Preview – Croon (Ed), “The War Outside My Window”

17 04 2018

9781611213881This is a little different for Bull Runnings. The good folks at Savas Beatie sent me a digital, advance unedited galley of a unique diary, The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon. The story of this diary, which I’ll describe below, has been bouncing around for quite some time – here’s a WaPo article from 2012.

I’ve read snippets of LeRoy’s diary, and enough of other online sources which you can find yourself to get a good idea of his back story (note this is a preview, not a review.) Here’s the gist – he was a very bright, well-read, and articulate young man, living in Macon, GA. He suffered from a disease resulting from a severe injury to his leg – when the diary opens, he’s already an invalid and would need to be pulled about in a wagon of sorts. Unlike the reader LeRoy was of course unaware that his condition was mortal, and he would barely outlive the war that understandably occupied so much of his thoughts. Our knowledge of his impending doom makes his daily writings, spanning the whole conflict and very much of and in the moment, all the more poignant in their innocence, ignorance, and wit. You’ll feel for the kid.

Here’s young Gresham’s entry for July 22, 1861, with the early news of the fighting at Manassas:

Macon July 22 1861: Another great battle at Manassas! Sherman’s Battery taken! Terrible Slaughter on both sides! The enemy retired from the field. The Fight commenced 4 oclock this morning and continued until about seven. The battle raged with terrible force and a heavy loss on both sides. There has evidently been a signal Victory at Bulls Run. President Davis’ message is out. It is not only well written, but beautiful in contrast to the boorish effort of Doctor Lincoln, Chief magistrate of United States. Raining very slightly before breakfast this morning. Sad news Gen. F. S. Bartow is killed. Macon Gaurds in the fight. President Davis commanded in person; Beauregarde + Johnson’s army both engaged 40 000 to 70 000 on a side. Beauregarde’s horse shot from under him. It will be sometime before we can get the truth of it. Dressed my back this morning and its healing though very slowly. General Wise has also gained a signal Victory in western Virginia, killing 150 federals and losing few of his men. Julia Ann is up and about again. Very heavy shower this afternoon. Uncle John, Deo Volente [God willing], leaves for Athens tomorrow. Father comes home but there are no more reliable dispatches. The battles undoubtedly sends a thrill of Anguish to many an anxious heart in the newborn Confederacy. Ave Maria Jose [goodbye].

Undoubtedly, some will latch on to the undeniable fact that LeRoy was a youth of privilege and wealth, a member of a slaveholding family with personal servants, and may argue that these are the most important, or even the only, aspects of his life with which we should concern ourselves, to the exclusion of all others. To the contrary, young Gresham’s story and personal observations give great insight into the mind of someone raised in the reality of the times, and should provide a tool for historians to interpret those times in context as opposed to retrospect. I mean, that’s their job, after all. It’s not everyone’s job. But it is that of the historian.

It’s hard to tell you what you’ll get with the final product. Of course you get the diary and detailed annotations in bottom of page footnotes; illustrations including a few of actual diary pages with what we refer to today as “metadata” (doodling, sweat stains, etc.); Hal Jesperson maps; extensive dramatis personae; and appendices related to LeRoy’s medical condition. A lot of detective work went into this.

I am perhaps dying ebook[7587][Dennis Rasbach, MD, has written an e-book (not yet available), I Am Perhaps Dying: The Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham and the Medical Backstory of his Private Battle with Tuberculosis During the Civil War. Keep on the lookout for that.]

The War Outside My Window is scheduled to drop in June, with national coverage and a feature in the Sunday Parade magazine. Advance orders or signed copies are being taken at the Savas Beatie site linked above. I think this will be an important work, and well worth your time.





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 6

7 04 2018

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: 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:

Chapter 6: Freezing For a Fight (A) : Beauregard’s plans.

Pp. 138-142 – Beauregard’s wackiness raises its head as on June 12 he encourages Johnston to abandon the Valley, march east through the Blue Ridge passes, block them behind him, link up with Bory “in advance of Bull Run,” and together retake Alexandria and Arlington. The author characterized the Creole’s plans, rightly, as “sweeping in scope, careless of details, and unsound in some of its conclusions,” and that a glaring weakness was “its blithe reliance on the support that the inadequate and inefficient Confederate logistical system was incapable of giving him.” The author also points out that the rejection of this plan by President Davis tested the pair’s “already fragile relationship.” This rejection “shocked” Bory into a “defensive mindset.”

P. 144 –  On July 4, while scouting the no-man’s land between the Confederate and Union positions in NoVa, two members of the Black Horse Cavalry were killed by friendly fire.

P. 145 – Bory complained to anyone and everyone of the problems he was facing. He was in constant fear of attack, and called continuously for reinforcements. While most expectant of an attack on the road from Centreville to Manassas at Mitchell’s Ford, he also considered the likelihood of a flanking maneuver on his left, in the Stone Bridge area. The author points out the incongruity of Bory’s fear and the fact that he assigned only a small contingent at Stone Bridge, under “a known inebriate,” Shanks Evans.

P. 146-147 – Giving counsel to his fears, Bory informed Richmond “I shall act with extreme caution.” He laid out his “defensive strategy” in S.O. 100 on July 8. This firmed up the positions of the three brigades south of Bull Run, and also instructed those three brigades north of the Run, in the event of an attack, to fall back to various points along it before being overwhelmed – that is, don’t put up a fight. But on July 10, Bory received intelligence of McDowell’s impending advance via spy Bettie Duval that changed his perspective, and on July 13 he again pitched his unification scheme to both Richmond and Joe Johnston. This new scheme became quite grandiose. Johnston never replied, and Richmond again rejected Bory.

I don’t really have a problem with any of this. But then, Bory’s plans aren’t really my bag and I’ve got no reason to part with traditional interpretations. Next up, though, are the Federal commander’s plans. Plural. Let’s always keep that in mind.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 7





Bull Runnings Photography Tour – Postponed

5 04 2018

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It’s my sad duty to report that, due to an absolutely abysmal weather forecast and the nature of the event, the Bull Runnings Photography Tour scheduled for this coming Saturday, April 7, at Manassas National Battlefield Park (and environs), has been postponed. We are rescheduling it for June 9, 2018. Let me know how that works for you.

Very sorry, but the tour just can’t be conducted under the anticipated conditions.





Bull Runnings Photography Tour Reading and Weather Update

4 04 2018

A couple of things.

First, John Cummings has updated this post, which was part of the recommended reading list. Give it a look.

Second, the weather still looks grim, and Simon Bar Sinister still hasn’t come through with that machine I ordered. So, stay on the lookout the next two days when I’ll make the call – go or no-go. Look here and the Facebook pages.





Bull Runnings Photography Tour Weather Update

2 04 2018

weathering-the-storm-plus-simon2

I’ve received a few inquiries regarding the tour next Saturday, April 7, and the weather. Right now we’re looking at 40 degrees and wet. There are things within my control and things not, and the weather (for now) is one of the latter. I have subcontracted Simon Bar Sinister to build me a machine, but until then we gotta rely on chance. The weatherman can’t get tomorrow’s forecast right, let alone five days from now – or fifty years. That being said, we’ll have to play it by ear. I will let you all know by Friday morning if we’re going to be forced to cancel the event, after consulting with our guest guide.

So keep an eye out here and on the Facebook pages. Every. Single. Day.





Preview – Sauers (Ed.), “The National Tribune Civil War Index”

30 03 2018

NTCWIndex1_LRG

Folks have been waiting a long time for something like this, though I wasn’t sure if we’d see it in expensive print format or free and easy-to-use website. The former has won out with Savas Beatie’s publication of Richard Sauers’s The National Tribune Civil War Index: A Guide to the Weekly Newspaper Dedicated to Civil War Veterans, 1877-1943. The set is three volumes, the first two a chronological listing of articles and the third, really the meat and potatoes as far as I’m concerned, a Subject, Author, and Unit Index. The subtitle gives the preview away, though I’d point out that the National Tribune was an outlet for Union Civil War veterans – the counterpart, if you will, of the Confederate Veteran, and the precursor to the long-running military publication Stars and Stripes.

This is a wonderful companion to digitized collections of National Tribune, such as this one. (There are other places to find it, and these are noted in Volume 1.)

So, let’s give it a try. Starting with Volume 3, I look up, in the Subject Index, First Bull Run. OK, nothing there. I’m used to this. So, let’s go to Bull Run – nothing. Well, let’s check Manassas then, why don’t we. Ahh, there it is. Manassas, VA. (Bull Run), first battle, July 21, 1861. We have listings by subject under that, including individuals like Ayres, Romeyn B., an article which appeared in the July 28, 1892 issue; general accounts, in May 1881 and August 20 of the same year, and again on 10/18/83 and 3/31 & 9/29/87, and 4/30/96; and numerous entries by Divisions, 1 through 5.

Now let’s see how it works, and check out that Ayres article from 7/28/92 at the link I provided above. As you can see here, there are 12 pages to that issue. I’m lazy and would like to save reading the whole paper to find my Ayers reference, so let’s use Volume 1 of the Index (1877 – 1903) and see if we can’t narrow that down. There I see an article by C. D. Brigham, General R. B. Ayres, listed as appearing on page 3, columns 4-5. Back to the website noted, I find the article, subtitled How He Covered the Retreat From the First Bull Run. Check it out for yourself right here.

If this kind of stuff floats your boat – that is, if you’re a researcher – get yourself a copy.





Preview – Loperfido (Ed.), “Death, Disease, and Life at War”

27 03 2018

Layout 1I previewed Christopher Loperfido’s A Surgeon’s Tale here back in 2011. So I’ll let that serve as part of this preview of a new Savas Beatie edition of the book, retitled (with a much appreciated Oxford comma) Death Disease, and Life at War: The Civil War Letters of Surgeon James D. Benton, 111th and 98th New York Infantry Regiments, 1862-1865. There have been changes made to this edition, and Christopher laid them out for me. I thought about rewriting this myself, but hey, seems clear enough:

  • The military organization has been cleaned up a bit to give readers a better understanding of military lingo that James might reference if they were not already aware.
  • The introduction includes all new photos and is more detailed regarding the status of the union army medical department at the beginning of the war, what an assistant surgeon would have done during the war, more background information about James and his family, and sets the stage at Harper’s Ferry for the beginning of James’s letters after the 111th was captured and paroled.
  • Footnotes have been tweaked, more information and some have been added and others subtracted.
  • A postscript section has been added about a bible James picked up during the war and returned in 1885.
  • 5 appendices were added to give an introduction to Jonathan Letterman, Sanitary Commission, Ambulance Corps, Amputations, and Civil War dressings.
  • More context about what was going on during the war in each year has been added and cleaned up as well.