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.

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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.





Preview: McCarthy – “Confederate Waterloo”

26 03 2017

Confederate_WaterlooI recently received a copy of Confederate Waterloo: The Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, and the Controversy that Brought Down a General, by Michael J. McCarthy. This appears to be the latest in a series of books from Savas Beatie that take a new look at controversial figures and incidents (or rehash long-settled arguments, depending on your point of view). In this case, the author recounts the fight at Five Forks in the closing days of the war in Virginia, the relief of Army of the Potomac Fifth Corps commander Gouverneur K. Warren by U. S. Grant lieutenant Phil Sheridan, and the efforts of Warren to restore his “good name.” The literature accompanying the book states that it is a “fully researched and unbiased” account. I don’t know that there’s any way to prove that last part of that, and its accuracy will doubtless depend on whether or not the reader agrees with the author’s conclusions.

What you get:

  • A foreword by Bryce Suderow
  • An eight page introduction
  • 103 pp covering the battle
  • 150 pp on Warren’s quest for vindication
  • Nine pages on “The Continuing Quest to Influence Public Memory”
  • Orders of Battle
  • A twelve page bibliography, including seventeen newspapers and periodicals, one unpublished dissertation and one unpublished thesis, and three manuscript collections
  • Index
  • Nine George Skoch maps
  • Illustrations are portrait photographs, no period or modern images of the points of interest
  • Footnotes at page bottom

It should be fun to read reactions to – and predictions about – the book (read or unread) on the web. Feel free to share them here, if you like.





Preview: Clemens (ed.) – “The Maryland Campaign, Vol. III”

23 03 2017

MarylandCampaignIIIAfter a long, long slog, friend Dr. Thomas G. Clemens has completed his Maryland Campaign campaign with volume III of his edition of the work of Ezra Carman in The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Vol. III: Sheperdstown Ford and the End of the Campaign. There, I used the word Campaign four times in one sentence.

I’m assuming my readers’ familiarity with the scope and importance of campaign veteran Ezra Carman’s work with the establishment of the Antietam National Battlefield and the chronicling, through massive solicitation of primary accounts, of the campaign. For the rest of you, think of Carman as the Bachelder of Antietam – or, more apporpriately, think of John Bachelder as the Carman of Gettysburg.

This last installment gives us the five closing chapters of Carman’s opus: Boteler’s Ford; The Results of the Maryland Campaign; Lincoln and McClellan; Lincoln, Halleck and McClellan; and Resume of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862. Then we have three appendices: one each on the errata of Vol. I and Vol. II; and a wonderful Biographical Dictionary. These are followed up with a surprisingly brief five-page bibliography (keep in mind that this is an edition of a manuscript based primarily on Carman’s own papers), and finally an index (to this volume only). Footnotes are provided at the bottom of the applicable pages.

Dr. Clemens has produced an unparalleled reference work for the Maryland Campaign that will stand a long, long time. Research, write about, or argue online the Maryland Campaign of 1862 without first reading all three volumes at your own peril and eventual embarrassment. Thank you, Tom, and the folks at Savas Beatie for providing this invaluable resource.





Pvt. Rufus H. Peck, Co. C, Botetourt Dragoons, Attached to 30th Virginia Cavalry*, On the Battle

12 03 2017

We remained at Fairfax C. H. until the 17th of July, and I was sent with fourteen other men, commanded by Serg. Garret, three miles below Fairfax C H. on the Falls Church road to stand picket, and at 9 o’clock a. m. we found that McDowell was moving on Manassas Junction by three roads, viz.: Falls Church road, Little River turnpike, and Flint Hill road. Serg. Garret returned to notify the General of McDowell’s movement, but the Gen. had already learned from other pickets, of his advance, so he ordered the army to retreat immediately. As Serg. Garret did not return to us, Corporal McCue sent me back 3 miles to Fairfax C. H., and when I arrived our Adjt. told me of the retreat and from there I could see Col. Kershaw’s regiment already engaged with the enemy, so I had to return to notify the other pickets to join the command, which we could only do by a flank movement and came very near being cut off entirely by the enemy. When I returned I found that two of our pickets on the Flint Hill road, John Mays and William Mailer had been captured. We continued our retreat to Centerville and remained there until night. Gen. Beauregard’s plan was to throw sky rockets to let us know when to retreat further towards Manassas Junction, and when we called in the last pickets, we were, fired upon by the enemy and two of our horses were killed from under their riders, Edward Hayth and WilHam Walton.

During the night we marched across Bull Run at Mitchel’s Ford and laid down for the remainder of the night in front of the guns at Manassas Junction. We were awakened next morning by the fireing of one of the enemy’s guns called ”Long Tom.” As this was the first big gun I had seen fired, I remember well the appearance of that shell to me. It looked more like a gate-post flying through the air than any thing else I could compare it to. After hissing through the air about a mile it exploded and I told the boys I knew it had blown Manassas Junction to “kingdom come” and she would need no more protection. It wasn’t many days after this though, until we became more accustomed to the big guns, so we didn’t jump at such hasty conclusions and the fireing wasn’t so exciting or terrifying. I hadn’t seen much of the infantry until that day and when they began double quicking and crossing Bull’s Run at Mitchel’s Ford in order to meet the enemy, I imagined we had men enough to whip the North right there.

At 9 o’clock on the 18th, the two armies met and for two hours a raging battle followed and when the Southerners made a charge ‘all along the line, they drove the enemy back with considerable slaughter, into the timber back of the lowlands, where the battle was fought, and they remained there until Sunday, with ”Long Tom” occasionally saluting us. Our line of battle extended from Blackburn’s Ford up nearly to Stone Bridge, a distance of 10 miles.

Sunday morning at about 8 o’clock Long Tom began fireing and we all thought the enemy meant to renew the attack, but about 9 o’clock we heard fireing at Stone Bridge about six miles above Manassas Junction.

The cavalry was immediately ordered to make a force march to Stone Bridge and when we got their we found that the 8th Georgia Regiment, commanded by Col. Huntington, in trying to hold the ford had lost nearly all their men and their commander. The 2nd Va. Regiment arrived to go to their rescue, but failed on account of the thick pines. About this time Jackson came in and with Gen. Bee and others, turned defeat into victory. Gen. Bee rushed to Jackson and said ‘General they are beating us back,” and Jackson said “we will give them the bayonet.” Gen. Bee encouraged by Jackson’s response shouted to his men: “Look! there is Jackson and his men standing like a stone wall.” He was ever afterward called “Stonewall Jackson.”

Gen. Bee was killed in a few minutes after making the remark to his men. The enemy, under McDowell’s command, was driven back with dreadful slaughter to Washington.

As we of the 2nd Va. regiment were unable to get to Stone Bridge to aid in the battle there and were in a dangerous position, being between the fires of both armies. Gen. Beauregaurd ordered us to the rear. Just at that time Gen. Jos. E. Johnson, coming in from the valley, rode up to Beauregaurd’s head-quarters and took command, he being a senior officer. He immediately sent a courier to Col. Radford to halt the 2nd Va Cavalry. Col. Radford told the courier to go to the D – – that he was acting under Beauregaurd’s orders. We were not aware of Johnston being near, but as soon as Johnston saw we didn’t halt he galloped down and shouted : “In the name of Jos. E. Johnston I command you to halt.” Of course, it wasn’t any trouble for Col. Radford or his men to halt, then.

He commanded us to cross Bull Run and go toward Cub Run Bridge to intersect the enemy’s line as it passed on retreat, and to shoot all the horses drawing the artillery and wagons. There being 1,000 of us. we held the road for nearly a mile, coming on their right flank and being so near before they knew jt that we succeeded in capturing 24 pieces of artillery and the men commanding same. The road was lined with dead horses for nearly a mile, a sight no one would want to witness again, but we were only carrying out orders

Our captain ordered the fences to be pulled down and 3 other men and I dismounted and tore them down on both sides. When we mounted we happened to look to our left and saw a house with a crowd of men standing around a well. I proposed to these three comrades that we could go up and fill our canteens as it was such a hot day. When we arrived, there were 60 or 70 of the finest looking men I ever saw. about middle-aged and finely dressed. More gold-headed canes, gold glasses and gold teeth than I had ever seen before on that number of men. We asked them to fill our canteens, which they did and just as they filled the last canteen, one of the men said to us that our command was retreating and I road around the house to where I could see our line and it had passed nearly out of sight. Just then two guns that we hadn’t captured with the other 24 pieces of artillery, and a regiment of infantry also, opened fire on our regiment, and Capt. Radford of 2nd Va. regiment and Serg. Ervin were killed and several others wounded

Just as we four men arrived to recross the road, a cannister of grape shot passed down the road striking two of our horses. We rode on about a half mile under a heavy fire, but they were over shooting us, just stripping the leaves from the trees, when one of the horses fell dead from his wound and the other one was still running on three legs. I took the saddle from the dead horse and carried it on my horse that was called the “Flying Artillery” and wouldn’t carry two men, and another comrade took the rider of the horse that was killed.

We overtook our regiment just as they were ready to recross Bull Run, and were held in readiness the remainder of the day, but no order for action was given and near night fall marched back to our camp ground of the proceeding night.

Just after dark a heavy rain began and continued all night and about half the next day, so we were thoroughly drenched by this time. Shortly after day break we started toward Centerville and our skirmish line captured several prisoners on the way. We moved very cautiously through the woods in the downpour of rain, thinking the enemy was at Centerville. But instead of the enemy being at Centerville, we found the homes deserted. Tables were set with the most delicious victuals, fine drinks, etc , having been prepared for a general jubilee after the supposed victory. Some of the houses were locked, but the majority were so that we could easily enter and some of the owners soon returned, so we enjoyed a bountiful repast that was intended for the northern soldiers. After the victory at Stone Bridge and the capture of the artillery at Cub Run Bridge, as they were retreating, the enemy rushed on to Washington panic-stricken. Had we realized the condition of the enemy then, as we afterward knew it to be, we could have pursued them and easily captured them, but we didn’t know the conditions.

Reminiscences of a Confederate Soldier of Co. C, 2nd VA. Cavalry, by R. H. Peck

*The 2nd Virginia Cavalry, while formed in May of 1861, was known as the 30th Regiment Virginia Volunteers until the end of October, 1861.

R. H. Peck at Fold3

R. H. Peck at Ancestry.com 





Preview: Shultz – “Double Canister at Ten Yards”

5 03 2017

51gaj1jk6pl-_sy445_ql70_Double Canister at Ten Yards”: The Federal Artillery and the Repulse of Pickett’s Charge, by David L. Shultz, was originally published back in 1995, and has been updated by Savas Beatie this year. The title is self-explanatory, so let’s get to the meat and the differences between the two editions.

You get: 86 pages of text (1995 – 67 pp, but fonts, maps, and illustrations have changed significantly); a foreword by Charles Hathaway (who wrote the same for the 1995 edition); an introduction that was included in the 1995 edition’s page total; 13 short chapters and a postscript (1995 – no chapters); order of battle; end notes; a full index (1995 – no index); six large, clear Phil Laino maps (1995 – five busier, darker Shultz maps); and lastly, this new edition includes more photographs.

The author bio says Mr. Shultz is working on a “comprehensive tactical study of the artillery at Gettysburg,” while the 1995 edition noted that he was “preparing a more comprehensive book for future publication on the Union artillery during the entire Battle of Gettysburg.”