Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What's the buzz. . .? Tell me what's happenin'. . .

This Saturday will mark one month since I went public with my effort to restore the 48th PA monument at Antietam, and so far I could not be happier with the results. Indeed, I am thrilled.
Stories about the "monumental" undertaking have appeared in the Call, serving southern Schuylkill County, the Pottsville Republican/Evening Herald, and the Civil War News, not to mention several web/blog sites, including Civil War Interactive, Bull Runnings, Antietam On The Web, Blogging Union Blue, and so on. I am still hoping to get the word out to other venues. Here is a link to the story that ran in the Pottsville paper this past Monday:

As it stands right now, over $900.00 has been raised, which, with the matching donation from the Western Maryland Interpretative Association, doubles the amount to over $1,800.00. To those who have donated, I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and generosity. We're already over a quarter of the way there . . .

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another Step Closer. . .

Since I promised to keep you all updated as to the progress of my Antietam book, I thought I would give you a sneak peak at the cover. . .

Ranger Keith Snyder, a wizard at InDesign, produced the cover and is in charge of the book's physical layout. He is also creating all the maps. On Tuesday this upcoming week, Keith and I are going to sit down and place all the maps and photographs within the text. It is an exciting time for me, but there is still much to be done. I will continue to keep you updated. . .

Friday, April 25, 2008

General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. . .A Must Read

I finished reading General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse, by Joseph Glatthaar, this past week and must say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a different look at a well-known Civil War army; instead of solely focusing on the campaigns and battles, Glatthaar focuses on the men who served in the ranks. This is not to say that that the great campaigns were glossed over; Glatthaar adopted a chronological approach, taking us from First Manassas through Appomattox. But the book's greatest value is its examination of the soldiers who fought in the Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar's years painstakingly searching through census records and thousands of letters and diaries reveals a different--and far more accurate--depiction of the soldiers who served in Lee's army. In much popular thought, Lee's men assume somewhat mythical qualities, but, as Glatthaar clearly shows, Lee's men were, well, human. A good percentage of them were of solid, middle-class background, and a majority of them had a personal, vested interest in slavery. The old canard that because most of Lee's men were not themselves slaveowners so they were thus not fighting to preserve the institution of slavery does not hold any water, as Glatthaar demonstrates. Most soldiers who served in the Army of Northern Virginia were young, between 21 and 25 years of age, and most still resided with their parents or with other family members. Most were thus too young to be slaveowners in their own right. However, Glatthaar's examination of the census records shows that these men resided in slave-owning households. In addition, becoming a slaveowner was one the things to which most white Southern males aspired, so just because they did not own any slaves when they volunteered does not mean they were not fighting for the preservation of slavery. Glatthaar also shows that the Army of Northern Virginia suffered throughout the war from a lack of discipline, something that even Lee was unable to correct.
Through his research into the census records of the men who fought under Lee, Glatthaar has produced a social history of the Army of Northern Virginia that enables us to gain a much better understanding of who the Confederate soldier was, where they came from, and why they served. Attention is also paid to conflicts and struggles within the army's high command, and General Lee's problem in finding competent officers to head his brigades, divisions, and, throughout the final two years of the war, his corps.
Glatthaar presents a balanced view of the Army of Northern Virginia, writes in a clear, easy-to-understand fashion, and challenges us to take a new look at the soldiers and officers who served in one of the war's greatest armies. For these and other reasons, I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history in general, and in the Civil War in particular. It makes for a great addition to any library.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

A lot has been made in the Civil War community this past week about the opening of the new Visitor's Center here in Gettysburg, and rightly so. But while reading all the news, reviews, and testimonials of the new complex, I could not help but feel just a little bit sad that the old building has been so quickly--and so thoroughly--forgotten. The old center, built in 1921, has been welcoming folks to Gettysburg for well over 80 years. Having been through the building scores of times over the past twenty or so years, I cannot rave about the new place without first paying hommage to the old. So, with camera in hand, I ventured down to the now quiet center and snapped a few pictures. . .one last time, before the walls come tumbling down and the building becomes just a distant memory.

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It was an eerie sight, and all was silence. I never thought that on a gorgeous spring day, this parking lot would be completely empty. . .something I have never seen before.
No buses, no RV's, no trucks with Confederate flag bumper stickers. . .not even a single middle schooler hanging out on the steps or crowding the entrances to the bathrooms.
Even the steps to the rear of the building are shut down. . .
Out front, along the Emmitsburg Road/Steinwehr Avenue entrance, the park service sign is now gone and Old Glory missing from the flagpole. . .
Gone too are those big brown signs that for decades told motorists to "enter here". . .
So, farewell, old friend. . .you served us well and you will be missed. By the end of next year, you'll be gone. And someday I can tell my kids, "You know, when I was your age, the visitor center was the up the roads a way. . .right across from the National Cemetery."

A sign on the front door instructs us to move on to the new place. . .But most of us already have.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And While I'm On The Subject Of Truman Seymour. . .

Now, how many times can I say that sentence in my life?
Last week, I posted a brief blogography of General Abner Doubleday, with a little bit of emphasis on his role during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. I also tested your Civil War IQ, asking which two of the nine US officers stationed at Sumter were also present at Appomattox. One of those fellas who was on hand at those two of the more memorable events in the Civil War was Truman Seymour. Now, many of you may be asking "who in the world was Truman Seymour?" So today, I thought I would post another blogography, this one all about Seymour, the accomplished soldier and accomplished watercolorist.
That’s right.
Read on. . .

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General Truman Seymour (1824-1891)

Although he spent most of his life in the military and served gallantly in two American wars, Brigadier General Truman Seymour was also an accomplished artist who lived in Italy during his final years painting beautiful watercolors of Italian villages and landscapes. He entered the Civil War a captain of artillery, stationed in Fort Sumter, and fought throughout the four years of the conflict, steadily rising in rank. He commanded a brigade of troops during most of his wartime service, but led a division in the attack against Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in 1863, and then held district and departmental command in the Deep South before returning to Virginia in 1864. Aggressive and hard-fighting, Seymour excelled as a brigade leader but achieved only mixed results in higher command. He was present with the Army of the Potomac when General Lee surrendered, thus making him one of the few officers who was present when the war began at Sumter and when it ended at Appomattox.
Truman Seymour was born on September 24, 1824, in Burlington, Vermont, the son of a Methodist preacher. He sought at an early age to pursue a career in the military, and in 1840, at just sixteen years of age, he entered Norwich University, a premier military school in Northfield, Vermont. After spending two years at Norwich, Seymour received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated four years later ranked nineteenth in a class of fifty-nine graduates. West Point’s Class of 1846 stands as one of the most illustrious in the academy’s storied history with George McClellan, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Jesse Lee Reno, Darius Couch, George Stoneman, Sam Sturgis, David R. Jones, and George Pickett among its members. Commissioned a second lieutenant by brevet in the 1st U.S. Artillery, Seymour was sent to Mexico where he immediately distinguished himself as an artillerist and earned brevet promotions for gallantry at the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churusbusco. He earned further praise for his heroics during the final assaults on Mexico City.
Following the war with Mexico, Seymour was stationed in New York and later served three years (1850-1853) as an instructor of drawing at West Point. From 1856 through 1858, he was stationed in Florida seeing infrequent action against the Seminole. Promoted to first lieutenant in August 1847, Seymour made it to the rank of captain thirteen years later, on November 22, 1860. With the secession of the southern states and the threat of war becoming ever more apparent during the winter of 1860-1861, Captain Seymour was assigned to Fort Sumter, which soon became the focal point of the escalating crisis. During the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, South Carolinian forces under the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Sumter, instigating the American Civil War. When the fort fell, the Union officers stationed there were captured but soon paroled. Receiving a brevet promotion to the rank of major for his gallantry during the bombardment of Sumter, Seymour was assigned command of the artillery for the Second Division, Department of the Rappahannock, and in December 1861, held command of a Camp of Instruction in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Seymour served in Harrisburg for a little more than three months before returning to the Army of the Potomac in the early spring of 1862. Switching his branch of service, Seymour, on April 28, 1862, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers and assigned to command a brigade of infantry in George McCall’s Division of Pennsylvania Reserves in the Fifth Corps. Seymour’s Brigade participated in most of the major battles throughout the spring and summer of 1862, seeing heavy action during the Seven Days’ Battles. At the battle of Glendale on June 30, 1862, Seymour’s immediate superior, General George McCall, was captured and command of the division devolved upon Seymour. Commanding the Pennsylvania Reserves at Malvern Hill and throughout the months of July and August, Seymour established a reputation as a hard-fighting and reliable commander. On August 26, General John Fulton Reynolds succeeded Seymour as divisional commander, and Seymour resumed command of his brigade.
At 2nd Bull Run and again South Mountain, Seymour continued to distinguish himself. Indeed, for his performance at South Mountain, Seymour was highly praised by his immediate superior, George Gordon Meade, and was brevetted a lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army. Seymour’s Brigade—consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 13th Pennsylvania Reserves—led the Army of the Potomac across the Antietam Creek on the afternoon of September 16, 1862. Marching westward, his men encountered Hood’s Confederate Division in the East Woods, and from 6:00 p.m. until nightfall kept up a steady fight. Remaining in their advanced position in the East Woods throughout the night, Seymour’s men became engaged at daybreak on September 17. Pushing forward along the Smoketown Road, Seymour’s Pennsylvanians drove back a Confederate skirmish line until arriving at the southern edge of the woodlot where their advance was checked by Alexander Lawton’s Division. Seymour’s men soon exhausted their ammunition and, at 7:00 a.m., were relieved by troops from General James Ricketts’s Second Division, First Corps. Ordered to take up a position near the Joseph Poffenberger Farm behind the First Corps's line, Seymour’s men remained in reserve for the duration of the battle.
At Antietam, Seymour’s five regiments lost more than 150 men killed and wounded. Turning in yet another creditable performance, Seymour received a brevet promotion to the rank of colonel in the Regular Army. During the late morning hours of September 17, after George Meade took command of the First Corps following the wounding of Joseph Hooker, Seymour assumed command of the Pennsylvania Reserves Division.
Shortly after the battle of Antietam, Seymour took a well-deserved leave of absence. When he returned to the army in November, however, he was upset at having discovered that an officer inferior in rank to himself, General John Gibbon, was given command of James Ricketts’s Division after that officer asked to be relieved. Requesting another assignment, Seymour was transferred to Charleston, where he served as Chief of Staff to General Quincy Gillmore, commander of the Department of the South. Holding this administrative position for several months, Seymour, in early July 1863, was given command of the Second Division, Tenth Army Corps. On July 18, Seymour’s Division, with the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the lead, attacked Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. His men suffered high casualties during the assault, and Seymour was himself severely wounded by grapeshot. After the battle, Seymour received some criticism for placing Robert Gould Shaw’s black regiment in the van of what many believed to be a forlorn attack.
Having sufficiently recovered from his wound, Seymour returned to the army in October 1863. Assigned first as commander of Morris Island and then the District of Hilton Head, Seymour did not return to active field duty until February 1864 when he was given command of a division of troops in Florida. Receiving orders to march into Florida and help secure that state for the Union, Seymour quickly took possession of Jacksonville but then, on February 20, was defeated at the Battle of Olustee where his division of 5,000 men suffered more than 2,000 casualties. Following this debacle, Seymour retreated to Jacksonville, holding command of the District of Florida until relieved in late April.

Kurz & Allison Lithograph. . .The Battle of Olustee

Seymour returned to Virginia in April 1864. He served as Assistant Inspector General for the Department of the East for several weeks, and then, on May 5, was given command of the Second Brigade, of the Sixth Corps’s Third Division. The following day, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Seymour was captured and sent as a prisoner of war to Charleston, South Carolina. Held captive while the city was being besieged by Union gunboats, Seymour spent a nervous summer in Charleston until released in mid-August. Two months later, in October 1864, Seymour was given divisional command in the Army of the Potomac’s Sixth Corps. He served well in this position, seeing action in the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 1864 and during the final stages of the Petersburg Campaign in the spring of 1865. He also led a division at the battle of Saylor's Creek on April 6, 1865. By war’s end, Seymour was brevetted a major general in both the volunteer service and in the Regular Army.
With the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox and the termination of the Civil War, Seymour was mustered out of the volunteers as a brevet major general on August 24, 1865. He remained in the Army after the war, reverting back to his rank of captain in the 5th U.S. Artillery. Promoted to major the following summer, Seymour spent the next ten years in uniform, stationed at various forts along the East Coast. From 1869 until 1870, he commanded Fort Warren, Massachusetts, and then, for the next five years, Fort Preble, Maine. While in the army, Seymour received an honorary master’s degree from Williams College. On November 1, 1876, fifty-two-year-old Truman Seymour, after thirty years in the service, tendered his resignation from the army.
Seymour focused his attention on painting during his retirement years. In 1885, he moved to Florence, Italy, and spent the next six years painting spectacular watercolors of Italian vistas and villages. Physically, however, Seymour’s longtime bronchitis affliction continued to get worse, and he suffered as well from degenerative heart disease. He died on October 30, 1891, at the age of sixty-seven, in Florence where his remains were buried in the Cimitero degli Allori. Nearly one hundred years later, in 1986, Seymour’s artworks were compiled and published in The Drawings and Watercolors of Truman Seymour.

Market, Tangier by Truman Seymour

Plaza del Ayuntamiento with La Giralda, Seville by Truman Seymour

(Seymour watercolors from Martha Richardson Fine Art Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts. To see more of Seymour's paintings, visit:

And the answer is. . .

OK. . .Here is the answer to last week's trivia question:
The two US officers who were present at both Fort Sumter AND Appomattox were

Samuel W. Crawford, and

Truman Seymour.

(Crawford is front row, center-right; Seymour is back-row left).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Test Your Civil War IQ. . .

OK. . .so here's the challenge:
Which two of the nine fellas pictured above, who were present at Fort Sumter, were also present at Appomattox when General Lee surrendered, nearly four years to the day later?
Good luck. . .

OK. . .So he didn't invent baseball, but he DID. . .

. . . fire the first shot for the Union in the Civil War.


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Today is April 12.
147 years ago, the American Civil War began. Some might argue--myself included--that it actually began in Kansas almost a decade prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter, but let's stick with the traditional, accepted date for the commencement of sectional hostilities.

The story of Sumter is a familiar one: April 12, 1861. . .4:30a.m. . . .Confederate provisional forces under the command of the flamboyant P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on the US fort in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Students of history may also be quick to identify that wild-eyed, fanatic fire-brand Edmund Ruffin as the man who fired the first shot, although this story has been disproved. Apparently a young lieutenant by the name of Henry Farley actually pulled the lanyards first. . .the opening salvos of the four-year struggle.

Wild man Edmund Ruffin. . .Virginia slave owner and die-hard secessionist who supposedly killed himself shortly after Appomattox rather than live under the rule of the "perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race."

Today's post is not about Fort Sumter, or Edmund Ruffin. Not even Henry Farley. Instead, today I thought I'd write about the man who--allegedly--fired the first shot from within the fort in response to the Confederate bombardment. . ."Old Forty-Eight Hours" himself, Abner Doubleday.

I know what some of you may be thinking. . ."you mean he's actually going to write about a non-9th Corps soldier? Better get out the snow tires."
Yes, it's true. Doubleday had no connection to the 9th Corps, but he is an interesting fella nonetheless, and one of those lesser known and little discussed officers I love to read about.

Abner Doubleday

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Abner Doubleday is better remembered in American history today for something that he did not accomplish rather than for all that he did. Instead of being remembered as the solid, if not brilliant or colorful, Union officer during the American Civil War, Doubleday is falsely credited as the founder of the game of baseball. Although Doubleday himself never made mention of the game in any of his diaries or writings, which were prolific, and although any reference to baseball is entirely lacking in his obituaries, still the myth persists. The National Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York, where a young Abner Doubleday attended school, and the ball field there, Doubleday Field, is named in his honor. The story of Doubleday's invention of baseball originated in the early twentieth century when a commission was established to determine where and when the game began. This commission, seeking to Americanize the game and remove any link it had with the English game known as ‘rounders,’ relied entirely on the testimony from an aging Abner Graves, a boyhood friend of Doubleday, who claimed to have been present when, in 1839, Abner Doubleday organized a game in a farmer’s cow pasture in Cooperstown. The commission accepted Graves’s testimony, no questions asked. Had they done any kind of research, however, they would have discovered that Doubleday was, in 1839, attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, quite a distance from Cooperstown. Nevertheless, the legend continues to remain strong. Thus, Abner Doubleday’s achievements on the field of battle have been overshadowed by his mistaken identity as the inventor of America’s pastime.
Abner Doubleday was born on June 26, 1819, in Ballston Spa, New York, into a family with a history of commitment to public service. His grandfather, Abram Doubleday, fought in the American Revolution, seeing action at Bunker Hill, and his father, Ulysses Freeman Doubleday, a Jacksonian Democrat, represented the people of New York as a two-term congressman in the United States House of Representatives. Abner received a good primary education, and upon reaching the age majority, found employment as a civil engineer. Yet Abner longed for a career in the military, and in 1838, no doubt due to his father’s influence in Washington, he received an appointment to West Point. He graduated four years later, ranked twenty-fourth in a class of fifty-six. West Point’s Class of 1842 was an illustrious one, and Doubleday counted among his classmates James Longstreet, Daniel Harvey Hill, Richard Anderson, Lafayette McLaws, John Pope, William Rosecrans, John Newton, Napoleon J.T. Dana, and George Sykes.
Upon graduation from West Point, twenty-three-year-old Doubleday was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery. He served throughout the Mexican-American War as a 2nd lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery, but was among the few Regular Army officers who did not receive a single brevet for his wartime actions. Doubleday remained in the army following the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. He was stationed at a number of frontier posts in Texas, where he saw further action battling the Apaches. Promoted to first lieutenant in 1855, Doubleday was next transferred to Florida where the United States continued to have trouble maintaining peace with the Seminoles.
Abner Doubleday was a strong Union man, an opponent of slavery, and a supporter of Abraham Lincoln. During the tense days of secession, Doubleday, now a captain, was posted at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, and then transferred with Moultrie’s garrison to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. When the United States troops came under fire during the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, Doubleday was second-in-command to Major Robert Anderson. Doubleday went down in history during the bombardment of Sumter, for he, allegedly, fired the first shot for the Union in response to the guns of the South Carolinians. One month following the surrender of Sumter, on May 14, 1861, Abner Doubleday was promoted to the rank of major of the 17th U.S. Infantry but was detailed as commander of artillery depots in Pennsylvania and later in the Shenandoah Valley, where he served under the command of Major General Robert Patterson.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter, 4/12/1861

The Officers of Fort Sumter. . .Captain Doubleday is bottom row, left.

In August 1861, Doubleday was named commander of the artillery in General Nathaniel Banks’s Division of the newly-formed Army of the Potomac, a position he held for the next six months. On February 3, 1862, Doubleday, the lifelong artillerist, was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and given command of a brigade of infantry in Irvin McDowell’s Corps, Department of the Rappahannock. Doubleday remained in the defenses of Washington during George McClellan’s advance up the Peninsula, and thus missed the Seven Days’ Battles around Richmond. Doubleday’s first battle of the war came during the Second Bull Run Campaign in late August 1862. On the evening of August 28, Doubleday’s Brigade fought alongside John Gibbon’s soon-to-be-christened Iron Brigade at Brawner’s Farm, and here, Doubleday and his men turned in creditable performances, battling against the feared Stonewall Division. His brigade paid dearly for their stance, however, losing one half its numbers in just a few hours of combat.
Doubleday retained brigade commander following the Union disaster at 2nd Bull Run and the subsequent reorganization of the army, when McDowell’s Third Corps, Army of Virginia, was renamed as the Army of the Potomac’s First Corps, under the command of “Fighting Joe” Hooker. Doubleday’s Brigade was heavily engaged during the battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. As the men of the First Corps battled their way toward Turner’s Gap, Doubleday’s immediate superior, division commander John Hatch, fell seriously wounded. Command of the division then devolved upon Doubleday as its senior brigadier. Thus, when Doubleday led his division into battle at Antietam, he was its commander for only three days.

Marching from its bivouac at Keedysville on the afternoon of September 16, Doubleday’s Division—consisting of four brigades under the command of Walter Phelps, J. W. Hofmann, Marsena Patrick, and John Gibbon—crossed Antietam Creek at Pry’s Ford and settled into position north and west of the Joseph Poffenberger Farm on the extreme right of the Union army. First Corps commander, Joseph Hooker, planned for Doubleday’s men to march due south along the Hagerstown Turnpike, with General James Ricketts’s Division aligned on Doubleday’s left. Around 5:30 on the morning of September 17, Doubleday put his brigades in motion, with Gibbon’s Iron Brigade leading the way, followed by those under Walter Phelps and Marsena Patrick. Lieutenant-Colonel Hofmann’s Brigade stayed behind as a reserve and in support of the division’s artillery.
As Gibbon’s lead brigade pushed forward, they came under fire from Confederate troops posted along a rocky ledge in the West Woods, parallel to the Hagerstown Turnpike. Gibbon deployed his regiments in line of battle, and Doubleday ordered Patrick’s Brigade to fall-in on Gibbon’s right, west of the turnpike. Colonel Walter Phelps’s men deployed to the left of the Iron Brigade, east of the roadway and through the bloody Cornfield. The three brigades then pushed forward, driving the southern troops from the rocks and corn and continued moving south toward the Dunker Church. A Confederate counterattack led by General William Starke, however, stalled the advance of Gibbon’s and Patrick’s men and Phelps’s troops encountered tough resistance upon exiting the cornfield. Starke’s attack was ultimately beaten back, with severe loss, but the arrival of John Bell Hood’s Division around 7:00 a.m. forced Doubleday’s men back. They were relieved by a brigade from the Twelfth Corps and by General George Meade’s division of Pennsylvania Reserves. In a little more than one hour, Doubleday lost nearly 900 of the 2,200 men he took into battle that morning.
Brigadier General Abner Doubleday managed his division well at Antietam and afterwards he was brevetted lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army for his actions there. He was an officer who led from the front, and at some point early in the engagement the New Yorker was thrown violently to the ground after a Confederate artillery shell exploded in front of his horse. Stunned and bruised, Doubleday was nonetheless able to remain in command that day.
On November 29, 1862, Abner Doubleday was promoted to major general of volunteers. He led his men in limited fighting at the battle of Fredericksburg in mid-December 1862, and at Chancellorsville the following spring remained in reserve. Doubleday turned in his finest performance of the war at Gettysburg in July 1863. Ironically, this was also his final battle. On July 1, the men of the Union First Corps battled A.P. Hill’s advancing Third Corps on the ridges west of town. General John Reynolds, commanding the First Corps, was killed early in the contest and Doubleday, being the senior division commander in the corps, assumed command. Doubleday tenaciously held his ground all morning and well into the afternoon against overwhelming numbers of Confederate troops. He shifted his men to meet each new threat as they developed and when his men could hold out no longer, he ordered them back through town to the designated Union rallying point on Cemetery Hill. Doubleday had held up Lee’s army long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive on this key piece of high ground, and had inflicted serious loss on Hill’s troops. However, when General George Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, arrived on the field in the early morning hours of July 2, he was informed by Eleventh Corps commander Oliver Howard that Doubleday performed poorly. Howard was perhaps hoping to shift responsibility for the collapse of the Union line on July 1 from his much maligned corps, but whatever the reason, Meade, who had already held Doubleday in low esteem, was quick to replace him as commander of the First Corps with General John Newton of the army’s Sixth Corps, who was junior in rank to Doubleday. Doubleday, who outranked every other division commander in the Army of the Potomac, returned to the command of his Third Division, First Corps, for the duration of the Gettysburg Campaign, and on July 3, his men played a key role in repulsing Pickett’s famed charge against the Union center along Cemetery Ridge. Doubleday was wounded during the fray when a shell fragment passed through his hat and struck his neck.

Abner Doubleday's Monument at Gettysburg

Abner Doubleday was brevetted a colonel in the Regular Army for his role at the battle of Gettysburg. This was justly deserved, but Doubleday protested the treatment he received at the hands of Howard and Meade and sought to be restored to command of the First Corps. Meade refused, and on July 11, 1863, Doubleday asked to be relieved from command in the Army of the Potomac. Despite his West Point education, his more than twenty years of service in the U.S. Army, and his competent performances in battle, Doubleday never enjoyed the confidence or trust of most of the army’s top brass, and had even acquired the nickname of “Old Forty-Eight Hours” for his tendency to be slow and exceedingly deliberate in moving troops into battle. Doubleday was a kind man who took care of his troops, but as Union First Corps artillerist Charles Wainwright wrote: “Doubleday knows enough, but he is entirely impractical, and so slow at getting an idea through his head."
Doubleday spent much of the rest of the war behind a desk in various posts in the nation’s capital, sometimes serving on court-martial duty. He was sent to Buffalo, New York, in 1864 to help quell an anticipated draft riot, but was soon back in the capital. During the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War’s examination into the battle of Gettysburg, Doubleday was quick to heavily criticize George Meade’s ability to command the army. On March 13, 1865, with the end of the war in sight, Doubleday was brevetted a Brigadier General in the Regular Army “for service during the war.”
Following the end of the Civil War in April 1865, Doubleday remained in the army, reverting back to his commission as lieutenant-colonel of the 17th Infantry. In 1866, Doubleday was stationed in Texas serving as commander of Fort Galveston, and as commissioner of that state’s Freedmen’s Bureau. On September 15, 1867, Doubleday was promoted to full colonel and was given command of the 35th U.S. Infantry Regiment. Stationed in San Francisco in 1870, Doubleday, who sometimes dabbled in civil engineering projects, applied for and received a patent for a cable railway car, the first in the city’s history. On December 11, 1873, after more than three decades in uniform, fifty-four-year-old Abner Doubleday tendered his resignation from the army.
After retirement, Doubleday settled in Mendham, New Jersey where he spent the remaining years of his life prolifically writing books about his wartime experiences and seeking to correct his wartime service record and reputation. He also served for a time as president of the American Theosophical Society. Abner Doubleday passed away in his New Jersey home at the age of seventy-three on January 26, 1893, the victim of heart disease. His remains were taken to Arlington National Cemetery for burial.

Abner Doubleday's Grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Source:

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Friday, April 11, 2008

General Lee's Army. . .

I received an email from Simon & Schuster last week asking whether I'd be interested in doing a blogreview of General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse, by Joseph T. Glatthaar. I agreed without hesitation, and earlier this week--on April 9, of all days--the book arrived in the mail. (April 9 being Appomattox Day, of course).
Although I certainly have not yet finished the book, I have been able to make it through several chapters, and I must say that so far, this is an excellent work. From the prologue and from the extensive and quite impressive bibliography, it is evident that Glatthaar did his homework; in fact, Glatthaar states that he has been working on this book since 1989. It is a history of the Army of Northern Virginia from the top-down AND from the bottom-up, covering all four years of the war. It's focus is on the soldiers themselves: who they were, where they came from, why they fought, etc. It is a social and military history, not just a rehashing of the familiar story of military campaigns and maneuverings. I am particularly interested in this work because when I was in grad school, my master's thesis analyzed the influence of a soldier's socio-economic status on his wartime experiences. I sampled the soldiers of the 48th PA, and painstakingly analyzed the 1860 census records to determine the household and marital status, age, occupation, wealth, etc, of those who served in the regiment. Glatthaar has employed the very same methodology in his work, albeit on a much, much larger scale---I focused on a single regiment, he an entire army! I am looking forward to see how Glatthaar utilized his findings and research throughout the rest of the book. . .
Those dwindling few who still believe "slavery had nothing to do with the War of Northern Aggression," and that Confederate soldiers were merely "fightin' for their 'rats,'" may want to stay away from this book. Glatthaar not only demonstrates that slavery caused the war and was the foundation for the Confederate States of America, he also argues that a good percentage of Lee's men--from the lowly infantry private to the aristocratic officers--had a vested, personal interest in the peculiar institution, and that many of them fought for its preservation.
The book is nearly 500 pages, and I still have quite a ways to go. . .I will post my thoughts on the entire work just as soon as I finish.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Monumental Task: Help Restore the 48th PA Monument at Antietam

Brigadier General James Nagle
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On this date 186 years ago, Brigadier General James Nagle, the organizer and first commander of the 48th Pennsylvania, was born. And I can think of no more fitting a date to announce, officially, that I am launching an effort to restore the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry monument at Antietam by raising money to replace the missing sword from the statue of General Nagle.
I have partnered with the Western Maryland Interpretative Association and am working in cooperation with the Antietam National Battlefield and the Antietam National Battlefield Division of Cultural Resources, and have secured the services of artist and Civil War preservationist Michael Kraus to sculpt a bronze replacement sword, in scabbard. When the 48th PA Monument was first dedicated and unveiled on September 17, 1904, a bronze sword--an exact duplicate of the one Nagle received from the people of Pottsville upon his return from the Mexican-American War--hung at the side of General Nagle's statue. That sword is now missing; when, and how, it disappeared no one seems to know. I am hoping, however, to honor General Nagle and pay tribute to his services by replacing the missing sword. . .and you can help. I am seeking donations from individuals and organizations. Mr. Kraus has provided an estimate of $6,800.00 to sculpt the sword. Donations can be made payable to the Western Maryland Interpretative Association (WMIA) and are tax deductible. Robert Casey, executive director of WMIA, has graciously agreed to match all donations on a one-to-one basis. If you are interested in donating, please write "Nagle Sword" in your check's subject line. Please mail all donations to: Western Maryland Interpretative Association/P.O. Box 692/Sharpsburg, MD 21782.
This will no doubt be a lengthy undertaking but one, I am sure, we can achieve. I have created another blogsite where I will regularly post updates on the progress of the project and keep a running tally of the money thus far raised. You can learn much more about this effort at
I have posted a link to this site on the left-hand side of this blog. Should you have any questions, or if you would like to pledge a donation, please contact me at Any amount will help, and will be greatly appreciated.

48th PA Monument in 1904. . .Note the Sword on General Nagle's Side

The 48th PA Monument in 2008. . .Sword Missing


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Unfurl Those Colors:" An Excellent, First-Rate History

I finished reading Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign, by Marion Vince Armstrong, and, as promised, will post my thoughts. This is an excellent work, and although I do not necessarily agree with all of Mr. Armstrong's conclusions, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Not only does it offer sound tactical analyses of the maneuverings of the 2nd Army Corps throughout the Maryland Campaign and during the battle of Antietam, it is also laced with insightful accounts authored by the soldiers themselves. The narrative is lively and fast-paced, and the arguments are made in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Mr. Armstrong differs from the more traditional views of McClellan and especially Edwin Sumner. The 2nd Corps commander was not, argued Armstrong, the brash, reckless officer who committed his men to battle with wild abandon, as is the traditional view of Sumner's actions at Antietam. He was, instead, fully aware of the situation unfolding against the Confederate left, and ordered his men into battle with clearly defined goals in mind. Armstrong also argued that Sumner did not lose heart during the afternoon while debating whether or not to launch another full-scale assault against the Confederate left by William Franklin's 6th Corps. Most interesting, and most controversial, however, is Armstrong's argument that Sumner provided positive orders to Brigadier General William H. French to veer his division southward from the East Woods and attack the Confederate center in the Sunken Road.
Unfurl Those Colors offers a balanced and refreshing view of George McClellan's role and actions as Union army commander and forces us to take a different look at Edwin Sumner's doings. I highly recommend Mr. Armstrong's excellent work to anyone interested in the battle of Antietam or the Army of the Potomac for that matter.