Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Holidays

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Perhaps it is a little early, but I've decided to take my annual Holiday Bloggers' Break nonetheless. 'Tis the season for wrapping presents, sending out Christmas cards, decorating, spending time with friends and family, and looking back at yet another year gone by. It has been a good year, generally speaking, with many ups and some downs.
2008 marked my third year at Antietam. Everyday I donned the Gray and Green, I could not help but be thankful for the great privilege it is to be a park ranger and to appreciate just how lucky I am to have realized a lifelong dream. The experience has been incredible, made even more so by my fellow rangers, who truly are some of the greatest people I have ever known.
I've kept myself busy this year writing. My introductory study of the Maryland Campaign and Battle of Antietam is finished and will hopefully hit the shelves of the Antietam Museum Store by the early Spring. I was able to complete yet another manuscript, one that I have worked on since 2005. It is currently under review, and I am hoping that 2009 will witness the publication of this work as well. . .stay tuned. My article on the forgotten life of Nicholas Biddle was published in America's Civil War this past year, and has also been picked up by Pennsylvania Heritage for publication in an upcoming issue. I have some projects slated for '09, and am hoping for a productive year. And, of course, I had a great time churning out posts on this blog. Thank you to all my readers for sticking with me and for all the comments and emails that have been (for the most part) very flattering. I truly do enjoy keeping this site updated, and am looking forward to another year, which will be my third year blogging.
This year has also witnessed the launching of my effort to restore the 48th Pennsylvania monument at Antietam by raising money to replace the missing sword from the statue of Brigadier General James Nagle. I could not be happier with the result thus far. As of today, just over $4,200.00 has been raised. Thanks to everyone who donated for your generosity. There is still a good ways to go, but I am confident we will reach our goal next year, hopefully early on.
With 2008 soon to become a memory, I look forward to 2009. Let me extend to you my warmest Holiday greetings. I wish for you good health and happiness, and everything you wish for yourself. "See" you next year. . .
Happy Holidays!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Lincoln And His Admirals, by Craig L. Symonds

Just as Abraham Lincoln admitted to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, I, too, "know but little about ships." But when asked if I would be willing to review Lincoln And His Admirals, by Craig Symonds, I agreed, somewhat hestitantly since, admittedly, I am not too well versed in the historiography of Civil War navies or even naval operations. Nor was I very much familiar with the Union's admirals. Land battles and army commanders have always been my main focus.
I discovered almost from the outset, however, that one need not be a naval scholar to enjoy this book.
In Lincoln And His Admirals, historian and prize-winning author Craig Symonds, Professor Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy, fills a surprising void in Civil War historiography: Lincoln's management, as commander in chief, of United States naval operations and his dealings with his naval commanders. Through a masterful narrative and lively prose, Symonds charts Lincoln's trials and triumphs and steady growth as commander-in-chief--from the days leading up to Sumter to the capture of Fort Fisher and beyond--as he came to oversee the largest fleet of U.S. warships until the outbreak of the First World War while gradually becoming a perceptive and effective military strategist. Symonds presents excellent accounts of how Lincoln responded to both domestic and international crises on the water--including the infamous Trent affair and the capture of the Confederate privateer Florida off the coast of Brazil--and how he formulated his decisions in decreeing naval strategies and operations. But Symonds's greatest contribution with this work is in presenting Lincoln's interractions with and management of his cabinet officials and his naval officers, some of which, notably Charles Wilkes and Samuel DuPont, presented their fair share of headaches for Lincoln and the administration.
With Lincoln And His Admirals, Symonds has given us an excellent, meticulously researched and well-written account of an understudied aspect of both Lincoln's presidency and of the Civil War and I do not hesitate in recommending this work to anyone with even a passing interest in either the Civil War or American naval history.
Click here for more on Lincoln And His Admirals.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Raising Monuments, Writing the Regimental History, & Trying To Break Even

I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon when, after sorting through the mail, I found a stuffed manilla envelope sent from my buddy Stu .
Inside were copies of newspaper clippings from the Miners' Journal, most of which related to the 48th Pennsylvania, and all of them are entirely fascinating. (I will be posting on these at a later date).

Also included was a copy of the 1909 "Survivors' Roster of the 48th Reg., Pa. Vet. Vols." I have several of these little publications, each about 4" x 3," but never have I seen the 1909 version. These little Survivors' Rosters number less than 20 pages but each contains what I consider to be priceless information. Published annually, each contained not only the names of those veterans of the 48th yet living, but their addresses as well. (Many of the soldiers moved far, far away from Schuylkill County in the post-war years; a good number of them even listed their residences in San Francisco). In addition, a brief introduction reports the number of veterans who passed away in between publications.
The 1909 Survivors' Roster was the tenth published since the veterans of the 48th formed their "Survivors' Association." The Association was formed in 1899, wrote President Daniel Nagle, "mainly to keep alive the feeling of Comradeship engendered by service with each other on the March, the Camp and the Battlefield, and like ancient Comrades, [to] meet once a year to tell of the brave deeds by our Regiment when we were doing our share in the Great War for the preservation of the Union."

As was noted in the introduction to the 1909 roster, 130 veterans of the 48th died during the ten years since the Survivors' Association was formed. The achievements of the Association were also noted in the booklet's introduction. These achievements were important to the members of the Association, said Nagle, "so that when the next few years will pass and we, too, [will] be with the Grand Army on the other side, we will leave to coming generations a united country with monuments and history to tell of deeds well done in that time that tried men's souls."

The first of these achievements was the placing of the regimental monument at the Antietam Battlefield (1904); the second was the raising of nearly $6,000.00 from "the generosity of the good people of Schuylkill County, the School Children, and a few of the large-hearted Comrades of our Regiment," for a second regimental monument, this one at Petersburg (1907).

48th PA Monument at Petersburg

Finally, at the April 29, 1905 Association meeting, resolutions were passed that authorized Joseph Gould, a veteran of Company F, "to write the History of the 48th Regiment," with "one Comrade from each company to assist him in the work." (Gould's book, published in 1908 and titled The Story of the Forty-Eighth, was the "official" regimental history, but was actually the second to appear. Some 13 years earlier, in 1895, Oliver C. Bosbyshell took it upon himself to write his own "unauthorized" regimental). As was noted in the 1909 Survivors' Roster: "After much labor and at great expense Comrade Gould has given us a very complete History of our Regiment from its muster in until its muster out at the end of the Civil War."
Pleased though the Survivors' Association was at the completion of Gould's book, it apparently was not selling all too well.
Indeed, it seems as though Gould took a loss in the publishing and printing of this work. "It is sincerely hoped," wrote Nagle, "that as many of the Comrades as can afford to do so will purchase at least one copy of this book, as there are still a number unsold and the author has not as yet realized from its sale enough to cover the expense of printing."
Joseph Gould. . .I hope he was able to eventually break even, at least.

I suppose there is a lesson or two to be learned from this. . .100 years ago, with Civil War veterans still alive and very much active in commemorating and remembering their deeds on the fields of battle, regimental histories were a tough sell, even among the veterans of the regiment itself! (There is no record, however, on how well Bosbyshell's book did. . .perhaps many veterans of the 48th found the market already "flooded," if you will, and did not want to splurge on a "reinvention of the wheel").

Monday, December 1, 2008

Soldiers of the 48th: Captain Francis A. Stitzer, Co. K, 48th PA

Francis A. Stitzer, a native of the small town of Cressona in southern Schuylkill County, was twenty years old in the spring of 1861. On April 17, he was painting a minister's home in Pottsville, when word spread through the borough that its two militia companies--the National Light Infantry and Washington Artillery--would be setting off for Harrisburg the following morning. As a member of the Washington Artillery, Stitzer dropped his brush--leaving his job unifinished--traveled back home and early the next morning, boarded the train cars and headed off to the "seat of war."
Arriving in Washington late on April 18, Stitzer was among the first Northern volunteers to reach the capital following President Lincoln's April 15 call-to-arms. The Washington Artillerists were assigned to quarters in the Capitol, and he remembered that he and his comrades "set up barricades. . .using barrels of flour, and behind them we awaited our new rifles." The rifles arrived late that night and the following day, Lincoln himself arrived, along with Secretary of State William Seward, who each shook hands with every one of the 575 or so Pennsylvanians who comprised the First Defenders' companies.
After an uneventful three-months in uniform, Stitzer was mustered out only to reenlist as 1st Sergeant of Company K, 48th Pennsylvania. Mustered into service again on October 21, Stitzer rose through the ranks, eventually reaching the rank of captain, and emerging from the war largely unscathed.
After the war, Stitzer was active in the Pennsylvania National Guard before settling in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1887. He was named the state's first adjutant general four years later and from 1912 through 1916, served two terms as mayor of Laramie. The aging Stitzer then relocated to Florida where he became a newspaper publisher.
In 1938, the ninety-eight-year-old veteran attended the ceremonies commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg and, while in Pennsylvania, made a visit to Pottsville where he was serenaded by the fife and drum band.
Stitzer was the last surviving member of the five First Defender companies and wanted to make it to the century mark. In August 1939, he wrote to William A. Reid, secretary of the 48th Regiment Survivor's Association, and son of former Company G sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient Robert A. Reid. "I have entered my one hundreth year," said Stitzer, "but have neither ache nor pain. Friends tell me I must reach the 100th mark and beat Father Time to the century."
But Stitzer did not live to celebrate his 100th birthday; he died on October 16, 1939 at his daughter's home in Denver, Colorado. Following his death, only one other member of the 48th Pennsylvania yet lived. . .Charles Washington Horn, Company I, who died in Bethelehem, PA, in 1941.

Post-War Image of Francis A. Stitzer