A Hot Time on Anniversary Weekend, July 20-21, 2019

17 08 2019

This past anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run was spent by me, for the first time, in Manassas. I was booked for two talks on Saturday and a bus tour on Sunday, the actual anniversary of the battle which, as you know, was fought on a Sunday. I’ve never really felt the attraction of anniversaries like some, maybe most, of you do – the earth just happens to be in a very similar position to one star in a vast, endless sea of stars as on the day of the actual event. I know, I have no soul. But the fact that this anniversary fell on a Sunday seemed to be a big deal, and lots of activities were planned by the NPS for the day. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

Saturday started off hot and sultry, and the weekend kept that up through the end. My morning talk, for the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division (PWC), was scheduled for a tent outside historic Ben Lomond south of the battlefield, along the trace of the historic farm road that led from Manassas Junction to Liberia, past Ben Lomond, past Portici, to the Henry House and the Warrenton Turnpike. I’ll have more on Ben Lomond in a future post. Luckily for me and the 25 or so folks who attended, my talk on McDowell’s plan for the battle was moved indoors (it was 102 degrees Fahrenheit outside). The talk went well though I had to rush through the conclusion due to time constraints. Nobody threw anything at me. It was great to see some old friends and folks who have attended some of the Bull Runnings Battlefield Tours. I appreciate your continued support. Thanks to Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak for the invite. I completely forgot to take my usual pre-talk selfie, but here’s one courtesy of Rob.

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Me talking about Johnny Caspar from Miller’s Crossing, who plays an integral role in explaining McDowell’s Plan.

After my talk, I was taken to lunch by Kim Brace of the Manassas Battlefield Trust (MBT), which was hosting my talk at the Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP) visitor’s center later that evening. After a change of clothes, I repaired to The Winery at Bull Run for a pleasant, if muggy, sit-down on the patio with Kim and my good friends Dan and Kathy Carson.

After yet another change of clothing, it was off to the visitor’s center, where the MBT had invited me to talk about Peter Conover Hains and his 1911 account of his experiences at First Bull Run. I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd, including former U. S. Army historian Kim Holien and MNBP museum specialist (and long-time Friend of Bull Runnings) Jim Burgess, who joined me for dinner afterwards. Again there were about 25 people in attendance. Not too many glitches, and I think everyone enjoyed the presentation and learned something (I know I did). Thanks to MBT and Christy Forman for the invite.

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Pre-talk selfie. Sorry to those folks blocked by my big giant head.

Bright and early Sunday morning it was back to Ben Lomond for a bus tour of sites on and off the battlefield. This was a fundraiser for PWC and was led by Kevin Pawlak of that group and myself. We had ten people, including Civil War TImes Magazine’s editor Dana Shoaf and his media guru Melissa Wynn, and old friend and Licensed Antietam Battlefield Guide Jim Rosebrock (look, if you’re gonna hire someone to guide you about Antietam, hire an ALBG – it just makes sense). Yes, it was hot on Saturday, but it was hotter on Sunday, as my dusty dashboard attests.

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One Hundred and Three Degrees!!!

It was in fact so hot that the NPS cancelled most of the events they had scheduled for the day. But we few, we happy but sweaty few, vowed to endeavor to persevere.

Kevin and I conducted the tour kind of like a sporting event broadcast – at each stop, Kevin laid out the action, rather, the play-by-play, and I provided the color. We had to cut out a couple of stops due to time. I’ll lay out the route of the tour in photos:

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First Stop: Old Stone Church in Centreville, where we talked about the Confederate dispositions, the Federal approach, and some after-battle incidents. Kevin Pawlak in dark blue.

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Quick stop in Centreville McDonalds to pay respects to the Centreville Six. Someone will do an Abbey Road take on this. But not us.

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Blackburn’s Ford

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Blackburn’s Ford – View south

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Panoramic view south at Blackburn’s Ford

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Signal Hill monument

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Kim Brace (white beard, red shirt) provided a little more info on E. Porter Alexander

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Kevin saying something worthwhile at the Stone Bridge.

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Me – in white hat – trying to think of something worthwhile to say at the Stone Bridge. Photo by Rob Orrison.

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Group shot at Reynolds’s guns on Matthews Hill. A couple folks did not make the trek from the bus at this stop.

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View south from Matthews Hill

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Reynolds’s guns (James rifles). There were only six Federal smoothbores, all howitzers, that crossed Bull Run that day. The other 20 were rifles.

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Me, on Matthews Hill, pointing. Others, looking. Photo by Rob Orrison.

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Dana Shoaf and me, trying to figure out what direction we’re facing, on Chinn Ridge, our final stop.

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Kevin Pawlak wrapping things up on Chinn Ridge.

Afterwards, upstairs at air-conditioned Ben Lomond, Dana and Melissa introduced me to Facebook Live. Enjoy Dana, Rob, Kevin, and me in all our technicolor glory.

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Behind the scenes: Videographer Melissa Winn, Dana Shoaf, and Kevin Pawlak

Afterwards, Rob, Kevin, and I enjoyed a couple of cold ones at the 2 Silos Brewing Co. in Manassas. A cool place, check it out.

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Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak show the way to the 2 Silos complex.





This Anniversary Weekend

17 07 2019
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I’ll do my best to keep it together

Just a no frills reminder about this coming weekend at and near the Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP). On Saturday morning at 10:30 I’ll be speaking under a tent outside Ben Lomond Historic Site on McDowell’s Plan for the battle. No fee for this. Than on Saturday evening at 6:00 PM I’ll be speaking in the MNBP visitor center auditorium on Peter Conover Hains’s 1911 memoir of the battle. Again, no fee. Neither of these events require any walking on your part, other than to and from your seats.

On Sunday, at 9:00 AM I’ll be leading a bus tour of the battlefield and environs with Kevin Pawlak, who works for Prince William County and also happens to serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation with me. The bus will leave Ben Lomond at 9:00 AM. There is a fee for this event. To book, follow the links I provided in this post.

I really hope to see you this weekend. Please come up and introduce yourself if you see me.





Anniversary Weekend, July 20 & 21

28 06 2019

BL and MBT Joint Flyer

I have three engagements coming up in and near the Manassas National Battlefield Park over the weekend of the battle anniversary (I’ve never been one for anniversaries, and this will be the first time I’ll be down there for one. If you’re an anniversary type, note that not only is July 21st the 158th anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, it’s also a Sunday, and the battle was indeed fought on a Sunday.)

At 10:30 AM on Saturday, July 20, at the Ben Lomond Historic Site, I’ll be presenting McDowell’s Plan at Bull Run for the Prince William Historic Preservation Foundation. You can come hear me expound on my often-referred-to, hairbrained notions of what the General intended. It’s not what you’re used to hearing. But, it’s free! Check out the details in the flyer (which includes all the weekend events. There is also a Facebook Event Page.

Then on Saturday at 6:00 PM, I’ll be presenting “Echoes of the First Shot:” Peter Hains and the First Battle of Bull Run for the Manassas Battlefield Trust.. We’ll be taking a look at Hains’s 1911 memoir of the battle. You can find out everything and register to attend here. There is also a Facebook Event Page. There is a fee for the event that benefits the Trust. This is a free event. Donations to the Trust are appreciated.

On Sunday from 9:00 AM until about 3:00 PM, Kevin Pawlak and I will lead a bus tour of the battlefield and environs for Prince William Historic Preservation Foundation. Stops will include Blackburn’s Ford, Signal Hill, Sudley Springs Ford, and others. There is a fee that benefits the Foundation, but lunch is included. See the flyer, and the Facebook Event Page.





Busy April

10 04 2019

 

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Real life is cramping my style right about now, so while I have this chance I’ll remind you that I have two speaking engagements this month. You can find them and any other of my engagements by following the Book Me, Danno! link in the banner above, but briefly I’ll be at the GAR Hall in Peninsula, OH, on Thursday evening, April 25, and at the Carnegie Free Library (which also has a GAR hall, coincidentally) in Carnegie, PA, on the following Saturday, April 27.

Don’t feel any pressure to attend both of these events – I’ll be presenting essentially the same program at both, with a little more emphasis on blogging at the second. This is a program – The Future of Civil War History – I’ve given a couple of times before, but it’s a very, umm, organic program and won’t ever be the same twice.





Civil War Symposium, April 27, 2019

17 01 2019
Capt. Thomas Espy Post 153, Memorial Day 1904

Capt. Thomas Espy Post 153, Memorial Day 1904

On April 27, 2019, I will be presenting at the annual Andrew Carnegie Fee Library and Music Hall Civil War Symposium, in Carnegie, PA. I’ll be giving a mutation of my Future of Civil War History From a Slightly Different Point of View talk. Also on the schedule is Rich Condon of the Civil War Pittsburgh Facebook page (soon to be website, I am told), and Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. Check out the brochure. There’s a theme.

If you plan to attend, set aside some time to check out the library, it’s almost complete collection of Abraham Lincoln photographs, and the finely restored Capt. Thomas Espy GAR Post 153. Plan to dine post-symposium in Carnegie – if you haven’t been there recently, it’s booming.

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Capt. Thomas Espy GAR Post 143 Today

 

 





2019 Speaking Dates

3 01 2019

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I’ve updated the Book Me, Danno! page for my 2019 speaking/tour engagements (so far). On April 25, I’ll be presenting the Future of Civil War History program at the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) hall in Peninsula, OH. Interestingly enough, I’ll be presenting much of that program again two days later at the Carnegie Free Library and Concert Hall in Carnegie, PA, which also houses a fully restored G.A.R. post. When I presented this program for the first time back in 2013 I really didn’t think anyone would be intrigued enough to hear it again, but these will mark the third and fourth times for some mutation of it.

Yes, the correct date for the 69th NYSM tour is May 11. And I’m not really sure yet what’s going on with the battle anniversary weekend, other than I believe I’ll be working with some combination of Prince William County, Manassas Battlefield Trust,  and Manassas National Battlefield Park, both speaking and touring.





Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable 9/26/2018

26 09 2018
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A pretty crappy selfie, probably affected by the glare from the top of my head.

Sorry it’s taken me so long to put up this recap. Two weeks ago I was invited by the good folks at the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable to go out to Columbus and talk with them a little about my views on “the future of Civil War history,” from a perspective other than the norm. That is, from a guy on the street, for lack of a better term. I gave a similar talk back in 2013 in North Carolina, and updated that one somewhat, Really, it was more a discussion than a presentation. Lots of participation, lots of questions, and predictably we got a little off course, but it was all a good time. I learned a few things, too (this RT has some pretty sharp folks in it). We had between 25-30 in attendance, and I didn’t lose too many to the bar. This was my third presentation to this group, the last in 2014. They’re a good bunch and treated me first-rate.





Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable – 9/12/2018

20 08 2018

Just a little announcement: I’ve been called in as a relief speaker to the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on 9/12/2018. I was scheduled to speak there in September of 2019, but they were in a jam so I’m filling in. I’ll be dusting off and updating my Future of Civil War History talk that I gave to my friends in North Carolina back in 2013. Here’s a description:

In “The Future of Civil War History,” we will discuss the current Civil War history environment and where it may be headed. We’ll discuss observed trends in academic, public, and “amateur” history delivery systems, the impact of document availability, and what our roles are, may, should, and can be. While there are elements of presentation, this is most importantly a discussion. Come ready to contribute.

I’ve spoken to this fine group twice before – I seem to be on a four-year rotation. Unfortunately, I was really looking forward to working on the subject of my presentation originally scheduled for 2019, but I’ll just have to wait for another opportunity for that.

Time and place available at their website right here.





Mt. Lebanon, Pa. Boy Scout Troop 28

20 03 2018

I just spent a delightful evening speaking to a great group of kids and parents to help them prepare for a day of hiking the Gettysburg Battlefield. Just the basics of the armies involved, the personalities of the army and corps commanders, and the importance of the lessons to be learned from history (especially military history) that get kicked to the wayside a bit in this day of STEM. The kids were very engaged and asked a lot of questions, which I liked, and seemed to be appreciative of my decision to NOT do a PowerPoint presentation – they get enough of that in school these days, I think. So thank you all. I had a great time. If you have any other questions, you can fire away right here in the comments section. If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does.

[To the dad who asked me about Gettysburg residents who fought for the Confederacy at the battle, see my preview of Tom McMillan’s Gettysburg Rebels right here.]





Recap: Brandy Station Foundation

30 09 2017

On this past Sunday, Sept. 24, I delivered my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the Brandy Station Foundation down in Culpeper, Virginia. This is a pretty long (4.5 hours) drive for me, so I turned it into a weekend trip and stayed in Warrenton. So let me recap my trip, with special emphasis on items of First Bull Run interest. Click on any image for a larger one.

I got into Warrenton around 6:00 PM, checked into my room, then headed to the historic district. I’ve never visited Warrenton before, so it was all new to me. First up was what is touted as the post-war home of Col. John Singleton Mosby though, based on length of residence, it may better be described as the post-war home of General Eppa Hunton, colonel of the 8th Virginia Infantry regiment at First Bull Run (read his battle memoir here, and his after action report here). Hunton made “Brentmoor” his home from 1877 to 1902, after purchasing it from Mosby.

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In the “law complex” section I found California, the pre-war home of William “Extra Billy” Smith, who commanded the 49th Virginia battalion at First Bull Run (memoir here, official report here). After the war, this building housed Mosby’s law office. Smith was a pre-war and wartime governor of Virginia.

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A few blocks away at 194 Culpeper St. is “Mecca,” a private residence built in 1859. It served as a Confederate hospital to the wounded of First Bull Run, and later as headquarters to Union generals McDowell, Sumner, and Russell.

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The Warrenton Cemetery is the resting place for many Confederate soldiers, most famously Mosby. Also there is William Henry Fitzhugh “Billy” Payne, with Warrenton’s Black Horse Troop at First Bull Run.

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Saturday was spent touring the battlefield of Brandy Station and sites associated with the Army of the Potomac’s 1863-1864 winter encampment with two experts on both, Clark “Bud” Hall and Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. I admit to knowing very little about either of topic, but was given a good foundation for further exploration. I also learned that some red pickup trucks can go absolutely anywhere, and there is good beer around Culpeper.

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L to R – Me, Bud Hall, Craig Swain

Not a whole lot of First Bull Run stuff on the field, though. But the first thing I saw when I got to Fleetwood Hill was “Beauregard,” the home in which Roberdeau Wheat of the First Louisiana Special Battalion recovered from his Bull Run wounds, first thought to be mortal. The name of the house at the time was “Bellevue.” Wheat recommended the name change, in honor of his commanding general and in recognition of the similar translation of both names.

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View of “Beauregard” from Fleetwood Hill

Sunday found me back in Culpeper at the Brandy Station Foundation where, as I said, I presented Kilpatrick Family Ties to a modest audience. I made some late changes to the program on Saturday night, adding one pertinent site from Warrenton (the Warren Green Hotel where one of the characters in the presentation lived for a year) and “Rose Hill,” the home Kilpatrick made his HQ during the winter of 1863-1864. But I did run into a couple of Bull Run items. First, the monument to John Pelham that was previously located near Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (it was in a really bad location) has been relocated to the Graffiti House, home of the Brandy Station Foundation. Pelham, if you recall, was in command of Alburtis’s Battery (Wise Artillery) at First Bull Run (personal correspondence here).

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As most of you know, the Graffiti House at Brandy Sation was occupied by both Confederate and Union soldiers during the war. Over its course, soldiers of all stripes inscribed on its walls with charcoal signatures, drawings, and sayings of an astounding quantity. These were both obscured and preserved by whitewash after the return of its exiled owners, and were rediscovered in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation has lovingly restored and preserved much of the dwelling, and you should make the Graffiti House a bullet point on you bucket list.

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Graffiti House, Brandy Station (Culpeper), VA

I’ll end this post with a shot of the signature of a prominent First Bull Run participant on one of the second floor walls. Can you see it? Here is his official report.

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Signature of Joe Johnston’s First Bull Run cavalry chief