Recap: In the Footsteps of the 69th NYSM

12 06 2019


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At 9:00 AM on May 11, 2019, about 50 folks assembled in the parking lot at Manassas National Battlefield Park’s Stone Bridge to follow guides John Hennessy, Joseph Maghe, Damian Shiels, and me as we retraced the steps of the 69th New York State Militia during the First Battle of Bull Run.

The structure was simple: we followed the First Manassas Trail and walked along Bull Run from Stone Bridge and picked up the regiment’s route on the battlefield (west) side of Bull Run at the site of Farm Ford, where the men crossed on the morning of July 21, 1861. (Their route to the ford lies on the east side of the Run, over the grounds of the present day Winery at Bull Run.) At each stop, I contributed some framework of how we got to and what happened at that point using reports from the official records and other correspondence from participants. John Hennessy provided deeper context, again drawn from participants and from his years of research and experience on the field. Then Damian Shiels expanded our understanding of these men (and in some cases Irish soldiers of other regiments on the field as well) and their families in New York and Ireland, using the vast and poignant materials he’s gleaned from widows’ pension files. Consistent with the data set used, these accounts typically ended tragically, and Damian will forever be known as the George R. R. Martin of the First Battle of Bull Run. He drew us in with the stories of these men and women, got us to care about them, and then, well, bad things happened.

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John Hennessy discusses the advance to and crossing at Farm Ford

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After Farm Ford, we continued roughly west by north toward Matthews Hill, stopping to get some perspective and a view south to Henry Hill.

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Damian Shiels at Stop #2, a view south to Henry Hill from Sherman’s route of march toward Matthews Hill. John Hennessy and Joe Maghe, in green, look on.

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View south – MNBP Visitor Center in middle distance

The next stop was further west to the point of first contact between Sherman’s Brigade and the Confederates of Bee and – purportedly, possibly, perhaps – Wheat, and the death of Lt. Col. Haggerty. Damian continued the story of Haggerty’s widow. The ripples from pebbles tossed on that June Sunday were many and far reaching.

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Discussing the death of Haggerty

We then moved, still westerly, past the site of the Carter house “Pittsylvania” and the Carter Family cemetery.

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Carter Cemetery

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MNBP Superintendent Brandon Bies and his family joined us for the day

We took a jog south and discussed the Confederate collapse on Matthews Hill.

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View South

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View North to Confederate Line

Continuing farther west, we walked past the Stovall Monument and the site of the Matthews House to Matthews Hill where the 69th’s advance down Sudley Road toward Henry Hill was covered.

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Site of Matthews House

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View from Matthews Hill to Henry Hill

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The crew moves south to toward the Stone House and the Sudley Road/Warrenton Turnpike intersection.

After crossing the busy road (Warrenton Turnpike, today’s Lee Highway), we ascended to Henry Hill where we broke for lunch and to view Joe Maghe’s fine collection of 69th NYSM artifacts inside the reconstructed post-war Henry House (a big shout-out to MNBP for making the facility available).


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Joe Maghe fields questions from one of the dozens of folks on the tour and park visitors who stopped in the Henry House to view his collection. (Photo by Pat Young)

After lunch, but prior to setting out for the return trip to the Stone Bridge, we gathered for a group photo in front of the Henry House. A few opted not to do the return walk and are not pictured.


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After lunch, we discussed the 69th’s action on Henry Hill and the fight for Ricketts’s guns.

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John Hennessy describes the fighting on Henry Hill

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Occasionally participants contributed, in this case Pat Young of “The Immigrant’s Civil War”

We shifted base slightly down the hill, and covered the retreat.

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Here, I (green hat at center) discuss the retreat, prisoners, and the 69th’s forming of an infantry square

After that, we again picked up the First Manassas Trail, making our way along the back side of Henry Hill. Eventually we reached the site of the Van Pelt House, and wound our way down to the Stone Bridge parking lot where we started. FYI, my fit bit clocked in at right around 20,000 steps for the day.

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Guides (left to right) Damian Shiels, John Hennessy, Joe Maghe, and Harry Smeltzer

I think, all in all, the tour was a great success, and most important we all learned a good deal about these men, their families, and their circumstances before, during, and after the battle. Thanks to everyone who turned out, to our intrepid guides and exhibitor, to Debi Faber-Maghe who held down the fort in the Henry House, to the Bies kids who were super-troopers, and to my sister Patrice who really helped me out.

I’m mulling over a few really good – IMO – ideas for future First Bull Run tours (if you have any, I’m all ears), so check back here, every…single…day.





Tour Coming Up Soon!

28 04 2019

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We’re only two weeks out from our In the Footsteps of the 69th New York State Militia at First Bull Run tour. Just a few quick points to bring up:

  • This is a FREE tour. As such, everything is on your own. If you feel compelled to make a donation to the park, you can do so at the Visitor’s Center – they have a box for that.
  • We’ll meet at the Stone Bridge parking lot at 9 AM, on Saturday, May 11. From there, we will proceed by foot across Matthews Hill to Henry Hill.
  • We’ll break for lunch when we get to the Visitor’s Center on Henry Hill. That lunch is on your own. You may choose to carry your lunch with you to this point. Or, if you have a friend with another vehicle, you may want to leave that vehicle on Henry Hill and ride in a second vehicle to the starting point. That way, you can have your lunch waiting for you on Henry Hill. This also might allow you to opt out of the retreat portion of tour.
  • The TOTAL distance of the tour is about 5 miles over rolling ground. Keep this in mind in your planning.
  • The tour is rain or shine. Dress for the weather. Consider that we will be walking through fields and whatnot, and this is May. Tick spray, drinking water, long pants, comfortable and sturdy footwear, are all recommended. At this time, I have no sway over nature.
  • Keep your eye out here for any handouts for the tour. They will not be provided on site. You can choose to print them out or download them to your preferred device.

I look forward to seeing you all on May 11. Facebook indicates we’ll have somewhere between four and four hundred people on this tour. That is to say, I have no idea who’s going to show up other than my fellow guides and me.





Everything You Need to Know About…

7 04 2019

…the recently unearthed soldier remains at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?457702-10/soldier-remains-manassas





Jackson’s “Gun Line”

13 12 2018
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We assemble at Jackson’s gun line

Some interesting stuff going on over on John Cummings’s blog, Spotsylvania Civil War. John takes a look at the current placement of the guns representing Jackson’s artillery “line” on Henry Hill, and how they match up to some historical documents. Check it out here.





Bull Runnings Tour 4/7/2018 Update – Reading List

24 03 2018

Here’s a recommended reading list for the tour. Books and some blog posts. Download whatever you think you need. If you download to a mobile device (phone, tablet), I recommend you download to the device itself, as cell reception is spotty out on the field.

Stay tuned for more news on handouts prior to our deployment.

Books:

Posts

  • Let’s start with this post from John Cummings. A primer, so to speak.
  • This post and this post from John Hennessy, about the ubiquitous Thornberry kids.
  • Here’s one from me – and it appears where I thought these photos were taken is not where they were taken at all.
  • Another one from me – a rare photo which raises more questions than it answers.




Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour 2018

31 01 2018
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Bull Runnings tour attendees 2016

Ladies and gentlemen! The moment you’ve been waiting for… the pride of, well, something…the not-very-regular Bull Runnings tour at Manassas National Battlefield Park (and environs)!!!!

Our last tour, in 2016, was, I think, a success, so I’ve decided to try another. A little different take this time, but one I think you’ll dig.

On Saturday, April 7, we’ll meet at the battlefield for a unique experience touring the field (and environs) through photographs. Our guest guides:

John Cummings is a Visual Historian with a primary focus on Civil War era image analysis. He is the author of three books on the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania region. He has also written for several national and local magazines and newspapers, and provided historical research and commentary for four documentary films. He provides battlefield guide services, and research assistance to visitors. He served on the former Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission, and is the chairperson for the Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, (FoFAB). Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, where he spent a great deal of time on the Manassas battlefield, he now lives with his wife, Karen, in Spotsylvania County. He publishes a the Spotsylvania Civil War Blog.

Dennis Hogge is the author of Matthew Brady’s First Manassas: A Biography and Battlefield Tour. A lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, he is a member of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, the Friends of Historic Centreville, the Historic Centreville Society, the Lane-Armistead Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Williamsburg Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

John describes the tour thus:

We will discuss wartime photo documentation of the battlefield, examine camera locations, true and false, and place late 19th century images used to illustrate memoirs published by the Century Magazine in their “Battles and Leaders” series. From the battlefield we can regroup at Centreville, site of Confederate winter camps and fortifications.

I can make no promises, but if last time is any indication there should be plenty of very experienced and knowledgeable Civil War scholars in attendance. That will leave lots of opportunity for back and forth between not only attendees and guides, but between attendees themselves. Remember though that this tour is for folks with all levels of experience.

Caravan tour. Consolidation of passengers and vehicles is vital. No charge, but everything is on your own.

More details to follow. But for now, save the date, April 7, 2018. I’ll need to get a feel for how many folks are planning to attend, so I’ll set up an event page on Facebook. Facebook is free. If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. Don’t be a curmudgeon.

Just for giggles, who thinks they’re in for this? Comment here.

 

 





Lucinda Dogan House Design

19 11 2017

Last week, the Manassas National Battlefield Park’s Facebook page shared this photo of the Lucinda Dogan house (at the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and Featherbed Lane, west of the First Bull Run battlefield) in 1952, prior to its restoration in the 1960s (click on any photo for larger images):

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Here’s a more recent photo of the restored house, from Historical Marker Database:

Lucinda Dogan House Marker

Notice in the earlier photo that the design appears to be that of a “dog-trot” cabin, that is, two cabins with a common roof, and a breezeway (or dog-trot) between them. I wasn’t sure if this was an illusion, and wondered why the restored house gives the appearance at least that it is one single structure with a central fireplace. So, I went to the authority on such things, Museum Specialist Jim Burgess at the park. As is his gracious wont, he got back to me quickly:

“I know the photographs you are referring to which show the south section of the house of log construction, the siding having been removed to expose a gap on the front side between the two sections of the house. You are correct that the Lucinda Dogan house was originally two structures (cabins if you will) joined together but there was never a breezeway between. Note that there is a central chimney. Given that there are fireplaces on both sides, one for each section of the house, the chimney had to have been built when the two structures were joined together before the war. There are spaces on each side of the chimney. On the front side of the house it is an enclosed space probably used for storage. The space on the rear side of the house is an interior passageway between the two sections. The earliest photos we have of the house date to 1906 and tend to support the current appearance of the house. ”

Here are the 1906 photos Mr. Burgess provided:

Groveton-1906[4546]

Dogan House 1906[4545]

With that, it looks like the question is answered and the case closed.