h/t to @oldtomfool
h/t to @oldtomfool
Last Saturday at Manassas National Battlefield Park I took a little walk to Holkum’s Branch of Bull Run, east of the Henry Hill Visitor’s Center not far from the site of Portici on the M. Lewis farm, which was Joe Johnston’s HQ during the battle. The site is significant for a meeting that occurred there late in the day on July 21, 1861. In this area Brigadier General Thomas J. Jackson encountered CSA President Jefferson Davis and proclaimed (according to surgeon Hunter McGuire who had just tended to Jackson’s wounded finger): “Give me ten thousand men and I shall take Washington City tomorrow.”
OK, so here we have a new release from mainstream publisher Scribner. This will be brief. The author, S. C. Gwynne previously authored Empire of the Summer Moon, a biography of Quanah Parker which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. So from a literary standpoint, he’s no hack. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson is 575 pages of well-strung-together words. Sources look pretty good, manuscripts, etc. I’ve read selected (by me) passages, and there’s nothing particularly irritating so far. But nothing particularly insightful or surprising, either. For example, go to the section on 2nd Bull Run and look for an explanation of Jackson’s declination to join in/support/or even recognize Longstreet’s assault. You’ll find a paragraph basically putting the onus on Lee. Nothing particularly wrong with that, and most folks who read this, again, well-written biography won’t have a problem with it. But I suspect most folks who read this and similar sites will be looking for more, and probably have read enough on Jackson already (perhaps Robertson’s epic love letter) that a popular biography is not really something in which they’re interested. If you’re just testing the waters, at the beginning of your studies, or interested in a broad range of biographies (not just Civil War related), this is probably right up your alley. Jaded old folks like me, probably not. This assessment ain’t bad, it ain’t good, it just is.
How often do you see the same publisher offer two very different interpretations of an event at practically the same time? That’s what Savas Beatie has presented with Calamity at Chancellorsville: The Wounding and Death of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, by Mathew Lively. The main variance from the tale as told by Chris Mackowski and Kris White in The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson (I wrote about it here) is Jackson’s location at the time of his wounding. You can read Mr. Mackowski’s summary of the difference here. The long and the short of it is that Last Days presents the official Park Service narrative established by R. K. Krick that when shot Jackson was on the Mountain Road north of the Orange Plank Rd (Route 3), near the location of the modern Chancellorsville battlefield visitor’s center. Calamity presents a different version – no spoiler here, though. Between these two releases you’ll learn pretty much all you’ll ever want to know about Stonewall Jackson’s wounding and death.
The latest entry in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series is The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson: The Mortal Wounding of the Confederacy’s Greatest Icon, by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White, a new edition of the similarly titled Thomas Publications release from 2010. This update includes 50 pages of new material, nearly 200 illustrations, and several new appendices.
A foreword by NPS historian Frank O’Reilly is followed by ninety-five pages of text in fourteen chapters describing Jackson’s counter-attack at Chancellorsville, his wounding, surgery, journey to Guinea Station, illness, death, and funeral, with attention paid to the fate of Blue Light’s arm, the Chandler’s plantation, and a history of the preservation of the Jackson Shrine. Appendices cover timelines of the shrine and Jackson’s life, a tour of Lexington, VA, Jackson in memory and memorials, “what-ifs”, and Jackson’s surgeon Dr. Hunter McGuire. Kris and Chris have packed a lot of info into 149 pages.
You can read more by this prolific duo at their blog, the appropriately titled Emerging Civil War.
On the 18th of July I struck my tents, rolled them up, and left them on the ground, and about noon marched through Winchester, as I had been encamped on the other side of the town. About an hour and a half after leaving, I had the following order from General Johnston published to my brigade: “Our gallant army under General Beauregard is now attacked by overwhelming numbers. The commanding general hopes that his troops will step out like men, and make a forced march to save the country.” At this stirring appeal the soldiers rent the air with shouts of joy, and all was eagerness and animation where before there had been only lagging and uninterested obedience.. We continued our march until we reached Millwood, in Clarke County, where we halted for an hour or so, having found an abundance of good water, and there we took a lunch. Resuming the march, my brigade continuing in front, we arrived at the Shenandoah River about dark. The water was waist-deep, but the men gallantly waded the river. This halting and crossing delayed us for some time; but about 2 o’clock in the morning we arrived at the little village of Paris, where we remained sleeping until nearly dawn. I mean the troops slept, as my men were so exhausted that I let them sleep while I kept watch myself.
Manassas, July 22d.
My Precious Pet, — Yesterday we fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. Although under a heavy fire for several continuous hours, I received only one wound, the breaking of the longest finger of my left hand; but the doctor says the finger can be saved. It was broken about midway between the hand and knuckle, the ball passing on the side next the forefinger. Had it struck the centre, I should have lost the finger. My horse was wounded, but not killed. Your coat got an ugly wound near the hip, but my servant, who is very handy, has so far repaired it that it doesn’t show very much. My preservation was entirely due, as was the glorious victory, to our God, to whom be all the honor, praise, and glory. The battle was the hardest that I have ever been in, but not near so hot in its fire. I commanded the centre more particularly, though one of my regiments extended to the right for some distance. There were other commanders on my right and left. Whilst great credit is due to other parts of our gallant army, God made my brigade more instrumental than any other in repulsing the main attack. This is for your information only — say nothing about it. Let others speak praise, not myself.
[Soon after the battle]
Mr. James Davidson’s son, Frederick, and William Page (son of my dear friend) were killed. Young Riley’s life was saved by his Bible, which was in the breast pocket of his coat . . . My finger troubles me considerably, and renders it very difficult for me to write, as the wind blows my paper, and I can only use my right hand. I have an excellent camping-ground about eight miles from Manassas on the road to Fairfax Court House. I am sleeping in a tent, and have requested that the one which my darling had the loving kindness to order for me should not be sent. If it is already made, we can use it in time of peace. . . . General Lee has recently gone to the western part of our State, and I hope we may soon hear that our God has again crowned our arms with victory.
And so you think the papers ought to say more about your husband! My brigade is not a brigade of newspaper correspondents. I know that the First Brigade was the first to meet and pass our retreating forces – to push on with no other aid than the smiles of God; to boldly take its position with the artillery that was under my command – to arrest the victorious foe in his onward progress – to hold him in check until reinforcements arrived – and finally to charge bayonets, and, thus advancing, pierce the enemy’s centre. I am well satisfied with what it did, and so are my generals, Johnston and Beauregard. It is not to be expected that I should receive the credit that General Beauregard and Johnston would, because I was under them; but I am thankful to my ever-kind Heavenly Father that He makes me content to await His own good time and pleasure for commendation – knowing that all things work together for my good. If my brigade can always play so important and useful a part as it did in the last battle, and trust I shall ever be more grateful. As you think the papers do not notice me enough, I send a specimen, which you will see from the upper part of the paper is a leader. My darling, never distrust our God, who doeth all things well. In due time He will make manifest all His pleasure, which is all His people should desire. You must not be concerned at seeing other parts of the army lauded, and my brigade not mentioned. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” When the official reports are published, if not before, I expect to see justice done this noble body of patriots. My command consists of the Second, Fourth, Fifth , Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-third regiments of Virginia Volunteers, commanded respectively by Colonels, James W. Allen, James F. Preston, Kenton Harper, W. W. Gordon, and A. C. Cummings; and, in addition, we have Colonel Pendleton’s Battery. My staff-officers are Lieutenant-colonel Francis B. Jones, acting adjutant-general; Lieutenant-colonel J. W. Massie, aide; Lieutenant A. S. Pendleton, ordnance officer; Captain John A. Harman, quartermaster; and Captain W. J. Hawkes, commissary.