Preview – Smith & Sokolosky, “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”

21 11 2015

Layout 1A decade or so ago I was lucky enough to tour North Carolina sites with a small group that included then U. S. Army officers Wade Sokolosky and Mark A. Smith, who were then putting the finishing touches on their book “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar”: Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro. Now the duo have published through Savas Beatie the slightly less wordily titled “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”: The Battle of Wise’s Forks, March 1865.

The book has all you’ve come to expect from Savas-Beatie. Illustrations throughout, George Skoch maps, appendices with orders of battle and numbers and losses, bottom of page notes, bibliography (plenty of newspapers and manuscript collections, usually a good sign), and index. Of course the meat is in the 223 page narrative that takes the reader along with the opposing forces of Jacob Cox and Braxton Bragg, culminating in the four-day confrontation at Wise’s Forks, which ultimately provided Confederate commander Joe Johnston with the time needed to concentrate about Bentonville. The final chapter is devoted to a Final Analysis, which should prove interesting given the career army background of the authors.

Little Bull Run Uniforms – Co. B, 2nd U. S. Artillery

20 11 2015

Here’s another from Bartek Drejewicz. Company B of the 2nd U. S. Artillery was not at First Bull Run, but sister companies A (Tidball), D (Arnold), E (Carlisle), G (Greene), & M (Hunt) were all there, so raise your eyes a bit and change the B on her Hardee hat to any one of those and you get the picture.


Bartek is a classically trained artist, and tells me that the prolong in his redleg corporal’s grasp is meant to mimic this piece of classic Greek sculpture, Laocoön and His Sons. 


Pliny the Elder attributed the work, said to be an “icon” of human suffering, to Rhodian sculptors Agesander, Athenedoros, and Polydorus. The sculpture now resides in the Vatican, but in Pliny’s time was in the palace of the Emperor Titus. There are several versions of the story, but the long and short of it is that Laocoön was a Trojan priest who was punished by the gods for some transgression.

A prolong is a length of rope used when a gun had to be moved without being limbered, that is, attached to a limber and team of horses. Say, in an emergency. Here’s a sketch showing the prolong where it was normally stored on the carriage, right there on the trail between the handspike and elevating screw:


Learn everything you ever wanted to know about cannons at To the Sound of the Guns.

Preview: Banks, “Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers”

16 11 2015

hidden_history_book_coverJohn Banks, fellow Pittsburgh area native and host of John Banks’ Civil War Blog, has published a new book with The History Press, titled Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. Over the years John has pored over the records at NARA, Fold3, and elsewhere to flesh out a truckload of stories about Connecticut soldiers and regiments. He’s already collected a lot of them in Connecticut Yankees at Antietam, but in his new book he gives us more tidbits that don’t all have the Antietam tie-in. The 181 page narrative is packed with illustrations, including archival and modern-day photos by the author (one of the cool things about John’s research is that he regularly travels to where the stories take him). Chapters are broken down into Remembering, Brothers (there were at least 40 sets of Nutmeg brothers who died during the war), Heroes, Villains, Tragedies (the longest chapter), and Survivors. Notes, bibliography, and index are also included.

John has overcome his Mt. Lebanon HS and West Virginia University education and is a gifted writer. I think you can’t go too wrong with this one.

Some Little First Bull Run Uniform Illustrations

13 11 2015

WARNING – Fun stuff ahead. If you are easily offended, that is, super-easily offended, or if you’re just looking for a fight, run away now.


Thanks to fellow blogger Robert Moore for directing me to some fine illustrations of Civil War uniforms by Bartek Drejewicz. Here’s his blog, and here’s his Facebook page. With his permission, lets take a look at this imagined soldier of the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, a Tiger Zouave:


And here’s a cannoneer of the Washington Artillery:


And people ask me “why the interest in First Bull Run?” But really, take a look at the uniforms, if you can. He got more right than he got wrong, don’t you think? On the Tiger – gaiters, Bowie knife. And check out the WA on the artillerist’s kepi, and the short artillery sword.

Nine Years Blogging

6 11 2015


WordPress sent me a notification informing me that the day before yesterday marked the end of the ninth year of Bull Runnings. A lot has changed over that stretch, but I think the main (and yes, not-too-sexy) focus of recording primary source material or resources on the First Battle of Bull Run has been constant. So I don’t post as often – this is a hobby, after all. There’s no angling for bigger and better things. The resources section keeps growing, and there’s no end in sight (for instance, I still haven’t posted the Miles COW stuff). Social media play a much bigger role in operations (the site now has over 850 followers on both Twitter and Facebook, though many follow on both, I suspect). Other than primary sources, author interviews and book previews are pretty strong, if not quite regular, features that bring folks back. And of course the fun stuff – whoda thunk a picture of Larry David and his daughter would attract so much traffic?

Visitation is a shadow of 2011-2013 numbers. My son’s sports blog (Smeltzer on Sports) regularly out-draws me. But that’s OK. No plans to go anywhere – just keep plugging away. And yes, I still intend to do the Longacre review. Thanks to all of you who visit, regardless of frequency. As always, contributions from you are encouraged and welcomed.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new edition of John Hennessy’s An End to Innocence, due out in December. I bet it will be all the rage in year ten, First Bull Run-wise.

Preview: Two New Emerging Civil War Titles

5 11 2015

Two new titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series have been published recently. By now your familiar with the formats, so I won’t go into that too much.

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A Want of Vigilance is a study and guide to The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863. Authors Rob Orrison and Bill Backus are working public historians in the area. The narrative is 113 pages, plus you get six appendices, focusing on R. E. Lee and A. P. Hill, the reconnaissance of the 1st ME Cavalry, Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford, an earlier clash at Bristoe Station, and a chronology of events. A full order of battle, Hal Jesperson maps, suggested readings, and period & modern photos round things out.



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The Aftermath of Battle, by Meg Groeling, “picks up the story as the battle ends,” and looks at how the dead were treated through vignettes. One of interest to readers of this blog is the famous case of Major Sullivan Ballou, but you’ll also find Elmer Ellsworth and sixteen others of varying degrees of specificity and generality. Another five appendices by authors including Chris Kolakowski, Edward Alexander, and Matt Atkinson. This is not simply a look at disposal and treatment of bodies – it also includes chapters on how the horrors of the battlefield were brought to the public by Matthew Brady, Andersonville prison camp, and the layout of Chattanooga cemetery as directed by George Thomas.

Sometimes I Wonder…

28 10 2015

…why I even bother.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way. I know that not every single person researching the First Battle of Bull Run (or even, if you prefer, the First Battle of Manassas) is going to use this site. I know a lot of people do, but I’m certain there are some who do not. And even those who do may only use a part of it. But I also know that, while there are some major issues which I feel almost everyone who has written about the battle have misapprehended, there is at least one minor misconception I thought had been put to rest: the uniforms of the 11th New York, and specifically those worn on July 21, 1861.

I’m not going to rehash that here. You can find other stuff I’ve written on the topic by searching the tag 11th New York in the cloud at the bottom of the margin at right, but this post sums things up nicely, I think.

What brings me to remind you of this is a book I’m currently reading and recently previewed, Custer’s Trials, by T. J. Stiles. So far it’s been what I expected – very nice writing and some interesting takes in the way of storytelling based on facts already in evidence. Some instances of a lack of familiarity with military structure during the Civil War, both theoretical and practical. But one inconsequential passage set me off, and perhaps is more illustrative of the stuff that gets in the way of folks like us, who have perhaps read too much, enjoying non-fiction story telling. Here it goes:

The cavalry did not stand by the artillery. Instead, the 11th and 14th New York infantry regiments hustled up the hill – the 11th wearing the baggy red pants of Zouaves, patterned after Algerian troops serving in the French army and something of a craze in America in 1861.

Ugh. No footnote, of course.

I have kept and will continue to keep in mind that this is a book about George Armstrong Custer. A character study. It will get some things wrong, as the author is not a specialist. He will rely on some he considers to be specialists (one author of very popular books on the Peninsula Campaign and of the Union Army commander, for instance). And I may not be happy with the results as far as that goes. But I will be guided by the question of how an error affects the story being told about Custer, as opposed to falling into the “if he got that wrong, what else does he get wrong” trap. That’s just plain lazy.


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