“Charge of the ‘Georgia Eighth'”

20 06 2017

On a recent visit to Gettysburg, friend Craig Swain gifted me a nifty little book, Memoirs of the War Between the States, by Ethel Maddox Byrd and Zelda Haas Cassey. The book was published in 1961. It contains the poem below, written by “an Unknown Lady in Maryland,” which I thought you all might find interesting.

CHARGE OF THE “GEORGIA EIGHTH” AT THE BATTLE OF MANASSAS

The morning shines gaily
On proud Manassas’ height.
Six Hundred gallant Georgians
Are ready for the fight.

Each heart beats high and holy,
As with measured step they go,
For they stand between their firesides
And the invading foe.

The battle rages fiercely;
Has raged since break of day; And Sherman’s fatal battery,
With corpses, strews the way.

Cries Beauregard, with thrilling voice,
As the trumpets call,
“Forward, Brave comrades, to the charge,
That battery must fall!”

Six Hundred gallant Georgians –
With quickened step they go;
And fearlessly they follow
Their leader, brave Bartow.

Oh! Georgia’s stainless chivalry,
God speed you in the fight!
Your cause is just, your arms are strong,
Sweep onward in your might.

The setting sun sinks slowly
On the gory battlefield;
And to Southern rights and valor
The Northern hirelings yield.

The setting sun looks sadly,
Where the dead and dying lay,
On the ghastly field of battle,
The Six Hundred! Where are they?

Five deep round Sherman’s battery
They lie at set of sun!
But the battery is taken
And the red field is won!

Sixty of the Six Hundred
Stand round their leader now,
But death’s eternal shadow, clouds
His vainly-laureled brow.

Oh! Georgia’s glorious chivalry!
The loved ones and the brave!
Who poured their blood like water out,
And died that they might save!

And Beauregard, the Conqueror,
Rides up and bares his head –
“Uncovered, I salute
The Georgia Eighth,” he said.

When history shall reckon
Of this day’s deeds and fame,
Oh! whose shall be the glory!
And whose shall be the shame!

Memoirs of the War Between the States, pp. 28-29

 

 

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Preview: McMillan, “Gettysburg Rebels”

14 06 2017

51Zo8aLJtsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Fresh off the presses is Tom McMillan’s Gettysburg Rebels, a signed copy of which arrived in my mailbox while I was away this past weekend in, you guessed it, Gettysburg. (I only live three and a half hours away from the place, but don’t get out there nearly as often as one might think.)

As you can see from the cover, Gettysburg Rebels is the story of five former citizens of the town who returned as Confederate soldiers in July, 1863. The stories of Wesley Culp and Henry Wentz may be familiar to many of you, but some of you are surely wondering who the other three men were. No spoilers here – you’ll have to read the book.

The author has researched the stories of all five men and presented them in flowing style. He also ponders why, with 5 former residents of the town in his Army of Northern Virginia, its commander was not made aware of their presence and could not rely on them for more accurate intelligence on the environs than he ultimately received from his staff.

You get: 234 pages of narrative; bibliography; descriptive end notes (that is, read them, there’s good stuff in them); and an index.

Mr. McMillan is the author of Flight 93: The Story, the Aftermath, and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11. He’s been the VP of Communications for the defending, back-to-back NHL Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins for the past 21 years. I sure hope he takes it easy at the parade today.





1st Lt Clarke Henry Thompson, Co. G, 7th Virginia Infantry, On the Campaign

26 05 2017

Near Centreville, Fairfax Co.

Friday, August 2, 1861

Dear Aunt:

According to promise, I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. I am in camp near the above named place, and have been ever since last Sunday, at which time our regiment marched here from within on mile from the great and ever memorable battlefield of the 21st. I have thus far been spared from the bullets of the enemy, though subject to their fire in both battles.

I left Culpeper C. H. on the 26th of June, arriving in camp at a place called Wigfall, some two miles from Manassas, stayed there six or seven days, then marched with the regiment (which is called the 7th Va. Regt) to a place called Occoquan, a distance of eighteen miles.

We remained there a week and returned. In some five or seven days after our return we were ordered out to meet the enemy, a distance of about two miles, where we camped on the ground and many of us without blankets. On the next day which was Thursday the 18th, we marched some three or four miles in a different direction where we met the severest volly of musketry from the enemy, who were some thirty yards upon the hill, hidden completely from view. As luck would have it, not many of our regiment were killed or got wounded, but many of the enemy were slain. It was really a sight to find the blankets and clothes and things scattered over the field after their defeat.

You may think strange, but many of our men went upon the field the next morning and got off the dead bodies of the yankees, money, cards, likenesses, and many other little notions, many things no doubt had been stolen from our private citizens upon their route from Washington to the field.

We then stayed in our trenches for two whole days and nights waiting for them to return, but they did not return and they brought up a flag of truce for permission to bury their dead. Instead of acting honorably, they left their dead and wounded and went two miles up the run, where they threw up the most tremendous breast-work against us.

We took up the wounded and had them cared for, and believe me, General Beauregard had the dead buried.

On Saturday we were ordered out of the trenches and marched two miles, where we rested until Sunday morning, when we marched ten and a half miles to meet the enemy again. The battle commenced before seven in the morning and lasted until late in the evening. Our Regt. got upon the field about three o’clock in the afternoon at which time the enemy retreated.

We lost out of our regiment and fifty killed and wounded. They fired upon us very heavily for, I suppose fifteen minutes, we marched after them but not very far, as their retreat was in such haste and confusion that our Cavalry could hardly keep up with them, such a defeat was never known.

They scattered thousands of dollars worth of blankets, oil cloths, hats, coats and shoes. They actually threw away trunks filled with surgical instruments. Besides these there were silk dress patterns, bonnets and underskirts, found marked to to the wives of the men in New York, as trophies gotten from the “Rebels” as they term us. These things were stolen from private individuals in Alexandria and Fairfax C. H. How could a young man, dear Aunt, help volunteering to fight such a mob of heartless wretches as they? They actually killed the stock, burned houses, destroyed furniture of the people as they advanced.

We whipped them very decently, and they went back to the spot from which it took them six months to march, in six hours. They were seen to pass the streets begging the citizens for private clothing, thinking that they could escape, and that we were still after them. They fell in the streets and died of exhaustion. I had the audacity to think last Sunday, that I was not made to be struck by a bullet. It is, I think, the hand of the All-wise One that prevents the balls from striking me, for they whistled around like hail.

All history to a battle is mere fiction to the reality. It is an indescribable sight to see bodies mutilated in every manner in quantities all over the place, and arm here, a head there, a leg in another place. There were many cut up in this way. Some of the bodies actually laid out of the ground for six days. Hundreds of the finest horses were slaughtered upon the enemy side.

We took some 12,000 guns, 71 pieces of cannon, 1000 men and 500 horses.

I had no idea that I could stand what I have, but I can now walk over a dead “Yankee” with as good grace as I would a dog.

I hope that our Country may soon be at peace, but from the present movements of our regiments, I fear not, some four or five have passed down in the last few days. It is thought that we will advance upon Washington in a short time, how true this is I am not able to say, you can hear more news than we. The soldier’s life is not a pleasant one by any means, but when one knows the duty that he owes his Country, he will make any sacrifice. I shall ever consider the service that I have done the most noble act of my life. You will excuse this epistle as I am writing very fast. I will close. Remember me most affectionately to Uncle Albert, Cousin Fountaine and family, and all my relatives and friends.

Your most affectionate nephew,

C. H. Thompson

N. B. Write soon and address your letters to Manassas, in the care of Captain Walden, 7th Va. Regiment.

Library of Virginia

Transcription Image

Contributed by Keith Yoder

Clarke H. Thompson at Fold3 





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 4

14 05 2017

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 4: Green and Green Alike (Don’t get me started on this quote – some view it as an indication of Lincoln’s raw, common sense. I see it as evidence of his poor grasp of military realities – if, in fact, he said it.)

P. 91 – The first sentence of this chapter is one of my great pet peeves: “On the day Irvin McDowell assumed command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia…”

The footnote for this paragraph cites Starr’s Bohemian Brigade and Warner’s Generals in Blue. Neither of these are primary sources (nothing wrong with that), and neither of them discuss the origin of the name Army of Northeastern Virginia (this is the first time the name is used in this book.) Why does this note not cite some order creating the army, or some report referring to it for the fist time? Because, as far as I’ve been able to determine, there never was any organization on the books called The Army of Northeastern Virginia. The moniker was only applied post-battle, and post formation of The (Federal) Army of the Potomac. Why is this important? What difference does it make? Maybe none. But it bugs the heck out of me when I see it. OK, enough on that, let’s move on.

Pp. 93-94 – The author notes that McDowell was hampered not only by “inadequate communications” south of the Potomac, but also faced a shortage of wagons to carry rations for his army when on the march. He had to deal with a “lack of cooperation from superiors and colleagues alike,” and that McDowell would later attribute this to Winfield Scott’s dissatisfaction with his elevation to command of the army in the field. General J. K. F. Mansfield was an instrument in Scott’s obstruction of McDowell’s efforts.

P. 101 – In the same vein, McDowell later claimed that he “had no opportunity to test my machinery…” That is, he couldn’t drill his new regiments in battlefield, brigade sized evolutions. When he did exercise a group of eight regiments together, Scott accused him of “trying to make some show.” The author points out that failure to drill regiments as brigades and divisions resulted in the inability to use them as such in practice. This gives some insight into the time-honored opinion that the “piece-meal” insertion of units into the battle was key to Union defeat.

P. 103 – The author raises a good question: Why was Daniel Tyler, who held no volunteer or regular army rank, and who had been out of the army for almost 30 years, given command of the largest division in McDowell’s army? Other than a generally favorable remark from W. T. Sherman (“has a fair reputation”), a good reason isn’t offered. The author notes and provides evidence that the men in the ranks were left unimpressed by Edith Carow (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt’s grandfather. [As a side note, I found some evidence in Alan Gaff’s If This is War that, despite having personally drilled the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers of his division at least once, the men were less than familiar with Tyler, as some of them believed he attempted to rally the men on Henry House Hill, when he was nowhere in the vicinity. I’m guessing they confused him with another white-haired officer, Samuel Heintzelman.]

P. 108 – The author notes that the June 1 raid on Fairfax Court House by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins, and his “wildly inflated estimate of the troops” there “inhibited McDowell from making further reconnaissances.” He also states that “some historians” claim this also resulted in a postponement on the eventual movement on Manassas and allowed more time for Beauregard to strengthen the defenses there. [Delays leading to defeat, and separately to plan failure, will be a recurring theme.]

PP. 108-112 – On June 3, Scott directed McDowell to give an estimate of the number of troops he would need to make a move on the Bull Run Line (and maybe Manassas Gap), in conjunction with Patterson’s movement against Harper’s Ferry. McDowell’s was to be a supporting role. McDowell returned a number that was very low, a total of 17,000 men including a 5,000 man reserve. McDowell felt this would perhaps compel Beauregard to fall back on Richmond. Even when credible reports established that Beauregard had 20,000 on the line, McDowell still thought the move (and men), which would bypass Fairfax Court House, could succeed via a move toward Vienna. [The author does not explore this line of thought, but here we see an indication that McDowell is thinking along the lines of Scott’s campaign in Mexico, a series of turning movements by smaller forces, in the face of which the enemy would withdraw.]

As a test, McDowell ordered a foray to Vienna. The misfortune that befell Brig. Gen. Schenck at that place seemed “to have infected his men with a deep-seated fear of ‘masked batteries,’ one that politicians and newspaper editors would play up.” [All of which may be true, but I have yet to find any creditable evidence that this in any way impacted the orders to and dispositions of McDowell’s force when it eventually moved out. There are more practical reasons for those than some “fear” of masked batteries, a theme that runs through many chronicles of the campaign.]

P. 112 – The author notes that as of June 24, McDowell had access to fewer than 14,000 troops in his department [a much better term to use than a formal army name, by the way], but that he remained confident that if he could properly train, organize, and motivate all the men he would receive over the next few weeks they could defeat the rebels “if they needed to fight them at all. He [McDowell] continued to believe that a well-mounted advance might persuade” the rebels to fall back to better defenses nearer the Rappahannock River. [And here it is: I don’t think McDowell ever stopped believing that.]

P. 113 – By late June, those in power were getting anxious for a move. McDowell would say later that whenever he mentioned the obstacles he was facing, he received the same response regarding the relative “green-ness” of his men and those of the enemy [it’s tough sometimes to nail down just who first flung this classic, but misguided, comeback McDowell’s way – I’ve seen it attributed to both Scott and Lincoln]. The author correctly points out that it was the “government’s” lack of patience that was pressuring for a move, not that of “the people” or “the press.” [Of course, that buck stops with POTUS.] And so on June 21, Scott directed McDowell to present a “finished plan to ‘sweep the enemy from Leesburg to Alexandria’ in cooperation with a column from Patterson’s army.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5





Good News, Bad News

18 04 2017

I eat what I kill. That is to say, the more work I do, the more I get paid. When I don’t have a lot of work to do – that is, work that pays – I generally have more time to post things here. But I’ve been slammed lately. And since my work requires I sit and type and stare at three monitors all day, when I put in a long day it’s tough to wind down by sitting and typing and staring at a monitor. And so you get what you’ve got this past month – one stinking post, before this one. But rest assured, I have a lot of stuff to come. I’m working on two posts right now: another installment in the review of Early Morning of War; and some really interesting stuff from a book I’m reading in preparation for a trip to Little Big Horn and points west this summer (this is a once in a lifetime trip, I think – I’m really looking forward to it), a book on archaeology at that battlefield that includes some great stuff applicable to any researcher. I find it particularly applicable to what I’ve been doing with First Bull Run. It hasn’t changed my thinking, but it’s helped to express it a little better, I think. Ultimately, it’s affirming. Reassuring.

In addition, readers have been sending me more stuff, mostly letters from participants in the battle. Friend John Banks just sent me two tonight, from the 11th Massachusetts. Keep an eye out for a related story from him. (If any of you run across anything to add to my letter/diary/memoir/image database, please forward it!) And I have a huge backlog of Hennessy letters, and more portrait images, and things I haven’t even mentioned yet, and things I have mentioned but…well, you get the picture.

You’d think after ten years I’d be closer to the end than I am. I mean, I could be. But I’d also be flat broke (remember, I make nothing from this site – I don’t want to crap it up or otherwise compromise it with advertising, and don’t even have a deal with Amazon for click-throughs). Thanks for sticking with me. There’s more good stuff to come. I’ll run out of me before I run out of it.





Preview: Reardon & Vossler, “Field Guide to Gettysburg”, 2nd Edition

10 04 2017

1525028608Hot off the presses is a second edition of A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People, the wildly successful, ground-breaking, and critically acclaimed work of Dr. Carol Reardon and Col. (Ret.) Thomas Vossler. Dr. Reardon sent this descriptive note:

We added two new stops. The first offers a brief walking tour of the Harmon farm on the first day’s battlefield. This is the property that used to be the old Gettysburg Country Club. When we began writing the first edition, this property had just come into possession of Gettysburg National Military Park, and there were no basic amenities, such as public parking. Once they opened a small gravel lot, we knew we wanted to share the story of the Iron Brigade’s first fight at Gettysburg and the capture of General Archer. Similarly, at Powers Hill, the clearing of the viewshed was underway, but it had not been completed and no public parking existed. The opening of a small lot on Granite Schoolhouse Road made it possible to create a stop for that site. The view from the summit is super! Indeed, I think we will learn more and more about this under-emphasized part of the battlefield as the park interpretive staff integrates the action on newly acquired properties on both sides of the Baltimore Pike into the broader Gettysburg narrative. We also improved many of the maps so they mesh more clearly with the text.

Thanks to the editors at the University of North Carolina Press, we were able to do something special in the e-book version of the second edition. Since technology made it possible to add new text easily, they gave us back 10,000 words we could not find room for in the book editions. These elements had been part of our original vision, but we had had to cut them from the first edition due to space limitations. Some of those cuts were very painful to make, but now we were able to restore them. So, now, in addition to the two new stops and improved maps, readers of the e-book will get a lot more stories about the soldiers who fell in battle. In addition to some additional leader vignettes, we’ve added some of the most useful and relevant leadership lessons–some good, some bad–that we use in field programs and on staff rides for military audiences. We’ve added a few mini-stops to cover McGilvery’s artillery in support of Sickles’ III Corps on July 2 and the stand of the 9th Massachusetts battery. We also added an element to the stop on Seminary Ridge at the end of July 1 to encourage visitation to Mrs. Thompson’s house (aka Lee’s headquarters). There’s a LOT of new material in the e-book version of the field guide’s second edition.

Get the hard copy version here.

Get the ebook here.





Preview: Davis – “Inventing Loreta Velasquez”

28 03 2017

51kZCidyVkL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_New from prolific Civil War author William C. Davis is Inventing Loreta Velasquez: Confederate Soldier Impersonator, Media Celebrity, and Con Artist. I have to admit to being somewhat ambivalent towards the whole topic of women posing as men and serving as soldiers in the war. It may have something to do with each new book on the topic claiming to tell an untold story. Or perhaps its some deep-seated chauvinism come to the surface. But the story of Velasquez is relevant here because she claimed to have participated in the First Battle of Bull Run under the guise of a Confederate officer. Velasquez famously chronicled her adventures in a memoir, The Woman in Battle. You can read about her “adventures” at Bull Run in chapter VII.

This one’s a bit of a challenge to preview, as the story winds in and out of time and the index is a little lacking in precision. The tit,le post-colon, may give some indication of the author’s ultimate judgement of Loreta’s (or Lauretta’s) tales. But Mr. Davis has a penchant for well constructed, tight, and flowing narrative, so I’m going to give this one a shot – but probably not until after my Little Big Horn trip this summer.

You get 258 pp of narrative; 64 pp of endnotes; 29 pp of bibliography, including extensive manuscript sources; and the aforementioned index.