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.





Tour Development

20 05 2016





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





4/23/2016 Battlefield Tour Recap Part II

2 05 2016
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End of the Day Group Photo (email me for a full-res copy)

Tour Synopsis – Afternoon

After lunch, we caravanned to the parking area at Strayer University and met up near the site of Portici, the Francis Lewis House which was chosen as Confederate headquarters early on by Philip St. George Cocke and played a central role in Confederate operations through the close of battle.

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Kicking-Off the Afternoon Near Portici

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View Towards Site of Portici

FYI, here’s Manassas Chief Interpretive Ranger Ray Brown’s tour of the area from back in 2011.

From here, John Hennessy led the group along the farm paths/roads taken by Brigadier General Thomas J. Jackson’s troops (among others) to reach Henry Hill. Along this path we discussed Confederate operations, the experiences of men moving to the front for the first time, and aspects of the aftermath of the battle.

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We Set Off on the Route Taken By Jackson – and Others – to Henry Hill

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At Holkum’s Branch, We Discuss Jackson’s Wound and the Meeting with Jefferson Davis – Could the Confederates Have Mounted an Effective Pursuit?

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Site of Confederate Field Hospital

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Area Behind Henry Hill Where Bee’s Men Regrouped

Along this route we  made frequent stops, where John pointed out original road traces that helped make sense of the path system, and pointed out where the men under Edmund Kirby Smith/Arnold Elzey diverged as they moved toward Chinn Ridge later in the day. The area where Bee’s men regrouped is a key piece in John’s analysis of the famous “Stone Wall” incident.

Finally we debouched onto Henry Hill behind Jackson’s gun line. Here we discussed the mysteries of artillery, and pondered the movements of Federal guns closer to Henry Hill, where their superior range proved less of an advantage.

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Craig Swain Drops Artillery Knowledge at Jackson’s Line

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Effective Range of Fire and Other Arcane Artillery Talk

More artillery talk, this time near a section of Griffin’s guns that played a key role.

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We Discuss the Movements and Capture of a Section of Griffin’s Guns

From there we moved to Stonewall on Steroids and continued the discussion of the swirling fighting. In addition, John shared his thoughts on the birth of the Stonewall sobriquet, but not debunking the myth in quite the manner some suspected. You can find John’s original article here with some hyperlinking. Notice that “Rally Behind the Virginians” does not appear in the first newspaper article – rather, Bee closes with “Let us resolve to die here, and we shall conquer.”And yet the Bee monument, erected by the DC chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, contains the Old Dominion friendly phrase. Hmmm…Here’s a bit on Bee’s monument, and one on Jackson’s.

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Discussing the Vortex of Henry Hill in the Shadow of the Dark Knight

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When, Where, and How Stonewall Came to Be

The next stop was the Bartow Monument, where John Cummings shared a photo of himself as a child. Nearby is the site of what is thought to be the base of the original Bartow monument, which went missing sometime in 1862. Some questioned the size of the base as appearing too small, but please note that the size of the monument is unknown, and is inconsistent in existing images. Here are some articles on the Bartow monuments.

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Continuing On at the Site of the Original Bartow Monument

Last, we proceeded to the Henry House – the structure there today is actually a reproduction of a post war house. The original house was a story and a half, and was pretty much gone by March 1862. John wrapped up the day’s fighting there, and we took a group picture that appears at the beginning of this article. If you want a full res copy, drop me an email (for some reason the photos are not appearing as clickable links to full size images in my browser). The address is over in the right hand column.

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To the House of Judith Henry

An optional tour stop was made on Chinn Ridge, where we discussed the close of the battle and action involving Elzey, Early, Howard, and the Regulars. A very full day indeed. I’ll share some final thoughts in Part III soon.

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Alternate Tour for Hardy Handful Brings the Tour to a Close on Chinn Ridge – Howard’s Denoument

Part I

Part III





The Ride Home – Things Along the Way

28 04 2016

On the way home from this past weekend’s tour of the First Bull Run battlefield, my friend Mike and I stopped to take in a few other Civil War sites we didn’t cover on Saturday. Here are the Bull Run related sites:

Stone Bridge

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West Side of Stone Bridge

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West Side of Stone Bridge

Blackburn’s Ford – Site of the fight of 7/18/61 that would first be known as the Battle of Bull’s Run (the battle on the 21st was for a time known as the Battle of Young’s Branch)

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Blackburn’s Ford Looking South

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Blackburn’s Ford Looking West

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Blackburn’s Ford Looking East

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Blackburn’s Ford Panorama Looking South

Piedmont Station (Delaplane, VA) – Where much of Johnston’s Army boarded trains bound for Manassas

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4/23/2016 Battlefield Tour Recap Part I

27 04 2016

The Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour with guide John Hennessy, held this past Saturday, was, I think, a success. Officially we had 62 attendees who signed in, and suspect we had a few who chose to not sign in. In addition, a few folks dropped out during the day, and I think we even picked up one or two others along the way. I’ll break the tour into two posts, then follow up with some conclusions and requests for input from attendees.

Tour Synopsis – Morning

We met at the picnic area off Groveton Road at 9:00 am. The pavilion came in handy as it was raining pretty steadily – this kept up all morning. After introductions and a review of the itinerary, we set off.

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Assembling at the Picnic Grove

We consolidated into fewer cars (we had left a few at the Visitor’s Center), and headed for our first stop at Sudley Church. From there, we hiked the original Sudley Road trace to Sudley Springs Ford on Catharpin Run, where John set the stage, discussed the crossing of McDowell’s army, and dispelled the notion that anyone was going to services at Sudley Church on the morning of July 21, 1861.

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Sudley Church

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Sudley Springs Ford

Next we moved south to the Thornberry House, where many things were discussed, including the photos of March 1862, the Thornberry children, and Sullivan Ballou and his death, burial, and desecration. For the record, yes, I do believe his letter was real, even though the original’s whereabouts are unknown.

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Thornberry House

From there, John showed us the site of the graves of twelve Union soldiers, and also the site of the post-war home of the Benson’s of Sudley Church. See here for some disturbing inconsistencies in the wartime event.

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Union burial sites (no, I’m not giving out GPS coordinates)

Then it was back to the cars (we managed two crossings of Sudley Road without an incident, no small feat) and south to the Matthews Hill parking lot. There we received water and snacks from Debra Kathman and the good people at the Manassas Battlefield Trust, and made our way to Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery, where John described the opening of the battle by Burnside’s Brigade and Evans’s men. Craig Swain laid some artillery jargon on us, discussing the range of various pieces North and South.

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Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery

Next we marched south on Matthews Hill to Buck Hill, above the Stone House, and discussed what McDowell’s vision of victory may have been, the afternoon “lull,” and “the plan.” As it happens, John and I agree on what McDowell’s expectations were regarding what he could expect from the enemy in terms of numbers. We also agree on what McDowell planned and, most important, where those plans ended. We may differ a bit regarding the psychology, if you will, behind those plans, but we’re much closer than we are far apart. The plans pretty much end with the establishment of McDowell’s line along the Warrenton Turnpike, and across the Stone Bridge. After that, the next move depended on how the rebels would react.

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Panorama from Buck Hill

Down in the Stone House’s back yard (the Stone House was owned by a family named Matthews, which was a different family from that which occupied the Matthews House on Matthews Hill), John described what was taking place in what has been traditionally called a  relatively quiet “no man’s land.” That is to say, it was far from quiet. Sorry, for some reason I took no photos there. But John Cummings got this shot, spoiled only by my presence in it.

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Stone House Yard (John Cummings)

From there we crossed the Warrenton Pike (today’s Lee Highway) and proceeded up Henry Hill.

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Up Henry Hill!

We stopped to recount the movements of Imboden’s Staunton Artillery (while it didn’t happen here, with the help of artillery buff Jim Rosebrock we determined that Imboden was most likely serving as the number four man on the piece when he crouched too near a gun he was working and went deaf in his left ear when it fired).

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Imboden’s Position

Our last stops before breaking for lunch was at the “boggy area” just off the paved Visitior’s Center parking lot, which has been traditionally described as the site where several post battle photos of Union graves were recorded (I perpetuated the legend here). John Cummings teased us about the proof he has assembled that the photos were not recorded here, nor were they recorded at the spot other photo buffs have identified. He promises more in the future. The most compelling evidence was presented by John Hennessy, who informed us that prior to the mid-1980s, the site was not damp at all – it became that way after changes were made to the topography.

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Site Where Famous Photos Were Not Taken

OK, I’ll end this part where we took our lunch break. Highlights of that included shuttling drivers back to Matthews Hill to fetch cars for the afternoon portion of the hike.

Part II

Part III





Final Tour Update – 4/21/2016

21 04 2016

The tour is the day after tomorrow. Hopefully you’ve been following along with all the updates here or via Facebook or Twitter. Remember:

  1. Meet at picnic area off Groveton Road at 9:00 AM.
  2. Dress for the weather. As of right now, 39% chance of early “sprinkles,” high of 68 degrees. I recommend plastic sleeves for your handouts, pack-able rain jacket, and Goretex footwear.
  3. Bring a lunch and hydration.
  4. Carpool from the picnic area.

We will need to leave a few cars at the visitor’s center (VC) in the morning. I already know of three. We’ll probably need to leave about eight cars total. No more than that, though, because we don’t want to cause a parking problem there. If you think you can do this, drop me a note. Otherwise, don’t consolidate cars at the VC. It’s Saturday, and the most important battlefield in the world.

I’m really looking forward to meeting all of you. Remember, this is not a “sit back and listen” tour. We want give-and-take (but can do without “gotchas” – You “gotcha” types know who you are).

In my mind, John Hennessy has written the definitive account of this battle, and we’re all very fortunate to have this opportunity.

If you’re photographing or videoing the day’s events, please feel free to share your work with me and I’ll share it with everyone else.

Here’s the most recent attendee list. You’ll note it’s shorter by about ten.

1 Anderson, James
2 Anderson, Roy
3 Backus, Page Gibbons
4 Banks, John
5 Bednarek, Kat Zalewski
6 Bellefeuille, Scott
7 Booker, Bob
8 Brace, Kim
9 Brand, Gary
10 Burden, Jeffry
11 Carson, Dan
12 Ciasullo, Ron
13 Conroy, Dianne Fox
14 Cummings, John
15 Cunard, Jan Hyland
18 Dail, Sean + 2
19 Dennis, James
21 Dittoe, Tom + 1
22 Errett, Paul
23 Fuller, John
24 Franklin, Albert
25 Galloway, Michael
26 Gottert, Mike
27 Gottfried, Linda
28 Greer, Jackie
29 Greevy, Jay
30 Gueverra, Mark
31 Harper, Joseph
32 Hennessy, John
33 Hamann, Carlos
34 Herring, Rod
35 Johnson, Brad
36 Kammerer, Brian
38 Kaptek, Rob + 1
39 Kathman, Debra
40 Keating, Stephen
41 Kenepp, D. Scott
42 Killian, Aaron
43 Lafleur, Joe
44 Langbart, David
45 Laudenslager, Sam
46 Leupold, Tom
47 Lewis, Richard
48 Liebler, Shelly
49 Massey, Jeff
50 McGregor, Douglas
51 Morgan, Jim
52 Morton, Patrick
53 Mueller, Benjamin
54 Mueller, Jullian
55 Musick, Mike
56 Nank, Thomas
57 Oakes, Douglas A
58 O’Brien, Robert William
59 O’Neil, Keith
60 Orrison, Rob
61 Pawlak, Kevin
62 Pellegrini, Mike
63 Phillips, Rick
64 Redd, Rae Andrew
65 Reilly, Steve
66 Rich, Patricia Petersen
67 Rosebrock, James
68 Russell, Bill
69 Sagle, William
70 Smeltzer, Harry
71 Smith, Teej
72 Stinchcomb, Earl
73 Swain, Craig
74 Taylor, Paul
75 Tinnon-Massey, Norma
76 Weihs, Kelly
77 Wichtendahl, Kyle Francis
78 Williams, Jim








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