Preview: “The Battle of First Bull Run”

9 01 2012

A few weeks ago I received a copy of Blaikie Hines’s The Battle of First Bull Run Manassas Campaign – July 16-22, 1861: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide. Anything with a title like that deserves some attention from a blog with a name like this one’s, and I plan on going into deeper detail with an author interview in the future, but I just wanted to get the word out. This is a pretty nice book, even if it does have several elements that are eerily similar to something I’ve been working on myself. No, I’m not accusing anyone of espionage, and really it’s only one of many elements in this book and on a much smaller scale than what I’m thinking about. Mr. Hines gave Bull Runnings a very nice acknowledgement (no, I did not see or even hear of this one until it was finished), but I’ll use that to point out a problem with the book: the web address in the acknowledgement is wrong. He left out the “.wordpress” part of it. No, I’m not whining, but here’s why I bring it up: this book is self-published. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but a problem often seen in self-published works is weak editing. The narrative here does suffer from typos and grammatical errors that drive a Chicago Manual of Style toting geek like me to distraction. Call me pedantic, call me what you will. I’m not going to dwell on the mistakes of grammar, punctuation, or fact at this point.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let me briefly describe this oversized, landscape oriented book. It’s paperback, and the pages are a glossy, heavy stock. That’s good for taking out onto the field, and that’s where it’s meant to be taken. The layout is a little unconventional, but Hines has touched all the bases, giving an overview of events leading up to the battle, descriptions of the players, plenty of photographs (many labeled with landmarks), various maps including some utilizing satellite imagery, orders of battle, then and now photos, narrative vignettes, descriptions of arms, equipment, and uniforms, I can go on. At first glance, here’s what I think: if you have a particular interest in First Bull Run, you really should get your hands on a copy, if you can afford it. Stay tuned here for more.





Bull Run Sesqui on the Web

25 07 2011

Over the past week or so I’ve been sharing on Facebook and retweeting on Twitter various articles, images, and videos relating to the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) that have swamped the web as the 150th anniversary of the battle approached and was commemorated. There were a bunch of them. Here are links to a few of the more significant items (I’ll add to this any that pop up afterwards, too). There are some worthy of posting to the resources section, and as I check them out and get any necessary permissions I will do so. Get comfortable, this will take a while. If I missed anything big, let me know!

Update 8/3/2011: I noticed I had fouled up a few of these links. I think they’re fixed now, so check them out again if you couldn’t get through.

Good Battle Stuff

Miscellaneous

Opinion

Sesqui Events

Videos





Virtual Tour of Cannons at Bull Run

20 07 2011

Craig Swain has this very cool bit giving a virtual tour of the critical gun positions at Bull Run. Check it out!





Letter From the Fire Zouaves

20 07 2011

Here are two accounts from a member of the 11th New York Infantry, Lieutenant Edward Burgin Knox (that’s him on the left in the image on the left, when he was with the 44th NY, Ellsworth’s Avengers). Both are provided by Ron Coddington, the first in a New York Times Opinionator piece, and the second on Ron’s blog, Faces of War. Knox’s writing appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on August 3, 1861. Ron generously provided the photo here and also has sent me a transcription of Knox’s account, which I’ll post to the Resources section soon.





MOC Bull Run Artifacts Video

17 07 2011

Hat tip to Kevin Levin for bringing to my attention this video of artifacts from the battle in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy.





Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXVII, #5

26 04 2011

For twenty-seven years, Blue & Gray magazine has been putting out about six issues every year, each issue focusing on a battlefield in minute detail. Do the math: that’s about 160 issues, right? Subtracting the 130 issues that have featured Gettysburg, that still leaves about 30 opportunities to cover First Bull Run. Amazingly, the current issue is the first to highlight our favorite little skirmish.

Well, better late than never.

The magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park ranger Henry Elliot have produced a fine work with an overview of the campaign, detail of the battle, solid tour guide, and wonderful maps of First Bull Run. Hurrah for this issue! There are twenty maps and a full Order of Battle. Footnotes. Illustrations. The works!

Buy this one today.

(Quibble: I disagree with Mr. Elliot’s assertion on page 8 that “McDowell needed to preserve his numerical advantage over Beauregard.” I’ve said it many times before and am comfortable with the fact that I sit way out here by myself in my position: McDowell never thought he would have a numerical superiority – he never thought he would maintain or gain one at any point in his planning, and therefore his plan did not depend on numerical superiority. For my most recent post on this, see here.)





Civil War Trust “Hallowed Ground” Spring 2011

14 03 2011

The Spring 2011 issue of Hallowed Ground, the Civil War Trust’s members publication, is out. Happily it focuses on First Bull Run.

There’s plenty of good stuff inside on the battle and the battlefield – see here for the table of contents. NPS historians Greg Wolf and John Reid have pieces on some battlefield detective work and the Centennial reenactment; museum specialist Jim Burgess writes on civilian spectators at the battle, and superintendent Ray Brown has an interesting article on the owner of the Van Pelt house. The folks who work and have worked at the park are the real experts on the battles that were fought here. These articles should not be missed – and yes, they’re all available online for free. While I don’t see it listed, there is supposed to be an interview with yours truly in this issue as well. Perhaps I wound up on the cutting room floor? I’ll let you know once I see the magazine itself.

One article in particular caught my attention: An End to Innocence, The First Battle of Manassas by Bradley Gottfried. Here’s the passage that stuck out:

While Lincoln and his Cabinet members listened, McDowell laid out a plan to attack the 24,000-man Confederate Army under Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, deployed near the winding Bull Run creek about 25 miles southwest of Washington. The general intended to use about 30,000 troops in the effort, marching in three columns, while another 10,000 men were held in reserve. With such numerical superiority, it appeared McDowell would overwhelm his Southern counterpart.

OK, I’ve talked about this in the past and you’re probably sick of hearing it by now. I have met Mr. Gottfried – he’s a good guy. I worked closely with him in proofing his book, The Maps of First Bull Run. But what he has written here conflicts with my understanding of McDowell’s plan. Here’s the text of the portion of McDowell’s plan regarding the force he expected to meet at Manassas (emphasis and brackets mine; you can read the whole thing here):

The secession forces at Manassas Junction and its dependencies are supposed to amount at this time [June 24-25, 1861] to–

Infantry          23,000

Cavalry          1,500

Artillery           500

Total               25,000

We cannot count on keeping secret our intention to overthrow this force. Even if the many parties intrusted with the knowledge of the plan should not disclose or discover it, the necessary preliminary measures for such an expedition would betray it; and they are alive and well informed as to every movement, however slight, we make. They have, moreover, been expecting us to attack their position, and have been preparing for it. When it becomes known positively we are about to march, and they learn in what strength, they will be obliged to call in their disposable forces from all quarters, for they will not be able, if closely pressed, to get away by railroad before we can reach them. If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than ten thousand men. So we must calculate on having to do with about thirty-five thousand men.

And here’s where he described the size of the army with which he proposed to take the field:

Leaving small garrisons in the defensive works, I propose to move against Manassas with a force of thirty thousand of all arms, organized into three columns, with a reserve of ten thousand.

I’ve not yet found any evidence that McDowell expected he would have numerical superiority in his strike against Beauregard. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming article in America’s Civil War.

UPDATE 3/15/2011: Let me make this clear for everyone, if for some reason you got a different impression from this post: my problem is with the notion that McDowell’s plan assumed a numerical superiority for his army over that which he expected to face around Manassas. To quote Wilfred Brimley in Absence of Malice: “That’s a lot of horse-puckey. The First Amendment (in this case McDowell’s plan) doesn’t say that.”

McDowell’s plans regarding this are clear, as stated above.








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