Thursday, December 30, 2010

To-Read List: 2011

One of my favorite things to do this time of the year is look ahead to the new books scheduled to come out in the year ahead; it's that proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store-type feel.

Next year promises to be a good one as far as new Civil War titles are concerned, for 2011 kicks off the war's Sesquicentennial. After a rather quick search on amazon, I have identified the following as my must-read books of 2011. They will all be coming soon to a bookshelf--or nightstand--in my home!

[Note: I will not include my two titles scheduled for release in 2011: Antietam: September 17, 1862 (Sharpsburg, MD: Western Maryland Interpretative Association), Spring 2011; and The Battle of South Mountain (Charleston, SC: The History Press), Spring 2011. Doing so would seem too much like a shameless plug ;) ]


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Siege of Washington:
The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union,
by John Lockwood and Charles Lockwood
Oxford University Press
March 2011


On April 14, 1861, the day Fort Sumter fell to Confederate forces, Washington, DC was ripe for invasion. Located 60 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was virtually surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. Only a few hundred soldiers were stationed in the city, and a rebel army rumored at 20,000 men lay just across the Potomac River. The south echoed with cries of "On to Washington!" Jefferson Davis boasted that the federal capital would fall by the beginning of May, not two weeks away.
In The Siege of Washington, John and Charles Lockwood offer a heart-pounding, minute-by-minute account of the twelve days when the fate of the Union hung in the balance. The fall of Washington would have been a disaster: it would have crippled the federal government, left the remaining Northern states in disarray, and almost certainly triggered the secession of Maryland. Indeed, it would likely have ended the fight to preserve the Union before it had begun in earnest.
On April 15, Lincoln quickly issued an emergency proclamation calling upon the Northern states to send 75,000 troops to Washington. The North, suddenly galvanized by the attack on Sumter, responded enthusiastically. Yet one powerful question gripped Washington, and indeed the nation--whose forces would get to the capital first, Northern defenders or Southern attackers?
Drawing from unseen primary documents, this compelling history places the reader on the scene with immediacy, brilliantly capturing the tense, precarious first days of America's Civil War.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Battle of Glendale: The Day the South Nearly Won the Civil War
by Jim Stempel
McFarland & Company
March 2011


Description
It is commonly accepted that the South could never have won the Civil War. By chronicling perhaps the best of the South’s limited opportunities to turn the tide, this provocative study argues that Confederate victory was indeed possible. On June 30, 1862, at a small Virginia crossroads known as Glendale, Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee sliced the retreating Army of the Potomac in two and came remarkably close to destroying their Federal foe. Only a string of command miscues on the part of the Confederates--and a stunning command failure by Stonewall Jackson--enabled the Union army to escape a defeat that day, one that may well have vaulted the South to its independence. Never before or after would the Confederacy come as close to transforming American history as it did at the Battle of Glendale.

About the Author
Writer Jim Stempel is a writer and lives in western Maryland.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Second Manassas: Longstreet's Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge
by Scott C. Patchan
Potomac Books
July 2011

Product Description
In 1862, looking for an opportunity to attack Union general John Pope, Confederate general Robert E. Lee ordered Gen. James Longstreet to conduct a reconnaissance and possible assault on the Chinn Ridge front. At the time Longstreet launched his attack, only a handful of Union troops stood between Robert E. Lee and Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia. Virginia’s rolling terrain and Bull Run also provided Lee with a unique opportunity seldom seen during the entire Civil War—that of “bagging” an army, an elusive feat keenly desired by political leaders of both sides.

Second Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge details the story of Longstreet and his men’s efforts to obtain the ultimate victory that Lee desperately sought. At the same time, this account tells of the Union soldiers who, despite poor leadership and the lack of support from Pope and his senior officers, bravely battled Longstreet and saved their army from destruction along the banks of Bull Run.

Longstreet’s men were able to push the Union forces back, but only after they had purchased enough time for the Union army to retreat in good order. Although Lee did not achieve a decisive victory, his success at Chinn Ridge allowed him to carry the war north of the Potomac River, thus setting the stage for his Maryland Campaign. Within three weeks, the armies would meet again along the banks of Antietam Creek in western Maryland. Uncovering new sources, Scott Patchan gives a detailed knowledge of the battle ground and a fresh perspective that sharpens the detail and removes the guesswork found in previous works dealing with the climactic clash at Second Manassas.
About the Author
Scott C. Patchan, a veteran Civil War battlefield guide and historian, is the author of Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign (Bison Books, 2009) and The Forgotten Fury: The Battle of Piedmont, Virginia (Sergeant Kirkland’s Press, 1996). He also served as a research consultant and contributing writer for Time Life's Voice's of the CIvil War: Shenandoah, 1864 (1998). He resides in Northern Virginia with his family, has twice served as president of the Bull Run Ciivl War Round Table, and is a much sought after tour guide for both Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields and historic sites.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Second Day at Gettysburg:
The Attack and Defense of the Union Center on Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863
by David Shultz and David Wieck
Savas-Beatie
August 2011


Product Description
On the afternoon of July 2, 1863, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet struck the Union left flank with a massive blow that collapsed Dan Sickles' advanced position in the Peach Orchard and rolled northward, tearing open a large gap in the center of the Federal line on Cemetery Ridge. Fresh Confederates from A. P. Hill's Corps advanced toward the mile-wide breach, where Southern success would split the Army of the Potomac in two. The fate of the Battle of Gettysburg hung in the balance.

Despite the importance of the position, surprisingly few Union troops were available to defend Cemetery Ridge. Major General Winfield S. Hancock's veteran Second Corps had been whittled from three divisions to less than one after Gibbon's division was sucked into earlier fighting and Caldwell's command was shattered in the Wheatfield. With little time and few men, Hancock determined to plug the yawning gap. Reprising Horatio at the Bridge, the gallant commander cobbled together various commands and refused to yield the precious acres in Plum Run ravine. The swirling seesaw fighting lasted for hours and included hand-to-hand combat and personal heroics of which legends are made.

The Second Day at Gettysburg: The Attack and Defense of the Union Center on Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863 expands on David Shultz and David Wieck's critically acclaimed earlier work The Battle Between the Farm Lanes. This completely revised and expanded study, which includes new photographs, original maps, and a self-guided tour of the fighting, is grounded in extensive research and unmatched personal knowledge of the terrain. The result is a balanced and compelling account of this often overlooked portion of the battle.

About the Authors: David L. Shultz is the author of numerous books, pamphlets, and articles concerning the Battle of Gettysburg including the acclaimed Double Canister at Ten Yards: The Federal Artillery and the Repulse of Pickett's Charge; Guide to Pennsylvania Troops at Gettysburg; and The Battle Between the Farm Lanes: Hancock Saves the Union Center. His acclaimed historical pamphlet in 1997 entitled "The Baltimore Pike Artillery Line and Kinzie's Knoll," received special recognition from numerous battlefield preservation societies. He is the recipient of numerous awards including special citations from the House of Representatives and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Meritorious Public Service for Battlefield Preservation. He is currently working on an extensive and comprehensive tactical study on the artillery at Gettysburg.

In addition to co-authoring The Battle Between the Farm Lanes and The Second Day at Gettysburg, David F. Wieck has written several articles on Civil War topics, most recently on Frank Furness, Medal of Honor winner and famous Philadelphia architect. He has edited more than twenty books on military history, and is a frequent speaker on the Civil War and a personal favorite, John Quincy Adams. He works for the federal government, specializing in the advocacy of rights and benefits for military veterans. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and four presidential cats.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

America Aflame:
How The Civil War Created A Nation

by David Goldfield
Bloomsbury Press
March 2011


Product Description
In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Where past scholars have limned the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. As the Second GreatAwakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death.

The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind.

Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as HarrietBeecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz-a German immigrant, warhero, and postwar reformer-and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial"that transformed the country we live in.

David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Black, White, and Southern; and Promised Land.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Union War
by Gary W. Gallagher
Harvard University Press
April 2011


Product Description
Even one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War—by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgment.

In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against a slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world’s best hope for democracy.

Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union—goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won.

About the Author
Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia:
A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee

by Joseph Glatthaar
University of North Carolina Press
June 2011


Product Description
In this sophisticated quantitative study, Joseph T. Glatthaar provides a comprehensive narrative and statistical analysis of many key aspects of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Serving as a companion to Glatthaar's General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse, this book presents Glatthaar's supporting data and major conclusions in extensive and extraordinary detail.
While gathering research materials for General Lee's Army, Glatthaar compiled quantitative data on the background and service of 600 randomly selected soldiers--150 artillerists, 150 cavalrymen, and 300 infantrymen--affording him fascinating insight into the prewar and wartime experience of Lee's troops. Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia presents the full details of this fresh, important primary research in a way that is useful to scholars and students and appeals to anyone with a serious interest in the Civil War. While confirming much of what is believed about the army, Glatthaar's evidence challenges some conventional thinking in significant ways, such as showing that nearly half of all Lee's soldiers lived in slaveholding households (a number higher than previously thought), and provides a broader and fuller portrait of the men who served under General Lee.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done:
A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War

by Clayton R. Newell and Charles Shrader
University of Nebraska Press
July 2011


Product Description
On the eve of the Civil War, the Regular Army of the United States was small, dispersed, untrained for large-scale operations, and woefully unprepared to suppress the rebellion of the secessionist states. Although the Regular Army expanded significantly during the war, reaching nearly sixty-seven thousand men, it was necessary to form an enormous army of state volunteers that overshadowed the Regulars and bore most of the combat burden. Nevertheless, the Regular Army played several critically important roles, notably providing leaders and exemplars for the Volunteers and managing the administration and logistics of the entire Union Army. In this first comprehensive study of the Regular Army in the Civil War, Clayton R. Newell and Charles R. Shrader focus primarily on the organizational history of the Regular Army and how it changed as an institution during the war, to emerge afterward as a reorganized and permanently expanded force. The eminent, award-winning military historian Edward M. Coffman provides a foreword.

About the Author
Both Clayton R. Newell and Charles R. Shrader finished their military careers as the chief of the historical services division at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and are now independent scholars and historical consultants. Newell is the author or editor of several books, including Lee vs. McClellan: The First Campaign; Shrader has also written or edited a number of books, including The Muslim-Croat Civil War in Central Bosnia: A Military History, 1991–1994. Edward M. Coffman, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is the author of many works, including The Hilt of the Sword: The Career of Peyton C. March and The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Defeating Lee:
A History of the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac

by Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr.
Indiana University Press
May 2011


Product Description
Fair Oaks, the Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg -- the list of significant battles fought by the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, is a long and distinguished one. This absorbing history of the Second Corps follows the unit's creation and rise to prominence, the battles that earned it a reputation for hard fighting, and the legacy its veterans sought to maintain in the years after the Civil War. More than an account of battles, Defeating Lee gets to the heart of what motivated these men, why they fought so hard, and how they sustained a spirited defense of cause and country long after the guns had fallen silent.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Won Cause:
Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic

by Barbara Gannon
University of North Carolina Press
March 2011


Product Description
In the years after the Civil War, black and white Union soldiers who survived the horrific struggle joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)--the Union army's largest veterans' organization. In this thoroughly researched and groundbreaking study, Barbara Gannon chronicles black and white veterans' efforts to create and sustain the nation's first interracial organization.
According to the conventional view, the freedoms and interests of African American veterans were not defended by white Union veterans after the war, despite the shared tradition of sacrifice among both black and white soldiers. In The Won Cause, however, Gannon challenges this scholarship, arguing that although black veterans still suffered under the contemporary racial mores, the GAR honored its black members in many instances and ascribed them a greater equality than previous studies have shown. Using evidence of integrated posts and veterans' thoughts on their comradeship and the cause, Gannon reveals that white veterans embraced black veterans because their membership in the GAR demonstrated that their wartime suffering created a transcendent bond--comradeship--that overcame even the most pernicious social barrier--race-based separation. By upholding a more inclusive memory of a war fought for liberty as well as union, the GAR's "Won Cause" challenged the Lost Cause version of Civil War memory.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sing Not War:
The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America

by James Marten
University of North Carolina Press
May 2011


Product Description
After the Civil War, white Confederate and Union army veterans reentered--or struggled to reenter--the lives and communities they had left behind. In Sing Not War, James Marten explores how the nineteenth century's "Greatest Generation" attempted to blend back into society and how their experiences were treated by non-veterans.
Many soldiers, Marten reveals, had a much harder time reintegrating into their communities and returning to their civilian lives than has been previously understood. Although Civil War veterans were generally well taken care of during the Gilded Age, Marten argues that veterans lost control of their legacies, becoming best remembered as others wanted to remember them--for their service in the war and their post-war political activities. Marten finds that while southern veterans were venerated for their service to the Confederacy, Union veterans often encountered resentment and even outright hostility as they aged and made greater demands on the public purse. Drawing on letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, newspapers, and other sources, Sing Not War illustrates that during the Gilded Age "veteran" conjured up several conflicting images and invoked contradicting reactions. Deeply researched and vividly narrated, Marten's book counters the romanticized vision of the lives of Civil War veterans, bringing forth new information about how white veterans were treated and how they lived out their lives.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Shifting Loyalties:
The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina

by Judkin Browning
University of North Carolina Press
February 2011


Product Description
In the spring of 1862, Union forces marched into neighboring Carteret and Craven Counties in southeastern North Carolina, marking the beginning of an occupation that would continue for the rest of the war. Focusing on a wartime community with divided allegiances, Judkin Browning offers new insights into the effects of war on southerners and the nature of civil-military relations under long-term occupation, especially coastal residents' negotiations with their occupiers and each other as they forged new social, cultural, and political identities.
Unlike citizens in the core areas of the Confederacy, many white residents in eastern North Carolina had a strong streak of prewar Unionism and appeared to welcome the Union soldiers when they first arrived. By 1865, however, many of these residents would alter their allegiance, developing a strong sense of southern nationalism. African Americans in the region, on the other hand, utilized the presence of Union soldiers to empower themselves, as they gained their freedom in the face of white hostility. Browning's study ultimately tells the story of Americans trying to define their roles, with varying degrees of success and failure, in a reconfigured country.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sister States, Enemy States:
The Civil War in Kentucky and
Tennessee
Edited by Kevin Dollar, Larry Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dollar
University Press of Kentucky
January 2011


Product Description
The fifteenth and sixteenth states to join the United States of America, Kentucky and Tennessee were cut from a common cloth -- the rich region of the Ohio River Valley. Abounding with mountainous regions and fertile farmlands, these two slaveholding states were as closely tied to one another, both culturally and economically, as they were to the rest of the South. Yet when the Civil War erupted, Tennessee chose to secede while Kentucky remained part of the Union. The residents of Kentucky and Tennessee felt the full impact of the fighting as warring armies crossed back and forth across their borders. Due to Kentucky's strategic location, both the Union and the Confederacy sought to control it throughout the war, while Tennessee was second only to Virginia in the number of battles fought on its soil. Additionally, loyalties in each state were closely divided between the Union and the Confederacy, making wartime governance -- and personal relationships -- complex. In Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee, editors Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dickinson explore how the war affected these two crucial states, and how they helped change the course of the war. Essays by prominent Civil War historians, including Benjamin Franklin Cooling, Marion Lucas, Tracy McKenzie, and Kenneth Noe, add new depth to aspects of the war not addressed elsewhere. The collection opens by recounting each state's debate over secession, detailing the divided loyalties in each as well as the overt conflict that simmered in East Tennessee. The editors also spotlight the war's overlooked participants, including common soldiers, women, refugees, African American soldiers, and guerrilla combatants. The book concludes by analyzing the difficulties these states experienced in putting the war behind them. The stories of Kentucky and Tennessee are a vital part of the larger narrative of the Civil War. Sister States, Enemy States offers fresh insights into the struggle that left a lasting mark on Kentuckians and Tennesseans, just as it left its mark on the nation.


Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 1860 & The Reasons For South Carolina's Secession

South Carolina Ordinance of Secession
Passed December 20, 1860
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This date marks an important one in commemorating and reflecting upon the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. 150 years ago today, South Carolina declared it was no longer a part of the United States, a declaration made just six weeks after the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln as the nation's Sixteenth President. Sitting President James Buchanan believed secession was illegal and unconstitutional, but also believed that same Constitution prohibited him from taking any action to bring the state back under the fold of the Union. Six more states followed South Carolina's lead even before Lincoln took the Oath of Office, on March 4, 1861. No president had thus inherited a more difficult task.

The secession of South Carolina was the culmination of decades' long sectional strife and tension, at the root of which was slavery. I have no patience for those who deny slavery as the principal cause of secession, since one need only examine all the national debates and tensions in the years leading up to South Carolina's departure from the Union. From the debate in the Philadelphia's Carpenter's Hall in the Summer of 1787 over the three-fifth clause, to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War & Wilmot Proviso, the admission of California into statehood in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, the Ostend Manifesto, Dred Scott, John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry, and finally the presidential election of 1860, it is clear the nation faced serious challenges in its first eighty years. And those challenges and all the national crises listed above had one thing in common. . .at the root of them all was the issue of slavery and its expansion. Neither do I have patience for those who claim slavery was a dying instituion; quite the contrary: in the 1840, there was just over two million enslaved persons in the United States; twenty years later, there was four million.

Considering all that transpired before the secession of South Carolina and claiming it had nothing to do with slavery is just plain wrong and essentially ignores the first eighty years of America's history.
Now, this is not to be confused over why a particular soldier--whether North or South--fought. Motivations behind an individual's enlistment should not be lumped into a discussion of why a state decided to leave the United States.

While the secession of South Carolina was the culmination of decades' long tensions over the issue of slavery and its expansion into new lands and territories, it was also the spark that lit the powder keg of the Civil War, a devastating war and one of the most tragic episodes in American history. For this reason, today we should by no means celebrate the secession of South Carolina. We should simply reflect upon what it meant to a nation and its peoples.

As the old saying goes, don't take my word for it. . .Four days after South Carolina adopted its Ordinance of Secession, it then explained why in its Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, which read in part:

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions.
[Slavery] The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions
[Slavery]; and have denied the rights of property [Slaves] established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property [Slaves] of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party
[Lincoln's Republican Party] has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
This sectional combination for the submersion of the
Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
The guaranties of the
Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.
We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.
December 24, 1860

The bold-print and thoughts in brackets in the above are mine, but it cannot be stated any more clearly. The leaders of the South Carolina secession movement made it known the reasons for secession and it had everything to do with slavery.

And for this reason as well, this is not a day to celebrate.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Civil War Faces: A Treasure Trove of Civil War Portraits






Recently and just in time for the kick-off of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Linljenquist Family very generously donated their collection of nearly 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. This great gesture allows us to gain a better understanding of those who served in the Civil War. Numbers, statistics, and casualty figures alone only go so far; seeing the faces of these Union and Confederate soldiers makes the war real.




I urge you to follow the link below and peruse this amazing collection. Most of the soldiers in the photographs are not identified, so it is interesting to think about who these men were and what was their wartime fate. What compelled these soldiers to serve? From where did they come? What sustained them through the monotony of camp life and horrors of combat? How were these soldiers, their families, their communities all impacted by the war? All interesting thoughts to consider when viewing these photographs. Thanks to the Linljenquist Family for making these available.




Civil War Faces


Friday, December 10, 2010

Update On The South Mountain Book. . .


I am pleased to report that on December 3, I submitted the completed first-draft manuscript of my South Mountain book to the History Press for publication as part of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. Yesterday it went through the copyedit and received its ISBN. If things continue to roll along, then look for it to "hit the shelves" sometime in the spring of 2011.

Monday, November 29, 2010

PBS To Premiere "American Experience: Robert E. Lee"

On Monday, January 3, 2011, PBS will be premiering the latest installment in its American Experience series, which will focus on the life of Robert E. Lee, and I was given the opportunity--pleasure, really--to get an advanced screening of this program.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Robert E. Lee holds a central place in the history of the American Civil War; indeed, there are few other individuals so closely associated with this four-year conflict and few so well known. There are also few today who would deny that Lee ranked among the best officers of the war, despite his ultimate defeat and surrender.
I have long been interested in Robert E. Lee, and everyday at the battlefield I try to make sense of his motivations during the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 and his actions while on campaign and on the field of battle. And despite all my best efforts at maintaining objectivity, I have had complaints, especially from those who revere Lee, but also from those who do not. For example, once when I stated simply that "on the night of September 18, Lee led his defeated army in retreat across the Potomac," a gentleman interrupted, stating that Lee did not retreat from Maryland but rather "strategically withdrew" and thus emerged the victor since he escaped to fight another day. On the other hand, a young visitor--she must have been but nine or ten years old--asked me after one of my programs, "Why do people like Lee so much? Wasn't he like the biggest traitor in American history?"




The Robert E. Lee I am most interested in is the real Robert E. Lee and not this mythical construct that has come to dominate most traditional interpretations, a Lee constructed by the Lost Cause school of Civil War historiography, which depicts him as something of a caricature, a "marble man" who could do no wrong. We are made to believe that, although Lee cast his lot with the Confederacy after the secession of Virginia, that he opposed secession; we are made to believe that Lee was not a supporter of slavery (simply incorrect), even though he led an army fighting for the establishment of a slaveholding nation; we are made to believe that the odds stacked against him were too insurmountable, yet Lee himself would never have viewed the war as a lost cause for the Confederacy.





Lee was a soldier, and a good one, a very good one. He was a brilliant engineer and a gifted military man, who, on some occasions did seemingly defy the odds. But, most of all, Lee was a human being who did make mistakes and who did meet with battlefield defeat through his own doings and actions. He did not receive a single demerit at West Point, true, but he shared that distinction with no less than five of his classmates in the graduating class of 1829. He took an oath to protect and defend the United States of America and turned in a number of creditable performances during the Mexican-American War, causing Winfield Scott to declare him the "best soldier" in the American army. Yet he betrayed that oath when he chose to raise his sword against his nation, though not against his state. We are made to believe that this was a difficult choice for Lee, which it no doubt was. Yet that same choice was presented to such figures as George Thomas, David Farragut, and even Winfield Scott who, like Lee, were Southern-born, and they opted to honor that oath. But as opposed to Lee, I have seen no romanticized paintings of these officers pacing their front parlors, wringing their hands, considering what path to follow; I have heard no such fables of this dilemma as it pertained to these men, only to Lee, who seems to have been the only one faced with this choice. Lee was a devoted husband and very affectionate father; yet he sometimes had trouble adjusting to life outside of the army, as when he tried to manage the Arlington estate following the death of his father-in-law. And he had a bad temper; at times a terrible temper. He was a strict slaveowner, at times paying for the services of slave-catchers to return his runaways; one of his slaves called him the "worst man" he ever knew. While beloved by most of his troops, Lee was also a strict disciplinarian who at many points throughout the war simply expected too much of his men, having, perhaps, unrealistic expectations of their endurance and abilities.

Produced by the award-winning Mark Zwonitzer, American Experience: Robert E. Lee does a superb job at deconstructing the myths and presenting Lee as he really was. . .a human being. In this excellent program we learn of Lee's triumphs and his defeats; we learn of his adherence to duty and devotion to family; we learn of those traits that made Lee great, and those that did not. Laden with expert commentary from the likes of Gary Gallagher, Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Peter Carmichael, Leslie Gordon, Emory Thomas and many others, Robert E. Lee provides us with a balanced and in my mind accurate assessment of the Lee the man and Lee the soldier. After viewing this program, you will walk away with a better understanding of a complex individual, one who continues to hold such a central place in American Civil War history. It is a fine work, one highly recommended.

So, set your calendars for January 3, and at 9:00 p.m., turn on PBS.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mexican War Volunteers--Civil War Generals

The Battle of Buena Vista (Library of Congress)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Next year, I begin teaching Mexican-American War courses at AMU. My readings of late have thus been centered on this conflict, one some would call the true War of Northern Aggression. I have long been fascinated with this somewhat overlooked war and several years back, I began compiling a list of all those Mexican American War volunteers who went on to become generals in the American Civil War, fourteen or so years later. These men were not the West Point-trained U.S. Regulars (such as Lee, McClellan, Bragg, and so on); rather, the following are those who fought as volunteers in Mexico and then later earned their stars in the nation's fratricidal conflict.

Preceding the list of these officers, are some introductory words. I once thought of turning this into an article but that never went anywhere. . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

U.S. Forces Under Winfield Scott Land at Vera Cruz

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Mexican-American War has often been referred to as a training ground for a host of young army officers who would go on to rank among the Civil War’s highest-ranking commanders. From the battles of Monterrey and Palo Alto to the capture of Mexico City, these young men received first-hand experience in the school of soldiering and learned key lessons in the art of war by the likes of Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Tales of daring exploits and of remarkable bravery exhibited by these young officers who would later gain much fame during America’s fratricidal conflict are legion and known well to most serious students of the Civil War. Familiar is the story of twenty-four-year-old Captain Ulysses S. Grant who, although serving as the regimental quartermaster of the 4th U.S. Infantry, repeatedly rode to the front, seeing action at Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto, and Monterrey, where he put his renowned horsemanship to good use by riding unscathed through a hail of bullets. Famous, too, is the story of Captain Robert E. Lee who, along with fellow engineer Lt. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, conducted a bold reconnaissance of Santa Anna’s left flank at Cerro Gordo and narrowly avoided detection and probable capture. We hear also of twenty-year-old Lieutenant George Brinton McClellan, another of Winfield Scott’s engineers, who had two horses shot from beneath him while scouting Mexican positions near Contreras and who was twice brevetted for gallantry. At the battle of La Hoya, we discover a young artillerist by the name of Thomas Jonathan Jackson who deployed his guns with great effect and stood steadfast, like a stonewall, amid a storm of shot and shell. Lieutenant Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana was severely wounded and left for dead on the heights of Cerro Gordo, while, not too far from where he fell, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Eggleston Johnston of the Voltigeurs, was also dangerously wounded. It was also at this same battle where Major Edwin Vose Sumner of the 2nd Dragoons was struck squarely in the forehead by a bullet, which, allegedly, simply bounced off earning him the sobriquet, “Old Bullhead.” While these officers survived their Cerro Gordo wounds, Lieutenant Thomas Ewell did not. He died hours after the fight with his brother Richard by his side. And finally, there is the oft-told tale of Lieutenant James Longstreet of the 8th U.S. Infantry who fell with a thigh wound while carrying the American flag in an attack against the walls of Chapultepac. Grabbing the flag from the wounded Longstreet, of course, was another young lieutenant who had graduated last in his West Point Class the previous year, George Edward Pickett. These and other such stories are seemingly endless and can truly fill volumes.


In addition to going on to earning great laurels or garnering much notoriety in the American Civil War, all of these men had another thing in common: they were all graduates of the United States Military Academy and were, thus, all regular army officers. Yet, of the nearly 100,000 men who served in Mexico, only about twenty-five to thirty percent—some 25,000-30,000 soldiers—were Regulars. The rest were volunteers.


Volunteer units hailed from twenty-four of the nation’s twenty-eight states as well as from the District of Columbia; Iowa and California, which at the outbreak of hostilities had yet to achieve statehood, also furnished troops. In all, between 70,000 and 75,000 volunteers, comprising the ranks of 76 regiments and several additional companies, enlisted during the war. Thousands of these men would later serve in both the blue and the gray during the Civil War. And because of their former military experiences in Mexico, most would enter America’s sectional conflict as commissioned officers primarily at the regimental level, being mustered in as lieutenants, majors, or colonels, and subsequently rising through the ranks. Take, for example, C. Roberdeau Wheat. Before organizing the famed Louisiana Tigers in 1861 and falling dead while leading his regiment at the battle of Gaines’s Mill in June 1862, the 6’4” Wheat served as captain of the Tennessee Company of Mounted Volunteers in Mexico. His is just one of countless examples of volunteer officers who served in both the Mexican and Civil Wars.


Of the thousands of Mexican-American War volunteers who would later serve in the Civil War, more than sixty would become general officers during the latter conflict. This number does not include West Point graduates who served in volunteer organizations in Mexico and as generals in the Civil War, men such as Jubal Early, Henry Naglee, Samuel R. Curtis, Lloyd Tilghman, Goode Bryan, and Humphrey Marshall. Instead, the Mexican War volunteers who later became Civil War generals, for the most part, lacked a formal military education, but exhibited an avid interest in martial endeavors and were typically members of a local militia company. And they were those who willingly left their civilian lives behind twice to serve in uniform.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mexican-American War Volunteers--Civil War Generals

[Note: Those names in blue became generals for the United States Army during the Civil War; those in red, for the Confederacy]

Arkansas
John Selden Roane, Colonel, Mounted Arkansas Volunteers
Albert Pike, Captain, Mounted Arkansas Volunteers
James Fleming Fagan, Arkansas Mounted Gunmen

Georgia
Alfred Iverson, 2nd Lieutenant, Battalion of Georgia Volunteers
George Thomas Anderson, 2nd Lieutenant, Independent Co. of Georgia Volunteers
Edward Lloyd Thomas, 2nd Lieutenant, Independent Co. of Georgia Volunteers

Alfred Iverson

Indiana
Robert H. Milroy, Captain, 1st Indiana Volunteers
Lewis Wallace, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Indiana Volunteers
Nathan Kimball, Captain, 2nd Indiana Volunteers
Lovell Rousseau, Captain, 2nd Indiana Volunteers
James Lane, Colonel, 3rd Indiana Volunteers
Willis A. Gorman, Colonel, 4th Indiana Volunteers
Ebenezer Dumont, Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Indiana Volunteers
Thomas J. Lucas, 2nd Lieutenant, 4th Indiana Volunteers
Mahlon Manson, Captain, 5th Indiana Volunteers

Nathan Kimball

Kentucky
Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, Lieutenant Colonel, 3rd Kentucky Volunteers
Walter C. Whitaker, Lieutenant, 3rd Kentucky Volunteers
John Cabell Breckinridge, Major, 3rd Kentucky Volunteers
John Stuart Williams, Colonel, 4th Kentucky Volunteers
William Preston, Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Kentucky Volunteers
William Thomas Ward, Major, 4th Kentucky Volunteers
James Shackleford, 1st Lieutenant, 4th Kentucky Volunteers
Edward Hobson, 1st Lieutentnat, 4th Kentucky Volunteers
Cassius M. Clay
Green Clay Smith
Speen Smith Fry
Roger Weightman Hanson, 1st Lieutenant, Independent Kentucky Volunteers
Thomas James Churchill, 1st Kentucky Mounted Riflemen

William Thomas Ward

Illinois
John "Black Jack" Logan, 2nd Lt. Illinois Volunteers
James D. Morgan
Michael Lawler
Richard Oglesby
Leonard Fulton Ross
Isham M. Haynie
Edward Baker, Colonel, 4th Illinois Volunteers
William H.C. Wallace, Private, 1st Illinois Volunteers
Benjamin Prentiss, Captain/Adjutant, 1st Illinois Volunteers

John Logan

Maryland/D.C.
John Kenley, Major, Maryland/D.C. Volunteers
Joseph R. West

Michigan
Alpheus Starkey Williams, Lieutenant Colonel, Michigan Volunteers

Mississippi
Carnot Posey, 1st Lieutenant, 1st Mississippi Rifles
Thomas C. Hindman, 2nd Mississippi Infantry

Carnot Posey

Missouri
Sterling Price, Colonel, 2nd Missouri Infantry
William Yarnell Slack, Captain, 2nd Missouri Infantry
Mosby Monroe Parsons, Captain, 1st Missouri Regiment of Mounted Volunteers
John Dunlap Stevenson, Captain, 1st Missouri Regiment of Mounted Volunteers
James Craig
Thomas T. Crittenden

William Yarnell Slack

Ohio
Samuel Beatty, 1st Lieutenant, 3rd Ohio Volunteers
George F. McGinnis, Captain, 5th Ohio Volunteers
Robert B. Mitchell, 1st Lieutenant, 5th Ohio Volunteers
William H. Lytle, Captain, Independent Company, Ohio Volunteers
William H. Lytle

Pennsylvania
James Scott Negley, 1st Sergeant, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers
Thomas Algeo Rowley, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers
James Nagle, Captain, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers
Thomas Welsh, Private, native of Pennsylvania, served with 2nd Kentucky Volunteers
John White Geary, Colonel, 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

John White Geary

James Negley

South Carolina
Samuel McGowan, Quartermaster, Palmetto Regiment

Tennessee
William Brimmage Bate, 1st Lieutenant, 3rd Tennessee Volunteers
Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, Colonel, 3rd Tennessee Volunteers
William B. Campbell, Colonel, 3rd Tennessee Volunteers
Samuel Read Anderson, Lieutenant Colonel, 3rd Tennessse Volunteers

William Brimmage Bate

Texas
Benjamin McCullough, Colonel, Mounted Company, Independent Texas Volunteers
Thomas Green, Captain, 1st Texas Mounted Rifles

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is evident, then, that the Mexican-American War was training ground not just for the West Pont-trained, career army men who would later reach highest echelon of command in the Civil War. It was also a training ground for the thousands of citizens-turned-soldiers who twice volunteered their services, first in 1846-47 and again in 1861, either as commissioned officers at the regimental level or as general officers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Time For Remembrance Day. . . ?

I learned this morning that a decision concerning the proposed casino in Gettysburg could come as early as this Thursday, November 18. If so, and if the casino is denied, as I am hoping it will, then it would be a fitting way to usher in Remembrance Day, when, this Friday, we reflect upon the meaning of those eloquent words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg 147 years ago.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Soldiers of the 48th: Major Jacob Wagner, 48th Pennsylvania

It has been quite some time since I last posted a Profiles piece on a 48th Pennsylvania soldier, so today I thought I'd focus in on Jacob Wagner, who served creditably throughout the entirety of the war, rising through the regimental ranks.
Jacob F. Wagner was twenty-one years of age when, in September 1861, he was mustered into service as a private in Company H, 48th Pennsylvania. He stood 5'6 1/2" in height, had a dark complexion, dark eyes, and black hair. His occupation was listed as painter and his residence was Pottsville, home to most of the men in Company H. Only two and a half weeks later, however, Wagner was named as the regiment's Quartermaster Sergeant, a position he held until December 1862, when he was promoted once more, this time to lieutenant and given then position of full Quartermaster.
The regimental history of the 48th penned by Oliver Bosbyshell refers many times to Wagner and his great efforts in keeping the soldiers well fed and comforted. One such example was on the night of September 17, 1862, when near the Burnside Bridge, the famished soldiers of the 48th were greatly relieved to see Wagner "with a fine lot of boiled beef and fresh coffee, which he had prepared by the cooks. . . .What a relish that midnight repast had!" Other references to Wagner in Bosbyshell's work hint that the quartermaster was much respected by the soldiers and throughout the war always performed his important duties with credit.
Jacob Wagner served as the 48th's Quartermaster throughout most of the conflict, but on June 21, 1865, was promoted one final time, to major. He held this rank for less than one month, being mustered out of volunteer service with the regiment on July 17, 1865 and holding the distinguished title of "Veteran." Yet Wagner's time in uniform was not finished. Apparently taking a liking to military life, Wagner returned not to Pottsville and his pre-war vocation as painter, but instead entered the U.S. Army as a First Lieutenant in the 29th Infantry. In July 1867, he was serving at Norfolk where he held the triple duties of Post Adjutant, Acting Assistant Quartermaster, and Assistant Comissary of Subsistence.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Paucity Of Posts. . .

This past month has been the longest stretch in the four years since launching this blog in November 2006 that I have gone without a post! The reason is simple: I've spent all of my free time of late hammering away at my history of South Mountain.

In March, I signed a contract with the History Press to author a battle history of the September 14, 1862, fight at South Mountain as part of their Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. For a few months, all was on track, moving steadily along. Then life got in the way and things did not return to normal until late August. Since then, I have written three and a half chapters and am now pleased to say that the first-draft manuscript is complete! I was given 60,000 words; as of right now, I got 73,000. . .so I need to buckle down and cut the fat, so to speak.

The good news is I have until December 15 to submit the final manuscript, so there is time. If all goes well, then, look for South Mountain: September 14, 1862, sometime around June-July, 2011.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Thoughts On An Incredible Week

Daybreak over Antietam Battlefield, September 17, 1862
[Photograph by Dave Maher]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For as long as I can remember, even from my youngest days, I dreamed of one day becoming a Park Ranger at a Civil War battlefield. The war caught my interest at a very early age, and it has remained a consuming passion to this day. When my family and I would travel to Civil War sites, I remember looking up to the Ranger and thinking, "That must be the coolest job in the world. Definitely something I would like to do when I grow up." Well do I remember the programs delivered by Rangers at Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Chancellorsville, Appomattox and elsewhere, but some especially stick out, including a Pickett's Charge program presented by Troy Harman, and one haunting presentation delivered by a ranger working at Guinea Station, in the small house where Stonewall Jackson died. These were the people I looked up to growing up, aspiring to one day join their ranks. Letters written to Rangers while I was in high school and college inquiring of working with the Park Service were all responded to, and all with kindness and encouragement. Then, in January 2005, after completing my schooling, I filled out an application to volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield, and I still remember the interview I had with Ranger Christie Stanczak, the park's volunteer coordinator. I was taken on and on my first day, I attended a Battlefield-in-a-Box program delivered by Ranger Keith Snyder, which, again, served as one of those never-to-be-forgotten Park moments. And well do I remember the day--it was Saturday, May 20, 2006--when I heard a knock on my apartment door and saw the mail carrier standing there with a manilla envelope. It was an offer letter--a letter I still have, envelope and all--to work as a Park Ranger, GS-5, at Antietam National Battlefield. A lifelong dream was realized.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2010 witnessed the start of my fifth season at Antietam, and this past September 17th was the second battle anniversary during which I participated in the day-long battlefield hikes. It is difficult to describe how it feels to be there, on the battlefield, on the anniversary, presenting these programs, but it is a humbling experience.

It was a beautiful day. . .the weather ideal for a ten-hour-long, eight and a half or so mile hike. With me that day were Rangers Keith Snyder and Brian Baracz, two of the best Rangers the National Park Service has to offer. Few can convey the meaning of the battle, its significance, and help you connect to a place better than Keith, and there are few, if any, who know the battle as well, and in such great detail, and can make it as clear as Brian. Joining us on the all-day hike were roughly 130 hardy souls, many who have been there before on anniversary.
My thanks to friend and Antietam volunteer Dave Maher for allowing to post some of his pictures below. . .

Sunrise over the Cornfiled


Rangers Hoptak, Snyder, and Baracz preparing for the "Morning in the Cornfield"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A Large Group of Devoted Antietam Enthusiasts and Scholars
[Photograph by Mannie Gentile]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Twilight on Anniversary


Darkness Descends on the Sunken Road




Keith Snyder focused this year on battlefield preservation, while Brian and I went through the battle narration. I focused specifically, or at least spent a good deal of time discussing the role of the Stonewall Division and that of the Ninth Army Corps, the soldiers of which had the most difficult assignment of any Union force during the battle, especially when one walks the same rough, sometimes rugged, and everywhere difficult terrain over which they had to attack.

It was a great day, and excepting one very embarrassing moment when I got turned around near Snavely's Ford and pointed in the wrong direction, one I will long remember. Again, it is an awesome feeling to know that there I was, once this kid who dreamed of working at a Civil War Park, helping to lead the hikes on the anniversary of one of, if not the war's most significant battle.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And, as if this were not humbling enough, a few days later, following a busy anniversary weekend, Ranger Mannie Gentile and I traveled to DC. . .spending some time at the US Navy Yard first, but then heading across the river for an awards ceremony. Ranger Stanczak nominated us for an Excellence in Interpretation Award for our development of the "Become a Civil War Scout" education program. And although we did not walk away with the award, the nomination itself means a lot and is an honor of which I am extremely proud.

Mannie and I near the Barry at the Navy Yard
[Photograph by Mannie Gentile]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I was growing up, I looked up to Park Rangers; yet, throughout all of this busy, incredible week, I realized that I still do, only now I have the great honor and privilege to work alongside them at one of the United States' best preserved, most serene National Parks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide To The Battlefield Landscapes


Another battle anniversary at Antietam has come and gone, and this one--my fifth as a Ranger--was one of the most memorable, for various reasons. I will soon be posting some photographs and some thoughts on a great weekend.



But before then, I want to direct your attention to an important new contribution to Antietam's ever-growing historiography. At 144 pages, Antietam Farmsteads: A Guide To The Battlefield Landscape hit the shelves this anniversary weekend. For any student of the battle, this is a must. For anyone hoping to learn more about a Civil War battle's impact on the community, this is also a must. The book was written by two of Antietam's most talented Park Rangers and two super-cool guys: Keven Walker and K.C. Kirkman (and also features a forward by Ed Bearss and an introduction by Ted Alexander). Walker and Kirkman are not only exceptional Rangers, they are preservationists par excellence and their knowledge of the battle, the farmsteads, and their passion for preserving our history come shining through in this new book. Antietam Farmsteads examines eleven of the most important--and most memorable--farms located on the Antietam battlefield, and not only discusses their history before and after the battle, but also explains the battle, farmstead-by-farmstead. Within the pages of Walker and Kirkman's work, you will discover more about such places as the Joseph Poffenberger and Samuel Mumma farm, as well as those belonging to William Roulette, Henry Piper, Joseph Sherrick, John Otto, Philip Pry, and others, and each of their roles in the battle. You will also learn more about the families that resided in these farmsteads.


I cannot recommend this book enough. . . click here to order your copy directly from the Antietam Museum Store.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Preparing For The 148th. . .And Some Sad News

It is a common sentiment this time of year; people asking, "Where did the summer go?" It is hard to imagine that here we are, already in mid-September, with Fall just a week away. Of course, this is always the busiest time of the year at Antietam, as we prepare to commemorate the anniversary of the battle. This year will mark the 148th Anniversary of Antietam.


I am excited and honored to say that I will be helping to lead the all-day hikes this upcoming Friday, September 17, 2010. Working at Antietam is very special, and every day I cannot help but think of how lucky I am to be doing what I love and what I always wanted to do. But being out there on the anniversary of the fight, helping to commemorate the lives and sacrifices of those who fought and those who died, takes it to a whole new level. This year, the sub-theme of the all-day hikes on Friday is Battlefield Preservation, a topic which will be addressed primarily by Ranger Keith Snyder. Ranger Brian Baracz and myself will be providing most of the battle interpretation, and I decided this year that my major focuses will be on the Stonewall Division for the morning hike and, during the afternoon, we'll be focusing mainly on Isaac Rodman's division, following his route all the way to Snavely's Ford then up to the 9th New York Monument. Yes, it will be a long day; we will be covering roughly seven miles. But as it was last year, it will be a great thrill and a great honor. I would have it no other way.


Yesterday, Ranger Baracz and I spent the day going over the hiking routes and preparing for the busy weekend ahead. We tramped all over the fields, going to some really out-of-the-way places. Brian was kind enough to take some shots along the way and send them along to be posted here. If you do plan on coming to the Park this weekend, I suppose you can say that these photos are just a sneak peak of what is to come. . .




We began the day atop the Reel Ridge, west of the Hagerstown Turnpike and modern-day Route 65. This photo is looking east toward Elk Ridge and South Mountain (in the far distance). From here, we were standing opposite the entrance to the Sunken Road/Bloody Lane, which you might see in the center background, bordered by the fences. Look also for the Union monuments to the left center, commemorating the troops that attacked the Road. After being driven off the Dunker Church plateau, Colonel Stephen Lee's Confederate artillery pieces were unlimbered on this high ground.

The Reel Barn and House. . .the barn caught fire during the battle.

In the swale of the Reel Ridge; Confederate troops under Lafayette McLaws and John Walker would have used this sheltered position to form up for the attacks against Sedgwick's and Greene's Union divisions, respectively.

A shot of the ground portions of McLaws's Division (Semmes's and some of Barksdale's brigades) would have passed over before striking Sedgwick in the West Woods.

The J. Hauser home (right background), with Hauser's Ridge rising in the distance. After withdrawing from Nicodemus Heights, some of Pelham's guns would have unlimbered here. Firing toward us, they would have helped stall Gorman's leading brigade of Sedgwick's division upon its arrival on the western edge of the West Woods.

Prepare to be blown away by all the great work being done by our Cultural Resources division, here, at the Mary Locher cabin, and throughout the Park. These guys do incredible work in restoring the battlefield to its September 1862 appearance.

Looking west toward the Hagerstown Turnpike, which runs left-to-right across the photograph, from the sheltered position of the rock ledges in the West Woods. From here the 19th Indiana would have fired directly into the rear of Starke's Louisianans along the fence bordering the Pike.

This is an incredible shot. Behind this high ground is where the 9th Corps would have staged for their attacks against the Lower (Burnside) Bridge and the right flank of Confederate army, which was in position on the distant, tree-lined ridge. If you look closely you might be able to see the Sherrick House and Stone Mill on the right, center-distance. Also, toward the left of the photograph, you will see an open field. Through this runs Branch Avenue, and you may be able to see the back of the 51st Pennsylvania Monument.
I have long argued that the 9th Corps had easily the most difficult task at Antietam, and standing here on this high ground, it is readily apparent. Indeed, as I might say on Friday, and certainly not taking anything away from them, but Pickett's men at Gettysburg had an almost walk-in-the-park compared to Burnside's men at Antietam!

Is there anymore an iconic landmark of the American Civil War than the Burnside Bridge?

Here's Ranger Baracz cooling his heels in the waters of Antietam at Snavely's Ford, where Rodman's division would have crossed, around noon on September 17, 1862, just as Burnside launched his final attack on the Bridge.

Yours Truly relaxing in a seat built along the recently reconstructed stone wall that lines the eastern side of the Otto Farm Lane. It was a long, hot day yesterday as we tramped out the route we'll be taking on Friday but, again, I would have it no other way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On another and much sadder note, when I awoke this morning, I saw in my inbox a message from friend and Antietam scholar Tom Clemens announcing the death of Dr. Joseph Harsh, one of the leading, if not the leading scholar of the September 1862 Maryland Campaign. I never had the good fortune to meet Dr. Harsh, as I understood he had been in declining health over the past few years. But seldom does a day go by, whether at the Park or while researching at home, that I do not consult his work. In my eyes, Dr. Harsh penned the finest single-volume account of the Maryland Campaign, Taken At The Flood. This is history at its finest. Dr. Harsh's work sets the example and has inspired me over the years to become a better historian, to dig deeper, and to look at things from different angles. His loss will be deeply felt in the Civil War community. It is both strange and fitting that Dr. Harsh passed away this week; and that his funeral is set for Friday, September 17. . . .

To read some of Dr. Clemen's thoughts on the passing of Joe Harsh, click here. Also read Harry Smeltzer's thoughts here.