Friday, August 18, 2006
"The Hour Was One of Horror: East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg," Archer, John M., 100 pp., b/w photographs, maps, appendix, endnotes, index, 1997, $10.00
About half of the East Cemetery Hill battlefield has been lost to development; a watertower, a high school and middle school, and a tour bus center may obscure a casual visitor's comprehension of this portion of the battle. "The Hour Was One of Horror: East Cemetery Hill At Gettysburg" by John Archer is essential in putting the strategic and tactical puzzle together when touring this part of the battlefield. When thinking of East Cemetery Hill, one may picture the Hancock statue, artillery redouts and the Evergreen Cemetery Gate House. Archer's book takes the reader much further than the crest of the hill. East Cemetery Hill was the first land to be set aside as a park, along with Culp's Hill; it is not surprising that public interest in these areas is lags behind the public interest in the Round Tops, Devils Den, and the High Water Mark areas. Though closest to town, economic development and the layout of the park roads do not encourage quick study of this segment of the battle.
The tactical and strategic circumstances of July 1st and 2nd are reviewed in the first quarter of the discussion; then Benner's Hill, the terrain of Early's advance, Brickyard Lane, the CSA breakthroughs at the base of the hill and again at the top, and repulse by USA reinforcements is presented. Archer's presentation of the East Cemetery Hill battle begins, not on the hill but streets of Gettysburg. The retreat of the Federal First and Eleventh Corps, on July 1st from west and north of town to Cemetery Hill, East Cemetery Hill, McKnight's Knoll and Culp's Hill clarifies the combat exhaustion and readiness of the Union forces which defend the Evergreen Gatehouse on July 2nd and 3rd. Archer's discussion of the placement of CSA troops in front of these positions and on Benner's Hill, east of Culp's Hill reveals the terrain and logistical problems that Ewell, CSA 2nd Corps commander had in coordinating the Confederate attacks. Benner's Hill on July 2nd became the platform for CSA artillery that aided the attacks on both Culp's and East Cemetery Hill. The Federal domination of the Confederate artillery on Benner's Hill is essential in understanding the heroic nature of the Rebel attacks, unsupported by artillery, Archer explains.
Though a tourbook with designated stops, Archer's work may be easily used as a general presentation of the combat. Ten maps guide both the armchair reader and the battlefield walker. These maps are original to the book and not generic; based upon the 1864 Bachelder Isometric Map, the 1869 Warren Survey Map, the 1876 Bachelder Maps, and the 1900 Cope Map, these maps are models of clarity and precise reinforcement of the text. Nearly forty historic and modern photographs and illustrations aid the reader in recollecting the site from the armchair or present the walker with the exact spot which soldiers' primary sources discuss. There are no portraits of commanders in the book; this is not lamentable. The text is consistently reinforced with the words of the rank and file soldiers. What is lacking in the book, but is probably on the reader's bookshelf or in the backpack, is an order of battle. The index is brief and adequate. The notes are thorough and add to the text. "The Hour Was One of Horror" is both a fine presentation of the combat and an essential guide to understanding the strategy of the battle, as it developed in the minds of the commanders. This book is highly recommended for the committed student of the battle.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Gettysburg Battlewalks: The Weikert, Trostle, and Klingle Farms, barbara Sanders, Pennsylvania Cable Network, 2004, 95 minutes, DVD format, $20.
Before the battle, Adams County was home to prosperous farm families. Remarks by invading Confederates are found in most books that survey the battle. Jacob Hoke's 'The Great Invasion' and Wilbur Nye's 'Here Come The Rebels' provide many instances of the surprise and admiration by the Confederates of the size and prosperity of Pennyslvania's farmsteads. Nearly forty farms were occupied by the armies on July 1, 2, 3, 1863. Entire farms were destroyed; the Harmon farm and Herbst farm buildings were burned by Rebels on the mid-afternoon of July 1. Also, the Bliss farm had all its buildings and it house burned on the morning of July 3 by Union troops who were exhausted by the constant harrassment of Confederate sharpshooters. Most battlefield first aid stations and hospitals were located on farms.
The Weikert, Trostle and Klingel farms suffered on July 2 from the advance of Longstreet's corps and the resistence of the Third Corp. These farm families had little choice but to abandon their homes when the fighting were in there farm yards. National Park Service Ranger Barbara Sanders walks, with an audience of adults and children, over these farmsteads. Few subjects are neglected; Sanders covers fences as defensive barricades and offensive impediments, barns and houses as both sharpshooter posts and first aid locations, and springs and streams as unique meeting places for enemies. She depicts the corn as being 'knee high by the Fourth of July' and the oats, barley, and orchards ripening on the farms and being destroyed by men and horses.
Sanders discusses surgery and amupation as she and the audience stands near the spot of General Daniel Sickles' wounding. She describes the withdrawal of artillery by prolong in the fields of the Trostle farm and the hinderance to the battery's escape by occassioned by the stone and rail fence behind the barn. Of the many tours in PCN Productions' Gettysburg Battlewalks series, this ranks among the most enjoyable and informative. Sanders enthusiasm, point of view, and interactions with the audience adds to her attention to detail regarding the farm families' stories give this tour distinctive.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Culp's Hill at Gettysburg: "The Mountain Trembled", Archer, John M., Thomas Publications, 2002, 144 pp., paperbound, notes, index, $12.95
Among the least visited and walked areas of Gettysburg battlefield is Culp's Hill. This portion of the battlefield has an equal amount of fighting, heroism, drama, and human interest as Little Round Top or The Copse of Trees. Probably there are two reasons for the lack of popular interest in Culp's Hill. The first is that tourists can't climb over the rocks (Devil's Den) and there is no grand vista (Little Round Top). The second is that the story is difficult to tell, read and visualize. The switchback roads, the steep slopes, the monuments scattered about in the woods all hinder the imagination that tries to understand which unit did what and where. The compass spins through all four quadrants when you drive the Culp's Hill roads.
John Archer's guide is a great help for any student of the battle and probably is on the bookshelf of every licensed battlefield guide. An Adams County resident, Archer has spent hours upon hours on the Culp's Hill battlefield; this fact becomes obvious from his precise directions for driving and walking the tour. Accompanying the tour, is a very fine presentation of the troop movements, assaults and retreats. The clarity of Archer's organization of the material is consistent throughout the book. Keeping an eye on the battle's clock, Archer helps the reader keep moving forward with the troops.
His use of the veteran's words to describe the ground is exceptional and is often accompanied by both period and contemporary photographs. Archer selects the most descriptive accounts of combat and these occur frequently in the text. A quick look through the text shows that the words of soldiers are used on nearly two-thirds of the 144 pages of the book. In the three page
'Aftermath' discussion, Archer uses three soldiers' view of Union and Confederate burial.
Value is added to the book by a discussion of how this portion of the battlefield became a park. The installation of the roads and the loss of McAllister's mill pond are clearly explained; they are discussed as factors in interpreting the present day park. The maps are adequate for the tour but this reader wishes that one small- scale map covering the area bounded by East Cemetry Hill, the Daniel Lady farmstead, Wolf's and Power's Hills, and the McAllister Mill would have been included. Having a McElfresh watercolor map of the area aids in the reading of the book; the farmsteads and lanes, the original fences, crops and woodlots shown on this map guided the understanding of Archer's maps. A discussion of the 1863 farmsteads, their owners, tenant families, and damage claims would have been appropriate and enhanced both Introduction and the Aftermath. Citations in the text are found at the end of the monograph. Lacking is an order of battle but the index does list all the Federal and Confederate regiments. Listings of officiers' names give rank. Only a brigade commander commanders are designated as such. Other officers' commands, such as regimental, division, artillery, are not noted.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Gettysburg Battlefield Walks: The Rose Farm, Tim Smith and Gary Adelman, Pennsylvania Cable Network, 2003. DVD format, $20.
The Pennsylvania Cable Network, owned and operated by the Commonwealth, broadcasts NPS Rangers' and LBG tours of the Gettysburg National Military Park. There are over sixty tours available on DVD format available from www.pcntv.com. At $20 to $25 each, they are an affordable means of learning more about the battle. These tours,filmed on the battlefield,work best with a battlefield map on your lap as the tour plays on your television. Recommended are the McElfresh water color maps that show only the roads, fences, buildings and crops at the time of the battle.
The Rose Farm tour, presented by Licensed Battlefield Guides Tim Smith and Gary Adelman, focuses on the bloodiest farmstead in the Civil War. The Rose Farm is located on the southern end of the battlefield, between Devil's Den an the Emmitsburg Road. The program is an enjoyable 70 minute tour of that portion of the battlefield and covers: the owners and tenants of the farm, Longstreet's attacks on the Wheatfield and the Stoney Hill, the successive attacks by U.S. through The Wheatfield and the Stoney Hill, the burials around the Rose Farm buildings, the post-battle photography on the farm, the first monuments and their mistakes, early tourism and the creation of the National Battlefield Park by the U.S. War Department.
Adelman and Smith, support and interrupt each other. At times the tour becomes a conversation between them; their congeniality avoids the common pitfall of 'the talking head' or 'the monotone' of public discussions presented in video format. Their tour offers period photography, maps, and portaits, enlarged for the audience. Anyone preparing for the Licensed Battlefield Guide exam would do well use this PCN tour in their studies.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Rusell Lowell, Jr. 1835-1864, Carol Bundy, Farrer Strauss and Giroux, 560pp., endnotes, index, 2005, $35.00.
Within the first several chapters, this reader found Charlie Lowell a 'child of the(19)sixties living in the 1850s and not the Brahmin snob that he thought he would encounter.
Born in 1835, immediately before his family slipped from high social standing and wealth and into the 'poor cousins' category, Charlie the grew up in the 'high'culture' of Boston of close-knit kinship relations and opportunities.
With Transcendentalists and Abolitionists as neighbors and relatives, with books and debate as a part of family dinner discourse, and with newspapers and current bestsellers as a part of the table top literature of the household, Charlie grew into an apparently aimless but articulate Harvard student. Slight in build and height, surpassed all, after giving the commencement day address at Harvard in 1856, he took a manual laborers job on the Boston wharfs.
He approached manual labor and business in general with the soul of a philosopher and philanthropist. He was a subversive idealist in the workplace, a worker with a social conscience, and a son who wished to succeed where his father failed. Charlie chose the iron industry as his place in the world. By 1860, after an interlude in Europe recovering from tuberculosis, he was managing an iron foundry, west of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Voting Republican in the presidential election, he watched the secession crisis from western Maryland. The attack on Massachusetts troops by a Baltimore mob in the spring of 1861 brought him into the ranks of the Union army as a cavalry captain.
By 1863, after seeing action on the Peninsula and serving on McClellan's staff during the Sharpsburg campaign, Charlie Lowell commanded the 2nd Massachusetts cavalry in what he considered a 'backwater' assignment, Mosby's Confederacy. It was difficult and distastefull duty for him but one at which he excelled. Lowell collected near missed throughout the war; on the Peninsula he shook out his bedroll from behind his saddle and minie balls dropped out. At Antietam, he discovered his horse to be winded and removed the saddle and found the beast hit several times under it. As a colonel of a brigade during the 1864 Shenandoah campaign, he participated and rationalized the destruction of civilian farmsteads. He finally received a wound from a ball that clipped his elbow, traveled up his sleeve,crossed his shoulder, traveled down and cut a small portion of his spine. He died within 24 hours; he was survived by his wife whom he married in 1863 and was seven months pregnant.
The nature of Charles Russell Lowell's sacrifice was multi-faceted: the happy bachelor who left a wife and child, the workplace manager with a heart for the workers, sleight twenty-somenthing who had become a leader of cavalrymen, and the intellectual who became a anti-guerrilla fighter.
This biography surprises in many ways. Charlie Lowell is put in the context of a family on economic decline, of a social conscience within the environment of the empheral ideas of Transcendentalism, and of a top achieving Harvard student who condemns the college's curriculum of constant mind-numbing rote memorization. In 1861, few would have picked Charlie Lowell become a successful leader of cavalrymen. Appreciated by McClellan, Stanton, and Mosby, Lowell became a hero. The nature of Lowell's sacrifice was the loss of a future earned by a man who believed that there are no problems, only solutions and seized his duty to find a way to succeed.
Friday, August 04, 2006
You may recall from you public library or you middle school/high school library a book, Edward Creasy's Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World from Marathon to Waterloo. You may have encountered a revised version that included all the 19th century or even the edition that included WWII.
The original edition was 1851 and became an immediate and constant bestseller for the remainder of the 19th century. John Keegan writes that Creasy's intention was to offer a 'jolly good read' and oversimplied his analysis in order to reach a general audience. Creasy's idea of indentifably decisive battles took hold among the general readership.
On a single day on a single battlefield an army could be annihilated or rescued, a nation could be destroyed or saved, and an empire could be founded or meet its demise. The general of the victorious army must be brilliant. Logistics, political factors, and strategy are secondary factors. The virtue and character of the commanders is the decisive factor of the decisive battle. Brillant commanders with courageous armies make decisive victories.
The expectations for a single, grand victory by Northerners and Southerners, their newspaper editors, and their political leaders were based up on the virtue of their societies. Having honor-bound societies with God-on-their-side, with superior versions of capitalism, the North and the South contemplated each other. In the eyes of the South, the North was a mud-sill society of wage slaves, ruled by Yankee merchants and bankers and the seedbed of radical, free love abolitionists. In the eyes of the North, the South was an indolent society of poor farmers and wealthly slaveholders, ruled by a Slave Power Conspiracy and the seedbed of mercenaries eager expand slavery into the American West and Latin America.
Aristocratic and chivalrous Southerners expected to be embraced by the aristocratic and chivalrous monarchs of Europe, who would despise the egalitarian North and who would submit to King Cotton. Southerners believed that the North did not have the capacity to accept the economic sacrafice of a war with the Kingdom of Cotton.
For the South, 'One Single Grand Victory' would be the story of the Southern War for Independence.
for the North, 'One Single Grand Victory' would be the story of the War of the Slaveholders Rebellion.
Looking back from the early 21st century upon the war and its interpretations, the Single Grand Victory notion worked its way into the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War as well at the Centenial writings (and videos) of the 1960-2000 era.
Gettysburg is the turning point of the war.
Pickett's Charge was the turning point of the turning point.
Where did these ideas come from?
From Creasy's book written in 1851.
A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and the Battle of Manassas, Ethan S. Rafuse, Scholarly Resources, 2002.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
An immensely powerful idea---A Single Grand Victory--a victory that would be sufficient to convince the other side of the hopelessness of its cause and persuade its adherents to abandon their war aims.
Austerlitz, 1805, The War of the Third Coalition
Solferino, 1859, The Austro-Franco War
Sadowa, 1866, Prussia-Austrian War
These are single battles that ended a 19th century war.
In a era when leadership alone was viewed as the sole factor that could lead to a truely decisive victory, Davis, Lee, and McClellan were reading military history at West Point
Were they really looking for such a battle in 1862? 1863? 1864?
Ethan S. Rafuse examines the origins of the 'Single Grand Victory' perspective in his book on the first Manassas Campaign. The next entry will follow the development of this 19th century mind set and the constraints it put upon CW generalship as Rafuse describes the beginning of the war.