Friday, January 30, 2009

The Antietam Commanders Project. . .

Ted Savas, the managing director and acquisitions editor for Savas-Beatie Publishing, is currently in the midst of a series of excellent and insightful posts all about the manuscript submission process, in which he identifies a number of key steps an author should take in helping turn his/her work into a finished product. For anyone wishing to publish, Ted's posts are a MUST read. They offer sound advice and guidance, and are of particular value to those wanting to write and publish books on military history or other kinds of non-fiction.
Last summer, Savas-Beatie author and respected Civil War historian Eric Wittenberg introduced me to Ted. Having just completed a manuscript, I thought I would try my luck with Mr. Savas, to see if he'd be interested in picking up this work. After a series of email exchanges, he very generously agreed to take a look. Yet after submitting this particular manuscript, I came to the realization that because the manuscript was of such a narrow, regional focus it might not have been the best fit for Savas-Beatie. I wrote to him and told him as much, explaining that this work, again because it is so narrowly-focused, might be ideal for self-publication. (More on this later). In that same message, however, I happened to mention that I was also working on a collective biography of all the Federal and Confederate commanders who served at Antietam, from the brigade level on up, something akin to Larry Tagg's Generals of Gettysburg. It was a book, I suggested, that just needed to be written. Aside from having a great fascination with these overlooked officers, there are so many who remain relatively unknown, yet whose stories need to be told; officers such as Colonels Albert Magilton, Benjamin Christ, Henry Stainrook, and Harrison Fairchild on the Union side, and Colonels James W. Jackson, Duncan McRae, Marcellus Douglass, and Captain John Penn on the Confederate side. . .these, just to name a very few. These men played prominent roles in the action at Antietam, their actions--or inactions--all helping to shape the battle's outcome in one way or another. What is more, it is interesting to note that of the 81 brigade, division, and corps commanders present in the Army of the Potomac at Antietam, only 22--just over 25%--would still be in the army by the time of Gettysburg. Only 29 of the 56 Confederate brigade and division commanders at Antietam served at Gettysburg, just over 50%.
For more than a century after the end of the Civil War, the battle of Antietam had seemingly languished in the shadows of Gettysburg. But within recent decades, Antietam--which, call me biased, I have long argued to have been a much more decisive turning point in the war than Gettysburg--has finally begun to receive its fair historical treatment. Interest in America's Bloodiest Day Battle--both in the academic and popular realms--has been rising steadily. Thus with this growing attention, I argued that the time would be now be ideal for a work such as the one I proposed to Mr. Savas. And, much to my delight, he agreed.
Since this time, I have been in regular contact with Ted as we are working together to bring this project into book form. His guidance along the way has been incredible, and has really helped me hone my skills as a writer. Most helpful is how he is able to envision the final product, and how he has been able to help guide me toward that end.
There is certainly much that yet needs to be done. . .much more research and much more writing. But I have made this project a top priority, hoping to have at least the first draft completed within a year to a year and a half. In the upcoming months, I will keep you updated as to the progress of this work.
In the meantime, it's back to the archives--and back to that taunting blinking cursor--for me. . .
Brigadier General John C. Caldwell & Staff. . .

Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting To Know. . .General George Lucas Hartsuff

The illnesses and injuries that plagued George Lucas Hartsuff throughout his years in the United States Army cut short a promising career and led to his untimely death at the age of 43 in 1874. Solid and dependable, Hartsuff was a courageous officer who entered the war a lieutenant serving as the assistant adjutant general for the Department of the Ohio and then as the Chief of Staff to General William Rosecrans in western Virginia. By war’s end, Hartsuff was a major general, commanding all the Union forces on Bermuda Hundred. But Hartsuff’s true potential as a general was never realized due to the sicknesses he developed, and the wounds he suffered fighting the Seminole in Florida and his fellow Americans at the battle of Antietam.

George Hartsuff spent the first twelve years of his life in the small western New York village of Tyre, in Seneca County. Moving with his family to Livingston County, Michigan, in 1842, Hartsuff received an appointment to West Point six years later, graduating in 1852 ranked nineteenth in a class of forty-three. Upon graduation, Hartsuff was commissioned a second lieutenant by brevet in the 4th U.S. Artillery and assigned to frontier duty in Texas where the young officer fell seriously ill with yellow fever. In 1855, after recovering from his sickness, Hartsuff was sent to Fort Myers, Florida. Given command of a surveying expedition in December of that year, Hartsuff led ten soldiers into Seminole Territory near the Big Cypress Swamp. Having resolved not to tolerate any more incursions into their land, the Seminoles, under Chief Billy Bowlegs, decided to strike the American troops. On the morning of December 20, some forty Seminole warriors surrounded and then attacked Hartsuff’s men. During the short but bloody encounter, four U.S. soldiers were killed and three were wounded, while only three escaped unscathed. Hartsuff was among the wounded. Hit in the left arm, Lieutenant Hartsuff nevertheless continued to fire back at the Seminoles using muskets loaded and passed forward by two of his men. When a second shot struck Hartsuff in the chest, he told the surviving members of his party to save themselves and then sought shelter. Stumbling through the forest, Hartsuff fell into a pond. Neck-deep in water and suffering from his two wounds, Hartsuff had a difficult time getting out but was eventually able to do so. Without food or fresh water, Hartsuff lay on his back for three days before being rescued by American troops sent out from Fort Myers. Doctors cared for Hartsuff but were unable to remove the bullet that entered his left breast and struck his lung; indeed, it would remain in Hartsuff for the rest of his life. The attack on Hartsuff’s invading men is recognized today as the beginning of the Third Seminole War, which lasted for another two and a half years.

Having sufficiently recovered from his wounds, George Hartsuff, by this time a first lieutenant, was appointed as an instructor of artillery and infantry tactics at West Point in 1856, and held this position for three years. Hartsuff’s next assignment was to the frontier post of Fort Mackinac, Michigan. With misfortune seemingly his lot, Hartsuff was on board the Lady Elgin on the storm-tossed night of September 8, 1860, as the steamer made its way across Lake Michigan traveling between Chicago and Milwaukee. With visibility poor and the waters rough and restless, the Lady Elgin was struck by the schooner Augusta. 373 passengers of the Lady Elgin were lost as the boat sank. Lieutenant Hartsuff was one of the 155 survivors.

In early 1861, George Hartsuff was sent to Florida, where in the tense days preceding the outbreak of civil war, he served as assistant adjutant general for the Department of Florida. Stationed in Fort Pickens until July 21, 1861, Hartsuff was next assigned to the Department of Ohio where he served as assistant adjutant general. Throughout the first summer of the war, Hartsuff served in the mountains of [West] Virginia, and on August 3 became General William Rosecrans’s Chief of Staff. Promoted to the rank of captain in October 1861, Hartsuff got his first field command of the war in April 1862 after advancing in rank to brigadier general of volunteers. Commanding a brigade in Irvin McDowell’s Corps in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring and summer of 1862, Hartsuff led his men at the battle of Cedar Mountain but was on sick leave during the Second Bull Run Campaign.

When George McClellan took command of the Union forces in Washington following the debacle at Second Bull Run, he relieved McDowell and designated his command the First Corps, Army of the Potomac. On the afternoon of September 16, McClellan ordered the First Corps, now under Joe Hooker, across the Antietam Creek and into position opposite the left flank of the Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Hartsuff’s Brigade—consisting of the 11th Pennsylvania, 83rd New York, and 12th and 13th Massachusetts—formed in advance of General James Ricketts’s Division early the next morning and advanced southward along the Smoketown Road toward Lee’s lines. Ricketts’s First Brigade, under the dashing New Yorker Abram Duryea, formed on Hartsuff’s right. As the sun was rising to the east, Duryea’s men became engaged with Confederate troops under Alexander Lawton in farmer Miller’s Cornfield. The fighting was savage, and Duryea found his brigade alone and unsupported by Hartsuff’s men to his left. Early in the advance, as his men cleared the North Woods, Hartsuff fell seriously wounded, and his brigade came to a halt in the resulting confusion of handing over command to Colonel Richard Coulter of the 11th Pennsylvania. Coulter was ultimately able to move the brigade toward the front, where they suffered terrible loss in and around the Cornfield and East Woods. By day’s end, Hartsuff’s Brigade had been reduced by half, losing some 600 men killed, wounded, and missing, out of the 1,200 that entered the battle.

Reports vary as to whether Hartsuff was felled by a sniper’s bullet or shell fragment. Regardless of its origin, however, the wound was to Hartsuff’s left hip. He tried to remain in the saddle, but he soon grew faint and had to be helped off his mount. Carried off the field, Hartsuff was taken to a nearby home where a doctor examined his wound. All efforts by him and other doctors later in the day to locate a bullet were unsuccessful; they surmised that the bullet had come to a stop deep within the pelvic cavity.

Hartsuff’s Antietam wound took eight months to heal. Indeed, he was unable to even walk until February 1863, and only then with the support of a cane. For his gallantry during the battle, however, Hartsuff was brevetted colonel in the Regular Army and on November 29, 1862, was promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers. Having sufficiently recovered to return again to the field in May 1863, Hartsuff was placed in command of the 23rd Corps in the Army of the Ohio. He served with his new command under General Ambrose Burnside in Kentucky and eastern Tennessee, but by the late summer of 1863, his health was failing him once more. His hip wound reopened, and he suffered from severe pain and numbness in his left leg and hip. Unable to ride any further, Hartsuff relinquished his command in November 1863 and sought out medical treatment.

Suffering not only from his wounds but from rheumatism as well, Hartsuff nonetheless returned to duty in July 1864, but was physically unable at this point to take active field command. He thus served on court-martial duty and behind a desk in the adjutant general’s office until March 1865, when he reported to General Ulysses Grant for assignment. Grant first gave Hartsuff divisional command in the 18th Corps, Army of the James, and then named him commander of all the Union troops then stationed on Bermuda Hundred. Following the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia the next month, Hartsuff, having previously been brevetted a brigadier and major general in the Regular Army, went on to head the District of Nottoway, in the Department of Virginia, a post he held until August 1865.

George Hartsuff remained in the army following the Civil War. At the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he served first in the adjutant general’s office in Washington and then held a number of offices in the Fifth Military District and in the Department of the Gulf. In poor health and in terrible pain, Hartsuff tendered his resignation from the army on June 29, 1871. Although still holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel, the army allowed Hartsuff to retire at the rank of major general because of the wounds he had suffered while in service.

The ailing General Hartsuff moved to New York City after his retirement, and there spent the final few years of his life. Early in May 1874, he developed a cold that quickly developed into pneumonia. He was dead just one week later, passing away on May 16, two weeks shy of his forty-fourth birthday. His remains were taken to West Point for burial. An autopsy revealed that Hartsuff’s pneumonia was caused by the infection on a scar on his left lung. The scar was itself caused by the wound he received nineteen years earlier battling Seminoles in the swamps of Florida. Remarkably, neither this bullet nor the one that entered his hip at Antietam were ever located.

General Hartsuff's Final Resting Place. . .


Friday, January 23, 2009

Some News From Gettysburg. . .

A couple of headlines from today's Gettysburg Times. . .

First, a video update on the vandalism to the Peace Light Monument here

Next, and at long last, the David Wills House will be open on February 12, old Abe's 200th Birthday. Full story here

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scenes From The Inauguration. . .

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To say that yesterday's Inauguration of President Barack Obama was an event not soon to be forgotten would be an exercise in understatement. Historians of this and future generations will long speak of its significance and many, many years from now people will still ask "Where were you when. . . ." Truly, it was a proud and defining moment in our nation's history. As I sit here this afternoon, composing this post and trying to recover from what was a long day, I still have a hard time believing that I was actually there, wrapped up in the sheer pageantry and history of it all. Yet as the weeks, months, and years pass by, this realization will no doubt become all the more apparent, and I will proudly state I was, indeed, there to witness this historic moment firsthand.

As far as my involvement goes, it began late Monday night when the van carrying the contingent of Antietam rangers arrived at our "quarters," an indoor tennis court filled with cots. They told us it was heated, but, as my colleague Mannie stated, it was "just marginally better than camping outdoors." No matter. I was thrilled to be there, and eager to go exploring what was happening downtown, on the Mall in anticipation of the event. After claiming our cots, we set out on foot, bundled up, for temps were in the low teens. Much to my surprise, we found the Mall empty. It was eerily quiet as we visited the Jefferson, F.D.R., and Lincoln Memorials. And it was so cold. So cold, in fact, that it completely drained the battery in my camera. (I am most thankful that I picked up an extra battery, just in case). My friend and fellow ranger Brian Baracz's camera fared better than mine that cold night, and he was able to capture some great images, including this one:

After putting in several miles, we returned to the "bubble" around 2:30 a.m. in the expectation of getting perhaps a few hours of sleep before the official start of our work shifts. Yet such was my eagerness for the Inauguration, and so uncomfortable were the cots and so chilly was the "heated" arena, that any notion of sleep, at least far as I was concerned, was quickly laid to rest. I got, perhaps, a good hour and fifteen minutes of rest before I realized the futility of it all and went out to find that Brian did not sleep a wink. It was shortly after 4:00 in the morning. Buses already were lined up, one after the next, for miles on the bridges into the city, which would continue long after daylight. . .

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Finally, we went "on the clock." At a briefing held early Tuesday morning, we were told what to expect and what our duties would be. The Mall, they said, was already overcrowded with people. We then got our assignments: Ranger Alann Schmidt, at the World War II Memorial; Ranger Baracz, at the Thomas Jefferson; and Ranger Mannie, at the F.D.R. I felt, and still feel, awfully for them. . .to be there on Inauguration Day, and yet assigned to locations far, far away. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the Lincoln Memorial/Vietnam Veteran's Monument.

Hopping on a shuttle bus, without even a cup of coffee, for none had been provided, we all set out.

What I saw when arriving was that, yes, the Mall was already filled, even at this early hour. But yet, the crowds would continue to just pour in. . .It was absolutely remarkable how many people turned out to witness this event and be a part of history. . .

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Long lines of eager visitors continued to arrive throughout the morning hours, everyone heading toward to Capitol, hoping to get a good vantage point. . . yet everywhere, it was crowded.

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The Lincoln Memorial is a good two miles from the steps of the Capitol, where President Obama took his Oath of Office. Still, its steps were filled as were both sides of the Reflecting Pool. . .

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Literally, as far as eye could see, it was a veritable ocean of people. . .Jumbo-screen televisions were stationed at various places along the Mall, including the one below, behind the Korean War Memorial, where I was able to watch the historic swearing-in. . .
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The mood of the crowd, even as far away as the Lincoln Memorial, was, in a word, electrical. The cheers from all along the Mall were almost continuous and at times deafening; I have never heard anything quite like it. Everyone there was jubilant. I have to admit, there were several times when a chill ran through my body, those not brought on by the cold. . .There were handshakes and hugs all around; tears streamed down the cheeks of many as they watched Obama take the Oath; parents propped up their young children for a better view of the jumbo-trons; and everyone, it seemed, captured the day in photographs or on video. It is difficult, if not impossible to capture this mood in words. . .
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Events transpired with almost lightning speed, and before I knew it, it was over; the inauguration now history. The crowd began departing, and I was amazed at how quickly the Mall was cleared. (No doubt the frigid, bitter cold put an extra spring in the steps of many). By the time darkness covered the Mall, it was, like the night before, empty. I was on duty until officially until 8:00 p.m. I don't know how many miles I walked or how many times I convinced myself that I would surely walk away from this event with frostbite, but, believe me, it was cold and I was utterly exhausted by day's end. The blisters on my feet yet remain. . .
Throughout the late afternoon and early evening, I watched the Inaugural Parade on the screens and listened to it from a distance. Finally, at 8:00, I "clocked out," and returned to the "bubble," our home away from home, only to find it entirely deserted except by Rangers Brian and Mannie, their disappointment at their assignments noticeable. Because other rangers from Antietam were on duty until midnight, we were forced to wait. After a good dinner, we climbed back on the Antietam van, picked everyone at, and began the journey home, Ranger Allan doing a remarkable job in getting us out of the city quickly and back home in a safe manner, despite him being utterly exhausted.
We were all exhausted. By the time I got back to the bubble after my shift, I was on the literal brink of collapse. And even today, I am still beat. . .
Yet, in the end, despite the cold and despite the blisters, I have no complaints. I just cannot help but feel bad for my colleagues who were far removed from the Mall.
It was a remarkable day, and I still have a hard time believing that I was there, a part of it all.
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President Bush leaving office on Marine One.

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I wonder what President Lincoln would be thinking. . .

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A (small) Part Of It All. . .

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will take the Oath of Office and be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

Although Tuesday's will be the 56th Presidential Inauguration in American history, it will most certainly rank among the most significant and the most historic. Despite a forecast that calls for cold temperatures, a crowd of millions, traveling from across America and from across the world, is expected be on hand to witness this truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime event. And I will have the great privilege to be among them.

I, along with several of my fellow rangers from Antietam, will make the trip to D.C. late tomorrow night, being required to check in by 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. I expect that even at this early hour, the city will be a flurry of activity. For the event, we have been assigned to various stations on the National Mall. It will be cold, it will be crowded, and it will be a super-long day. . .but I simply would not miss it for the world. I will be there in the capacity of Park Ranger, doing whatever I can to assist. But I will also be there as a proud citizen of the United States to witness what will surely be an incredible moment.

Friday, January 16, 2009

J.R. Jones & The Doctrine of Chances

Sometimes, you just don't know what to believe.
Take the case of Confederate General John Robert Jones at Antietam, for example. In all of the battle's reports and histories, Jones is listed as wounded in action. It happened early that Wednesday morning. Federal artillery poured a destructive fire into Jones's ranks in the West Woods, and he was apparently among the first to go down. As he recorded in his official report, "It was during this almost unprecedented iron storm that a shell exploded a little above my head, and so stunned and injured me that I was rendered unfit for duty, and retired from the field. . . ." As he was being carried to the rear, Jones turned command of the famed Stonewall Division over General William Starke, who was killed less than half and hour later.
When looking exclusively at the battle, it is hard to question the veracity of Jones's wounding. But when viewed in light of his subsequent battlefield performances, well, eyebrows are undeniably raised. . .
General John Robert Jones, commander of the Stonewall Division at Antietam

Taking a step back, Jones showed all the promise for a distinguished military career. Born in 1828 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the son of Irish immigrants, Jones graduated seventh in his class from VMI in 1848, and held at graduation the distinguished title of captain of cadets. He then pursued a career in education, teaching in Virginia, Maryland (where he helped establish a military school at Urbanna), and finally in Florida. He was in Florida during the Secession Winter, and in early January 1861, under orders from the governor of Florida, he led a militia company in the capture of the Federal arsenal at Apalachiocola. Returning to his native Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, Jones then raised what became Company I, 33rd Virginia Infantry. He advanced to lieutenant colonel, leading the 33rd in the 1862 Valley Campaign. Cited for gallantry at Kernstown, Jones was praised by none of than Stonewall Jackson himself, who later recommended Jones's promotion to brigadier general.
Upon Jackson's recommendation, Jones was promoted to general on June 25, 1862. A week later, he fell wounded at Malvern Hill, a shell fragment striking his knee. A bout of typhoid fever lengthened his recovery, but by the end of the first week of September, he was back with his command. Joining his brigade at Frederick, Jones was immediately bumped up to command of the entire Stonewall Division. It was from this point where Jones's military reputation plummeted. . .
Following Antietam, Jones was relieved in command of the Stonewall Division by the return of Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro, wounded at Second Manassas. At Fredericksburg, Jones was apparently spotted hiding behind a tree; three months later, he was brought up on charges of cowardice. Tried on four counts of misbehavior in front of the enemy, charges that may have included his early retirement from the field at Antietam, Jones was subsequently acquitted and returned to brigade command. Then, at Chancellorsville, Jones again left the field, citing an ulcerated leg. He would never hold another command. Following Chancellorsville, and with his one-time champion Jackson dead, Jones resigned from the army.
So, by taking into account his behavior at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, I have no choice but to question whether the artillery blast at Antietam had, indeed, so stunned Jones that he was forced to leave the field and relinquish command. I want to believe that it had; his previous performance at Kernstown and at Malvern Hill, where he was wounded, was unquestionably heroic. But we can't get around the fact that his subsequent performances left much to be desired. In law, the concept of the Doctrine of Chances states that it is unlikely a defendant would be repeatedly, innocently involved in similar, suspicious circumstances. Normally inadmissible in the court-room, perhaps this doctrine can be invoked in examining Jones's actions at Antietam. If so, then his acquittal in the eyes of history is very difficult.
Sadly, after Jones's resignation from the army in May 1863, he was apparently seen as a disgrace to high-ranking Confederate authorities. He was captured in civilian clothes on July 4 of that year and spent the next two years languishing in a number of prisoner of war camps. There was no effort made to effect his exchange, and Jones spent one of the longest tenures as a prisoner than anyone who fell into enemy hands. He was still in captivity as late as July 1865. From his cell at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, Jones appealed directly to President Johnson and Senator Henry Wilson. "I know that no evil could result to the United States by my immediate release," pleaded Jones, "and I am sure some benefit, for I am prepared to accept fully the result of the sword and to devote myself to peace and to the reorganization of society, with slavery wiped out and in submission to the authority of the United States. I mean to be as good and faithful a citizen of the United States as anyone." Finally, on July 24, 1865, Jones was released.
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The sad story of J.R. Jones perhaps grew even more intriguing after the war. True to his word, he went to great lengths to devote himself "to peace and the reorganization of society." Out of his own pocket, he provided farmers with what was then state-of-the-art agricultural machinery, and he became one of the leading citizens of his hometown of Harrisonburg. His wartime transgressions were seemingly forgiven as he was invited to participate in veterans' rallies and other veterans' activities. He served on the local school board, on the city council, and as a vestryman in his Episcopalian Church.
Yet, despite his best efforts and the turn-around in his reputation, Jones's esteem once again plummeted, at least in the eyes of post-war white Southern society.
In 1873, Malinda Rice, an African-American and former slave, went to work in the home of J.R. Jones and his wife, Sarah. Apparently, Jones and Malinda developed strong affections for one another. In 1875, Malinda gave birth to Mary Magdalene Rice; a son, Willie, followed three years later. The father of both of these children was John Robert Jones. Jones would also father two more children with another African-American woman following the deaths of both his first wife Sarah and Malinda.
What made Jones so detestable to white society was the fact that he did not shun nor deny his black children. He, in fact, was quite proud of them. He paid for their educations, even sending Mary to Hartshorn Memorial College in Richmond. He taught them all how to read and write, and even took them to places where no blacks were allowed to go. Following his death in 1901, he left his entire estate to his black sons.
John R. Jones was devoted to his children, which was simply unforgivable to post-war white society. His former comrades-in-arms were willing to forgive his implied cowardice on the battlefield, but not the fact that he cared so deeply about his illegitimate black children. To them, it was an outrage, a scandal that was viewed as a disgrace to the white community.
Such ignorance and contempt toward Jones was made all too clear by former Confederate officer, T.L. Williamson, like Jones a native of Harrisonburg and a former member of the Stonewall Brigade. In the early twentieth century a historian was seeking to compile a biographical roster of the Confederacy's wartime heroes. He sent a letter addressed to J.R. Jones in Harrisonburg, by this time deceased, inquiring of his service record. Williamson opened the letter, and penned a reply:
"General Jones is dead, and peace to his ashes, for they were not very clean. You would be well to drop his name from the list of Honorable men, if such is your roster when complete. . . .His subsequent life was a great disgrace to him and this community. I could write more but I think enough has been said. Draw a line through his name and be sure to have it Black!" [Emphasis in original].
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The story of Jones's first African-American child Mary, who went on to become a leader in the Civil Rights movement of the twentieth century, was written by her granddaughter Carrie Allen McCray, and published in 1998 under the title Freedom's Child. It is an excellent book, which speaks directly to a largely overlooked aspect of post-Civil War southern society.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let Me Direct Your Attention. . .

. . .to a brand new Civil War blog, launced by friend and Antietam Battlefield Guide Jim Rosebrock. Jim is a lifelong student of military history, with a particular interest in the study of the Battle of Antietam. And, like myself, Jim has an especially strong interest in Civil War biographies. Since I first met Jim last year, we have had many a lengthy and in depth discussion about the minutae of Antietam and of those figures lost in the historical shadows.
I have posted a link to Jim's blog under my links list. You would do well to make his site a regular stop on your sojourns through the Civil War blogosphere.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Soldiers of the 48th: Captain Daniel B. Kaufmann

Daniel B. Kaufmann was among the ten officers chosen by Colonel James Nagle in the summer of 1861 to help recruit volunteers to serve in what would become the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. A resident of Port Clinton, Kaufmann had served under Nagle during the first three months of the war, as captain of the Port Clinton Artillery in Nagle's 6th PA Infantry. When the call thus went out again for volunteers, this time to serve for three years, Kaufmann had little difficulty in getting his artillerists (converted to infantry) to re-enlist. Additional recruits came from the townships of southern Schuylkill County, near the Berks County line, as well as Tamaqua. Most of his volunteers were canal laborers or boatman on the Schuylkill Canal; Kaufmann was himself a dispatcher. Mustered into service of Company A, 48th PA, on September 17, 1861, Kaufmann was then 29 years old, stood 5'9" in height, had a dark complexion, gray eyes, and black hair.
Captain Kaufmann faithfully led his company throughout the war's first three years, emerging unhurt from the various campaigns and battles. Then, on August 1, 1864, Captain Kaufmann was dismissed from service.
I cannot recall the circumstances that led to Kaufmann's dismissal, though I do know that that information is available at the Pennsylvania State Archives. I am thinking it may have had something to do with the fiasco at the Crater, since his dismissal came just two days after the explosion of the mine. I am not sure, however, so when next in Harrisburg, I will be sure to look it up.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scenes From An Ice Covered Gettysburg. . .

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We did not get all that was called for, nor was it enough to cause anything more than a two-hour delay for all the local schools, but the ice storm that hit Gettysburg last night sure left some wondrous winter scenes in its wake.

Here are just a few shots of how Old Man Winter decorated Culp's Hill and Stevens's Knoll. . .

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ezra Carman, Stonewall Jackson, and an Interesting Allegation. . .

To any serious student of the battle of Antietam, the name Ezra A. Carman is well-familiar. During the war, Carman was an officer of much distinction, and by war's end, he had received two wounds and held the rank of brigadier general by brevet. At Antietam, Carman commanded the 13th New Jersey Infantry. Yet, his wartime service aside, perhaps his greatest contribution came well after the guns fell silent. Carman had a special interest in the battle of Antietam; indeed, one can say he was almost obsessed with it. As such, he became one of the battle's earliest--and most thorough--historians. In the 1890s, he was appointed a member of the Antietam Board and through his tireless and highly detailed research, Carman developed a series of fourteen maps that tracked troop movements on an hourly basis throughout the day-long battle. His contributions extended far beyond these maps, however. He helped to write the text for the 300+ iron War Department tablets that still help guide visitors to the Antietam National Battlefield, and his famed manuscript (edited by Joseph Pierro and published for the first time just last year by Routledge Press) is regarded by many as the most thorough, most detailed, and overall best account of the battle.
Brevet Brigadier General Ezra A. Carman

To help guide his efforts and shape the narrative of the battle, Carman corresponded with hundreds of veterans who wore both the Blue and the Gray at Antietam. He asked them to describe the location of their particular units, whether at the regimental, brigade, or divisional level, and to relate their experiences of the battle. The correspondence between Carman and the hundreds of veterans who replied to his inquiries constitute a genuine gold mine of information for anyone wishing to learn all the minute details of Antietam.
Earlier this week, I was searching through the boxes of Carman-related letters at the Park Library. Historian Tom Clemens very generously donated copies of these letters to the park. (The originals are contained at the Library of Congress and National Archives).
While searching for any and all information on the movements and actions of the Stonewall Division at Antietam, as well as for any biographical information on such obscure officers as James W. Jackson, Archer Page, John Penn, and A.J. Grigsby, I happened upon a rather interesting note, penned in Carman's own distinctive hand, that immediately grabbed my attention.
Below is a transcription of this eye-opening note, followed by a scan of the letter itself:
"Stonewall Jackson was not a youthful saint; he was fond of horse races and had his full share of the hot blood and indiscretions of youth. It is known and not denied by those [ineligible word] with the fact that he was the father of an illegitimate child. Maj. Jed Hotchkiss (May 14, 1895) informed me that this was well known to Jackson's military family among whom the matter was frequently discussed. When a cadet at West Point and on a visit to his home he seduced a young girl at or near Beverly and the result was a child, which Jackson acknowledged and to which he frequently made presents and sent money. The late Asher Harmon also confirmed this and had known of the fact before the war. Dr. Dabney, when hunting materials for his life of Jackson, was horrified to learn of this fact and utterly refused to believe it."

The content of this little note is nowhere mentioned in Carman's manuscript. Nor is there much mention made of this rather scandalous claim in the vast annals of Jackson historiography. The venerable Robert K. Krick made reference to it in his article "Stonewall Jackson’s Deadly Calm: Coming to Terms with the Most Compelling and Mysterious Civil War Hero,” which appeared in the December 1996 issue of American Heritage. "During his youth Jackson’s irregular upbringing had included more horse racing than piety," wrote Krick, and, he continued, "A story about his siring an illegitimate child is unsubstantiatable and probably inaccurate, but its acceptance by some of Jackson’s Confederate staff suggests their awareness of a past completely alien to the rigidly decorous adult." Historian James Robertson in his tome Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend, also made passing reference to this claim. As Robertson noted, a Dr. William Bland of Weston, Lewis County, [West] Virginia, alleged in 1863 that during Jackson's ten-month tenure as constable of Lewis County some twenty years earlier he "became wild. . . .[and was] said to have had an illegitimate child (by a Miss Brown), still living as Miss Racer & now reputable." [Robertson, 20]. Like Krick, Robertson, too, dismissed the allegation, writing that, "No corroborating evidence of any kind has ever surfaced in support of Bland's assertion." [794, n.71].

Because of that lack of "corroborating evidence," I will also have to dismiss this allegation as untrue as well, unless and until something else does 'surface.'

Still, it is interesting that Ezra Carman, the noted authority on Antietam and a faithful historian, felt the need to write this claim down. Perhaps he was so surprised to learn of it that he just had to write it down. (Just as I was so surprised to learn of it that I just had to compose this post).

The allegation does not appear anywhere in Carman's manuscript, but it is apparent that he, at least, accepted it as the truth, trusting upon the authority of the statements made to him by none other than Jackson's former staff officers, including the famed mapmaker, Jed Hotchkiss.

Yet, if it is untrue, then the question thus must become why Jackson's own staffers not only believed it but went so far as to write of it in their post-war correspondence with Ezra Carman. Because they knew Jackson as nothing other than a strict, rigid disciplinarian and a man so pious and morally-exacting, the allegations of him fathering an illegitimate child has the ring of a so-called "urban legend" to it. A legend Jackson's officers whispered to one another around the campfire; a myth, perhaps, that grew more fantastic in each telling.

But, who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they were telling the truth. They themselves must have believed it; they wouldn't have told Carman if they hadn't.

Regardless of its veracity, this whole allegation has nothing whatsoever to do with Jackson's role and that of his division at Antietam, and that is what I set to discover when I first cracked open those Ezra Carman boxes at the library. . .time for me to get back on track.

A Youthful Thomas Jonathan Jackson

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lee, McClellan Declare Armistice/Demand An End To Hostilities: Or, How The War COULD Have Ended After Antietam. . .

"If only McClellan had followed up his victory and destroyed Lee's Army, the war would have ended in September 1862."

Or so goes one of the most persistent beliefs that has increasingly gained currency regarding the day-long bloodletting along the banks of the Antietam Creek. While such a thought totally neglects the fact that the Civil War extended far beyond the Eastern Theatre and involved more armies than just the AoP and ANV, yet, the idea that the nation could have avoided three more years of bloodshed had Little Mac been more aggressive still has a good number of adherents and its true believers, mostly among the McClellan-bashers. Indeed, the belief still ranks among the most common statements I overhear while working at the Park.

True, McClellan's forces may have had a great opportunity to inflict a crippling, perhaps fatal blow to Lee's severely thinned Army of Northern Virginia had they attacked on September 18. But the notion that the entire conflict could have been brought to a close had they done so is, in a word, nonsensical.

In his August 1863 Official Report on the battle, McClellan went to great lengths to explain why he did not renew the attack:

"Whether to renew the attack on the 18th or to defer it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was the question before me.
After a night of anxious deliberation, and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy. I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that under ordinary circumstances a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success. At that moment--Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded--the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. One battle lost and almost all would have been lost. Lee's army might then have marched, as it pleased, on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have levied its supplies from a fertile and undevastated country, extorted tribute from wealthy and populous cities, and nowhere east of the Alleghanies was there another organized force able to arrest its march.
The following are among the considerations which led me to doubt the certainty of success in attacking before the 19th:
The troops were greatly overcome by the fatigue and exhaustion attendant upon the long-continued and severely contested battle of the 17th, together with the long day and night marches to which they had been subjected during the previous three days. The supply trains were in the rear, and many of the troops had suffered from hunger. They required rest and refreshment."

And so it was that Lee slipped away with his shattered command on the night of September 18. By the following morning, his army had reached the safe soil of Virginia.

I discovered this morning, however, that McClellan did, indeed, have a scheme for bringing about the cessation of hostilities, at least according to General James Longstreet. . .

I spent most of the morning at the park's library, searching through the archives for information on the elusive Confederate Captain John Penn and the actions of the Stonewall Division during the opening hours of the battle of Antietam when I came across a rather interesting letter, published originally in the Baltimore Sun in January 1904 and reprinted in the Southern Historical Society Papers (Vol. 31, pgs. 45-47). The letter was written by a fellow named Benjamin Keiley, the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, who presumably had much interaction with General James Longstreet in the post-war years. If the content of Mr. Keiley's letter is to be believed, then George McClellan did, indeed, attempt to end the war after Antietam, not by leading his army in an epic assault against Lee, but rather by meeting with his opponent, and jointly demanding of Lincoln and Davis an end to the conflict and the restoration of peace.

That McClellan ever truly envisioned such a step and even went so far as to contact Lee about the possibility of carrying it out is very, and I mean very, hard to believe. Yet it is one of those things that many, again especially the McClellan-bashers, would accept at face value and repeat as gospel.
According to Mr. Keiley,
"General Longstreet told me more than once that immediately after the battle at Sharpsburg, or Antietam, while he was in General Lee's tent, the General handed him a letter which he had just received from General McClellan, the commander of the Federal armies. General Lee gave General Longstreet a copy of the letter and asked him to give it his serious attention, and on the following morning advise him (General Lee) what he ought to do in the matter. The letter from General McClellan proposed an interview between himself and General Lee. General Longstreet said to me: 'I told General Lee that in my judgment there was no other construction to be placed on it save one, and that was the General McClellan wanted to end the war then and there.'
"General Lee said, 'That idea occurs to me also, but President Davis, and not General Lee, is the one to whom such a message must be sent.'
"General Longstreet took the letter to his own quarters, where he found General T.R.R. Cobb, of this State. He gave it to General Cobb, pledging him to observe secrecy with regard to it, but not saying a word as to the construction he placed on it.
"After reading the letter attentively General Cobb said there was no doubt in his mind that General McClellan wanted General Lee to help in the restoration of the Union by marching into Washington with the combined forces. General Longstreet told me of the circumstances more than once, and always added that he thoroughly coincided with General Cobb's views, but that General Lee, for the reason stated, declined to meet General McClellan.
"The copy which General Lee gave General Longstreet was sent, after the war, to Colonel Marshall. I tried to get it from Colonel Marshall, who told me he had mislaid it and could never find it. I do not know, of course, what became of the original letter.
"I forgot to say that General Longstreet strongly advised General Lee to meet General McClellan in order that he might know definitively what McClellan wanted."

Post-War Image of Longstreet. . .spinner of yarns?

Hmmmm. . . .
Admittedly, I do not know much at all about Benjamin Keiley, but it seems highly unlikely that he would have wholly fabricated such a story out of the blue. That Longstreet, in his advancing years would have told such a story, however, has a ring of truth to it. Yet nowhere else does this supposed letter from McClellan appear in the historical record; at least nowhere I am aware of, not even in Longstreet's memoirs, From Manassas to Appomattox. By 1904, McClellan and Lee were both long dead, and so, too, was T.R.R. Cobb, killed in action at Fredericksburg, three months after Antietam. Interestingly enough, Keiley composed the letter on January 3, 1904. . .the very day after Longstreet passed away. And, naturally, the original letter and its copy had, by 1904, disappeared, the latter being misplaced by Colonel Marshall, one of Lee's staff officers.
It is likely that Longstreet was spinning some fantastic yarns meant to cast himself in the best light imaginable. His reputation had been destroyed following the war and he had become, unjustly, the scapegoat for the Confederacy's defeat. So here he was telling Keiley how he had urged Lee to meet with McClellan and perhaps broker a peace, which would have most certainly been on terms favorable to the South. The statement that Lee handed Longstreet a copy and sought his counsel also lacks credulity. It seems as if Longstreet was going to great lengths to show that the Marble Man sought his advice and relied upon it, more so than, say, Stonewall Jackson.
In writing this letter, Mr. Keiley, a loyal friend to the very end, may have very well been trying to resurrect Longstreet's tarnished image. Its implication was that had Lee just listened to Longstreet, things might have turned out far more favorably to the South.
Does that sound familiar?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking Ahead To 2009

A New Year is upon us and with it comes all the hopes and wishes for brighter days ahead. It is at this time that most of us resolve to make some changes or to do things a little differently. That feeling of the proverbial clean slate is noticeable, which helps motivate us to make a promise to ourselves to work a little harder and go that extra mile, so to speak. By doing so, we can hopefully achieve some of those old goals, and perhaps some new ones, so that by this time next year, we will be able to cross off some of those things on our lives' to-do lists. Whatever it is you hope to accomplish, now is the ideal time to chart the course ahead.

In a few weeks, America's forty-fourth president will take the Oath of Office, while on February 12, we will commemorate the 200th birthday of our sixteenth Chief Executive. 2009 will also witness the 145th Anniversary of all the significant Civil War events that occurred in 1864, such as the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, as well as the fall of Atlanta, the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, and the destruction of the Confederate Army of Tennessee following the bloodletting at Franklin and Nashville.
And, of course, 2009 will see the 145th Anniversary of the 48th Pennsylvania's tunneling of the Petersburg Mine and the resulting disaster at the battle of the Crater.

As we commemorate the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial and move closer to the Civil War's sesquicentennial, now only two years away, there promises to be many excellent works published. A few of the titles to which I am looking forward, and which will hit the shelves within the next six months include:

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In The Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat,
by Earl Hess (University of North Carolina Press, June 2009)

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A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War,
by Daniel E. Sutherland (University of North Carolina Press, June 2009)
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William Francis Bartlett: Biography of a Union General in the Civil War,
by Richard A. Sauers and Martin H. Sable (McFarland, 2009)

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The Civil War in the East: A Strategic Assessment,
by Brooks Simpson (Greenwood Publishing Group, June 2009)

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Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas,
by Benson Bobrick (Simon & Schuster, February 2009)
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Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane,
by Bryce Benedict (University of Oklahoma Press, April 2009)

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Sickles At Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg,
by James Hessler (Savas-Beatie, May 2009)

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John Brown's War Against Slavery,
by Robert McGlone (Cambridge University Press, April 2009)

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No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater,
by Richard Slotkin (Random House, July 2009)

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Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren,
by Eric J. Wittenberg (Edinborough Press, June 2009)

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The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of the Most Reviled American President,
by Larry Tagg (Savas-Beatie, May 2009)

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The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and Other Topics of Historical Interest,
by J. David Petruzzi (Savas-Beatie, May 2009)

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Here's to 2009, and my best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!