Friday, October 07, 2016

Forthcoming: Military Intelligence During the Gettysburg Campaign: Confederate Failures, Federal Successes

Much Embarrassed: American Civil War Intelligence and the Gettysburg Campaign, George Donne, Helion and Company, 172 pages, 4 maps, 50 b/w illustrations, 3 color illustrations, $49.95.

From the Publisher:  Before the first shots were fired at Gettysburg - for many, the most significant engagement of the American Civil War - a private battle had been raging for weeks. As the Confederate Army marched into Union territory, the Federal Forces desperately sought to hunt them down before they struck at any of the great cities of the North. Whoever could secure accurate information on their opponent would have a decisive advantage once the fighting started.

When the two armies finally met on the morning of 1 July 1863 their understanding of the prevailing situation could not have been more different. While the Rebel Third Corps was expecting to brush away a group of local militia guarding the town, the Federal I Corps was preparing itself for a major battle. For three brutal days, the Rebel Army smashed at the Union troops, without success. The illustrious Confederate General Robert E. Lee would lose a third of his army and the tide of the rebellion would begin its retreat. Robert Lee himself would begin the argument on the contribution of military intelligence to his defeat by seeking to blame his cavalry.

Generations of historians would debate into what factors played a decisive role, but no one has sought to explore the root of how the most able General of his era could have left himself so vulnerable at the climax of such a vital operation.  Much Embarrassed investigates how the Confederate and Union military intelligence systems had been sculpted by the preceding events of the war and how this led to the final outcome of the Gettysburg Campaign. While the success of the Confederate strategy nurtured a fundamental flaw in their appreciation of intelligence, recurrent defeat led the Federal Army to develop one of the most advanced intelligence structures in history. Lee was right to highlight the importance of military intelligence to his failure at Gettysburg, but he would never appreciate that the seeds of his defeat had been sown long before.

 George Donne was born in Guildford, Surrey and was educated at the Royal Grammar School before completing a Batchelor of Arts in Classics at the University of Durham.

CWL: Much Embarrassed is from a UK publisher.   Helion & Company has it ready to ship from the UK. Casemate Publishing, a US distributor of Helion & Company books states that copies will ship in November. lists a December release date.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

New and Noteworthy--- The Savage Civil War: A Military History

A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War, Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh Princeton University Press; 616 pages; maps, $35.

Brief: Combines scholarly and military perspectives in a study that emphasizes the distinct martial cultures of North and South, and the conflict's role in the rise of modern warfare.

From the Publisher: 
The Civil War represented a momentous change in the character of war. It combined the projection of military might across a continent on a scale never before seen with an unprecedented mass mobilization of peoples. Yet despite the revolutionizing aspects of the Civil War, its leaders faced the same uncertainties and vagaries of chance that have vexed combatants since the days of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. A Savage War sheds critical new light on this defining chapter in military history.

In a masterful narrative that propels readers from the first shots fired at Fort Sumter to the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox, Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh bring every aspect of the battlefield vividly to life. They show how this new way of waging war was made possible by the powerful historical forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, yet how the war was far from being simply a story of the triumph of superior machines. Despite the Union’s material superiority, a Union victory remained in doubt for most of the war. Murray and Hsieh paint indelible portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and other major figures whose leadership, judgment, and personal character played such decisive roles in the fate of a nation. They also examine how the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the other major armies developed entirely different cultures that influenced the war’s outcome.

A military history of breathtaking sweep and scope, A Savage War reveals how the Civil War ushered in the age of modern warfare.

Williamson Murray is professor emeritus of history at Ohio State University. His many books include The Iran-Iraq War.  
Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh is associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of West Pointers and the Civil War. They both live in Fairfax, Virginia.

"[An] outstanding account of the American Civil War. . . . This expertly written narrative will draw in anyone with an interest in the Civil War at any knowledge level."--Library Journal, starred review

"A genuinely fresh, persuasive perspective on the Civil War. . . . [A Savage War] will make even readers with a strong knowledge of the war think about how it was fought and why it ended as it did. A winner for Civil War history buffs."--Kirkus, starred review

"[A] very important new history of the American Civil War by two important historians."--Newt Gingrich

"[A] new and interesting military history of the American Civil War."--Francis P. Sempa, New York Journal of Books

"The best, clearest, and most instructive military history of the Civil War I have ever read. . . . [A Savage War] hit a home run."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"If you think that there is nothing new to write about the Civil War, this book will prove you wrong."--H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

"More than just another narrative of the Civil War, this thoughtful and often provocative book is an engaging analysis of the leadership, personalities, and strategies of both sides during America’s great nineteenth-century trauma."--Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and His Admirals

"A Savage War is not just a riveting military narrative of the American Civil War written by two military historians with singular pragmatic experience, but a rare and much needed strategic assessment of the aims and methods of the Union and the Confederacy--highlighted with incisive, blunt--and persuasive-- appraisals of all the major generals and supreme commanders."--Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture and The Savior Generals

Table of Contents:  List of Maps ix, Preface xi, Introduction 1
1 The Origins
2 The War’s Strategic Framework
3 “And the War Came”
4 First Battles and the Making of Armies
5 Stillborn between Earth and Water: The Unfulfilled Promise of Joint Operations
6 The Confederacy Recovers, 1862
7 The Confederate Counter-Offensives, 1862
8 The War in the East, 1863
9 The War in the West, 1863
10 The Killing Time: The War in the East, 1864
11 Victory in the West, 1864
12 The Collapse of the Confederacy
13 The Civil War in History
Acknowledgments , Notes , Further Reading, Index

Text Source: Princeton University Press

Saturday, September 10, 2016

In The News: Looking at the Secession Winter, Looking at Lincoln's Writs, Looking at an Hermaphrodite

Civil War History, Volumn 62, No. 3  September 2016, published by Kent State University

Civil War History is the oldest continuously in print scholarly journal  which is focused on the American Civil War. In issue 62:3  you will find:

Did the Tug Have to Come?  A Critique of the New Revisionism of the Secession Winter   by: James L. Huston
Several historians have made the case that the actions of Abraham Lincoln and antislavery Republicans brought on the Civil War because of a refusal to compromise on the issue of slavery’s expansion.  This interpretation has questionable foundations.  The new revisionists do not consider the problems surrounding the act of separate state secession; southerners had a multitude of warnings that northerners did not accept secession without the consent of the other states.  The revisionists claim that a compromise in 1860-1861 could have avoided the loss of four border slave states to the Cotton Confederacy, but fail to acknowledge that the same conditions that produced secession then could have produced secession later.  The new revisionists also maintain that Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had no recourse but to fire on Fort Sumter when Lincoln attempted provisioning; they omit the other options that the Confederate leaders did not even consider.  Finally, the new revisionists have an over-reliance on contingency and fail to weigh the forces bringing about separation and war.

Public Necessity or Military Convenience?  Reevaluating Lincoln’s Suspensions of the Writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War   by: Robert O. Faith
Few historians have explored subsequent habeas cases during the crucial period leading up to the Habeas Corpus Act of 1863, in which Congress finally sanctioned Lincoln’s earlier suspensions of habeas corpus nearly two years after his initial suspension, of April 27, 1861.  This article uses other high-profile cases to reveal a pattern in which military arrests under Lincoln occurred as a matter of routine military convenience rather than public necessity.  All of these cases involved the interference of at least one member of the Lincoln administration in areas often far removed form the battlefield, prompting observers in both the United States and England, as well as modern historians, to question the necessity of certain military arrests and consider the practical consequences of executive suspension on civil liberties during the nation’s greatest trial.

A Civil War Hermaphrodite   by:  Jonathan W. White
This primary source exploration pertains to the life of Ellen/Edgar Burnham, a striking northern woman who transitioned to a male identity in the midst of the Civil War.  Through an examination of a letter in the records of the Adjutant General’s Office, combined with a deeper research into various newspapers, White sheds light on a story widely reported in the newspapers but absent in the larger scope of the cultural history of the Civil War.

along with book reviews of the newest offering by James B. McPherson, and recent works on William T Sherman, Southern civilian women in the path of Sherman's armies, the military campaigns of April 1865, Union veterans, the natural environment during the Civil War and other topics.

Web Source: Civil War Journal ,  Kent State University

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

News---Masterpiece: The Intimacy of a Sharpshooter On Picket Duty

We are in the tree with the soldier, complicit with the violence that is about to occur.Masterpiece: Aiming for Intimacy---In Winslow Homer’s ‘The Army of the Potomac—A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty,’ the artist, as newsman, makes us silent witnesses, Brian Allem, The Wall Street Journal, April 9-10, 2016, Section C, page 20,

We are in the tree with the soldier, complicit with the violence that is about to occur. Photo: Davis Museum at Wellesley College / Art Resource, NY.                                                                     Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was one of America’s great painters but also a great illustrator. “The Army of the Potomac—A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty” appeared on the cover of Harper’s Weekly on Nov. 15, 1862, as part of a series of illustrations depicting the everyday lives of Union soldiers. Homer was only 26 years old, without formal training, moving from Boston jobs illustrating local magazines, sheet music and business ads to a career in New York supplying art to America’s leading news and lifestyle magazine. magazine.                                                                                         Known by its abbreviated title, “The Sharpshooter” is a work of masterly economy, conveying a moment of ruthlessness and randomness. It has little if any precedent in American art. It brilliantly aligns message—someone is about to kill and someone is about to die—and medium, a publication whose storytelling needs to grip the reader quickly and tightly.                                                  Mid-19th-century newspapers and magazines almost never used color illustrations. The technology was too primitive, leaving artists like Homer the task of orchestrating images and story lines using lights, darks and half tones. Homer worked for 20 years as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. By the early 1870s, he was one of the country’s most famous illustrators. Until then, his career as a painter was sporadic. As an illustrator before periodicals showed photographs, Homer was a precursor to the great newspaper photographers or the cameramen who accompany television or Internet reporters. He was a newsman. Much of Homer’s work portrays events occurring in an instant—a gust of wind, say, unsettling big things like land or sea, or small things like a lady’s dress on a stormy day. In the case of our sharpshooter, we see the moment he is about to pull the trigger.
Sharpshooters were uncommon in America until the Civil War, when they became useful but reviled in both the Union and Confederate armies. Sharpshooters drained the valor from war. Often hidden in trees, they stalked their victims and reduced them to hunted animals. With sharpshooters in the neighborhood, no one felt safe. When captured, they were usually treated as murderers and immediately executed.
Homer zooms in telescope-style, eliminating clutter to give us just the facts. His sharpshooter is big, his foot sticking in our space. We are in the tree with him—uncomfortably complicit and silent witnesses. Diagonals lead from the sharpshooter’s feet, up his legs and arms, to his hand. We can get there quickly, as it’s the whitest, brightest passage. Graphically, the hand’s simple palette and contours focus us, as does the sharpshooter’s bright, beady eye. The image is about killing but also about looking, finding and stalking. To emphasize the point, the canteen hanging near the soldier suggests a target.
The Civil War figured hugely in American illustration, much of it concerning battlefield heroics, deathbed scenes, the romance of separated lovers, or homecomings. Homer’s Civil War work treats different subjects: the indiscriminate violence of war, the confusion of battle, and the boredom of camp life.
In 1863, Homer finished a small painted version, now owned by the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, that closely follows the Harper’s illustration. Its jewel-box size suggests a preciousness that seems at variance with the violence at hand, yet its scale promotes a sense of intimacy. The subject works better in black and white and on the printed page. Paint and color soften the narrative. To convey ruthlessness, a simple palette and the graphic line work best.
“The Sharpshooter” likely began as a drawing and was then produced as a wood engraving suitable to mechanical mass-production. Since the print was so widely produced, most museums own it. It is often displayed in Civil War anniversary shows. And, as the 2014 film “American Sniper” demonstrates, this particular practice of war still exists and still fascinates.
Death often appears in Homer’s work. In the dramatic rescue pictures from the mid-1880s, where women are pulled from the sea, we don’t know whether they are dead or alive. Homer’s hunting scenes from the 1880s and 1890s are about stalking.
One of Homer’s last pictures is “Right and Left” (1909), in the National Gallery. Two ducks fly above the ocean. The blast and smoke from a faraway hunter’s gun signal the moment when one bird has just died, its neck collapsed as it plummets toward the water. The other convulses, its eye wide as a plate. It’s the moment of death. “The Sharpshooter” and “Right and Left”—almost 50 years apart—are as condensed, as moving, and as powerful as the best of news stories.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

News---Left Handed Penmanship Contests for Civil War Amputees

How Left-Handed Penmanship Contests Tried To Help Civil War Vets After Amputation, Robert Davis,, August 3, 2016
This eight-page handwritten letter by Private Franklin H. Durrah describes his service as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War, which ended with the loss of his right arm. The letter’s neat cursive—and the story it tells—is part of a collection of entries into left-handed penmanship contests for disabled veterans, recently digitized by the Library of Congress.  The William Oland Bourne Papers holds nearly 300 letters, photographs, and various recollections, offering an unprecedented look at the stories of heavily wounded soldiers.

Bourne, a chaplain at New York’s Central Park Hospital, used his newspaper The Soldier’s Friend to conduct a penmanship contest for veterans who had lost their right (writing) arm in the Civil War. Bourne offered prize money for the best writing ($1,000 total for the 1866 competition); he hoped that showcasing the winner’s penmanship despite their disability would lead to their future employment. “Penmanship,” The Soldier’s Friend wrote, “is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment.” To enter, contestants were asked to write a letter using their left hand that detailed their service and injury, and, if possible, include a photograph. All told, the collection holds entries for two years of Bourne’s contests, which provide a rare soldier’s-eye-view of combat and recovery.

In his letter, Durrah, who enlisted at the age of 18 in 1861, paints a particularly grim picture of Army life. Picturesque anecdotes such as finding—and hunting—a stray pig in the Virginia wilderness or encountering abandoned Confederate barricades are outweighed by unsettling experiences, such as the Army setting fire to a “woods” during a night retreat or finding a “negro pen” by a Virginia court house. While Durrah remembers having been eager for action, he complains that many aspects of Army life were “not agreeable.” Long marches in poor weather and bivouacs in muddy fields were sometimes interrupted by intense combat before resuming again, with little rest in between.
Durrah recounts that the troops suddenly heard musket fire on a late May morning in 1862 and then got into battle formation in what became known as the Battle of Seven Pines.  Eight hours later, a musket ball entered Durrah’s right arm at the elbow and traveled straight through the bone to the shoulder, where it exited. Afterwards, he plainly states, he “walked about a mile to the rear of the battlefield, and there my arm was amputated.”

Some contestants adjusted to society well.  Sgt. Seth Sutherland  (the contest’s first entrant) was elected to two terms as a county auditor in Ohio, where he seems to have earned a great deal of respect, despite what he refers to as almost constant inquiries about his missing arm. Durrah was not so lucky. Although $200 richer from the contest, he was declared insane and eventually committed to an asylum, for an affliction that most likely was what we would not call post-traumatic stress disorder.

Text and Image Source: August 2, 2016
Image's Original Source: Library of Congress

Friday, July 15, 2016

New and Noteworthy--At Gettysburg Was Barksdale's Charge The Real High Water Mark of the Confederacy?

Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Phillip Thomas Tucker, Casemate Publishi8ng, 2013. Pp. 313.
Review by CiarĂ¡n Dean-Jones For Michigan War Studies Review, July 1, 2016.
Portions of Dean-Jones review:
....In Barksdale’s Charge, Phillip Tucker (PhD, St. Louis Univ.), a former historian for the US Air Force, reexamines the Battle of Gettysburg (1–3 July 1863). Southern mythology has traditionally given Gen. George Pickett’s Charge (3 July) pride of place in its remembrance of the pivotal battle of the Civil War. Tucker offers a different view:
In truth, Gettysburg was decided not on the famous third day of the battle, but on the previous after-noon…. [T]he charge of General William Barksdale and his 1,600-man Mississippi Brigade … came closer to toppling the Army of the Potomac than any other Rebel offensive effort of the war…. [I]n one of the great inequities of American history, Barksdale’s Charge has long remained in the shadow of “Pickett’s Charge,” thanks largely to the dominance of the Virginia School of history. (1, 3)
 Tucker indicts Longstreet and Lee for not supporting Barksdale’s troops. “Longstreet, who had never wanted to launch the tactical offensive this afternoon, was not only more pessimistic but out-right defeatist. He ordered no troops to follow up behind Barksdale” (176). Lee’s overconfidence in his corps commanders compounded the problem, since he “failed to closely supervise and manage the offensive effort, especially in supporting Barksdale’s dramatic breakthrough…. Lee possessed no strategic reserve to follow-up [sic] on Barksdale’s success, or any other that might be achieved that day” (176). By contrast, Meade and his artillery chief Henry Hunt made good use of their reserves during the Second Corps’ retreat up Cemetery Ridge. “Unfortunately for the Mississippi Brigade, the Army of the Potomac … benefited from the availability of a powerful artillery reserve, unlike Lee’s Army, which had made the fatal error of abolishing its artillery reserve corps just before invading the North” (213).
Barksdale’s Charge tells a tale of immense valor at the brigade level frustrated by the ill-coordinated tactical decisions of division and corps commanders: “while the army’s commander and his top lieutenant had been badly outgeneraled on July 2, the Mississippi Brigade had not been out-fought by any unit on either side” (244). Hood wrote after the war, “Thus it was that the 21st Mississippi Regiment bore the Stars and Bars to the very farthest point reached in the enemy’s line on the bloody field of Gettysburg” (243). Meade wrote in his after-battle report that “Sickles’ unauthorized advance to the Peach Orchard was ‘an error which nearly proved fatal in the battle’” (259). Phillip Tucker has demonstrated in detail the truth of these judgments.
The entire book review is at:   Michigan War Studies Review, July 1, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

News---Gettysburg NPS Begins Rehabilitation On Ziegler's Grove, Ziegler's Ravine and Re-Construction Hancock Avenue Gates

The 1923 Hancock Avenue gateway at Taneytown Road, then and now

Rehabbing Cemetery Ridge, The Fields of Gettysburg Weblog, May 21, 2015

Construction is beginning in mid-July 2016 on $1.5 million dollar project to rehabilitate Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg National Military Park.  The nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation  will provide a grant of $900,000 to match National Park Service funding of $600,000 for this stewardship project.  

Then and Now: The 1923 Hancock Avenue gateway at Taneytown Road
This photo was taken on May 20, 2015 at the site of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road.  The footing of the old stone gate is clearly visible today. The Hancock Avenue entrance gates that were built in 1923 will be rebuilt .  There were earlier gates of different designs.  In 1882, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association created an opening in the stone wall on the west side of Taneytown Road for access to Hancock Avenue.  The first version, in 1889, was a wood and wire gate.  A later version, in 1896, included iron fencing (see photo) from the original fence that had surrounded Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C. – the same iron fencing that now forms the boundary between Evergreen Cemetery and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. The park’s monument specialists have the majority of the historic stones need to rebuild the 1923 gateway. The 1896 version of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road used pieces of the old Lafayette Square fence from Washington, D.C. which is closely associated with Daniel Sickles.

The 1896 version of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road used pieces of the old Lafayette Square fence from Washington D.C.Ziegler’s Grove and Ziegler's Ravine

During Pickett’s Charge, the left flank of General Pettigrew’s division engaged Union forces in Ziegler’s Grove.  Because Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery was located in Ziegler’s Grove it was heavily shelled during the pre-assault bombardment, inflicting numerous casualties on the battery’s infantry support, the 108th New York, and other nearby infantry units. This project will allow us to replant the missing portion of Ziegler’s Grove.  We plan to plant approximately 125 trees including Black Cherry, Shagbark Hickory, Black Gum, White Oak, Red Oak, Tulip Poplar and Honey Locust.

Documentation for reestablishing this ravine comes from a number of sources, including a grading plan in the National Park Service files showing the area before the Cyclorama building parking lot was developed. In addition, archaeology helped establish the exact location of a portion of the original Hancock Avenue during testing completed by the park when we replaced a water line extension in 2006.

Looking toward the the National Cemetery along the old commemorative walkway, this shows the dip known as Ziegler's Ravine.  Hancock Avenue cuts across the far side of the ravine.  The 88th Pa. Marker, in its original location is on the left.Looking toward the National Cemetery along the old commemorative walkway, the photograph shows the dip known as Ziegler's Ravine.  Hancock Avenue cuts across the far side of the ravine. The 88th Pennsylvania Marker, in its original location, is on the left.  The profile of Ziegler's Ravine will be especially noticeable to those driving on Hancock Avenue as the road will proceed down a dramatic dip and then come back up for an approximately six foot change in elevation. The NPS will also rebuild some stone walls near Hancock Avenue and along commemorative walkway that was surfaced with crushed stone.

This posted has been edited from the Text Source: From The Fields of Gettysburg