Author:

The General

Eric J. Wittenberg is an award-winning Civil War historian. He is also a practicing attorney and is the sole proprietor of Eric J. Wittenberg Co., L.P.A. He is the author of sixteen published books and more than two dozen articles on the Civil War. He serves on the Governor of Ohio's Advisory Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as the vice president of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation, and often consults with the Civil War Preservation Trust on battlefield preservation issues. Eric, his wife Susan, and their two golden retrievers live in Columbus, Ohio.

Website: civilwarcavalry.com

The Pipe Creek Line as designed by the Army of the Potomac's engineers

The Pipe Creek Line as designed by the Army of the Potomac’s engineers

This is the first part of a two-part series that was cross-posted on Emerging Civil War.

No battle of the American Civil War has generated more ongoing and enduring controversies than the Battle of Gettysburg. With the anniversary of the battle looming once more, I wanted to address one of the more heated and oldest controversies of the battle, the Pipe Creek Circular and how it impacted the outcome of the battle. This two-part series will address the Pipe Creek Circular and its implications for the Army of the Potomac.

On June 30, 1863, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, who had only been in command of the Army of the Potomac for less than 48 hours, issued the following circular to his corps commanders:

CIRCULAR

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Taneytown, July 1, 1863.

From information received, the commanding general is satisfied that the object of the movement of the army in this direction has been accomplished, viz, the relief of Harrisburg, and the prevention of the enemy’s intended invasion of Philadelphia, &c., beyond the Susquehanna. It is no longer his intention to assume the offensive until the enemy’s movements or position should render such an operation certain of success.

If the enemy assume the offensive, and attack, it is his intention, after holding them in check sufficiently long, to withdraw the trains and other impedimenta; to Withdraw the army from its present position, and form line of battle with the left resting in the neighborhood of Middleburg, and the right at Manchester, the general direction being that of Pipe Creek. For this purpose, General Reynolds, in command of the left, will withdraw the force at present at Gettysburg, two corps by the road to Taneytown and Westminster, and, after crossing Pipe Creek, deploy toward Middleburg. The corps at Emmitsburg will be withdrawn, via Mechanicsville, to Middleburg, or, if a more direct route can be found leaving Taneytown to their left, to withdraw direct to Middleburg.

General Slocum will assume command of the two corps at Hanover and Two Taverns, and withdraw them, via Union Mills, deploying one to the right and one to the left, after crossing Pipe Creek, connecting on the left with General Reynolds, and communicating his right to General Sedgwick at Manchester, who will connect with him and form the right.

The time for falling back can only be developed by circumstances. Whenever such circumstances arise as would seem to indicate the necessity for falling back and assuming this general line indicated, notice of such movement will be at once communicated to these headquarters and to all adjoining corps commanders.

The Second Corps now at Taneytown will be held in reserve in the vicinity of Uniontown and Frizellburg, to be thrown to the point of strongest attack, should the enemy make it. In the event of these movements being necessary, the trains and impedimenta will all be sent to the rear of Westminster.

Corps commanders, with their officers commanding artillery and the divisions, should make themselves thoroughly familiar with the country indicated, all the roads and positions, so that no possible confusion can ensue, and that the movement, if made, be done with good order, precision, and care, without loss or any detriment to the morale of the troops.

The commanders of corps are requested to communicate at once the nature of their present positions, and their ability to hold them in case of any sudden attack at any point by the enemy.

This order is communicated, that a general plan, perfectly understood by all, may be had for receiving attack, if made in strong force, upon any portion of our present position.

Developments may cause the commanding general to assume the offensive from his present positions.

The Artillery Reserve will, in the event of the general movement indicated, move to the rear of Frizellburg, and be placed in position, or sent to corps, as circumstances may require, under the general supervision of the chief of artillery.

The chief quartermaster will, in case of the general movement indicated, give directions for the orderly and proper position of the trains in rear of Westminster.

All the trains will keep well to the right of the road in moving, and, in case of any accident requiring a halt, the team must be hauled out of the line, and not delay the movements.

The trains ordered to Union Bridge in these events will be sent to Westminster.

General headquarters will be, in case of this movement, at Frizellburg; General Slocum as near Union Mills as the line will render best for him; General Reynolds at or near the road from Taneytown to l.

The chief of artillery will examine the line, and select positions for artillery.

The cavalry will be held on the right and left flanks after the movement is completed. Previous to its completion, it will, as now directed, cover the front and exterior lines, well out.

The commands must be prepared for a movement, and, in the event of the enemy attacking us on the ground indicated herein, to follow up any repulse.

The chief signal officer will examine the line thoroughly, and at once, upon the commencement of this movement, extend telegraphic communication from each of the following points to general headquarters near Frizellburg, viz, Manchester, Union Mills, Middleburg, and the Taneytown road.

All true Union people should be advised to harass and annoy the enemy in every way, to send in information, and taught how to do it; giving regiments by number of colors, number of guns, generals’ names, &c. All their supplies brought to us will be paid for, and not fall into the enemy’s hands.

Roads and ways to move to the right or left of the general line should be studied and thoroughly understood. All movements of troops should be concealed, and our dispositions kept from the enemy. Their knowledge of these dispositions would be fatal to our success, and the greatest care must be taken to prevent such an occurrence.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS,Assistant Adjutant-General.

Known commonly as the Pipe Creek Circular, this document was Meade’s plan to assume a formidable defensive position in Maryland that became known as the Pipe Creek Line, since it followed Big Pipe Creek. Shortly thereafter, Brig. Gen. Seth Williams, the Army of the Potomac’s adjutant general, sent out a correction to the Pipe Creek Circular:

MEMORANDA

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

July 1, 1863.

So much of the instructions contained in the circular of this date, just sent to you, as relates to the withdrawal of the corps at Emmitsburg should read as follows:

The corps at Emmitsburg should be withdrawn, via Mechanics-town, to Middleburg, or, if a more direct route can be found leaving Taneytown to the left, to withdraw direct to Middleburg.

Please correct the circular accordingly.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General

These two documents make it clear that George Meade had no intention of fighting in Pennsylvania on the eve of battle. That much is beyond dispute. Where the controversy arose is with whether Meade changed his mind on July 2, 1863 or whether he intended to withdraw the Army of the Potomac from its strong defensive position at Gettysburg.

The Pipe Creek Line ran just to the north of the town of Westminster, Maryland. Westminster, in particular, had great strategic significance to the Army of the Potomac, as the Western Maryland Railroad had its terminus there. The Western Maryland would serve as the primary line of supply for the army if it was going to operate anywhere in the vicinity (including at Gettysburg), and protecting it was critical.

Meade’s engineers did an outstanding job of selecting the Pipe Creek Line, something Meade himself recognized. As envisioned by the Union engineers, the Pipe Creek Line ran along Parr Ridge, a substantial ridge that ran on an east/west axis, and which extended from Manchester, Maryland on the east end to Middleburg, Maryland on the west. With the exception of some lower ground around Middleburg, the entire position was on very high, easily defensible ground that was probably impregnable unless the wily Robert E. Lee could manage to flank the federals out of their strong position.

Meade did not make a final decision to stay and fight at Gettysburg until he held a counsel of war at his headquarters on the night of July 2; he was willing to still consider falling back to Pipe Creek if seriously threatened. Two writings by Meade support his contention. At 3:00 p.m. on July 2, just before Lt. Gen. James Longstreet opened his sledgehammer attack against the Union left at Gettysburg, Meade sent a dispatch to General-in-Chief, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, “If I find it hazardous to do so, or am satisfied the enemy is endeavoring to move to my rear, and interpose between me and Washington, I shall fall back to my supplies at Westminster,” suggesting that if there was a threat to his flank or rear, he intended to abandon his position at Gettysburg. Meade elaborated on his thought process in an 1870 letter. “Longstreet’s advice to Lee was sound military sense; it was the step I feared Lee would take, and to meet which, and be prepared for which was the object of my instructions,” he explained. “But suppose Ewell with 20,000 men had occupied Culp’s Hill and our brave soldiers had been compelled to evacuate Cemetery Ridge and withdraw . . . would the Pipe Clay Creek (the real military feature is Parr Ridge which extends through Westminster) order have been so very much out of place?”

Ultimately, Meade decided to stand and fight at Gettysburg. Again, that much is beyond dispute and is not controversial. The controversy is whether Meade actually intended to retreat and to withdraw the army to the Pipe Creek Line. We will address that controversy in the next blog post.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Joshua_Chamberlain_-_Brady-HandyOn this July 3, the 152nd anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg, this ageless valediction proves itself to be true once more, explaining why so many find themselves inexplicably drawn to the battlefield at Gettysburg, including me:

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

–Bvt. Maj. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Scridb filter

Continue reading

From today’s edition of the Culpeper Times regarding the state park initiative in Culpeper County that would include the Brandy Station, Kelly’s Ford, and Cedar Mountain battlefields:

Civil War Trust offering land for battlefield parks in Culpeper
By Wally Bunker
© Culpeper Times

Several weeks ago, Jim Campi, Civil War Trust (CWT) policy communications director called Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), with a proposal to turn CWT-owned battlefield property at the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain into state parks.

“Yes, we would be interested,” Cristman said he told Campi. “Yes, it is consistent with our mission.”

However, Cristman told Campi that he needed to float the idea to some members the Virginia General Assembly, which determines appropriations and priorities within DCR.

Establishing new state parks hasn’t fared well recently in the General Assembly.

Del. Ed Scott (R-30th), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said what appears to be a simple idea is actually very complex.

“I have been working with my colleagues to increase funding for our existing state parks,” Scott said in an email. “Virginia currently has land that has been donated, but parks have not opened, because we don’t have the funding to establish roads, trails or even primitive facilities.”

Culpeper’s two major battlefields could add to that undeveloped inventory.

Cristman and Campi stressed that the discussion with Campi was “very preliminary.”

“All conversations have been very preliminary, since many details would need to be considered and addressed,” Campi said in an email.

However, Cristman said establishing a Civil War battlefield park in Culpeper County would fill a void of state parks in close proximity. Looking at the DCR website of existing state parks, Culpeper County sits in the middle of a large blank spot, with no nearby state parks.

“This would be unique in that it would be a new state park,” said Cristman about CWT’s overture for Culpeper state parks.

CWT purchased property before adjacent to existing preserved battlefields and donated the land to the federal government and the state.

“We haven’t discussed the mechanism for transferring the lands to the state,” Campi wrote. “Likely, it would be similar to the land transfers we have undertaken at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield and High Bridge Trail State Park.”

Some of those transfers were donated and some sold to the state, according to Campi, with sales proceeds plowed back into preservation efforts elsewhere in Virginia. About 73 percent of the Sailor’s Creek Battlefield was preserved by CWT.

If the General Assembly agreed to establish another Civil War-focused battlefield state park, it would be years away. The state would have to conduct federal and state mandated studies.

At the Brandy Station Battlefield, some of the core battlefield still remains privately owned, creating a patchwork of preserved land versus privately owned land. Several significant private tracts abut Fleetwood Hill, which was purchased and preserved by CWT. The Trust owns 1,901 of the Brandy Station Battlefield.

The Brandy Station Foundation owns 38 acres at the foot of Fleetwood Hill, along with the Graffiti House that served as a hospital during the Civil War. Troops from both sides scribbled names and drew pictures on the walls, which has been uncovered and preserved.

“Regardless of whether the state park idea has any legs, the Trust remains committed to preserving battlefield land at Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain,” Campi wrote.

Campi said CWT continues to “have quiet conversations with private landowners” about preserving additional properties

DCR Director Cristman said a number of issues must be considered before determining the funding needed, such as how and where it would operate.

If the General Assembly liked and funded the idea, it could take years for a Civil War park to open in Culpeper. Before a new park opens, DCR partners with local government and the community to determine how the park operates and services offered.

“Localities really benefit,” said Culpeper Tourism Director Paige Read, who volunteered to lead the local effort should DCR consider CWT’s offer. “There is nothing but positives here.”

Read believes the creation of a state park would be a boon to tourism in the county. Plus, she added, Virginia nationally markets its park system.

State parks experienced almost 9 million visitors last year, an increase of 1.4 percent from 2013, said Read.

“State parks are tremendous,” said Read, noting Virginia maintains 36 state parks.

She said that every dollar spent by the general fund generates $12 for the local economy.

Noted local Brandy Station Battlefield historian and a founding member of the Brandy Station Foundation Bud Hall is optimistic that the historic cavalry battlefield will become a state park.

“I hope it happens,” said Hall. “I think one day this is going to be a state park.”

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com

There’s an old cliche that says that those with weak stomachs should never watch either sausage or legislation being made, because neither is a very pretty sight. The process of creating this state battlefield park will neither be quick nor will it be pretty. But it needs to happen, and we need your support in order to help to ensure that it happens. If you support this initiative, please write to the newspaper editors to express your support, and please write to the Virginia assemblymen to express your support.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to preserve these battlefields.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

In this image, Duffié is seen wearing his medals from the Crimean War.

In this image, Duffié is seen wearing his medals from the Crimean War.

It seems like it’s been forever since I last profiled a forgotten cavalryman. I’ve been too wrapped up in preservation stuff and in writing another book manuscript. However, it’s time to change that and do a new forgotten cavalrymen profile. Today, we’re going to commemorate Brig. Gen. Alfred N. Duffié, who is memorable for being both incompetent and a fraud. I normally do not include references in these profiles, but in this particular instance, I have elected to do so. You will find my sources at the bottom of this blog post.

Born Napoléon Alexandre Duffié, he carried the nickname “Nattie.” Duffié was born in Paris, France, on May 1, 1833, the son of a well-to-do bourgeois French sugar refiner who distilled sugar from beets. [1] At age 17, Duffié enlisted in the French 6th Regiment of Dragoons. Six months later, he was promoted to corporal, and received a second promotion, this time to sergeant, in March 1854. He served in French campaigns in Africa and in the Crimean War from May 1, 1854, to July 16, 1856, and received two decorations for valor during this period.

In 1855, the 6th Regiment of Dragoons, along with two other mounted units, made a brilliant cavalry charge at the Battle of Kanghil, near the Black Sea port of Eupatoria in the Ukraine, leading to the issuance of his decorations. In February 1858, Duffié was made first sergeant in the 6th Dragoons and then transferred to the 3d Regiment of Hussars. Although he would have been eligible for discharge from the French Army in 1859, Duffié signed on for another seven-year enlistment that spring after being graded “a strong man capable of becoming a good average officer.”

On June 14, 1859, Duffié received a commission as second lieutenant in the 3d Regiment of Hussars. Just two months later, Duffié tried to resign his commission, stating a desire to go into business. He had met thirty-two-year-old Mary Ann Pelton, a young American woman serving as a nurse in Europe’s charnel houses. Duffié’s regimental commander rejected the attempted letter of resignation, stating his “regrets that this officer so little appreciates the honor of recently having been promoted sous-lieutenant, and that he would prefer a commercial position to that honor.” [2] When the French army refused to allow Duffié to resign, he deserted and fled to New York with Miss Pelton. He was listed as absent without leave and court-martialed in 1860. He was convicted and sentenced to dismissal without benefits for desertion to a foreign country and stripped of his medals. On December 20, 1860, by decree of Emperor Napoléon III, Duffié was sentenced, in absentia, to serve five years in prison for deserting and was dishonorably discharged from the French army. [3]

After arriving in New York, he adopted the first name Alfred, perhaps trying to disguise his true identity from prying eyes. He also married Miss Pelton, the daughter of a wealthy and influential New York family. Mary Ann Duffié’s father was a dealer in boots and shoes and shoemakers’ supplies, and was “an energetic and successful businessman” who lived in an enclave of strong abolitionists in Staten Island.[4] When the Civil War broke out, Duffié received a commission as a captain in the 2d New York Cavalry. He quickly rose to the rank of major, and was appointed colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry in July 1862.[5]

Duffié took great pains to hide his military history, spinning an elaborate web of lies, convincing all that cared to hear his story that he was the son of a French count, and not a humble sugar refiner. He changed the reported date of his birth from 1833 to 1835. He claimed that he had attended the preparatory Military Academy at Vincennes, that he had graduated from the prestigious military college of St. Cyr in 1854, and that he had served in Algiers and Senegal as lieutenant of cavalry.[6]

Duffié also claimed that he had been badly wounded at the Battle of Solferino in the War of Italian Independence in 1859, a conflict between the forces of Austria on one side and the allied forces of Piedmont, Sardinia, and France on the other. Solferino was a huge and bloody affair, involving more than 300,000 soldiers and nearly 40,000 casualties. However, his unit, the 3d Hussars, was not part of the Army of Italy and did not fight at Solferino. Although Duffié said that he had received a total of eight wounds in combat, his French military records do not suggest that he ever received a combat wound. He also asserted that he had received the Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria herself.

Finally, Duffié claimed that he had come to the United States to take the waters at Saratoga Springs, not because he had deserted the French army and fled to America in the company of a woman who was not his wife. Perhaps the Peltons created the myth of Alfred Duffié, French nobleman and war hero, to make their new son-in-law more palatable to their prominent social circles. Because of his martial bearing, he soon persuaded both his superior officers and the men who served under him that he had noble roots and a superb military pedigree.[7]

dufee“Confronting us, he presents the aspect of the beau ideal soldat . . .with his tall symmetrical form erect in saddle and severe facial expression emphasize by a mustache and goatee of formal cut waxed to a point a la militaire,” observed a war correspondent. “A Frenchman I judged him on sight, from his tout ensemble, and his first utterance, which launched without instant delay, proved my surmise correct.”[8] He wore an unusual uniform of his own design, based closely upon the attire of the French Chasseurs, knee boots, and an ornately embroidered cap patterned after the French Chasseur design.[9]

Duffié spoke fractured English. “His attempts were interlarded with curious and novel expletives, which were very amusing.”[10] In assuming a new command, the Frenchman would say, “You no like me now. You like my bye and bye.” He was right. Before long, they would follow him when he ordered a charge. “Once, in preparing to make a charge where the situation looked a little desperate,” recalled a New Yorker, Duffié “encouraged his men, who were little more than boys, by saying, ‘You all have got to die sometime anyway. If you die now you won’t have to die again. Forward!’ His charge was successful.”[11]

Although the Gallic colonel got off to a rough start with his Rhode Islanders, he soon won them over. The men of his brigade liked him. “Duffié is in command of the Brigade. He is a Frenchman,” observed Albinus Fell of the 6th Ohio Cavalry, “he is a bully little cuss.”[12] Another predicted that the Frenchman would quickly receive a promotion and leave the 1st Rhode Island. “He is a bully man,” observed Sgt. Emmons D. Guild of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. “I tell you he will not stay long, so you will have to look out if you want to see him. His name is A. N. Duffié.”[13] Duffié’s experience showed, and he performed competently if not spectacularly. “Whatever may have been the faults of Colonel Duffié,” recorded his regimental sergeant major, “there is no gainsaying the fact that he was probably the best regimental cavalry drill-master and tactician in the army.”[14] His veteran brigade, which saw heavy action during the Second Bull Run Campaign of 1862, consisted of the 1st Rhode Island, the 1st Massachusetts, 6th Ohio, and 4th New York.

Duffié performed admirably at the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly’s Ford while commanding his brigade, in what was unquestionably his finest hour. He was recommended for promotion after his good fight that day, and when his division commander, Brig. Gen. William Woods Averell, was scapegoated for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville and unceremoniously relieved of command of his division and shunted off to West Virginia. As the senior officer in the division, the Frenchman became commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Second Cavalry Division, proving the truth of the Peter Principle: the Gallic sergeant was in way over his head. Unduly cautious and insistent on obeying his orders to the letter at the June 9, 1863 Battle of Brandy Station, Duffié permitted his division’s advance to be held off for most of a day by a single regiment of Confederate cavalry, the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry. After finally brushing the grayclad horsemen aside, Duffié and his division arrived at Brandy Station too late to make a difference in the outcome of the battle. A few days later, when the Cavalry Corps was restructured, the Frenchman was relieved of divisional command and returned to command the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry.

Duffié returned to the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. “I know that there was not the most cordial feeling between him and the controlling officers in the cavalry,” recalled a Northern horseman. “I suspected that he was more or less a thorn in the side of the higher officers. He was not companionable with them; did not think as they did; had little in common, and, was perhaps inclined to be boastful.”[15] However, Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, had other plans for ridding himself of the Frenchman.

On June 17, 1863, Pleasonton dispatched Duffié and the 1st Rhode Island on a reconnaissance to Middleburg, in Virginia’s lush Loudoun Valley. The vastly outnumbered Rhode Islanders were cut to pieces. They lost 6 killed, 9 wounded, and 210 missing and captured, leaving a fine regiment gutted. Pleasonton apparently sacrificed the 1st Rhode Island to rid himself of a hated foreigner.[16] “Had any native born officer been in command the regiment would, without doubt, have cut its way out that night,” observed one of his officers, “[but] Colonel Duffié was a Frenchman, he had received positive orders [to remain in the town that night] and thought it his duty to obey them.” When the Gallic colonel reported to Hooker after escaping from Middleburg, he learned that he had been recommended for immediate promotion to brigadier general, prompting him to declare, “My goodness, when I do well they take no notice of me. When I go make one bad business, make one fool of myself, they promote me, make me General!”[17] John Singleton Mosby, the notorious Confederate partisan commander, offered his opinion of the Frenchman’s leadership skills: “Duffié’s folly is an illustration of the truth of what I have often said—that no man is fit to be an officer who has not the sense and courage to know when to disobey an order.”[18]

Several weeks earlier, Hooker had endorsed a promotion for Duffié as a consequence of his good work at Kelly’s Ford. A few days after the debacle at Middleburg, President Lincoln forwarded a letter to Secretary of War Stanton recommending that Duffié be promoted as a consequence of the Frenchman’s good service at Kelly’s Ford.[19] In spite of the mauling received by the Rhode Islanders, Duffié was promoted to brigadier general and was transferred out of the Army of the Potomac in a classic bump upstairs. He never commanded troops in the Army of the Potomac again. He ended up under Averell’s command again, leading a brigade of cavalry in the Department of West Virginia. When the division commander was badly wounded, Duffié assumed command of the division, while Averell served as chief of cavalry in the Army of the Shenandoah. The two men came into conflict as a result of the clumsy command structure.

In September 1864, just after the important Union victories at Third Winchester and Fisher’s Hill, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, the new leader of the Army of the Shenandoah, relieved both Averell and Duffié from command. Sheridan directed Duffié to go to Hagerstown, Maryland, to await further orders.[20] On October 21, 1864, Duffié boarded an army ambulance to go see Sheridan about getting another command. Sheridan wanted Duffié to equip and retrain another cavalry force, duty for which the Gallic general was abundantly qualified.[21] After receiving his instructions from Sheridan, on October 24, as Duffié was headed back to Hagerstown to prepare for his new assignment, Mosby’s guerrillas fell upon the Frenchman’s wagon train. Mosby captured Duffié and quickly sent him back to Richmond as a prisoner of war. He sat out the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in Danville and was not exchanged until March 1865. After Duffié’s capture, Sheridan put an exclamation point on the Frenchman’s career in the U.S. Army. “I respectfully request his dismissal from the service,” sniffed Sheridan in a letter to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, “I think him a trifling man and a poor soldier. He was captured by his own stupidity.”[22] Duffié never served in the U.S. Army again, although he remained in public service for the rest of his life.

In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Duffié as U.S. consul to Spain, and sent him to Cadiz, on the Iberian Peninsula’s southwest seacoast. While he served in Spain, the Frenchman contracted tuberculosis, which claimed his life in 1880. Because of his conviction for desertion, Duffié never was able to return to his native France. His body was brought home and buried in his wife’s family plot in Fountain Cemetery in Staten Island, N.Y. Unfortunately, the cemetery was abandoned long ago, and the grave is badly overgrown with vegetation. It is nearly impossible to find, and is as forgotten to history as the proud soldier that rests there. The veterans of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, who remained loyal to their former commander, raised money to erect a handsome monument to Duffié in the North Burying Ground in Providence. Capt. George Bliss, who commanded a squadron in the 1st Rhode Island, wrote a lengthy and eloquent tribute to Duffié that was published and distributed to the veterans of the regiment. [23]

In addition to being a flagrant fraud, Alfred Duffié was incompetent to command anything larger than a regiment, and even then, he was only marginally successful. Other than his one good day at Kelly’s Ford, Duffié left no real mark. But his fraud is a fascinating study of the efforts to reinvent the life’s story of a French deserter who became a general in the United States Army. Here’s to Nattie Duffié, forgotten cavalryman.

With gratitude to Jean-Claude Reuflet, a French descendant of Duffié’s, for providing me with much of the material that appears in this profile.

[1] His father, Jean August Duffié, served as mayor of the village of La Ferte sous Juarre. At least one contemporary source states that the Duffié family had its roots in Ireland, and that the family fled to France to escape Oliver Cromwell’s Reign of Terror. See Charles Fitz Simmons, “Hunter’s Raid,” Military Essays and Recollections, Papers Read Before the Commandery of the State of Illinois Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States 4 (Chicago: 1907), 395–96.
[2] Napoléon Alexandre Duffié Military Service Records, French Army Archives, Vincennes, France. The author is grateful to Jean-Claude Reuflet, a relative of Duffié’s, for making these obscure records available and for providing the author with a detailed translation of their contents.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Jeremiah M. Pelton, Genealogy of the Pelton Family in America (Albany, N.Y.: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1892), 565. The true state of the facts differs dramatically from the conventional telling of Duffié’s life, as set forth in Warner’s Generals in Blue.
[5] Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964), 131–32.
[6] A document prepared by Duffié’s son indicates that Duffié attended the cadet school at Versailles, that he took and passed the entrance examinations for the Military College of St. Cyr, and that he was admitted to St. Cyr in 1851. Daniel A. Duffié claimed that his father dropped out of St. Cyr after a year to enlist in the 6th Regiment of Dragoons. Procuration executed by Daniel A. Duffié, heir of Jean August Duffié, March 16, 1885, Pelton-Duffié Family Papers, Staten Island Historical Society, New York, N.Y.
[7] For an example of the elaborate ruse spun by Duffié, George N. Bliss, “Duffié and the Monument to His Memory,” Personal Narratives of Events in the War of the Rebellion, Being Papers Read Before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society 6 (Providence: Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society, 1890), 316–376. Bliss presents a detailed biographical sketch of Duffié that includes all of the falsehoods. Duffié himself apparently provided Bliss with most of his information. See pages 317–20 for the recitation of this litany of falsehoods.
[8] James E. Taylor, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook (Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1989), 134.
[9] Gregory J. W. Urwin, The United States Cavalry: An Illustrated History (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press, 1983), 98–99.
[10] Benjamin W. Crowninshield, A History of the First Regiment Massachusetts Cavalry Volunteers (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1891), 113.
[11] William H. Beach, The First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry from April 19, 1861, to July 7, 1865 (New York: Lincoln Cavalry Association, 1902), 399.
[12] Fell to Dear Lydia, March 8, 1863.
[13] Emmons D. Guild to his parents, March 20, 1863, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Archives, Fredericksburg, Va. (FSNMP).
[14] Jacob B. Cooke, “The Battle of Kelly’s Ford, March 17, 1863,” Personal Narratives of Events in the War of the Rebellion, Being Papers Read Before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society 4 (Providence: Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society, 1887), 9.
[15] George Bliss, The First Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg (Providence, R.I.: privately published, 1889), 48.
[16] For a detailed examination, see Robert F. O’Neill, Jr., The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville: Small but Important Riots (Lynchburg, VA: H. E. Howard 1994), 66–76.
[17] Bliss, The First Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg, 50.
[18] John S. Mosby, Stuart’s Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign (New York: Moffatt, Yard, 1908), 71.
[19] Abraham Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton, June 22, 1863, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College Archives, Corsicana, Tex.
[20] O.R. vol. 37, part 2, 896–97.
[21] New York Times, October 7, 1864.
[22] O.R. vol. 43, part 2, 475.
[23] See Bliss, “Duffié and the Monument to His Memory.”

Scridb filter

Continue reading

On May 28, I posted here that the time had come for the creation of a Virginia state Civil War battlefield park in Culpeper County. The idea is catching on, and we need your help to make it happen.

This article by Clint Schemmer appeared in the June 12, 2015 edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star newspaper:

Virginia considers creating state park at Brandy Station, Cedar Mountain battlefields
By Clint Schemmer

Friday, June 12, 2015 12:00 am
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

If the stars align, Culpeper County could be the home of a new state park.

State and local officials are tossing around the idea of creating a park to preserve and spotlight Culpeper’s two most significant Civil War battlefields—Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain.

Clyde Cristman, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, confirmed this week that there have been “very preliminary” discussions about the proposal.

To become a reality, a park “would have to have support from the local government, local General Assembly members and a majority of the assembly,” Cristman said in an interview.

His department already runs parks focused on Civil War sites at Sailor’s Creek, High Bridge and Staunton River.

“We have experience in operating and managing these kinds of parks,” Cristman said. “Should the General Assembly and the governor decide it’s appropriate, that is definitely within our mission.”

Joe McKinney, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, said he has heard that Gov. Terry McAuliffe is interested in the idea.

“The state park system has the resources to protect these battlefields here in Culpeper and draw more people interested in history to come see them,” McKinney said in an interview.

The foundation, a nonprofit group that owns 38 acres near Fleetwood Hill—heart of the 1863 cavalry battlefield—supports the idea, though McKinney noted that there will be many nuts-and-bolts details to sort out.

He said he thinks the foundation’s Graffiti House, an antebellum home in the village of Brandy Station, could serve as a visitor center for the park.

The foundation and another nonprofit, Friends of Cedar Mountain, maintain battlefield land as living memorials to the men who fought and died there.

The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, established by Congress to pinpoint America’s most important Civil War sites, classified the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain battlefields as representative of “the principal strategic operations of the war.”

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

Culpeper Supervisor Steve Walker, who operates Fountain Hall bed-and-breakfast, supports the park notion.

“I think it would be a very positive thing for Culpeper, definitely helping to develop more tourism opportunities,” Walker said. “My only concern is when the state got involved, whether it would restrict farmers or hunters.

“But from a personal perspective, I think it’s a great idea. It would draw more people to enjoy our multiple, different tourism sites in the county—wineries, distilleries, Civil War and Revolutionary War sites, and great restaurants.”

Culpeper Supervisor Bill Chase also favors the idea.

“At first blush, it sounds good for the state to hold the land and make it more of a tourist attraction than it is now,” Chase said. “I’d much rather have it under the state than the way it is now.”

But he added: “The devil is in the details, and I’d have to see them before I would wholeheartedly support it.”

The Civil War Trust, which preserves 1,901 acres of the Brandy Station battlefield and 164 acres at Cedar Mountain, likes the state-park thought.

“The trust believes that a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain state park is an idea worth pursuing,” Jim Campi, the trust’s director of policy and communications, said in an interview. “It would be beneficial to have a state park in the region to memorialize the two battles as well as encourage tourism.”

Campi declined to comment on the national nonprofit group’s discussions with state officials, other than to describe them as preliminary and productive.

Glenn Stach, a preservation landscape architect in Warrenton, said the Virginia Outdoors Plan, a long-range planning document, identifies the region between Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County and the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers as one without a state park.

“It’s been on the radar for quite some time as an opportunity, with an underserved population in the vicinity,” Stach said.

The McAuliffe administration is identifying places to create new parks for the 80th anniversary of the state park system next year, Stach said.

Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain, said the Culpeper nonprofit strongly supports the concept of a state park and sees it as a economic development opportunity.

“Heritage tourism is clean development that does not require huge infrastructure costs to the local citizens,” Logan said. “Heritage tourists typically stay longer at a destination, spending more money at local businesses, including on meals and lodging.”

If the park happens, the Cedar Mountain battlefield would be promoted in state literature and its tourism efforts, she said.

NATIONAL ATTENTION

Virginia historian Clark B. Hall, who has spent decades working to preserve Brandy Station from development threats, said the park would focus national attention on Culpeper.

“This country doesn’t have a park dedicated to cavalry, that hugely important offensive and defensive component of Civil War warfare,” Hall said. “This would be the place.”

Fought on June 9, 1863, the Battle of Brandy Station opened Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg Campaign and proved the mettle of Union cavalry.

“There’s no other spot like it,” Hall said. “This is supremely beautiful battlefield land and to see it become a state park, that would be the cat’s meow.”

Paul Hawke, chief of the National Park Service’s American Battlefields Protection Program, was also enthusiastic.

“This is an excellent opportunity to save, and open to the public, two important Civil War battlefields that have long been overlooked,” he said.

The park idea has been talked of by some local residents for a long time, since at least 2000.

But a keystone fell into place in 2013 when the Civil War Trust bought the southern crest of Fleetwood Hill, site of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s headquarters before the battle, and several other properties associated with the famous ridge, Campi said.

“We needed to have Fleetwood Hill because it was the epicenter of the battle, the jewel of Brandy Station,” he said.

Friends of Cedar Mountain

Virginia State Parks

Brandy Station battlefield at the Civil War Trust

Cedar Mountain battlefield at the Civil War Trust

We need your help to make this happen! If you support this initiative, please write letters of support to the editor of the Free Lance Star and to legislators in Virginia. Now is the time.

To horse!

Scridb filter

Continue reading

IMG_0380A nifty gift just arrived in the mail from my friends at the Civil War Trust. It’s a brick. And I’m thrilled to have it.

You might ask, why? What’s so exciting about a brick?

This brick comes from Tony Troilo’s McMansion that blighted Fleetwood Hill for far too long. When the house was demolished, I asked that the Trust save me a single brick from the house as a souvenir of the fight to save Fleetwood Hill, and this is that brick. I have the perfect place for it in my home office, and every time that I look at it, I will smile, because of what it means. Its presence in my home office means that the McMansion no longer blights Fleetwood Hill, and that the view from Fleetwood Hill is once more unfettered.

So, you see, this is not just some ordinary brick. It’s a very special brick, bought and paid for by the blood of the soldiers who fought, bled, and died on Fleetwood Hill, and by the folks who donated the money to make the acquisition and demolition of the McMansion on Fleetwood Hill possible. And because it’s a very special brick, it will forever occupy a special place in my heart and in my home office.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

With many thanks to Clark B. “Bud” Hall, who not only provided me with these two images, Bud was also the one who identified the historic image as being of Fleetwood Hill when it had been mislabeled for years as being a camp in other locales.

Fall, 1863The first image was taken in the fall of 1863. Here’s what Bud had to say about it:

The view is north, and this is the attack perspective of the 1st Maryland Cavalry as Wyndham’s Brigade attacked Fleetwood on June 9.

The house was “Fleetwood,” built in the 1700’s by John Strode, and was in 1863 the tenant home of farmer Henry Miller. The fruit orchard visible in the ’63 image was destroyed (for firewood) during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac, 63-64. During that winter, the Miller home would be the headquarters of Maj. Gen. William French, 3rd Corps.

The road in the center of the ’63 image is easily discernible today as it leads to Brandy Station Station, a half mile away, and behind the photographer.

June 1 2015 v2The modern image was taken on June 1, and is exactly the same view and perspective. The small structure that looks like a gazebo is the historic well on the crest of Fleetwood Hill, which is enclosed to prevent folks from falling in.

It bears repeating that the view of Fleetwood Hill, unfettered by the McMansion on the hill, is a thing of beauty to be treasured.

To see larger versions of either of these two images, please click on them.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

UnknownWith many thanks to Dave Roth, the publisher, for giving me permission to reprint it here, here is Rob Grandchamp’s extraordinary review of “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour that appears in the current issue of Blue & Gray Magazine. I’m humbled by such a wonderful review, which is the finest review any of my books has ever gotten.

Award winning historian Eric Wittenberg, who has had a lifelong fascination with Union General John Buford, has researched and authored this tome. It combines the sharp research and intellect that he brings to his work, extensive use of primary manuscript sources, as well as the maps and images that Savas Beatie’s works are known for.

Wittenberg begins with a brief biography of Buford and an overview of his First Cavalry Division. The book is heavily illustrated with photographs, and includes many never before seen images. In addition, highly detailed maps throughout the text show the position of Buford’s men in this battle. Arriving in Gettysburg on June 30, 1863 Buford carefully surveyed the ground and determined to hold a series of ridges west of the town in order to delay the Confederates and allow the Union infantry to get into position. Wittenberg notes that Buford’s tactics on the morning of July 1 are still taught to cadets at West Point as a classic example of the use of cavalry (now replaced with wheeled vehicles, but still employing the same concepts).

Much of the book covers Buford’s actions on the first day at Gettysburg. Through a series of breakdowns in Confederate leadership, and with superb use of the terrain and their breechloading carbines, the eight regiments of Buford’s command were able to hold the ground against an overwhelming Confederate offensive. The descriptions of this action are the most detailed and descriptive this reviewer has ever seen. The maps highlight the action, allowing the reader to view the text down to the company and regimental level. In addition, the well placed footnotes allow for further serious scholarship. It is evident that Wittenberg has done his homework, as the book contains many sources not previously seen by historians. Buford’s men held their positions until the I Corps arrived on the field, and continued to support General John Reynolds’ flanks until the corps retreated back to Gettysburg.

While most books that narrate the story of Buford’s men at Gettysburg end with his division being relieved at the end of the First Day, this book does not. On the morning of July 2, one of the brigades supported the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters and the 3rd Maine in a reconnaissance in force near Pitzer’s Woods on Seminary Ridge. This engagement is often overlooked, but Wittenberg provides a detailed overview of the brief fight at Pitzer’s Woods, which was the opening of the battle on the southern part of the line on the Second Day. After this engagement, army commander General George G. Meade wisely sent Buford’s worn out division back to Westminster, Maryland to guard the supply train and refit.

The main part of the book ends with a historiography of Buford’s legacy and his role at Gettysburg. Several important appendices are also present, including one on the Buford monument at Gettysburg, a driving tour of positions associated with Buford’s command, and a discussion about the long held thought that Buford’s men were armed with Spencer repeaters, rather than single-shot breechloading carbines, at Gettysburg. Wittenberg, through deep research, has finally determined that the command was not armed with Spencers until the fall, and that Buford’s eight regiments carried a miscellaneous assortment of carbines.

In conclusion, this book is typical of what we have come to expect from Wittenberg: meticulously researched, superbly illustrated, and well written. While many books have been written about the early morning fighting at Gettysburg on July 1, 1963, this is the first book that has focused solely on the very important role that John Buford and his First Cavalry Division played in the fighting. While often an unsung hero of the battle, this book has brought Buford’s role in the action back to life. It is one of the better books to come out of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. “The Devil’s to Pay” is an exceptional read and must-add to any Civil War collection.

It simply does not get any better than that, I am very grateful to Rob for his incredibly kind words about my labor of love. That is, without question, the single best review one of my works has ever received.

I do need to correct Rob’s statement about when Buford’s command might have been armed with Spencer repeaters. Rob incorrectly states that the First Cavalry Division was armed with Spencer carbines in the fall of 1863. The Spencer carbine only went into mass production in September 1863, and there were not sufficient quantities of them available to distribute until the winter of 1863-1864. When the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps took the field in the spring of 1864, it was largely armed with Spencers, but not before that time.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

FullSizeRenderHere is how Fleetwood Hill looks today, June 1, 2015. This view is taken from the Flat Run Valley, to the south of where Lake Troilo once sat. Thank you to all of you who made this view possible–and especially to Bud Hall, the Civil War Trust, and those of you who made large donations to make it possible, and thank you to Tony Troilo for deciding to violate federal law. No thanks are appropriate for, nor should they be given to, Useless Joe McKinney and the Board of Appeasers, who idly sat by and let it happen in the hope of not offending Useless Joe’s pal, Mr. Troilo.

Fleetwood Hill–the single most fought-over piece of ground in North America–is once more unfettered.

For a full-sized view, click on the image. Thanks to Clark B. “Bud” Hall for sending it along.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

My friend Craig Swain has a very thought-provoking post on his blog indicating that the time has come for the founding of a state battlefield park in Culpeper County, Virginia. I commend it to you.

One would be hard-pressed to find a place with more significant Civil War sites than Culpeper County, Virginia: Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford, Freeman’s Ford, Rappahannock Station, Stevensburg, the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac, the Battle of Culpeper, and, of course, the crown jewel: the four battles fought at Brandy Station. There are advocacy groups for some of these battle sites such as the Friends of Cedar Mountain, who do a great job at their battlefield. Then there’s Useless Joe and the Board of Appeasers of the Brandy Station Foundation who pretend to care about preservation but really couldn’t care less. The Civil War Trust has very extensive land holdings in Culpeper County. Other parcels are owned by other groups.

It’s time for these parcels to be merged into a state park so that the Commonwealth of Virginia can become the steward of this land and can advance its interpretation. The Commonwealth already has a number of very well done state battlefield parks, such as the one at the Staunton River Bridge, or the terrific battlefield park at Sailor’s Creek State Battlefield Park. With its gorgeous views and beautiful rolling plains, a Culpeper County State Civil War Park encompassing the many sites in the county could truly become the Commonwealth of Virginia’s crown jewel when it comes to the state’s Civil War heritage.

Those of you who are Virginia residents: this is an idea whose time has clearly come. Please do what you can to encourage your state legislators to support this outstanding idea.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress