Stuff

3 10 2016

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Hi all! I just got back from a few days in Virginia, and managed to squeeze some Civil War stuff in around some bad golf (mine) in some bad weather on some beautiful Williamsburg area courses. I’ll have the CW related stuff up soon, including a trip to Petersburg with my oldest brother to follow in the steps of our great-grandfather. Also some Bull Run touring info (we may be looking at two dates next year – shout out if that sounds good to you). But for now, I offer this shot from the first tee of the Black Heath course at Ford’s Colony Country Club. I thought it would be a good idea to hit over those trees on the right. Good idea, poor execution. Theme of the day.





New Orleans Visit – Confederate Memorial Hall

1 09 2016

In this post, I hipped you to my recent trip to New Orleans. After our stop outside at Lee Circle, we paid the small ($8) fee to tour Confederate Memorial Hall – Louisiana’s Civil War Museum. The exterior is nice, but the inside is very impressive – lots of wood and open timbers. Way old-school, outside of the 20 minute video presented at the end of a hallway on a flat-screen TV. So much to see, and you can check out the history of the place at their website. As with anything that is Confederate in NOLA, don’t put off seeing it until your “next trip,” as it may very well be “lost in time, like tears in rain.” Lots and lots of manicuring going on in the town.

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One odd thing – the video mentioned a vast store of documents in the basement. When I asked the attendant how one gains access for research purposes, I was told one does not. I asked why and was told the documents are historic, hence no access. Ummm, OK, I guess.

Here are some photos, and I’ll try to let them do the talking for the most part. Click on any image for great big giant versions.

First, the exterior:

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The interior:

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Jefferson Davis ephemera:

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This is the crib used by Jeff Davis as a child, also used for his children.

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First Bull Run stuff:

  • Rob Wheat and the First Special Battalion:

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Stars and Bars of the First Special Battalion

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The story goes that, after his wounding at First Bull Run, Wheat was wrapped in these colors and borne from the field…

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…and that his bloodstains are still visible today

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 7th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 8th Louisiana Infantry

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  • Washington Artillery

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About that piece of wood (click on the image to enlarge) – it was not likely taken from Sherman’s Battery at First Bull Run, as the battery was not captured there.

  • P. G. T. Beauregard

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Odds and Ends:

  • Benjamin Butler

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  • A Piano, confiscated – or rescued – at Jackson, MS in 1863

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  • Braxton Bragg

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Any Masons in the house?

Lee Circle

Metairie Cemetery





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

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