Preview: New from Savas Beatie with Bull Run Links

27 01 2023

Two new releases from Savas Beatie have Bull Run ties.

The Civil Wars of General Joseph E. Johnston, Confederate States Army, Vol. I: Virginia and Mississippi, 1861-1863 by Richard R. McMurry looks at various aspects of the career of the commander of the Army of the Shenandoah at First Bull Run. From the dust jacket:

In The Civil Wars of General Joseph E. Johnston, Richard M. McMurry argues persuasively that the Confederacy’s most lethal enemy was the toxic dissension within the top echelons of its high command. The discord between General Johnston and President Jefferson Davis (and others), which began early in the conflict and only worsened as the months passed, routinely prevented the cooperation and coordination the South needed on the battlefield if it was going to achieve its independence. The result was one failed campaign after another, all of which cumulatively doomed the Southern Confederacy.

McMurry’s study is not a traditional military biography but a lively and opinionated conversation about major campaigns and battles, strategic goals and accomplishments, and how these men and their decision-making and leadership abilities directly impacted the war effort. Personalities, argues McMurry, win and lose wars, and the military and political leaders who form the focal point of this study could not have been more different (and in the case of Davis and Johnston, more at odds) when it came to making the important and timely decisions necessary to wage the war effectively.

You get:

  • 326 pages of narrative in 12 chapters
  • Foreword by Stephen Davis (who concludes McMurry’s assessment of Johnston in this work “is one of the most scathing that exists in the voluminous Civil War literature”)
  • Four Edward Alexander maps
  • (Bibliography will follow in Vol. II)
  • Bottom of page footnotes
  • Index

The Military Memoirs of a Confederate Line Officer, edited by William R. Cobb, are the recollections of John C. Reed, who was a lieutenant in Co. I, 8th Georgia Infantry, at First Bull Run (read his account of the battle, which is included in this volume, here). From the website:

John C. Reed fought through the entire war as an officer in the 8th Georgia Infantry, most of it with General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The Princeton graduate was wounded at least twice (Second Manassas and Gettysburg), promoted to captain during the Wilderness fighting on May 6, 1864, and led his company through the balance of the Overland Campaign, throughout the horrific siege of Petersburg, and all the way to the Appomattox surrender on April 9, 1865.

The Military Memoirs of a Confederate Line Officer is a perceptive and articulate account filled with riveting recollections of some of the war’s most intense fighting. Reed offers strong opinions on a wide variety of officers and topics. This outstanding memoir, judiciously edited and annotated by William R. Cobb, is published here in full for the first time. The Military Memoirs of a Confederate Line Officer is a valuable resource certain to become a classic in the genre.

You get:

  • 176 pages of memoir, in 28 chapters.
  • Foreword by Lt. Col. (Ret) Henry Persons
  • Bottom of page footnotes
  • Nine maps (Hampton Newsome and Hal Jesperson) – including an interpretation of Reed’s map found here
  • Bibliography listing five sources used, including numerous CSRs from Fold3
  • Index




Richmond, VA, 1/19-20/2023

23 01 2023

While in town for the Powhatan Civil War Roundtable last week, I had time to take in some sites, including things like the Tredegar Iron Works, Confederate White House, Robert E. Lee’s residence, Chimborazo Hospital, Glendale battlefield, Malvern Hill, White Oak Swamp, and the Oakwood, Glendale, and Hollywood Cemeteries. At the latter, I chased down the final resting places of a few Bull Runners (I realize there are more, but I had limited time):

Hollywood Cemetery
Hollywood Cemetery
Hollywood Cemetery
John Imboden, Staunton Artillery
James Ewell Brown Stuart, 1st Va. Cavalry
William Smith, 49th Va. Infantry Battalion
Raleigh Colston, Co. E, 2nd Va. Infantry
Hunter Holmes McGuire, Jackson’s Brigade
Eppa Hunton, 8th Va. Infantry
Philip St. George Cocke
Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, 1st Special Louisiana Battalion

While A. P. Hill was at Manassas Junction during the battle, I have to mention that I ran into these fellas on Malvern Hill. The next day, they were in Culpeper, Va. for the reinterment of the General’s remains.

Myself, Patrick “A. P. Hill” Falci, and collateral descendant of the General, John Hill, on Malvern Hill




Recap: Powhatan Civil War Roundtable, 1/19/2023

23 01 2023

This past Thursday I was hosted by 42 good folks at the Powhatan Civil War Roundtable for the shortest version yet of my presentation on McDowell’s Plan for First Bull Run. This will come as a relief to the people who have had to sit through up to 1:45 of earlier iterations.

All in all, a lot of fun. Top notch accommodations (The Mill at Fine Creek), a pre-meeting cannon salute (not for me, but for a founding member), a nice dinner, a cool coffee mug, and, again, all done in an hour, including Q&A.

If you’re a speaker and get an offer to speak to this great bunch, jump on it.

Five more shows to go this year, but not this program. If you’re group interested, as always, let me know.





16 Years Blogging

23 12 2022

Dang. Completely missed doing this last month. 16 years. That’s a long time. Longer than 15 years. But not as long as 17 years.

Lotta posts this year. A couple cool discoveries. Hope you’ve enjoyed it.





Preview: Three Recent Releases from Savas Beatie

21 11 2022

I apologize for the delay in posting this, but here are recaps for three recent Savas Beatie publications.

From the jacket:

“When Hell Came to Sharpsburg” investigates how the battle and its armies wreaked emotional, physical, and financial havoc on the people of Sharpsburg. For proper context, the author explores the savage struggle and its gory aftermath and explains how soldiers stripped the community of resources and spread diseases. Cowie carefully and meticulously follows fortunes of individual families like the Mummas, Roulettes, Millers, and many others—ordinary folk thrust into harrowing circumstances—and their struggle to recover from their unexpected and often devastating losses.”

What you get:

  • 464 pages of text in 12 chapters
  • 34 page bibliography, including numerous manuscript and newspaper sources.
  • Index
  • Bottom of page footnotes
  • Forewords by Dennis Frye and John Schildt
  • 8 Hal Jesperson maps, including town plat map and list of lot owners
  • Photos and illustrations throughout

From the jacket:

Scott L. Mingus Sr. and Eric J. Wittenberg, the authors of more than forty Civil War books, have once again teamed up to present a history of the opening moves of the Gettysburg Campaign in the two-volume study “If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania”: The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac March to Gettysburg. This compelling study is one of the first to integrate the military, media, political, social, economic, and civilian perspectives with rank-and-file accounts from the soldiers of both armies as they inexorably march toward their destiny at Gettysburg. This first installment covers June 3–21, 1863, while the second, spanning June 22–30, completes the march and carries the armies to the eve of the fighting.

You get:

  • 409 pages of text in 19 chapters, by day
  • Appendix on the itineraries of the armies
  • Bibliography to follow in volume 2
  • 14 page Dramatis Personae
  • Index
  • Bottom of page footnotes
  • Foreword by Dr. Jennifer Murray
  • 31 Edward Alexander maps
  • Photos and illustrations throughout

From the jacket:

In Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell: The Battle of Secessionville, June 16, 1862, historian Jim Morgan examines the James Island campaign and its aftermath. By including several original sources not previously explored, he takes a fresh look at this small, but potentially game-changing fight, and shows that it was of much more than merely local interest at the time.

You get:

  • 151 pages of text in 12 chapters
  • 2 appendixes: driving tour and the Campbell brothers of the 79th New York Volunteers
  • Order of Battle
  • 14 page Dramatis Personae
  • Foreword by Dr. Kyle Sinisi
  • 10 Edward Alexander maps
  • Photos and illustrations throughout




2023 Shaping Up – Speaking Schedule Thus Far

18 11 2022

My speaking schedule for 2023 promises to be my busiest yet – though I have set the bar pretty low. That’s understandable, I guess, since I don’t actively solicit engagements and I have no books to sell. You can keep up to date, as well as find recaps to prior engagements, here. I don’t have any battlefield tours scheduled right now, but we’ve got something in mind, so check back daily. As of right now, here are my dates and locations – six dates, five states, three topics:

1/19/2023 – Powhatan Civil War Roundtable, Powhatan, VA

3/13/2023 – Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable, Charleston, SC

3/16/2023 – Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable, Pinehurst, NC

4/12/2023 – Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable, Columbus, OH

5/17/2023 – Western Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable, Sewickley, PA

710/2023 – Raleigh Civil War Roundtable, Raleigh, NC

If your group is open to a Civil War presentation that doesn’t have anything to do with Gettysburg, you can contact me in the comments section here or on the Book Me, Danno! page, the Bull Runnings Facebook page, the Bull Runnings Twitter account, or via email provided in the right hand column. That’s as solicitous as I get.





Barbara Tuchman on the Ever-Changing Nature of History

22 10 2022

I finally got around to reading Barbara Tuchman’s classic The Guns of August, which traces the outbreak of the First World War and it’s first month, up to the Battle of the Marne. I’ve had it for years. Needless to say, it lived up to its reputation, and I recommend it.

But to the point of this rare non-resource post. In the notes on the sources at the end, Tuchman makes an observation. I’ll just leave it here, since it speaks for itself, and is equally applicable to the study and interpretation of the American Civil War.

Men who had taken part at the command level, political and military, felt driven to explain their decisions and actions. Men who had fallen from high command, whether for cause or as scapegoats – and these included most of the commanders of August – wrote their private justifications. As each account appeared, inevitably shifting responsibility or blame to someone else, another was provoked. Private feuds became public; public controversies expanded. Men who would otherwise have remained mute were stung to publish…Books proliferated. Whole schools of partisans…produced libraries of controversy.

Through this forest of special pleading the historian gropes his way, trying to recapture the truth of past events and find out “what really happened.” He discovers that truth is subjective and separate, made up of little bits seen, experienced, and recorded by different people. It is like a design seen through a kaleidoscope; when the cylinder is shaken the countless colored fragments form a new picture. Yet they are the same fragments that made a different picture a moment earlier. This is the problem inherent in the records left by the actors in past events. The famous goal, “wie es wirklich war,*” is never wholly within our grasp.

*How it really was; what really happened.





Who Knew Revisionist History Was So Easy?

29 06 2022

This past weekend I gave a “shakedown” tour of First Bull Run on the blazing hot Plains of Manassas to two very good friends, Licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guide Chris Army and battlefield tourist extraordinaire Mike Pellegrini. On Matthews Hill, Chris asked how many men were in Union Colonel David Hunter’s division, consisting of the brigades of Colonel’s Andrew Porter and Ambrose Burnside. I consulted my notes which include the table from The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 2, page 309, Abstract of the returns of the Department of Northeastern Virginia Commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, U. S. A., for July 16 and 17, 1861. (View it here.) There it was, in black and white:

Aggregate present for duty for Hunter’s division = 2,648.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But wait. That number made no sense to me. Hunter’s division consisted of seven volunteer regiments, one battalion each of regular infantry, cavalry, and marines, and two batteries of artillery. And this was the very beginning of the war. If we conservatively allow for the battalions and batteries to equate to just one regiment, that’s 8 regiments. Per regiment, just 331 men. Looking at casualties for the division, also from the ORs, of 829, that’s a pretty massive casualty rate of 31%.

And not only that, 2,648 flies in the face of the traditional narrative that the Confederates faced an overwhelming force on Matthews Hill.

I couldn’t figure it out, so I did what I often do – I asked a long-time Friend of Bull Runnings (FOBR), former NPS historian John Hennessy, about it, laying out the question much as I presented it above.

John took a deeper dive, and what follows are the fruits of his labor, not mine. All I did was ask a question.

Here’s what he came up with* (he also unknowingly contributed the title of this post): there is more in the ORs than meets – or has met, for the past 130 years – the eyes. Two revisions need to be made to McDowell’s estimate of 2,648 men for Hunter’s division, and by extension, to McDowell’s estimate of the strength of his army, 35,732 aggregate present for duty including Runyon’s reserve (from that same table on page 309).

The first adjustment comes from Porter’s report (see here) in Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 383-387, in which he states:

“I have the honor to submit the following account of the operations of the First Brigade, Second Division, of the Army, in the battle before Manassas, on the 21st instant.(*) The brigade was silently paraded in light marching order at 2 o’clock in the morning of that day, composed as follows, viz: Griffin’s battery; marines, Major Reynolds; Twenty-seventh New York Volunteers, Colonel Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel Lyons; battalion regulars, Major Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major Palmer. Total strength, 3,700.”

I know, right? Porter says his brigade alone exceeded McDowell’s estimate of the strength of Hunter’s whole division.

But that’s not all.

There is a volume of the Official Records that’s pretty important, but often gets overlooked. It’s called the General Index and Additions and Corrections. On page 1,096 of that tome, we find this:

Page 309. Add foot-note to abstract from returns, etc., Burnside’s brigade, Hunter’s division, not accounted for. On July 12 it had present for duty 151 officers and 3,483 men. Total present, 3,692. Aggregate present 3,851.

Now, if we go back to McDowell’s estimate, the 2,648 estimate for Hunter’s division should be more like 3,700 for Porter and 3,692 for Burnside, a total of 7,392. John pointed out that for a total of 83 companies of men of all arms, that’s a more reasonable headcount (with these numbers, 89 per company). I’ll point out that it also makes more sense with the casualties, 829/7,392 = 11.2%

This alone conforms much more closely with the “outnumbered Confederates on Matthews Hill” narrative.

We need to do one more thing, though. McDowell’s estimate of the total strength of his army including Runyon’s reserve was 35,732. But that’s with only 2,648 for Hunter’s division. Take out that 2,648 (and 73 for Co. E, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, accounted for separately in McDowell’s estimate but attached to Porter) and replace it with 7,392 and we get a grand total aggregate present for duty of:

40,403.

So, for now, until someone convinces me otherwise, when asked how many men Hunter had, I’ll say “about 7,500” instead of “about 2,500.” And when someone asks how many men McDowell had, it will be “about 40,000” rather than “about 35,000,” both including Runyon’s reserve (or 35,000 rather than 30,000 without). This without ripping all of McDowell’s other numbers apart, which may also be in order.

Thoughts?

*A lot of the math above is mine. Keeping in mind that I scored much higher in verbal than math on my SATs, if there are any screw-ups in that regard, I alone made them.





Frederick County Civil War Round Table

25 04 2022
I forgot to take my traditional selfie. Thanks to my son for taking up the slack.

This past Thursday, April 21, I delivered my presentation on McDowell’s Plan to about 25 folks of the Frederick County Civil War Round Table, at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine smack dab in Frederick, Md. They were a good group, stayed awake, and asked some really good questions afterwards. It was nice to see old friends Jim Rosebrock, Brian Downey, and Tracey McIntyre, too. Thanks to Matt Borders for inviting me down. If you get the chance to speak there, or attend a meeting on the third Thursday each month, be sure to take advantage.





Preview: Bryan, “Cedar Mountain to Antietam”

20 04 2022

New from Savas Beatie is M. Chris Bryan’s Cedar Mountain to Antietam: A Civil War Campaign History of the Union XII Corps, July-September 1862. From the jacket:

Bryan’s extensive archival research, newspapers, and other important resources, together with detailed maps and images, offers a compelling story of a little-studied yet consequential command that fills a longstanding historiographical gap.

You get:

  • 346 page narrative in eleven chapters and an epilogue
  • 3 appendices, with orders of battle, numbers and losses, and the 3rd Wisconsin at Cedar Mountain
  • 10 page bibliography
  • Full index
  • Bottom-of-page footnotes
  • 28 (!) Hal Jesperson Maps