom line – if this review pissed you off, buy this book.  It’s right up your alley.  I also recommend to you anything by James & Walter Kennedy or Thomas DiLorenzo.  And of course the original Confederate Catechism.

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#77 – Col. Jubal A. Early

21 03 2009

Report of Col. Jubal A. Early, Twenty-fourth Virginia Infantry, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 463-465


July 31, 1861

COLONEL: I submit the following report of the operations of my brigade on the 18th instant in the engagement at Blackburn’s Ford on Ball Run, in which our troops were commanded by Brigadier-General Longstreet:

In the morning of that day I marched with my brigade, composed of the Seventh Virginia Volunteers, Colonel Kemper’s regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Williams; the Seventh Louisiana Volunteers, commanded by Col. Harry T. Hays; six companies of the Twenty-fourth Virginia Volunteers, my own, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and three pieces of artillery from the Washington Battalion of New Orleans, under the command of Lieutenant Squires, to Camp Walker, from whence it was moved by direction of General Beauregard into the road leading from Camp Walker to the gate in front of McLean’s farm, where it remained until about 12 o’clock, at which time a large cloud of dust was observed on the high ridge north of Blackburn’s Ford, at which General Longstreet’s brigade was stationed. This cloud of dust proved to be produced by the enemy’s columns moving in that direction, and in a few minutes the cannonading was commenced by the enemy, directed first upon General Bonham’s position at Mitchell’s Ford and subsequently upon the farm-house of McLean and the hospital in his barn, over which was floating the hospital flag.

As soon as the cannonading commenced my brigade was moved by order of the general to the cover of the pines to the left of the road leading from McLean’s house to Blackburn’s Ford, where it was joined by two more pieces of artillery from the Washington Battery, under Captain Eshleman. At this position it remained for the purpose of supporting either General Bonham at Mitchell’s Ford, General Longstreet at Blackburn’s Ford, or General Jones at McLean’s Ford, as occasion might require. After the first cannonading had ceased, and General Beauregard with his staff had passed towards Mitchell’s Ford, a fire of musketry began at Blackburn’s Ford, which became very animated, and was continued for some time, when one of General Longstreet’s aides came to inform me that he had repulsed the enemy’s charge, but desired re-enforcements. I immediately put my whole brigade in motion, including the five pieces of artillery, to which, by his own request, was joined Lieutenant Garnett, of the same battery, with two pieces that had been sent to the rear by General Longstreet before the action commenced.

After my column was put in motion I received an order from General Beauregard to support General Longstreet with two regiments and two pieces of artillery. I therefore proceeded with the Seventh Louisiana Regiment and Seventh Virginia Regiment and two pieces of artillery under charge of Captain Eshleman, to the support of General Longstreet. Upon arriving at Blackburn’s Ford I found the greater part of General Longstreet’s command under cover on the banks of the stream engaged with the enemy, who were under cover on the hill-sides on the opposite banks. Colonel Hays’ regiment, which was in advance, was then placed on the banks of the stream under cover to the right and left of the ford, relieving the Seventeenth Virginia Regiment, under Colonel Corse. This regiment proceeded to its position under quite a brisk fire of musketry.

The Seventh Virginia Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, as it arrived, was formed to the right of the ford under a heavy fire of musketry from the enemy, evidently directed at the regiment. It was momentarily thrown into confusion by this fire, and discharged many of its own guns over a portion of our own troops in front; fortunately, however, doing them no damage, as I believe. The regiment was soon rallied, and proceeded to the banks of the stream, relieving the First Virginia Regiment. The two pieces of artillery under Captain Eshleman, which followed the Seventh Virginia Regiment, were moved down in the open field on the right of the road, so as to be concealed from view of the enemy’s artillery by the timber on the banks of the stream, where they opened a fire upon the enemy on the opposite side, directed only by the sound of their musketry. As soon as the Seventh Virginia Regiment advanced to the banks of the stream, as above stated, I sent back for the companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment and the remainder of the pieces of artillery, and they were brought up; the companies of the Twenty-fourth were placed in position in good order to the left of the ford in a space not occupied by Colonel Hays’ regiment, and the remaining guns of the Washington Artillery (five in number) were unlimbered on a line with the first two pieces and to the right of the road. A scattering fire of musketry was kept up for some time, but the enemy finally ceased firing, and evidently retired to the hills, where their artillery guns were placed, having no doubt observed the position of our pieces of artillery, for a fire was soon commenced on them by the enemy’s artillery, which was responded to by ours, and the cannonading was continued for a considerable time with great briskness on both sides, the balls and shells from the enemy’s battery being directed with considerable accuracy upon ours, but the enemy finally ceased firing, and did not renew the attack with musketry. During all this firing, when the balls and shells were passing over the heads of the men on the banks of the stream, they remained at their posts, coolly awaiting the renewal of the attack with musketry.

The affair closed late in the afternoon, and about dusk General Longstreet, by direction of General Beauregard, retired with the two regiments of his brigade that had been engaged in the early part of the action to the pines from which I had gone to re-enforce him, leaving my brigade on the ground for the night.

When I first arrived on the ground I joined General Longstreet, being actively engaged in the thickest of the fire in directing and encouraging the men under his command, and I am satisfied he contributed very largely to the repulse of the enemy by his own personal exertions.

The officers and men belonging to the Washington Battery behaved very handsomely indeed under a well-directed and galling fire of the enemy, displaying great coolness and skill in the management of their pieces. The regiments of my brigade came for the first time under fire, and while one regiment was thrown for a few minutes into confusion, without retiring it rallied under fire on the same ground, and took the position assigned it and retained it. Some parties sent across the stream after the close of the fight reported about forty of the enemy found dead on the ground occupied by their infantry during the fight. We were not able to examine the ground occupied by their battery and the regiments of infantry supporting it, because it was evident that a large force was in the neighborhood, and the whole of next day the men were engaged in throwing up embankments to strengthen our position, which was on ground lower than that occupied by the enemy. About one hundred muskets were picked up on the hill-sides, with a large number of hats and other articles. From all indications the enemy’s loss must have been much larger than our own. The ranks of the Seventh and Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiments were much thinned by sickness, and the whole number of my brigade did not exceed fifteen hundred men. I have already furnished Brigadier-General Longstreet with a list of the killed and wounded. Capt. Fleming Gardner, my aide and acting assistant adjutant-general, and Capt. George E. Dennis, assistant commissary to the Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiment, who acted as aide during the engagement, discharged their duties to my entire satisfaction.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Comdg. Sixth Brigade, First Corps, Army of Potomac


A. A. Gen., First Corps, Army of Potomac