Pvt. Milton Robinson, Co. B, 8th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

13 09 2016

Camp Pickens July 23 1861

Manassas Junction

Dear Mother:

Through the benevolence of a just and merciful God, I am spared to communicate to you this morning in brief the particulars of one of the most bloody battles ever fought upon the Continent of America; On last Sunday morning we were drawn up in a line of battle & ammunition distributed to the Company and as soon as that was done, we marched to the field of battle where we witnessed a conflict that the bloody pages of history does not furnish a parallel.

The first shot was fired by the enemy. But the gallant and brave sons of Virginia returned the fire immediately after the first shot & then we could not hear anything but bombs whishing during the day.

Our company was reserved to the last moment when three of the Regiments were cut to pieces, And exhausted, some running to the woods and branches, some with one leg, one arm, one eye and some with no legs, when we saw them was enough to discourage any one. But General Beauregard called on the 8th Virginia Regiment, and led them through grape and bombs and in the charge, General Beauregard had his horse shot from under him and all his staff killed. He dismounted and loaded the cannon himself and made a lane through them at every shot. They then retreated a mile off. Then the Loudoun Company charged on them. Welby Carter was in the battle & his men were cut all to pieces. Robert Fletcher had his arm shot badly, John deButts had two fingers shot off and several others I could not learn their names were wounded.

We have just received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at any moments warning. we know not where. Write soon and give me all the news at home.

Your affectionate son

Milton Robinson

The Years of Anguish: Fauquier County, Virginia, 1861-1865, collected and compiled for the Fauquier County Civil War Centennial Committee by Emily G. Ramey and John K. Gott.

Contributed and transcribed by T. J. Smith

Milton Robinson on Fold3.





The U. S. Constitution and “States’ Rights”

11 09 2016
official_presidential_portrait_of_thomas_jefferson_by_rembrandt_peale_1800

Thomas Jefferson – Wow

Much has been said about the notion of States’ Rights as the cause of the Civil War from a Confederate perspective, and of the idea of the United States formed under its Constitution as a sort of “men’s club,” with a membership consisting of states who were free to come and go as they pleased. Is the near absence from the The Federalist of the concept of secession due to a general assumption of applicability or of irrelevance, even of inconceivability? I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I thought you all might like to read these paragraphs from Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, which can be found on pages 573-574. Thomas Jefferson was a real piece of work, man. A real gem – who, if you recall, was not a framer of the Constitution. We pick up the story in 1798 (ten years after the Constitution’s ratification), after the passage of the Federalist’s onerous Alien and Sedition Acts [brackets and emphasis mine]:

 

alexander_hamilton_portrait_by_john_trumbull_1806

Alexander Hamilton – chief architect of the Constitution, but backer of the Alien and Sedition Acts as a private citizen

Many Republicans thought it best to sit back and let the Federalists blow themselves up. As [James] Monroe put it, the more the Federalist party was “left to itself, the sooner will its ruin follow.” Jefferson and [James] Madison were not that patient, especially after Hamilton became inspector general of the new army. Jefferson thought the Republicans had a duty to stop the Sedition Act, explaining later that he considered that law “to be nullity as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.” With Federalists in control of the government, the political magician decided that he and Madison would draft resolutions for two state legislatures, declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts to be unconstitutional. The two men operated by stealth and kept their authorship anonymous to create the illusion of a groundswell of popular opposition. Jefferson drafted his resolution for the Kentucky legislature and Madison for Virginia. The Kentucky Resolutions passed on November 16, 1798, and the Virginia Resolutions on December 24. Jefferson’s biographer Dumas Malone has noted that the vice president [Jefferson, serving under Federalist John Adams] could have been brought up on sedition charges, possibly even impeached for treason, had his actions been uncovered at the time.

james_madison

James Madison did a complete 180 on the relation of state and federal law, when it suited him politically

In writing the Kentucky Resolutions, Jefferson turned to language that even Madison found excessive. Of the Alien and Sedition Acts, he warned that “unless arrested at the threshold,” they would “necessarily drive these states into revolution and blood.” He wasn’t calling for peaceful protests or civil disobedience: he was calling for outright rebellion, against the federal government of which he was vice president. In editing Jefferson’s words, the Kentucky legislature deleted his call for ‘nullification” of laws that violated states’ rights. The more moderate Madison said that the states, in contesting obnoxious laws, should “interpose for arresting the progress of evil.” This was a breathtaking evolution for a man who had pleaded at the Constitutional Convention that the federal government should possess a veto over state laws. In the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Jefferson and Madison set forth a radical doctrine of States’ Rights that effectively undermined the Constitution.

gilbert_stuart_williamstown_portrait_of_george_washington

George Washington, in retirement, was appalled by the Virginia Resolutions

Neither Jefferson nor Madison sensed that they had sponsored measures as inimical as the Alien and Sedition Acts themselves. “Their nullification effort, if others had picked it up, would have been a greater threat than the misguided {alien and sedition} laws, which were soon rendered feckless by ridicule and electoral pressure,” Garry Wills has written. The theoretical damage of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions was deep and lasting. Hamilton and others had argued that the Constitution transcended state governments and directly expressed the will of the American people. Hence, the Constitution began “We the People of the United States” and was ratified by special conventions, not state legislatures. Now Jefferson and Madison lent their imprimatur to an outmoded theory in which the Constitution became a compact of the states, not of their citizens. By this logic, states could refrain from federal legislation they considered unconstitutional. This was a clear recipe for calamitous dissension and ultimate disunion. George Washington was so appalled by the Virginia Resolutions that he told Patrick Henry that if “systematically and pertinaciously pursued,” they would “dissolve the union or produce coercion.” The influence of the doctrine of states’ rights, especially in the version promulgated by Jefferson, reverberated right up to the Civil War and beyond. At the close of the war, James Garfield of Ohio, the future president, wrote that the Kentucky Resolutions “contained the germ of nullification and secession, and we are today reaping its fruits.”

jgarfield

James Garfield brings us full circle, Civil War-wise

 

 





Preview – Biggs, “They Fought for the Union”

6 09 2016

cover_layout_for website flat

They Fought for the Union, by Jeffrey R. Biggs, is a history of the First Delaware Volunteers in the Army of the Potomac. In this video, the author discusses the regiment and his reasons for writing the book:

As the author points out, the 1st Delaware had a knack, from Antietam to Fredericksburg to Gettysburg, of winding up in some pretty hot battlefield spots. As Mr. Biggs has already hipped us to their story, I’ll give you the lowdown on the book itself.

You get 447 pp of narrative in paperback for $19.99 from Amazon. These include 26 maps and 20 pages of photos and illustrations. You also get a full index, bibliography, and end-notes. The bibliography consists of a slew of published works, but also lists nine newspapers and eight manuscript sources, which are cited in the notes.

I’ve long been intrigued by the frequency with which this regiment turned up in what could be argued to be the wrong place at the wrong time – now I have a chance to learn a bit more. This is the first in-depth look at the unit in 130 years (see original regimental by William Seville here). Check out the author’s website here.

I also must thank the author for answering that age-old question famously posed by Rev. Jim Ignatowski – Delawareans or Delawarites? Mr. Biggs describes himself as a life-long Delawarean. That’s a load off my mind.





New Orleans Visit – Metairie Cemetery

4 09 2016

My wife’s second and last Civil War concession during our recent visit to the Crescent City, Metairie Cemetery proved a little frustrating. After taking the Canal Street trolley to its terminus, we de-streetcarred in an area surrounded by cemeteries (that’s why, when you are looking for which streetcar to board, you look for the one that says “Cemeteries” – $3 for a 24 hour ticket).

Untitled

You’ll have to walk about a quarter-mile or so from the streetcar stop to the cemetery’s pedestrian entrance, crossing Metairie Road and passing under I-10 in the process. This gets you to the entrance, which is very near the Civil War related “attractions” in the cemetery. Sounds simple, and it is – if the pedestrian entrance isn’t padlocked. Which, of course, it was. So, we walked a long way, maybe half a mile, up Metairie Rd looking for another entrance, and we struck out. We walked back to the entrance and checked out the option of paralleling I-10 to another entrance, but you can’t walk there. About ready to give up and head back to the streetcar, the wife called the cemetery office and about 20 minutes later a volunteer came to pick us up and take us to the main office at the north end of the cemetery. There we picked up maps (they have one geared for Civil War personalities) and set off. Of course, all the Civil War sites are in the older part of the cemetery, which is at the south end near the pedestrian entrance. The kind woman in the office told us she would have maintenance open the gate, so we would have a relatively short walk to the streetcar afterwards. Needless to say, my Fitbit was working overtime and I finished the day with over 10 miles walked, including a walk to the Superdome and a return trip to Bourbon Street.

Here are the photos. I apologize for being unable to find John Bell Hood’s grave. Also note that there are plenty of other famous folks buried here, like Al Hirt, Louis Prima, Mel Ott, the founders of Popeye’s Chicken and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and many more. Click on the images for bigger ones. Keep an eye out for the Easter Egg!

IMG_20160826_122002930

Pedestrian Entrance

IMG_20160826_122009509_HDR

Pedestrian Entrance near Army of Tennessee Memorial – Albert Sidney Johnston’s statue is visible from I-10 as you enter the city from the airport

The Washington Artillery

IMG_20160826_131415281IMG_20160826_131515877_HDR

IMG_20160826_131433766

The monument is inscribed with the unit’s battle honors, which include both world wars and Operation Iraqi Freedom – today it is the 141st Field Artillery Regiment

If true, very sad.

IMG_20160826_131820400_HDR

Army of Northern Virginia

IMG_20160826_132431366

IMG_20160826_132439104

Yes, that is Stonewall. Why? Why not!

General Richard Taylor

IMG_20160826_134327704_HDRIMG_20160826_134337704

Army of Tennessee Tumulus

IMG_20160826_134457136

That is Albert Sidney Johnston atop the tomb.

IMG_20160826_134625994

There are 48 members of the Army of Tennessee buried in the tumulus, including P. G. T. Beauregard, who jointly, solely, or subordinately commanded the Confederate forces at First Bull Run

IMG_20160826_134556665_HDR

This Confederate officer is reading the Roll of the Dead

IMG_20160826_134527260_HDRIMG_20160826_134534618_HDRIMG_20160826_134507718

IMG_20160826_134617855

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part travelogue. I hope some day to get back to New Orleans to see more of the sights, Civil War and otherwise. But maybe when it’s not so hot.

Lee Circle

Confederate Memorial Hallo





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.

Untitled

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:

IMG_20160825_121305148IMG_20160825_135218466_HDRIMG_20160825_121344277IMG_20160825_121332836IMG_20160825_121415805

The interior:

IMG_20160825_132237991IMG_20160825_132232547IMG_20160825_130107210IMG_20160825_130102123IMG_20160825_122308660

Jefferson Davis ephemera:

IMG_20160825_125337742IMG_20160825_125343149IMG_20160825_125607061IMG_20160825_125613610IMG_20160825_125627524

IMG_20160825_125712645

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

IMG_20160825_125753936IMG_20160825_125802881IMG_20160825_125810241

 

First Bull Run stuff:

  • Rob Wheat and the First Special Battalion:

IMG_20160825_131902161IMG_20160825_131855464IMG_20160825_131752539IMG_20160825_131820789IMG_20160825_131048726

IMG_20160825_131104301

Stars and Bars of the First Special Battalion

IMG_20160825_131729176

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

IMG_20160825_131735243

…and that his bloodstains are still visible today

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry

IMG_20160825_131207116IMG_20160825_131146652IMG_20160825_131025927IMG_20160825_130846433IMG_20160825_131015037

  • 7th Louisiana Infantry

IMG_20160825_130609721IMG_20160825_130559981

  • 8th Louisiana Infantry

IMG_20160825_125219150IMG_20160825_125211137

  • Washington Artillery

IMG_20160825_124652814IMG_20160825_124641895IMG_20160825_124809491IMG_20160825_124815127IMG_20160825_124824774IMG_20160825_124614931IMG_20160825_124620787IMG_20160825_124630684

IMG_20160825_124752786

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

IMG_20160825_125512957IMG_20160825_125953977IMG_20160825_130004167IMG_20160825_130021160IMG_20160825_130013013

Odds and Ends:

  • Benjamin Butler

IMG_20160825_124507348IMG_20160825_124514266

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

IMG_20160825_125858837IMG_20160825_125908085

  • Braxton Bragg

IMG_20160825_130143402IMG_20160825_130153151

IMG_20160825_130222037

Any Masons in the house?

Lee Circle

Metairie Cemetery





New Orleans Visit – Lee Circle

30 08 2016

In 2016 I took a little trip, along with Mrs. Smeltzer down the mighty Mississip. We were there primarily for Bourbon St. and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I managed to wrangle two Civil War related stops into the trip. This first was a byproduct to the second, but was so close by we really couldn’t miss it: Lee Circle. Let’s just say if you must see the monument there, you might want to do so right quick – the same with the Beauregard Equestrian statue that I did not have time to visit.

Untitled

We hopped on a tour bus (FWIW, I think you’re better off using the St. Charles streetcar – a 24 hour ticket runs 3 bucks and can be used on any line, and it’s cool to ride a national historic landmark) and got off at the WWII museum stop (which will have to be visited on our next visit). Our object was the Confederate Memorial Hall, in the city’s Warehouse District, currently being re-branded as the Arts District. You’ll see that the Hall does not appear on the above Google map, and if you take the tour bus you may notice that your guide does not mention the place even though the bus takes you right past it, and it abuts the Ogden Museum of Southern Art which our guide did point out. We backtracked through the WWII museum construction detours and before entering what is now widely referred to as the Louisiana Civil War Museum (the Hall, actually), we took a few shots of the prominent monument hard-by, dedicated to Robert E. Lee, who was described by the guide as the commander of the “Confederate Army” during the Civil War. The place seems to be a popular hangout with down-on-their-luck locals. Brown bags litter the site. Here are a few photos. Two more posts to follow.

IMG_20160825_120804184

OK, the plaque is at best misleading. Lee did serve as General-in-Chief of all Confederate forces for a brief period in 1865, but Jefferson Davis was Commander-in-Chief from beginning to end. The monument was recently renovated, and I shudder to think what has caused the staining on this plaque – empty liquor bottles abound.

IMG_20160825_120537687_HDRIMG_20160825_120647067IMG_20160825_120629126

Confederate Memorial Hall

Metairie Cemetery





Preview: Four New Emerging Civil War Titles

20 08 2016

If you’ve been reading Bull Runnings for a while, you know that I’ve previewed all of the titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series. And you also know how these books work. Concise histories, lots of maps and illustrations, tough paperbacks, suitable for the field. The really interesting parts, to me anyway, are the appendices. So, for each of these four most recent publications, I’m going to give you the bare minimum, and flesh out those appendices for you. Narrative page counts are for the main chapters only, not counting appendices. All run around 200 pages total.

OutFlewTheSabers_LRGOut Flew the Sabres: The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, by Eric J. Wittenberg and Daniel T. Davis.

  • Narrative: 109 pages with tours
  • Appendix A: The Four Battles of Brandy Station (Wittenberg).
  • Appendix B: The Winter Encampment (Mike Block).
  • Appendix C: The Battle of Kelly’s Ford (Davis).
  • Afterword on preservation efforts (O. James Lighthizer).
  • Order of Battle

Layout 1The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863, by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch.

  • Narrative: 167 pages, with tours, from the start of the Confederate advance through the retreat.
  • No Appendices

Layout 1Don’t Give an Inch: The Second Day at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 – From Little Round Top to Cemetery Ridge, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis.

  • Narrative: 131 pages with tours
  • Appendix A: The Wheatfield: A Walking Tour (White).
  • Appendix B: The Heroes of Little Round Top? Controversy surrounding Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine (Ryan Quint).
  • Appendix C: Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter. Photography at the site (James Brookes).
  • Appendix D: Not a Leg to Stand On: Sickles vs. Meade in the Wake of Gettysburg (Mackowski).
  • Order of Battle

A_Long_BloodyA Long and Bloody Task: The Atlanta Campaign from Dalton through Kennesaw Mountain to the Chatahoochie River, May 5 – July 18, 1864, by Stephen Davis.

  • Narrative: 105 pages
  • Driving Tour of the Atlanta Campaign: 14 pages
  • Appendix A: The Battle of Pickett’s Mill: Evolving Presence (Stephen Briggs).
  • Appendix B: My Time with “Company Aytch:” Personal Memory and the Kennesaw Line (Robert W. Novak).
  • Appendix C: The Chattahoochee River Line Today (Michael k. Shaffer).
  • Appendix D: Federal Logistics During the Atlanta Campaign (Britt McCarley)
  • Appendix E: Why Do People Believe Joe Johnston Could Have Saved Atlanta? (Davis).
  • Appendix F: What We’ve Learned About John Bell Hood Since the Centennial (Davis)
  • Order of Battle