More on “Corps Commanders in Blue”

11 12 2014

517bM0P30PL._SL500_AA300_Back in October I gave you a sneak-peak at the Ethan Rafuse edited essay collection “Corps Commanders in Blue.” I’ve submitted a full review that will run in either Civil War Times or America’s Civil War – not sure which. This is a really good collection, and I’d put it on the short list for Best of 2014. While the eight authors varied in how well they stuck to the central theme (examination of the individual officers strictly as corps commanders), all produced informative sketches of their subjects. Best of the eight for me were Fitz-John Porter, George G. Meade (a great counter to some recent suggestions about the snapping-turtle), Joseph Hooker and 20th Corps, and Winfield Scott Hancock in the Overland Campaign. This last stuck to the theme best, I thought, while some others went astray into the weeds of operations. Thumbs up, and here’s hoping more along this line – especially more Union sketches – is on the way.





Dixon Miles Court of Inquiry News

26 11 2014

Friend Jim Rosebrock, host of the blog South from the North Woods, on a recent trip to the National Archives was kind enough to photograph the contents of the file containing the documents associated with the Dixon Miles First Bull Run Court of Inquiry for First Bull Run. Late in the day on July 21, 1861, Colonel Israel B. Richardson leveled a charge of drunkenness at Miles, to whose division Richardson’s brigade had been temporarily attached. This charge resulted in Irvin McDowell removing Miles from command, and at Miles’s request the Court of Inquiry was later convened.

I now have over 150 images of handwritten documents to transcribe, the bulk of which are of witness testimony. As far as I know, this file has never appeared in print or digital format, so we’re breaking new ground here. Long ago I posted the summary of the court’s finding here, and this is the index page I’ll be using for all the documents. Below is a taste of what I have to work with – thankfully the penmanship is not generally this poor (click for a larger image.)

IMG_1245





Preview: David Powell, “The Chickamauga Campaign, Vol. I”

25 11 2014

Layout 1The fist of David A. Powell’s proposed three volume study of the Chickamauga Campaign, A Mad Irregular Battle: From the Crossing of the Tennessee River Through the Second Day, August 22 – September 19, 1863, is now available from publisher Savas-Beatie. Even though Dave is a friend (about 10 years or so ago I spent a few of wonderful days on the Chickamauga fields with him as part of a very small group of about four or five, and have interviewed him here), I firmly believe that, unless something goes horribly wrong, when complete this will be the most important work on the campaign to date.

The skinny on Volume I: 631 pages of narrative (and yes, there are two more volumes!) with foot – not end – notes. There’s no bibliography in this volume – it will be included in Volume II. I imagine it will comprise a good chunk of that volume: Dave’s newspaper sources alone are extensive. Despite the title, this installment covers most of the summer of 1863, beginning with the Tullahoma Campaign June 24 to July 4, to the crossing of the Tennessee in August, and through the close of the second day of the battle on September 19. Photos and illustrations appear throughout (not in a separate photo section, which seems to be part of the Savas-Beatie MO, along with the footnotes) as do sufficient maps by David Friedrichs, who performed the same task in Powell’s earlier Maps of Chickamauga.

Don’t miss this one.





Preview: Eric Wittenberg, “‘The Devil’s to Pay’ – John Buford at Gettysburg: A History and Walking Tour”

24 11 2014

downloadNew from Savas-Beatie is “The Devil’s to Pay” – John Buford at Gettysburg: A History and Walking Tour, by prolific Civil War cavalry author Eric J. Wittenberg. This is the first “book-length study devoted entirely to the critical delaying actions waged by Buford and his dismounted troopers and his horse artillerists on the morning of July 1, 1863.”

Here’s the skinny: with “The Devils to Pay” you get 204 pages of narrative taking the reader along with Buford and his men from Fredericksburg to Pennsylvania (including Brandy Station), covering in detail the actions in the Gettysburg vicinity through their ordered departure on July 2. This narrative includes background and biographical information on Buford and his men, a lengthy conclusion summarizing their performance and use, and an epilogue. In addition, there are four appendices (an order of battle; a treatise on “The Myth of the Spencers”; an analysis of the nature of Buford’s defense on July 1; and consideration of the question of whether or not Lane’s Confederate infantry brigade formed squares against a perceived cavalry threat on July 1); a 22 page, illustrated walking and driving tour; and a bibliography. Sprinkled throughout are more than 80 images and 17 Phil Laino maps.





Preview: Noah Andre Trudeau, “The Last Citadel: Petersburg June 1864 – April 1865″

23 11 2014


Savas-Beatie
has released a new, revised, and expanded edition of Noah Andre Trudeau’s 1991 study of the Siege of Petersburg, The Last Citadel: Petersburg, June 1864 – April 1865. For years, Trudeau’s works on 1864 action in Virginia have rested on the shelves of many students of the war, including those of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey’s character in the series House of Cards). So, what’s new here? I’ll let the author speak for himself, from the Preface:

511VHRArmjL._SL500_AA300_[The] revisions lie in several areas. On a visual level I have reworked all the maps with what I hope is a touch more skill than I possessed when I crafted the originals in 1991 (my first effort in that direction!), and even added a couple. Text-wise, and in my eternal search for perfection, I corrected all errors of fact (thankfully, not many) that were pointed out to me in reviews and conversations about the book and even a couple I found on my own.  I would like to especially thank Dr. Richard J. Sommers, who took time off from his busy schedule to read me through the notes in his annotated copy, which directed me to details I am pleased to have now attended to. Thanks also to historians Chris Calkins and James H. Blankenship, Jr., who passed along corrections. I also too advantage of the fact that Savas Beatie was not merely reprinting the original to add several pages of new material. I’ll ‘fess up to having learned a few things in the years since the book first appeared, and in some places changed the text to better reflect what I now know, or think I do.

As what remains the most significant single-volume work on the Petersburg Campaign, this revised edition is a must if you don’t have the original, and is an improvement if you do.





Holkum’s Branch – Manassas National Battlefield Park, 11/15/2014

22 11 2014

Last Saturday at Manassas National Battlefield Park I took a little walk to Holkum’s Branch of Bull Run, east of the Henry Hill Visitor’s Center not far from the site of Portici on the M. Lewis farm, which was Joe Johnston’s HQ during the battle. The site is significant for a meeting that occurred there late in the day on July 21, 1861. In this area Brigadier General Thomas J. Jackson encountered CSA President Jefferson Davis and proclaimed (according to surgeon Hunter McGuire who had just tended to Jackson’s wounded finger): “Give me ten thousand men and I shall take Washington City tomorrow.”

Interpretive marker

Interpretive marker

View north to Holkum’s Branch from marker

Follow trail east from behind Jackson's guns on Henry Hill. Where the trail turns left (north) to the Stone Bridge, turn right (south) to Portici.

Follow First Manassas Trail east from behind Jackson’s guns on Henry Hill. Where the trail turns left (north) to the Stone Bridge, turn right (south) to Portici.





Thornberry House

21 11 2014

This past Saturday I paid a visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park. One of the spots we hit was the north end of the park, the area of the Thornberry House and Sudley Church. The Thornberry children were used by photographers Barnard and Gibson in many of their March 1862 photos of the battlefield, and the house was used as a hospital in both battles of Manassas. It was near this house that Sullivan Ballou’s body was buried and subsequently dug up, mutilated, and burned (see here, here, and here.) Laura Thornberry later recorded her recollections of the battle. And here are some images of the house and surroundings I recorded earlier. Below are the images from Saturday, November 15, 2014. Click for much larger images.

Interpretive Marker

Interpretive Marker

House from west

House from west

House from south

House from south

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Thornberry House 1862

Thornberry House 1862








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