Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Stellar Biography. . .

Last week, I posted a review of Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of Major General Jeb Stuart, by Jeffry Wert. Since that time, I had the great pleasure to read yet another stellar biography of one of Lee's best officers, Robert Emmett Rodes.

Rodes secured his place as one of the finest high-ranking officers in the Army of Northern Virginia through his intrepid leadership in both brigade and divisional command, particularly at the battles of Seven Pines, South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania. Yet Rodes has languished somewhat in the long shadows cast by the likes of Lee, Jackson, A.P. Hill, and even Jubal Early. It is no secret that I am a fan of biographies, so when I discovered earlier this year that Savas Beatie published a work on Rodes, it immediately made my list of "must reads." I finally picked up the book last week, and had a hard time since putting it down.

In Major General Robert E. Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia, author Darrell L. Collins has constructed a balanced interpretation of the Confederate general not only as a battlefield commander, but as a loving, devoted husband and father as well. Such was Collins's portrayal of Rodes, that I felt as I read through the pages that I got to know the native Virginian personally. Although most of Rodes's personal correspondence was destroyed after the war, Collins utilized first-person accounts of those who knew Rodes personally and those who served under his command to tell the general's life story. A railroad engineer who had a tough time finding steady employment during the pre-war years, Rodes, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, began the war as a captain in the 5th Alabama Infantry. His subsequent rise in command was meteoric. Indeed, within just two years, Rodes went from a captain, in command of a company, to divisional command as a major general, his lack of a West Point education notwithstanding. As Collins observes, "In two and a half year years, the vicissitudes of war had transformed him from an obscure and frustrated railroad engineer hoping to be a teacher, to national renown as a major general in command of a division in the Confederacy's most prominent and successful army."
Collins charts Rodes's rise not only in command, but in the estimation of his fellow ANV soldiers as well. He established a reputation as a strict, yet caring disciplinarian, and as a steady and entirely reliable battlefield commander. As such he quickly won the respect and esteem of superior and subordinate alike. Presented in a chronological format, we learn of Rodes's childhood in Lynchburg, his years as a cadet at VMI, and his struggle to establish a successful career as an engineer. As a matter of course, three-quarters of the book deals with Rodes's Civil War experience. Through an objective assessment of Rodes's strengths and weaknesses as an officer, we learn of his (many) successes, as well as his failures on the field of battle. Rodes saw action at most of the major battles of the war's Eastern Theatre, from Bull Run in July 1861, to his death at the age of thirty-five at Third Winchester, on September 19, 1864.
For any serious student of the Civil War, and especially those interested in the vaunted Army of Northern Virginia, this book is a must. It is also a most welcome addition to Civil War historiography, for Collins was able to save Rodes from drifting further and further into the shadows of neglect.
To learn more about Major General Robert E. Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia, click here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Getting To Know. . .Eliakim Parker Scammon

I'm willing to bet not many out there in the Civil War community are readily familiar with Union general Eliakim Parker Scammon. . .the cool name notwithstanding. So let's take the time to get to know this rather obscure officer.
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Educated at West Point, Colonel Eliakim Scammon seemed to enjoy more success as a scholar in the classroom than as a commander on the field of battle. Born in Whitefield, Maine in 1816, Scammon graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1837, ranking ninth in a class of fifty graduates. Among Scammon’s classmates in the illustrious Class of 1837 were future Civil War Generals Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early, John Pemberton, John Sedgwick, and Joseph Hooker. He entered the artillery upon his graduation, but one year later was transferred to the corps of Topographical Engineers. Scammon served against the Seminoles in Florida, then, as a first lieutenant, saw action in the Mexican-American War as a member of General Winfield Scott’s staff, serving alongside Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan. Following the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the war with Mexico in 1848, Scammon performed surveying duties along the northern lakes. In 1855, he was promoted to captain and the following year, was sent to the New Mexico Territory to help map and construct roadways. However, on June 4, 1856, Scammon was dismissed from the service for disobedience of orders and for “Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline.” Apparently unconcerned with his dismissal, Scammon began his career in education later that same year when he accepted a professorship at St. Mary’s College in Ohio. After teaching here for two years, Scammon then became president of Cincinnati College, a position he held until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.
On June 14, 1861, a little more than five years after being forced out of the army, Scammon was named commander of the 23rd Ohio Volunteers, a unit known to history as the “President’s Regiment,” for in its ranks served a young Rutherford Hayes and a young William McKinley. The 23rd was assigned to what became known as the Kanawha Division, which initially served in the mountains of western Virginia. Scammon must have impressed his superiors, for in the fall of 1861 the forty-five-year-old professor was given brigade command. In the spring of 1862, the Kanawha Division, under the command of General Jacob Cox, was transferred to John Pope’s Army of Virginia, and then, in the early September reorganization of the Army of the Potomac, was attached to the 9th Corps. Scammon’s brigade was heavily engaged at South Mountain on September 14, 1862. During this battle, Lieutenant Colonel Hayes, leading Scammon’s 23rd Ohio, fell grievously wounded, and General Jesse Reno, commanding the 9th Corps, was killed. Command of the Ninth Corps devolved upon General Jacob Cox upon Reno’s death. Succeeding Cox in command of the Kanawha Division was Colonel Scammon, the division’s senior brigadier. Scammon thus held divisional command for less than three days before the battle of Antietam.
Although Scammon held command of the Ninth Corps’s Kanawha Division, his role at the battle of Antietam was minimal as he was left, essentially, without a command. His first brigade, under Colonel Hugh Ewing was attached to Isaac Rodman’s Division, which crossed Snavely’s Ford and supported the advance of Rodman’s two brigades during its attack on the afternoon of September 17. Scammon’s second brigade, under Colonel George Crook, made an aborted attack against the Lower, or Burnside’s Bridge, and later supported General Willcox’s Division in its advance toward Sharpsburg. The two brigades were thus separated. Total casualties in Scammon’s Kanawha Division at Antietam numbered 255, a figure that included 37 killed, 191 wounded, and 27 missing.
Despite his limited role at Antietam, Scammon was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers less than one month later, but was soon detached from the Army of the Potomac with the rest of the Kanawha Division and sent back to the mountains of western Virginia. Here Scammon served as both the commander of the Subdistrict of the Kanawha in the Department of the Ohio, and as the commander of the 1st Brigade in the Kanawha Division. In the early spring of 1863, he was once again given divisional command in this department. On February 3, 1864, Scammon was captured by Confederate guerillas while sleeping onboard on the SS Levi, a steamer that was anchored in the Kanawha River near Red House Shoals, West Virginia. Scammon was held as a prisoner of war for six months until exchanged on August 3, 1864. Upon his exchange, it was evident that Scammon’s health had greatly deteriorated during his months of imprisonment. In an effort to restore his well-being, Scammon was sent to South Carolina where, in October, he took command of the Northern District, Department of the South. Remarkably, a little more than two weeks after his arrival here, the hard-luck Scammon was once again taken prisoner. His time in confinement this time, however, lasted just five days. After his second exchange from a Confederate prison camp, Scammon was sent further south, where he served out the duration of the war as commander of the District of Florida, in the Department of the South.
Eliakim Scammon was mustered out of United States service on August 24, 1865. After the war, Scammon continued to serve his country, but this time in a diplomatic role. In 1866, he was made U.S. Consul to Prince Edward Island in Canada, a position he held for four years. Scammon then settled in New Jersey, where, in 1875, he once again entered the academic world, becoming a professor of mathematics at Seton Hall College. Retiring ten years later, Scammon spent the final years of his life in New York City. On December 7, 1894, ten days shy of his seventy-eighth birthday, Scammon succumbed to cancer. His remains were laid to rest in Long Island’s Cavalry Cemetery.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J.E.B. Stuart, by Jeffry D. Wert

Confederate cavalryman Jeb Stuart is easily one of the most recognized and fascinating figures of the American Civil War. Indeed, Stuart seems to rank only behind Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the pantheon of Confederate heroes.

Yet I have always had a tough time truly understanding Stuart.

Was he the exceedingly brilliant commander he is most commonly portrayed as being? Or did his (well-cultivated) image as a dashing cavalier--the beau-ideal of a soldier--help to mask his shortcomings as an officer? Stuart turned in a number of incredible battlefield and campaign performances; take, for example, his command of the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, after Jackson fell mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, and his famed rides around George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac. Yet at the same time, his reputation remains mired in controversy as he is often blamed for failing the Confederate army during the Gettysburg campaign by conducting a fruitless raid and leaving Lee “blind.” His performance during the Maryland Campaign of September 1862, during which he repeatedly provided bad intelligence and left South Mountain largely undefended by cavalrymen, also left much to be desired.

Thus conflicted in my estimation of this legendary cavalryman, when asked whether I would be interested in reading and reviewing Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of Jeb Stuart, by esteemed Civil War historian Jeffry Wert, I agreed.
Cavalryman of the Lost Cause is the first full-length study of Stuart to appear in more than two decades. Previous works largely lavished praise on Stuart with little in the way of criticism or critique. Wert's masterful biography is much welcomed because it instead paints a balanced portrait of Lee's greatest horseman. Through an extensive examination of primary source materials, including many of Stuart's own letters, particularly to his beloved wife, Flora, Wert presents Stuart as a gifted military strategist and tactician, much admired and respected by superiors and subordinates alike. He was strict disciplinarian and a fearless battlefield commander. He won many friends, while at the same time, made a few enemies. Henry Kyd Douglas, for example, a member of Stonewall Jackson's staff, famously wrote: "Personally, I never liked or admired Stuart & still believe he was vain & pretentious & greatly overrated as a solider." Most who knew Stuart would have disagreed with Douglas's assessment. Still, that Stuart was vain almost goes without saying. As Wert demonstrates, Stuart was incredibly ambitious and was a glory seeker. He carefully constructed his image as a dashing, almost flamboyant cavalier. And for all of his brilliance in the saddle, Stuart was certainly not flawless. He found it difficult to accept responsibility and would sometimes pass the blame for failures on to his fellow officers. At times, Stuart seemed to be somewhat delusional, claiming that he and his men were by no means taken by surprise at Brandy Station and, after the criticisms surfaced about his absence from the Gettysburg campaign, claimed that the months of June and July 1863 were the finest in the annals of the Confederate cavalry.
In analyzing his controversial ride around the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign, Wert, rightly, places the lion share of blame on Stuart himself, arguing that the horseman, whose reputation was damaged after Brandy Station, viewed it as an opportunity to reclaim his glory and esteem. As Wert writes: "Another successful expedition, like those of the previous year, could restore his reputation and might further enhance his fame, precious commodities that he coveted. After Brandy Station, the prospects must have glimmered to him. His devotion to the Confederate cause was undeniable. Now, however, devotion to his reputation and stature as a Confederate hero overrode his better judgment." At the same time, however, Wert also, again rightly, places some of the blame on Lee for issuing rather vague and seemingly conflicting orders.
What emerges from the pages of Cavalryman of the Lost Cause is an entirely human portrait of a larger-than-life personality. Stuart showed signs of incredible brilliance, while at the same time made consequential errors. What kept leaping out at me from the text was just how young Stuart was. When the war broke out, he was but 28 years of age and only 31 at the time of his death following a mortal wound at Yellow Tavern in May 1864. Stuart was also very much a Virginian first, firmly devoted to the Confederate cause. In summing up Stuart and his place in both Confederate and American history, Wert writes: "Stuart had been the Confederacy's knight-errant, the bold and dashing cavalier, attired in a resplendent uniform, plumed hat, and cape. Amid a slaugtherhouse, he had embodied chivalry, clinging to the pageantry of a long-gone warrior. He crafted the image carefully, and the image benefited him. He saw himself as the Southern people envisaged him. They needed a knight; he needed to be that knight. Since his youth, Stuart had seized life, draining it of sustenance, craved attention and approval, and fueled an intense flame of ambition. He chose a soldier's trade because it fulfilled all of those desires." Yet, as Wert also maintains, "Beneath the veneer of a cavalier was a student of warfare, a firm disciplinarian, a realist who schooled his officers and men in drills and tactics." In the end, asserts Wert, "Jeb Stuart was one of the finest light cavalrymen in American history."
My only criticism of this entirely enjoyable work is that there is little about Stuart's childhood and formative years, especially those as a young army officer on the frontier, serving under the likes of Colonel Edwin Sumner and Major John Sedgwick. Indeed, only 45 of the book's 372 pages deal with the pre-war years. In the end, however, this drawback pales when compared with the overall outstanding quality of this book. Wert is a first-class historian and a gifted writer, able to masterfully weave narrative with analysis. Cavalryman of the Lost Cause is a must for any student of the American Civil War and a most welcome addition to the war's vast historiography. In my estimation, Wert's book is now the biography of one of the Civil War's most fascinating and important figures, Major General Jeb Stuart.
Click here for additional information. . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Farewell, Yankee Stadium. . .An Off The Topic Post

Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, will host its final game tonight. So, for the moment, I am going to forget that there will be no Yankee post-season this year, which, in itself, is difficult to believe. The last time the Yanks missed the playoffs, well, kids entering college this September, were then entering kindergarten! Anyway, it's just going to feel different watching the Yanks play in a new ballpark, and I am still in denial that the famed "House that Ruth Built," an icon of a stadium, will be destroyed.
I've been to Yankee Stadium several times. In fact, my very first ball game was at the Stadium in 1986 or so, when as a young kid I dreamed of one day becoming the next Willie Randolph or Don Mattingly. I remember distinctly hanging out at the players' entrance, getting a number of autographs (e.g. Mike Pagliarulo, Dave Righetti, etc), then walking to my seat. . .I exited the tunnel near the right-field foul pole and was just awestruck. My buddy, Chris Wilson, and I made a sign on the back of large piece of wallpaper that read "Don Mattingly Rules," while my sister made a sign for Don Slaughter. . .yes, Don Slaughter. I remember seeing Dave Winfield just a few yards away, and though I do not remember who the Yanks played, or even if they won, I will never forget driving home. . .my parents up front, and the four kids in the back, when immediately behind us on the freeway came a little red sports car, driven, get this, by none other than Don Mattingly! We could hardly believe it. . .We waved and yelled, he smiled, waved back, then passed on by. . .
My first trip to Yankee Stadium, ca. 1986. . .that's me in the Pinstripes.
My last visit to the stadium came in 2000. . .Roger Clemens pitched, and the Yanks beat the Tigers in a slugfest. David Justice hit a homer, and Jorge Posada slapped two. I regret that I haven't been up there since, nor will I ever again have the opportunity. Still, I watched while in college and graduate school as the Yanks went on their fabled run. . .There were games and moments I will never forget, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius going yard on back-to-back nights against the Diamondbacks during Games 4 & 5 of the 2001 World Series; Aaron Boone launching the homerun in the 11th Inning against Tim Wakefield and the BoSox in 2003; and, far and away, the most memorable Yankee Stadium moment, at least as far as I am concerned, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. . .Paul O'Neill's last game; the crowd chanting "PAUL O'NEILL," over and over again, until O'Neill himself could hardly hold back the tears.
In my book, that was one of the Yankees' best all-around teams: O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jeter, Mariano, Posada, Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch. . . I sure hope the GM could bring together another such team (soon), where everything just seems to click.
So, as I prepare now to watch, for the final time, a game at Yankee Stadium, I just wanted to say thank you and goodbye. . .Thanks for all the great moments; you will be missed.
Oh, and in case GM Brian Cashman is reading this post, I am ready to again don the Pinstripes. Like when I did several years ago and hit the clutch, pinch-hit homerun to take the lead over Boston in the ALCS. . .Don't believe me?
Well, just look at the picture below. . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Death of Sergeant Alexander Prince, Co. B, 48th Pennsylvania

At Antietam, the 48th Pennsylvania suffered a loss of 8 men killed and 51 wounded. But not all the regiment's casualties fell on September 17. Indeed, the following day, several companies of the 48th remained on the advanced picket line on the southern portion of the field and at least two soldiers, nineteen-year-old Private John Robinson, a laborer from Pottsville, and nineteen-year-old Sergeant Alexander Prince, a laborer from St. Clair, both of Company B, were killed on that otherwise quiet Thursday.

Twelve years later, on September 18, 1874, Oliver Christian Bosbyshell, former major of the 48th, penned the following account of Prince's death, which appeared in Pottsville's Miners' Journal:

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(Position held by the 48th PA skirmishers at Antietam on September 18, 1862. . .Fence lines the Otto Farm Lane, looking west toward Branch Avenue, where Confederate pickets from A.P. Hill's and D.R. Jones's divisions exchanged shots with the 48th's skirmishers. The monument on the far left is the 48th's.)

The Story of Alexander Prince, Company B, 48th Pennsylvania

Miners' Journal, September 18, 1874

By Oliver C. Bosbyshell

"Who of the old members of the 48th regiment can ever forget Alex Prince, that noble Sergeant of Company B? He was a grand soldier and the embodiment of all the virtues that go to make up the true man. Handsome in person, tall, well built; a compact rounded figure straight as an arrow, a fine, clean, honest continence with large light lustrous, frank eyes. Foremost in the manner of the duty, strict in the discharge, but kind without fault, a soldier to be proud of, a friend to cherish and his nature to emulate. We read of a being who came to earth and took upon himself the nature of man, who lives a pure, spotless life and died ignominious of death for what that and through the sacrifice of humanity could gain eternal life. He gave his life a ransom with a reverence be it said. Prince gave his life a ransom, but let me recall the incident.

The work of the bloody 17 September 1862 at Antietam closed only with the dark shadows of night. The bridge so tenaciously held and so staunchly assailed, that we wrested from the enemy. A whole afternoon was spent in stubborn fighting on the summit of a shallow hill, yes I write to the boys of the 48th, remember the spot? The 48th under [Lt. Col. Joshua] Sigfried with the 51st under [Col. John] Hartranft determined to hold the line with cold steel before yielding. We picketed the same ground all that night and in the morning of the 18th found us still on the same line. During the day we shifted our position further to the left. The main body of the regiment covered by a corn field. This corn field and the clearing to the left was occupied by our skirmish line. Constant firing was kept up through the whole day and between the opposing skirmishers. Prince occupied a small rifle pit burrowed in the ground in a clearing to the left of the corn field. The regular sharp crack of his rifle evidenced his alertness. The ground between the lines fought over the previous day was strewn with dead men, and here and there a badly wounded soldier lay unable to crawl into either line. Relief could not be extended for so close were the contestants, that the least exposure of the person would result in instant injury.

A wounded soldier lay near Prince's position and his piteous cries for water touched to the heart of our gallant comrade. 'Water! Water! For the love of God water!,' begged the crippled man. Prince's warm nature could not rest at the call for help, this wounded probably dying comrade might be saved, if not whether he wore blue or gray, a fellow being suffering within sight and hearing prompted action and Alex, despite the risk, determined to aid him. He knew full well his own danger in the attempt; his strong buoyant spirit could not bear to remain quiet witness to such suffering; relieve him he must. Removing his canteen from his shoulder and fastening the strap clearly to the point of the bayonet, he pushed it out over the top of the pit to the full extent of his arm. Too short his reach, the sufferer could not be aided without a greater effort. Realizing his task and nobly determined to take it, the prize, the saving of a life. He threw himself over the side of the rifle pit, hug close to the ground, the object of his great love eagerly watching the long forth draft, his very eagerness elegantly urging Prince on. He had almost reached with the life saving water, his nearing grasp when bang, whiz, and the death bearing lead sinks deep into the heart of the poor Alex. A wild spring in the air, an earthly shriek that rises above the din of the battle, and Prince falls. A sacrifice. He died to save his fellow man, can anything be more sublime? Prince by name, a very prince by nature.

When the monument rises to commemorate the men of the 48th and give bright and dearing praises to [Col. George] Gowen [killed in action at Petersburg on April 2, 1865], think in the fullest of Alex Prince who gave a ransom. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."

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Sergeant Prince's body was later recovered by his compatriots in the 48th PA and buried in an open field near the Burnside Bridge. Whether Prince's body was later reinterred and where is unknown.

(Note: Thanks go out to my good friend and fellow Schuylkill County Civil War buff Stu Richards for sending me Bosbyshell's account of Prince's death).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Antietam. . .in college textbooks.

I have long considered the battle of Antietam to be the most important of the American Civil War's "turning points." And it's not just because I work there. . .Although the war went on for another two and a half years following the bloodletting at Antietam, this Federal victory did much more than simply turn back the first Confederate invasion of the North. It also displayed the vulnerability of the Army of Northern Virginia, went far in restoring morale among the rank and file of the Army of the Potomac, and turned the strategic initiative (for the moment) back to Union hands. Most importantly, however, the Federal victory at Antietam provided Abraham Lincoln with the win he was waiting for to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. No longer was this conflict a mere political struggle, meant solely to re-unite a divided nation, now, in addition to that, it was a moral crusade waged to bring the brutal and barbaric institution of human slavery to an end. The Proclamation had international implications as well, for this act, more than anything else, diverted European intervention on behalf of the Southern Confederacy.
Today, while perusing The American Pageant (13th edition), the textbook I am to use for my American History course at American Military University, I was a little bit surprised when scanning the chapter that deals with the Civil War, to discover that Antietam is recognized in the text as the "Pivotal Point" of the four-year conflict. Now, I did not select this textbook; it was, instead, chosen for me. Still, Antietam and the resultant Emancipation Proclamation is given three and a half pages of coverage; Gettysburg, on the other hand, is covered in a few short paragraphs. In summarizing Antietam and its profound consequences, the authors of the book (David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Bailey) write: "The landmark Battle of Antietam was one of the decisive engagements of world history--probably the most decisive of the Civil War."
I could not agree more.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One Lucky Fella. . .

If you had told me ten or even five years ago that I would be spending my 30th birthday as a ranger at Antietam on battle anniversary weekend giving a tour of the park and surrounded by my family and friends, I would said you were crazy.
But that very thing happened this afternoon. . .

I truly am one lucky fella

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Arranging A General's Funeral. . .

This past weekend, I had the great privilege to participate in the "Sparks Around the Campfire" event in Schuylkill County. This four-day-long series of special programs highlighted my native county's Civil War history. By all accounts, the event was an unqualified success, drawing hundreds to the various programs. (You can read more about the success of this event by clicking here ). It was an honor for me to asked to participate, and I have to thank Stu Richards and the members of the planning committee for the invitation. (Read Stu's excellent blog on Schuylkill County Military history).
On Saturday morning, along with fellow Schuylkill County Civil War buff and friend Tom Shay, I led a walking tour of the Presbyterian Cemetery in Pottsville, and despite the rain, we had about 30 people come along. In the afternoon, I delivered a presentation on the life and forgotten service of James Nagle. In the end, I could not have been more pleased. Before the morning program, I was approached by an older man, a native of Pottsville, who had been in the antiques business for years. He had with him a photocopy of one of his Civil War documents, thinking that both Tom and I would be interested. He was absolutely correct. What he had was a copy of the Funeral Arrangements for General James Nagle, of interest to me, certainly, but also a great little piece of history.

The funeral arrangements were prepared on August 23, 1866, just the day after the general's death. Planning the arrangements was Joshua K. Sigfried, former colonel of the 48th Pennsylvania and assisting him was Oliver Christian Bosbyshell, former major of the 48th and the regimental historian. The copy this gentleman from Pottsville had was sent to Henry Krebs, and reads as follows:

Pottsville, Aug. 23, 1866
To Lieut. Henry Krebs.
You are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of the late Brig-General James Nagle, on Saturday Afternoon, next, at 2 o'clock. Please reply

Respectfully Yours,
J.K. Sigfried

N.B. Specially requested to wear uniforms if convenient.

At the bottom of the invitation was a note penned by Bosbyshell:

Gen. Sigfried desires me to state that you are appointed one of his Aides. Please invite all soldiers in your neighborhood to participate in the funeral. See enclosed Programme.

The program included the following:

The following order of Parade will be observed at the Funeral of the late Brig. Gen. James Nagle on,
Saturday, August 25, 1866
The line will be formed at 1 o'clock P.M. in Centre Street, right resting on Market Street, in the following order:
1st Brig. Gen. J.K. Sigfried Commanding and Staff
2d All mounted Officers in uniform
3d Uniformed Military Organizations--according to rank.
4th Soldiers' Central League of Pottsville, consisting of discharged Soldiers in Citizens's Dress, with Fatgue Cap, White Gloves and mourning badge on left arm.

The order of march from the house to the Cemetery will be as follows:

Military Escort
Pall Bearers Hearse Pall Bearers
Horse and Groom
Citizens in Carriages
Fire Department
Members of the Boro Council and Boro Officers
Members of the Court and Bar, and County Officers
Citizens of Foot

The line will move over the following route: From hourse to Market Street; down Market to Centre; down Centre to Mahantango; up Mahantango to Clay; down Clay to Howard Avenue; down Howard Avenue to Cemetery.
All soldiers who have uniforms are requested to wear them, and those without to attend in fatigue cap and white gloves.
All soldiers not connected with the Soldiers' Central League, are invited to meet at its room, in Clayton's Hall, at 12 o'clock to join in with it.
The citizens of Pottsville are requested to suspend business between the hours of 1 and 4 o'clock P.M. on Saturday, 25th inst., and that colors and hourse along the route be draped in mourning.
General James Nagle died at the age of 44 on August 22, 1866; his funeral was held on Saturday, August 25.
Lieutenant Henry Krebs was among the thousands that turned out that Saturday to pay their last respects to the general.

I cannot thank the kind gentleman from Pottsville enough for generously providing me with a great piece of Schuylkill County Civil War history.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sayonara Cyclorama. . .

Gettysburg Cyclorama. . .(NPS)

Demolition of famous Gettysburg building scheduled for December.

Read more here

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Civil War Veepstakes. . .

Sure has been a lot of talk lately about vice-presidential candidates. . .Pundits and talking heads have been on the air waxing nauseatingly about Senator So and So and Governor Such and Such, and what they each bring to their respective parties and to each of the presidential hopefuls. So in the spirit of the current Veepstakes season, I thought I'd spend some time with America's own Fifteenth Vice-President of the United States. . .the Honorable Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine.

His was (is) a memorable name, but he is certainly not among the most recognized members of Abraham Lincoln's ring of political insiders and confidants. He has taken a backseat in memory to the William Sewards and Edwin Stantons, and I am almost embarrassed to say that I, too, know little of Mr. Hamlin's background and his career in public service. Turns out, it was a lengthy one. . .He served in the Maine House of Representatives and later in the US House before being elected to the US Senate. He was a lifelong Democrat, but in the mid-1850s he split from the party. A staunch anti-slavery man, and later abolitionist, Hamlin became a Republican in 1856. That same year he was elected governor of Maine, but held this position only a short time before returning to the Senate.

When it came time to select Mr. Lincoln's running mate in 1860, Hamlin had one very important thing going for him. . .and it wasn't his decades' worth of experience. Instead, it was because he hailed from Maine and the Republican Party, hoping to balance the ticket, chose the New Englander. It was a position he did not seek, nor much desire, but he reluctantly agreed. His selection was a purely political maneuver, in the truest sense of the term. It appears as though Hamlin had little influence in the Lincoln White House, and that Mr. Lincoln did not actively seek his veep's opinions all too often. However, Hamlin urged emancipation almost from the start of the war and when Lincoln finally got around to adopting this policy, he allegedly made his decision known first to the Maine native.

When it came time for reelection, Hamlin's name was kept off the ballot. Republicans were still seeking to present a balanced ticket, but this time they looked south. . .to Tennessee Senator and Military Governor Andrew Johnson. After the war, Hamlin returned for several more terms in the Senate and served for two years as Minister to Spain. He then retired, and soon slipped into the realm of the obscure.

Hannibal Hamlin died at the age of 81, on Independence Day, 1891, while in the middle of a card game. His remains were buried in Bangor.

To learn more about good old Hannibal Hamlin, and to see a picture of the couch he died on (yes, you heard me right), click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chantilly Battlefield Preservation. . .

Fought in a driving rain storm and in the midst of thunder and lightning, the battle of Chantilly--or Ox Hill--was fought 146 years ago today. . .September 1, 1862. Compared to other battles of the Civil War, Chantilly was a small affair, but it did claim the lives of two of the Union army's more promising commanders: Generals Philip Kearny (whose final moments are depicted above) and Isaac Ingalls Stevens. Stevens's death occasioned the rise of Colonel Benjamin Christ to temporary division command in the Federal Ninth Corps. (Christ, the commander of the 50th Pennsylvania, was a native of Minersville, in my own native Schuylkill County). In addition to the 50th, Schuylkill County's other Ninth Corps regiment, the 48th PA, participated in the battle as well.
For far too long, the fight at Chantilly has remained understudied; indeed, almost entirely overlooked and forgotten. But today, on the battle's anniversary, a portion of the field has been dedicated as a preserved Civil War site. Click here to read more about the battle and the preservation effort.