A Reminder – And a Teaser

8 06 2016

Note in the video above John Hennessy discusses the significance of the move of the batteries of Griffin and Ricketts from Dogan’s Ridge to Henry Hill. It’s a move that has been emphasized by many as one of the reasons for the Federal failure that day. As part of the next Bull Runnings tour (date to be determined), we’ll take a closer look at the use of the Federal artillery on July 21, 1861, with an examination of all the positions taken that day – including (hopefully) Dogan’s Ridge, where we did not go in April – and a discussion of their relative advantages and disadvantages. Guest guides TBA.





For Those Who Outlived the Day – June 6, 1944

5 06 2016

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“For those who outlived the day, who survived this high thing, this bright honor, this destiny, the memories would remain as shot-torn as the beach itself. They remembered waves slapping the steel hulls, and bilge pumps choked with vomit from seasick men making ‘utterly inhuman noises” into their gas capes. Green water curled over the gunwales as coxswains waited for a tidal surge to lift them past the bars before dropping the ramps with a heavy clank and a shouted benediction: ‘It’s yours, take it away!’

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“They remembered the red splash of shell bursts plumping the shallows, and machine-gun bullets puckering the sea ‘like wind-driven hail’ before tearing through the grounded boats so that, as one sergeant recalled, ‘men were tumbling out just like corn cobs off a conveyor belt.’ Mortar fragments said to be the size of shovel blades skimmed the shore, trimming away arms, legs, heads. The murder holes murdered. Steel-jacketed rounds kicked up sand ‘like wicked living things,’ as a reporter wrote, or swarmed overhead in what the novelist-soldier Vernon Scannell called and ‘insectine whine.’ Soldiers who had sung ‘Happy D-Day, dear Adolf’ now cowered like frightened animals. They desperately gouged out shallow holes in the shingle with mess kit spoons and barked knuckles, mouths agape in a rictus of astonishment intended to prevent artillery concussions from rupturing their eardrums.

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“They remembered brave men advancing as if ‘walking in the face of a real strong wind,’ in Forrest Pogue’s image, all affecting the same tight grimace until whipcrack bullets cut them down. Above the battle din they remembered the cries of comrades ripped open, merging at moments into a single ululation described by the BBC reporter David Howarth as ‘a long terrible dying scream which seemed to express not only fear and pain, but amazement, consternation, and disbelief.’ And they remembered the shapeless dead, sprawled on the strand like smears of divine clay, or as flotsam on the making tide, weltering, with their life belts still cinched. All this they would remember from the beaten zone called Omaha.” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light





Wheeling WV – Oct. 18, 2016

24 05 2016
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Cadet H. J. Kilpatrick

I will be presenting Kilpatrick Family Ties at the Ohio County Public Library, Fifty-two 16th St, Wheeling, WV, on October 18, 2016. This is part of their Lunch with Books series, and start time is at noon. This is a fun program, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Hope to see some of you there!

www.ohiocountylibrary.org
www.facebook.com/lunchwithbooks
www.twitter.com/lunchwithbooks
www.archivingwheeling.org





Tour Development

20 05 2016





Preview – Mackowski, “Hell Itself”

17 05 2016

Hell_ItselfOnce more into the breach goes Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series, this time with Chris Mackowski’s Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864. You know the drill on these, so let’s get to the vitals. Fourteen chapters and an epilogue make up the main, 121 page narrative, with lots of illustrations and eleven Hal Jesperson maps. My favorite features of this series are the appendixes. In Hell Itself, there are six: Federal cavalry in the campaign; the Army of the Potomac’s high command; “Where’s Burnside” (hmmm…maybe wondering where his boss was and why he wasn’t communicating with him?); Longstreet’s wounding; The Wilderness then and now; and the CCC in the Wilderness.

You also get a driving tour, and Order of Battle, and a suggested reading list. All in a tough little package that travels well on the field.

 





Preview -Christopher Phillips: The Rivers Ran Backward

15 05 2016

516rYTnVK7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_New from Oxford University Press is Christopher Phillips’s The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border. Phillips has authored other works focusing on the “middle states,” including biographies of Nathaniel Lyon and Claiborne Fox Jackson. With The Rivers Ran Backward, Phillips takes a look at the blurred boundary between North and South formed by slave states Kentucky and Missouri and free states Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, which “were home to a complex…set of values, identities, and political loyalties.” He argues that “the violence of the Civil War and cultural politics in its aftermath proved to be the strongest determining factor in shaping these states’ regional identities.” Not surprisingly, the varying and contradictory attitudes of the occupants towards race is central to the study.

You get 338 pages of sparsely illustrated text, 84 pages of end notes, and a 47 page bibliography including six pages of manuscript sources. Blurbers include James McPherson and Edward Ayers.





4/23/2016 Battlefield Tour Recap Part III

4 05 2016
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Sharing the Stage with John Hennessy Was a Treat, But Yellow Was a Bad Idea (Photo by Tom Leupold)

Thoughts

Again, all-in-all, I thought the things over which I had control came off alright for the tour. As of now, I have no control over the weather, but never say never.

I really like the fact that no one had to put out any cash, including me, other than for travel, meals, and lodging. Sure, a bus may have been nice, but that comes with a certain lack of flexibility (some folks left early or came late), and the added risk of someone backing out at the last minute and wanting their money back. I think if we do something like this again (and that will depend a lot on you folks), we’ll try to keep a similar format. That is, caravans and no expenses.

I also was pleased to see that most attendees had the handouts I provided here. Some made up nice binders with artwork, and a good number had everything on their phones or tablets. Plus there was no copying or paper expense, and it would have been a real mess to hand those things out in the rain.

I had a lot of material that we just couldn’t get too. Yes, some of it was hardcore military stuff, and a lot of it was “cool stuff.” This time John Hennessy was the guiding force, which was only appropriate given the fact that most in attendance were there to listen to him, not me. I just angled in when I saw and opening. It’s better to have too much stuff than too little.

I was really happy with the give and take along the way. We had a number of very knowledgeable people in the group (at one point, someone came up to me and excitedly, gleefully said, “These guys are all hardcore!”), and many of them chimed in to add to the experience. Thanks to all of you who spoke up. I felt bad after I singled some of you out in the opening remarks, because I know there were accomplished names I left out. My apologies to you.

There were things about McDowell’s plan and how he did and didn’t diverge from it that I wish I had said. Sometimes I get so geared up I forget to say everything. But then, we were covering a lot of ground and a lot of material.

That back door of the Stone House opening apparently all by itself right when John mentioned ghosts was classic. I don’t think I can count on a repeat.

John and a few others prodded me several times about when or whether I am going to write “a book or something,” and by “something” I assume they all meant something other than this blog. I’ve thought a lot about that. As I said before, I think John has written the definitive study of the campaign. There are several possible outcomes when one writes a book:

  1. The result is well written, well researched, and adds to the literature. (This is something rare in Civil War publishing. Very rare.)
  2. The result is well written, marginally researched, and adds nothing to the literature. (This is the stuff that wins Pulitzer Prizes sometimes.)
  3. The result is well written, well researched, and adds nothing to the literature. (So, why bother?)
  4. The result is poorly written, poorly researched, and adds nothing to the literature. (Lots of this out there.)
  5. OK, I think you catch the drift…(We often hear it said, and we may say it ourselves that “we really need a book on fillintheblank.” I think often that’s just not true, and Paul Taylor, Mike Pellegrini, and I had an interesting discussion about that the night before the tour.)

The point is, I’d only want to put something out there if it qualifies as a #1.  I do have ideas for a Bull Run project, more of a reference work I guess, but not like any you’ve seen before. That’s problematic when describing it to publishers. My thoughts along the lines of a narrative history would produce something very similar to John Hennessy’s book. I don’t know if it would be as well written. We differ not so much in our thoughts of McDowell’s plan, mostly in the psychology at the root of it. I suspect it’s more firmly based on military principles/doctrine than John thinks. That alone, I don’t think, justifies a new campaign study – but perhaps an essay/article. However, there’s always the possibility of telling the whole story in a different, compelling way, and I’m always exploring that.

Short answer – who knows?

Most of all it was great meeting everyone, putting faces to names, moving many of you from e-quaintance to friend, and of course seeing old friends again. I’m really sorry if I didn’t get to speak to each one of you – next time, I hope. And I hope there’s a next time. With that…

Feedback

Please take a little time to leave feedback in the comments section if you attended (or even if you didn’t). What did you like? What did you not like? If we do something like this again, what particular aspect of the battle or what particular sites on the field would you like to see covered?

I have a few ideas, including following letters around the field, annotating them as we go. Perhaps touring a Confederate letter and then a corresponding Union letter, covering the same action from a different perspective. Also, among Bull Runnings’s readers I know there are some with extensive expertise to share.

Let me know – fire away. Maybe we’ll do something like this again.

Part I

Part II








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