Preview: Davis, “All the Fighting They Want”

1 07 2017

Layout 1If you’ve been reading Bull Runnings for a while, you know that I’ve previewed all of the titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series. And you also know how these books work. Concise histories, lots of maps and illustrations, tough paperbacks, suitable for the field. The really interesting parts, to me anyway, are the appendices. So, for this newest publication, I’m going to give you the bare minimum, and flesh out those appendices for you.

All the Fighting They Want: The Atlanta Campaign from Peachtree Creek to the City’s Surrender, July 18-September 2, 1864, by Stephen Davis

  • Four page prologue
  • Narrative 115 pages, fourteen chapters
  • Eight page epilogue
  • Seven Hal Jesperson maps
  • Eight page driving tour, with twelve stops
  • Appendix A: Confederate Monuments In and Around Atlanta – Gould Hagler
  • Appendix B: Civil War Collections at the Atlanta History Center – Gordon Jones
  • Appendix C: The Battle of Atlanta on Canvas: A Brief History of the Atlanta Cyclorama – Gordon Jones
  • Order of Battle

No footnotes, bibliography, or index in this volume

Stephen Davis is, among other things, former book review editor for Blue & Gray magazine and the author of a previous Emerging Civil War volume on the Atlanta Campaign, A Long and Bloody Task.


Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 5

30 06 2017

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 5: Escaping the Deathtrap (In which we go back to the Valley. As I said before, I’m not of the school that the Valley is integral to the story of First Bull Run, but the author is, so let’s take a look.)

P. 116 – To bolster his argument that the retention of Harper’s Ferry was vital, Jefferson Davis argued that it’s loss would “interrupt our communication with Maryland, and injure our cause in that state.”

P. 121 – Early on, Col. Ambrose Burnside’s 1st Rhode Island Infantry was part of George Thomas’s brigade of Patterson’s command. This of course would change and Burnside and the 1st RI would have a prominent role at Bull Run.

P. 124 – After taking Harper’s Ferry in mid-June “without firing a shot,” Patterson determined that Johnston’s retreat was so rapid he could not overtake him before Winchester.

P. 124-125 – Part and parcel to the mixed signals Patterson was receiving from Winfield Scott all during his foray into the Valley, after taking Harper’s Ferry, seeing no need for Patterson to press Johnston, Scott ordered the U. S. Regulars and the 1st RI returned to Washington. This left Patterson “with an army composed almost entirely of three-months’ volunteers, half of whose service terms had already expired or were about to.” The author theorizes that part of Scott’s reasoning was “a belated realization that the present campaign would be won or lost in McDowell’s theater. Scott had finally come to see Patterson’s operations as supportive of McDowell’s.” Would he ever communicate this realization to Patterson?

P. 130 – On June 20, on Johnston’s ordered the not-as-yet “Stonewall” Jackson destroyed B&O train cars and tracks at Martinsburg, to deny the resources to the enemy. Johnston ordered this as he understood it in conformance with directives from Richmond. However, the reaction from those quarters was far from laudatory. Maryland politicians and citizens, and especially B&O shareholders, were livid. Johnston’s stock in the Confederacy was now losing value as well.

PP. 135-137 – Also on the 20th, Scott ordered Patterson to submit a plan for moving his army east to support Col. Charles P. Stone’s brigade’s move on Confederate outposts between Leesburg and Washington. Patterson submitted plans for just such a move, which he later argued would have changed events considerably in favor of the Union.But on the 25th, Scott changed his mind and told Patterson to stay at Harper’s Ferry. Scott continued to mix signals [IMO (in my opinion)] by cautioning Patterson to engage Johnston only “if you are in superior or equal force,” but that it “would not due to pursue them as far as Winchester.” In light of later events and Scott’s assertions to the contrary, the General-in-Chief’s directives to Patterson were as clear as mud [again, IMO].

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Preview: McMillan, “Gettysburg Rebels”

14 06 2017

51Zo8aLJtsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Fresh off the presses is Tom McMillan’s Gettysburg Rebels, a signed copy of which arrived in my mailbox while I was away this past weekend in, you guessed it, Gettysburg. (I only live three and a half hours away from the place, but don’t get out there nearly as often as one might think.)

As you can see from the cover, Gettysburg Rebels is the story of five former citizens of the town who returned as Confederate soldiers in July, 1863. The stories of Wesley Culp and Henry Wentz may be familiar to many of you, but some of you are surely wondering who the other three men were. No spoilers here – you’ll have to read the book.

The author has researched the stories of all five men and presented them in flowing style. He also ponders why, with 5 former residents of the town in his Army of Northern Virginia, its commander was not made aware of their presence and could not rely on them for more accurate intelligence on the environs than he ultimately received from his staff.

You get: 234 pages of narrative; bibliography; descriptive end notes (that is, read them, there’s good stuff in them); and an index.

Mr. McMillan is the author of Flight 93: The Story, the Aftermath, and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11. He’s been the VP of Communications for the defending, back-to-back NHL Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins for the past 21 years. I sure hope he takes it easy at the parade today.

Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 4

14 05 2017

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 4: Green and Green Alike (Don’t get me started on this quote – some view it as an indication of Lincoln’s raw, common sense. I see it as evidence of his poor grasp of military realities – if, in fact, he said it.)

P. 91 – The first sentence of this chapter is one of my great pet peeves: “On the day Irvin McDowell assumed command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia…”

The footnote for this paragraph cites Starr’s Bohemian Brigade and Warner’s Generals in Blue. Neither of these are primary sources (nothing wrong with that), and neither of them discuss the origin of the name Army of Northeastern Virginia (this is the first time the name is used in this book.) Why does this note not cite some order creating the army, or some report referring to it for the fist time? Because, as far as I’ve been able to determine, there never was any organization on the books called The Army of Northeastern Virginia. The moniker was only applied post-battle, and post formation of The (Federal) Army of the Potomac. Why is this important? What difference does it make? Maybe none. But it bugs the heck out of me when I see it. OK, enough on that, let’s move on.

Pp. 93-94 – The author notes that McDowell was hampered not only by “inadequate communications” south of the Potomac, but also faced a shortage of wagons to carry rations for his army when on the march. He had to deal with a “lack of cooperation from superiors and colleagues alike,” and that McDowell would later attribute this to Winfield Scott’s dissatisfaction with his elevation to command of the army in the field. General J. K. F. Mansfield was an instrument in Scott’s obstruction of McDowell’s efforts.

P. 101 – In the same vein, McDowell later claimed that he “had no opportunity to test my machinery…” That is, he couldn’t drill his new regiments in battlefield, brigade sized evolutions. When he did exercise a group of eight regiments together, Scott accused him of “trying to make some show.” The author points out that failure to drill regiments as brigades and divisions resulted in the inability to use them as such in practice. This gives some insight into the time-honored opinion that the “piece-meal” insertion of units into the battle was key to Union defeat.

P. 103 – The author raises a good question: Why was Daniel Tyler, who held no volunteer or regular army rank, and who had been out of the army for almost 30 years, given command of the largest division in McDowell’s army? Other than a generally favorable remark from W. T. Sherman (“has a fair reputation”), a good reason isn’t offered. The author notes and provides evidence that the men in the ranks were left unimpressed by Edith Carow (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt’s grandfather. [As a side note, I found some evidence in Alan Gaff’s If This is War that, despite having personally drilled the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers of his division at least once, the men were less than familiar with Tyler, as some of them believed he attempted to rally the men on Henry House Hill, when he was nowhere in the vicinity. I’m guessing they confused him with another white-haired officer, Samuel Heintzelman.]

P. 108 – The author notes that the June 1 raid on Fairfax Court House by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins, and his “wildly inflated estimate of the troops” there “inhibited McDowell from making further reconnaissances.” He also states that “some historians” claim this also resulted in a postponement on the eventual movement on Manassas and allowed more time for Beauregard to strengthen the defenses there. [Delays leading to defeat, and separately to plan failure, will be a recurring theme.]

PP. 108-112 – On June 3, Scott directed McDowell to give an estimate of the number of troops he would need to make a move on the Bull Run Line (and maybe Manassas Gap), in conjunction with Patterson’s movement against Harper’s Ferry. McDowell’s was to be a supporting role. McDowell returned a number that was very low, a total of 17,000 men including a 5,000 man reserve. McDowell felt this would perhaps compel Beauregard to fall back on Richmond. Even when credible reports established that Beauregard had 20,000 on the line, McDowell still thought the move (and men), which would bypass Fairfax Court House, could succeed via a move toward Vienna. [The author does not explore this line of thought, but here we see an indication that McDowell is thinking along the lines of Scott’s campaign in Mexico, a series of turning movements by smaller forces, in the face of which the enemy would withdraw.]

As a test, McDowell ordered a foray to Vienna. The misfortune that befell Brig. Gen. Schenck at that place seemed “to have infected his men with a deep-seated fear of ‘masked batteries,’ one that politicians and newspaper editors would play up.” [All of which may be true, but I have yet to find any creditable evidence that this in any way impacted the orders to and dispositions of McDowell’s force when it eventually moved out. There are more practical reasons for those than some “fear” of masked batteries, a theme that runs through many chronicles of the campaign.]

P. 112 – The author notes that as of June 24, McDowell had access to fewer than 14,000 troops in his department [a much better term to use than a formal army name, by the way], but that he remained confident that if he could properly train, organize, and motivate all the men he would receive over the next few weeks they could defeat the rebels “if they needed to fight them at all. He [McDowell] continued to believe that a well-mounted advance might persuade” the rebels to fall back to better defenses nearer the Rappahannock River. [And here it is: I don’t think McDowell ever stopped believing that.]

P. 113 – By late June, those in power were getting anxious for a move. McDowell would say later that whenever he mentioned the obstacles he was facing, he received the same response regarding the relative “green-ness” of his men and those of the enemy [it’s tough sometimes to nail down just who first flung this classic, but misguided, comeback McDowell’s way – I’ve seen it attributed to both Scott and Lincoln]. The author correctly points out that it was the “government’s” lack of patience that was pressuring for a move, not that of “the people” or “the press.” [Of course, that buck stops with POTUS.] And so on June 21, Scott directed McDowell to present a “finished plan to ‘sweep the enemy from Leesburg to Alexandria’ in cooperation with a column from Patterson’s army.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

Preview: Reardon & Vossler, “Field Guide to Gettysburg”, 2nd Edition

10 04 2017

1525028608Hot off the presses is a second edition of A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People, the wildly successful, ground-breaking, and critically acclaimed work of Dr. Carol Reardon and Col. (Ret.) Thomas Vossler. Dr. Reardon sent this descriptive note:

We added two new stops. The first offers a brief walking tour of the Harmon farm on the first day’s battlefield. This is the property that used to be the old Gettysburg Country Club. When we began writing the first edition, this property had just come into possession of Gettysburg National Military Park, and there were no basic amenities, such as public parking. Once they opened a small gravel lot, we knew we wanted to share the story of the Iron Brigade’s first fight at Gettysburg and the capture of General Archer. Similarly, at Powers Hill, the clearing of the viewshed was underway, but it had not been completed and no public parking existed. The opening of a small lot on Granite Schoolhouse Road made it possible to create a stop for that site. The view from the summit is super! Indeed, I think we will learn more and more about this under-emphasized part of the battlefield as the park interpretive staff integrates the action on newly acquired properties on both sides of the Baltimore Pike into the broader Gettysburg narrative. We also improved many of the maps so they mesh more clearly with the text.

Thanks to the editors at the University of North Carolina Press, we were able to do something special in the e-book version of the second edition. Since technology made it possible to add new text easily, they gave us back 10,000 words we could not find room for in the book editions. These elements had been part of our original vision, but we had had to cut them from the first edition due to space limitations. Some of those cuts were very painful to make, but now we were able to restore them. So, now, in addition to the two new stops and improved maps, readers of the e-book will get a lot more stories about the soldiers who fell in battle. In addition to some additional leader vignettes, we’ve added some of the most useful and relevant leadership lessons–some good, some bad–that we use in field programs and on staff rides for military audiences. We’ve added a few mini-stops to cover McGilvery’s artillery in support of Sickles’ III Corps on July 2 and the stand of the 9th Massachusetts battery. We also added an element to the stop on Seminary Ridge at the end of July 1 to encourage visitation to Mrs. Thompson’s house (aka Lee’s headquarters). There’s a LOT of new material in the e-book version of the field guide’s second edition.

Get the hard copy version here.

Get the ebook here.

Preview: Davis – “Inventing Loreta Velasquez”

28 03 2017

51kZCidyVkL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_New from prolific Civil War author William C. Davis is Inventing Loreta Velasquez: Confederate Soldier Impersonator, Media Celebrity, and Con Artist. I have to admit to being somewhat ambivalent towards the whole topic of women posing as men and serving as soldiers in the war. It may have something to do with each new book on the topic claiming to tell an untold story. Or perhaps its some deep-seated chauvinism come to the surface. But the story of Velasquez is relevant here because she claimed to have participated in the First Battle of Bull Run under the guise of a Confederate officer. Velasquez famously chronicled her adventures in a memoir, The Woman in Battle. You can read about her “adventures” at Bull Run in chapter VII.

This one’s a bit of a challenge to preview, as the story winds in and out of time and the index is a little lacking in precision. The tit,le post-colon, may give some indication of the author’s ultimate judgement of Loreta’s (or Lauretta’s) tales. But Mr. Davis has a penchant for well constructed, tight, and flowing narrative, so I’m going to give this one a shot – but probably not until after my Little Big Horn trip this summer.

You get 258 pp of narrative; 64 pp of endnotes; 29 pp of bibliography, including extensive manuscript sources; and the aforementioned index.

Preview: McCarthy – “Confederate Waterloo”

26 03 2017

Confederate_WaterlooI recently received a copy of Confederate Waterloo: The Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, and the Controversy that Brought Down a General, by Michael J. McCarthy. This appears to be the latest in a series of books from Savas Beatie that take a new look at controversial figures and incidents (or rehash long-settled arguments, depending on your point of view). In this case, the author recounts the fight at Five Forks in the closing days of the war in Virginia, the relief of Army of the Potomac Fifth Corps commander Gouverneur K. Warren by U. S. Grant lieutenant Phil Sheridan, and the efforts of Warren to restore his “good name.” The literature accompanying the book states that it is a “fully researched and unbiased” account. I don’t know that there’s any way to prove that last part of that, and its accuracy will doubtless depend on whether or not the reader agrees with the author’s conclusions.

What you get:

  • A foreword by Bryce Suderow
  • An eight page introduction
  • 103 pp covering the battle
  • 150 pp on Warren’s quest for vindication
  • Nine pages on “The Continuing Quest to Influence Public Memory”
  • Orders of Battle
  • A twelve page bibliography, including seventeen newspapers and periodicals, one unpublished dissertation and one unpublished thesis, and three manuscript collections
  • Index
  • Nine George Skoch maps
  • Illustrations are portrait photographs, no period or modern images of the points of interest
  • Footnotes at page bottom

It should be fun to read reactions to – and predictions about – the book (read or unread) on the web. Feel free to share them here, if you like.