Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reading List. . .2012!

Well. . .it's that time again. The time to look ahead--in eager anticipation--at all the books scheduled for release next year with that proverbial 'kid-in-a-candy-store' feeling. 2012 looks to be a promising year, especially with the Sesquicentennial of so many important events and major battles (announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation; Shiloh; Seven Days'; Second Bull Run; South Mountain and Antietam, of course, and Fredericksburg to name a few).






I am certainly looking forward to a years' worth of good reading. So, without any further ado and in no particular order, the following pending publications caught my attention and have made my must-read books's list for 2012. Whether I actually get around to reading all of them is another story, but the purchases will at least be made. Time to clear some space on the bookshelves. . . .




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America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union
By Fergus Bordewich (Simon & Schuster, April 2012)




Description: The spellbinding story behind the longest debate in U.S. Senate history: the Compromise of 1850, which brought together Senate luminaries on the eve of the Civil War in a desperate effort to save the Union.The Mexican War introduced vast new territories into the United States, including California and the present-day Southwest. California appealed to join the Union, but would it and the other territories be admitted as slave or free? The Senate was precariously balanced with fifteen free states and fifteen slave. Southerners asserted that they would not tolerate any imbalance in their disfavor.
Henry Clay, one of the greatest figures in Senate history, tried to forge a compromise that would fulfill the dream of manifest destiny. At the same time a related crisis erupted over the boundary of New Mexico and Texas with the latter threatening to go to war. Clay’s efforts to resolve both problems failed. Instead a young senator from Illinois, the self-proclaimed new voice of “the West,” Stephen A. Douglas, devised a tortuous compromise that preserved the Union, at least for another decade. As Senate lions such as Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun exited, Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and William H. Seward replaced them. A new era dawned.
Riveting and dramatic, America’s Great Debate brilliantly recreates a critical moment when America fractured but did not break.




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Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War & Reconstruction
By Allen Guelzo (Oxford University Press, May 2012)




Description: The Civil War is the greatest trauma ever experienced by the American nation, a four-year paroxysm of violence that left in its wake more than 600,000 dead, more than 2 million refugees, and the destruction (in modern dollars) of more than $700 billion in property. The war also sparked some of the most heroic moments in American history and enshrined a galaxy of American heroes. Above all, it permanently ended the practice of slavery and proved, in an age of resurgent monarchies, that a liberal democracy could survive the most frightful of challenges.In Fateful Lightning, two-time Lincoln Prize-winning historian Allen C. Guelzo offers a marvelous portrait of the Civil War and its era, covering not only the major figures and epic battles, but also politics, religion, gender, race, diplomacy, and technology. And unlike other surveys of the Civil War era, it extends the reader's vista to include the postwar Reconstruction period and discusses the modern-day legacy of the Civil War in American literature and popular culture. Guelzo also puts the conflict in a global perspective, underscoring Americans' acute sense of the vulnerability of their republic in a world of monarchies. He examines the strategy, the tactics, and especially the logistics of the Civil War and brings the most recent historical thinking to bear on emancipation, the presidency and the war powers, the blockade and international law, and the role of intellectuals, North and South. Written by a leading authority on our nation's most searing crisis, Fateful Lightning offers a vivid and original account of an event whose echoes continue with Americans to this day.




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The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict
BY Andre Fleche (The University of North Carolina Press, March 2012)






Description: It was no coincidence that the Civil War occurred during an age of violent political upheaval in Europe and the Americas. Grounding the causes and philosophies of the Civil War in an international context, Andre M. Fleche examines how questions of national self-determination, race, class, and labor the world over influenced American interpretations of the strains on the Union and the growing differences between North and South. Setting familiar events in an international context, Fleche enlarges our understanding of nationalism in the nineteenth century, with startling implications for our understanding of the Civil War.Confederates argued that European nationalist movements provided models for their efforts to establish a new nation-state, while Unionists stressed the role of the state in balancing order and liberty in a revolutionary age. Diplomats and politicians used such arguments to explain their causes to thinkers throughout the world. Fleche maintains that the fight over the future of republican government in America was also a battle over the meaning of revolution in the Atlantic world and, as such, can be fully understood only as a part of the world-historical context in which it was fought.




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The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi
By Earl J. Hess (The University of North Carolina Press, March 2012)






Description: The Western theater of the Civil War, rich in agricultural resources and manpower and home to a large number of slaves, stretched 600 miles north to south and 450 miles east to west from the Appalachians to the Mississippi. If the South lost the West, there would be little hope of preserving the Confederacy. Earl J. Hess's comprehensive study of how Federal forces conquered and held the West examines the geographical difficulties of conducting campaigns in a vast land, as well as the toll irregular warfare took on soldiers and civilians alike. Hess balances a thorough knowledge of the battle lines with a deep understanding of what was happening within the occupied territories.In addition to a mastery of logistics, Union victory hinged on making use of black manpower and developing policies for controlling constant unrest while winning campaigns. Effective use of technology, superior resource management, and an aggressive confidence went hand in hand with Federal success on the battlefield. In the end, Confederates did not have the manpower, supplies, transportation potential, or leadership to counter Union initiatives in this critical arena.




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The Union Forever: Lincoln, Grant, and the Civil War
By John Y. Simon, edited by Glenn LaFantasie (The University Press of Kentucky, March 2012)






Description: John Y. Simon was a giant in the field of Civil War-era history whose groundbreaking work on Grant was at the forefront of his generation's reevaluation of Grant's wartime acumen and his controversial presidency, earning him a lifetime achievement award from the Lincoln Forum in 2004 and a Lincoln Prize in 2005. In The Union Forever: Lincoln, Grant, and the Civil War, editor Glenn W. LaFantasie brings together some of Simon's most significant work on two towering figures of their era.
The essays in The Union Forever explore the relationship between the two leaders and their influence on each other as well as their individual accomplishments and struggles. Simon illuminates Lincoln's emancipation policy and his struggles as commander in chief. Other essays explore General Grant's military career and leadership as well as the influence his wife had on his life. Drawing from Simon's most prominent work as well as his lesser-known writing, The Union Forever allows veteran scholars to revisit classic works and makes available to new generations of readers Simon's perspectives on America's greatest leaders during a time of crisis and change.




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George Henry Thomas: As True As Steel
By Brian Steel Wills (University Press of Kansas, March 2012)




Description: Although often counted among the Union’s top five generals, George Henry Thomas has still not received his due. A Virginian who sided with the North in the Civil War, he was a more complicated commander than traditional views have allowed. Brian Wills now provides a new and more complete look at the life of a man known to history as “The Rock of Chickamauga,” to his troops as “Old Pap,” and to General William T. Sherman as a soldier who was “as true as steel.”
While biographers have long been hampered by Thomas’s lack of personal papers, Wills has drawn on previously untapped sources—notably the correspondence of Thomas’s contemporaries—to offer new insights into what made him tick. Focusing on Thomas’s personality and motivations, Wills contributes revealing discussions of his style and approach to command and successfully captures his troubled interactions with other Union commanders, providing a particularly more evenhanded evaluation of his relationship with Grant. He also gives a more substantial account of battlefield action than can be found in other biographies, capturing the ebb and flow of key encounters—Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga and Atlanta, Stones River and Mill Springs, Peachtree Creek and Nashville—to help readers better understand Thomas’s contributions to their outcomes.
Throughout Wills presents a well-rounded individual whose complex views embraced the worlds of professional military service and scientific inquisitiveness, a man known for attention to detail and compassion to subordinates. We also meet a sharp-tempered person whose disdain for politics hurt his prospects for advancement as much as it reflected positively on his character, and Wills offers new insight into why Thomas might not have progressed as quickly up the ladder of command as he might have liked.
More deeply researched than other biographies, Wills’s work situates Thomas squarely in his own time to provide readers with a more thorough and balanced life story of this enigmatic Union general. It is a definitive military history that gives us a new and needed picture of the Rock of Chickamauga—a man whose devotion to duty and ideals made him as true as steel.




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The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African-Americans and the Fight for Freedom
By Glenn David Brasher (The University of North Carolina Press, April 2012)






Description: In the Peninsula Campaign of spring 1862, Union general George B. McClellan failed in his plan to capture the Confederate capital and bring a quick end to the conflict. But the campaign saw something new in the war--the participation of African Americans in ways that were critical to the Union offensive. Ultimately, that participation influenced Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of that year. Glenn David Brasher's unique narrative history delves into African American involvement in this pivotal military event, demonstrating that blacks contributed essential manpower and provided intelligence that shaped the campaign's military tactics and strategy and that their activities helped to convince many Northerners that emancipation was a military necessity.Drawing on the voices of Northern soldiers, civilians, politicians, and abolitionists as well as Southern soldiers, slaveholders, and the enslaved, Brasher focuses on the slaves themselves, whose actions showed that they understood from the outset that the war was about their freedom. As Brasher convincingly shows, the Peninsula Campaign was more important in affecting the decision for emancipation than the Battle of Antietam.




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September 2012, of course, will mark the 150th Anniversary of the Maryland Campaign and its Battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Shepherdstown. As the focus of my study for the past six years, I am certainly looking forward to what will no doubt be an exciting time for scholarship pertaining to this critical campaign. Although not listed below but still on the radar for publication in 2012 is Volume Two of the Ezra Carman book, edited by Dr. Thomas Clemens, to be published by Savas-Beatie. Volume Two will cover the action at Antietam and we of the battlefield Park staff are very much looking forward to its release.




I am also very happy to see another South Mountain study coming out. . . .even if it has a familiar cover image ;)




Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862
By Brian Matthew Jordan (Savas-Beatie, February 2012)






Description: Many readers of Civil War history have been led to believe that the battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862) was but a trifling skirmish, a preliminary engagement of little strategic or tactical consequence overshadowed by Antietam's horrific carnage just three days later. In fact, the fight was a decisive Federal victory and important turning point in the campaign, as historian Brian Matthew Jordan convincingly argues in his fresh interpretation Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862.Most authors of the Maryland Campaign brush past South Mountain in a few paragraphs or a single chapter. Jordan, however, presents a full-length study based upon extensive archival research, newspaper accounts, regimental histories, official records, postwar reunion materials, public addresses, letters, and diaries. Readers will come away with a full understanding of the strategic results of the fighting in general, and a keen appreciation of the tactical actions at Fox, Turner, and Crampton's gaps in particular. The Northern victory provided a substantial boost for the downtrodden men of the Union army who recognized the battle for what it was: a sharp, hours-long combat that included hand-to-hand combat and resulted in nearly 5,000 casualties. Indeed, South Mountain was the first conclusive victory for the Army of the Potomac-the first time the men of that army maintained possession of the field and with it the responsibility of burying the dead.Jordan goes well beyond the military aspects of the battle to better understand and explain how and why South Mountain faded from public memory. He chronicles how and why former Confederates, true to the Lost Cause, insisted they were outnumbered while proud Union veterans remembered South Mountain as a full-scale engagement-wholly distinct from Antietam-where they outfought and defeated their Rebel opponents.About the Author: Brian Matthew Jordan graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Civil War Era Studies from Gettysburg College. The native of northeastern Ohio discovered a passion for history at an early age. He is a frequent speaker at Civil War Round Tables nationwide, delivers popular tours for Gettysburg College's Civil War Institute and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and conducts seminars for various Teaching American History grant recipients. His published work has appeared in multiple journals including Civil War History. Jordan is currently working on a Ph.D. in History at Yale University.






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The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution
By Richard Slotkin (Liveright, July 2012)




Description: A masterful account of the Civil War's turning point in the tradition of James McPherson's Crossroads of Freedom.In the summer of 1862, after a year of protracted fighting, Abraham Lincoln decided on a radical change of strategy—one that abandoned hope for a compromise peace and committed the nation to all-out war. The centerpiece of that new strategy was the Emancipation Proclamation: an unprecedented use of federal power that would revolutionize Southern society. In The Long Road to Antietam, Richard Slotkin, a renowned cultural historian, reexamines the challenges that Lincoln encountered during that anguished summer 150 years ago. In an original and incisive study of character, Slotkin re-creates the showdown between Lincoln and General George McClellan, the “Young Napoleon” whose opposition to Lincoln included obsessive fantasies of dictatorship and a military coup. He brings to three-dimensional life their ruinous conflict, demonstrating how their political struggle provided Confederate General Robert E. Lee with his best opportunity to win the war, in the grand offensive that ended in September of 1862 at the bloody Battle of Antietam.





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The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2-20, 1862
By Bradley Gottfried (Savas-Beatie, January 2012)





Description: The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862 is the eagerly awaited companion volume to Bradley M. Gottfried's bestselling The Maps of Gettysburg (2007) and The Maps of First Bull Run (2009), part of the ongoing Savas Beatie Military Atlas Series.
The Maps of Antietam breaks down the entire operation (and all related actions) into 21 map sets or "action-sections" enriched with 124 full-color original full-page maps. These spectacular cartographic creations bore down to the regimental and battery level and include the march into Maryland, the Harpers Ferry Operation, the Battle of South Mountain, the battle at Antietam, the retreat, and the fighting at Shepherdstown, as well as important marches and events. At least two-and as many as ten-maps accompany each "action-section." Opposite each map is a full facing page of detailed, footnoted text describing the units, personalities, movements, and combat (including quotes from eyewitnesses) depicted on the accompanying map, all of which make the story of Lee's raid into Maryland come alive.
This original presentation masterfully leads readers on a journey through the campaign that many historians believe marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Gottfried begins with the position of the opposing armies after the Second Bull Run Campaign before detailing their joint movements into Maryland. Readers will stand with D. H. Hill on top of South Mountain as General McClellan tries to force his way through the mountain passes; surround, lay siege to, and capture Harpers Ferry (and ride with Col. Benjamin Davis's cavalry on its breakout); fight blow-by-blow outside the small town of Sharpsburg (53 maps) through the bloodiest day in American history; retreat from the battlefield; and revisit the final bloodshed at Shepherdstown.
Perfect for the easy chair or for walking hallowed ground, The Maps of Antietam is a seminal work that, like his earlier Gettysburg and First Bull Run studies, belongs on the bookshelf of every serious and casual student of the Civil War.
About the Author: Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried holds a Ph.D. in Zoology from Miami University. He has worked in higher education for more than three decades as a faculty member and administrator. He is currently President of the College of Southern Maryland.
An avid Civil War historian, Dr. Gottfried is the author of nine books, including: The Battle of Gettysburg: A Guided Tour (1998); Stopping Pickett: The History of the Philadelphia Brigade (1999); Brigades of Gettysburg (2002); Roads to Gettysburg (2002); and Kearny's Own: The History of the First New Jersey Brigade (2005). He is currently working with Theodore P. Savas on a Gettysburg Campaign Encyclopedia.





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And, of course, I am looking forward to this one from fellow blogger Kevin Levin. . . .







War As Murder: Remembering the Battle of the Crater
By Kevin Levin (The University Press of Kentucky, June 2012)





Description: The Battle of the Crater is known as one of the Civil War's bloodiest struggles -- a Union loss with combined casualties of 5,000, many of whom were members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Union Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The battle was a violent clash of forces as Confederate soldiers fought for the first time against African American soldiers. After the Union lost the battle, these black soldiers were captured and subject both to extensive abuse and the threat of being returned to slavery in the South. Yet, despite their heroism and sacrifice, these men are often overlooked in public memory of the war.
In Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War is Murder, Kevin M. Levin addresses the shared recollection of a battle that epitomizes the way Americans have chosen to remember, or in many cases forget, the presence of the USCT. The volume analyzes how the racial component of the war's history was portrayed at various points during the 140 years following its conclusion, illuminating the social changes and challenges experienced by the nation as a whole. Remembering The Battle of the Crater gives the members of the USCT a newfound voice in history.





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The Petersburg Campaign: Volume 1: The Eastern Front Battles, June-August 1864
By Edwin Bearss with Bryce Suderow (Savas-Beatie, March 2012)





Description: The wide-ranging and largely misunderstood series of operations around Petersburg, Virginia, were the longest and most extensive of the entire Civil War. The fighting that began in early June 1864 when advance elements from the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and botched a series of attacks against a thinly defended city would not end for nine long months. This important-many would say decisive-fighting is presented by legendary Civil War author Edwin C. Bearss in The Petersburg Campaign: The Eastern Front Battles, June - August 1864, the first in a ground-breaking two-volume compendium.
Although commonly referred to as the "Siege of Petersburg," that city (as well as the Confederate capital at Richmond) was never fully isolated and the combat involved much more than static trench warfare. In fact, much of the wide-ranging fighting involved large-scale Union offensives designed to cut important roads and the five rail lines feeding Petersburg and Richmond. This volume of Bearss' study of these major battles includes:
• The Attack on Petersburg (June 9, 1864)• The Attack on Petersburg (June 15, 1864)• The Battle of the Jerusalem Plank Road (June 21 - 24, 1864)• The Battle of the Crater (July 31, 1864)• The Battle of the Weldon Railroad (August 18 - 21, 1864)• The Battle of Reams' Station (August 24, 1864)
Accompanying these salient chapters are original maps by Civil War cartographer Steven Stanley, together with photos and illustrations. The result is a richer and deeper understanding of the major military episodes comprising the Petersburg Campaign.
About the Authors: Edwin C. Bearss is a world-renowned military historian, author, and tour guide known for his work on the American Civil War and World War II. Ed, a former WWII Marine wounded in the Pacific Theater, served as Chief Historian of the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994 and is the author of dozens of books and articles. He discovered and helped raise the Union warship USS Cairo, which is on display at Vicksburg National Military Park.
Bryce A. Suderow is a Civil War writer and researcher living in Washington, D.C. He received his B.A. at Knox College and earned a Masters in American History at Sonoma State University. His Masters' Thesis, Thunder in Arcadia Valley, was published in 1985 (Univ. of Missouri). Bryce has also published many articles in a number of Civil War periodicals and is recognized as one of the finest archival researchers working today.





The Petersburg Campaign: Volume 2: The Western Front Battles, September 1864-April 1865
By Edwin Bearss with Bryce Suderow (Savas-Beatie, June 2012)





Description: The wide-ranging and largely misunderstood series of operations around Petersburg, Virginia, were the longest and most extensive of the entire Civil War. The fighting that began in early June 1864 when advance elements from the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and botched a series of attacks against a thinly defended city would not end for nine long months. This important-many would say decisive-fighting is presented by legendary Civil War author Edwin C. Bearss in The Petersburg Campaign: The Western Front Battles, September 1864 - April 1865, Volume 2, the second in a ground-breaking, two-volume compendium.
Although commonly referred to as the "Siege of Petersburg," that city (as well as the Confederate capital at Richmond) was never fully isolated and the combat involved much more than static trench warfare. In fact, much of the wide-ranging fighting involved large-scale Union offensives designed to cut important roads and the five rail lines feeding Petersburg and Richmond. This volume of Bearss' study includes these major battles:
- Peeble's Farm (September 29 - October 1, 1864)- Burgess Mills (October 27, 1864) - Hatcher Run (February 5 - 7, 1865)- Fort Stedman (March 25, 1865)- Five Forks Campaign (March 29 - April 1, 1865)- The Sixth Corps Breaks Lee's Petersburg Lines (April 2, 1865)
Accompanying these salient chapters are original maps by Civil War cartographer Steven Stanley, together with photos and illustrations. The result is a richer and deeper understanding of the major military episodes comprising the Petersburg Campaign.





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I am certain there will be many more must-read titles published next year. . .those listed above are just a few.



As for me, my Gettysburg title for the History Press will be coming out sometime in the summer (late summer) of 2012. I am currently in the midst of this one, finding it quite the challenge to tell the story of this campaign and battle within just 50,000 words. . . but, gotta keep moving on.



Also, I am happy to say that Ten Roads will soon be publishing Our Boys Did Nobly: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam sometime soon. I wrote this one several years back and printed up only three hundred copies. It has been out-of-print for some time now and I am thrilled that Jim and Eric at Ten Roads have decided to pick it up. It has been revised a bit and trimmed down.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 48th/150th: Hatteras~Part Two



Union Soldiers Drill at Camp Winfield~Hatteras, North Carolina


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"Our first impressions of Hatteras were not favorable," wrote regimental historian Joseph Gould. "When we relieved the 20th Indiana Regiment, which had previously occupied the post, and saw their deplorable condition, heard their tales of woe and had some experience with the troops--of bugs and things they left to our care--we certainly felt despondent, and 'many a time and oft' wondered 'why we came for a soldier.' However, after spending some weeks on the sandy shores, the soldiers of the 48th, spending their first Christmas and New Year's Day in uniform, far from Schuylkill County, they grew to love Hatteras. Said Gould fondly, "we learned to love the old place in time, and often in our after experience we wished we were back. . . ."



While Company B, commanded by Captain James Wren, remained at Hatteras Inlet to garrison Forts Hatteras and Clark, the remaining nine companies enjoyed more comfortable wooden barracks quarters at Camp Winfield, a few miles further up the island, which was constructed by the men of the 48th shortly after their arrival. "A large earthwork had been erected by the regiment," said Gould, "and it was a very formidable looking structure. We never had any occassions to use it, and our idea at the time of its construction was that it was done to keep us employed."



Drills became more frequent as the days continued to pass on Hatteras. In charge of the area was General Thomas Williams, a career soldier, afterwards killed at the battles for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Williams was a tough, no-nonsense officer. He "came upon the scene," remembered Gould, "to make our lives miserable. . .by inaugurating five drills per day." But his work in transforming the volunteers into soldiers paid off. "Later we thought better of him as we grew older," admitted the regimental historian, "and as we learned that the extra drills and discipline he enforced upon us did us a great amount of good when we were called upon to assume the heavy work attending the life we had chosen." When the soldiers of the 48th learned of his death, there were "many expressions of sorrow."



Brigadier General Thomas Williams

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wallking In The Footsteps of the 48th. . .With Mr. Siegfried

One of the most memorable highlights of this past year at Antietam. . .my sixth, if you count my first year as a volunteer. . .was walking in the footsteps of the 48th Pennsylvania with Mr. David Siegfried, a direct descendant of the regiment's commander at Antietam, Lt. Col. Joshua K. Sigfried.

Brevet Brigadier General Joshua Sigfried

Born on July 4, 1832, in my own hometown of Orwigsburg, Joshua Sigfried attended school at the Pottsville Academy then found work with the coal business in neighboring Port Carbon. In the pre-war years, Sigfried organized the Marion Rifles, a militia company that would later serve under Colonel James Nagle in the three-month 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. With the expiration of this initial term of service in late July 1861, Sigfried helped in raising what would become the 48th Pennsylvania, recruiting many of the members of the Marion Rifles plus more volunteers from the Pottsville/Port Carbon area. When the 48th was organized in September/October 1861, Sigfried was the regiment's major but the resignation of Lt. Col. David Smith would soon elevate Sigfried to that rank, making him the regiment's second-in-command. When Colonel Nagle was elevated to brigade command in April 1862, Sigfried assumed command of the 48th, which he would lead until the spring of 1864, and at such places as 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and during the regiment's campaigns in Kentucky and Tennessee. In April 1864, Major General Ambrose Burnside, recognizing the leadership qualities of Sigfried, named him a commander of a brigade of United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.), a brigade he would subsequently lead during the Battle of the Crater.

With Mr. Siegfried at the 48th PA Monument



This fall, I had the distinct privilege of taking one of General Sigfried's descedants on a tour of the 48th's actions at Antietam. We spent three hours walking in the footsteps of the 48th, from their supporting operations during the attacks on the Burnside Bridge to their movement to the front late that afternoon to help stem the tide following A.P. Hill's flank assault. Meeting descendants of 48th PA soldiers is always, always a great thrill for me, and after spending years conversing by letter, it was great to finally Mr. David Siegfried and an honor to stomp the battlefield of Antietam with him and his wife. Just like meeting the Dentzer siblings last summer, whose ancestors fought and died as soldiers in Company K, 48th PA, this will rank among my most memorable experiences at Antietam.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Antietam's Memorial Illumination. . .Few Things Are More Profound

Tonight, a candle will burn on the Antietam National Battlefield in honor of George Dentzer, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company K, 48th Pennsylvania, and a one time railroad laborer from Cressona. On September 17, 1862, Dentzer was killed in action near the Burnside Bridge.





Private George Dentzer, Co. K, 48th PA





Another will burn in tribute to Private Alexander Prince, a nineteen-year-old laborer from St. Clair, just outside of the Schuylkill County seat of Pottsville. Prince survived the carnage on September 17, only to be struck down and killed the following day while trying to save the life of a wounded comrade. The soldiers of the 48th spent most of September 18 on the firing line, subjected to a sometimes heavy skirmish fire. In between shots the cries of the wounded rent the air. The pleas from one soldier were too much for Prince to bear. At 12:15, he crawled forward on his hands and knees despite the protests from his fellow soldiers in order to take water to a grievously wounded man. Prince delivered his canteen, turned around, and began to crawl his way back to the skirmish line when the wounded soldier begged to be carried back. Prince’s comrades on the skirmish line watched as the young soldier turned back and lifted the man on his back. Suddenly, a shot rang out and Prince fell dead. “Whilst humanely trying to give a wounded comrade just over the skirmish line some water for his parched lips,” recorded Bosbyshell, “a minie ball pierced his heart. His death cry as he leaped into the air, and fell to rise no more, is still heard in the ear of imagination.” Captain Wren concluded that “through his kindness [Prince] lost his own life.”
Prince’s comrades were stunned; most of them no doubt outraged that he had been shot down while trying to save a wounded man. As the hours passed that afternoon, Prince’s body lay just to their front. “We dare not go into to him as the enemy had range on that ground & we was very ancious to get his Body,” wrote Wren. Unable to stand looking at the young soldier’s corpse, some members of the regiment finally crawled forward and were able to bring it in. “I had [the body] taken down to the Bridge & had it Buried in the field near the Bridge,” said Wren, “whear we had the struggle for to get across.” The following morning, Captain Wren met with Alexander Prince’s brother, an artilleryman in the Ninth Corps. “He told me he saw his Brother before he was Buried & I was glad he had seen him, even if he was dead. I gave him his pocket book, which contained $1.30 Cents in money & 3 rings & 5 buttons which I gave to him & also the Bible, he showed me a few days ago & he got his Knapsack yesterday & he being his nearest friend, is entitled to it.”




That same day, Captain Wren also sent John Robinson’s knapsack to Robinson’s father in Pottsville, “Just as he had it packed when he was shot.” Like Prince, Private John Robinson, also just nineteen years of age, was shot on September 18. He suffered for a while but finally succumbed to his wounds in the weeks ahead.



Dentzer, Prince, and Robinson were three of the fifty-nine casualties suffered by the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry at the Battle of Antietam and tonight--December 3, 2011--at the twenty-second annual Memorial Luminaries, a candle will burn, lighting the darkness, for each of these fifty-nine soldiers either killed or mortally wounded.


Luminaries burn near the Maryland Monument at Antietam (NPS/Keith Snyder)


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More than 23,000 other luminaries will be lit, one for each of men, Union or Confederate, who fell either killed or wounded or went listed among the missing, during this costliest single-day battle of the American Civil War.



Tonight's event will be the seventh luminary I have had the pleasure to participate in, if only helping to park the vast procession of vehicles. Still, there are few more incredible sights to see than the night sky lit up over this hallowed ground by 23,110 candles. It is a number I say everyday at the battlefield, in my interpretation of the fight. It is an easy one to say, but an impossible number to imagine. Antietam's luminaries reveal just how tremendous a figure 23,110 actually is.




If you have not yet seen Antietam's luminaries for yourself, make it a point, one of these years, to do so.


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There were a total of fifty-nine casualties sustained by the 48th Pennsylvania at Antietam. Eleven of these men were killed or mortally wounded while the remaining forty-eight sustained non-fatal injuries. The names of these men follow:



Killed/Mortally Wounded :
Alexander Prince, Co. B
John Robinson, Co. B
Alva Jeffries, Co. D
John Sullivan, Co. D
Lt. William Cullen, Co. E
John Broadbent, Co. E
Charles Timmons, Co. G
Cpl. Lewis Focht, Co. I
Cpl. Daniel Moser, Co. K
George Dentzer, Co. K
Peter Boyer, Co. K

Wounded:
Company A:
Cpl. Henry H. Price
Charles Krieger
B.F. Dreibelbeis
George Betz
John Whitaker

Company B:
Matthew Hume
Frederick Knittle
Laurentus Moyer
John R. Simpson

Company C:
Sgt. William Clark
Sgt. Edward Monahan
Cpl. Samuel Wallace
Cpl. James Gribons
Robert Rodgers
James Horn
Henry Dersh
John Doughtery
John Shenk

Company D:
Cpl. Henry Rothenberger
George Artz
Walter Aimes
James Evans
George Stillwagon
Samuel Stichter
Franklin Hoch

Company E:
Sgt. John Seward
Sgt. William Trainer
Cpl. John McElrath

Company F:
Sgt. John Jenkins
Sgt. William Taylor

Company G:
Cpl. Charles F. Kuentzler
John Pugh
John Rodgers
Henry Nagle

Company H:
Richard Forney
Jacob Witman
Daniel Ohnmacht
William Davis
Samuel Fryberger

Company I:
Lt. Michael M. Kistler
Charles Millet
Peter Keller
Matthew Fireman

Company K:
David Fenstermaker
Edward Payne
Francis Simon
John Shaw
Sgt. Patrick Quinn


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


Henry Rothenberger, Co. D


Daniel Ohnmacht, Co. I


Samuel Fryberger, Co. H



Henry H. Price, Co. A

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 48th/150th: Hatteras~Part One

150 years ago, the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry was encamped at Hatteras, North Carolina, after having spent several weeks garrisoned at Fortress Monroe. One can imagine the impact made on these Schuylkill County boys when setting sail down the coast and then arriving on the shore; for most, it was their first visit to the beach! It was not long, however, before the realities of camping on a sea shore became all too apparent.




[U.S. Soldiers Land at Hatteras]


Below are several letters, penned by soldiers of the 48th, describing the journey to Hatteras and their experiences trying to live on the storm-swept beaches. The first comes from Oliver Christian Bosbyshell to the editors of the Pottsville Miners' Journal; the second from Lieutenant George Gressang to his family in Pottsville; and the third from a soldier known as "G.W.H.," again to the Miners' Journal.



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

1). Fort Clark, Near Hatteras Inlet, N.C.
18th November 1861


Messers. Editors:--Well, here we are—the 48th, I mean—at the famous Ft. Clark, made famous by the gallant manner in which it was captured from the secessionists. It is a rude structure, but very substantial, as it would take a ball a long time to pierce the breastworks, they being made of matted sod, and some twelve feet thick. In the centre is a large mound, made of some material, which is used for a magazine. But I am anticipating—I [?] we were here; now it’s a question of how we got here, and I will proceed therefore to state how.—Last Sunday, the 10th inst., Col. Nagle received orders from headquarters to march his command to Fort Hatteras, N.C. On Monday afternoon, about five o’clock, we broke camp near Fortress Monroe, and succeeded in getting ourselves stowed snugly away on the steamer “S.R. Spaulding,” and at seven o’clock we bade adieu to Fortress Monroe, and steamed pleasantly out of the Chesapeake Bay into the broad Atlantic. We had a most delightful trip down the ocean, which was remarkably smooth—not a case of sea sickness occurred on board.
—At 8 o’clock Tuesday morning, we dropped anchor off Ft. Hatteras, and successed, after considerable difficulty, in getting a plank attached to the bulk of an old wreck.—Down this plank, which had an elevation of at least 45 degrees, our Regiment landed—one man at a time. Having, at last, reached shore, we formed on the beach and took up our line of march for Fort Clark, about three quarters of a mile further up the beach. When we accomplished over half the distance, the Regiment halted to make preparations to wade a narrow inlet, separating us from Fort H. In ten minutes we were moving again, and such a looking set of men—some without breeches in their drawers—others sans drawers, breeches, or anything else. It was a laughable scene and the men enjoyed it hugely. We halted on the other side to rearrange our disordered clothing, after which we marched on, and stacked arms on the beach between the Fort and the ocean. We were obliged to make several trips back to the boat, before we got all our things here. Immediately after we arrived, three companies of the New York 92nd Regiment vacated this post, and joined their regiment, encamped at Camp “Wool” two miles further up. Col. Nagle is now the commander of Fort Clark, his being a separate command from that of Fort Hatteras. This military department is under Brigadier General Williams, U.S.A.
The two Forts are built of the same material. Fort Clark mounts some four 32-pounders and one Dahlgren gun; these have been placed in charge of Co. B, Capt. Jas. Wren, and every evening at sunset a gun is fired.—Outside of the Fort, in different places, earthworks have been thrown up, behind which the companies are drilled every morning, after reveille, at simulating a defence—practiced in firing, standing and kneeling, from behind these fortifications. The field pieces, of which there are a number here, Co. H., Capt. Jos. Gilmour, has been detailed to take charge of. They are placed behind breastworks, and, in case of an attack, would prove most effective. This morning a grand review of the New York 92nd came off on the beach. The New York 92nd occupied the right of the line, and the 48th the left. We were reviewed by Brigadier General Williams and staff, and it was almost impossible not to notice with what pleasure the General surveyed the brilliant display before him. Indeed, who could help being pleased; each company filing by looking their best and doing their best, and you may be assured, the 48th made a most creditable appearance.


Last Thursday a rebel steamer made its appearance away off in Pamlico Sound, and approached this way with an evident intention of making observations, but one of the Federal steamers stationed here gave chase to it, exchanging several shots, and it is said three took effect—anyhow, the rebel vessel made tracks and had not been seen since. Yesterday our first mail on this lonely isle arrived, brining many letters to many anxious recipients. But few Journals were received—those that did reach here were eagerly sought after, and here and there could be seen large crowds of men gathered around some one who was fortunate enough to procure one, and who was obliged to read the news aloud.



We also had a very interesting religious service yesterday afternoon. Our Chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Holman, delivered a very good and appropriate sermon, and the men listened to it with marked attention. The general health of the men is good—very little sickness, and none of a serious nature prevails. Of course, we have some hardships to encounter, and have no delicacies in the shape of food, being obliged to go it on army fare alone. Some are quartered in wooden shanties, while the greater majority prefer the tents, which are floored nicely.
We are getting along very well, considering the nature of our abiding place, of which a better description can not be given than by citing an extract from one of the men’s letters home, as follows: “A great deal of sand and a great deal of water, and if I have anything more to add, it is a little more sand and a little more water.”
Very Respectfully,
O.C.B.
[Oliver Christian Bosbyshell]




[Fort Hatteras]



2). Hatteras Inlet, N.C., 15th November 1861

Dear Father:--As you no doubt will be very anxious to hear from me and to have a slight description of this place, I will endeavor to give you an outline of it. We left Fortress Monroe on Monday evening, the 12th, and after a sail of some 13 hours in the fine steamer S.S. Spaulding, we arrived here. We had already heard of the place from the Indiana boys and we found that the assertions they made to us were but too true. If Columbus had first landed here when he discovered America, he would have went back in disgust. The heavy storm they had here last week washed away part of the Fort; but I will first describe the place to you. As we arrived here on board the boat, we were wondering how we were to land, as the vessel could not get near the shore and our only way was to wade over in water up to our waist; but we watched the movements of the Colonel, who had to land first, and the way he proceeded was to go part way in a small boat, and the balance of the way, we saw him mounted on the back of a contraband darkey, amid the shouts of the boys. . . . . After we had orders to land from Gen. Williams, we had a kind of bridge made from the boat to the schooner, and from there we waded to land. We then marched past Fort Hatteras to Fort Clark, where, by the way, we had to wade water again almost up to our neck, and we are now in camp. The boys call it Camp Misery, and well they may, for it is a miserable place. When the tide is up, we have about ¼ of a mile of Island, and when it is down we have about 3 miles. We cannot eat anything without there is sand in it; in fact we have sand in our mouths, sand in our teeth, in our eyes and hair, on our floors, and sand, nothing but sand everywhere else. Water is very bad here. We can’t drink it unless we hold our noses shut, for it smells bad enough to knock one down. I would rather give 25 cents for a glass of water out of the Schuylkill than drink this [?], and it had already given the diarrhea to a great many. Fish and Sea Shells are plenty here, and that is about it. We have to live on crackers, bacon and coffee here, and we can’t go to bed at night with the hope of getting up dry in the morning, as the sea rises very high here. Sometimes it is known to be two feet high all over the shore, and we can’t make the tents stand, for there is always a high wind, and the stakes will not hold in the sand. We are, however, quartered in some small wooden sheds which the rebels had erected for their accommodations, but which have got plenty of holes in from the shells of our fleet the time they captured the place. The way pieces of shell lay about here looks as if they came down like hail. Drilling goes very hard here, as we are always up to our knees in sand, and Gen. Williams is not liked at all, as he is entirely too hard on the men. He has them up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and in bed at 8 o’clock P.M., and then has drills every hour in the day. The guard must stand under arms from 6 A.M. to broad daylight, and the strictest observances must be held here, as the enemy are continually annoying us. They send the steamer Fanny which they captured up here in Pamlico Sound, to watch our movements, but she takes care not to come within gun range. I saw the fleet exchange shots with the enemy yesterday afternoon. Two of our gun boats had up the Chickamimico yesterday morning to scout, and in the afternoon the rebel steamer Cerlew came up, no doubt thinking the place was abandoned, and when about three miles off the Fort they fired a shell at us, but it was quickly responded to by a 32 pounder from the Fort. They exchanged shots several times, but they all fell short. The Rebels are in a bad way, as we have them entirely closed up, and the Inlet is entirely is our possession. But for all this I think 4 good gun boats could hold the place, and that the Government ought not to keep two regiments in such a miserable place. Men who are here and have been for the regular service say that this is the worst spot that exists, and if we stay here two months and they send us to the next worse place it will be a perfect Paradise. So if we once get used to this we will be able to stand any hardships whatever. What you read and hear about Hatteras Inlet, you can put down for true, as they can’t make the place worse than it is. Our health so far is pretty good, but I am afraid it will not last long with such water and living. Gen. Wool says he will not keep us here longer than six weeks or two months, and I hope he will keep his word. We don’t know whether we will go back to Fortress Monroe, or further South. The weather here in the daytime is as hot as it is on the 4th of July in Pottsville, but the nights are rather chilly. People that live here are fishermen, and the men and women are a long, lanky, dirty looking set. They say they are all Union, but they do that to keep from starving. We have not received the Journal for last Saturday, the 9th, yet, and a steamer only enters here once in ten days, so when the news comes it will be old. In fact we get no papers of any kind, and we would be very thankful to our friends if they would send them to us even if they were old, if it would be inconvenient.
Geo. H. Gressang


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
3). Fort Clark, Hatteras Inlet, N.C.
Wednesday, Nov. 18th 1861


Messers. Editors:--E’re this reaches you, you will no doubt have been informed of our destination. We arrived here safe about half past eight yesterday morning. We landed at Fort Hatteras about a mile and a half from here. They threw a plank from the steamer to a wreck, and then landed us one at a time, and after laying on shore a couple of hours, we took up our march to this place. We were obliged to ford a channel that was washed by the recent freshet here. Some went in clothes and all; others took off their shoes, etc. Well, we have come to the conclusion that we will be satisfied wherever we are sent after this, for this is pronounced by sailors, and by us to be the worst place on the face of the globe. One to see us here would say we were shipwrecked. We could not have been sent to a worse place if the Government had tried. Where we are is nothing but a sand bar.—The fort here is nothing but sand banks. There are 4 guns mounted here. Fort Hatteras is built the same way. They have 9 guns mounted, and there are regulars quartered there. Both Forts and guns and everything else are liable to be washed away at any time by the sea, which has already washed part of both Forts away. The sand is about six inches deep, and in the moonlight night looks like snow. You can form an idea how it is here if you ever had snow to blow in your face off of the houses in winter. The boys say we have got to the jumping off place at last. We have just done breakfast, and everything is literally covered with sand. We trust we are not to remain here long, as I believe a letter came here to the Lieut. Col. of the New York Ninth Regt., which is encamped about three miles from here, stating that they were going to abandon this place. If such is the case, I suppose we will take another sea trip. We are not afraid of anybody troubling us here, for we see nothing but water all around us. The Band is quartered in a one story shanty. We made bunks and the whole party sleep together. It is about 50 feet long, and was built by the secessionists. The bunks that were in the shanties were about 4 feet from the floor, for when there is a heavy gale blowing, it washes all over the whole place. We expect to wake up some morning and find ourselves floating around in our bunks.
We had a delightful trip down here. The sea was rather calm. We did not see much, as it was nearly dark when we left Fort Monroe; but we all enjoyed the trip. The steamer we came in was the S.R. Spaulding. The men were packed in pretty close between decks, but they seemed to enjoy it. We were quartered on deck. Just before leaving Camp Hamilton one of Capt. Pleasants’ men died. His was name was Richards, and I believe he lived in Hamburg.
[Daniel Reighard, Co. C, died 11/11/1861, 25 yrs. old, died at Fortress Monroe].
We will get no regular mail here, and of course, will miss our newspapers, but we hope you will endeavor to keep us posted up. The men are now busy carrying the boxes and other things from the vessel. She returns this afternoon, and this letter goes with her. There are some quantities of shells here, and quite handsome ones. Some of the men have gathered quite a number already. There is nothing however, but shells and sand here. One important thing we are deprived of here, and that is good water. The water is very offensive. Some of the boys have headed their letters Camp Misery, Sandy Bottom, etc., as yet we have not received our pay. All however, seem in as good spirits as can be expected. Hoping to have something more pleasing in my next,
I remain yours, respectively,
G.H.W.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking Head Gig. . .WVIA's "The State of Pennsylvania: The Civil War at 150."

Yesterday--November 17--I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on Northeastern Pennsylvania's role in the American Civil War for a live call-in program entitled "The State of Pennsylvania: The Civil War at 150." The producers of WVIA, a local PBS affiliate here in Pennsylvania, asked if I'd be willing to participate speaking mainly on Civil War topics related to my native Schuylkill County.

Follow the link below to watch the program. . .

http://wviaondemand.org/contusvideo/?vid=60

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The 48th/150th: Setting Sail For Hatteras

The Steamer S.R. Spaulding Carried The 48th Pennsylvania To Hatteras, N.C.




150 years ago, and after spending more than six weeks near Fortress Monroe, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry set sail for Hatteras, North Carolina and the next chapter of the regiment's history was about to unfold.


The orders arrived on Sunday, November 10, 1861 and as regimental historian Joseph Gould remembered: "immediately all was bustle and excitement amid the packing and cooking of rations for the journey." The orders stated that the 48th was to relieve the 20th Indiana at Hatteras and, as Oliver Bosbyshell recalled, "it cannot be said that a very large degree of enthusiasm was manifested over this assignment."


The 48th set out the following morning--November 11, 1861--aboard the S.R. Spaulding, which Gould remembered as "a staunch, comfortable vessel." Bosbyshell described it as "a fine ship, only two years old, delightfully fitted with the best appliances and most comfortable conveniences." Bosbyshell also left a vivid account of the trip south:


"Very agreeable was her graceful motion as she steamed out of the Roads and into the broad bosom of the Atlantic. The unexpectedly warm and balmy atmosphere, combined with the bright radiance of the silvery moon, made the journey down the coast delightful in the extreme; few of the members of the regiment sought repose until long after midnight. Many had their first glimpse of a sunrise at sea on the morning of the twelfth and enjoyed its glories to the full, out of a cloudless sky."


It was a short journey and "a very pleasant" one; the regiment reached their destination anywhere between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on November 12. What they were about to experience on Hatteras, however, differed markedly from the generally "pleasant days" at Fortress Monroe.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 48th/150th: A Field Glass For Colonel Nagle

In early October 1861, as the 48th Pennsylvania continued to occupy its camp near Fortress Monroe, a Sergeant Patterson arrived from Pottsville, bearing a gift for Colonel James Nagle. The gift was a "fine field glass" paid for by the former members of the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month organization, which was Nagle's first command (April--July 1861); a field glass, boasted the Pottsville Miners' Journal that enabled Nagle to see a sergeant's chevrons, at nighttime, from thirty yards.


Accompanying the gift was a letter addressed to the colonel, which was prepared and signed by a number of officers who had served under Nagle in the 6th. This letter speaks of the personal and military qualities and characteristics that endeared Nagle to his men and won the respect of his superior officers.



Col. James Nagle,
Dear Sir:- A number of your friends, officers, and privates of the late Sixth Regiment, P.V., commanded by you during the time it was in service, desire to present the accompanying field-glass, for your acceptance, in token of our high personal esteem, and the exalted opinion we entertain of your military knowledge and capacity.
Though your characteristic modesty may shrink from any public eulogy of your conduct and services, our gratitude and admiration will not permit us to pass them by, without this tribute of affection and respect.
For many years past the military spirit and organization of Schuylkill County have been chiefly sustained by your exertions. When the Nation’s honor was to be maintained on the plains of Mexico, you with a well disciplined corps under your command, sprang to arms and hastened to the field of conflict; in Cerro Gordo’s terrific fight you stood calm and unmoved amid the leaden storm of death which fell on every side, and by your presence of mind and courage saved many gallant men from the fearful carnage.
During the long season of peace which followed the closing of that war, in your own quiet and happy home, you faithfully discharged the duties of a husband, father, and citizen, endearing yourself both to your family and the community in which you dwelt.
But now the tocsin of war sounds through the land, and her valiant sons are called to defend her against foul rebellion’s deadly blows. Speedily a regiment of your fellow citizens take the field, and confer upon you the command. During the three months we served together, though inflexibly firm and persistently industrious in the performance and requirement of every camp and field duty, yet such was the kindness of your demeanor, and your tender regard for the health, safety, and comfort of your men, that we regarded you rather as a friend and father, than a mere military commander.
And now, that you have, at the head of a Schuylkill County Regiment—Pennsylvania’s 48th—again taken the field at your country’s call and may soon be in the thickest of the most eventful battle the world has ever witnessed, on the issue of which the destiny of human freedom and progress is suspended, we present you with the accompanying glass, as well in token of our esteem and admiration, as that your eye which never dimmed with fear as it gazed upon a foe, may more readily perceive his approach and prepare for victory.
Praying that God of Battles may preserve you in the midst of danger, and return you unharmed to your family and friends, when our glorious Union shall be firmly re-established, and covered with still more illustrious renown,
We remain, yours truly,
Capt. C. Tower,
Lt.Col. Jas. J. Seibert,
Maj. John E. Wynkoop,
Capt.H.J. Hendler,
Lieut. Theo. Miller,
Lieut. D.P. Brown,
And many others.



Upon receipt, Nagle penned the following reply:




Head Quarters 48th Regt., P.V., Camp Hamilton
Near Fortress Monroe, October 11th, 1861.


Gentlemen and Brother Officers, Soldiers, and Friends:-- Your favor of the 8th inst., came to hand yesterday, with the beautiful field glass you saw proper to forward for presentation, to me. I can assure you it affords me much pleasure and satisfaction to receive and accept this tribute of affection and respect, coming from those whom I had the honor to command in the three months’ service. I always tried to discharge my duties faithfully, to the best of my ability, and am led to believe that you were all satisfied with my conduct. I therefore, accept the token of respect you send me, with feelings of gratitude and thankfulness, and hope I may be able to gain the confidence of the 48th to the extent you, gentlemen of the 6th, have expressed in your letter, and manifested in your beautiful present. It is a source of great pleasure and gratification to me to know that my services have been appreciated by the officers and soldiers of the 6th Regiment. In conclusion, allow me agin to return you my most sincere thanks for this valuable gift, praying with you, that the God of Battles may preserve us in the midst of danger, and return us unharmed to our families and friends, after our glorious Union shalle have been firmly re-established, and the Stars and Stripes shall again be floating proudly over the whole of our country,
I remain, Gentlemen, Very Respectfully,
Your Obedient Servant,
James Nagle
Colonel commanding 48th Regt., P.V.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 48th/150th: "Pleasant Days at Fort Monroe"

One hundred and fifty years ago, the volunteer soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania--just one month into their service with the United States army--were still getting accustomed to military life but enjoying their stay at Camp Hamilton, near Fortress Monroe, Virginia, nonetheless.


On September 28, 1861, having settled into camp life, Corporal Curtis C. Pollock of Company G recorded the following observations in a letter to his mother in Pottsville:

". . . got up in the morning and saw the sun rise out of the sea. We arrived here about 6:00 o’clock in the morning and saw any quantity of “contrabands” running around and some fishing for crabs others loafing around and looking at us. We waited about a half hour until Col. Nagle reported to Gen. Wool and then got off and were marched about a mile back and inspected the camp. He is a small man not much taller than Uncle Robert or Joseph and not near so stout. I have been appointed corporal. Capt. Nagle appointed some sargents and corporals over me who were never out before and are almost as dum as they can be. We have commenced drilling and have about six drills a day. I have just come in from a regimental drill and in about half an hour will have to go out on a company drill. We are kept busy pretty much all the time and have not much chance to run around."


Oliver Bosbyshell, also of Company G, remembered well these days at Camp Hamilton: "On the third of October, the regiment, having been flooded out the previous night, moved to higher ground, occupying a camp vacated by one of the regiments that had been ordered away. The ninth of October was made memorable by the arrival of Sutler Isaac Lippman, with a great, unwieldy tent, which the boys pitched in indefinite delight, although a heavy storm of wind and rain prevailed. On the eleventh, Shaw made himself famous by shooting in the leg a Massachusetts soldier, who attempted to pass his picket post--thought he was 'secesh.'"

While the war seemed distant to many of the troops at this time, Bosbyshell could not help but notice the preparations underway for an anticipated amphibious campaign further south. "Great interest was felt in the grand expedition fitting out here for the South Atlantic coast. Hampton Roads was crowded with vessels waiting to join the Armada, and a large force of troops was being gathered at this point."

Remembering the days spent at Fortress Monroe some forty years later, regimental historian Joseph Gould wrote: "We enjoyed every minute we spent at this place. We were pleasantly situated, having plenty of army rations and luxuries in lavish abundance. Fish, oysters, clams and crabs could be had with little effort, and despite a few rain-storms, accompanied by wind, which blew our tents down, and obliged some to sleep in a few inches of water, we were comfortable and happy." Like Bosbyshell, though, Gould was also impressed with the build-up of forces there. "Along about the 13th of October vessels began to arrive laden with troops destined for Port Royal, South Carolina, until about thirty-thousand were collected at this point, amongst them the 4th Rhode Island, 1st Delaware and 55th Pennsylvania Regiments."

It would not be long until the 48th itself received its 'marching orders.' On October 22, the regiment was at last equipped and armed; their weapons were the Harpers Ferry muskets, with the "buck and ball" cartridge. "Our first uniforms," wrote Gould, "were of very ordinary quality, and it took but a few weeks of service to develop the weak spots in their make-up."

On Sunday, November 10, 1861, the regiment received orders that it would be heading out. . . their destination: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: "Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year," by Charles Bracelen Flood

Grant's Final Victory
Charles Bracelen Flood
(Da Capo Books)


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




After leading the United States to victory during the Civil War and twice serving the nation as president, the greatest challenge faced by Ulysses S. Grant may have very well been the one he confronted during what proved to be his final year on earth. Shortly after losing his and his family's fortunes to unscrupulous Wall Street bankers in May 1884--to those he considered close family friends--Grant, at age sixty-two, was diagnosed with terminal throat and mouth cancer. With this as the backdrop, Grant then set about fighting the greatest battle of his life and, as author/historian Charles Bracelen Flood makes clear, here again the victor of Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Appomattox emerged triumphant. With the assistance of William Underwood Johnson of the Century Company as well as Grant's good friend Mark Twain, the dying warrior put the pen to paper and began recording his personal memoirs. The result was a work Twain--his publisher--and many others since have regarded as a true classic. As Twain later wrote, "General Grant's book is a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece. There is no higher literature than these modest, simple Memoirs. Their style is at least flawless, and no man can improve upon it."






In Grant's Final Victory, Charles Bracelen Flood, author of a number of other notables titles, including Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War, 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History, and Lee: The Last Years, has again written another excellent history; one that tells of Grant's heroic efforts to write his memoirs and rescue his family (and his reputation) from ruin. Flood tells the story masterfully; it is a story that is at once tragic and inspiring. In increasingly unbearable pain, Grant began recording his life with a focus on his wartime service. He wrote with simple honesty and produced a true American classic. Grant succeeded in completing his two-volume memoirs in less than one year, writing an average of 750 words "every painful day." Not only does Flood recount this herculean effort, but also demonstrates that when word spread of Grant's terminal illness, it served to further reunite the nation as people--both North and South, and even former Confederate soldiers--came together to offer their sympathy and support to a man who began the process of conciliation twenty years earlier with his magnanimous terms to Robert E. Lee and his vanquished Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.





Grant--His Final Days--At Work On His Memoirs



Flood writes in such a clear and easy-to-read manner that it took but two sittings for me to read through this 250-page book. He does a masterful job in recounting those sad but inspirational last days, focusing on Grant, of course, but also examining his family and his close friendships with the likes of Twain, William Vanderbilt, and others who helped support the general and his family during those trying times. Flood's treatment of Grant's death and funeral were superb. In the end, even though he passed away, mercifully, just three days after setting down his pencil for the final time, Grant's Memoirs netted his family more than $600,000.



I have no doubts that this book will appeal to a wide audience, but especially those interested in the Civil War and one of its most legendary figures. Civil War enthusiasts will also find in here much discussion of other wartime figures as William T. Sherman--Grant's closest military friend, who wept openly and uncontrollably at Grant's funeral--Phillip Sheridan, Simon Bolivar Buckner--who was one of the last to see Grant alive--Winfield Scott Hancock--who made all the arrangements for and led Grant's funeral procession in New York City--and James Longstreet--cousin to Grant's wife Julia and the best man at their wedding. In hearing of Grant's death, Longstreet, after a few moment's to compose himself, said "He was the truest and bravest man who ever lived. . . .he was the highest type of manhood America has produced."




Grant's Final Victory is a book I truly enjoyed reading and one I highly recommend. This is more than just the story of Grant's final year; it is also a story of hope in the face of adversity, and inspiration in the face of tragedy.

For more information on this book, click here.


Grant's Funeral Procession--August 8, 1885--in New York City

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 48th/150th: Fortress Monroe & Jake Haines's Encounter With General Joseph K.F. Mansfield

Fortress Monroe, Virginia


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Having been mustered into state service, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania received orders to proceed to Washington, D.C. Departing Harrisburg on September 24, 1861, the regiment boarded the cars of the Northern Central Railway and headed south. Along the way, Colonel James Nagle received a telegram directing him to instead take his regiment to Fortress Monroe.


Within just a few miles from Baltimore, "a fiendish attempt" was made to throw the train from the track but, as Joseph Gould noted, "Only two of the cars were thrown off, and beyond a few bruises, none of the members of the Regiment were injured."


At last reaching Baltimore, many members of Companies B & G who had passed through the Charm City in mid-April on their way to Washington as members of the Washington Artillerists no doubt recalled those tense moments when their small band came under attack by a mob of Confederate-leaning Baltimoreans. There would be no repeat of hostilities this time; instead, the 48th marched through the city to the harbor where they boarded the steamer Georgia, which Oliver Bosbyshell described as "a precarious old craft, likely to fall to pieces." Bosbyshell further recalled the nerve-wracking trip down the Chesapeake: "The captain wisely crept along close in to shore, not knowing what moment the timbers of the old hulk would separate. He was all anxiety, and his constant call admonishing to 'trim ship' kept the boys moving. The night moved slowly away, the somnolent regiment unmindful of danger, although ever and anon through its weary hours the cry of 'trim ship' caused a shifting of position."


The Georgia landed at Fortress Monroe on the morning of September 26. The 48th disembarked, stretched their legs, and marched around the walls of the fortress and across the narrow land bridge that connected to Hampton. There, they settled in at Camp Hamilton. "Here we settled down into a soldier's life," wrote Joseph Gould, "as naturally and contentedly as though we were old veterans."


In command of Camp Hamilton and Fortress Monroe at this time was an "old veteran," General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield, fifty-years-old with four decades worth of service. The soldiers of the 48th came to appreciate Mansfield, a professional soldier's soldier. "His mild disposition and benevolent heart, that caused him to be ever on the lookout for the welfare of his soldiers, combined, however, with a firm, just discipline," said Oliver Bosbyshell, "endeared him to all with whom he came in contact."



General Joseph Mansfield


In an effort to demonstrate how easy it was to access the campsite of the 48th, Mansfield got into the habit of walking into the camp "night after night," each time dropping by Colonel Nagle's tent, letting him know that he was there. This surely embarrassed the colonel. "Day after day," said Gould, "while on regiment drill, Colonel Nagle formed the regiment in 'hollow square' and told of Mansfield's nocturnal visit to his quarters. He was greatly displeased at this seeming lack of vigilance on the part of the guards, and demanded greater care by officers and men; but the nightly invasions continued, though not so frequently."


During one of Mansfield's visits, he was able to slip past Private Jake Haines, who was on guard duty, without challenge. Mansfield instructed the officer of the guard to have Haines reprimanded, but Haines, as Bosbyshell described him, "was as deaf as a post," which most likely accounted for his lack of vigilance. Colonel Nagle understood and though he did reprimand Haines, he did so in a "low squeaking voice which the Colonel sometimes adopted." Nagle walked away and Haines turned to a comrade and asked, "What did he say?"


At last, Mansfield was stopped one night trying to get into the 48th's camp; a soldier named Rogers yelling to the aged warrior, "halt, or I'll prog ye!" Rogers, with bayonet forward, escorted Mansfield to the Officer of the Guard, who then walked with Mansfield to Nagle's quarters. There, Mansfield at last congratulated Nagle and his regiment. "This episode," summarized Gould, "occurring in the formative period of the regiment, the impression remained, and vigilance on camp and picket guard became a marked characteristic of the command. . . ."


Less than one year later, on September 17, 1862, General Mansfield was struck down with a mortal wound while leading the Twelfth Corps at the Battle of Antietam.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The 48th/150th: Becoming A Regiment & Receiving Its Flags

Soldiers Drill At Harrisburg's Camp Curtin

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One hundred and fifty years ago, the 48th Pennsylvania officially became a regiment.

Organized during the summer of 1861 from throughout Schuylkill County, the volunteers--1,010 of them--rendezvoused at Harrisburg's Camp Curtin where, on September 20, 1861, the regiment was mustered into state service (they would then become United States soldiers of October 1, 1861).

The soldiers of the 48th were presented two stands of colors on that same September 20. One flag was presented by Governor Andrew Curtin--Pennsylvania's "War Governor"--which he presented on behalf of the state. Curtin, said regimental historian Joseph Gould, "made a very eloquent speech to the boys, and was heartily cheered at its close." Oliver Bosbyshell of Company G agreed, writing that "the glowing words of his speech made a deep impression upon the command."

The second flag--the National flag--was presented by John T. Werner, a Pottsville attorney, described by Gould as "a grand old patriotic citizen--one of those men whom it was a pleasure to know and be associated with." Werner's eighteen-year-old son, J. Frank Werner, was at that time serving in the ranks of Company D. By war's end, the young Werner, a clerk before the war, was the company's commanding officer. Werner traveled to Harrisburg and presented the flag on behalf of the grateful people of Pottsville. It was a silk flag and upon its blue canton was a fitting inscription: In The Cause Of The Union, We Know No Such Word As Fail.

Later that evening, an appreciative Colonel James Nagle wrote a letter for publication in Pottsville's Miners' Journal:

"I desire to acknowledge through your valuable journal, the receipt of a beautiful flag, forwarded and presented to my regiment by our fellow townsman, John T. Werner, Esq. We feel very grateful to him, and return our most sincere thanks for the beautiful National Flag he saw fit to present to us-the flag we all swore to protect and defend, and I have every reason to believe that the 48th will do its duty, knowing our cause is just."

Oliver Bosbyshell later proudly wrote that throughout the conflict these flags "were gallantly defended, and although shattered and torn by bullet and shell, were safely returned to the State. . . ."

The 48th would receive new stands of colors in 1864 to replace these first ones, which were, as Bosbyshell attested, torn and shattered by war.

Being mustered into service, the regiment received orders to depart Harrisburg on September 24, 1861. They were on their way to war. . .



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The First Flags of the 48th!

This is all that remains of the 48th's first "state" flag, presented to the regiment on September 20, 1861, by Governor Andrew Curtin. Despite its condition, it is still in much better shape than the regiment's first "national colors," by presented by John T. Werner, on behalf of the people of Pottsville. . .



It is a real shame there is so little left of this. . .I would have loved to see that inscription:
In The Cause Of The Union, We Know No Such Word As Fail


Friday, September 9, 2011

“Here is a paper with which I will be bashed and vilified for for generations to come:” Some (generally rambling) Thoughts on Special Orders No. 191

A Clipping Of Special Orders No. 191. . .penned on September 9, 1862, and used to bash McClellan ever since.


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September 9 is an important date for students of the September 1862 Maryland Campaign, for it was the date on which General Lee dictated what became Special Orders No. 191, his plan of operations for the continuance of the campaign after first crossing the Potomac and moving north to Frederick. Following the instructions spelled out in 191, the Army of Northern Virginia began evacuating Frederick the following morning—September 10—then began spreading out across western Maryland and portions of northern Virginia (today West Virginia) in order to both continue with the movement northward and force the evacuation of the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry. Several days later, of course, and just hours after the final elements of Lee’s army left town, George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac arrived in Frederick and on the morning of September 13, Corporal Barton Mitchell of the 27th Indiana happened upon the famous—or infamous—lost copy of Special Orders No. 191. Making its way up the chain of command, 191 ultimately landed in the hands of George McClellan.

Ever since this document has been used as even more ammunition for generations of historians and "Monday moring quarterbacks" to further bash McClellan for his supposed failure not to immediately capitalize upon this “amazing” discovery and not to achieve a “decisive” win during the campaign.

But Special Orders No. 191 contained outdated and inaccurate information that may have hindered McClellan more than it helped him. And, 191 or not, the fact of the matter was that McClellan and his men did emerge victorious during this consequential campaign.

Less than two weeks earlier, McClellan had been called upon (again) to take the helm of the Federal forces gathering in Washington in what was perhaps the darkest days of the Union war effort. . .and for a general typically characterized as slow and cautious, he immediately went to work, consolidating and organizing a new Army of the Potomac, which now included John Pope’s Army of Virginia and Burnside’s Ninth Corps, and setting off north and west from Washington in pursuit of Lee’s invading columns. A master strategist, McClellan realized that Lee’s overriding purpose of the invasion was to draw the Army of the Potomac to battle, and not to capture Harrisburg or Baltimore nor to attack Washington, as so many of the nation’s leaders feared were Lee’s intentions. Satisfied that Lee was heading west from Frederick, McClellan moved quick. . .so quick, in fact, that he caught General Lee entirely off-guard and unaware, ultimately forcing Lee onto the defensive at South Mountain. Even before McClellan was handed 191, his plan was to continue pushing west from Frederick and across the South Mountain range. Portions of army, including his cavalry and the Ninth Army Corps, were already advanced west of Frederick, and inching their way toward South Mountain with orders to continue their way across the following day.




George McClellan's Triumphant Arrival in Frederick, MD, September 13, 1862




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Special Orders No. 191 placed Jackson’s command at Martinsburg, (West) Virginia, and Longstreet’s command at Boonsboro, Maryland, at the western base of South Mountain. There was nothing in the document that dictated that either Jackson move toward Harpers Ferry--which he did after the Federal garrison retreated there from Martinsburg--and Longstreet take his command to Hagerstown, which Lee directed on the morning of September 11. As far as McClellan was concerned, and as was spelled out in 191, Longstreet’s entire command was still at Boonsboro along with D.H. Hill’s Division, which is why he ordered the bulk of his army toward Turner’s Gap, which traversed South Mountain just east of Boonsboro.


Special Orders No. 191 also stated that Lee wished his entire operation to be concluded and his army reunited by the afternoon of September 12, the day before McClellan received 191. It was only necessary, then, that he determine whether or not the Army of Northern Virginia was still following this timetable, or whether they had fallen behind schedule. Finally, Special Orders No. 191, of course, made no mention as to Lee’s numbers; it only told McClellan that Lee had ordered the wide separation of his army across many miles of largely unfriendly territory, an order, believed McClellan, that only confirmed the reports he had been receiving that he was up against tremendous numbers.


History always mentions this paranoia of McClellan’s—that he was outnumbered. Seldom is the tremendous pressure that was resting on McClellan’s shoulders discussed. Of course, we know the outcome of the war—that in the spring of 1865 the Union emerged triumphant. But in mid-September 1862 things were very much undecided and had Lee won another victory following a summer’s worth of success, who's to say but the Confederacy might have very well prevailed, especially with a victory fought on Union territory and with Great Britain at that point leaning very close to recognizing the Confederacy as a sovereign nation. It would have at least brought them one step closer to victory. . .

Still, despite the tremendous pressure he was under, the fact was, McClellan moved aggressively throughout the entirety of the Maryland Campaign and within two weeks—following a lamentable season of defeats—led the Union army to victory at both South Mountain and Antietam, drove Lee out of Maryland, wrestled the initiative from his opponent (who firmly held it since the Seven Days’ Battles in late June-early July), and kept Washington and Pennsylvania safe. As my friend and historian Tom Clemens often points out, from September 14-September 19, George McClellan planned and executed three offensive actions (South Mountain--Antietam--Shepherdstown), two of which resulting in victory.


This does not, by any means, sound like the actions of a timid general.


In terms of military consequences, the outcomes of the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 and the Gettysburg Campaign of July 1863 were very much similar: Lee's invasion repulsed with heavy loss, Lee holding his ground the day following the fight, Lee getting across the Potomac to fight another day. Yet, while history always declares Gettysburg a Union victory, too often Antietam is portrayed as a tactical "draw." Yet when we consider not only the military consequences of the two campaigns but also their social, diplomatic, and political ramifications, the Maryland Campaign--with the resultant Emancipation Proclamation--must emerge as far more consequential.


But it seems that history, for the most part, is simply not yet willing to credit McClellan with anything; thus, while Meade earned a win at Gettysburg, McClellan, at best, earned a "draw."


Perhaps we need to rethink this; perhaps it is time we more fully appreciate the thoughts of Lee himself who after the war claimed McClellan as his most feared opponent. Perhaps we need to wonder why it is McClellan earned a "draw" at Antietam. The argument goes that it is because he did not follow up his victory and attack Lee again. Following this logic, then, why is, say, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville not considered to be "draws." After all, Lee did not follow up these victories by assuming or re-assuming offensive actions. . .did he not also "allow" the Federals to escape across either the Rappahannock and Rapidan the same as McClellan and Meade "allowed" Lee to escape after Antietam and Gettysburg? Further, to say the war would have ended ignores the fact that there were still tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers still in Virginia and completely ignores the fact that this civil war extended far, far beyond the confines of its Eastern Theater.


Finally, perhaps it is time we rethink the value of Special Orders No. 191, examining it not by what we know now, but instead by what McClellan knew then. Doing so forces us to reexamine not only the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 but also the military career and legacy of George McClellan.


Just my (generally rambling) thoughts. . .