Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New and Noteworthy: Rules of Civility, Rules of Honor, And the Possibility of A War of the Knife to the Hilt

A More Civil War: How the Union Waged a Just War, D.H. Dilbeck, North Carolina University Press, 244 pages, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index $34.95

From The Publisher: During the Civil War, Americans confronted profound moral problems about how to fight in the conflict. In this innovative book, D. H. Dilbeck reveals how the Union sought to wage a just war against the Confederacy. He shows that northerners fought according to a distinct "moral vision of war," an array of ideas about the nature of a truly just and humane military effort.

Dilbeck tells how Union commanders crafted rules of conduct to ensure their soldiers defeated the Confederacy as swiftly as possible while also limiting the total destruction unleashed by the fighting. Dilbeck explores how Union soldiers abetted by official just-war policies as they battled guerrillas, occupied cities, retaliated against enemy soldiers, and came into contact with Confederate civilians.
In contrast to recent scholarship focused solely on the Civil War's carnage,

Dilbeck details how the Union sought both to deal sternly with Confederates and to adhere to certain constraints. The Union's earnest effort to wage a just war ultimately helped give the Civil War its distinct character, a blend of immense destruction and remarkable restraint.

D. H. Dilbeck is assistant professor of history at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Peer Reviews:  

 "D. H. Dilbeck presents a clear and provocative treatment of a very difficult and complex subject, offering a well-balanced assessment of the effort to conduct ‘hard war’ in a humane way. Nuanced, complex, and captivating."--George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Chosen Peoples

"D. H. Dilbeck has produced a judicious, accessible, and fresh book answering the complicated question: was the American Civil War a just war? A More Civil War examines the elements of a conflict waged hard but one that also yielded humane and legal restrictions codified by Columbia professor Francis Lieber in 1863. An excellent introduction to the role of morality and law in wartime for students and general readers alike."--Joan Waugh, author of U. S. Grant

Amazon Link: A More Civil War

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

News: Demise of the Last Wax Museum in Gettysburg; Presidents and First Ladies to be Auctioned

Gettysburg; Hall of Presidents Closes, Wax Figures To Be Auctioned, story by Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Son, December 5, 2016.

Forty-three U.S. presidents will be looking for homes next month, as Gettysburg’s Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, which closed in late November, will be auctioning off the wax figures that have been entertaining tourists for more than half-a-century.The figures, along with other museum contents, will be put up for auction Jan. 14.

A fixture on Gettyburg’s Baltimore Street since 1957, the museum displayed figures of all 43 men who have served as president. It also included figures of each first lady, dressed in facsimile inaugural gowns. The museum fell victim to a decline in attendance that not even interest in the recent presidential election could stem, its owner said.

"It was kind of its time," said Max T. Felty, president of Gettysburg Tours Inc. "We were hoping that, with the Gettysburg [2013] sesquicentennial, we'd see the attendance go up. But it really didn't increase much." According to the museum’s website, the figures’ heads are made of a liquid vinyl plastic (with eyes purchased from an optical supply company), while the torsos are made of Fiberglass and Styrofoam. The “fully articulating arms” are made of wood.

Gettysburg Tours Inc. also operates the Jennie Wade House and Museum, in a building that was home to the only civilian killed during the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg.  Attendance at the Jennie Wade House remains steady, Felty says, and its future is secure for now. "She's not going anywhere," he says. "That's a very good attraction."

The company also owned the town’s Soldier's National Museum, which closed in November 2014.
The Hall of Presidents auction is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 14 at the 1863 Inn of Gettysburg, 516 Baltimore St. Previews are set for noon-5 p.m. Jan. 8 and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Jan. 12 at the museum, 789 Baltimore St.

text and image source: Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reviewed on H-War/H-Net: A Field Guide to Gettysburg

Carol Reardon, Tom Vossler. A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Illustrations, maps. 464 pp. $22.00 (paper).
Reviewed by Jeffery S. Prushankin (Millersville University of Pennsylvania)  Published on H-War (November, 2016)  Review published on Sunday, November 27, 2016
"According to recent estimates, there are over sixty-five thousand books written about Gettysburg, with subjects ranging from the memory of Pickett’s Charge to the menu at General Pickett’s Buffet. None of these books accomplish what Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler have achieved with A Field Guild to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its Historical Places and People. As its title indicates, the book allows the reader to reconstruct, interpret, and essentially understand the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of those who fought. Although A Field Guide to Gettysburg generally follows the Park Service auto tour, there are several additional opportunities that make this anything but a standard excursion.
"The book is divided into three main sections, one for each day of the battle, and each section is subdivided into chapters that follow that day’s events. Each chapter is broken into subsections that correspond with one of thirty-five tour stops. Tour stops begin with an orientation that allows the reader to pinpoint the location on one of the corresponding forty-seven maps and to begin to understand the significance of the battlefield itself as a primary source.
"Next, the authors ask “What Happened Here?” and provide a few paragraphs of powerful prose describing events that took place at that location. The authors often use the words of soldiers, from officers to enlisted men, to develop the narrative and accordingly, put the reader into the action. The clearly drawn maps depict troop movements, some down to the company level, facilitating an understanding of the battle from the soldier’s point of view. To further explore the action from this perspective, Reardon and Vossler then ask “Who Fought Here?” and “Who Commanded Here?” These areas of investigation describe the troops engaged as well as the personalities involved. All of this makes the following heading “Who Fell Here?” that much more powerful. The use of individual vignettes helps illustrate that each number in a casualty report was an individual, a real human being, not merely a statistic or a name in a history book tucked away on some dusty bookshelf. Indeed, the authors often examine the impact of death upon a soldier’s family, thus personalizing the battlefield. For several tour stops, the authors include the heading “Who Lived Here?” that considers the civilians of Gettysburg whose lives were disrupted and in some cases destroyed by the carnage of battle and its lingering aftermath. The study of each tour stop concludes with the heading “What Did They Say about It Later?” offering the reader a consideration of how Gettysburg began its evolution in historical memory.
"It is not uncommon to see visitors to Gettysburg traipsing across the battlefield with the Official Records in one hand, a map in the other, and a backpack loaded with the complete works of Harry Pfanz. To a great extent, A Field Guide to Gettysburg eliminates the need to carry that weight. Reardon and Vossler have provided an instant classic in a single volume that is both eminently readable and exceptionally useable, ideal for those participating in staff rides, educational tours, or a self-guided exploration of the battlefield. Even if one lives nowhere near the battlefield, A Field Guide to Gettysburg is a perfect companion book to supplement traditional Gettysburg monographs.
Text Source: N-Net Reviews

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Federal Victory at The Battle of South Mountain, Maryland: Why Was It a Strategic Diaster for McClellan ?

McClellan's Big Miss, Ronald Soodalter, MHQ: Military History Quarterly.29:2, Winter, 2017, pp. 76-80.

Excerpts from the article:

 Union commander George B. McClellcm won the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. So why was it such a strategic disaster?

"In the annals of warfare, it is beyond rare that the commander of an army is given the enemy's battle plans. Yet that is precisely what happened in September 1862, when a copy of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's Special Orders No. 191 fell into the hands of the commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac, Major General George B. McClellan. It was, in the words of historian Bruce Catton, "the greatest security leak in American military history," and for a moment it gave McClellan the opportunity to end the Civil War--an opportunity that was, tragically, squandered."

"Ultimately, though, the responsibility rests with McClellan. With superior forces and the intelligence in hand to bring the war to an end, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Catton, in his timeless Army of the Potomac Trilogy, faults McClellan for a fatal lack of urgency: "With everything in the world at stake, both for the country and for McClellan personally, why couldn't the man have taken fire just once?"
"Although the Battle of South Mountain caused Lee to rethink his strategy, a far bloodier confrontation lay just ahead before Lee would abandon his Maryland Campaign. By failing to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia after South Mountain, McClellan gave Lee enough time to solidify his position and ready his forces for the major battle that would follow within days."
"The Rebels would remember it as the Battle of Sharpsburg; to the people of the North, it was Antietam, and it would claim some 23,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest single day of combat in the nation's history. And once again, despite possessing superior numbers, McClellan--through an excess of caution bordering on timidity--would fail to seize a second opportunity to destroy Lee's army. The war was destined to last another two and a half years, and to tally a butcher's bill of three-quarters of a million lives. "

 "The Battle of South Mountain is generally viewed as a tactical Union victory. Late on September 14, Lee himself stated matter-of-factly, "The day has gone against us." It was, however, a strategic disaster for McClellan. Through a series of inexcusable delays, the Army of the Potomac's commanders--having squandered so much precious time--failed to follow up their success in the South Mountain passes with a decisive move against Lee"

 "When Lee was first informed that Crampton's Gap had fallen, he ordered Fox's and Turner's Gaps abandoned, intending to lead his men back into Virginia. But word soon reached him of the surrender of Harpers Ferry, and--with the reunification of his army--he instead determined to confront the Army of the Potomac in open battle a short distance from South Mountain"

Full Text Source:   MHQ: Military History Quarterly.29:2, Winter, 2017, 

Image Source:  Battle of South Mountain, Civil War Trust

Friday, October 07, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text Source: Princeton University Press

Saturday, September 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web Source: Civil War Journal ,  Kent State University

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

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

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

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

Thursday, August 04, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 15, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

New and Noteworthy---Bushwacking the Bushwackers and Stealing from the Cotton Smugglers

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts: Union Soldiers, Prisoners, Spies, Gordon L.Olson, Eerdmans Publishing, 300 pp., 74 illustrations and maps, bibliographic notes, index 2014, $22.00 (paper),
reviewed by Paul Springer for HNet
Gordon L. Olson served as the city historian in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for decades, and in that capacity, he produced several well-received works of local history. With his most recent work, Olson is tackling a subject beyond his normal stomping grounds, but he has done an enormous amount of meticulous research in his effort to examine Isaac Earl, a Union soldier who earned a notorious reputation in Louisiana during the Civil War. Earl and his small, independent command operated as a rudimentary form of special forces, acting alternately as cavalry regulars, armed partisans, spies, and scouts; they had an outsized influence over the course of events in the region during the Union occupation of the southern portion of the state. 
Olson does an admirable job investigating all of the myriad forms of warfare practiced by these daring pioneers and placing it into the context of the vicious backcountry war raging through the area.  Earl and the three dozen men under his command offer a fascinating subject for study; his story is proof that there are still limitless stories to tell from a subject, the American Civil War, that some scholars considered exhausted decades ago. His special scouts unit was formed primarily to conduct economic warfare against Confederate partisans operating in the region. 
In particular, Earl’s men were empowered to seize contraband; to eliminate, or at least seriously curtail, smuggling across the Mississippi River; and to hunt the bushwhackers guilty of attacks against both Union forces and Southern collaborators who sought to cooperate with the occupiers. In this regard, Earl’s forces were remarkably successful, capturing more than one million dollars in contraband, including nearly one thousand bales of cotton, as well as dozens of Confederate prisoners. They also proved extremely effective at developing useful intelligence regarding Confederate movements in the area and ferreting out spies within the Union lines. Earl is portrayed as a larger-than-life Civil War hero, who terrorized his enemies; repeatedly escaped from captivity; and in the end was gunned down by a cowardly enemy who refused to follow the basic concepts of chivalry, or even common decency. 
There is a certain degree of sensationalism in the account, but Olson does an admirable job of parsing the fact from fiction to portray Olson in a clear and convincing fashion.Olson has a very easy, smooth writing style, the product of decades of effort within the profession. It is bolstered by a clear organization and a wealth of sources. This work is clearly the product of decades of effort, a labor of love performed when official duties would allow. The result has very believable conclusions, based largely on excellent primary sources. 
It is clear that Olson is enamored with the subject of his study. Unfortunately, however, a certain tinge of hero-worship intrudes upon the narrative from time to time, which leads to a certain overstatement of the importance of Earl’s effect on the outcome of the war. In particular, Olson tends to argue that Earl acted entirely out of professionalism and a sense of duty, as did all of the men under his command. The alternate explanation is that some, perhaps most, of Earl’s scouts acted largely out of a desire for plunder, as their official sanction essentially allowed them to operate as free agents, confiscating any private property that they might deem contraband of war. Olson’s armchair generalship can be a bit cloying at times, and a broader examination of the secondary literature might have clarified some of his discussions regarding the overall influence of Earl’s unit on the war in Louisiana. 
In the end, though, Olson resists the urge to push his views too forcefully on the reader and seems content to present the case as he sees it, leaving room for some dissent. Olson’s narrative touches on a number of important subjects. Perhaps most notably, it reminds the reader that guerrilla warfare was the norm in many areas behind the formal lines of battle, not just in Missouri where it has been most thoroughly covered. This study demonstrates the importance of the economic aspects of the conflict, a concept that often disappears into the operational histories of the war, but that might have been just as important as battlefield activities in determining the eventual outcome of the conflict. 
In particular, the effort to control and patrol the entire length of the Mississippi River, a goal that Earl’s scouts pursued relentlessly, is a fundamental part of the story. In addition, the key roles that can be played by small, independent units, particularly those armed with the latest forms of technology, is a recurring theme that has only become more important in modern warfare. The nature of the “shadow war” fought by Earl and his antagonists, when contrasted with the large-scale battles more commonly covered in Civil War works, reminds the reader of the wide variety of violence practiced during the conflict. Further, the roles played by spies, informants, sympathizers, and collaborators, as well as the ability of African American slaves to affect the outcome of the war, are major elements of this narrative.
Overall, this is an excellent biography of a man who had largely fallen into obscurity. At times, Olson includes a bit of redundancy in his narrative, as if determined to show every fact he encountered in years of research, but in a study of this type, a certain degree of reemphasis can be forgiven. This study is an excellent work and would be a worthy addition to the shelf of any individual interested in the Civil War, particularly in Louisiana; the antecedents of special forces; or the irregular aspects of the Civil War. Olson is to be commended for his work in putting Earl back into the discussion of Civil War heroes.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

News---Lend A Hand at Cracking the U.S. Military Telegraph's Encoded Messages Sent During the Civil War

Here’s Your Chance to Decode President Lincoln’s Secret Messages, Edward Rothstein, the Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2016.

A crowd sourced initiative in which anyone can help decipher Civil War telegrams, including messages from Lincoln himself is begin offered by the Huntington Library. The trove of nearly 16,000 Civil War telegrams, formerly belonging to Thomas T. Eckert, are being transcribed and decoded with the help of crowdsourcing platform 

On April 12, 1865—three days after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox and two days before President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated—the president sent a telegram to Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, whose Union forces were occupying Richmond, Va., the former Confederate capital. The message alluded to some of the issues faced by the conquerors. Would churches in the defeated city be permitted to open that Sunday?

Would they be required to offer the customary prayer for the president—now of a newly reunited nation? Lincoln’s telegram begins: “Whats next news I the prayers I to while coming star what you you mean dispatch zebra I you spirit there understanding any if the piloted your offer there such of any and have was I to Emma never seen of of no toby Zodiac…”

The message was written in code. During the war, a large number of such messages had been intercepted by the Confederacy but never deciphered. The Confederacy even took out advertisements in newspapers futilely seeking assistance.

Now, the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is requesting similar aid in its project “Decoding the Civil War,” collaborating with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, North Carolina State University’s Digital History and Pedagogy Project, and, a “crowdsourcing” platform associated with several academic and research institutions. Scans of 15,971 telegrams handled by the U.S. Military Telegraph office during the Civil War have just been put online.

About a hundred were sent by Lincoln; about 5,400 are enciphered. A selection of the pocket-sized code books used to translate the ciphers have also been scanned.During the first phase of this multiyear project, the transcriptions of these handwritten pages will be “crowd sourced”: anybody can register with Zooniverse—some 75,000 participants are expected—and be guided through the process. Collaborative deciphering will begin in the fall—a process that may have its difficulties since some code books did not survive. A combination of software and human scrutiny will evaluate and combine the public contributions. This method is expected to be more efficient than what could be accomplished by the institutions alone.

Before 2009, no one knew these telegrams still existed. The Military Telegraph office at the War Department was one of the crucial links in the Union Army. Lincoln often peered over operators’ shoulders as the messages were sent and received. When the director of that office, Thomas T. Eckert (1825-1910), retired in 1867, there were no laws governing ownership of public documents. He took with him some 35 ledger books along with code books and records of correspondence.

These records were believed lost, making a reappearance only when they were acquired from Eckert’s descendants and sold at auction in 2009 for $36,000. When they were again put up for sale in 2012, their historical value was better recognized. After the government decided it could not afford the Eckert papers, the Huntington, which has one of the most important Lincoln collections in the country, purchased them for an undisclosed sum.

Coding a Union message was laborious. It would first be written out in a grid with dimensions specified by the code, one word per box. The code book would also list two possible substitutes for each important word or person. In the Weitzel telegram, for example, “President of the United States” could have been replaced by either “Bologna” or “Bolivia.” In the text the time “9 AM” is coded as “Emma,” “Richmond” as “Galway” and “Rebel as “Walnut.” Punctuation is also replaced: a period becomes “Zodiac.” This new grid of words—all of them real (thus minimizing typos)—would then be reordered by moving along columns and rows according to rules in the code book.

As long as you had that book, you could work out the message. Six of some 10 code books now survive, with four in the Huntington and others in the possession of the George C. Marshall Foundation; one of the great cryptographers of the 20th century, William F. Friedman (1891-1969), had rescued them as they were about to be incinerated as trash. In some cases, missing code books will make the project’s deciphering particularly challenging.

And what of Lincoln’s message to Weitzel? What was to happen with Richmond’s Sunday prayers? Lincoln may have had his Second Inaugural message in mind, “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” He had visited Richmond’s ruins and instructed Weitzel to “let ’em up easy.” Weitzel decided the churches would open that Sunday; no loyalty prayer would be required, but no prayers asserting contrary loyalties would be permitted. War Secretary Edwin Stanton objected to the apparent leniency, but in his coded telegram, Lincoln did not. Decrypted and freed of references to a zebra, Zodiac and Emma, one sentence reads: “I have no doubt you have acted in what appeared to you to be the spirit and temper manifested by me while there.”

Text Source: The Wall Street Journal  
Top Image Source: Plaque commemorating members of the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Location: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Second Image Source: Library of Congress

News: A Hollywood Film With Footnotes and Viewers Guide--The Free State of Jones

Aiming For Accuracy: Free State of Jones, Contingency, and the Meaning of Freedom, Journal of The Civil War Era, June 29, 2016.                                                                                                        The following is an excerpt from the online website of the Journal of The Civil War Era:

"Early in Free State of Jones a Confederate soldier proclaims he is not fighting for slavery but rather “for honor.” His comrades, including poor Mississippi farmer Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), needle him. Considering the “Twenty Negro Law,” Conscription Act, and tax-in-kind law, they point out that their blood only helps slaveholders get richer. After deserting, Knight leads poor farmers and former slaves against conscription, taxation, and re-enslavement. Against a shared enemy, the Confederacy, he brings black and white fugitives together. But when Knight and his black comrades-in-arms attempt to move from the bullet to the ballot box, white allies fade away and white supremacists rise up."

"Beginning at the Battle of Corinth in 1862, Free State of Jones is about a long Reconstruction. It uniquely explores African Americans’ struggle for political and economic rights in the face of white power. Here, emancipation has an asterisk. Slavery ends with the war, but freedom does not follow. After former Confederates return to power and reassert slavery’s white hierarchy, political organizer and ex-slave Moses (Mahershala Ali) captures the reality for black Americans: “We free and we ain’t free.” Unlike other films, Free State of Jones illuminates the contingency of black freedom in the South after the Civil War in the face of white supremacist violence, northern Republican abandonment, and insufficient federal troops. After the battle scenes, the Federal troops are entirely absent."

Jones4"Throughout the film, class, race, and gender overlap and challenge the assumptions of viewers and characters. Women and men, black and white, resist, fight, and survive together. When a white member of Knight’s company tries to deny Moses food because he is black and a fugitive, Moses responds, “How you ain’t?” How, if both are fugitives from compulsory service to slaveholders in a cotton field or on a battlefield, are they different? Through spirituality and experience, Knight considers this equality of the oppressed to be self-evident."

"McConaughey’s portrayal of Knight suggests Nathaniel Bacon and John Brown: a natural leader wild-eyed for solidarity and justice in the face of economic and racial oppression. Director Gary Ross highlights the many methods of resistance employed by fugitive slaves and enslaved people: fleeing to the wilderness, like Moses; remaining on plantations but assisting runaways, like Rachel (Gugu-Mbatha-Raw); remembering, like Moses’ wife (Kesha Bullard Lewis) and son Isaiah (LaJessie Smith). White characters resist Confederate authority similarly, but Ross also delineates the differences in experience. Rachel’s and Moses’s bodies bear witness to their physical and psychological torture, scars that mark the limits of white abilities to fathom black experiences."

Article continued at Aiming For Accuracy: Free State of Jones, Contingency, and the Meaning of Freedom, Journal of The Civil War Era, June 29, 2016:

Text Source:  Muster--Reflections on Popular Culture by the Journal of the Civil War Era

Director Gary Ross' Scene Guide With Footnotes

Gary Ross:  "We felt it was important in an historical movie, especially a movie about such a crucial time in history, for the audience to know what was true and what was fictionalized, even if it was based on underlying source material."

"In this site you will be able to navigate through the entire movie, click the areas that interest you, and see a brief explanation of the historical facts that informed the screenplay. If you are more curious about that part of the movie, we have footnoted the paragraph to see sources on which it is based. But footnotes themselves can be misleading, so if you want to see the entire primary source, you can click again and be transported to the original document. We hope this is helpful, maybe even fun. Some things need to be invented in a movie, but most things in Jones were not. I think it’s only right that you be able to tell which was which." states Gary Ross, Director
 At a meeting of the Union League, Moses (Mahershala Ali) and Newt (Matthew McConaughey) tell the Freedman that all citizens shall have the right to vote.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

News--Publisher's Four Titles Receive Awards

Savas Beatie LLC is the Recipient of Four Book Awards for 2015       Savas Beatie, independent book publisher focusing upon military history and maters, has been notified that three of its titles and one of its book series are the recipients of prestigious awards. Significantly, for the first time in the award's history, every finalist title was from a single publisher, Savas Beatie.  The titles are:

 1. Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign: How the Critical Role of Intelligence Impacted the Outcome of Lee's Invasion of the North, June - July 1863, by Thomas J. Ryan, is the recipient of the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award for the best book published on Gettysburg (awarded by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey).

2. Fighting for General Lee: Confederate General Rufus Barringer and the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade, by Sheridan R. Barringer, is the recipient of the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award "for the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history" (awarded by the Military Order of the Stars and Bars).
3. The Chickamauga Campaign-Glory or the Grave, by David A. Powell, is the recipient of the Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award for the best Civil War book of the year (awarded by the Atlanta Civil War Round Table). Mr. Powell is the first author to win the award twice.

4. The Emerging Civil War Series, Chris Mackowski (series editor) and Kris White (series historian), is the recipient of Army Historical Foundation's Lt. Gen. Richard G. Trefry Award, which honors books or a series of books that deserve special recognition for their contribution to the literature on the U.S. Army.

The authors are: 
1. Thomas J. Ryan served three years in the Army and decades in intelligence operations-related capacities. He is now retired; 
2. Sheridan R. Barringer worked decades with NASA and has two other books under contract with Savas Beatie;  
3. David A. Powell is a graduate of VMI and works in Chicago. He is the author of two previous award-winning books;  
4. Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White are both prolific authors. The former is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York and works as a historian with the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, while Kris works as a historian for the Penn-Trafford Recreation Board and a continuing education instructor for the Community College of Allegheny County near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"I cannot tell you haw pleased and humbled we arll are by these awards," explained Managing Director Theodore P. Savas.  "These authors all work hard, labor in solitude, and hope others will read and enjoy their work. This is a confirmation of their individual excellence and dedication to shcolarship."   Savas Beatie is a leading independent military and general history publishing company with distribution worldwide.  Savas Beatie's online presence and the source of the text is this post is found at

Friday, June 24, 2016

News---The Free State of Jones Film: How Much Of That Is True?

 News---The Free State of Jones Film: How Much Of That Is True?  15 Questions Answered

Free State of Jones is a  inspired by the life of  Newton Knight and the anti-Confederacy rebellion in Jones County, Mississippi. Victoria E. Bynum's The Free State of Jones [2001] served as the basis of the film and the historian served as a script consultant.

1.  Why did Newton Knight initially join the Confederate Army?When the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, many Mississippians were opposed to the decision. Mississippi's Declaration of Secession did not reflect the views of many of the small family-owned farms and cattle herders living in Jones County. It was a decision that primarily reflected the planters' interests. When the American Civil War began in April 1861, anyone who opposed the state's new Confederate government was deemed a traitor and a coward. Immediate death was often the penalty for those who refused to join the Confederate Army. The Free State of Jones true story reveals that Newton Knight enlisted in the army in the early fall of 1861. The Free State of Jones book author Victoria E. Bynum believes that Knight did not necessarily enlist out of fear of conscription but rather because he just wanted to be a soldier. -Mississippi History Now

14 More Questions Answered at Text Source: History Versus Hollywood

Also, Smithsonian Magazine [March 2016] has a superb article on a recent visit to Jones County, the current residents' understanding of Newton Knight and the successful rebellion.  His descendants and those who believe that he is not a hero are interviewed.

Smithsonian Magazine: The True Story of the Free State of Jones

News---The Free State of Jones Film: How Much Of That Is True?

 News---The Free State of Jones Film: How Much Of That Is True?  15 Questions Answered

Free State of Jones is a  inspired by the life of  Newton Knight and the anti-Confederacy rebellion in Jones County, Mississippi. Victoria E. Bynum's The Free State of Jones [2001] served as the basis of the film and the historian served as a script consultant.

1.  Why did Newton Knight initially join the Confederate Army?When the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, many Mississippians were opposed to the decision. Mississippi's Declaration of Secession did not reflect the views of many of the small family-owned farms and cattle herders living in Jones County. It was a decision that primarily reflected the planters' interests. When the American Civil War began in April 1861, anyone who opposed the state's new Confederate government was deemed a traitor and a coward. Immediate death was often the penalty for those who refused to join the Confederate Army. The Free State of Jones true story reveals that Newton Knight enlisted in the army in the early fall of 1861. The Free State of Jones book author Victoria E. Bynum believes that Knight did not necessarily enlist out of fear of conscription but rather because he just wanted to be a soldier. -Mississippi History Now

14 More Questions Answered at Text Source: History Versus Hollywood

Also, Smithsonian Magazine [March 2016] has a superb article on a recent visit to Jones County, the current residents' understanding of Newton Knight and the successful rebellion.  His descendants and those who believe that he is not a hero are interviewed.

Smithsonian Magazine: The True Story of the Free State of Jones

Friday, May 27, 2016

New And Noteworthy: When Did The Best Chance for Confederate Independence Occur?

The Confederacy at Flood Tide: The Political and Military Ascension, June to December 1862, Philip Leigh, Westholme Publishing, 288 pp., $28.00.

From The Publisher: 
The Fleeting Moment When the Confederate States of America Had the Best Opportunity to Achieve Independence and Why Their Efforts Failed.

The first six months of 1862 provided a string of Federal victories in the West at Mill Springs, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge, and Shiloh. In May, New Orleans fell, and Union General George McClellan’s army was so close to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, that the troops could set their watches by the city’s church bells. But then the unexpected happened. 
In June, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Virginia pushed McClellan’s much larger army back to the James River. In Europe, Confederate diplomats sought international recognition for the Confederate States of America, which was made even more attractive now that a shortage of cotton made the powerful textile interests anxious to end the war. 
Further tipping the balance, in July, the Confederacy secretly ordered two of the latest ironclad ships from England’s famous Laird Shipyard—the same yard that built the commerce raider Alabama. These steam-powered ironclads would be far superior to anything in the Federal navy.

While the “high tide” of the Confederacy is often identifed as Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the most opportune time for the Confederacy vanished seven months earlier, coinciding with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in December 1862 and the failure of the secessionist states to be recognized as a sovereign nation. 
As Philip Leigh explains in his engrossing new book, The Confederacy at Flood Tide: The Political and Military Ascension, June to December 1862, on every battlefront and in the governmental halls of Europe, the Confederate effort reached its furthest extent during the second half of 1862. But with the president’s proclamation, the possibility of slave revolts and decline in the production of the very products that were sustaining the Southern economy became real; coupled with Europe’s decision to reject Confederate overtures and halt the sale of the ironclads, the opportunity for Confederate success ended. The Confederacy would recede, and the great battles of 1863 and 1864 only marked the Southerners’ tenacity and stubborn belief in a lost cause.