New in Paperback

24 07 2016

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I have a bunch of previews of new releases to post, but to jump-start let me quickly note the release of two titles in paperback. Both have been previewed here before, so I’ll just link to those.

First is John Michael Priest’s “Stand to It and Give Them Hell:” Gettysburg as the Soldiers Experienced It from Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, July 2, 1863. It’s really tough to expand on that title, so read my preview here.

Also in paperback is the first volume of Dave Powell’s Chickamauga series, “A Mad Irregular Battle: From the Crossing of the Tennessee River Through the Second Day, August 22 – September 19, 1863. You can read that preview here.





2nd Rhode Island Photos

19 07 2016

John Banks has found some amazing photos of members of the 2nd Rhode Island before First Bull Run. These include great shots of the Rhode Islanders unique overall or night-shirt style uniforms.

The soldier identifications have been expanded on John’s site – visit it here. And here is a link to the Providence Public Library piece on the discovery of the photos.

Below are the photos. They are fantastic.

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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.





Lt. William Brockenbrough Newton, Hanover Light Dragoons, 30th Virginia Cavalry, On the Campaign

14 05 2016

Centreville, July 22d 1861

My Dearest Wife,

For the last four days we have never been longer in one place than two hours – have slept every night upon the ground in good weather and bad, eaten nothing but hard crackers and fried bacon, and rested little at any time. For all of which privations, and a thousand others, we have been more than compensated – thanks to the just God who governs the courses of history, and decrees the destiny of nations – in the glorious results of yesterday. My last was from Fairfax Court House.

On the morning of the 17th we had received reliable information that the enemy were advancing, over 50,000 strong, and were not surprised at 5 o’clock in the morning to hear the fire of our pickets who were slowly retiring before the advancing foe. The order was given to pack – in ten minutes baggage was packed, tents struck, and the wagons driven to the rear, and the whole command formed in line of battle. In a few moments the glittering bayonets of the enemy lined the neighboring hills. From the heavy signal guns being fired at intervals along our line commencing at Germantown, and stretching along to Fairfax Court House, it was evident that the enemy were endeavoring to surround our little band. But our “little Trump,” as the men call Beauregard, was not to be taken by any such game.

Every preparation was made to deceive the enemy by inducing him to believe that we meditated a vigorous resistance – meantime our column defiled through a densely wooded road, and was for on the road to Centreville when the enemy discovered his mistake. He followed on very cautiously. Our troop, with Kemper’s battery, was assigned to post of honour, and charged with the duty of covering the retreat. We were the last to leave the village, and as we went out at one end of the street, his column appeared at the other. We halted at this place (Centreville) about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, again made show of battle, slept until 12 o’clock at the heads of our horses, and silently left the place, the enemy’s pickets being within talking distance of ours.

At daybreak we were across Bull Run, having marched very slowly to keep pace with the infantry. We found beds of leaves in the woods, wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and slept for an hour or two, until roused by the roar of the enemy’s guns, as he opened his batteries upon our lines. For two mortal hours, shot and shell flew thick along our whole line. This day’s work was evidently intended only to draw the fire of our artillery and show where our batteries were. In consequence of which, our gunners were ordered not to fire a single shot until within point blank range. After thus opening the ball, two dense masses of infantry were seen to defile to the right and left, to make two separate attacks. It was indeed a beautiful sight, as they came down in perfect order, and with the steady step of veterans. They came nearer and yet nearer, and yet no shot from our guns. Men began to mutter and say that we were preparing for another retreat. But, in a few moments, the appointed time arrived, a single shot from the Washington Artillery gave the signal of death, and for half an hour there was nothing but a continuous sheet of flame along the right of our line. The enemy fell back, rallied and charged again with a like result; again they rested and rushed forward; but old Virginia was true to herself, and the gallant 1st and 17th regiments met them, though twice their numbers, charged them with the bayonet, and drove them back in utter confusion.

The cavalry were held in reserved, and although within range of the artillery and continually experiencing the sensations which men may be supposed to indulge, who know there is a hidden danger hovering in the air, without knowing where it is to light, took no part in the action. Our time came yesterday, however. Our troop was for four hours in the hottest of the fight, and every man in it won the applause and approbation of the whole camp.

The action commenced at 8 o’clock of a sweet Sabbath morning. The enemy commenced with quite a heavy cannonade upon our right, which proved to be a mere feint to distract our attention, as his main attack was directed to our left wing. At ten o’clock the enemy had crossed the river on our left, and the fight commenced in earnest. From the hill on which we stood, we could see the smoke and dust, although at the distance of several miles from the fight waged on our left. Some thought our men had fallen back; others, that the enemy were retreating. It was an hour of painful interest.

At eleven o’clock, and aid-de-camp rode up in a gallop, and said our men were retiring, and the cavalry was ordered to the left. We were temporarily attached to Radford’s regiment. Ours was the first company, and mine the front platoon. On we dashed at a gallop. As we passed within range of a battery of rifled cannon, a ball was fired at us, and passed just between W___ and myself, knocking up clouds of dust. Without wavering in their ranks, the men and horses dashed forward at a gallop. As we reached the scene of action, the sight was discouraging in the extreme. The enemy had a first the advantage of every attacking party. He had concentrated all his forces for an attack upon one point. The 1st Louisiana regiment and the 4th Alabama were assailed in flank and center by 30,000 men, and literally cut to pieces. They refused to surrender but retired slowly, disputing every inch of the ground. As we rode up, we met parts of companies which had literally been overwhelmed, the men wounded, heir arms broken, while some of them were carrying off their dead in blankets. Every thing looked like retreat.

We were ordered up to within 500 yards of the enemies artillery, behind a hill which afforded some protection against their destructive fire. For an hour the firing raged with incessant fury, a ball passed over the hill and through our ranks, grazing one of our men; a shell exploded right under Radford’s horse, and every moment shot and shell were continually whistling by us. I can give you no conception of that awful hour. Not a man shrank from his post; two of our men were taken deadly sick, one fainting from heat and excitement; such calmness and composure I never witnessed. To make the matter worse, despondency, if not despair was fast writing itself on every face. The fire was evidently approaching us, and our friends were retiring, and the whispered rumour passed from lip to lip that our artillery ammunition was running low.

In a moment, however, a cloud of dust in our rear showed the approach of our wagons coming up at a dashing rate with a fresh supply. Our reinforcements now commenced pouring in. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi swept by in their glittering array with the calm light of battle on their faces, and their bayonets gleaming in the quiet Sabbath sunshine. No man faltered, no man lagged behind. Neither the groans of the dying, nor the shrieks of the wounded, as they passed to the rear in crowded ambulances, seemed to produce any impression, except to fix the determination upon the countenance of all – to win or die upon the field.

The tide now seemed to ebb just enough to keep us from despair. The firing did not advance, although the explosion of their shell was terrific in the extreme. A gleam of hope, too, gradually broke in upon us when Kemper’s battery, which had been posted in our centre, galloped up and opened a destructive fire upon our extreme left. The advance was evidently checked, when a loud cheer in the front told us that something unusual had happened. What was it? Was it the triumph of our enemies over our stricken friends, or was it some advantage gained in defence of right? The suspense was awful. Men stood straight in their stirrups and stretched their eyes as if they would pierce the rugged bosom of the barren hill which raised its sc[?]rred front before them.

An aid passes up – his message is written on his face, and, before he speaks a word, a wild shout breaks from the throats of thousands. When he speaks, another, and another, and another round of cheers told the story of our hitherto sinking hearts. The 4th Virginia regiment had taken Sprague’s Rhode Island battery of six pieces at the point of the bayonet. Scarcely had the echo of our cheers died upon the air, when again the noise of shouting broke upon us. What was it? Had the enemy rallied and retaken the guns? Fear struggled with hope. But, no! the gallant 27th, envious of the glorious achievement of the 4th, at a sing[?]e dash, had charged a regiment of regulars, swept them from the field, and taken every gun in Sherman’s battery. The firing of musketry and the rattling of bayonets was now terrific beyond description. For an hour there was an incessant crackling of rifles, without a single moment’s pause. The enemy were evidently retiring, and, unless reinforced from their left and centre, the day was ours.

To prevent this, our field telegraph had already given the signal for movement upon our own right, and a heavy fire of musketry and artillery told us that Bonham’s brigade, to which we had been attached in the morning, had crossed the run and were pouring it into the enemy’s centre. The South Carolina boys dashed up the hill, in the face of a murderous fire, bayoneted the gunners, and took quiet possession of their centre battery. It was now 3 o’clock, and the day was ours. The Washington Artillery galloped up the hill on which we were posted and opened a perfect Vesuvius of shot and shell upon the receding foe.

Colonel Lay now galloped up and told us the time for us to act had arrived – our whole force of cavalry – now rushed like the wind to the front. It was indeed a brilliant spectacle, as with slackened reins and sabres drawn, the whole command dashed past. The whole line resounded with continued cheering. The force was divided into different detachments. Col. Radford, with six companies, was ordered to cross a short distance below the enemy’s extreme right, and intercept his column; our company was in front, ,and I was riding in front of my platoon – when after crossing the swamp we came suddenly upon a detachment of the enemy concealed in the bushes, with their pieces levelled. The Colonel ordered the charge, and our boys dashed on. (1)

Poor E. F. was at my side when we rode over two of them, and they grounded their arms to E. W. just in our rear. We galloped on in pursuit of the rest, who retreated across a field toward the road on which the enemy was retreating. F. was just behind me; Saunders, a fine young fellow, just 24, and splendidly mounted, rushed past us. The enemy had concealed themselves behind a fence. We rode up and I demanded their surrender. They made no reply. I ordered Saunders to fire. Before he levelled his carbine, the whole squad poured in a volley. Saunders fell dead at my feet, and Fontaine reeled in his saddle, and exclaimed, “save me, boys, I am killed.” He was caught in the arms of his cousin, who was in the rear. Three of my platoon fired, and the two who had shot Saunders and Fontaine fell dead in their tracks. (2)

We were now in full view of the enemy’s line, passing in rapid and disordered retreat along the road, with two pieces of artillery, a large number of baggage wagons and some officers’ carriages. – Col. Radford, who is a soldier of experience, knew the strength of the enemy, and ordered a halt, commanding the men to form; but such a thing as forming was utterly impossible. The men seemed perfectly delirious with excitement, and with a wild shout of the guns, the guns,” our whole company rushed on pell-mell upon the battery, which proved to be another detachment of the Rhode Island Artillery. Such a scene of wild excitement I never witnessed.

My platoon had become detached from the company, and the company from the regiment. There were two caissons and two guns; the guns behind the caissons. My platoon, which was furthest down the road, rushed upon the men who guarded them – one fellow, standing upon the caisson, whipping the horses to make them run. They had become so much alarmed that they stood perfectly still and trembled. I made a blow at him with my sabre, knocked him off the caisson, and he was shot twice by our men before he hit the ground.

Meantime W., (who, by the way, performed admirably,) with the main body, crossed the road higher up and when the main body of the regiment came up, our company, with some of the Alexandria cavalry, had killed and wounded every man at the guns and driven their infantry supports into rapid retreat. When we left, we expected to be supported by infantry and artillery, and you may imagine our astonishment when, with not quite 300 men, we found that we had merely cut into the enemy’s column, and upon looking one hundred yards down the road, we found them preparing to open upon us with two guns, supported by six regiments of infantry. The Colonel at once ordered a retreat, so we shot the horses to the caissons, so as to block up the road, and retreated, not, however, before they had poured in upon us four rounds of grape and canister at 150 yards distance. How we escaped a perfect massacre I cannot say. Had they not been so close to us, the slaughter would have been terrible. Four of our men were killed, and Captain Radford, brother of the Colonel, was literally blown to pieces, I escaped without a scratch (as did all the rest of the officers), excepting quite a severe bruise, caused by my horse’s pressing my leg against the wheel of the gun carriage. We brought off several prisoners, a great many pistols, and several horses. (3)

Just ahead of the guns was an open carriage, very handsome; as soon as they saw us – such a rush you never saw. It is suspected, or rather hoped, that Wilson, of Massachusetts (who was, it is known, on the field,) was in it; for one of our men, Lindsay by name, took it into his head that Scott was in it, pursued and overtook it, and, at the distance of thirty steps, fired his musketoon, with eighteen buckshot, into the back window. (4)

As we returned to camp, a melancholy mistake occurred. B (our Second Lieutenant,) who was carrying poor F. to the hospital, with one or two others, met with a detachment of four of the Appomattox Cavalry, who hailed him. It is said that, instead of giving the signal agreed upon in our camp, by raising the hand to the top of the head, he took them for the enemy, and answered, Federal troops – they fired and he fell dead. (5)

Our company received, upon its return, the congratulations of every officer in General Bonham’s staff, to whom Colonel Radford had spoken of the conduct of our men.

To-day it has been raining all day. Our column pushed on this morning to this place. Our company was assigned the advanced guard; and this morning at 10 o’clock, I had the honor, with eight mounted men, of “occupying” the city of Centreville. The citizens tell us, that about 12 o’clock last night, the cry passed throughout the camp that the d—-d Virginia horsemen were upon them, when they left in utter confusion.

Our triumph has been complete. In two days our noble army has driven them back to Alexandria, captured 42 guns, many colors, and taken how many prisoners I will not venture to say. After we reached here we were ordered to explore the surrounding country in quest of fugitives. We took eighteen prisoners, and got back just at night, very wet. Such a collection of property left in their flight, you never saw. Hundreds of muskets, wagons, horses, gun carriages, thousands of knapsacks, oil-cloths, blankets, hogsheads of sugar, barrels of pork, beans – in short, everything you can conceive. We found to-day over five hundred splendid army over-coats in one pile, at one of their deserted camps, besides many tents, not struck. I helped myself to a magnificent officer’s blanket and oi-cloth to fit over the head, and the men all got over-coats.

The men are amusing themselves to-night with reading their letters, of which there are thousands left on the road. Many of them were directed to Mr. So-and so, expected at Manassas Junction. Some asked for a piece of the floor of the house on which Ellsworth was killed, with blood on it; others confidently express the belief that Beauregard’s scalp will be taken to Washington. When I tell you that we supped to-night on Yankee crackers – Yankee coffee, and nice beef tongue, actually left on the hearth of one of the officers quarters, in a kettle, ready to set on the fire – that this is written in pencil given me by one of the men, upon paper taken from their baggage wagons, that I am sitting on a Yankee camp stool, writing by a Yankee candle, you can form some idea of their utter route.

I send K a pincushion, picked up on the field, and L a needlecase. Tell W I have a nice sword for him, taken from one of the Vermont volunteers. I came very near taking a drum for him, of which we found six yesterday, but thought of the noise, and declined. (6)

Our troops occupy Fairfax Court House, to-night. – Good night; God bless and protect you, as I feel he has protected me in the last few days, in answer to your prayers. I hope I feel sufficiently grateful for my preservation.

Your husband,

W. B. N.

I had secured a beautiful Enfield rifle for uncle William, but it was paced in charge of one of the men, who has lost it. I will endeavor to procure another for him. Bowyer Brockenbrough, in command of a part of Pendleton’s battery, was knocked off his horse by a fragment of a shell, and slightly wounded. Raleigh Colston, who was a captain on one of the Berkely companies, had his pants perforated, and his leg grazed by a ball while advancing on Sherman’s battery. Willoughby Brockenbrough escaped untouched.

———————————

Richmond Daily Whig, July 29, 1861

From transcription in Civil War Times magazine, July 2007, Used with Permission. The letter was annotated by Joseph Pierro, who identified some of the lesser known or cryptically referenced individuals described by Newton, and they are listed below:

1 – Col. George W. Lay, Bonham’s AAG
2 – E. F. – Sgt. Maj. Edmond Fontaine, Jr.; Saunders – Pvt. Richard W. Saunders
3 – Captain Radford – Edmund W. Radford
4 – Wilson, of Massachusetts – Sen. Henry Wilson.
5 – B – Boldman H. Bowles
6 – K, L, & W – Newton’s children, Kate (3), Lucy (4), and Willoughby (7)





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 too. 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





4/23/2016 Battlefield Tour Recap Part I

27 04 2016

The Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour with guide John Hennessy, held this past Saturday, was, I think, a success. Officially we had 62 attendees who signed in, and suspect we had a few who chose to not sign in. In addition, a few folks dropped out during the day, and I think we even picked up one or two others along the way. I’ll break the tour into two posts, then follow up with some conclusions and requests for input from attendees.

Tour Synopsis – Morning

We met at the picnic area off Groveton Road at 9:00 am. The pavilion came in handy as it was raining pretty steadily – this kept up all morning. After introductions and a review of the itinerary, we set off.

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Assembling at the Picnic Grove

We consolidated into fewer cars (we had left a few at the Visitor’s Center), and headed for our first stop at Sudley Church. From there, we hiked the original Sudley Road trace to Sudley Springs Ford on Catharpin Run, where John set the stage, discussed the crossing of McDowell’s army, and dispelled the notion that anyone was going to services at Sudley Church on the morning of July 21, 1861.

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Sudley Church

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Sudley Springs Ford

Next we moved south to the Thornberry House, where many things were discussed, including the photos of March 1862, the Thornberry children, and Sullivan Ballou and his death, burial, and desecration. For the record, yes, I do believe his letter was real, even though the original’s whereabouts are unknown.

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Thornberry House

From there, John showed us the site of the graves of twelve Union soldiers, and also the site of the post-war home of the Benson’s of Sudley Church. See here for some disturbing inconsistencies in the wartime event.

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Union burial sites (no, I’m not giving out GPS coordinates)

Then it was back to the cars (we managed two crossings of Sudley Road without an incident, no small feat) and south to the Matthews Hill parking lot. There we received water and snacks from Debra Kathman and the good people at the Manassas Battlefield Trust, and made our way to Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery, where John described the opening of the battle by Burnside’s Brigade and Evans’s men. Craig Swain laid some artillery jargon on us, discussing the range of various pieces North and South.

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Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery

Next we marched south on Matthews Hill to Buck Hill, above the Stone House, and discussed what McDowell’s vision of victory may have been, the afternoon “lull,” and “the plan.” As it happens, John and I agree on what McDowell’s expectations were regarding what he could expect from the enemy in terms of numbers. We also agree on what McDowell planned and, most important, where those plans ended. We may differ a bit regarding the psychology, if you will, behind those plans, but we’re much closer than we are far apart. The plans pretty much end with the establishment of McDowell’s line along the Warrenton Turnpike, and across the Stone Bridge. After that, the next move depended on how the rebels would react.

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Panorama from Buck Hill

Down in the Stone House’s back yard (the Stone House was owned by a family named Matthews, which was a different family from that which occupied the Matthews House on Matthews Hill), John described what was taking place in what has been traditionally called a  relatively quiet “no man’s land.” That is to say, it was far from quiet. Sorry, for some reason I took no photos there. But John Cummings got this shot, spoiled only by my presence in it.

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Stone House Yard (John Cummings)

From there we crossed the Warrenton Pike (today’s Lee Highway) and proceeded up Henry Hill.

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Up Henry Hill!

We stopped to recount the movements of Imboden’s Staunton Artillery (while it didn’t happen here, with the help of artillery buff Jim Rosebrock we determined that Imboden was most likely serving as the number four man on the piece when he crouched too near a gun he was working and went deaf in his left ear when it fired).

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Imboden’s Position

Our last stops before breaking for lunch was at the “boggy area” just off the paved Visitior’s Center parking lot, which has been traditionally described as the site where several post battle photos of Union graves were recorded (I perpetuated the legend here). John Cummings teased us about the proof he has assembled that the photos were not recorded here, nor were they recorded at the spot other photo buffs have identified. He promises more in the future. The most compelling evidence was presented by John Hennessy, who informed us that prior to the mid-1980s, the site was not damp at all – it became that way after changes were made to the topography.

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Site Where Famous Photos Were Not Taken

OK, I’ll end this part where we took our lunch break. Highlights of that included shuttling drivers back to Matthews Hill to fetch cars for the afternoon portion of the hike.

Part II

Part III





Final Tour Update – 4/21/2016

21 04 2016

The tour is the day after tomorrow. Hopefully you’ve been following along with all the updates here or via Facebook or Twitter. Remember:

  1. Meet at picnic area off Groveton Road at 9:00 AM.
  2. Dress for the weather. As of right now, 39% chance of early “sprinkles,” high of 68 degrees. I recommend plastic sleeves for your handouts, pack-able rain jacket, and Goretex footwear.
  3. Bring a lunch and hydration.
  4. Carpool from the picnic area.

We will need to leave a few cars at the visitor’s center (VC) in the morning. I already know of three. We’ll probably need to leave about eight cars total. No more than that, though, because we don’t want to cause a parking problem there. If you think you can do this, drop me a note. Otherwise, don’t consolidate cars at the VC. It’s Saturday, and the most important battlefield in the world.

I’m really looking forward to meeting all of you. Remember, this is not a “sit back and listen” tour. We want give-and-take (but can do without “gotchas” – You “gotcha” types know who you are).

In my mind, John Hennessy has written the definitive account of this battle, and we’re all very fortunate to have this opportunity.

If you’re photographing or videoing the day’s events, please feel free to share your work with me and I’ll share it with everyone else.

Here’s the most recent attendee list. You’ll note it’s shorter by about ten.

1 Anderson, James
2 Anderson, Roy
3 Backus, Page Gibbons
4 Banks, John
5 Bednarek, Kat Zalewski
6 Bellefeuille, Scott
7 Booker, Bob
8 Brace, Kim
9 Brand, Gary
10 Burden, Jeffry
11 Carson, Dan
12 Ciasullo, Ron
13 Conroy, Dianne Fox
14 Cummings, John
15 Cunard, Jan Hyland
18 Dail, Sean + 2
19 Dennis, James
21 Dittoe, Tom + 1
22 Errett, Paul
23 Fuller, John
24 Franklin, Albert
25 Galloway, Michael
26 Gottert, Mike
27 Gottfried, Linda
28 Greer, Jackie
29 Greevy, Jay
30 Gueverra, Mark
31 Harper, Joseph
32 Hennessy, John
33 Hamann, Carlos
34 Herring, Rod
35 Johnson, Brad
36 Kammerer, Brian
38 Kaptek, Rob + 1
39 Kathman, Debra
40 Keating, Stephen
41 Kenepp, D. Scott
42 Killian, Aaron
43 Lafleur, Joe
44 Langbart, David
45 Laudenslager, Sam
46 Leupold, Tom
47 Lewis, Richard
48 Liebler, Shelly
49 Massey, Jeff
50 McGregor, Douglas
51 Morgan, Jim
52 Morton, Patrick
53 Mueller, Benjamin
54 Mueller, Jullian
55 Musick, Mike
56 Nank, Thomas
57 Oakes, Douglas A
58 O’Brien, Robert William
59 O’Neil, Keith
60 Orrison, Rob
61 Pawlak, Kevin
62 Pellegrini, Mike
63 Phillips, Rick
64 Redd, Rae Andrew
65 Reilly, Steve
66 Rich, Patricia Petersen
67 Rosebrock, James
68 Russell, Bill
69 Sagle, William
70 Smeltzer, Harry
71 Smith, Teej
72 Stinchcomb, Earl
73 Swain, Craig
74 Taylor, Paul
75 Tinnon-Massey, Norma
76 Weihs, Kelly
77 Wichtendahl, Kyle Francis
78 Williams, Jim





Tour Update, 4/15/2016: Friday Night, Weather

15 04 2016

Revellers salute with beer after the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich

I’ve been contacted by a friend who is attending the tour next week and will be getting into town on Friday. While I already have plans for the evening, it occurs to me that there may be others of you who will be coming in to the Manassas area from various points on Friday and may be looking to meet up and get to know one another prior to the tour on Saturday morning. So, let this post serve as a message board of sorts for anyone looking to do that. Just drop a note in the comments section below.

Extended forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy and a high of 76 degrees. Keep up to date on local weather here.





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 1

7 04 2016

downloadI know, it’s been a while. But, just like writing, maybe examining a reading can benefit with the passage of time. Here’s how this is going to work: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Prologue: Page 4 – Here we have Abraham Lincoln, three months after the attack on Fort Sumter (July, then), fretting over a recurring dream (you know, the one in the boat) and “the coming passage of arms” between “the forces fated to meet at Manassas.” But he also mentions a “presumed superior strength of the Union forces” in that coming fight. I have to wonder, what presumed superior strength is the author talking about here? Plans submitted to AL in June assumed meeting an enemy of at best equal numbers.

This idea of an expectation of outnumbering and overwhelming the rebels at Manassas is a recurring assumption in First Bull Run literature. But the facts just don’t back it up, as I’ve discussed before. See, for example, this post.

The author also notes earlier in the same paragraph that AL was hoping for a “complete victory at minimal cost in Northern and Southern lives” [emphasis mine]. This is tantalizing and something I’ve considered in trying to understand just what Irvin McDowell wanted to accomplish in the campaign (another assumption typically pulled from the air). That is, how did AL’s hopes for a “soft war” and a quick reconciliation, if indeed he hoped those hopes, impact McDowell’s game plan? Unfortunately, the author really didn’t examine this in much detail, even later (see this post for more thoughts on this).

Wow, that was just one Post-It. This could take some time. I have no schedule for this – guess you’ll have to check back here every…single…day.








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