Preview – Smith, “The Real Horse Soldiers”

20 11 2018


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New from Savas Beatie is Timothy B. Smith’s The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi. Most of us are familiar with this courtesy of John Wayne and William Holden. But as the title says, this is the fact behind the 1959 film (though not directly related to the film – for that, see Neil Longley York’s Fiction as Fact: The Horse Soldiers and Popular Memory.

You get:

  • 315 pages of narrative in preface, prologue, 11 chapters, and epilogue.
  • Bottom of page footnotes.
  • Bibliography with 5 1/2 pages of manuscript and newspaper sources.
  • Full index
  • 13 maps
  • 36 photographs

Dr. Timothy B. Smith is a former National Park Service employee and now teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He is the author of numerous and award winning books – see his author page here.





Image: Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry

17 11 2018
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Thomas W. Colley on his wedding day, 1872. Courtesy of Michael K. Shaffer

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Thomas W. Colley in later years, with the battle flag of the 1st Va. Cavalry. Courtesy of American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA, via Michael K. Shaffer.

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave





Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry, on the Battle (2)

16 11 2018

Fairfax Court House

Fairfax County, Va.

July 26th, 1861

Dear Sister

It is with great pleasure that I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well & hope these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessing. We were in a terrible battle on Sunday the 21st inst, we had a pretty hard time of it for 11 or 12 days. We had to be close to the enemy and watch their movement for night and day. We had to keep our horses saddled all the time, we have had a little rest since Tuesday. We came down and back that day from Manasas Junction; we are at this time within 7 miles of the enemy, they are at Alexandria, about place they could stay there. I will now endeavor to give you an account of the battle as near as I can. It commenced abought 2 oclock Sunday morning with cannon; about 9 oclock the small arms commenced, it was nothing but a continual roaring of course. Musketry until 3 oclock in the evening when the Federalists gave away in the greatest disorder with confusion, which continued so till a message arrived. We pursued them a good five miles with cavalry, and had a battery of artillery. Tore up everything they had. We captured every cannon, amounting to 11 pieces of the best cannon in the North. We heaved some 15 missiles on the road the enemy took from the battlefield, and the road is lined with everything that a man could call for: wagons, harnesses, provisions, field packs, and blankets and clothes. Almost every house on the road is full of clothes that they [the Federals] had to dress up in anything. Once they got to Richmond, it [the clothes] was to be forwarded to them at Richmond.

They anticipated a fine time at Richmond, but I guess they haven’t got there yet, at least not all of them, and they got there in a way they did not expect – they went as prisoners, about 12 or fifteen hundred. It is not ascertained what their losses were. They commenced to haul there dead and wounded off, along 1 oclock, and continued to do so til they had to retreat. All that was left on the field, could assure you that there is as many a one left. They may come back to bury their dead. Soldiers were at work Tuesday a burying them and taking care of their wounded. There was a great many of their troops that were wounded that had to lay on the field for 24 hours. Most all of our company were on the field on noon Monday after the fight. I did not go myself and was glad after the company came back and told me what they saw. I will not horror your feelings with a description of their story. I saw enough to see, til five oclock Sunday evening, when we pursued them. The road along which we went, I saw several dead bodies and wounded men of the Yankees. All of our dead and wounded were well cared for. I have no exact account of the loses, the Yankees admit of 6,000 on their side. Our loss was in killed and wounded between 1,500 and 2,000. I am infomed that they had a fight in Alexandria, and many of their soldiers, they had to raise the draws of the bridge to stop their men from running close off, and before they would stop they had to have a fight. I do not think there were any in among us worse whipped and confused. They had one of our generals a prisoner, and he escaped from them. He says he never saw an army worse confused than they were, a great many of them threw away there arms and everything they had.

General Beauregard estimates their loss at 2,000,000 of dollars; that will help us ought right smart. It looks to me like there is enough of things left to supply the whole South. I was in the battle but did not get to fire a shot; we were held in reserve, our company and another company of our regiment. The rest of the regiment made a charge on their battery with great success. They took every piece of cannon they had except one. We were exposed all the time, a heavy fire of bomb shells and grape shot but we were fortunate enough not to get a single man killed or wounded in our company. Our captain was very much pleased with the way we acted in the field. None of our men were very much frightened; I was not at all frightened myself. I must draw my letter to a close. Lewis has volunteered; I expect I hade written several letters to him but have not received but one answer yet, and that was the one that you put that piece in. Tell mother that I am well and have had my health first rate since I left Ashland.

I am in fine spirits now, have plenty of clothes and a tolerable plenty to eat: Yankee beefs and crackers. You must write to me soon I am very anxious to hear from home. I have not heard from father since he left me at Richmond; I wrote to him on Monday just to let him know that I was still alive. I want to know whether you have got the picture I sent him. Tell Mr. Cassell’s folks that Rufus is well; he acted very well in the field. And also give my love to them all and to Jesse Greenway and his family and Mr. Aston and all my friends in general. I have got a Yankee’s Testament with ‘Samuel McDaniels’ name in it, he was from Vermont. I want to bring it home with me when I come. Tell Laura and Sue howdy for me. I do not know where to tell you to write to, you may direct it to Winchester as before, and one to this place. I will tell you all when I come home, from your affectionate brother Thos. W. Colley.

P.S. I stated that I did not know where we would go. I heard we will drive on to Washington, that is the talk now. There is a great force collecting at this point, or in a few hours march of this place. Please write soon, T.W. Colley

From In Memory of Self and Comrades, pp. 200-201

Contributed, annotated, and transcribed by Michael K. Shaffer, courtesy of Thomas W. Colley Collection, Ms2003-017, Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave





Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry, on the Battle (1)

15 11 2018

Manassas Junction

July 22, 1861

Dear Father

It is with much pleasure that I seat myself this morning to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well. I know that you will all be uneasy after hearing of the battle that was fought hear yesterday. There was a great many men killed on both sides. Our loss is supposed to be abought 1,000. That of the Federals about three times as many. Our troops entirely routed them. We will persue them on to Alexandria, and on to Washington City. We have about 1,500 prisoners besides what was killed. I was in the thickest of the fight where the bombs were a flying as thick as hail. We did not lose a single man out of our company. Rufe [Rufus Cassell] was right smartly frightened, right when the bombs were a falling about us. I have not time to tell you any more about the fight now. It lasted about five hours. I would like to see you all right well. Tell mother not to be uneasy about me. I have not had much to eat for six days, till this morning, and never had the saddles off our horses. The enemy ran us from camp near Winchester. I will write to you as soon as I can. James King sends his love and respects to you. I do not know where to tell you to direct your letters. You may direct them to Winchester. Nothing more at present but remain your affectionate son.

Ths. W. Colley

It is raining so I can’t write any more.

From In Memory of Self and Comrades, p, 199

Contributed, annotated, and transcribed by Michael K. Shaffer, courtesy of Thomas W. Colley Collection, Ms2003-017, Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave





Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry, on the March to Manassas and the Battle

13 11 2018

The subject of this sketch, Thomas W. Colley was born in Washington County, Virginia, Nov. 30th, 1837 of poor but respectable “parentage.” I was sent to the old field schools [on the job training] until 14 years of age, when I was apprenticed to the “Blacksmith trade” at which I served for some two years and then by consent of my father decided to quit that trade and learn the Brick Masons trade which I continued to work at until April 1861. I learned to make & burn brick and to lay them up, and also learned the “Plasters business,” and became quite an expert in the Plasters part of his trade. The war between the States coming on in 1860 & 61 I volunteered on the 7th of April 1861 in a cavalry company then being organized at Abingdon, Va., the county seat of my county, by Captain Wm. E. Jones [William Edmondson Jones], {who had served] previously as a Lieut. in the Mounted Rifles U.S.A. In honor of his old command, Jones named this co. the Washington Mounted Rifles.

We were known as such until we merged into the 1st Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Cavalry [cavalry] first as Co. G and afterwards as Company D. This regiment was composed of companies from the upper and lower Valley of Virginia with one Co. from Amelia County and one from Maryland. At first the “Maryland Co” & the Washington Mounted Rifles formed the 1st squadron in the regiment and were armed with carbines and were used as sharpshooters. Afterwards all the companies were armed with rifles & the whole regiment were sharpshooters and continued in that line of service until the closing scenes around Appomattox C.H. April 9th 1865.

I was constantly with my command from the day I left home for Richmond until I was finally disabled and wholly unfit for any kind of duty. I was in the Valley of Virginia with my regiment in front of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston whose forces in June 1861 and up till July 21st were at Winchester. My command was on picket duty in the medical front [unclear the position Colley references as ‘Medical front’] and scouting in the country watching the movements of Gen. Patterson. [Major General Militia, Robert Patterson] Was on camp guard the morning Gen. Patterson advanced towards Winchester in his “first” movement to hold Johnston there, while he went to the aid of Gen. Banks [Major General Nathaniel Banks] at Manassas and in this advance , where I heard the first shell “fired” from an enemy gun; the thing most dreaded by raw recruits “the peculiar whizzing sound of those missiles of death” as they pass through the air caused the hair to rise on one’s head and a creepy horrible sensation run over his flesh and a great desire to be back at home with Ma. And at this particular time and place this horrible feeling seized almost the entire regiment and they started down the Pike, one co. actually going into Winchester 12 miles from the point they started from.

At the time the shell passed over us Co. D was drawn in marching order by 2, with horses heads turned toward Winchester. Captain Jones was on the front with the advance picket watching the enemy’s movements. Some of the boys were dismounted searching among a lot of blankets & other camp equipment that had been thrown away by a stampeded wagon driver. We had been hurried out of camp and left our baggage to the care of the wagoners. I was among the dismounted ones and would have sworn the shell that passed over the mounted mens heads some 50 or so feet in the air did not miss me 2 inches. This was a signal with out a word of command.

The whole mounted positions hit out down the pike. Captain Jones seeing or hearing the movements dashed up cursing the cowardly wretches for running away. Came in time to save me from running with the rest. Captain sent Lieut. Blackford [William Willis Blackford] after the boys, and he over hauled them and brought them back.

The captain gave us a lecture on the harmlessness of these terrible missiles, especially if they were as high in the air as that one was; in 12 months from that time the sound of artillery and the whizzing of shells would only lull a soldier to sleep. He ordered me to dismount and open a place in the fence so our company could be drawn up in line to oppose any forward movement of the enemy. General Johnston succeeded in deceiving Gen. Patterson after all his shrewd maneuvers and left him in the lower valley.

Whilst Johnston was rushing the whole force to Manassas to join Gen. Beauregard [Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard] Gen. Stuart [at the time, Colonel James Ewell Brown Stuart] took all the companies of the regt. and pressed on with Johnston except our co. under Captain Wm. E. Jones. We were left to hover around the front of Pattersons army and keep up a bold front until the line was joined at Manassas. We left for Manassas and arrived there Saturday, and were there, ready for the memorable 21st Sunday morning, a day never to be forgotten by any who participated in its terrible coverage. I shall never forget I know, until my eyes close in death. I was out on one of the advanced picket posts near Jermanna [Jermantown] Ford on Bull Run. Just as the sun was brightening the tops of the trees “the signal gun was fired.” A tremendous gun. I thought I never heard such a report and the whizzing and whining of that awful shell, “I thought it would never stop.”

It went far out across the Manassas Plains into the skirting forrest. I thought if we had to charge and capture such tremendous guns, there would be none of us left to tell the tale. But I was not permitted to summarize or reflect long on these terrible unforeseen results. The picket firing commenced all along the line and the cavalry were all drawn together and were moved here and there all day through clouds of road dust so thick we could not see the horse in front of us. We were finally ordered at about 2 pm to support Gen. Bartow’s [Colonel Francis Stebbins Bartow] & Be Brigades [Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr.] near Stone Bridge, and arrived there at the time they were both killed. My stirrup leathers broke and I had to fall out of ranks and repair them. As I came over a hill I could see the enemy’s batteries and masses of infantry to my left. Farther up on the hill I saw two or three officers and I rode up to them and asked where my regiment was, and Col. Thomas G. Preston pointed out to me the direction they went, and I was satisfied it was a soldier’s duty to be with his command.

When the fight was on, and about that time of day it was on in all its fury and fearfulness, the face of the hill in my front was literally rent and torn with shells and shot. How I was ever to pass through that spot I could not tell, but my duty led in that direction and I must go. So I put spurs to my horse and ran the gauntlet safely and soon found my command drawn up in line in a small ravine. I had hardly gotten over my run before the Hampass Legion [Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s Legion] of S.C., whose officers had been killed and who were badly cut up and stampeded, came running down through a clump of pines and our company commenced cursing and abusing them for running. I asked who they were & they said South Carolinians. Damn you. You were the first to secede, now you are the first to run. It was always shocking to me to see a soldier run and especially at that time, our first fight. They said we are whipped and ruined, our cause is gone. We told them they were liars, we were not whipped there.

About this time Col. Stuart took 3 companies of our regt. and charged the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves, “Red Briches” fellows[.]

He broke their lines, and fresh forces were coming on through the night. They soon gone away, and the greatest stampede and run for dear life that was ever imagined since history commenced recording the events of the various ages. We were soon in the chase. The first fellow I saw on crossing Bull Run Bridge was an ambulance driver; his horses had ran away with him and straddled a tree, broke the breast yoke and smashed the front end of the vehicle up against the tree and smashed the drivers face up and tumbled him out insensible. He was just coming to when we run up on him and we wanted to know what he was doing over here invading our country. Some of the boys wanted to kill him and others thought best not to hurt the poor fellow. We had not learned then that wagoners and ambulance drivers were not at all dangerous. As belligerents we soon left him and went on after the fleeing blue coats [underlined in original].

We followed them to Cub Run and there the bridge crossing that stream was blockaded with wagons and other vehicles disabled by our artillery. If we had known as much that night as we did 2 or 3 years later, not many of the boys would have ever reached Washington D.C. That night it was getting quite dark and we were brought back over the battlefield. The excitement of the dog “gone” and now it was our time to see and hear the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying of both armies. I thought “oh horrors of horrors” is this war? It was a terrible scene. We could hear the awful groans and sighs and the calls for water and the torches going in every direction searching for friends. We were hurried on towards the junction where we started from.

From In Memory of Self and Comrades, pp.1-7

Contributed, annotated, and transcribed by Michael K. Shaffer

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave





Preview – Wert, “Civil War Barons”

11 11 2018


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I received a copy of Jeffry Wert’s new Civil War Barons: Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation, but was a little surprised to find that Da Capo Press sent an advanced reading copy (ARC). As a general rule, I don’t preview ARCs here – they don’t lend themselves to previews because they often don’t include everything that may be in the final version (for instance, I really hope they remedy the missing Oxford comma in the subtitle). However, Jeff is an acquaintance and a great guy, so I’m making an exception in this case. I’ll give you the skinny, with the caveat that things could change.

From the publisher:

From prominent historian and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Jeffry D. Wert, a multi-biographical work of a remarkable yet largely unknown group of men whose contributions won the war and shaped America’s future.

You get:

  • 209 pages of text
  • Eleven chapters, preface, prologue, and epilogue.
  • Chapter titles:
    • The Administrators
    • The Visionary
    • The Inventors
    • The Improvisers
    • The Patriots
    • The Investors
    • The Tinkerers
    • The Dreamers
    • The Opportunists
    • The Builders
  • Some still familiar names in the Postscript
    • Philip D. Armour
    • Gail Borden
    • Andrew Carnegie
    • John Deere
    • Cyrus McCormick
    • Edward Squibb
    • The Studebaker Brothers
    • Cornelius Vanderbilt
    • Frederick Weyerhaeuser
  • No Index (yet)
  • 31 pages of end notes
  • A bibliography, including a fair number of archival sources, newspapers, and online sources

Jeff Wert is a prolific author familiar to most readers of this blog. Check out his Amazon author page here.





Preview – “In Memory of Self and Comrades”

7 11 2018

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New from University of Tennessee Press is In Memory of Self and Comrades, the memoir of Thomas Wallace Colley’s service with the First Virginia Cavalry, edited by Michael K. Shaffer. This is of particular interest to followers of Bull Runnings because Colley’s recollections include the regiment’s movements before, during, and in the aftermath of First Bull Run. It’s brief (four and a half pages), but there are also three BR1 related letters included. We don’t have a lot of first-hand 1st VA Cav accounts, and hopefully the author will grant permission for me to provide transcriptions in the Resources section here.

What you get:

  • 133 pages of memoir.
  • Two appendices with Regimental History and Biographical Roster Sketch from Colley’s journal and a separate journal
  • Appendix with a Short Historical Sketch of Officers from the Washington Mounted Rifles (Colley’s company L, in which he served with Pvt. John. S. Mosby)
  • Appendix with a selection of Colley’s wartime letters
  • Appendix with an 1887 account of Colley’s wounding at Kelly’s Ford
  • 30 pages of end notes
  • Ten page bibliography (limited unpublished sources, but friends Ron Baumgarten and Brian Downey show up)
  • Nine George Skoch maps
  • 37 photos and illustrations

Michael K. Shaffer is an instructor at Kennesaw State University’s College of Continuing Education and Professional Education. He is the author of Washington County, Virginia, in the Civil War.