Preview: Powell, “The Chickamauga Campaign: Barren Victory”

24 09 2016

Layout 1The third and final volume of David A. Powell’s history of The Chickamauga Campaign – Barren Victory: The Retreat into Chattanooga, the Confederate Pursuit, and the Aftermath of Battle, September 21 to October 20, 1863, has been released by publisher Savas Beatie. (You can find my notes on the first two volumes here and here.)

This completes the most thorough history of the campaign to date. Volume III is a mixed bag, wrapping up the first two volumes and providing meat and potatoes statistics and research tidbits that all footnote readers will enjoy. The narrative portion of the book picks up on the morning of September 21, with both armies dealing with the immediate effects of defeat and victory. Three chapters follow both armies to the environs of Chattanooga. Two chapters discuss the costs and consequences of the campaign, and appendices deal with rear guard cavalry action in The Last Clash at Chickamauga and the relationship between William Rosecrans, James Garfield, and Charles Dana.

Then the fun begins. In a manner reminiscent of Joseph L. Harsh’s wonderful Sounding the Shallows, Powell offers the reader insight into both the numbers of the thing and the researching and writing process itself. Five appendices include: Union Order of Battle; Union Losses; Confederate Strength with Sources and Methodology (arranged in Order of Battle format); Confederate Losses (Powell provides the most detailed and complete look at Confederate numbers and losses to be found); and a Return for Polk’s Corps for October 22, 1863.

These are followed by a magnificent 85 page (!) bibliography. Powell’s extensive use of newspaper accounts from all points of the compass is impressively displayed. The different contemporary newspapers from which he drew number approximately 150!

The whole book is complimented with bottom of the page, detailed footnotes (with the exception of the Union OOB through Confederate Losses appendices which employ end-notes for purposes of style).

This is a great capstone to Powell’s take on the Chickamauga campaign (and let’s not forget his Campaign Atlas and his iconoclastic look at Confederate cavalry during this time, Failure in the Saddle). Don’t miss it.





Preview: Rasbach, “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign”

22 09 2016

joshualchamberlainandpetersburgcampaignrasbach2016savasbeatieThis just in from Savas Beatie (there is no hyphen in that title, you know): Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered, by Dennis A. Rasbach.

It’s hard to read the full title and not get the impression that the book possesses iconoclastic, sacred-cow slaughtering characteristics. In fact the dust jacket notes are peppered with words like presumed, perpetuation, interpretation, mantle of authority, meticulous case, primary evidence, and body of evidence. By themselves not indicative of anything, but consider them and the book’s title together and, well, you start to see where we’re headed. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. This book considers, among other things, the accuracy of the identification of the actual site of the action in which Chamberlain was wounded, generally accepted for many, many years as along the Jerusalem Plank Road between the future site of Fort Hell (Sedgwick) and Rives’s Salient of the Dimmock Line (future site of Fort Mahone). Rasbach contends that the focus of Chamberlain’s attack was more than a mile away from there.

Other, similar theories on other battlefields have been shouted down with references to monument placement and lack of veteran divergence from accepted narratives, but in this case Mr. Rasbach is laying everything out there for consideration. Adherents to the classic interpretation will have to deal with his presentation on its merits.

You get: 176 pages of narrative, including a retrospective tour; plenty of illustrations, primarily maps, though the tour includes many modern day photos; Orders of Battle for June 18, 1864; an appendix on Chamberlain’s wound and treatment; another on the role of maps in evaluating Chamberlain’s account; bibliography, mostly published works but also ten manuscript sources and seven newspaper accounts; and full index. Footnotes are bottom-of-the-page.





A New Old Map of the Battlefield

21 09 2016

Author John Hennessy passed along this heretofore unseen, by him or me, map. It was provided to him by reader Kimball Brace, who found it in the Library of Virginia. Kim has been researching E. Porter Alexander and the signal stations around Manassas and the Bull Run Line.

Mr. Hennessy correctly points out some of the notable features of the map include its depictions of the Beale and Van Pelt houses and details of the topography around the Stone Bridge.

The key (click for large images):

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The map (click for large images):

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Here is a transcription of the key, provided by a staff member at the Winery at Bull Run. I’ll try to find out more about that part of the story later…

The key:
A. Centreville Road to Stone Bridge
B. Forest each side Centreville Road
C. Enemies long Parrot Gun, Rifled; opening light Sunday Morning July 21st 1861, on Col Wheat’s Battalion (marked by a circle with an X in it)
D. Beale’s House, vacated by family Wednesday July 17th.
E. Shaeffers encampment, of Battalion, Co S Beauregard Rifles, Capt Shaeffer. New Orleans ____ Blues. Capt Goodauyn. New Market ___ Capt H N B Wood.
F. Thicket to which a large force of the enemy were concealed.
G. Cornfield fronting entrenchment Schaeffer’s Battalion
H. Entrenchment left-wing Capt Wood’s __ north side Bull Run.
I. Shaeffer’s Battalion entrenched, s.side Bull Run.
J. Latham’s Battery 2 guns (one marked XX) firing upon enemy at A B & C
K. Albemarle Regt Col Strange Comm at, entrenched on Bluff of Bull Run
L. Wheat Stubble between Albemarle Regt. And front of Enemy advancing at this point, Capt Latham’s Artillery, opening upon them, they commenced the flank to O, all around
M. Stone Bridge
N. Battery, of Enemy (not known invisible) moved with infancy upon Left-Flank of S.C. Army.
O. Advance of enemy, from A,B, (Carrying C.) F & G to O. and direction up to V.
P. Cornfield of Beale’s
Q. Forest Felled by Shaeffer’s Battalion
R. Turnpike to Warrenton from Stone Bridge
S. Bull Run
T. Vanpelt’s House, He having 2 sons in the Northern Army
U. Open fields over which reinforcements passed. Met the enemy, and the result was as the country knows
V. Headquarter’s, Gen E Coucke Lewis House
W. 1 Gun from Latham’s Battery managed by Lieut Saunders New O ____ Blues.
a. *Cannon Shot from enemy into headquarters
b. XX Guns’ supported by Charlottsville
c. X Monticello Guards of Latham’s Battery
d. Cursive X : open fields leading to Manassas from Lewis Farm
X. Circle around an x: Col Wheat’s encampment before 21st July

Click here for citation





The 69th New York, Not the 69th New York

18 09 2016
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The flag of the 69th NYSM, which commemorates a great moment in Fenian history, in which Col. Corcoran refused to march the unit in review before the Prince of Wales

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The flag of the 69th NYVI, a different regiment altogether, likely much more different than many assume

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Flag of the 69th NYNGA (182nd NYVI) – Rightful CW heir to the 69th NYSM?

Many “fans” of the Irish Brigade, and in particular the 69th New York State Militia and the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry, labor under the assumption that the two units are related, the latter somehow descended from the former. I’ve met with some resistance, and once outright anger,  when I’ve suggested that the relationship is tenuous at best. I received the following note from Christopher M. Garcia in comment form on a Facebook status of Damian Shiels, host of Irish in the American Civil War. Mr. Garcia has researched New York Irish troops extensively, and did his master’s thesis on another 69th, the 69th New York National Guard Artillery. When I looked at the Old Dominion University thesis and saw Timothy Orr’s name listed as Director, I realized that he and I had briefly discussed Christopher’s work back in 2011. You can read a little more about Christopher and find a link to his thesis on Damian’s site here. Pay particular attention to Chapter 2, on page ten, and the opening sentence:

The 69th New York National Guard Artillery (NYNGA) considered itself to be the old 69th New York State Militia (NYSM) in federal service. 

Later he writes:

Although thousands of New York’s Irish joined the ranks of the Union Army at the war’s outset, most Fenians chose to stay out. After their return from Bull Run, most of the members of the 69th NYSM did not answer the Federal Government’s call for three-year volunteers… The 69th Infantry Regiment New York National Guard (as the 69th NYSM was designated after the Civil War), received the battle honors for the 69th NYV. Over time, the Irish Brigade tradition became the dominant regimental tradition, as if the 69th NYV was the 69th. The differentiation was lost sometime in the early twentieth-century when first hand knowledge disappeared…Regimental tradition holds that the 69th NYSM was the primary cadre for both the 69th NYV and the Irish Brigade, but this is untrue. The Irish Brigade was a non-Fenian entity.

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Michael Corcoran

The basis of the 69th NYSM was political, strongly rooted in the Irish nationalist Fenian movement. There was a lot of infighting among Fenians, with allegiances to different heads. Michael Corcoran, a prominent Fenian, was colonel of the 69th NYSM, and not affiliated in any way with the 69th NYVI or the Irish Brigade. Captured at First Bull Run, he returned after a year in captivity and formed Corcoran’s Irish Legion, which included the 69th NYNGA.

Here is Christopher’s original comment:

[F]ewer than 80 members of the 69th NYSM volunteered with the 69th NYV. The post war histories do not correlate with the records. The 69th NYSM was the mother Fenian regiment. All 3 founders of the F[enian] B[rotherhood] in America were members of the 69th [-] Doheny, O’Mahoney, and Corcoran. The Fenians purged the unit of differing factions in 1858-9. The core 69th NYSM was not its Bull Run strength but normally in the 200-300 person range. The Irish Legion is a different kettle of fish from the Irish Brigade, both class and ideological. Almost all the 69th NYNGA officers were up from the ranks and there were no “Big men” with pedigrees as men like Conyngham were so quick to point out. The Irish Brigade Fenians while getting a lot of attention were insignificant compared to the Legion. To the point the IB never even had its own Circle (which the Legion did) nor anyone on the ruling council of the FB which the 69th NYNGA did (2). Unfortunately most of the Legion Fenians were killed off between Spotsylvania and Petersburg, becoming the vanguard when the Irish Brigade was at its lowest ebb…

Christopher’s thesis is very interesting, and worth your time. Check it out.





The U. S. Constitution and “States’ Rights”

11 09 2016
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Thomas Jefferson – Wow

Much has been said about the notion of States’ Rights as the cause of the Civil War from a Confederate perspective, and of the idea of the United States formed under its Constitution as a sort of “men’s club,” with a membership consisting of states who were free to come and go as they pleased. Is the near absence from the The Federalist of the concept of secession due to a general assumption of applicability or of irrelevance, even of inconceivability? I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I thought you all might like to read these paragraphs from Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, which can be found on pages 573-574. Thomas Jefferson was a real piece of work, man. A real gem – who, if you recall, was not a framer of the Constitution. We pick up the story in 1798 (ten years after the Constitution’s ratification), after the passage of the Federalist’s onerous Alien and Sedition Acts [brackets and emphasis mine]:

 

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Alexander Hamilton – chief architect of the Constitution, but backer of the Alien and Sedition Acts as a private citizen

Many Republicans thought it best to sit back and let the Federalists blow themselves up. As [James] Monroe put it, the more the Federalist party was “left to itself, the sooner will its ruin follow.” Jefferson and [James] Madison were not that patient, especially after Hamilton became inspector general of the new army. Jefferson thought the Republicans had a duty to stop the Sedition Act, explaining later that he considered that law “to be nullity as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.” With Federalists in control of the government, the political magician decided that he and Madison would draft resolutions for two state legislatures, declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts to be unconstitutional. The two men operated by stealth and kept their authorship anonymous to create the illusion of a groundswell of popular opposition. Jefferson drafted his resolution for the Kentucky legislature and Madison for Virginia. The Kentucky Resolutions passed on November 16, 1798, and the Virginia Resolutions on December 24. Jefferson’s biographer Dumas Malone has noted that the vice president [Jefferson, serving under Federalist John Adams] could have been brought up on sedition charges, possibly even impeached for treason, had his actions been uncovered at the time.

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James Madison did a complete 180 on the relation of state and federal law, when it suited him politically

In writing the Kentucky Resolutions, Jefferson turned to language that even Madison found excessive. Of the Alien and Sedition Acts, he warned that “unless arrested at the threshold,” they would “necessarily drive these states into revolution and blood.” He wasn’t calling for peaceful protests or civil disobedience: he was calling for outright rebellion, against the federal government of which he was vice president. In editing Jefferson’s words, the Kentucky legislature deleted his call for ‘nullification” of laws that violated states’ rights. The more moderate Madison said that the states, in contesting obnoxious laws, should “interpose for arresting the progress of evil.” This was a breathtaking evolution for a man who had pleaded at the Constitutional Convention that the federal government should possess a veto over state laws. In the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Jefferson and Madison set forth a radical doctrine of States’ Rights that effectively undermined the Constitution.

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George Washington, in retirement, was appalled by the Virginia Resolutions

Neither Jefferson nor Madison sensed that they had sponsored measures as inimical as the Alien and Sedition Acts themselves. “Their nullification effort, if others had picked it up, would have been a greater threat than the misguided {alien and sedition} laws, which were soon rendered feckless by ridicule and electoral pressure,” Garry Wills has written. The theoretical damage of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions was deep and lasting. Hamilton and others had argued that the Constitution transcended state governments and directly expressed the will of the American people. Hence, the Constitution began “We the People of the United States” and was ratified by special conventions, not state legislatures. Now Jefferson and Madison lent their imprimatur to an outmoded theory in which the Constitution became a compact of the states, not of their citizens. By this logic, states could refrain from federal legislation they considered unconstitutional. This was a clear recipe for calamitous dissension and ultimate disunion. George Washington was so appalled by the Virginia Resolutions that he told Patrick Henry that if “systematically and pertinaciously pursued,” they would “dissolve the union or produce coercion.” The influence of the doctrine of states’ rights, especially in the version promulgated by Jefferson, reverberated right up to the Civil War and beyond. At the close of the war, James Garfield of Ohio, the future president, wrote that the Kentucky Resolutions “contained the germ of nullification and secession, and we are today reaping its fruits.”

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James Garfield brings us full circle, Civil War-wise

 

 





Preview – Biggs, “They Fought for the Union”

6 09 2016

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They Fought for the Union, by Jeffrey R. Biggs, is a history of the First Delaware Volunteers in the Army of the Potomac. In this video, the author discusses the regiment and his reasons for writing the book:

As the author points out, the 1st Delaware had a knack, from Antietam to Fredericksburg to Gettysburg, of winding up in some pretty hot battlefield spots. As Mr. Biggs has already hipped us to their story, I’ll give you the lowdown on the book itself.

You get 447 pp of narrative in paperback for $19.99 from Amazon. These include 26 maps and 20 pages of photos and illustrations. You also get a full index, bibliography, and end-notes. The bibliography consists of a slew of published works, but also lists nine newspapers and eight manuscript sources, which are cited in the notes.

I’ve long been intrigued by the frequency with which this regiment turned up in what could be argued to be the wrong place at the wrong time – now I have a chance to learn a bit more. This is the first in-depth look at the unit in 130 years (see original regimental by William Seville here). Check out the author’s website here.

I also must thank the author for answering that age-old question famously posed by Rev. Jim Ignatowski – Delawareans or Delawarites? Mr. Biggs describes himself as a life-long Delawarean. That’s a load off my mind.





New Orleans Visit – Confederate Memorial Hall

1 09 2016

In this post, I hipped you to my recent trip to New Orleans. After our stop outside at Lee Circle, we paid the small ($8) fee to tour Confederate Memorial Hall – Louisiana’s Civil War Museum. The exterior is nice, but the inside is very impressive – lots of wood and open timbers. Way old-school, outside of the 20 minute video presented at the end of a hallway on a flat-screen TV. So much to see, and you can check out the history of the place at their website. As with anything that is Confederate in NOLA, don’t put off seeing it until your “next trip,” as it may very well be “lost in time, like tears in rain.” Lots and lots of manicuring going on in the town.

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One odd thing – the video mentioned a vast store of documents in the basement. When I asked the attendant how one gains access for research purposes, I was told one does not. I asked why and was told the documents are historic, hence no access. Ummm, OK, I guess.

Here are some photos, and I’ll try to let them do the talking for the most part. Click on any image for great big giant versions.

First, the exterior:

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The interior:

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Jefferson Davis ephemera:

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This is the crib used by Jeff Davis as a child, also used for his children.

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First Bull Run stuff:

  • Rob Wheat and the First Special Battalion:

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Stars and Bars of the First Special Battalion

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The story goes that, after his wounding at First Bull Run, Wheat was wrapped in these colors and borne from the field…

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…and that his bloodstains are still visible today

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 7th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 8th Louisiana Infantry

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  • Washington Artillery

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About that piece of wood (click on the image to enlarge) – it was not likely taken from Sherman’s Battery at First Bull Run, as the battery was not captured there.

  • P. G. T. Beauregard

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Odds and Ends:

  • Benjamin Butler

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  • A Piano, confiscated – or rescued – at Jackson, MS in 1863

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  • Braxton Bragg

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Any Masons in the house?

Lee Circle

Metairie Cemetery