Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New and Noteworthy---Flames Beyond Gettysburg

Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863, Scott Mingus, Ironclad Publishing, maps, illustrations, $24.95

Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863 describes the significant expedition and raid by a mixed force of Confederate infantry, artillery, and cavalry with the goal of capturing Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Newly promoted Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon led roughly 1,500 Southern soldiers on a mission to seize a vital bridge crossing over the Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia, Pennsylvania. The capture of this bridge, which carried both trains and foot traffic, was crucial for the advance of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division into Lancaster County. Additionally, the capture and ransom of very prosperous York, Pennsylvania, along with the destruction of important railroad bridges and the critical Hanover Junction rail yard further isolated Washington, D.C. In conducting this mission, Gordon and his men became the first Confederates to occupy Gettysburg the week before the battle.

Flames Beyond Gettysburg is a very detailed and accurate account of the Gordon Expedition and the Pennsylvania emergency militiamen and civilians who resisted the invasion. Like others books in Ironclad Publishing's "Discovering Civil War America" series, Volume 5 features detailed driving tours of sites associated with the Gordon mission, such as the Rebels' route from Maryland, the June 26, 1863 skirmishing at Gettysburg's Witmer Farm, CSA Lt. Col. Elijah V. White's cavalry raid on Hanover Junction, Gordon's triumphal march through York, and the crucial burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge by Federal troops.

Text Source: CWL edited and added content found at author's website. Also, there is a wonderful online picture gallery that accompanies the book.

Ironclad Publishing now has seven volumns in its Discovering Civil War America Series.

Monday, February 23, 2009

News---GNMP's Electric Map Will Not Be Plugged In Again; Now It Belongs To The Ages

Iconic Electric Map Destined For Storage, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, February 23, 2009.

The iconic Electric Map that entertained tourists for generations at Gettysburg National Military Park is destined for storage, and probably won’t be seen again for a very long time. When the new $103 million park Visitor Center opened in April 2008, the map’s plug was pulled, indefinitely. The map still sits within the former park complex, along Taneytown Road, awaiting its fate. “We were originally promised that it would be preserved and stored. Now what? I don’t know,” says Walton Jones, spokesman for the Rosensteel family that created the Electric Map. “The family’s feeling is that once it’s taken apart and divided into sections, it won’t be seen again.”

According to GNMP spokeswoman Katie Lawhon, the gigantic map will be “cut into sections” — probably three or four pieces — and moved out of the old visitor center to a storage facility. The top layer of the map is made of friable asbestos, so it will have to be removed before the map is transported elsewhere. A multi-million dollar battlefield rehab project aims to demolish the old visitor center and restore Ziegler’s Grove, where the facility presently sits. Bids for the project were sought before Christmas, but no contract has been announced. Initially, the park had hoped to begin the demolition in December 2008.

“One of the first things that the contractor will do is set up a base of operations in the old visitor center parking lot,” explains Lawhon. “The first part of the job will be to remove the map.” It is unclear, specifically, where the map will be stored. The map is 30 by 30 feet, or 900 square feet, made of plywood and affixed to a steel frame. Jones hopes that the park considers the basement of the new visitor center as a home for the map. The basement is currently occupied by the thousands of artifacts that are not on display in the museum, and it is a climate-controlled environment.

“There aren’t too many places that are large enough to accommodate it,” says Jones. The Gettysburg Foundation, the park’s management and fundraising partner, conducted a feasibility study on the map, determining its weight, removal methods, and among other details, the materials that the map is made of, according to Lawhon. The Gettysburg Times asked for a copy of the study, but the foundation has not responded to the request. “The current plan is that we may be able to use shipping containers,” Lawhon says regarding the removal process. “We could cut it into three or four strips, one per container, and then store it at one of the park’s buildings for preservation and possible future use.”

Relatives of Electric Map inventor Joseph Rosensteel had hoped his creation would remain on display, somewhere. Two years ago, the park entertained offers for the map, but there were stipulations. For example, the ownership group had to be non-profit, and located outside of the Gettysburg tourist area, because the park and foundation didn’t want the map competing against the attractions at the new visitor center. “They didn’t want the map competing against the attractions at the new visitor center,” says Jones. “I know they offered to give it away for free, but when the groups came to town to see it, they backed away.”

For decades, the map was the primary attraction at the park, delighting visitors — or according to critics, boring them — with 625 flashing Christmas bulbs that illustrated the movement of troops during the Battle of Gettysburg. But the map was never incorporated into the plans for the new Battlefield Visitor Center, a near 15-year project. When the new $103 million complex opened in April 2008 along the Baltimore Pike, the doors to the old facility closed.

The plug was pulled on the Electric Map, and it was replaced at the new visitor center by a 22-minute feature film. Sales for the movie floundered so badly at first that the Gettysburg Foundation and park insisted that they had no choice but to adjust ticket rates. The park now charges a flat fee to see the facility’s three primary attractions — the movie, Cyclorama painting and artifact museum — even though officials promised during the planning stages of the project that the museum would be free to the public. “I’m still convinced that the map is the best way to learn about everything about the Battle of Gettysburg in 20 minutes, but they disagree and I have no idea why,” says Jones.

The most recent version of the map was produced in 1962-63 by the Rosensteel family. According to GNMP Supt. John Latschar, the map generated about $777,900 annually over the past five years in gross receipts. The high point of visitation during the park’s operation of the map was in 1994, when about 465,000 attended the program. By 2007, the last full year that the map was open to the public, attendance had fallen by 45 percent to 250,000.

Text Source: Gettysburg Times, February 23, 2009

Photo Source: Baltimore Sun, Civil War Librarian Post

News---US Inspector General's Staff Quizzes GNMP Superintendent

Latschar Under Fire By Feds, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, February 21, 2009

The Inspector General’s Office is investigating Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar in what the veteran battlefield boss describes as “an inquiry into everything that my critics allege that I’ve done wrong over the past 15 years.” In an interview with the Gettysburg Times Friday afternoon, Latschar was confident that the investigation would result in a “complete exoneration of all these false charges that have leaked out.”

“I don’t think it’s any surprise to you or anyone else around here that people are trying to get me fired,” Latschar said. “They’ve written to the Park Service, congressmen, the Department of the Interior, everyone. All of those letters have piled up, so eventually, someone is going to look into it.”

“I believe that they’ll find there’s nothing to the allegations, and it will close this door forever,” Latschar concluded.The Inspector General’s Office is a branch of the Department of the Interior. Investigators there declined to comment Friday.

“It was a lengthy interview. They asked about everything,” said Latschar, adding that investigators returned a second time. “They had in their arsenal every single slander that has ever been printed in the newspaper or posted on a blog. They swept up the crumbs over my 15 years here.”

“Being a public figure, like any other public figure out there,” Latschar said, “people that are opposed at what we do think that the best way they can get back at me is to tarnish my name.” A cover story in The National Journal written by Edward Pound reported that the IG is looking into whether Latschar misused $8,700 in park funds to build a fence on four acres of park land, adjacent to his home.

Latschar’s wife, Terry, uses the pasture to exercise her horses under a park permit. The park’s nonprofit partner at the time, Eastern National, paid for the fence as part of what Latschar said was an annual monetary contribution. “If you write the Interior Department a letter that says John Latschar is misusing funds, they’re eventually obliged to see if there’s anything to the allegations,” Latschar said.

According to Latschar, the inquiry stems from his retirement in October 2008, when he planned to transfer to the Gettysburg Foundation and replace President Robert C. Wilburn. Federal ethics officials later advised against the move, so Latschar isn’t going anywhere. “They (the Inspector General) told me that they came here because it was an exit interview,” said Latschar. “They were closing the file.”

Investigators questioned Latschar about what he calls “street rumors.” At one time, his wife’s nephew David Deal worked at the park’s book store, operated by Eastern National. Deal and at least two other employees, according to Latschar, “were caught with their hands in the till” stealing money. They were successfully prosecuted, Latschar said. Cheryl Cline was previously the head of the reservation office at Eastern National. She later took a similar job with the Gettysburg Foundation when Eastern violated its contract with the park in 2006. Critics allege that she downloaded proprietary and credit card data from Eastern’s files — including reservation lists and customer information — and gave it to the foundation. Eastern threatened legal action to keep the data, Latschar said, but nothing transpired.

“Eastern tried to sue Cheryl for giving this so-called proprietary information to the foundation, when in essence, it was the park’s information all along, and we gave it to the foundation,” said Latschar. A spokesperson at the Inspector General’s office said Friday that questions about the investigation are being handled by the National Park Service Public Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. “My understanding is that the Inspector General is doing a review about John Latschar taking the job at the Gettysburg Foundation,” said David Barna, NPS Chief of Public Affairs. “He decided to stay, so I don’t know what they’re looking at now.”

Mainly, according to Latschar, investigators probed the park’s partnership with the Gettysburg Foundation, and fundraising for the $103 million Visitor Center. The inquiry is unrelated to an ongoing probe by the Government Accountability Office, which is looking into park fundraising. Among other issues, Latschar said that the Inspector General’s office talked to him about the park’s relationship with developer Robert Kinsley, who is also chairman of the Gettysburg Foundation Board of Directors. According to The National Journal, Kinsley’s construction firm and another company owned by his son were paid $8.5 million for their work on the visitor center project. The park’s controversial relationship with its former service partner, Eastern National, is also being probed.

Text and Image Source: Gettysburg Times February 21 2009

CWL: The newspaper's headline is incorrect. An interview with the US IG staff is an inquiry, not a firing squad. Check the readers' comments on the Gettysburg Times website. Looks like four to one in favor of Latschar.

Friday, February 20, 2009

News--- Jeff Davis's White House Infiltrated By Union Intelligence Network

Slave in Jefferson Davis' Home Gave Union Key Secrets, Barbara Starr and Bill Mears, CNN, February 20, 2008

William Jackson was a slave in the home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. It turns out he was also a spy for the Union Army, providing key secrets to the North about the Confederacy. Jackson was Davis' house servant and personal coachman. He learned high-level details about Confederate battle plans and movements because Davis saw him as a "piece of furniture" -- not a human, according to Ken Dagler, author of "Black Dispatches," which explores espionage by America's slaves. "Because of his role as a menial servant, he simply was ignored," Dagler said. "So Jefferson Davis would hold conversations with military and Confederate civilian officials in his presence."

Dagler has written extensively on the issue for the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence . In late 1861, Jackson fled across enemy lines and was immediately debriefed by Union soldiers. Dagler said Jackson provided information about supply routes and military strategy.

"In Jackson's case, what he did was ... present some of the current issues that were affecting the Confederacy that you could not read about in the local press that was being passed back and forth across local lines. He actually had some feel for the issues of supply problems," Dagler said. Jackson and other slaves' heroic efforts have been a forgotten legacy of the war -- lost amid the nation's racially charged past and the heaps of information about the war's historic battles. But historians over the last few decades have been taking an interest in the sacrifice of African-Americans during those war years.

Jackson's espionage is mentioned in a letter from a general to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell refers to "Jeff Davis' coachman" as the source of information about Confederate deployments. Dagler said slaves who served as spies were able to collect incredibly detailed information, in large part because of their tradition of oral history. Because Southern laws prevented blacks from learning how to read and write, he said, the slave spies listened intently to minute details and memorized them.

"What the Union officers found very quickly with those who crossed the line ... was that if you talked to them, they remembered a great more in the way of details and specifics than the average person ... because again they relied totally on their memory as opposed to any written records," he said. Jackson wasn't the only spy. There were hundreds of them. In some cases, the slaves made it to the North, only to return to the South to risk being hanged. One Union general wrote that he counted on black spies in Tennessee because "no white man had the pluck to do it."

No one was better than Robert Smalls, a slave who guided vital supply ships in and out of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. He eventually escaped and provided the Union with "a turning of the forces in Charleston Harbor," according to an annual report of the Navy secretary to President Lincoln. "A debriefing of him gave ... the Union force there the entire fortification scheme for the interior harbor," Dagler said.

One of the most iconic spies was Harriet Tubman, who ran the Underground Railroad, bringing slaves to the North. In 1863, she was asked by the Union to help with espionage in South Carolina. She picked former slaves from the region for an espionage ring and led many of the spy expeditions herself. "The height of her intelligence involvement occurred late in 1863 when she actually led a raid into South Carolina," Dagler said. "In addition to the destruction of millions of dollars of property, she brought out over 800 slaves back into freedom in the North."

As the nation marks Black History Month in February, Dagler said that history should include the sacrifices of the African-Americans who risked their lives for their nation. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice. "They were all over the place, and no one [in the South] considered them to be of any value. Consequently, they heard and saw virtually everything done by their masters, who were the decision-makers," Dagler said.

Whatever happened to William Jackson, the spy in Jefferson Davis's house?Unfortunately, that remains a great unknown. "He simply disappeared from history, as so many of them have."

CNN's Wayne Drash contributed to this report.

Text and Image Source: CNN, February 20, 2009

CNN Video on Black Spies

CWL: It seems likely that William Jackson's intelligence collection began and ended in 1861. More important Elizabeth Van Lew's intelligence network that began in late 1862 and early 1863. Van Lew was communication with several Richmond blacks close to the Davis' home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New and Interesting: Confederate Capital Punishment

Confederate Death Sentences: A Reference Guide, Thomas P. Lowry and Lewis Laska, BookSurge Publishing, paperback, 86 pages, $12.99.

The Confederate armies maintained discipline by flogging, branding, tattooing, hanging, and shooting their soldiers. The disruptions of 1865 scattered and/or destroyed most the records of rebel military justice. The authors have assembled, from many sources, the most complete record of Confederate death sentences ever published. In addition to individuals facing a firing squad, there were mass executions, brothers shot together, fathers and sons shot together, and wives watching their husbands being shot. These vignettes, together with tabulated lists, tell of a hard and unglamorous war, and will be a guide for future writers.

About the Author
Thomas P. Lowry received his medical degree from Stanford in 1957, treated patients for forty years, and was a clinical professor of psychiatry. He has written a dozen history books, covering Lewis and Clark, World War II, and the Civil War. He now lives in Virginia. His co-author, Nashville attorney Lewis Laska, is an authority on 200 years of legal executions in Tennessee.

Text Source: Amazon.com

New and Interesting---Loyal Virginian and Master of War

Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas, Benson Bobrick, Simon & Schuster, 432 pages, $28.00.

George Thomas remains one of the less studied and less appreciated Union generals in the Civil War. In the first full-scale biography for decades, historian Bobrick (Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War) presents a Virginian who stood by his oath to the United States; a commander who saved Kentucky for the Union; brought the Army of the Cumberland out of disaster at Chickamaugua to glory at Missionary Ridge; and destroyed an entire Confederate army at Nashville. Bobrick describes Thomas as consistently victimized by generals Sherman and Grant, who created from whole cloth an enduring image of Thomas as slow to act and think. Bobrick makes a convincing case that the only time Thomas was slow was in retreating under fire. Above all, Thomas understood that the modern high-tech battlefield required not heroic inspiration but deliberate preparation. When the time was right, he acted with a decisiveness comparable among his contemporaries only to Prussia's Helmuth von Moltke. Bobrick considers Thomas the greatest Union general. That remains open to argument, but he incontrovertibly stands in the 19th century's first rank as a master of war. 16 pages of illus.; maps.
Text: Publishers Weekly, Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description from publisher:
In this revelatory, dynamic biography, one of our finest historians, Benson Bobrick, profiles George H. Thomas, arguing that he was the greatest and most successful general of the Civil War. Because Thomas didn't live to write his memoirs, his reputation has been largely shaped by others, most notably Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, two generals with whom Thomas served and who, Bobrick says, diminished his successes in their favor in their own memoirs.

Born in Virginia, Thomas survived Nat Turner's rebellion as a boy, then studied at West Point, where Sherman was a classmate. Thomas distinguished himself in the Mexican War and then returned to West Point as an instructor. When the Civil War broke out, Thomas remained loyal to the Union, unlike fellow Virginia-born officer Robert E. Lee (among others). He compiled an outstanding record as an officer in battles at Mill Springs, Perryville, and Stones River. At the Battle of Chickamauga, Thomas, at the time a corps commander, held the center of the Union line under a ferocious assault, then rallied the troops on Horseshoe Ridge to prevent a Confederate rout of the Union army. His extraordinary performance there earned him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga."

Promoted to command of the Army of the Cumberland, he led his army in a stunning Union victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. Thomas supported Sherman on his march through Georgia in the spring of 1864, winning an important victory at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. As Sherman continued on his March to the Sea, Thomas returned to Tennessee and in the battle of Nashville destroyed the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood. It was one of the most decisive victories of the war, and Thomas won it even as Grant was on his way to remove Thomas from his command. (When Grant discovered the magnitude of Thomas's victory, he quickly changed his mind.) Thomas died of a stroke in 1870 while still on active duty. In the entire Civil War, he never lost a battle or a movement.

Throughout his career, Thomas was methodical and careful, and always prepared. Unlike Grant at Shiloh, he was never surprised by an enemy. Unlike Sherman, he never panicked in battle but always remained calm and focused. He was derided by both men as "Slow Trot Thomas," but as Bobrick shows in this brilliant biography, he was quick to analyze every situation and always knew what to do and when to do it. He was not colorful like Grant and Sherman, but he was widely admired by his peers, and some, such as Grant's favorite cavalry commander, General James H. Wilson, thought Thomas the peer of any general in either army. He was the only Union commander to destroy two Confederate armies in the field.

Although historians of the Civil War have always regarded Thomas highly, he has never captured the public imagination, perhaps because he has lacked an outstanding biographer -- until now. This informed, judicious, and lucid biography at last gives Thomas his due.

About the Author
Benson Bobrick earned his doctorate from Columbia University and is the author of several critically acclaimed works, including Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired, Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution, and Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War. In 2002 he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He and his wife, Hilary, divide their time between New York and Vermont.

"With his customary flair and keen insights, Benson Bobrick has written yet another splendid book. Master of War indispensably belongs on your Civil War bookshelf, right next to biographies of Lee, Grant, Sherman, and Stuart. Bravo!"-- Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America and The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World

Text From Publisher: Simon and Schuster

New and Interesting---Heroes and Cowards in the Same Company

Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War, Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn, Princeton University Press; illustrated with 12 halftones and 13 line illustrations, 1 table, 336 pages, $27.95.

When are people willing to sacrifice for the common good? What are the benefits of friendship? How do communities deal with betrayal? And what are the costs and benefits of being in a diverse community? Using the life histories of more than forty thousand Civil War soldiers, Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn answer these questions and uncover the vivid stories, social influences, and crucial networks that influenced soldiers' lives both during and after the war.

Drawing information from government documents, soldiers' journals, and one of the most extensive research projects about Union Army soldiers ever undertaken, Heroes and Cowards demonstrates the role that social capital plays in people's decisions. The makeup of various companies--whether soldiers were of the same ethnicity, age, and occupation--influenced whether soldiers remained loyal or whether they deserted. Costa and Kahn discuss how the soldiers benefited from friendships, what social factors allowed some to survive the POW camps while others died, and how punishments meted out for breaking codes of conduct affected men after the war. The book also examines the experience of African-American soldiers and makes important observations about how their comrades shaped their lives.

Heroes and Cowards highlights the inherent tensions between the costs and benefits of community diversity, shedding light on how groups and societies behave and providing valuable lessons for the present day.

Table of Contents:
List of Plates xv
Preface xvii
Acknowledgments xxiii
Chapter 1: Loyalty and Sacrifice 1
Chapter 2: Why the U.S. Civil War? 26
Chapter 3: Building the Armies 46
Chapter 4: Heroes and Cowards 80
Chapter 5: POW Camp Survivors 120
Chapter 6: The Homecoming of Heroes and Cowards 160
Chapter 7: Slaves Become Freemen 187
Chapter 8: Learning from the Past 215
Appendix: Records and Collection Methods 227
Notes 243
Bibliography 273
Index 291

Blurb: This impressive study, based on a random sample of forty thousand Civil War soldiers both black and white, reaches important conclusions about their motivation and behavior. Its most significant findings emphasize the role of close social networks within companies and regiments in promoting combat performance, preventing desertion, and increasing survival rates in POW camps. Readable and accessible to nonspecialists, this book should find a wide audience among those interested in the Civil War as well as group behavior more generally.
(James McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Battle Cry of Freedom" )

Text Source: Princeton University Press

New and Interesting---A Confederate Sharpshooter's War

Jack Hinson's One-Man War, A Civil War Sniper, Tom C. McKenney, Pelican Publishing Company, 368 pages, $26.95.

Jack Hinson never planned to become a deadly sniper. A prosperous and influential Kentucky plantation owner in the 1850s, Hinson was devoted to raising his growing family and working his land. Yet by 1865, Hinson had likely killed more than one hundred men and had single-handedly taken down an armed Union transport in his one-man war against Grant's army and navy. By the end of the Civil War, the Union had committed infantry and cavalry from nine regiments and a specially equipped amphibious task force of marines to capture Hinson, who was by that time nearly sixty years old. They never caught him. Since then, the story of Jack Hinson has evaded astute historians, and until now, he has remained invisible in the history of sniper warfare.

John S. "Old Jack" Hinson watched the start of the Civil War with impartial disinterest. A friend of Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate officers alike, Hinson was opposed to secession, focused instead on his personal affairs. After a unit of Union occupation troops moved in on his land and summarily captured, executed, and placed the decapitated heads of his sons on his gateposts, however, Hinson abandoned his quiet life for one of revenge.

In this unprecedented and incredible biography, Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney masterfully recounts Hinson's extraordinary feats as a lone Confederate sniper. Equipped with a rifle he had specially made for long-range accuracy, Hinson became a deadly gadfly to the occupying army. An exemplary piece of historical scholarship and the result of fifteen years of research, this definitive biography includes an amazing cast of characters including the Earp Brothers, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Jesse James, the cousin of Hinson's wife. This breathtaking story was all but destroyed by the obliterating forces of history and is the only account in print chronicling this one man's impact on the Civil War.

About the Author
Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney, USMC (Ret.) is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was an infantry officer and parachutist in the United States Marine Corps, serving in Korea and Vietnam. A student of military history, he has contributed articles to such magazines as Guideposts, the American Legion Magazine, Military, and Leatherneck. His books and activism for veterans' issues have had him appearing on hundreds of radio and television programs including Fox News, the Today Show, and CBS Morning News.

Text Source: Pelican Publishing

CWL: CWL is intrigued but wonders why 'Sniper' is in the title when the Civil War era language is 'sharpshooter.' Smoke is still coming from some flames in online discussion groups from this confusion. The use of the word 'sniper' in the title and the promotional text might come from the marketing department. Hopefully the author is sensitive to the word's impact.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

News---Two Winners of Gettysburg College's 2009 Lincoln Prize

Lincoln and His Admirals, Craig L. Symonds, Oxford University Press, 448 pages $27.95

Abraham Lincoln began his presidency admitting that he knew "little about ships," but he quickly came to preside over the largest national armada to that time, not eclipsed until World War I. A unique and riveting portrait, Lincoln and His Admirals offers an illuminating account of Lincoln and the nation at war.

Written by prize-winning historian Craig L. Symonds, the book unveils an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now, revealing how he managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and how the activities of the Union Navy ultimately affected the course of history. (Text From Publisher)

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, James M. McPherson, Penguin Press, 384 pages, $35.

Though Abraham Lincoln arrived at the White House with no previous military experience (apart from a couple of months spent soldiering in 1832), he quickly established himself as the greatest commander in chief in American history. James McPherson illuminates this often misunderstood and profoundly influential aspect of Lincoln’s legacy. In essence, Lincoln invented the idea of commander in chief, as neither the Constitution nor existing legislation specified how the president ought to declare war or dictate strategy. In fact, by assuming the powers we associate with the role of commander in chief, Lincoln often overstepped the narrow band of rights granted the president. Good thing too, because his strategic insight and will to fight changed the course of the war and saved the Union.

For most of the conflict, he constantly had to goad his reluctant generals toward battle, and he oversaw strategy and planning for major engagements with the enemy. Lincoln was a self-taught military strategist (as he was a self-taught lawyer), which makes his adroit conduct of the war seem almost miraculous. To be sure, the Union’s campaigns often went awry, sometimes horribly so, but McPherson makes clear how the missteps arose from the all-too-common moments when Lincoln could neither threaten nor cajole his commanders to follow his orders.(Text from publisher)

The Lincoln Prize at Gettysburg College shall be awarded annually by the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, or the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era. The Prize will generally go to a book but in rare instances an important article or essay might be honored. When studies competing for the Prize show similar scholarly merit, preference will be given to work on Abraham Lincoln, or the Civil War soldier, or work aimed at the literate general public. In harmony with the last preference, in rare instances the Prize may go to a work or works of fiction, poetry, the theatre, the arts, a film, scholarly article or editing project- provided they are true to history. In rare instances, the Prize may go to an historical project, such as an inspired conference or an editing project, such as an inspired conference or an editing project. In rare instances, the trustees may grant the award to a work or service related to Lincoln, or the Civil War soldier or their era, not included in the foregoing description. As many as two prizes may be awarded each year. It will be awarded for works published only during the designated year of the Prize.

The Prize is intended chiefly to encourage outstanding new scholarship, but a lifetime contribution to the study of Lincoln, or the American Civil War soldier, may qualify for the award. Each year any work that appears during the previous year may be eligible for consideration. However, facing a lean scholarly year, the Board of Trustees may request the jury to consider work from the previous two or three years.

The Prize is supervised and awarded by the five trustees of the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute. The Board of Trustees appoints a jury of three historians or qualified specialists each year. The jury will be requested to recommend three finalists and the Board of Trustees is to make a final selection of the winner.

Text Source: Gettysburg College

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News---Gettysburg's Wills House: Grand Opening Saturday/Sunday, February 14/15

Highlights of Saturday and Sunday Schedule

10:00 AM-4:00 PM- “Lincoln and his Faith” Exhibit at USCC Museum- 242 Baltimore St. $5 requested donation www.USCCgettysburg.org

11:00 AM & 2:00 PM- Soldiers' National Cemetery Program with Park Rangers. Join a guided 30 minute walk about David Wills, establishment of the National Cemetery, and Lincoln's address. Soldiers' National Cemetery- Taneytown Rd entrance

1:30 PM- Lincoln Walking Tours- Main Street Gettysburg Downtown Licensed Guides depart from the Wills House

3:30 PM- Performance of selections from “Battlecry” at Historic Gettysburg Railroad Station. “Battlecry” follows the lives of three couples, one Union, one Confederate, and one African American, as they pursue their love against the backdrop of the battle of Gettysburg. Come join us for this celebration of the human spirit in the time of war, beautifully dramatized by Lincoln's timeless words to music.

Source for Schedule: Main Street Gettysburg

Source of Images: Yahoo Slide Show

News---LOCs' 200 Most Important Lincoln Items Exhibited

Lincoln's 'Rare Eloquences' On Display In Bicentennial Exhibit, Paul Courson, CNN, February 10, 2008.

The Library of Congress marks 200 years since the birth of Abraham Lincoln on Thursday by opening a special exhibit featuring his handwritten speeches and artifacts, including the Bible used last month by President Obama during his swearing-in. "This exhibit, in a little more than 200 items, presents Lincoln, the man and the politician," said John Sellers, curator of the exhibit that runs through May 9. "The thing that you will see most of is that he had a hatred of inequality," Sellers said during a preview for the media on Monday.

Lincoln successfully fought a proposal for legalized slavery as development spread to the western United States, and he eventually brought an end to slavery throughout the country. Among the manuscripts on display is a letter he wrote in impassioned defense of his Emancipation Proclamation. The librarian of Congress, James Billington, acknowledges the materials are already available on the Internet in "digitized" form, but he said "there is something about seeing the original because, after all, Lincoln was a man of words, of rare eloquences." "His words changed history," Billington said.

The exhibit at the Library of Congress -- located on Capitol Hill next to the U.S. Supreme Court -- was in the works for Lincoln's bicentennial long before the presidential campaign in which voters elected Barack Obama. Billington told CNN the exhibition is all the more profound as visitors explore the links between the anti-slavery Lincoln and the African-American Obama.

Referring to Lincoln's original handwritten speeches, Billington said: "You want to see how the man wrote it out; how he made corrections; how he pasted together the first inaugural address; how he listened to other people; how he grew with interaction with the public, pretty much the way President Obama has done, established in the power of words."

There are also grim reminders of Lincoln's assassination. An original "wanted" poster with large black letters reads: "$100,000 Reward. The murderer is still at large." The poster includes a photograph of John Wilkes Booth, who was on the run after being accused of firing the fatal shots at Ford's Theatre in Washington, where Lincoln was attending a play. iReport.com: Deliver one of Lincoln's most famous speeches

"This is the autopsy report," Sellers noted during the preview. "Those are actual blood stains -- Lincoln's blood." He explained when doctors removed the president's brain during the examination of his body, "the bullet fell to the floor. They couldn't find the bullet, and it actually fell out of the brain while they were holding it." Other, more lighthearted artifacts are also on display, including an 1860 letter from a girl, urging presidential candidate Lincoln to grow a beard to help his prospects with voters.

Text and Image Source: An original "wanted" poster reads: "$100,000 Reward. The murderer is still at large."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Resurrection: Ezra A. Carman's Antietam Campaign

The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam, Edited by Joseph Pierro, New York Routledge, 2007. xii + 516 pp. $95.00

reviewed by Justin Solonick (Texas Christian University), H-CivWar, February, 2009

The Resurrection of Ezra A. Carman's History of the Antietam Campaign

For nearly a century, Ezra A. Carman's The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 lay dormant within the Library of Congress, but editor Joseph Pierro's efforts have made it widely available for the first time. Pierro clearly states that his objective is not to offer Carman's work "as a springboard for engaging the totality of primary sources pertaining to the Maryland campaign ... [nor] to deconstruct Carman's entire manuscript in the context of a comprehensive critical study" (p. xii). Instead, he wishes to "make Carman's text readily available for scholars and enthusiasts alike to engage on its own terms: as the definitive account of how the campaign was understood by the man who literally cast its official history in iron" (p. xii).

Carman dedicated his life to the Civil War. He served as colonel of the 13th New Jersey at the battle of Antietam. By the time Carman was mustered out of the Union Army in 1865, he had participated in twenty-three battles. Approximately one year after the war, the governor of New Jersey appointed him to serve as the state's trustee on the Antietam National Cemetery Association. In 1894, he was hired as a historical expert at the Antietam National Battlefield.

According to Pierro, "little is known about the editorial history of The Maryland Campaign of September 1862" (p. xi). The editor assumes that Carman conducted the majority of his research after his appointment to the Antietam Board in 1894. Although he does not provide any evidence to support this claim, Pierro writes that "internal evidence demonstrates that the manuscript passed through a number of drafts, and it may not even be the case that Carman considered the book to be in its final form at the time of his death" (p. xi). The manuscript that currently resides in the Library of Congress may, in fact, be an unfinished draft, but Pierro has decided to treat it as a final copy intended for publication.

Readers must take note of Carman's sources. These are a hybrid of his wartime experiences, oral interviews, and a plethora of manuscript sources. Carman also relied heavily on the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (1880). Throughout the book, Pierro meticulously verifies Carman's citations and provides clear footnotes. Unfortunately, Carman neglected to cite certain sources making this information irretrievable, and the editor makes note of these instances.

Carman began by studying Maryland--the scene of the battle--at the beginning of the war. After discussing the state of affairs in Maryland, he proceeded to write about the Confederate invasion of this border state. More specifically, he examined the Confederate decision for a Northern incursion as well as describing the Army of Northern Virginia's movements throughout the campaign. The narrative proceeds by describing the state of the Army of the Potomac before the Antietam campaign.

After John Pope's defeat at Second Bull Run, Abraham Lincoln and Henry Wager Halleck called on Union General George B. McClellan to restore order to the Union armies in the east. Rallied, Union forces marched out of Washington DC to thwart the Army of Northern Virginia's invasion of Maryland. Carman's description of the Union march is full of excellent detail. For example, he reported the problems associated with stragglers and the disorganization of the quartermaster department. Carman complemented descriptions of military movements with depictions of civilian reactions. According to Carman, "Lee's entrance into Maryland was the signal for intense excitement in Pennsylvania. ... [T]he farmers ... trembled for their safety, and every effort was made to remove everything as far as possible from the grasp of the invader" (p. 98).

The battle of Antietam constitutes the climax of Carman's book, and he sought to bring order to this chaotic event. Before providing a bullet-by-bullet account of the engagement, Carman cited Francis Winthrop Palfrey to the effect that battle history is exceedingly difficult to produce: "Participants in real fighting know how limited and fragmentary and confused are their recollections of work after it became hot. The larger the force engaged, the more impossible it is to give an accurate presentation of its experiences" (p. 214). Having fought at the battle himself, Carman understood the confusion that occurred at Antietam.

Carman next addressed the particulars of the battle. The first chapter on this topic, "The Field of Antietam," describes the battlefield and will prove invaluable to military historians. Although the National Park Service impeccably preserved the Antietam battlefield, time has undoubtedly altered the landscape. Carman's descriptions provide insight into the topography and how it affected the armies, "the turnpike, country roads, and farm lanes gave ready access to all parts of the field upon which, save along the banks of the Antietam itself, there were no obstacles to the movement of troops and but few to the passage of artillery. The undulating character of the ground, rolling into eminences of all dimensions ...then sinking in places to broad and deep ravines or basins in which a corps could be hidden, made it possible to move large bodies of troops from one point to another with secrecy and comparative safety. The Confederates took full advantage of this peculiarity of topography before and during the battle" (p. 196). Carman's description, penned during the nineteenth century, will aid those interested in the terrain at the time of the engagement.

Carman's depiction of the woods surrounding Antietam is interesting. Woodlands on many Civil War battlefields have changed dramatically. Once traversable eastern forests have become plagued by dense undergrowth. Previously barren land now contains trees. Conversely, wooded areas have been felled. Carman's descriptions will help historians capture a glimpse of the Civil War that nature has obscured. With regard to the famous West Woods, he wrote, "this woodland is full of outcropping ledges of limestone, affording excellent cover for infantry.... [T]he West Woods [was] remarkably free from undergrowth ... offering but slight impediment to the movement of troops" (p. 198). Illuminating battlefield descriptions from an Antietam veteran will be valuable to historians seeking knowledge of the terrain.

After explaining how the armies arrived at Sharpsburg and describing the terrain on which the battle evolved, Carman produced a comprehensive narrative of the engagement. He divided the battle into its three principle phases. He wrote that "the battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) was really three engagements at different hours of the day, on entirely different parts of the field" (p. 215). As one of the first writers to describe the battle in this fashion, Carman created what has become a convention among historians. The old soldier proceeded to examine the engagement beginning with the Union right flank. He divided this section into consecutive hours. The more famous locations on the battlefield, such as the West Woods, Dunkard Church, Sunken Road, and Burnside's Bridge, receive their own chapters. Carman ended his section devoted to the battle by criticizing McClellan. With regard to McClellan's performance, he wrote that "more errors were committed by the Union commander than in any other battle of the war" (p. 363). Ultimately, Carman's respect and admiration rested with the men who fought and died at Antietam. "Every state from the Great Lakes on the North to the Gulf of Mexico on the South, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and (with the exception of Iowa and Missouri) every state watered by the Mississippi contributed to this carnival of death and suffering" (p. 363).

Carman concluded with Lincoln's removal of McClellan. Most Union soldiers loved Little Mac. Carman, however, sporadically displayed contempt for this Union general: "It was a saying of Napoleon that the general who is ignorant of his enemy's strength and disposition is ignorant of his trade. Judged by this standard, McClellan was not a great general" (p. 85). Later, he stated that, "if history should censure the president for anything in his relations with McClellan it would not be for refusing him active service, but for retaining him in command for as long as he did" (p. 394). Although Carman criticized McClellan, he also praised the general's ability to convert the Army of the Potomac into a professional force.

Unfortunately, Carman was not a trained historian, and he did not develop a clear thesis throughout this work. The book does revolve, however, around the theme of lost opportunities. With regard to the Confederacy, Carman wrote that "there were reasons beyond those of purely a military character that impelled the Confederate government to pass from the defensive and assume the offensive.... For more than a year the Confederate leaders had been anxiously awaiting the recognition of the Confederacy by foreign powers and their intervention to raise the blockade and give its cause moral and physical support; for more than a year they had been told that recognition would follow their decided success in the field" (p. 34). If the Confederacy lost the campaign, Southern leaders realized, they would not obtain foreign recognition. Carman believed that the Confederacy lost this opportunity once a soldier from the Army of the Potomac inadvertently found Robert E. Lee's Special Order No. 191--the Confederate order outlining their troop movements for the entire campaign. Carman wrote that the Union interception of Special Order No. 191"culminated in the entire failure of Lee's campaign and its expected results: the liberation of Maryland and its alliance with the South, English and French intervention, and the recognition of the independence of the Southern Confederacy" (p. 129).

Carman believed that General McClellan squandered the North's opportunity to achieve decisive victory. According to Carman, there was a critical window of opportunity between the time when the Army of the Potomac intercepted Special Order No. 191 and when Lee realized the North had obtained this crucial intelligence. Had McClellan acted swiftly, he could have overwhelmed Lee's scattered forces. Carman stated that "McClellan did not rise to the occasion. He did not take full advantage of the long afternoon, he did not order the night march--and thereby missed the opportunity of his life.... McClellan did not rise to the situation... . The failure to be 'equal to the emergency' was on the part of the commander of the army and not on the part of the men" (p. 134). Subsequently, Carman emphasized McClellan's failure to strike Lee on either September 15 or September 16 before Lee consolidated his forces along the Antietam. Carman cited Francis A. Walker to the effect that "it is
difficult to see what excuse can be offered for the failure to fight the impending battle on the 16th.... [A]dvantage of concentration would have been on the side of McClellan" (p. 202). Carman wrote that, at the close of the battle, "the change that came over the army in two days was very marked. On the morning of the seventeenth, it had great confidence in McClellan, but that confidence began to wane before the close of the day. The inaction of the eighteenth increased the feeling that he was not the man for the occasion ... there was very pronounced dissatisfaction . . . but the fact remains that confidence in him as a commander on the field was greatly shaken" (p. 369).

According to Carman, then, "the result of the Maryland campaign was satisfactory neither to the North nor the South. In the North there was great dissatisfaction at the loss of Harper's Ferry.... [T]his dissatisfaction was intensified by the indecisive result at Antietam and Lee's escape, when his army should have been destroyed. In the South there was criticism of Lee and disgust at the apathy of the people of Maryland.... It was freely admitted that the campaign was both a political and military blunder" (p. 378). Although the campaign proved limited in terms of strategic value, Carman did recognize that it prompted the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and sealed the fate of Union General McClellan.

Carman's attention to detail is impressive. The retired colonel discussed both famous units, such as John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade, and lesser-known regiments with equal attention. Carman concentrated on regimental deployment, the number of men engaged, and the number of casualties respective units received. Details exist in harmony alongside entertaining anecdotes. For example, one learns the fate of the first Texas flag, "the color was the Lone Star flag made from the wedding dress of Mrs. Louis T. Wigfall, whose husband--formerly Senator Wigfall--had been colonel of the 1st Texas. Its loss was not discovered until the regiment was moving out of the [cornfield]" (p. 232).

Pierro should be lauded for his appendixes. These contain such information as military orders of battle and casualty tables for various engagements throughout the campaign. Appendix J, "Strength of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam," is particularly interesting (p. 453). Problems arise when determining exactly how many soldiers were present on a Civil War battlefield. Disease, desertion, and straggling rapidly deteriorated ranks as armies campaigned. According to Carman, _present for duty_ did not typically translate into present for action. In this appendix, Carman attempted to calculate "a reasonably correct conclusion as to the number of men in action at Antietam and shall depend upon the official reports of the division, brigade, and regimental histories, and other authentic sources of information" (p.453). Military historians interested in the number of men actually present on America's bloodiest day will find this section particularly useful.

This book is recommended to historians researching the battle of Antietam. It will be essential for establishing the historiography of the engagement. In addition, the treasure trove of campaign details will enlighten serious military historians. Those just embarking on their study of this famous battle might want to consult a simpler and shorter narrative before tackling this highly detailed account. Although the details are illuminating, novices may find the text daunting.

Citation: Justin Solonick. Review of Carman, Ezra A., The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam. H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews. February, 2009.

Text Source: H-Net Reviews, University of Michigan
Images Source: Antietam NMP

Thursday, February 05, 2009

CWL--- Writing History: Documenting and Interpreting a Slave Revolt

Rebellion: Documenting and Interpreting a Slave Revolt, Mark M. Smith, University of South Carolina Press, 134 pp., bibliography, notes, maps, 2005, $14.96.

Assessing the meaning and nature of any social or political revolt is difficult, whether it is a civil war or a war of liberation. South Carolina's Stono River Rebellion of 1739 was a local event that was deeply connected to trans-Atlanic history. The participants were Kongolese Africans influenced by Portuguese Catholicism and both loyal and murderous to their masters. Mark Smith has collected both primary documents and reflective essays that show a "complicated, textured, malevolent world in which the slaves and the white South Carolinians lived in 1739."

Slave resistance conspiracies and slave revolts marked the decade of the 1730. The islands of Bahama, Antiqua, Jamaica, St. John, and Guadalupe quivered with the anticipation of revolts or quaked with their actual occurrence. Decapitation, maiming and arson were used by the whites and the slaves. On September 9, 1739 a campaign of judgment was begun, first by blacks on whites, then by whites on blacks. By noon five homes were burning and probably 21 whites were dead. During the late afternoon, marching by drum beat and under a banner about 60 slaves had covered 10 miles. The Lieutenant Governor with about 100 militia men approached. During the battle about 30 of the renegades escaped. The militia let those captives go whom they felt had been coerced into rebellion. Those slaves who were most involved in the revolt were shot and beheaded. A week later the escaped renegades were discovered and battled.

"A fundamental alteration in the character of Carolina society [occurred]with a less open and less compromising slave system." The 1740 Negro Act was passed and militia men were required to constantly patrol their neighborhoods. Monetary levies increased on slaveholders who purchased imported slaves. Slave masters' rights and privileges to free slaves was withdrawn by the colonial government.

Submitting 15 documents to the reader, Smith places them in a context that "helps students to understand contemporary views of the revolt and gauge its impact on colonial South Carolina society." The essays by historians illustrate how "historians build on others' work in an effort to advance historical understanding, sometimes using the same sources differently, sometimes using newly discovered sources, and almost always engaging with and building on earlier interpretative insights and analyses." Smith intention is not be provide a comprehensive review of the Stono Rebellion "but to provide a useful staring point for anyone beginning research on the topic."

Smith's book illustrates how a historian's hypothesis is developed and how the historian specifically uses evidence to support it. Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt is a fine introduction for undergraduates, graduates and laymen to the historical method. Additionally, Smith's book exposes the roots of what Steven A. Channing in 1970 revealed as a crisis of fear in Charleston, South Carolina in the late fall 1859 through the election of Lincoln. John Brown's Harpers Ferry Raid in October 1859 convinced South Carolina that it would be safer outside the Union than inside the Union. The ghosts of Stono and the ghost of John Brown haunted South Carolina.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

CWL--September 13, 1862: The Day Lee's Order 191 Was Lost

How Samuel E. Pittman Validated Lee's Lost Orders Prior to Antietam: A Historical Note, Charles B. Dew, Journal of Southern History, November 2004, pp. 865-870.

Between 9a and 10a on September 13 1862, Corporal Barton Mitchell and the 27th Indiana took a break on the way to Frederick, Md. Under a tree that grew beside a fence he found an envelope with three cigars wrapped in a letter addressed to Major D. H. Hill, a division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. Charles B. Dew uses Stephen Sears and James B. McPherson's books to synthesize a description of the event.

From Mitchell to Bloss to Kopp to Colgrove to Pittman, a lieutenant and adjutant-general of Williams' division, Order 191 travelled. The remarkableness of the event is overshadowed by an even greater coincidence. Colonel S. E. Pittman had served in Detroit Michigan before the war with Colonel R. H. Chilton who had written and signed Order 191.

Silas Colgrove described the incident in volume II of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War published in 1887-1888. His was the accepted version of the events until 1999 when Stephen Sears questions some elements of the story in "last Words on the Lost Order in his book Controversies and Commanders. Sears discovered that Pittman joined the army in September 1861 and that Chilton had left the army six months before Pittman joined it. Pittman a civilian lived as a civilian in Detroit while Chilton served in the army as a paymaster there. McPherson notes Sears discovery but adds that Sears does not explain how Pittman would have known Chilton in Detroit.

Dew, the author of the Journal of Southern History article, as reviewed Pittman's papers located at the Chapin Library of Williams College, Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, Pittman was in correspondence with Ezra Carmen, the biblical Moses of Antietam studies and designated 'Historical Expert' on the Antietam Battlefield Board during the 1890s. Carmen's history of the battle appeared for the first time in print in 2008; Joseph Pierro reproduced Carmen's research, discovered Carmen's sources and published a highly referenced edition of Carmen's history of the battle.

Pittman replied to Carmen's May 3, 1897 request for a detailed recollection of the event and stated to Carmen on May 7 that he recieved Colgrove's visit before noon on September 13th. "I did not take the order myself as we were momentarily expecting order to moveforward, which expectation was heightened by the importance of the paper so opportunely falling into our possession," wrote Pittman. (868)

"I could not be spared to personally carry the paper to General McClelland and General Colgrove was in error on this point, but I sent the order at once with an injunction [to the courier]to ride fast, and it wa spromptly delivered at General McClellan's headquarters." (868) Carman recieved a letter from one who claimed to be the courier and who had delivered Order 191 to McClellan at approximately 9:30a on the 13th. Carmer queried Pittman for more details.

Pittman replied that the division's provost marshal and chief of artillery were with him and Williams when Colgrove rode up with Order 191 and 9:30a was much to early in the day for the delivery of the documents. Carmen persisted and asked Pittman how he knew it was Chilton's handwriting. Pittman disclosed that his prewar career was teller at the Michigan State Bank at which the U.S. Army kept a checking accout. Chilton was the paymaster and Pittman stated that he had seen Chilton's signature thousands of times. In a telegram to Halleck on the evening of September 13, McClellan described Order 191 as a document "the authenticity of which is unquestionable." (870)

Image Sources:

Order 191

Bottom Ezra Ayers Carman