Projecting

5 12 2016

I’m getting around to outlining my thoughts on Irvin McDowell’s plan for the campaign on Manassas. If you’ve been following along, you know that I am firmly of the opinion that McDowell’s intentions and expectations for the campaign have been grossly misrepresented over the years, with resulting, understandable effects on the analysis of the failure of his plans (keeping in mind that reasons for the failure of plans and reasons for defeat are two very, very different things). While I think I’m no longer completely alone in that opinion, and may never have been, I’m still pretty sure I’m in a very small minority.

anteffcoverIn the meantime, I’m reading a very interesting book by Bradley Graham, The Antietam Effect. I’ve heard rumblings about this book over the past few years (self published in 2012), but never saw it until stumbling over it in the Fredericksburg Battlefield visitor’s center. This is a collection of essays dealing with various topics of the campaign. It’s wide-ranging, even eclectic. The titles listed in the footnotes may leave you scratching your head at first glance but, trust me, there’s a point to everything (and yes, you have to read the notes). I don’t necessarily agree with all the author’s conclusions, but I love his approach and find it very similar to my own, on a basic level.

One passage I found particularly intriguing, and applicable with some bending to my own experience with the historiography of First Bull Run, can be found on page 175:

To make their views more compelling, some authors enlist the unspoken opinions of key players…They engage in a species of psychological projection – projecting their own internalized impressions onto important historical characters. This cognitive bias tends to shape analysis, and good scholarship devolves into advocacy for the favored view, and the ascription of the author’s opinions onto those who did not espouse them.

It seems to me that, when it comes to McDowell’s intentions and expectations, authors have developed impressions of what they must have been or should have been, and in the absence of confirming evidence projected those impressions as being those of the man himself. The strange thing to me is how consistently this has been done over the years, so that those impressions have become generally accepted. When the legend becomes fact…





Review: Arwen Bicknell, “Justice and Vengeance”

25 11 2016

justice_and_vengeance_with_coinI received Justice and Vengeance: Scandal, Honor, and Murder in 1872 Virginia from author Arwen Bicknell a while back, and intended on writing a brief preview. However, I was intrigued enough by the very limited details provided on the back cover (including a good blurb from John Hennessy) and website to read the whole thing. I don’t usually do this, but want to get the synopsis from Amazon out of the way so I can discuss the cooler parts of this book:

In Justice and Vengeance, Arwen Bicknell offers the first full account of the events leading up to the shooting of James Clark by Lucien Fewell and the sensational, headline-grabbing murder trial that followed. Set against the backdrop of Reconstruction, tumultuous Virginia politics, and the presidential election of 1872 featuring Ulysses Grant, Horace Greeley, and protofeminist Victoria Woodhull, the first female presidential candidate, Bicknell paints a vivid picture of the evolving South as she traces the families and fortunes of Lucien Fewell, a hellraiser with a passion for drink and for abusing Yankees and scalawags, and James Clark, a rising legal and political star with a wife, a daughter, and a baby on the way.

A marvelous work of historical re-creation, Justice and Vengeance is sure to fascinate anyone interested in crime drama, the Civil War and its aftermath, and the history of Virginia and the politics of the American South.

OK, so why would anyone interested in the First Battle of Bull Run be interested in this 51vvmjvwiel-_sx311_bo1204203200_work, concerning a murder and trial which occur a decade after the battle? First of all, the bulk of the story takes place in the general Manassas vicinity, and particularly in Brentsville, and in the Brentsville jail house which you can visit today. Second, two fairly prominent Confederate participants in First Bull Run, Eppa Hunton of the 8th Virginia Infantry and Billy Payne of the Black Horse Troop, play very prominent roles as attorneys for the defense of the accused, Confederate veteran Lucien Fewell, who openly shot and mortally wounded Confederate veteran James Clark. Former Virginia governor Henry Wise assisted the prosecution.

But what is particularly fun is how the author pulls strings, albeit sometimes tenuously connected, to weave a wide ranging tapestry of the times in which these local events took place. It’s difficult to describe, which I imagine is why I found available summaries so dissatisfying.

Regardless, I recommend you give this book a tumble, if post-war politics, gender roles, legal proceedings, and general roller-coasterly good times flip your switch.





Ten Years Blogging

3 11 2016

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WordPress informed me yesterday that it was the tenth anniversary of my first ever blog post here at Bull Runnings. That’s a long time, which has seen a lot of changes in my life, but thankfully not too many changes to this blog. For the first year or so, I employed a theme that was white print on a black background. But after that, I adopted the theme you still see today. I think people appreciate a little continuity that way, and don’t want to have to figure their way around the site every time they visit. Either that, or I’m just lazy.

Readership has leveled off after the heady days of 2010-2013. But the mission stays the same: primarily, Bull Runnings serves as a repository for primary documents on the First Battle of Bull Run. Everything else is gravy. Over the years, I’ve developed my own ideas about what was meant to happen on July 21, 1861, and hope to share that in more detail with many of you here in the days ahead (I’ve gone over it in detail in a couple of presentations I’ve given, but just have to lay it out on paper, or screen). Book previews and author interviews should continue, too, along with other original content. But the Resources are the meat and potatoes, and what gets used by more and more researchers, as evidenced by the bibliographies in their published works. I’m happy about that.

This past year saw the first ever Bull Runnings tour of the Manassas Battlefield, with guest guide John Hennessy. It was a big success (in my opinion) with over 60 participants braving the weather to tromp the ground for a full day. I plan to build on that in 2017, with free tours in both the Spring and Fall. In the Spring, look for a double tour on artillery during the battle and on photography of the field later, with special guest guides. In the Fall – well, let’s save that for now.

Anyway, thank you all for your continued readership and support.





Those Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

2 11 2016

I’ve written before of the mis-identification of Sherman’s Battery in accounts of the battle, be it of the Sherman to whom the moniker pertains, or to the location of said battery during the battle. Like the Black Horse Cavalry, in the eyes of many participants every battery they saw on the field was the famous, rock-star Sherman’s Battery. Shortly after the battle, when faced with the reality of the safe return of the battery to the Washington vicinity, some Confederates were still in denial. From the New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861:

A Bogus Sherman Battery.

Richmond, August 3. – It is reliably stated by undoubted authority, that when the news reached Washington of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, Gen. Scott privately ordered six cannon to be taken from the Navy-Yard and sent to the neighborhood of Alexandria, with horses, which were brought back with the announcement that Sherman’s Battery had not fallen into the hands of the enemy.

 





West Virginia Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV

21 10 2016

After my talk on Tuesday at the Ohio County Public Library and after a nice lunch on the river in North Wheeling, my son and I stopped in at the West Virginia Independence Hall, a museum downtown very near the library. This is one neat little museum, inside the 1859 Federal custom house. In brief, the first floor houses displays on the state’s people’s breaking of the tyrannical shackles that bound them to the slaveocracy of Virginia (how’s that for priming the pump?), along with the post-office which was housed there. The second floor has a few period-decorated offices and a great West Virginia battle flag collection. And the third floor has a beautifully restored courtroom. In this building were held the constitutional conventions that led to West Virginia’s 1863 statehood. Below are some photos of the exhibits there. The museum is free, and photography allowed (though no flash is permitted in the flag exhibit). Click the images for larger ones.

Exterior:

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First floor:

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Second floor (many flags, few good photos):

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Third floor:

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My son channels Gov. Pierpont





Ohio County Public Library, 10/18/2016

19 10 2016

cid_dbd30eb9-4165-46cf-a86f-90fafa044a7cYesterday I presented my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the good folks of the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, WV, as part of their Lunch with Books program. About 60 were in attendance, including my son who is on break from Waynesburg University, and old friends Jon-Erik Gilot and Jim Dailer.

I thought the presentation went pretty well, though I was thrown when I realized I had left some materials – props, really – at home along with my clicker. I had to leave a few things out because we were on a pretty strict time limit, but managed to get all the important stuff in and field all the questions asked. Sean Duffy at the library does a very nice job, the facilities are great, and the audience engaged. If you are contacted by Sean to speak there, you should jump at the chance. And if you live in or are passing through the area, check out Lunch with Books every Tuesday at noon.

Afterwards my son and I followed Jim to lunch in North Wheeling along the river. A really perfect afternoon weather-wise. Then the boy and I took in a truly fine museum in Wheeling’s Independence Hall. More on that later.





New Resource Pages – Soldier Images

16 10 2016

This is something I should have been doing all along. You’ll find a new resource page for soldier images. I haven’t decided if I should include multiple images or just pick one. Anyway, this should fill up some time. You’ll be able to find these in alphabetical order by clicking on the Soldier Images page links in the right hand column and on the Bull Run Resources page accessed via the tab in the header, or in the Orders of Battle next to the individuals name when the letter I shows as a link in the parenthesis.

So, if you have any photos of participants you’d like to share here, send them on to me at the email address in the right hand column. Share great-great-grandpa’s mug for posterity!