Preview: Mackowski, White, & Davis – “Fight Like the Devil”

21 05 2015

51aBL53hU8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_New in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series is Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis. Gettysburg nuts fall into one of three categories, typically: Day 1 guys; Day 2 guys; and Day 3 guys. If I fall into one of those categories (though I don’t consider myself a Gettysburg nut, or a more seriously afflicted Frassanidiot), it would have to be Day 1. And to prove it, I joined along with a couple hundred other folks a few weeks ago for an all day walking tour of the Day 1 battlefield. It would have been nice to have this little book along for the ride. It weighs in at 116 pages of text through the epilogue, with another eight (8!) appendices by such luminaries as Matt Atkinson, Dan Welch, and Eric Wittenberg. Nine maps and dozens of modern photos are sprinkled in. And this one’s not without some controversy. I have long wondered at the basis for John Reynolds’s now sterling reputation, given his performance up to July 1, 1863, and it appears Kris White thinks along the same lines for the same reasons in his appendix on the general. And John Cummings weighs in on the location of the famous Gardner “Harvest of Death” photos (I do believe that one has to be either all right or all wrong in these cases.) Other appendices look at Dick Ewell’s decision, J. E. B. Stuart’s ride, shoes, and Pipe Creek. Check it out.





Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours: Iron Brigade

19 05 2015

This past weekend I attended the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours event, On the Trail of Those Damn Black Hats: Weekend with Lance Herdegen & The Iron Brigade. I did so as the guest of friend and facilitator Ted Alexander, in return for coverage of the event on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Hopefully you are all followers and were kept up to date of all the happenings – if not, just subscribe using the links over to the right. But I’ll give a recap here.

Friday featured presentations at seminar HQ the Hampton Inn by Lance Herdegen (see an interview with him here) on The Iron Brigade at Gainesville; Tom Clemens (see an interview with him here) on the Black Hats’ Memories of Antietam; and Dan Welch (with the Gettysburg Foundation) on Beyond the Sobriquet: The Men of the Iron Brigade. After a break for dinner, the evening concluded with Lance and “Forward! Forward! Charge! Align on the Colors!”: The Unfinished Railroad Cut at Gettysburg.

Bright and early Saturday the 40 or so attendees boarded a bus bound for South Mountain (where we stopped on the National Road at Mt. Tabor and Bolivar Roads where Lance described the brigade’s move on Turner’s Gap.) Then it was on to Antietam, and discussions at the Visitor’s Center and the Miller Farm. Finally we arrived at Gettysburg, and after lunch at the Dobbin House Lance held court near the Reynolds Wounding marker and covered the brigade’s actions in Herbst Woods and the Railroad Cut. Of course, time in the bus was spent talking about the brigade’s actions on other parts of the field, and Lance unleashed a small portion of his vast knowledge of the men and events of the Iron Brigade as well.

I decided to stay over Saturday night for a slate of talks on Sunday morning, and I’m glad I did. Lance kicked off with a more complete history of the Iron Brigade (by the way, Lance is one of the most upbeat, happy guys I’ve ever seen on tour, and it wasn’t just this time – a hail fellow well met); fellow Save Historic Antietam Foundation board member and founder of the National Civil War Medical Museum Dr. Gordon Dammann gave a delightful presentation on Civil War Medicine Hollywood Style: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly; and Gettysburg Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides President Joseph Mieczkowski concluded the formal talks with a really interesting talk on Rufus Dawes & the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg and Beyond. Joe is apparently a “thread puller” like me and shared some fascinating tidbits.

The seminar and tour were well-organized. Raffles and auctions held Friday and Sunday raised about $500 for battlefield preservation, which will go toward purchasing available land at Antietam (see Civil War Trust info here.) And to top it off, I got to spend some time with a couple of fellows whom I had not seen in ten years, friends from prior battlefield stomps.

Next up for Civil War Seminars & Tours is The End of the War: Richmond, Petersburg, & Appomattox, July 22-26 (see brochure here.) Speakers feature Ed Bearss (see interview here) and friend and blogger Jimmy Price (see interview here), among others (like Bud Robertson, Richard Sommers, R. E. L. Krick, John Coski, Chris Calkins, the list goes on.) Sounds like a great event – register soon if you agree!





Preview: Eric Wittenberg, “‘The Devil’s to Pay’ – John Buford at Gettysburg: A History and Walking Tour”

24 11 2014

downloadNew from Savas-Beatie is “The Devil’s to Pay” – John Buford at Gettysburg: A History and Walking Tour, by prolific Civil War cavalry author Eric J. Wittenberg. This is the first “book-length study devoted entirely to the critical delaying actions waged by Buford and his dismounted troopers and his horse artillerists on the morning of July 1, 1863.”

Here’s the skinny: with “The Devils to Pay” you get 204 pages of narrative taking the reader along with Buford and his men from Fredericksburg to Pennsylvania (including Brandy Station), covering in detail the actions in the Gettysburg vicinity through their ordered departure on July 2. This narrative includes background and biographical information on Buford and his men, a lengthy conclusion summarizing their performance and use, and an epilogue. In addition, there are four appendices (an order of battle; a treatise on “The Myth of the Spencers”; an analysis of the nature of Buford’s defense on July 1; and consideration of the question of whether or not Lane’s Confederate infantry brigade formed squares against a perceived cavalry threat on July 1); a 22 page, illustrated walking and driving tour; and a bibliography. Sprinkled throughout are more than 80 images and 17 Phil Laino maps.





Gettysburg Magazine #51

13 10 2014

ScanThe July 2014 (#51) issue of Gettysburg Magazine has by now been delivered to subscribers (I got mine last week.) This appears to be the first issue running fully and unexceptionally under the auspices of new publisher The University of Nebraska Press (go here for subscription info.)

Issue #50 was the first under the new format, and with its delivery many subscribers expressed concerns over what was to come. The publishers address two of those concerns in “A Message from the Publisher” in the back of #51. The physical changes (size of the pages, perfect binding instead of staples) are what they are and to me are inconsequential. Also announced in a little more detail is the naming of Purdue University’s Prof. John Pula as editor. Then some of the issues raised in the wake of #50 are taken on.

First, some folks (including me) mentioned that the magazine is slight in volume compared with that to which subscribers have become accustomed. On the one hand, the publisher notes that this is due to a need to get the issue “out quickly and get the magazine back on schedule.” As the editor builds up and wades through a backlog of submissions, it is expected that “it will be possible for him to put out more substantial issues.” On the other hand, after this seemingly encouraging, but still somewhat ambiguous announcement comes this ominous bit: “And we will continue to monitor the price moving forward, but our current feeling is that the magazine had been a bit too good a value at a single issue price of $10.” My guess is we’ll either continue to see sub-80 page counts, or a price hike, or both. But I could be wrong.

Second, the presence of (IMO very limited) advertising in #50 raised some concerns. The publisher assures us that this advertising will be limited in scope and location. Articles will not be broken up, and the content of the ads “will complement the magazine’s mission of presenting good scholarship about the battle and campaign of Gettysburg.” We won’t see “ads for fictional works, collectibles, reenactors’ gear, or general Gettysburg tourism.”

What was not addressed was what I gathered from my readings to be the biggest concern: the content of the articles. Specifically, many viewed the articles in issue #50 (a Gettysburg 150 themed issue) as indicative of a shift away from military history, a shift that now appears to be intractable in academic publications. While I found this omission curious, I interpret from the contents of #51 that such is not the case. The issue is broken down into three departments: Articles; Documents; and Human Interest Stories. Unlike #50, I think subscribers will feel more at home with these pieces.

The publisher encourages readers to let them know what they think by emailing them at gettysburg.readers@gmail.com. I think they should consider using social media like Facebook for this – I think they’ll get quicker feedback.





Preview: John Michael Priest, “Stand to It and Give Them Hell”

26 09 2014

51uERQsu+lL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_New from Savas-Beatie (from whom you can expect a deluge of new titles in the coming months) is Stand to It and Give Them Hell: Gettysburg as the Soldiers Experienced it From Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, July 2, 1863. Yep, that’s a mouthful. Mr. Priest has written a number of works featuring first hand soldier accounts, Before Antietam and Antietam being two of the most familiar.

The action covered in this work is described well in the title, so I won’t go into that. Mr. Priest’s stated goal is “to help readers understand and experience, as closely as possible through the written word, the stress and terror of that fateful day.” To do that, he gives you 457 pages of text drawn from the testimony of those who lived the events, with the now-to-be-expected-from-Savas-Beatie footnotes; an order of battle; and a bibliography (oh for the days when one didn’t have to mention that a book actually included a bibliography, but these are the times in which we live.) Also included are 60 (sixty!) maps – enough to light up the eyes of most Gettysburg enthusiasts, and that’s no easy task. Other illustrations (photos, sketches) are sparse, but it’s the words that matter here.





Justice Antonin Scalia at Gettysburg

20 11 2013

ScaliaYesterday, as I watched via live streaming video and the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address at Gettysburg National Cemetery drew to a close, it struck me that I was witnessing something special. No, not the roll of usual suspects who delivered speeches that were, well, nice. Not memorable, but nice. Everything rolled along. But then, the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, took the podium to recognize sixteen immigrants who would become citizens as part of the ceremony. Each candidate citizen rose by country, and then Mr. Mayorkas introduced the official who was to administer the oath, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And I knew it as I heard it – Scalia’s apparently extemporaneous words were capturing the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s famous little speech better than had anyone else that day. Here’s the text:

Before I administer the oath, I want to say a few words of welcome to the new citizens. What makes us Americans, what unites us, is quite different from that which unites other countries.

There’s a word, ‘unAmerican.’ We used to have a House unAmerican Activities Committee. There’s no equivalent word in foreign languages. It would mean nothing in French political discourse to refer to something as unFrench, or in German political discourse to refer to something as unGerman. It is only Americans, we Americans, who identify ourselves not by our blood or by our color, or by our race or by where we were born, but rather by our fidelity to certain political principles.

That’s very strange. It’s unique in human history, I believe.

We are, as you heard from the Director a nation of immigrants, who have come here mostly for two reasons. First, for freedom. From the pilgrims in the 17th century to the Cubans and the North Koreans in the 20th and 21st centuries.

And that freedom, of course, is not free, as the dead who rest buried here can demonstrate. The last line of our ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is, ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ The two go together. Freedom is for the brave.

The second reason they came, these immigrants, was for opportunity. My father, who was the most patriotic man I ever knew, used to say that in the old country, if your father was a shoemaker, you would be a shoemaker. And in America, you could be whatever you were willing to work hard enough to be and had the talent to be.

And his son ended up on the Supreme Court.

My Grandmother expected me to be President; I didn’t quite make that. But it was possible. It is possible in America.

So welcome, my soon-to-be fellow citizens, to the nation of Americans. May America bring you all that you expect from it. And may you give it all that it expects from you.

Thanks to Interpreting the Civil War for the transcript.





Gettysburg Magazine Sold

10 10 2013








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