My world, and welcome to it.
The stuff that people feel that they have to share with us at book signings is pretty astounding.
Please don’t mistake my sarcasm for a lack of gratitude. I really appreciate it that folks feel like they can approach me and for the most part, I enjoy the interactions. Every now and again, someone will bring something to my attention that is of great interest to me, and I completely lose myself in the conversation. As just one example, at one of my first speaking engagements after my book Glory Enough for All: The Battle of Trevilian Station and Sheridan’s Second Raid was published, a fellow approached me and handed me a copy of a letter by his ancestor who had served in the 9th New York Cavalry and who had written a really terrific account of the battle that came to me about 6 months too late to do me any good. I’ve also had very interesting conversations with descendants of people who fought in the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Every once in a while, someone will tell me about an idea they have that’s great, or they share something really useful or unique with me. I live for those moments. I will always help folks with worthwhile projects.
And I’ve done this sort of thing myself. My book Little Phil: A Reassessment of the Civil War Generalship of Philip H. Sheridan is the direct result of a pretty remarkable dinnertime conversation that I had with the late Prof. Joe Harsh at a Civil War conference at Kent State University many years ago. I bent Joe’s ear for the entire dinner, and he graciously played along. But by the time that meal was over, the outline of the book was right there in my brain, waiting to be put down on paper. So, I really do get it.
And then, there are the ones that just prattle on and on and on about things that are of no interest to me, who are too oblivious to sense that they’re preventing me from talking to others or signing the books of others, and who won’t just shut up and go away. You try really hard not to be rude to them, but sometimes, you just have no choice. I’ve seen authors just get up and walk away out of exasperation. I haven’t done that, but I surely have tuned folks out completely from time to time.
In the end, I am no longer in charge of acquisitions for a niche publisher. I’m an author. Just because I’ve had stuff published doesn’t mean that I have the magic beans to get your lame idea published.
Perhaps some of my fellow authors will be willing to share some of their stories here. I hope you will!Scridb filter
Capt. William W. Blackford was J.E.B. Stuart’s able engineering officer in the spring and summer of 1863. He was 31 and one of several brothers serving in the Confederate service. Blackford had a bird’s eye view of much of the day’s action, and he wrote this interesting poem about the June 9, 1863.
In case you were wondering why we fought so hard to save Fleetwood Hill, this poem ought to answer those questions.
Twice a thousand men in blue
And twice a thousand gray
Are pricking fast the space between
And ne’er a finer sight was seen
And ne’er a bolder band I ween
Then rode in that array
Around the good old Mansion house
In flowery paths they meet
And bloody brushed the roses bloom
Neath foaming charger’s feet.
Terrific was the shock, the shiver
The lines of battle rocked
Worse to horse and hand to hand
Swaying back and forth they stand
In deadly conflict locked.
Tarnished is the sabre’s gleam
By many a bloody stroke
And dimly fades the fray from view
In dust and cannon smoke.
Steeds with empty saddles strain
Around the field in fright
Pause and snort toss back their mane
And with look bewildered neigh again
For comrades left in the fight.
O’er their battery sweep the waves
Of hottest action and
Triumphant now we wrest the prize
The proudest in a soldier’s eyes
Of captured cannon won
Beaten backward, stubborn still
Back from bloody Fleetwood Hill
Oft sound their bugles in retreat
For counter charges fierce to meet
Defiant still the bugles blew
With lines unbroken they withdrew.
First, please allow me to apologize for the absence. I had my portion of the Second Battle of Winchester book to write, and then I needed a break. I’m back in the saddle again, and I have some very funny stuff for you today.
What is thought of it–The Forrest-Kilpatrick Affair–Interesting and Spicy Correspondence.
The following correspondence explains itself. In consideration of the modesty of some parties, we give only initials:
New York, November 10
General J__n M. C___e:
Forrest says that I am “a liar, poltroon, and scoundrel.” What do you think about it?
Chicago, November 14
Sir–yours received. I think so too.
J__n M. C___e, Maj. Gen.
New York, November 7
Gen. W. T. S_____n:
Forrest has published me as “a liar, poltroon, and scoundrel.” What ought I to do about it?
Very truly yours,
Cheyenne, November 16
I think you ought to call out Forrest for having lied about you–that is, for having told only half the truth.
W. T. S______n, Lieut. Gen.
New York, November 8
Gen. U. S. G____t:
Forrest, of Memphis, has published a card in which he says I am “a liar, poltroon and scoundrel.” What do you think should be done with an unhung rebel who thus vilifies a loyal soldier?
I am, my dear General, your most obedient servant,
Washington, November 10
I don’t know. Let us have peace. I have no policy on such matters. Have just had a present of a splendid bull slut.
U. S. G___t, General
New York, November 19
Gen. B. F. B____r:
My dear sir:
Forrest, the infamous butcher of Fort Pillow, has published me as “a liar, poltroon and scoundrel.” What ought to be done?
Massachusetts, November 13
Dear sir–I think he ought to be impeached. If you cannot impeach his veracity, borrow his spoons and don’t return them.
B. F. B_____r
There are several more letters in our possession upon this subject. They are mostly to the point.
This is some truly funny stuff. This article clearly was written with tongue firmly in cheek and has some real fun at Judson Kilpatrick’s expense. The “letters” from Sherman, Grant, and Butler are especially funny. The bit about borrowing the spoons nearly caused me to do a spit-take. And I wholeheartedly agree with the “letter” by John M. Corse that indicates that he agreed with Forrest’s assessment of Kilpatrick.
I was asked how many Civil War battlefields and sites I have visited. It took a lot of thought to answer that question, but here goes, in no particular order:
Westminster, MD (Corbit’s Charge)
Carlisle (I went to college there–that made it easy)
First Brandy Station (August 20, 1862)
Second Brandy Station (June 9, 1863)
Third Brandy Station (August 1, 1863)
Fourth Brandy Station (October 11, 1863)
Culpeper (September 13, 1863)
First Rappahannock Station
Second Rappahannock Station
Orange Court House (August 7, 1862)
First Bull Run
Second Bull Run
Second Ride Around McClellan
Beaver Dam Creek
Spotsylvania Court House
Samaria (St. Mary’s) Church
Staunton River Bridge
First Reams Station
Second Reams Station
White Oak Road
Dinwiddie Court House
Appomattox Court House
White Sulphur Springs
Battle of Atlanta
Other Civil War Sites:
Fort Holmes (Bald Head Island, NC)
Fort Johnston (Southport, NC)
Fort Caswell (Oak Island, NC)
Fort Zachary Taylor (Key West, FL)
Fort Defiance (Clarksville, TN)
Miscellaneous Mosby sites throughout Virginia
Camp Chase (here in Columbus, OH, where I live)
Fort De Russy (Washington, DC)
Fort Couch (Camp Hill, PA)
Camp Curtin (Harrisburg, PA)
Fort Negley (Nashville, TN)
Fort Smith (Oklahoma)
Exchange Hotel (Gordonsville, VA)
Fort Drum (Los Angeles, CA)
The Presidio (San Francisco, CA)
White House of the Confederacy
Tredegar Iron Works
I’m sure there’s more. Those are the ones that come to mind.
What battlefields have you visited?
EDIT, AUGUST 24, 2014:
This past week, I added the surviving portions of Fort Henry and Spring Hill, TN to my list. Scratch off another two….Scridb filter
I wish that I could say that this exceptionally disturbing article surprises me, but sadly, it does not. Republican members of the Tennessee legislature have decided that it’s their duty to politicize the teaching of history to school children. Specifically, they’re attempting to indoctrinate school children by dictating how history is to be spun.
From the January, 22, 2014 edition of the The Tennessean newspaper:
History bill would emphasize interpretations favored by conservatives
Written by Chas. Sisk
State lawmakers are weighing a bill that would mandate how Tennessee students are taught U.S. history, with an emphasis on interpretations favored by conservatives.
House Bill 1129 would require school districts to adopt curriculums that stress the “positive difference” the United States has made in the world and “the political and cultural elements that distinguished America.” The measure also deletes a current guideline that encourages teaching about diversity and contributions from minorities in history classes.
The state Department of Education opposes the measure, saying curriculum decisions should be left to the State Board of Education and local school boards.
Backers of the legislation, a version of which has passed the Senate, say it remains a work in progress. But its main sponsor in the House, state Rep. Timothy Hill, conceded Wednesday that the measure is meant to leave students with certain beliefs, such as the view that the wording of the U.S. Constitution leaves no room for interpretation.
That legal theory, known as strict constitutionalism, generally has been used by conservatives to argue their side on a number of issues, including abortion, government regulation and gun rights.
The bill was filed last February, months before the current fights over textbooks and education standards erupted. It had moved through the legislature largely unnoticed until this week, quietly passing the Senate unanimously just seven days ago.
But it has been embraced by some lawmakers who have voiced concerns about bias in Tennessee textbooks. State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, backs the measure, which he said is similar to a bill he had planned to file himself.
Supporters say the bill ensures that Tennessee students learn about the country’s origins. The bill spells out that students would be taught about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as the nation’s achievements in a variety of fields and the “political and cultural” characteristics that contributed to its greatness.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking in terms of we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation,” said Hill, R-Blountville.
But Remziya Suleyman, director of policy for the American Center for Outreach, a group that advocates on behalf of Muslims in Tennessee, said the bill might encourage districts to adopt history books that downplay or distort information about recent immigrants and religious minorities.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said the bill seems to discourage discussion of the contributions of African-Americans, particularly those who were slaves.
“This part of our history I don’t think needs to be glossed over,” Love said.
Love and other lawmakers have asked Hill to agree to amend the measure before it moves further through the legislature. Both sides expect those changes to be worked out over the next few weeks.
Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or on Twitter @chassisk.
Here is some of the pertinent language of this horrific piece of legislation:
Students shall be informed of the nature of America which makes it an exception differentiated by its behavior, influence and contributions from the other nations of the world.
The Constitution is the “rule book” for how the federal government works. No action is permitted unless permission for it can be found in the Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights … still apply in exactly the words they originally contained in simple English.
All school district boards shall document and report to the commissioner their compliance with the content of courses as described.
Education should not be about political spin. It should be about teaching children to think on their own and to draw their own conclusions. This sort of indoctrination is extremely disturbing, and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t become the hot potato issue that evolution has become in Texas.Scridb filter
George Gordon Meade was not known for being a warm or fuzzy sort of fellow. Known for his volcanic temper, the men of the Army of the Potomac called him “the goggle-eyed old snapping turtle,” referring to Meade’s need to wear eyeglasses. His aide, Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman, dubbed him “the Great Peppery” for his saucy language. Consequently, Meade hasn’t gotten much love.
Until now, that is.
Thanks to Todd Berkoff from bringing this to my attention. In 1890, Meade was featured on the $1,000.00 bill. Known as the “grand watermelon note” due to the size of the zeroes on the back of the bill, only one of these notes survives. That note went up for auction on January 10, and sold for $3.29 million. It had been estimated to go for $2 million. The last time it was sold, in 1970, it sold for a mere $11,000.
Finally, some real love for the Goggle-Eyed Old Snapping Turtle, who deserves it.Scridb filter
Just a quick note to wish all of you a joyous Christmas. Susan joins me in wishing all of you the happiest of days with your friends and families today. Hopefully, none of you found any lumps of coal in your stockings this morning, and hopefully none of you received a visit from Krampus.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy days to visit this blog. I appreciate all of you.Scridb filter
Late last week, I learned about the Civil War Trust’s excellent new program to honor our veterans, which I want to share with you.
Here’s the Trust’s press release about the new Honor Our Soldiers program it’s rolling out:
CIVIL WAR TRUST ANNOUNCES NATIONAL ‘HONOR OUR SOLDIERS’ INITIATIVE
National campaign intended to recognize Civil War battlefields as living memorials to the service of all American soldiers, past and present
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, is proud to announce a new national campaign to honor American veterans, past and present. The multi-media campaign will recognize the tremendous sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, and includes an online petition — http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/honor-our-soldiers — through which concerned Americans can show their support for historic battlefield preservation.
“We see Civil War battlefields as living memorials to the courage and service of all of America’s military veterans,” remarked Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer. “We share an incalculable debt to the many soldiers, sailors and airmen who have endured hardships and sacrificed for our freedom. By preserving these battlefields, we celebrate their memory and honor their legacy.
The new “Honor Our Soldiers” campaign is intended to generate awareness about the acute plight of Civil War and other battlefields on U.S. soil. Many of these historic shrines to our nation’s military have already been lost, and even more remain at risk of being destroyed beneath a bulldozer’s blade. As an example, nearly 20 percent of our nation’s Civil War battlefields have already been lost to development — denied forever to future generations. The “Honor Our Soldiers” campaign seeks to rally support for protecting those hallowed grounds that remain.
Lighthizer was joined in the “Honor Our Soldiers” announcement by one of America’s most distinguished veterans, historian and preservationist Ed Bearss. Bearss enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 and fought at Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands before being severely wounded at Suicide Creek on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. After the war, Bearss went on to become Chief Historian of the National Park Service — a position he continues to hold in an emeritus capacity. According to Bearss: “When I answered the call to serve my country in World War II, I felt a kinship with all those soldiers who had come before me. I see preserving battlefields as a sacred duty that honors the legacy of their service.”
Lighthizer and Bearss both noted how preserved battlefields give Americans a unique opportunity to learn about the great personal cost paid by our ancestors to forge the freedoms we enjoy today. Lighthizer in particular noted the monument of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment at the Angle at Gettysburg. “Carved into that monument are the words ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Heroism.’ To me, that’s what battlefield preservation is all about. It gives young and old alike an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the patriots and heroes who have proudly worn our country’s uniform. Protecting and visiting these places ensures that their bravery is never forgotten”
To honor our soldiers — both past and present — PLEASE SIGN the petition to show your support for the preservation of the hallowed battlegrounds on which Americans have fought and died. Go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/honor-our-soldiers/ or visit the website at www.HonorOurSoldiers.org.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.
This is a worthy effort to honor our veterans. To see the Facebook page for Honor Our Soldiers, click here. Please take a moment to check it out, and please support this worthy new project by our friends at the Trust.Scridb filter
The following article appeared in the December 19 edition of the Culpeper Star-Exponent. It demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Brandy Station Foundation is no longer a battlefield preservation organization.
New Civil War graffiti uncovered in Brandy Station Foundation house
Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013 12:15 am | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Dec 19, 2013.
By Jeff Say email@example.com (540) 825-0771 ext. 115
Every inch of the Graffiti House in Brandy Station is historic — even the bathroom.
During a recent study by architectural conservator Chris Mills, new Civil War-era artwork was found in the circa 1858 structure believed to have been used as a hospital by Confederate and Union forces during the war.
For unknown reasons, patrons decided to mark up the walls with signatures, drawings and anything else that crossed their minds. Mills ’ challenge is to remove the post-historic paint and whitewash that subsequent owner’s attempted to cover the markings with, as well as stabilize the fragile plaster.
The newly uncovered graffiti was discovered in a crawl space under the stairs, painstakingly revealed by Mills — according to Brandy Station Foundation President Joe McKinney.
The name on the wall says Hollingsworth, 11th “something,” McKinney said.
After discovering that bit of artwork, Mills and McKinney pondered if more could be hidden in the vicinity.
That’s when Mills took out an razor blade and cut out a chunk of modern drywall in the bathroom.
Sure enough, under the modern plaster was more Civil War graffiti.
“Chris will cut out the plaster and see what we’ve got,” McKinney said. “We’re going to have to raise more money.”
McKinney pointed out that the house never ceases to amaze him.
“It’s exciting to see there’s still more (graffiti),” McKinney said.
It also enhances the learning value of the house.
“Going to the bathroom is going to be a learning experience for people,” McKinney said with a chuckle.
It’s great that new graffiti has surfaced at the Graffiti House. Wonderful. Don’t we all think so? (Right…) However, let’s closely examine Useless Joe McKinney’s words: “We’re going to have to raise more money,” he says. In other words, BSF’s main (and only) focus is to raise money to find more graffiti that has always been present in the house. It’s always been there, and it always will be there. It’s not going anywhere. Battlefield land however, will disappear if it is developed. Is that not a far more important priority for BSF on which BSF should focus?
Nowhere does Useless Joe mention or even suggest that the BSF should be raising money to purchase additional battlefield land. While Useless Joe frets over raising money to find more graffiti in the Graffiti House, there is core battlefield land on and around the Brandy Station Battlefield that is is presently for sale on the open market. Is Useless Joe doing anything to prevent the sale and development of core battlefield land that is situated firmly within the parameters of the battlefield BSF is charged with preserving? No. Not a chance. Preservation of battlefield property is simply not his thing, as he proved so amply during the Lake Troilo episode.
It is a fact Joe McKinney is myopically focused on his Graffiti House while battlefield land sits there right now ready for the plucking by somebody.
Fine, Joe. Go find your graffiti. But stop calling BSF a battlefield preservation advocacy organization, because you most assuredly are not so listed any longer in that noble category. Change the name of your organization to the Friends of the Graffiti House and stop pretending to be a battlefield preservation organization.
For shame.Scridb filter
150 years ago today, Maj. Gen. John Buford, the finest cavalryman produced by the Union during the Civil War, died of typhoid fever at the far too-young age of 37. The rigors of so many years of hard marching and fighting had taken their toll on Buford, who had contracted typhoid fever “from fatigue and extreme hardship,” after participating in the marches and fighting during the Mine Run Campaign that on November 7-8 compelled Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to abandon the line on the Rappahannock River and retire behind the Rapidan River. By November 16, he was quite ill. Buford was granted a leave of absence and removed to Washington, D.C., on November 20, 1863.
There he was taken to the home of his good friend, General George Stoneman. Buford’s condition deteriorated quickly, and it soon became apparent that he would not survive.
On December 16, 1863, President Lincoln sent a note to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who was said not to trust anyone with southern antecedents, and who disliked most of the officers associated with John Pope’s Army of Virginia. Lincoln’s note requested that the gravely-ill Buford, whom Lincoln did not expect to survive the day, be promoted to major general. Although the promotion was well deserved, Stanton permitted Buford’s promotion only when it became certain that Buford was dying. The promotion was to be retroactive to July 1. 1863, in tribute to Buford’s service at Gettysburg. “Buford lapsed in and out of delirium, alternately scolding and apologizing to his black servant, who sat weeping by the general’s bed- side. He was comforted by several old comrades, including his aide, Capt. Myles Keogh, and General Stoneman. When the major general’s commission arrived, Buford had a few lucid moments, murmuring, “Too late. . . . Now I wish that I could live.” Keogh helped him sign the necessary forms and signed as a witness, and Capt. A. J. Alexander, 1st U.S., wrote a letter to Stanton for Buford, accepting the promotion. Buford’s last intelligible words–fitting for a career cavalryman–were, “Put guards on all the roads, and don’t let the men run back to the rear.” He died in the arms of his devoted aide and surrogate son, Keogh, on December 16.
Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt, Buford’s protege and the temporary commander of his First Division, prepared general orders:
His master mind and incomparable genius as a cavalry chief, you all know by the dangers through which be has brought you, when enemies surrounded you and destruction seemed inevitable…. The profound anguish which we all feel forbids the use of empty words, which so feebly express his virtues. Let us silently mingle our tears with those of the nation in lamenting the untimely death of this pure and noble man, the devoted and patriotic lover of his country, the soldier without fear and with out reproach.
The First Cavalry Division’s staff officers prepared resolutions of regret, lamenting Buford’s death and resolving that the members of the First Division would wear the badge of mourning for thirty days as a sign of respect for their leader. Another of Buford’s peers wrote in his diary,
December 20: The army and the country have met with a great loss by the death of . . . Buford. He was decidedly the best cavalry general that we had, and was acknowledged as such in the army. [He was] rough in his exterior, never looking after his own comfort, untiring on the march and in the supervision of all the militia of his command, quiet and unassuming in his manners.
In a tribute, the men of the First Division raised money to erect a monument to Buford at his grave site at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a fitting final campground for a Regular. Most members of the 9th New York contributed a dollar each to pay for the monument.
Had Buford not fallen ill, he would have gone west to assume command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. The thoughts of a confrontation between Buford and Nathan Bedford Forrest boggles one’s mind, particularly since Buford’s first cousin Abraham assumed command of one of Forrest’s divisions in early 1864. Alas, it was not to be.
And so, we will leave it with the words of Buford’s dear friend, Maj. Gen. John Gibbon, who said, “John Buford was the finest cavalryman I ever saw.” What more needs to be said?
At Gettysburg, the Devil gave him a huge debt to pay, but Buford and his troopers did so magnificently. Here’s to Maj. Gen. John Buford, gone far too soon, but most assuredly not forgotten.Scridb filter