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Tags: Army of Northeastern Virginia, Articles, Irvin McDowell, John Hennessy, McDowell's Plan
Categories : Articles, The Battle
John Hennessy is working on a new edition of his seminal tactical study, The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861. I’ve corresponded with the author enough to learn that this will be one of the rare updated editions that owners of the original will consider a “must have.” Mr. Hennessy discussed the new book somewhat in a recent interview with Civil War Talk Radio, which you can listen to here.
During this interview, you’ll hear the author discuss one of the great mysteries of the campaign – what exactly was Irvin McDowell’s vision of victory for his army (which ex post facto became known as The Army of Northeastern Virginia)? Many authors/historians have made the assumption – and it can only be an assumption – that McDowell envisioned a swift flank attack which would overwhelm his opponent and result in a set-piece victory, rolling up and decisively defeating Beauregard in a classic clash of arms.
The definition of victory here is not just semantics. It is critical in assessing McDowell’s plans and actions, and in determining why they failed.
I believe victory in McDowell’s mind was something other than what almost all chroniclers and critics of the campaign have assumed. I won’t tell you what to think, but will make a suggestion that may help you think for yourself: the answer can perhaps be found in what McDowell wrote before the battle and in what he did during it. In order to discern that, I think you must cast aside assumptions of what he must have intended and take him at his word – and actions. If you do that, then the inexplicables of the campaign may become more explicable. What appears to be a complex plan (given the traditional assumption of intent) may become less so.
Read McDowell’s plans. Look at what he did. Does that jive with your assumptions regarding his intent? To use a sports analogy, would you as a reporter rely on a head football coach’s post-defeat comments about his game plan when you have the actual game plan and video to look at? Especially when the game plan and video don’t support those comments?
Post-defeat comments: “We really wanted to establish the running game, but that didn’t work out.” Game plan: we must exploit the opponent’s secondary. Game film: first three possessions each consisted of three incomplete down-field passes and a punt.
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Tags: Articles, John Hennessy, Longwood University, NPS
Categories : Articles
Good stuff and important to view – John Hennessy this weekend at the Longwood University Civil War Seminar. Check it out here. Yes, like the issue of slavery in the past, there are issues today that have advocates on either side and which, 150 years from now, will be settled, with a right and correct view agreed upon.
I think all of us hope, as we sit here today, and ponder our grandchildren and great-grandchildren thinking back upon us and saying ‘Hunh?’, that they don’t interpret the issues that have permeated our lifetimes, and with which we have struggled as a society, as a testament on us as individuals, but rather as a testament on our times. And times change.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Corps Commanders in Blue, Fitz John Porter, John Hennessy
Categories : Articles, Books
As some of you know, Bull Runnings has this Facebook Page on which I post a lot of stuff that I’ve decided not to put up here. Last night I posted a review – of sorts – of John Hennessy’s essay on Fitz John Porter, Conservatism’s Dying Ember, in Corps Commanders in Blue, a collection of essays edited by Ethan Rafuse. I’ve decided to post it here. I may, or may not, post mini-reviews of other essays in the book if it strikes me to do so. And I may, or may not, post them here, on the Facebook page, or both. So, if you want to be sure to see them, I suggest both subscribing to the blog and following the Facebook page.
I just finished John J. Hennessy’s essay on Fitz John Porter. I recommend it to all. As Tom Clemens said, it is fair and balanced. I want to comment on a few passages of note:
1 – Regarding Lincoln’s decision to hold back from the AotP McDowell’s corps: “It was, perhaps, the most cautious strategic decision of the war, establishing Lincoln as a military thinker whose strategic conservatism far exceeded McClellan’s.” Yes! Hennessy also included Lincoln’s later admission of his mistake. I’ll add that Irvin McDowell (who was not much of a tactician, but a pretty shrewd big picture guy) also knew at the time that AL was playing into the rebels’ hands.
2 – Regarding Porter’s (via McClellan’s) policies in Virginia and whether or not they dovetailed with those of the administration: “To some eyes, he [McClellan] had not been aggressive enough with respect to slavery and too kind to Southern civilians, but he had in fact hewed closely to standing policy.” Again, YES!!! I wish this had been further explored, because there was a lot of “Don’t do what I say, do what I mean” coming from the admin in those days. However, that perhaps would have required a bit more exposition than the essay format allows.
3 – “In Porter’s eyes an immobile McDowell symbolized the perfidy of the nation’s leaders.” While Hennessy doesn’t limit the evidence that Porter interpreted as indicative of perfidy, he left out the issue of the closing of northern recruiting offices. But again, it’s a limited essay, and I can’t think of anything that should have been jettisoned in favor of this tidbit.
4 – “The message [sent by Porter’s relief and dismissal] was clear: the careers of men who mixed their political views and official duties too freely would not thrive.” I think this perhaps should have been worded differently – the message was clear that those who mixed CONTRARY political views and official duties too freely would not thrive. I don’t think there was an abolitionist in the army who felt constricted by Porter’s fate.
These are all minor in the grand scheme of things. Mr. Hennessy did a great job with this essay. I’d really like to see him expand on it, and hope he intends to do so.
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Tags: Articles, Digital History, John Hennessy, Louisiana, Newspaper Accounts, Richard Holloway
Categories : Articles, Digital History, Newspaper Accounts, The Project
I’m finished with the Hampton’s Legion and Rhode Island letters that Friend of Bull Runnings (FOBR) John Hennessy sent in. Thanks so much to John, he’s made this site so much more useful and has kicked me back onto the path of righteousness – that is, got me back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing here. Feel free to use FOBR on your resume and correspondence from here on out (time to order new stationery). I have one more item he sent that’s not exactly a letter, not exactly a memoir, not exactly a newspaper article, but is really all three so I have to figure out how to classify it first.
Next on my list is to start on some great stuff sent to me by FOBR Richard Holloway, archivist for the Louisiana National Guard at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, LA. IIRC, back in the 1930s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) gathered up all mentions of Louisiana militia in Louisiana newspapers from forever. These were transcribed and kept at the National Guard archives at Jackson Barracks. Some of these volumes were damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and have been preserved, but the Barracks is still undergoing repairs. The long and short of it is that Richard (who it turns out is related to the late Art Bergeron) was kind enough to scan and send all the Civil War related transcriptions. And that’s what I’ll be tackling next. I’m not sure what all is in there, if any letters are included or if it’s all articles, but expect the first one some time today.
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Tags: Articles, Craig Swain, John Hennessy
Categories : Articles
…well, not here, exactly.
I’ll be away from the blog for about a week. When I get back to blogging, I have more good John Hennessy stuff on Hampton’s Legion to post. In addition to the Legion stuff, John has sent a batch of Rhode Island accounts which I’ll also be getting to.
Right now you’ll find some interesting Bull Run news in this post by Craig Swain.