Tour Etched (Chemically) In Glass

30 06 2018

We had a modest (15 people) turnout for our tour on June 9, but the small crowd allowed for a lot of back and forth with our guide John Cummings. John managed to convincingly upset a few apple carts full of interpretations of the locations of period photos on the battlefield. All in all, it was a good day.

One of the highlights of the day was a demonstration of the wet plate photography process by Robert Szabo, at the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society in Centreville. First he painstakingly demonstrated the whole process, out of his mobile darkroom right there in the parking lot:

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Robert Szabo and his mobile darkroom

Then he set up the camera for a shot of the group:
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Next, he posed the group near this reproduction winter quarters hut:

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After the exposure (one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand), the magic happened:


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The final product – click on the image twice and you get a super huge version:
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Water and War’s Friction

26 06 2018

Back in September 2017 I ventured down to Virginia to give a presentation to the Brandy Station Foundation. The day before, I climbed aboard Clark “Bud” Hall’s little red pickup that definitely could and did, along with friend Craig Swain, for a tour of the Brandy Station Battlefield and environs. For those who are unaware, Bud is the authority on, and savior of, the battle and battlefield. At one point we stopped on Beverly’s Ford Road at the site where on June 9, 1863, Lt. Henry Cutler of the 8th New York Cavalry became the first man KIA in the Gettysburg Campaign (read about it here). And there Bud snapped this overwhelmingly handsome photo of Craig (R) and me (L):

Before

Well, NoVa, like many other places, has been getting a whole lot of rain this Spring, and this past weekend Mr. Hall sent me this photo of the effects of the rain and waterway flooding at this particular site:

Flood

In this next photo, also provided by Mr. Hall, you can see the residual indication (the “mud-line”) of the extent of the flooding of nearby Ruffin’s Run:

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Craig commented on this last photo: “Wow! That demonstrates well the difficulties faced just crossing a small stream. Think back to the cavalry raid in conjunction with the Chancellorsville Campaign. I think many historians wave off the impact of heavy rains and focus on the mistakes made (by Stoneman and others). Yet they don’t see the realities that faced Stoneman.”

Pretty much every account I’ve read on Stoneman’s Chancellorsville operations make a note of the heavy rains, and pretty much all of them ultimately discount them. All too often post-mortem analysis of operations (not just this particular operation) revert to what I’ll call theory, despite giving lip service to practical difficulties. I’m reminded of a passage I’ve quoted before (here, precisely), concerning theory and “the friction of war.” This is from the official British military history of the Allied operations at Salerno, Italy, in 1943, as provided in Rick Atkinson’s The Day of Battle (bold underline mine):

In the land of theory…there is none of war’s friction. The troops are, as in fact they were not, perfect Tactical Men, uncannily skillful, impervious to fear, bewilderment, boredom, hunger, thirst, or tiredness. Commanders know what in fact they did not know…Lorries never collide, there is always a by-pass at the mined road-block, and the bridges are always wider than the flood. Shells fall always where they should fall.

 





Preview – Vermilya, “That Field of Blood”

22 06 2018

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The folks as Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War have moved on to the pivotal 1862 Maryland Campaign with Dan Vermilya’s That Field of Blood: The Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862. Here’s the lowdown:

  • 149 pages of narrative, including eleven chapters and an epilogue.
  • An eight-stop tour guide map tied to the text.
  • Appendices on Presidential visits to the field and a history of the Antietam National Battlefield.
  • Order of Battle
  • Suggested reading list
  • No bibliography (a link to an online bibliography is included)
  • No footnotes
  • No index
  • Seven Hal Jesperson maps

Dan Vermilya is an interpretive ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, and has previously worked at Antietam National Battlefield and Monocacy National Battlefield. He is also an Antietam Licensed Battlefield Guide, and was the 2012  was the recipient of the Joseph L. Harsh Memorial Scholarship from the Save Historic Antietam Foundation.





A Few Words on Two New Releases

12 06 2018

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I have a backlog of previews to write. Sorry, man, but this is my hobby, not my full time job! Two of these, from Savas Beatie, are The War Outside My Window, Janet Croon, editor, and a set of regimental rosters for the Georgia regiments (7th, 8th, 9th, & 11th) of Anderson’s Brigade, compiled by Richard M. (Rick) Allen. Both are, in my opinion, important books, for different reasons.

I have arranged for interviews with both authors. Plenty can be found on these books regarding their content, so anything I provide in way of preview, beyond these interviews, will be a little extraneous. Follow the links above to learn a little more about them, and keep an eye out for my interviews coming soon (I hope).





Photography Tour Digital “Handouts” 2

7 06 2018

OK, here are the “handouts” for the Centreville portion of our tour on Saturday. You know the drill: print ’em or download ’em and pass them on to anyone without access. Click the line, and see you Saturday!!!

Centreville Packet





Another Galley

6 06 2018

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Just in from Savas Beatie is an unedited advance galley of James Pula’s Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War: Volume 2: From Gettysburg to Victory, 1863-1865. This is the second of the two-volume study, the first of which was previewed here. So, you can get the picture if you refer to that post. My main criticism of the first volume was a lack of detailed maps, a staple of Savas Beatie publications. While a skimming of this galley shows some improvement, it’s still not quite up to standards in that regard. The proof will be in the final product, as always.





Photography Tour Digital “Handouts”

6 06 2018

Guide John Cummings has provided a digital package of “handouts” for this Saturday’s tour. It’s a big ‘un. 28 page PDF document. You can either print these out, or download them to a mobile device. These handouts are very important and critical for your tour experience. John promises these documents will assist in upsetting the apple-carts he intends to upset. Click the link.

Manassas photo tour package

This packet is for the battlefield portion of the tour. I may be getting another for the Centreville portion, at which time I’ll post those, too.





Lots of Galleys from Savas Beatie

1 06 2018

I’ve received four advance galleys from Savas Beatie, two each set to release in August and September, but I’m noticing they tend to drop much more quickly than that. More will follow when I get finished products, but here’s the (very) skinny on each:

The Million Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President: George Washington Gayle and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr.

Forget what you thought you knew about why Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. No, it was not mere sectional hatred, Booth’s desire to become famous, Lincoln’s advocacy of black suffrage, or a plot masterminded by Jefferson Davis to win the war by crippling the Federal government. Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr.’s The Million-Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President: George Washington Gayle and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln exposes the fallacies regarding each of those theories and reveals both the mastermind behind the plot, and its true motivation.

September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley.

The Dunker Church is one of the most iconic structures of the American Civil War. Surprisingly, few people know much if anything about its fascinating story or the role it played within the community of Sharpsburg and its importance during and after the Battle of Antietam. September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam by Alann D. Schmidt and Terry W. Barkley rectifies this oversight in the first book-length study of its kind.

I Am Perhaps Dying: The Medical Backstory of Spinal Tuberculosis Hidden in the Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, by Dennis Rasbach.

Invalid teenager Leroy Wiley Gresham left a seven-volume diary spanning the years of secession and the Civil War (1860-1865). He was just 12 when he began and he died at 17, just weeks after the war ended. His remarkable account, recently published as The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865, edited by Janet E. Croon (2018), spans the gamut of life events that were of interest to a precocious and well-educated Southern teenager—including military, political, religious, social, and literary matters of the day. This alone ranks it as an important contribution to our understanding of life and times in the Old South. But it is much more than that. Chronic disease and suffering stalk the young writer, who is never told he is dying until just before his death.

Dr. Rasbach, a graduate of Johns Hopkins medical school and a practicing general surgeon with more than three decades of experience, was tasked with solving the mystery of LeRoy’s disease. Like a detective, Dr. Rasbach peels back the layers of mystery by carefully examining the medical-related entries. What were LeRoy’s symptoms? What medicines did doctors prescribe for him? What course did the disease take, month after month, year after year? The author ably explores these and other issues in I Am Perhaps Dying to conclude that the agent responsible for LeRoy’s suffering and demise turns out to be Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a tiny but lethal adversary of humanity since the beginning of recorded time.

Union Soldiers in the American Civil War: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages, by Lance J. Herdegen.

Union Soldiers offers a complete guide for Civil War enthusiasts of all ages. Herdegen employs nearly 100 photographs coupled with clear and concise prose broken down into short, easy to understand chapters to better understand these men. Coverage includes such varied topics as the organization of the Union Army, learning to be soldiers, winter campaigning, photography, sick call, nurses, religion, discipline, prisoner of war camps, weaponry, uniforms, as well as numbers and losses and the strengths of the various Union armies. It also examines the participation of U.S. Color Troops and the role played by African Americans during the Civil War. This handy reference book includes a list of Civil War points of interest, some bookshelf suggestions, and a glossary of Civil War terms.

 

 





Photography Tour Update

1 06 2018

I just received notification that the folks at the Manassas Battlefield Trust have rescheduled their John Hennessy led tour at the park from this coming Saturday to next Saturday, June 9th. The same day as our Photography Tour with John Cummings. From what I gather, the MBT tour is essentially the same as the second half of the Bull Runnings tour from two years ago, also led by Mr. Hennessy, covering the approach of Stonewall Jackson’s brigade to Henry Hill. There should be no overlap, and hopefully parking will not be an issue. So, I look forward to seeing you all at 9 AM next Saturday, June 9. Be sure you find us, the Bull Runnings tour, as both tours are set to meet at the same time, in the same place (MNBP Visitor Center).