Monday, November 20, 2017

New----The Best Gun In The World Came From South Carolina

The Best Gun in the World: George Woodward Morse and the South Carolina State Military Works, Robert S. Seigler, University of South Carolina Press; 288 pages; 9 color photographs, 71 black and white photographs, notes, index, bibliography, $49.95.

From the Publisher:

A thoroughly researched account of weapons innovation and industrialization during the Civil War

A year after seceding from the Union, South Carolina faced the daunting challenge of equipping soldiers with weapons, ammunition, and other military implements during the American Civil War, a problem faced by the Confederate States government as well. In The Best Gun in the World, Robert S. Seigler explains how South Carolina created its own armory and then enlisted the help of a weapons technology inventor to meet the demand. Seigler mined state and federal factory records, national and state archives, and U.S. patents for detailed information on weapons production, the salaries and status of free and enslaved employees, and other financial records to reveal an interesting, distinctive story of technological innovation and industrialization in South Carolina.

George Woodward Morse, originally from New Hampshire, was a machinist and firearms innovator who settled in Louisiana in the 1840s. He invented a reliable breechloading firearm in the mid-1850s to replace the muzzleloaders that were ubiquitous throughout the world. Essential to the successful operation of any breechloader was its ammunition, and Morse perfected the first metallic, center-fire, preprimed cartridge, his most notable contribution to the development of modern firearms.

The U.S. War Department tested Morse rifles and cartridges prior to the beginning of the Civil War and contracted with the inventor to produce the weapons at Harpers Ferry Armory. However, when the war began, Morse, a slaveholding plantation owner, determined that he could sell more of his guns in the South. The South Carolina State Military Works, originally designed to cast cannon, produced Morse’s carbine and modified muskets, brass cartridges, cartridge boxes, and other military accoutrements. The armory ultimately produced only about 1,350 Morse firearms. For the next twenty years, Morse sought to regain his legacy as the inventor of the center-fire brass cartridges that are today standard ammunition for military and sporting firearms.

Robert S. Seigler, a South Carolina native, is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto (the highest civilian honor in South Carolina) and is a fellow in the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Society. He is the author of eight books and several journal articles about South Carolina’s Civil War history. Seigler practices medicine in Greenville, South Carolina, where he is the medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit and a professor of pediatrics at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.  

Publisher's web site for The Best Gun in the World University of South Carolina Press


Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man In the Confederacy

Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy, Earl J. Hess, North Carolina University Press, 361 Pages, 28 illustrations, 2 maps, notes, index, bibliography,  2016. $35 hardcover.

Michigan War Studies Review, November 13, 2017, Robert L. Glaze, reviewer states: 

Braxton BraggThis superb study of Braxton Bragg is very aptly subtitled.  A punch line of many a joke at conferences and Civil War roundtables, Bragg has fared poorly in both the war's historiography and its popular memory.  The conventional image oi the general is of an obtuse, irascible, cold-hearted, and incapable officer who, more than any other Rebel leader, doomed the confederacy. He poisoned relations within the western Confederate high command and stymied the South's war effort on both the strategic and tactical levels.  While some of this rings true, the prolific Civil War historian Earl Hess has now given readers a more proficient, nuanced and, indeed, human Braxton Bragg.

To claim that Bragg was the most capable of all the Army of Tennessee's commanders seems like faint praise, but Hess marshals considerable evidence that the general was an excellent administrator, devoted and brave Southern patriot, and skilled tactician.  Granted, he lost more battles than he won, but Hess reminds us that he was commander of the army when it reached its organization and tactical apes.  Bragg managed to reinvigorate that army after its bloody defeat at Shiloh and led it to 'its most impressive tactical victories'. . on October 8 at Perryville, December 31 at Stones River and September 20 at Chickamauga. (276)  Hess backs up his assertions with compelling statistics, noting that Bragg was responsible for 75 percent of the army's tactical successes and only 28.5 percent of its failures.  Such numbers lead him to the bold, sure-to-be-controversial, yet reasoned claim that 'the Army of Tennessee was Bragg's Army." (276)

While the general was far from a flawless field commander, Hess argues that his wartime failures were more personal than military. It was, he posits, Bragg's stubborn recalcitrance and poor relations with his subordinates and the Southern press, that more than anything else, damaged his reputation.  Like many of the South's generals, he proved to be a poor politician. He rarely courted Southern newspaper editors and proved  remarkably clumsy when he tried to.   . . . .

 Full Text is continues at Michigan War Studies Review, November 13, 2017.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Forthcoming in early 2018: The Civil War Dead--What Their Photographs Did To Americans and Their Culture

  The Civil War Dead and American Modernity, Ian Finseth, Oxford University Press, 352 pages, February 2018, $65.00 hardcover

From The Publisher:   The Civil War Dead and American Modernity offers a fundamental rethinking of the cultural importance of the American Civil War dead. Tracing their representational afterlife across a massive array of historical, visual, and literary documents from 1861 to 1914, Ian Finseth maintains that the war dead played a central, complex, and paradoxical role in how Americans experienced and understood the modernization of the United States. From eyewitness accounts of battle to photographs and paintings, and from full-dress histories of the war to fictional narratives, Finseth shows that the dead circulated through American cultural life in ways that we have not fully appreciated, and that require an expanded range of interpretive strategies to understand.

While individuals grieved and relinquished their own loved ones, the collective Civil War dead, Finseth argues, came to form a kind of symbolic currency that informed Americans' melancholic relationship to their own past. Amid the turbulence of the postbellum era, as the United States embarked decisively upon its technological, geopolitical, and intellectual modernity, the dead provided an illusion of coherence, intelligibility, and continuity in the national self. At the same time, they seemed to represent a traumatic break in history and the loss of a simpler world, and their meanings could never be completely contained by the political discourse that surrounded them.

Reconstructing the formal, rhetorical, and ideological strategies by which postwar American society reimagined, and continues to reimagine, the Civil War dead, Finseth also shows that a strain of critical thought was alert to this dynamic from the very years of the war itself. The Civil War Dead and American Modernity is at once a study of the politics of mortality, the disintegration of American Victorianism, and the role of visual and literary art in both forming and undermining social consensus.
Table of Contents

Section I. The "Ghastly Spectacle": Witnessing Civil War Death Chapter 1: The problem of experience
Chapter 2: Sense, affect, representation
Chapter 3: Faces, names, types, families
Chapter 4: Melancholy reflections

Section II. Body Images: The Civil War Dead in Visual CultureChapter 1: Photography and the question of empathy
Chapter 2: The illustrated dead
Chapter 3: Lithography, history, allegory
Chapter 4: Painting and the enigma of visibility

Section III. Blood and Ink: Historicizing the Civil War Dead Chapter 1: Objectivity, partisanship, nationalism
Chapter 2: The early years: Northern determinism
Chapter 3: The early years: Southern alienation
Chapter 4: Later years: The convergence
Chapter 5: African American counterhistory

Section IV. Plotting Mortality: The Civil War Dead and the Narrative ImaginationChapter 1: Modernity, disenchantment, and the agons of realism
Chapter 2: "Grieve not so": Loss and the new woman
Chapter 3: Narratives ajar: Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and the refusal of closure
Chapter 4: Farewell, sacrificial hero
Chapter 5: The returning dead

About The Author: Ian Finseth is Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of North Texas. His scholarly work focuses on the literary history of transatlantic slavery, abolitionism, and the American Civil War. Dr. Finseth was born in Boston, grew up in California, and earned degrees from UC Berkeley (B.A.), the University of Virginia (M.A.), and UNC-Chapel Hill (Ph.D.)

Friday, November 03, 2017

News--U.S. Grant To Get The Hollywood Treatment

Lionsgate, Appian Way To Make Ulysses S. Grant Film; Option Ron Chernow Bio, Mike Fleming, Deadline Hollywood, online, November 1, 2017.


Lionstate and Appian Way have acquired movie rights to Grant, the new bestselling Ron Chernow  biography of Ulysses S. Grant.    David James Kelly has been set to adapt. Chernow is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Washington: A Life, [and] whose Alexander Hamilton was the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony winning musical Hamilton. [Film] will be produced by Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson, with Chernow the exec producer.

 Full Text Link: Deadline Hollywood

Friday, October 27, 2017

Forthcoming---A Vast Sea of Misery: The Classic To Be Reissued

A Vast Sea of Misery: A History and Guide To the Union and Confederate Hospitals at Gettysburg, June 1-November 20, 1863, Gregory Coco,  Savas Beatie Publishing, Paperback, 224pages, profusely illustrated, maps, appendices, index, bibliographic endnotes,   $19.95 On Sale: January 15, 2018

Nearly 26,000 men were wounded in the three-day battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863). It didn't matter if the soldier wore blue or gray or was an officer or enlisted man, for bullets, shell fragments, bayonets, and swords made no class or sectional distinction. Almost 21,000 of the wounded were left behind by the two armies in and around the small town of 2,400 civilians. 

Most ended up being treated in makeshift medical facilities overwhelmed by the flood of injured. Many of these and their valiant efforts are covered in Greg Coco's A Vast Sea of Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals at Gettysburg, July 1-November 20, 1863.

The battle to save the wounded was nearly as terrible as the battle that placed them in such a perilous position. Once the fighting ended, the maimed and suffering warriors could be found in churches, public buildings, private homes, farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings. 

Thousands more, unreachable or unable to be moved remained in the open, subject to the uncertain whims of the July elements. As one surgeon unhappily recalled, "No written nor expressed language could ever picture the field of Gettysburg! Blood! blood! And tattered flesh! Shattered bones and mangled forms almost without the semblance of human beings!"

Based upon years of firsthand research, Coco's A Vast Sea of Misery introduces readers to 160 of those frightful places called field hospitals. It is a sad journey you will never forget, and you won't feel quite the same about Gettysburg once you finish reading.

CWL: The first published in 1988 by Thomas Publications [Gettysburg, Pennsylvania], A Vast Sea of Misery is 30 years old.  Coco's work on this and related fields began something new. Firm in in his  scholarship and relying upon soldiers' recollections and letters,  Coco then integrated farmers' damage claims to both the Federal and Pennsylvania governments into the Battle of Gettysburg narrative.   A Vast Sea of Misery also opened up the study of the borough and its civilians, religion and the volunteerism which occurred after the battle. CWL has two copies, one hardback and paperback; the former near mint the latter thoroughly marked with notes. Savas Beatie is congratulated for keeping  A Vast Sea of Misery in print.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

News--Soldiers' Vulgar Vocabulary


I Want To Kick Ass, Ben Zimmer, October 6, 2017, Strong Language weblog, Wordpress.Com

A new online archive of Civil War correspondence promises to shed light on historical varieties of nonstandard American English. Two linguists, Michael Ellis (Missouri State University) and Michael Montgomery (University of South Carolina), have teamed up with historian Stephen Berry (University of Georgia) to create Private Voices  an archive of letters from Civil War soldiers. Based on correspondence collected by Ellis and Montgomery as part of the Corpus of American Civil War Letters the Private Voices archive focuses on the writing of soldiers who were “untrained in spelling, punctuation, or the use of capital letters,” according to the press release announcing the launch of the site.

Soon after news of the archive  was shared on the American Dialect Society mailing list, Jonathan Lighter (author of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang) began looking for hidden treasures. He swiftly turned up a letter from 1862  in which the author, an infantryman from Virginia, appears to express a violent sentiment: “I want to kick ass.”

The writer was John B. Gregory of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, serving in Company B of the 38th Virginia Infantry. His letter is dated Feb. 17, 1862, from a camp near Manassas Junction. In the letter, Gregory writes to the folks back home, “old capen gilburt is doun her doing All he Can to get us to volenter Agan he Think evry one orter stay” (i.e., “Old Captain Gilbert is down here doing all he can to get us to volunteer again; he thinks everyone ought to stay”). And then, in between the lines right above “one orter stay,” Gregory adds, “I want to kick ass.”

At least that’s what it looks like. But was Gregory suggesting he wanted to kick Old Captain Gilbert’s ass — or did he want to “kick ass” in general? Jonathan Lighter notes on the weblog ADS-L  “Something sounds a little off about ‘kick ass,’ but I don’t know how to interpret it except in the current sense.” The “current sense” is defined by Lighter’s Historical Dictionary of American Slang as follows:

kick ass [or (euphem.) butt or tail] 1 Esp. Mil. to enforce one’s authority or otherwise assert oneself mercilessly or pugnaciously; (also) (prob. the orig. sense) to subdue others by beatings…
2. to inflict punishment or defeat (in general). — usu. considered vulgar.

The earliest citation given in Historical Dictionary is from exactly one hundred years after the 1862 letter:

1962 Killens Heard the Thunder 44 [ref. to WWII]: Them Japs are kicking asses and taking names [in the Pacific].
Jonathon Green takes the expression back a bit further, to 1956, in his more recent work, Green's Dictionary of Slang:

1956 N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 78: I’m so tired of kickin’ asses I just think I’ll start crushing skulls.

Could the Civil War letter really represent an antedating of nearly a century? It’s true that obscene language can persist for decades in oral use before appearing in print, but it’s hard to believe kick ass could have stayed under the radar for that long. Still, the transcription here looks accurate.

Regardless of how we interpret the letter, this is just one tantalizing example of many that should turn up in the Private Voices archive as the site grows. It launched with 4,000 letters from four Southern states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama), and according to the press release, 6,000 more transcribed letters from New England, the Northeast, and the Midwest are expected in the coming year, “along with a dynamic mapping feature so users can explore regional variations in word usage and speech patterns.”

CWL: This is the full text of the Strong Language weblog with some slight edits

Monday, September 11, 2017

New and Noteworthy: California and the American Civil War



California and the Civil War, Richard Hurley, History Press, 176 pages,  profusely illustrated, end notes, bibliography. July 2017. $19.95.

California and the Civil War is a clear and concise exposition on the Golden State’s history from The Bear Flag Republic through 1865. Hurley presents the geography of the state as a way of discussing the political leanings of Southern immigrants and Northern immigrants. California played a crucial part in political challenges during the 1850s. Statehood with or without slavery was a microcosm of national politics. Civil unrest in the state may be compared to civil war in the Kansas territory. Confederate military strategy included California and the author sees the state as suffering through the turmoil in the Southwest.
Hurley offers a discussion of civic life during the war that includes both Confederate partisans and Federal military adventures. He also notes the presence of the Sanitary Commission, its fairs and the Californians fighting east of the Mississippi River and even Mark Twain enters into the picture. The author gives a thorough accounting of his sources with end notes and a bibliography.

From The Publisher:  In the long and bitter prelude to war, southern transplants dominated California government, keeping the state aligned with Dixie. However, a murderous duel in 1859 killed "Free Soil" U.S. Senator David C. Broderick, and public opinion began to change. As war broke out back east, a golden-tongued preacher named Reverend Thomas Starr King crisscrossed the state endeavoring to save the Golden State for the Union. Seventeen thousand California volunteers thwarted secessionist schemes and waged brutal campaigns against native tribesmen resisting white encroachment as far away as Idaho and New Mexico. And a determined battalion of California cavalry journeyed to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to battle John Singleton Mosby, the South's deadliest partisan ranger. Author Richard Hurley delves into homefront activities during the nation's bloodiest war and chronicles the adventures of the brave men who fought far from home.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New and Noteworthy---Jefferson Davis, Confederate Nationalism and the Possibility of Arming Slaves

Jefferson Davis's Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves, Philip D. Dillard, Mercer University Press, 286 pages, eight photos, 8 maps, footnotes, bibliography, index, 2017, $35.


 Jefferson Davis's Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves focuses upon the Southern public's debate over the enlistment of free blacks and slaves into the military forces of the Confederacy. Virginia, Georgia and Texas newspapers are closely examined as well as Davis' statements and correspondence. Also the author relies on Davis' annual address of 1864 and his letters to to Confederate States officials.

The chief conclusion the author reaches is that the closer the Federal armies came to Southern communities the more prevalent and vocal came the call from those communities to consider the enlistment of African Americans. The proposition to arm the slaves came from those most threatened by Federal armies.

 Jefferson Davis's Final Campaign begins with  a survey of current work done on the topic of the enlistment of slaves. Dillard's research takes into consideration the various social classes in the Confederacy.  His narrative suggests the consideration of the question: what would an independent Confederate nation look like if it contained former slaves  who were veterans or if it contained slaves who were once armed but not emancipated.

Dillard discusses three phases which the debate of arming the slaves passed through: during the second half of 1863 (post Gettysburg and Vicksburg); the summer and autumn of 1864 with Sherman approaching Atlanta, Grant approaching Richmond and Thomas waiting at Nashville for Hood to arrive; Davis' annual address at the end of 1864 and the February 1865 Hampton Roads conference.

The author derives most of the support for his  arguments from newspaper editorials and letters to the editor from soldiers and civilians. Contrary to popular understandings of Davis effectiveness, Dillard finds that Davis successfully marshaled support for his views, though the support he received may have been too little and too late.  Jefferson Davis's Final Campaign: Confederate Nationalism and the Fight to Arm Slaves is a thought provoking study of the Confederate nation at the brink of its extinction and what possible life-saving remedies were acceptable to its leaders and citizens.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Forthcoming--The Presidential Election of 1860: Fractured Parties and Fractured Voters

The Election of 1860: A Campaign Fraught with Consequences, Michael F. Holt, (American Presidential Elections Series) University of Kansas Press, 272  pages, 7 black and white photographs, bibliography, index, $29.25, hardcover, publication date October 6, 2017

From the publisher: Because of its extraordinary consequences and because of Abraham Lincoln’s place in the American pantheon, the presidential election of 1860 is probably the most studied in our history. But perhaps for the same reasons, historians have focused on the contest of Lincoln versus Stephen Douglas in the northern free states and John Bell versus John C. Breckinridge in the slaveholding South.

In The Election of 1860 a preeminent scholar of American history disrupts this familiar narrative with a clearer and more comprehensive account of how the election unfolded and what it was actually about. Most critically, the book counters the common interpretation of the election as a referendum on slavery and the Republican Party’s purported threat to it. However significantly slavery figured in the election, The Election of 1860 reveals the key importance of widespread opposition to the Republican Party because of its overtly anti-southern rhetoric and seemingly unstoppable rise to power in the North after its emergence in 1854.

Also of critical importance was the corruption of the incumbent administration of Democrat James Buchanan—and a nationwide revulsion against party. Grounding his history in a nuanced retelling of the pre-1860 story, Michael F. Holt explores the sectional politics that permeated the election and foreshadowed the coming Civil War.

He brings to light how the campaigns of the Republican Party and the National (Northern) Democrats and the Constitutional (Southern) Democrats and the newly formed Constitutional Union Party were not exclusively regional. His attention to the little-studied role of the Buchanan Administration, and of perceived threats to the preservation of the Union, clarifies the true dynamic of the 1860 presidential election, particularly in its early stages.

News--Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association Adds An Acre To the Daniel Lady Farm Historic Site

 Former T-shirt Building to House Gettysburg Museum, Dustin B. Levy, The Evening Sun, July 12, 2017.

One acre will go a long way in preserving the history of Gettysburg, according to Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association officials. The organization bought a property that will serve as its permanent headquarters near the historic Daniel Lady Farm on Route 116, according to a Sunday news release.

“It’s just one acre, but it’s one more acre of hallowed ground that will not be subjected to further development and its use will pay homage to the legacy of Gettysburg,” Barb Mowery, president of the GBPA, said in the news release. The new headquarters, the former Strickland's T-shirt building, will replace the group's leased location at 33 York Street in Gettysburg, the news release stated. 

During the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate troops crossed the property to assault Union positions on Culp's Hill. In addition, the historic facility will house a small museum and general purpose room for seminars and special presentations.

Renovations are expected to begin in September with the hope that it will be ready before winter, according to Kirk Davis, the group's vice president of operations."It's going to be a versatile facility the GBPA and the entire Gettysburg community will be proud of," Davis said in the news release.

CWL   The Strictlands location is adjacent to the Daniel Lady Farm. If you were at the farmhouse, you would walk west with Route 116 on your left, pass the barn on your right and go to the top of the hill. You would see the Strictlands warehouse.

Full Text and Top Image Link: The Evening Sun 

Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Foundation's website:   

Monday, July 10, 2017

New and Noteworthy---William T. Sherman Versus Joseph E. Johnston; Wartime Enemies, Peace Time Friends

Worthy Opponents: William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston: Antagonists in War, Friends in Peace, Edward G. Longacre, 404 pages, 60 black and white illustrations, 8 maps, bibliography, index, $24.95, paperback, Oklahoma University Press, July 2017.

From The Publisher:  "You and I became reconciled in April 1865, [and] have remained so since. . . . All [others] who are willing to be reconciled can do it by simply becoming good American citizens." ―William T. Sherman in a letter to Joseph E. Johnston.

It was the most trying time of the United States' young history. Families suffered as their fathers and young men, often mere boys, went off to war. Soldiers were slain by the tens of thousands in brutal battles and entire towns were reduced to rubble and ashes. America was split in two.

But in the face of this horrific Civil War, friendships and lifelong bonds were forged―even across the lines of battle. Worthy Opponents is the parallel stories of two key leaders: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. After their armies clashed repeatedly, it was only natural for these two commanding offers to become adversaries.

Yet as the war wore on, Johnston and Sherman came to respect each other. After the war they became close firends. In Worthy Opponents, award-winning author and Civil War historian Edward G. Longacre masterfully investigates the intertwining lives and careers of these two celebrated generals. He brings to life their personalities, their military styles, their history, and their ultimate respect and friendship in a readable and fascinating dual biography.

New and Noteworthy--Emory Upton's Reputation Redeemed

Emory Upton: Misunderstood Reformer, David J. Fitzpatrick, 344 pp., 15 black and white illustrations, 4 maps, Campaigns and Commanders Series, Oklahoma University Press, July 1017, $35.95 hardcover.

From the publisher: Emory Upton (1839–1881) is widely recognized as one of America’s most influential military thinkers. His works—The Armies of Asia and Europe and The Military Policy of the United States—fueled the army’s intellectual ferment in the late nineteenth century and guided Secretary of War Elihu Root’s reforms in the early 1900s. Yet as David J. Fitzpatrick contends, Upton is also widely misunderstood as an antidemocratic militaristic zealot whose ideas were “too Prussian” for America. In this first full biography in nearly half a century, Fitzpatrick, the leading authority on Upton, radically revises our view of this important figure in American military thought.

A devout Methodist farm boy from upstate New York, Upton attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Civil War. His use of a mass infantry attack to break the Confederate lines at Spotsylvania Courthouse in 1864 identified him as a rising figure in the U.S. Army. Upton’s subsequent work on military organizations in Asia and Europe, commissioned by Commanding General William T. Sherman, influenced the army’s turn toward a European, largely German ideal of soldiering as a profession. Yet it was this same text, along with Upton’s Military Policy of the United States, that also propelled the misinterpretations of Upton—first by some contemporaries, and more recently by noted historians Stephen Ambrose and Russell Weigley. By showing Upton’s dedication to the ideal of the citizen-soldier and placing him within the context of contemporary military, political, and intellectual discourse, Fitzpatrick shows how Upton’s ideas clearly grew out of an American military-political tradition.

Emory Upton: Misunderstood Reformer clarifies Upton’s influence on the army by offering a new and necessary understanding of the military’s intellectual direction at a critical juncture in American history.


New and Noteworthy: Midnight During the Civil War--What Dreams May Come?

Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War, Jonathan W. White, University of North Carolina Press, 296 pages, $34.95, publication date, March 24, 2017


The Civil War brought many forms of upheaval to America, not only in waking hours but also in the dark of night. Sleeplessness plagued the Union and Confederate armies, and dreams of war glided through the minds of Americans in both the North and South. Sometimes their nightly visions brought the horrors of the conflict vividly to life.

But for others, nighttime was an escape from the hard realities of life and death in wartime. In this innovative new study, Jonathan W. White explores what dreams meant to Civil War–era Americans and what their dreams reveal about their experiences during the war. He shows how Americans grappled with their fears, desires, and struggles while they slept, and how their dreams helped them make sense of the confusion, despair, and loneliness that engulfed them.

White takes readers into the deepest, darkest, and most intimate places of the Civil War, connecting the emotional experiences of soldiers and civilians to the broader history of the conflict, confirming what poets have known for centuries: that there are some truths that are only revealed in the world of darkness.

The Author: Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American studies at Christopher Newport University.

Reviews: “Highly original, exhaustively researched, and compellingly written, Midnight in America makes a fresh and vital contribution to the essential Civil War literature. This is literally a dream of a book. And Jonathan W. White is one of the very best young historians in the field.” --Harold Holzer, winner of the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.
 
“In a winning combination of marvelous research and creative analysis, Jonathan White examines how Civil War Americans experienced, thought about, and shared their dreams. Thick with clever arguments about war and society, Midnight in America illustrates how we might learn from the murky world of sleep and dreams and wartime.” --Matthew Gallman, author of Defining Duty in the Civil War

News-- Union General, Irish Patriot: Thomas Meagher's Death Investigated

 Mock inquest explores the death of Thomas Francis Meagher, By Jacob Fuhrer - MTN News, July  1, 2017


A mock inquest into the death of Thomas Francis Meagher was held Friday at the State Capitol in the old Supreme Court room. A part of Meagher Fest, the inquest explores the mysterious disappearance of the Irish rebel and Montana leader from the 19th century. Just like his life, Meagher’s death was controversial.  The mock inquest into his alleged drowning in the Missouri River in Fort Benton provided a chance for the public to come to their own conclusions. Relph Steele, who played an Irish attorney in the mock inquest, said a real verdict is reached at the end of the night. “We pick a real jury and they make a factual determination as to what caused the demise of Thomas Francis Meagher 150 years ago,” Steele said.

The actors dressed in authentic attire for the period and read from real testimony during the original inquest. For Meagher’s enthusiasts, the mock inquest is a chance to raise awareness about an important historical figure in both U.S. and Montana history. “People should pay attention to Thomas Francis Meagher. There’s a county named after him. He was a seminal figure in U.S. history and Montana history,” Steele said. New York Times best selling author Tim Egan says that, toying with the idea of a "New Ireland" in the West, Meagher accepted an assignment as Montana Territorial Secretary, only to find the current governor running out of Bannack the same afternoon he arrived.


Best-selling author Tim Egan noted, "The very stage that had brought Meagher in, the governor is now getting on that stage. he hands a bunch of papers to Meagher and says 'You're the governor. I'm outta here.' And that's what makes Thomas Meagher (Montana's) acting governor." "He's the most popular man in Montana. He gives these huge speeches. He arguably would have been a fantastic governor if he had more than 17 months." After coming down sick for a few days, Meagher boarded a Fort Benton steamer, vanishing over the side in darkness.

Was he pushed, perhaps assassinated? Or just drunk? It's still debated. But Egan, with family ties in Butte, says the mystery can't obscure what Meagher meant to the Irish. "He'd lived 12 lives in this one, short life," Egan said. "It's such an amazing story. And I don't think people in Montana realize how well known this person is, all over the world." "He was, arguably, the most famous Irish-American in our history until John F. Kennedy." A bold claim? Perhaps. But then again, Thomas Francis Meagher lived a bold life.

Online Line Link to Story: MTN

Thursday, July 06, 2017

News: CSS Georgia Found During Dredging of Savannah Harbor

Savannah Harbor Deepening Project Dredges Up History, Savannah Morning News, (no author provided), July 4, 2017

The harbor deepening project has dredged up another big piece of history. After welding a new frame to fit its 31- by 24-foot dimensions, crews Sunday raised a 67-ton section of armoring from the sunken CSS Georgia.

It was the west casement, or armoring, of the ironclad gunboat built for the Confederacy in 1862. Designed and constructed in Savannah, the vessel’s engines proved too weak to propel it through the river’s tidal waters. The Georgia instead was moored near Fort Jackson to protect the city of Savannah from a Union naval approach. Confederate troops scuttled the vessel in that area as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops approached in 1864.
As a captured enemy vessel, it’s considered property of the Navy.

Deepening the Savannah River channel to 47 feet, a $973 million project, will adversely impact the wreck site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To mitigate these adverse impacts, archaeologists are excavating the site before that area is dredged. Begun in 2015, the excavation work is in its final stage with artifacts ranging from cannons to buckles already recovered.

 Caption: The west casement, or armoring, of the CSS Georgia is raised from the Savannah River near Fort Jackson Sunday. As the city continues its dredging project, more artifacts are being unveiled. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District)

Full Text and Image Link: Savannah Morning News


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Richmond's Worst Wartime Diaster: Brown's Island Munitions Factory Explosiion


Brown's Island Munitions Explosion Was Worst Wartime Disaster In Richmond, Katherine Calos, Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 4, 2017

The first blast lifted Mary Ryan off the floor. The second blew her to the ceiling. The Confederate munitions factory on Brown's Island exploded with a fury that killed more than 40 of its female workers, an event that shocked the city on March 13, 1863, and inspired an outpouring of sympathy.
The homefront disaster was Richmond's worst during the Civil War. Its 150th anniversary was commemorated with living history programs at The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar and with the dedication of a historical marker beside the island.

Ryan, an Irish teenager like many of the other workers at the Confederate States Laboratory, accepted blame for the explosion during the several days she lingered in pain. She confessed to Col. Josiah Gorgas, chief of ordinance, that she had banged a perforated wooden board containing friction primers against a table to knock them loose. The jostling was strong enough to ignite at least one of the primers, which set off an explosion that demolished most of the 70-foot building. 

Between 80 and 100 workers, mostly women, were in the room either at their jobs or warming themselves at a coal stove. An official report counted 69 casualties, of whom at least 44 died. "The most heart rending lamentations and cries issued from the ruins from the sufferers rendered delirious from suffering and terror," the Richmond Examiner wrote of the scene in its March 14 edition. "No sooner was one helpless, unrecognizable mass of humanity cared for and removed before the piteous appeals of another would invoke the energy of the rescuers."

Only a few of the victims died instantly. Others suffered "the most horrible agonies, blind from burns, with the hair burned from their heads, and the clothing hanging in burning shreds," the Examiner wrote. A few jumped in the river to extinguish the flames. For the rest of the month, deaths from the accident mounted. Mary Ryan, age 18, died March 16 at the home of her father, Michael Ryan, who also worked at the arsenal.
Elizabeth Young, 25, died in a rented room on Oregon Hill "after a severe pain of twelve hours, caused by the fearful accident on Brown's Island," the Daily Dispatch reported March 17. "This will be sad news to her relations and friends, whom she left not long since in Caroline county."
Only three of the dead were men. The Rev. John H. Woodcock, 63, was supervisor of the room where the blast occurred. James Curry, 13, died the night of the explosion from his injuries. Samuel Chappell, 16, somehow lived five days after being found wedged against a wall with his skull crushed from the collapse of the building's roof.

In an official inquiry by the War Department, Capt. Wesley N. Smith, superintendent, estimated that the room that exploded had contained 200,000 musket caps, 2,000 to 3,000 friction primers and about 10 or 11 pounds of gunpowder. It was more crowded than normal because materials weren't available to finish an expansion of another building. The mixture of jobs increased the risk of an accident. In addition to finishing friction primers, sewing cannon cartridge bags and boxing musket caps, workers were filling Williams cartridges and taking apart defective cartridges to separate the gunpowder and lead. As a result, gunpowder dust would've been in the air.
Friction primers were a detonation device for cannons. When the cannoneer pulled a lanyard attached to the friction primer pin, the effect was the same as striking a match. The spark ignited gunpowder inside the metal primer tube, and that small explosion ignited a larger charge inside the cannon.
As a last step in the manufacturing process, the primers were sealed with wax and varnished to protect against moisture, which possibly caused some of them to stick to the board that held them for manufacturing.

Many of the munitions workers were young women because their small, nimble fingers were considered more suited to the task of assembling up to 1,200 cartridges a day. Cathy Wright, curator at the Museum of the Confederacy, sees a parallel to Rosie the Riveter in World War II in the way women were sought for jobs that previously would have been off-limits. Before the Civil War, Wright said, "women had not been encouraged to find gainful employment. They were supposed to stay at home. Working for wages was a couple of steps above being a lady of the night."

The explosion made it harder to accept the idea of women in workplace, Wright said, but it didn't stop women from working. The community responded with contributions of $9,000 to $10,000 for the victims. The munitions lab on Brown's Island didn't exist until after the war began. Smaller explosions at its original location at the end of Seventh Street had raised safety concerns. So, the island was cleared and a group of one-story wooden buildings was constructed for the operation in 1863.
Explosions were an occupational hazard in munitions manufacturing, said Dean S. Thomas of Gettysburg, Pa., author of Round Ball to Rimfire: A History of Civil War Small Arms Ammunition.
On the same day as the battle of Antietam in September 1862, an explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh had killed 78 workers. An arsenal explosion in Jackson, Miss., had killed about 40 people a few weeks later. "When they advertised for people to make cartridges," Thomas said, "they would advertise that it was as safe as anything else."

Text Source: Richmond Times Dispatch 
Slight modifications in the text related to current events' dates have been made in this post.

Image Source:  Richmond Arsenal

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Union Veterans' Unending Civil War: The Survivors' Story

Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War, Brian Matthew Jordan, Liveright/W.W. Norton Publishing, 2014, 374 pages, bibliographic notes, bibliography, illustrations,  paperback $18.95.

 While you read Brian Jordan's Marching Home you may be reminded of  Bruce Catton's writing style in his Army of the Potomac trilogy. Clear, concise and frequently offering the stories and words of the soldiers, Jordan's work invokes an immediate awareness to the the pain, patience and passions of the Federal army's veterans. Over 2 million men served and over 360,000 died during those four years. It is likely that another 360,000 died of war wounds during the four decades after the war. Marching Home is the survivors' story.

The evidence that Jordan reveals through regimental histories, pension applications, diaries, letters and Grand Army of the Republic business correspondence is that there was much anger and alienation among the veterans. The author finds legions missing arms and legs with most suffering from throbbing stumps which drain blood and pus. Former prisoners of war were housed in asylums and poor houses committing suicide. Society was unprepared to satisfactorily deal with the issues of health, welfare and employment of the veterans.

If soldiers on campaign at times looked after their own health and relied on their comrades, then veterans in the post-war era did the same.  Jordan discusses the founding and growth of the Grand Army of the Republic, its pension lobbying and the succor of its monthly meetings and annual reunions. He understands the the veterans suffered and unending war with their physical and psychological traumas.

In addition veterans dealt with a society and its culture which wished to push the war aside in an effort to reconcile itself to the horror of it all. Jordan grasps that the veterans believed that civilians had not suffered as they had suffered. As in today's political arena, it was a struggle to create a cultural narrative: one that was palatable for civilians but which neglected the suffering of the veterans.

Jordan notes the change of  in course for the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission after the war's end. Their ambivalence, like the veterans' kin and communities, revealed a preference for the reconciliation narrative and their lack of  an acknowledgment of war's damage to those who served.  Marching Home may evoke grief  in readers as they come to grips with the tragedy endured by the veterans and the culture's callousness toward physical and emotion needs of those who served and survived.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

News---Wesley Culp's Original Photographic Portrait Located, Moved To Gettysburg Museum

The Gettysburg Museum of History is located at 219 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg and houses over 4,000 artifacts.  The  exhibits include the American Civil War, World War I and II, JFK and other presidents, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and many more.  Truly there is something for everyone in this museum and store.


In  this post on the Gettysburg Daily weblog, Erik Dorr explains how the photographic portraits of Wesley Culp, Second Virginia, Company B and Thomas Culp, 87th Pennsylvania came into his possession. He is convinced that this his the original 1861-1862 portrait of Wesley Culp who was killed on July 2 or 3, 1863 on the culps Hill sector of the battlefield. He describes how the only portrait you have ever seen is a reproduction of a reproduction originally created by the National Park Service.

There eight slides in this post by the Gettysburg Daily weblog. The second, fifth and seventh slides are videos in which Erik Dorr explains how he the museum acquired the two Culp photographic portraits and the related parole document issued July 29th 1863 by the Department of the Susquehanna, headquartered in Gettysburg

Gettysburg Daily:     Gettysburg Daily weblog link to Gettysburg Museum of History videos of Erik and the photographic portraits.  The videos were created by the Gettysburg Daily.

Gettysburg Museum of History web homepage:  Gettysburg Museum of History website

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

News: National Park Service Faces Challenge of Instituting a History Park for Reconstruction

Obama names five new national monuments, including Southern civil rights sites, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Davis, Washington Post, January 12, 2017  EXCERPTS

President Obama declared five new national monuments Thursday, ranging from a Birmingham, Ala., church bombed by segregationists to the coniferous forests of Oregon. He has now used his executive authority more than any other president to protect iconic historic, cultural and ecological sites across the country.

Three new monuments in the South, all of which have bipartisan support, exemplify Obama’s push to expand America’s shared national identity through the narrative it tells with its public lands. Two of them, in Birmingham and Anniston, Ala., were sites of violent acts perpetrated against African American children and an interracial group of civil rights activists. The third, in Beaufort, S.C., commemorates the period between the Civil War and the push for segregation in the 1890s when freed slaves worked to establish schools and communities of their own.

In a statement, Obama noted that the monuments “preserve critical chapters of our country’s history” and reflect his long-standing effort to “ensure that our national parks, monuments and public lands are fully reflective of our nation’s diverse history and culture.”

Northwestern University history professor Kate Masur, who pushed for designation along with University of California at Davis history professor Gregory Downs, said in an email that the site will illuminate “one of the most important and most misunderstood eras of our past.”

“The Reconstruction era was the nation’s first effort to grapple with slavery’s lasting impact, when millions of former slaves began forging lives in freedom, and when the nation remade the Constitution to better protect citizenship and individual rights,” she said.

Top Image:  brick church stands in the Penn Center historic site on South Carolina’s St. Helena Island. The center, the site of one of the nation's first schools for freed slaves, on Thursday was designated as a new national monument. (Bruce Smith/AP)
Bottom Image: Map of Beaufort, SC designated sites. 

Full Text located at Washington Post, January 12 , 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New and Noteworthy: The Science of War at West Point Before the Civil War

Excerpts with edits from Michigan War Studies Review, December 26, 2016

In A Scientific Way of War, Ian Hope, a Canadian military officer, combat commander (Afghanistan), and teacher discusses the source and the influence of a particular mentality that emerged in the US Army in the nineteenth century.

"I attempt here to demonstrate that the doctrine inculcated at West Point in the antebellum period, called military science, containing an enduring and coherent military theory, was the foundation for broader American military thought … applied in the Civil War. The doctrine came not from any particular strategy or ideas of policy choices but from a prevailing—perhaps obsessive—intellectual movement that sought mathematical and scientific explanation for the phenomenon of war…. [Dennis Hart Mahan and others taught a] "system of tactics" … at West Point, based on a theory of war as a science…. [It] was maintained deliberately as the dominant antebellum military doctrine, which, by the end of the Civil War, became foundational in American thought. This paradigm maintained faith not in natural individual genius but in collective acceptance of an educated, and therefore scientific way of war."(10–11, 16)
Hope's book combines intellectual and institutional history in a perceptive, well documented study of the sociology of evolving military professions. Its structure is forecast in the elements listed in its subtitle. The author outlines a formal theory of war that differs sharply from the familiar Clausewitzian vocabulary:  the manipulation of topography, the "arithmetic" functions of artillery, fortification, and practical engineering; and the organization, supply, and encampment of armies, and logistics.



Hope's masterful survey of the relevant French primary sources and their American interpreters is notable for his contention that the thought of Antoine-Henri Jomini did not shape the USMA curriculum as much a many have claimed. He admits that Gen. Henry Halleck, for a time Abraham Lincoln's General-in-Chief, was a strict Jominian, but downplays his influence on the Academy and Army compared to Dennis Hart Mahan's.

Hope argues that critics of antebellum theory are guilty of anachronism, ignoring the circumstances and policies the Academy and the theory were intended to support. He quotes Matthew Moten to the effect that historians have concluded that "When the profession needed men to concentrate on high-level problems of military policy and strategy, few were equal to the task."
Hope responds that:
What is meant by this is that America missed the opportunity to create a Prussian-style general staff, a larger standing army, elite military colleges, conscripted reserves, and elaborate war plans for la grande guerre that could re-create Cannae against any foe. The West Point academy is here judged against the "high-level problems of military policy and strategy" of Europe, not the United States. (142)
The heart of the book concerns the evolution of key concepts and their diffusion within the Army by West Point graduates, specifically in the context of post-War of 1812 defense policies; Hope highlights President James Madison and Secretary of War James Monroe's "Third System of defense" and succeeding Secretary of War John C. Calhoun's notion of an "expansible army" (51–59).

The author astutely explores the paradox that a small army in a relatively isolated, hence secure, nation, preoccupied with internal expansion, fortress construction, and constabulary operations against indigenes, nonetheless studied and planned intensively for a most unlikely continental war. He shows that this, on the face of it, counterintuitive focus paid off during the Mexican War (1846–46) and, ironically, after the Union descended into a long civil war.

Tracing "military science" to the Enlightenment and particularly French precedents explains much about the history of instruction at the USMA that historians often gloss over. Older Academy graduates like myself will appreciate Hope's meticulous explication of the "Thayer system," much of which survived into the 1960s.

 Cadets had to master the basic principles and operations of all service branches, and graduates were regularly seconded to arms other than their own, notably the engineering corps and several bureaus. Hope's statistical analysis of the careers of West Point graduates shows that, at the outbreak of the Civil War, they already had considerable experience in higher administration and large-scale operations. The expertise of topographical engineers in operational planning is a case in point (136–38).

A Scientific Way of War will appeal to both professionals and lay persons with a serious interest in the US Army, its premier professional Academy, nineteenth-century American defense policy, the nature of a particular national approach to military theory and doctrine, and the professionalization of the American armed forces. Ian Hope makes the case for the importance of the study of the calculable part of war in pre-Civil War officer education and, implicitly, for its continued significance in professional education.

Full Text of Book Review is at Michigan War Studies Review, December 26, 2016