Notes on Letter to Pvt. Albert Penno, Co. D, 1st RI

4 08 2011

The following notes accompany the transcription of this letter and can be found at The Civil War Day by Day, maintained by the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The good folks there have given me permission to add some of their wonderful collection to the resources here – more to come.

Letter from Lucinda M. [Hayne?] to her husband Albert B. Penno, a private in Company D of the 1st Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers. The following words are written on the front of the envelope included with this letter, “Found on field, Bull Run, July 21 ’61.” This note is believed to be in the hand of Edward Porter Alexander, a Confederate officer who was also present at the Battle of Bull Run.

Albert Penno was wounded on 21 July 1861 (three days after the date of this letter), at the Battle of First Bull Run. Penno was then taken as a prisoner of war to Richmond, Va., and died on 2 August 1861 of his wounds.





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





Interview: Garry Adelman, “Manassas Battlefields Then & Now”

7 07 2011

Garry Adelman, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and Civil War author (among other things), has a new book coming out next week, Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run. He recently took some time to discuss his work with Bull Runnings.

BR: While I’m sure many of the readers have heard of you or seen you on the tube, tell us a little about yourself.

GA: I became all but instantly obsessed with the Civil War at age 16 upon picking up William A Frassanito’s Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day. It changed my entire life. I was living outside of Chicago and just started digesting all the books I could. I had never before read history for pleasure. I got a business degree at Michigan State a few years later—Hotel and Restaurant Management to be exact—and then went back to Chicago to run restaurants.  In the meantime I started driving out to Gettysburg and Antietam whenever I could. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist moving to Gettysburg, which I did in the fall of 1992. Save for picking up that book in my high school library in 1983, I would not have met my wife, had my kids or been able to work what I think are the best set of jobs in the world.

BR: Whoa, that’s a lot! What happened after you moved?

GA: I didn’t have a job or even any prospects so I did the only thing I knew how to do—opened a restaurant. While running that place, I started writing for The Gettysburg Magazine, became a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, and explored the battlefield with what little time I had. I sold the restaurant to Gettysburg College in 1995, worked there for a few years and then for Thomas Publications, which specializes in Civil War books. In the meantime, I met my future wife on Gettysburg’s town square, published (with Tim Smith) Devil’s Den: A History and Guide (1997) and started working on more books. I got my Masters in History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and then I really entered the history world. After an 8-year stint at a historical consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland, I started working for the Civil War Trust as Director of History and Education, about a year and a half ago. I am still a Licensed Battlefield Guide and I regularly speak to Civil War groups. I have now written, co-authored or edited more than 30 Civil War-related books and articles.

BR: What is The Center for Civil War Photography?

GA: The Center was founded in 1999 and I have served as its vice president for more than a decade. The Center aims to teach people the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows of Civil War Photography. We aim to collect digital copies of, place into context and  make available every outdoor Civil War photo ever recorded. We hold an annual seminar at various battlefields every year and this October we are focusing (excuse the pun) on the Western Theater, at Chattanooga. Space is still available! It was a no-brainer to take the Manassas book to The Center as publisher.

BR: Why did you choose the Bull Run battlefields as the subject for your new book?

GA: No matter how many facets of the conflict I may research or address, I always go back to my first Civil War love—then & now photography. Frassanito pioneered the field of the study of Civil War photographs as primary documents and I am one of a small cadre of historians moving that work forward as he has slowed down. No historian had ever completed even a small book on Bull Run’s historic photography and the resources, mysteries and curiosities abound at Manassas and its surroundings. The topic was all but begging to be covered!

BR: Was there anything in particular that surprised you about the photographic history of the battlefields?

GA: Oh, my yes. Upon separating the various images into series by photographic team, it became clear that only one covered the actual battlefields field during the war—this was George Barnard and James Gibson’s team. Despite Matthew Brady’s attempt in 1861, and Timothy O’Sullivan’s coverage of Manassas in 1862, Andrew Russell’s in 1863, no other photographer secured plates of the iconic sites on the Manassas Battlefields. In June 1865, Alexander Gardner’s team was next to cover the field. This is extremely odd given Bull Run’s popularity and its proximity to Washington.  I suppose another thing that surprised me was how much work remained, even with Barnard’s 1862 series.

BR:  Can you describe your research and writing process?

GA: I first became familiar with and aimed to digitally secure every Bull Run-related historic photo I could. I had been doing this for more than five years already and the best stuff came from the Manassas National Battlefield, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and members of The Center for Civil War Photography. Upon collecting these and separating them into series, I did a bunch of field research, trying to find unknown photo locations and getting to know the photographers’ areas of operations.  This is not a lengthy book and yet this process took years.  I made most of the key discoveries, shot most of the modern photos and did most of the writing, however, in the last eight months.

BR: Any particular discovery you’d like the share?

GA: Indeed! I am most proud of having finally divined the location of five 1862 images that are usually labeled as Blackburn’s Ford. In close consultation with Jim Burgess, Museum Specialist at Manassas National Battlefield, who helped with almost every aspect of the book, I was able to pinpoint the location more than a mile upstream from Blackburn’s Ford. Finding a Civil War photolocation, that is, the place where photographers exposed their plates, is among the most satisfying and fun endeavors I know of. To put five photos into context—that’s more than were taken at Shiloh during the entire war!

 

The historic photo here (left), courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield, was found to show a wrecked Confederate Railroad bridge, upstream from Mitchell’s Ford. Next to it is the location today (right). Click the thumbs for larger images.

BR: What’s next for you?

GA:  I haven’t decided. My family, my work at the Trust and my various Civil War side jobs occupy a great deal of my time. I am playing around with the idea of a small Peninsula/Seven Days photo book. That series of photos remains one of the largest collections of largely unexplored Civil War photographs.

Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run can be ordered from Amazon.com or from The Center for Civil War Photography. Also see The Center’s press release here.





Bull Runnings Goes to Gettysburg

5 07 2011

I just finished up a great week of activities in Gettysburg. I arrived in town on Tuesday, June 28 and checked into my room at the Gettysburg Hotel where The Civil War Institute was putting me up while I served on the faculty as a tour guide for their annual conference. I then headed over to Gettysburg College to let them know I was around, pick up my gear and take in the tail end of a panel discussion on Edward Porter Alexander. Afterwards I ran into a few familiar faces including Ethan Rafuse, Susannah Ural and Tim Orr, who were also on the faculty for this year’s program, as well as a couple of friends from Penn State Mont Alto tours past and fellow blogger Keith Harris. After a meal in the dining hall (nice seeing NPS rangers Chuck Teague and Matt Atkinson there) it was back to the Union Building ballroom to listen to Gary Gallagher on the subject of his new book, The Union War. The most surreal moment for me occurred when I was seated in a group with “fellow” faculty Ural, Rafuse, A. Wilson Greene, Joseph Glatthaar and Gabor Borritt.

On Wednesday morning I sat at breakfast with Ed Bearss, another of the guides for the day’s Manassas bus tours. A total of seven busses were scheduled for the day. Four would meet up with NPS guides at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Ethan Rafuse, Ed Bearss and myself would accompany our tourists on our busses as they departed from and returned to Gettysburg.

I had forty-two attendees on my bus. They were a great group, and admirably suffered early delays due to traffic. It was a hot day, but the terrain was manageable and I think everyone enjoyed themselves and learned something. My assistant was Jessica Slevin, an intern from Northern Ireland who kept everything running smoothly and on schedule. We left at 8:00 AM and got back to Gettysburg at 8:30 PM, a long but productive day. Click the thumbs below for larger images of Jessica and tired tourists returning to Gettysburg.

 

Thursday I was on my own. I did a little shopping and visited friend Jim Glessner at The American History Store. Then I checked out of the Gettysburg Hotel and moved out to The Wyndham at Gateway Gettysburg, where The Gettysburg Foundation was putting me up until Saturday. Then it was back to town to meet up with friends Chris and Alyce Army. First we walked over to the National Cemetery to help place flags on the graves of the men killed during the battle 148 years ago. Despite the fact that there are about 3,500 battle casualties buried there, the group flagged all the markers in about 15 minutes.

Afterwards I had dinner with the Armys and Wayne and Tina Motts and a few others. A nice relaxing evening.

Friday morning I drove over to Reynolds Ave. and took in a three-hour tour of the Park’s newly acquired Harman Farm on the old Gettysburg Country Club property west of Willoughby Run. The tour was led by NPS historians Scott Hartwig and John Heiser and was very informative. This piece of land will be a real jewel in the park’s crown once a few changes are made. During this tour I saw quite a few battlefield stomping pals and rangers from other parks, including John Hoptak, among the crowd of about 400 people.

After the tour I had lunch with friend Dana Shoaf, then headed up to the Visitor’s Center to take in a Gettysburg Foundation Sacred Trust talk by Dr. Allen Guelzo. I decided that, despite some great offers to join folks later in the evening for a few refreshments, it was a better idea to go back to my room and prepare for my talk for the Sacred Trust series at 9:30 AM Saturday.

I drove out to the Visitor’s Center a little after 8:00 AM, just to make sure that all the technical details for my PowerPoint presentation were in order and to get a parking space within the same zip code as the venue. They were, I did, and Cindy Small and Sue Boardman of the Foundation had everything running smoothly. Somewhere between 50-60 folks showed up, and I think they enjoyed my program on Patrick O’Rorke at First Bull Run. Friend Craig Swain drove up for the show and took a few pictures.

I stayed a while and took in the talks of Wayne Motts and Tim Orr, then set out on the road back home. It was a great week, despite the heat and the crowds of Gettysburg during the anniversary. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible!





Interview: Glessner and Lindblade, Ten Roads Publishing

30 03 2011

Jim Glessner and Eric Lindblade are two Gettysburg residents who hope to build a business based on their love of Civil War history. Together they form Ten Roads Publishing, and as you can see in the photo below one of them is a fan of the greatest professional football team known to man. I asked if they could take some time and answer a few questions for you and they graciously complied.

Lindblade (L) and Glessner (R)

BR: Ten Roads is a new company and may be unfamiliar to some of our readers. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

EL: I was born and raised in North Carolina, attended East Carolina University and have been fascinated by the Civil War since my first visit to Gettysburg in 1989 when I was six years old. I had previously worked in politics in North Carolina and in August of 2008 I moved to Gettysburg mainly to focus more on my research and writing.

JG: Originally I’m from Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and went to school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After that I worked for Clear Channel Entertainment in Pittsburgh for a number of years before moving with my family to Gettysburg in 2007.  Along with being a co-owner of Ten Roads Publishing, I also manage The American History Store, in terms of titles carried the largest bookstore in Gettysburg.

BR: How did the two of you meet?

EL: To be honest it was pretty random how we met. In December of 2008, I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at The American History Store where Jim was working.

JG: It was a pretty slow day so we started talking a bit and ended up talking for around an hour. After that we saw each other around town and soon became good friends.

BR: What made you decide to go into business together?

EL: I never really thought I would ultimately make a career out of publishing and in a way just sort of fell into it.  Before we formed the company, I had been looking for a publisher for my book Fight As Long As Possible: The Battle of Newport Barracks, North Carolina, February 2, 1864, and had not really found any options I felt comfortable with. I first looked into self-publishing, but knew from a marketing standpoint that would cause some difficulty. I remember talking to Jim about it and really from that conversation what became Ten Roads Publishing developed.

JG: When we talked about it more we decided to look into starting a small publishing house to do mostly reprints of out of print titles, along with a few new titles. Once we realized how feasible it was from a financial standpoint we formed Ten Roads in May of 2009. One of the advantages of being at The American History Store was gaining a pretty good feel of the Civil War book market, along with getting to know a wide range of authors who signed at the store. This has certainly been a great asset for us as a company moving forward and many of those authors have released books through us, or will in the future.

EL: I handle the operations side of the company, along with public relations; Jim is in charge of marketing and our distribution in Gettysburg. Often Jim’s contacts lead to new manuscripts coming in to the company. I think our roles in the company play to our strengths and it works very well.

BR: Why Ten Roads?

JG: We wanted a name that would be unique and have some relation to Gettysburg where our company is based.  But at the same time we didn’t want a name that would be too Gettysburg related, like Devil’s DenHigh Water Mark, or Round Tops – we didn’t and don’t intend to publish only Gettysburg titles.  I think Ten Roads reflects our love of the Gettysburg area and pays homage to the history here as well.

EL: During the time we were thinking of names I was looking at a reprint of an 1858 map of Adams County, where Gettysburg is located, and noticed that ten roads intersect in the town. The light bulb just went on so I called Jim and we realized we had found our name. I think it gives us a great brand identification as a company.

BR: What is the mission, or niche, of Ten Roads?

JG: Our company mission from the beginning was to publish quality books in terms of historical scholarship, along with making them affordable and enjoyable for the reader.

EL: In terms of a niche, books that relate to Gettysburg will always be our bread and butter so to speak, but in the past two years we have been very pleased with our efforts to branch out into other aspects of the war.

JG: Gettysburg is certainly big for us and always will be, and many of our current and upcoming titles reflect that. However, we want to be more than just a publisher of Gettysburg related titles and many of our upcoming titles are indicative of that.

BR: What was your first title, and how many do you have now?

JG: Our first title was Gettysburg Glimpses:  True Stories from the Battlefield by Scott Mingus released in August of 2009. After that in October of 2009 we published The Alexander Dobbin House in Gettysburg: A Short History by Dr. Walter Powell.  Following the Dobbin House book, we released The Gettysburg Bicentennial Album by William Frassanito, which was a thrill for us because we both have long been fans of Bill’s work and consider him a good friend. Along with the books we published we also distributed John Hoptak’s Our Boys Did Nobly: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. We only had one release in 2010, Eric’s Fight As Long As Possible.

EL:  For most of 2010 we focused primarily on bringing in new manuscripts in addition to expanding market share. In many ways we were setting the stage for 2011, since it is the first of the sesquicentennial years, and we have a very aggressive release schedule lined up. Once all of our spring releases are out we will have 10 titles published by Ten Roads, by the end of 2011 we will have 5 more releases bringing us to 15. Our business model is set up for us to publish around 10 titles a year, and by 2015 to have 55 or so titles as part of Ten Roads Publishing.

BR: How do you assess your success thus far – what have you learned, good and bad?

EL: I think the question has to consider in terms of success at this stage in a start-up company is are you still in business and thriving? We certainly are. We’re right on pace for our goals as a company and I feel we’re set up well for the long-term from a publishing and financial standpoint. I don’t really think in terms of failure, since I don’t think there is an area where as a company we have failed per se, but we have learned quite a bit from the missteps of the past two years, and we are definitely a better company because of them and what we learned. There’s always a learning curve with any new venture; at times it’s been tough, but adversity can either break you or make you stronger and with a sense of pride I can say that it has made us stronger. Today we’re in a great position and expect to be for a long time to come.

JG: I feel we’ve been very successful in attracting authors to our company and building up a strong collection of manuscripts for future release.  But we were both troubled this past year when we heard rumors about the company stemming from the fact that we had just one 2010 release. Our business model guarded against expanding before we were ready, and now we’re in a great position to grow. Perhaps we didn’t communicate our plan as well as we could have, but frankly that was an internal business matter and not exactly for public discussion. I like to paraphrase Mark Twain that “the rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.” We have always had a clear vision of where we wanted to go as a company and what our goals were with it. Overall we are surpassing those goals, but as always there is room for improvement and we work every day to improve and be the best company we can be.

BR: What’s next for Ten Roads?

JG: We are excited for our Spring 2011 releases and feel they will bring a lot to the table. In March we released the first two of those with Human Interest Stories of the Civil War by Scott Mingus, Jr. and Dr. Thomas Mingus, and North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg by Michael Hardy. In April and May we will finish up our Spring releases with A Surgeon’s Tale:  The Civil War Letters of James D. Benton, 111th and 98th New York Infantries, 1862-1865, edited by Christopher Loperfido, The 121st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg compiled by Ed Max, and Gettysburg’s Most Famous Address: The David Wills House by Dr. Walter Powell.

EL: We will be announcing our Summer 2011 releases in late April and I think they will continue to add to the great line up of books we already have. We will also be reprinting The Alexander Dobbin House in Gettysburg and Our Boys Did Nobly. Beyond the spring and summer releases, we have a number of manuscripts we have received that have a lot of potential and will be welcome additions to a lot of book shelves.

Eric and Jim appear to be men with a plan. In tight economies there’s often more opportunity than folks realize. Here’s hoping that Ten Roads Publishing can survive and continue to thrive.





A Giant Passing

13 09 2010

Tom Clemens called me this evening with the sad news of the passing of historian Joseph L. Harsh.  Read his tribute here and here, and read an obituary here.  Dr. Harsh will be laid to rest, fittingly, on September 17, the 148th anniversary of the event that was so central to his career.

Joe Harsh had a huge impact on how I read and research.  I first met him about eleven years ago, at one of Carol Reardon’s Mont Alto Civil War conferences.  Joe’s mantra was “chronology, chronology, chronology”, or “what did they know, and when did they know it”.  It sounds simple, but especially when it comes to Dr. Harsh’s particular area of expertise, the 1862 Maryland Campaign, it’s surprising the number of folks who seem incapable of keeping those things in mind.

Joe was a wonderful conversationalist, and I have fond memories of sipping scotch into the wee hours in the gazebo outside Mont Alto’s dorm listening to his stentorian tones (think Charles Kuralt) as he opined on a variety of CW topics.  (I took the photo above in the gazebo in 2001 – that’s Keith Alexander on Joe’s right, and my nearly empty bottle of 12-year-old Macallan in the foreground.)  I remember how proud I was to stump him with his own book, Sounding the Shallows, the last installment of his three-volume legacy, asking how the regimental commanders of  Hood’s Texas Brigade managed to make it all the way through the Maryland Campaign without a scratch.  I felt pretty smug for a few seconds, until I remembered the magnitude of his work and mentally put myself in my place.  Joe was considerate enough not to do it for me.

A giant has passed – we may see his like again, but I doubt it.  Rest in peace.





America’s Civil War September 2010

22 07 2010

Inside this issue:

  • An interview with Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard, who will be retiring at the end of this year.
  • Harold Holzer’s Cease Fire asks When will all of us finally admit what caused the war?  This one is sure to raise eyebrows for more than the reason obvious in the title.
  • Ron Soodalter on Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid of September, 1864.
  • A look at the correspondence between William T. Sherman and John B. Hood at Atlanta in September, 1864.
  • Winston Groom examines the causes of the war in Irreconcilable Differences.
  • Charlie Knight (look for an interview with him on his new book Valley Thunder here soon) on Franz Sigel’s Shame in the Shenandoah.
  • Antietam National Battlefield Chief Historian Ted Alexander’s Witness to Battle discusses soldier/artist James Hope’s paintings of the September 17, 1852 battle.
  • Ron Soodalter shows up again with Getting Away with Murder, a study of officers who met their ends during the war in ways less typical.

Book reviews/previews in this issue:  





I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Stangers

1 05 2010

OK, well maybe not strangers, but certainly folks who are under no obligation to help me.  I’m back from my day trip to Antietam.  NPS historian Ted Alexander provided me with more information on my In Harm’s Way subject house than I could ever fit into an article of under 1,000 words.  I could have read through the material all day, but I only had a couple of hours and with the help of my buddy Mike waded through the material and made copies of the most essential stuff.  Cultural Resources Specialist and historian Keven Walker took us over to the house and gave us a fine tour of the structure along with detailed history of the building and its occupants.  Thanks to both Ted and Keven for their expert and enthusiastic assistance.

We decided to drive back to Pittsburgh via Gettysburg (kind of like Uneasy Rider driving to LA from Jackson, MS via Omaha).  We ran into Antietam ranger John Hoptak on the street there, outside the Farnsworth House bookstore.  It was a beautiful, warm day – lot’s of folks milling about.  Curiously, many merchants stuck to their 5:00 PM closing times.  Of course I’m not privy to their financial records, but it seems odd to me, especially considering many of these are small businesses actively staffed by their owners, implying more flexibility in scheduling operating hours (that is to say, “Look Marge, the hotel parking lot is full and there are a bunch of people eating outside O’Rorke’s.  Maybe we should stay open until 6:00 or 7:00″).  I’m just sayin’.

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Day Trip to Maryland

29 04 2010

Tomorrow early AM I’m off for Antietam National Battlefield with my friend Mike.  I have some work to do with NPS historian Ted Alexander at his office, then will spend some time at one of the farmhouses on the battlefield.  We should have a little time to bum around before heading for home, but this trip is feels more like work than fun.  Fun work, nonetheless, and it pretty much beats anything I do in my “real job”.  This is for a future installment of In Harm’s Way for Civil War Times, which is going very well thanks for asking.  I admit to preferring the subjects of the articles which allow me to visit the site and look through the files myself.  The subject of the article which will appear in the next issue that hits the stands – I submitted it last week and reviewed the edited pdf file yesterday – is on a Western Theater battlefield, and I had to write it remotely, with the help of others (a friend on the NPS staff sent me copies of the file, and another friend took photos – they did right by me).  I feel more connected to the house if I can crawl around it, measure it, and take photos – lots of photos – myself.  But I’m not complaining; this is a good gig.

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Bull Run in the News – Kenton Harper, 5th VA

6 03 2010

Due to the transient nature of online newspaper urls, I’m going to depart from my custom of simply linking to OPW (other people’s work) and reproduce in its entirety this article from Staunton’s News Leader.  Kenton Harper was colonel of the 5th VA Infantry in Jackson’s Brigade (which means he was not “one of Bee’s officers”).

Kenton Harper Left Large Footprint in Staunton

By Charles Culbertson • mail@stauntonhistory.com • March 6, 2010

The moment was not going well for Confederate forces in the first major land battle of the Civil War. A coordinated Union attack at 11:30 a.m., July 21, 1861, had driven forces under Gen. Barnard Bee to the Henry House Hill near Manassas and was on the verge of breaking the line.

Suddenly, one of Bee’s officers — 60-year-old Col. Kenton Harper of Staunton — approached him and pointed out the presence of five regiments of Virginia troops under Col. Thomas J. Jackson that had just arrived on the scene.
Bee quickly made his way to Jackson and said, “The enemy are driving us,” to which Jackson reportedly replied, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”

At that point Bee is said to have shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

Some have claimed that Bee’s statement was perjorative — that Jackson was “standing there like a damned stone wall.” Whatever he said or how he meant it — we will never know, for Bee was mortally wounded moments later — his command rallied with Jackson’s men, who routed Union forces and helped win the First Battle of Manassas for the South.
Jackson, of course, received the immortal sobriquet, “Stonewall.”

It is unlikely that Bee was being critical of Jackson. Harper, a renowned Staunton publisher, politician, soldier and farmer, had little reason to either like Jackson or to portray him in a favorable light. Just before his death at age 66 in 1867, Harper told the editor of the Staunton Spectator that Bee’s words had been:

“Rally here! Look how these Virginians stand like a stone wall!”

Harper’s experience with the quirky professor from Virginia Military Institute began in April 1861. A major general in the Virginia state militia, Harper was given command of the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and marched out of Staunton with 2,400 men to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

The assault was a success, with Harper’s men salvaging thousands of muskets, as well as milling machines, lathes and other supplies. Later that month, Harper was replaced in favor of Jackson, a move that irritated Harper and angered many of the officers serving under him.

He was further alienated from Jackson when, in September 1861, Jackson denied him leave to be by his dying wife’s side.

But Harper was bigger than his grievances, having forged a long and fruitful career through diligence, honor and competency. He continued to serve the Confederate cause despite fragile health that was exacerbated by the rigors of war.

Born in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1801, Harper grew up in the printing business, learning the trade from his father, who published the Franklin County Repository. In 1823, he moved to Staunton where he purchased the Republican Farmer and changed its name to the Staunton Spectator.

In 1836 Harper began serving as a state legislator and, in 1840, filled a year’s term as Staunton’s mayor. When the U.S. went to war with Mexico in 1846, Harper was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Infantry, commanding the Augusta County volunteers in the northern frontier of Mexico.

Although he never saw action, his “soldierly demeanor was so marked” that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given a military governorship in Parras, Northern Mexico. He was officially commended for the manner in which he conducted himself in that post.

Mustered out of service in 1848, Harper returned to Staunton where he sold the Spectator to the Waddell family. Soon he was appointed under President Millard Fillmore as U.S. agent to the Chicasaws at Fort Washita in the Indian Territory, a post he administered with distinction. His service there led to an appointment as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior — a post held by another Staunton resident, Alexander H.H. Stuart.

At the end of his term, Harper returned to Staunton where he worked his Augusta County farm, “Glen Allen,” and served as the president of the Bank of the Valley. By 1860 he was a major general in the Virginia state militia, a post that led to his military involvement in the Civil War.

After Jackson refused him permission to visit his dying wife, Harper resigned his commission and returned to Staunton for her funeral. He was again elected into the state legislature and, in 1864, was re-appointed as a colonel. Forming a regiment from reservist companies, he led them in battle at Piedmont and again at Waynesboro.

Two years after the war, Harper contracted pneumonia. Some of his last words were reported as, “I would not live always; I ask not to stay.” He died on Christmas Day, 1867.

Upon his death, the newspaper he had founded wrote, “His memory we should not willingly let die, his example of a virtuous life and peaceful death should long remain to point to each of us the lesson of the fineness he so truly illustrated.”

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