Last week, I was asked to join the list of historical consultants for the upcoming mini-series To Appomattox. The series is being written and produced by Michael Beckner, who has been the driving force behind a number of popular movies and television series. The series is intended to focus on the people who fought the Civil War, and not necessarily on the battles themselves. The series has Ulysses S. Grant as its focus, but it is as comprehensive a look at the Civil War as any eight-hour series could hope to be. All of the major engagements east of the Mississippi River are covered, some in more detail than others.
There has been some criticism of this series because it will include cameo appearances by a number of NASCAR drivers and country music performers. I have to admit that I had some of the same questions then too, but I now understand. The NASCAR drivers and country music performers are all folks who have a deep and abiding interest in the Civil War, and many, if not most, of them have ancestors who fought. They’re enthusiastic supporters and participants in order to pay tribute to their ancestors, and I respect that motivation a great deal. None of them will have a major role; serious, talented actors like William Petersen will play the important roles.
The cast associated with this series largely consists of A-list talent. Again, many of them had ancestors who fought, and many are involved to pay tribute to those ancestors. As just one example, Bill Paxton, who is a well-respected actor, has been cast to play Stonewall Jackson. If you didn’t know the back story, that casting choice might be easy to criticize. However, when you learn that Bill Paxton had an ancestor who fought under Jackson in the Stonewall Brigade, then the choice makes a lot of sense. My understanding is that he asked to play Jackson as a result. I believe that may of the other cast members have the same or similar motivations.
Some of the best known names presently working in Civil War history have signed on as historical consultants for this series, including Ed Bearss, Gordon Rhea, Scott Hartwig, Mark Snell, and lots of others, and my good friend and writing partner, J. D. Petruzzi, is the primary historical advisor. All of us are determined to make certain that this story is told as accurately and as fully as possible within the operative parameters. I know that’s my primary motivation here, and I likewise know it’s J.D.’s because we’ve discussed it at length.
I have read the scripts of all eight episodes and have provided feedback on all. I can’t get into specifics, so I won’t. You will just have to take my word for it that I’m impressed with Michael Beckner’s devotion to getting it right and to telling the story as accurately as possible. In some places, some literary license sis needed to keep things moving along, and I’m sure that some hardcore Civil War buffs will be bothered by that. However, while I have pointed out a few things, I am generally very impressed with the level of accuracy involved and with how well Mr. Beckner has portrayed the interpersonal relationships between the key players to this Greek tragedy.
Filming begins in April and will continue for several months. The series is planned to air in 2013. I’m honored to have been asked to be part of it, and I have taken my responsibility of trying to insure that the story is told as accurately as possible very seriously. As more details become available, I will pass them along.Scridb filter
Several weeks ago, I did a post titled “Threads”, which dealt with the family linkages between Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer, Revolutionary War hero, his grandson, Col. George S. Patton of the 22nd Virginia Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864, and Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., the great World War II hero, who was the grandson of the Civil War officer. In that post, I promised I would pull a few more threads regarding General Patton, who is one of my favorites.
Adna Romanza Chaffee was born in Orwell, Ohio on April 14, 1842. In July 1861, Chaffee, only 19 years old, enlisted in the newly-formed 6th U. S. Cavalry as a private. In early 1862, he was promoted to sergeant, and to first sergeant in September 1862. As a reward for his good service, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton arranged for him to be appointed second lieutenant in April 1863. Although only 21 years old, he was in command of a company of the 6th U. S. by the time of the Battle of Gettysburg that summer.
On July 3, 1863, the 6th U. S. Cavalry was sent on an expedition to Fairfield, Pennsylvania. There, the 6th U. S. took an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry, and was thrashed. Chaffee was wounded and captured that afternoon. The Confederates tried to parole Chaffee, but he refused a parole in the field, obeying a recent War Department directive that the men of the 6th U. S. not give their paroles if captured. The frustrated Confederates, concerned that they could not manage their large haul of prisoners, simply left Chaffee behind with the other wounded. Chaffee was found laying on the ground in the orchard, being tended to by one of his men, a “neatly cut crimson edged hole in his blue pantaloons over the front part of his thigh. He was quite cheerful.” As a reward for his gallantry in the fighting and for his steadfast refusal to give his parole, Chaffee was brevetted to first lieutenant, effective July 3, 1863. He recovered from his wound and returned to duty with the 6th U. S. in early September 1863. He suffered a second combat wound, and was promoted to first lieutenant in February 1865.
He remained in the Regular Army after the war, and was promoted to captain. He spent 30 years fighting Indians in the west and southwest. In July 1888, he was promoted to major and was transferred to the one of the so-called “Buffalo Soldier” units, the 9th U. S. Cavalry. In 1897, he was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the 3rd U. S. Cavalry. He was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War, and then to major general of volunteers after the American victory at El Caney, Cuba, in July 1898. From 1898-1900, he served as chief of staff to the military governor of Cuba, Gen. Leonard Wood.
When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China in 1900, Chaffee was sent to Peking as commander of the U. S. Army’s China Relief Expedition. He played a major role in putting down the rebellion and then was promoted to major general in the Regular Army in 1901 in recognition of those accomplishments. He served as military governor of the Philippines for a few months, and then assumed command of the Department of the East, a position he held until 1903. In 1904, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became chief of staff of the United States Army, a position he held for a bit over two years. He was one of two old horse cavalrymen to rise from the rank of private to serve as chief of staff of the Army (a profile of the other officer to go from private of cavalry to chief of staff of the army can be found here). Chaffee retired in February 1906 and died on November 1, 1914. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
His son, Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr., was born in Junction City, Kansas on September 23, 1884. He graduated from West Point in 1906, and was appointed a lieutenant of cavalry, following in his famous father’s footsteps. Chaffee soon became known as the best horseman in the army. In World War I, he was an infantry major, serving in the IV Corps during the St. Mihiel offensive and then as a colonel in the III Corps during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After the war ended, he reverted to his Regular Army rank of captain of cavalry and became an instructor at the General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
During the 1920’s, with the help of a young horse cavalryman who had commanded armor during World War I–Capt. George S. Patton, Jr.–helped to develop tank doctrine and tactics. In 1927, he predicted that mechanized armies would dominate the next war and helped to develop the U. S. Army’s first true armored force. He was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1931, and continued to work on the development of the U. S. Army’s armored forces and capabilities. He soon became the leading advocate for American armored forces.
In 1938, he assumed command of the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized), the U. S. Army’s only armored force. He worked tirelessly for the further development and advancement of armored forces, and his predictions proved true when France surrendered after the German blitzkrieg in 1940.
After the collapse of France, Chaffee finally convinced Congress that the United States needed to develop an effective armored force very quickly. Congress authorized the creation of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in 1940, and Chaffee was promoted to major general and was given command of this force. Unfortunately, Chaffee was quite ill. He died of cancer at the young age of 56 on August 22, 1941, just before the United States was forced to enter World War II, and is remembered as the father of the U. S. Army’s armored force. The M24 Chaffee light tank was named in his honor.
In the 1920’s, George S. Patton, Jr., an old horse cavalryman who designed the U. S. Army’s last cavalry saber, also tirelessly worked to advance the cause of armor. He had successfully commander light tanks during World War I, and saw the potential of tanks as a decisive battlefield weapon. He unsuccessfully petitioned Congress to fund an armored force and wrote articles on tactics that were published in the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association, a professional journal for Regular Army cavalrymen.
In July 1940, Patton–now a colonel–was given command of the 2nd Armored Brigade, 2nd Armored Division. He became assistant division commander the following October, and was promoted to brigadier general on October 2, 1940. He served as acting division command from November 1940 to April 1941, and was promoted to major general and given command of the 2nd Armored Division a few days later. Were Chaffee still alive in 1941, he undoubtedly would have been given command of the I Armored Corps when it was formed. However, his premature death opened that slot for George S. Patton, Jr. and he was promoted to major general and appointed to command the I Armored Corps. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, armor serves most of the traditional roles of horse cavalry: scouting, screening, and reconnaissance, and many armored units are actually designated as cavalry units. It has a great legacy for doing so, with direct links to some of the greatest horse cavalrymen of the post-Civil War era of the United States Army. As you will see from the image at the beginning of this paragraph, the traditional crossed sabers logo of the cavalry has been amended to reflect the direct link between horse cavalry and armored service in the modern army.
If you pull the various threads, you find a direct connection between the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps and the legendary commander of the Third Army, George S. Patton, Jr. That direct connection flows through two great horse soldiers, Adna Romanza Chaffee and his son, Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr.Scridb filter
My friend and co-author J. D. Petruzzi and master cartographer Steve Stanley (who is doing the maps for my White Sulphur Springs book) have come out with an extremely useful little volume titled The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook: Facts, Photos, and Artwork for Readers of All Ages, June 9 – July 14, 1863 that was just published by Savas-Beatie. I can’t say enough good things about this book.
A couple of years ago, J.D. and Steve brought out their extraordinary guidebook to the Gettysburg battlefield that covers the battle in great detail and which also covers some really offbeat and off the beaten path aspects of the battle. However, some things had to be left out in the interest of space, and the new volume serves as a perfect companion to the Guide.
The new volume–softcover and small, for easy use on the battlefield–is precisely what the title suggests. It’s a very useful tool for anyone interested in visiting the battlefield. It includes lots of useful and interesting tidbits, such as a listing of all 64 winners of the Medal of Honor for the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as a brief description of why each individual was awarded the Medal. It discusses weather conditions during the battle. It includes lots of fascinating factoids about the battle, and it includes a series of quotes by participants that give the reader something to deeply ponder while on the battlefield. There is also a gallery of photos and capsule biographies of some of the more important but less known personalities of the battle, such as Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Carter of the 4th Texas Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the fighting for Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 and was then buried in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The last part of the book is a reading list for those interested in further reading and learning about the events of July 1-3, 1863.
The most important portions of the book are the extremely detailed order of battle and the descriptions of the three days of the battle itself. Written so that even a Civil War novice will understand them, these chapters provide an excellent overview of the battle. They, alone, are worth the purchase price.
The book is done in full color. There are lots of excellent photographs by Steve Stanley, and Steve’s maps are printed in full color. There is no cartographer in the business better or more talented than Steve Stanley, and his maps are presented here in their glory. The layout of the book is handsome and Savas-Beatie spared no expense in using Baxter paper to publish this volume. At only $18.95, this book is a real bargain.
I highly recommend The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook for anyone with an interest in the Gettysburg Campaign. Everyone–from novice to expert–will learn something new here. It should be required reading.Scridb filter
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that today is a very important anniversary. 150 years ago today, the First Battle of Bull Run was fought. On July 21, 1861, the inexperienced armies of Irvin McDowell, Joseph Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard clashed near Manassas, Virginia, and the bloody results of that violent clash opened a lot of eyes. Suddenly, it became clear that this rebellion would not be over in 90 days, and that if the Federal government wanted to prevail, a LOT of blood would have to be shed to do so. In many ways, America lost its innocence that day.
For lots of reasons, I’ve never found the battle especially compelling, but that does not make it any less important. The sesquicentennial of that pivotal engagement is most assuredly worth commemorating, and I want to invite you, my readers, to leave comments here as to why you think that First Bull Run is worthy of commemorating.
For those interested in more on this battle, I highly recommend spending the five or six minutes that it takes to watch this excellent presentation (which features the superb maps of cartographer Steve Stanley) put together by the Civil War Trust.
I also commend to you Harry Smeltzer’s excellent blog, Bull Runnings, which is devoted primarily to Harry’s many years of study of First Bull Run.Scridb filter
As I mentioned here, I was on the program at the Retreat through Williamsport event, commemorating the retreat from Gettysburg and the pursuit by the Army of the Potomac, this past weekend. The event was a joint production by the City of Williamsport and the National Park Service C & O Canal unit there. It was a very well planned and well run event, and I very much enjoyed my visit.
Here’s the coverage from yesterday’s edition of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:
Williamsport marks rebel retreat from Gettysburg
Civil War exhibits, speakers, music featured
By ALICIA NOTARIANNI
7:19 p.m. EDT, July 9, 2011
WILLIAMSPORT, Md.— “It wasn’t the good old days,” Joan Knode said.
Soldiers who had been injured in the Battle of Gettysburg rode in hard wagons through Williamsport en route to Virginia.
It was early July 1863, and the Confederate effort led by Gen. Robert E. Lee had been foiled by the forces of Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade.
“Some of the men begged to be thrown off the wagon, to be thrown alongside the road,” Knode said.
To make matters worse, when Lee’s forces arrived in Williamsport, the Potomac River had flooded. They were confined in the town for about 10 days, and the Union Army had begun to encircle them.
Finally, during the night of July 13 and the morning of July 14, Lee’s forces were able to cross the river.
Knode, a Williamsport town councilwoman, worked with C&O Canal National Historical Park Ranger Curt Gaul and Williamsport resident Scott Bragunier to commemorate those events at the second annual Retreat through Williamsport: Civil War Weekend.
People gathered on the grounds of the Springfield Farm Barn in Williamsport Saturday morning to see encampments, re-enactments and demonstrations. Bands played period music and speakers lectured on the retreat.
A crowd favorite was Eric J. Wittenberg, an Ohio-based, award-winning Civil War historian and author of 16 published books.
An audience of about 75 filled the barn while Wittenberg gave an animated overview of the retreat.
“Williamsport was the hub,” Wittenberg said. “The flooding of the river made Williamsport the focus of both armies. Had the Union been able to prevent Lee from crossing here, it might have defeated his army and the war might have ended much sooner.”
Gaul said event planners conceived of the first retreat weekend last year to gear up for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War retreat in 2013.
“We had enough success last year to make us credible. We’ve got a hard-core Civil War crowd here,” Gaul said. “The challenge now will be following the great lectures we’ve had the first two years.”
Phil Wingert, 50, of Hagerstown said he is a Civil War historian who was drawn to the event by the caliber of the lecturers.
“They have some really good speakers,” Wingert said. “It’s the old, ‘What’s past is prologue.’ The battles, the politics. Those experiences are still relevant to us today.”
Joseph and Michelle Pyne of Hagerstown attended the commemoration with their grandson Micheal Miller.
They said Micheal has seen Civil War documentaries and they wanted him to learn more in person.
“It’s good that people make attempts to preserve history. As generations go on, it’s easy to let it all fall by the wayside,” Joseph Pyne said. “Even though it’s in the past, it’s not that long ago when you think about it.”
It can’t be embedded, but here’s a link to the short video that was shot at the event. It includes a small portion of my lecture that day.
Yesterday, there was a five-mile hike along the C & O Canal towpath from the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport to the location of the Confederate pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. We missed that march because we were already in Kure Beach, NC for our vacation, but it sounds like it was also an interesting event. Here’s a link to the article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Martinsburg Journal-News, which focuses on the role of the C & O Canal in these events.
I hope to be invited back, particularly for the 150th anniversary event in 2013. I recommend this event–whether I’m there or not–to anyone with an interest in the retreat from Gettysburg.Scridb filter
As part of my Maryland events related to the retreat from Gettysburg, I am also participating in the Retreat Through Williamsport: Civil War Weekend being conducted in Williamsport, Maryland next Friday night and Saturday, July 8-9. I will be part of the opening events on Friday evening, and will be signing books and also speaking on Saturday from 9-2 (after which time, it’s off to a week at the beach on the Fort Fisher battlefield in beautiful Kure Beach, NC). I will have copies of about half of my book titles with me, and will be happy to sign one for you.
Here’s the schedule of events:
Friday, July 8, 2011: 7p.m
7:00 pm Opening Event “Meet & Greet” Place – The Barn at Springfield Farm
Artist & Re-enactors. Music Performance by Susquahannah Travelers and Maryland Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Color Guard. Civil War on Canvas by Artist, Bill Davis
Saturday, July 9, 2011:
First half of day – the Barn at Springfield Farm – the Susquahannah Travelers will be playing throughout camps
9a.m. Camps, Sutlers, Book Signing & Meet the Authors, Displays
10a.m. Steve French, Author – Imboden’s Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign – Wagoner’s Fight
11:00 Reenactment – “Foraging for their Lives” Confederate / Union skirmish
12p.m. Roger Keller, Author & Speaker – Music of the Civil War
12:30 – 1:30 Susquehanna Travellers Performance
1p.m. Eric Wittenberg, Author – One Continuous Fight – The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863
2p.m. Demonstration Arms and Artillery
Events move to Cushwa Basin/River Bottom – the Susquahannah Travelers wil be playing at Canal
3p.m. Tim Snyder, Author – C&O Canal during the Civil War
3:30 – 4:30 Susquehanna Travellers Performance
4p.m. Karlton Smith, NPS Ranger, Civil War Medicine and the Gettysburg Campaign
5p.m. Ted Alexander, Author & Speaker – The Retreat Through Williamsport
6p.m. Williamsport Civil War History Walking Tour – Start Cushwa Basin
8p.m. Campfire at River Bottom Park with Storyteller – Matthew Dodd, and music by the Susquahanna Travelers
Nightfall: Walk through historic Riverview Cemetery under candlelight and luminare
Sunday, July 10, 2011:
9a.m. Camps are open from 9 a.m. till Noon
10a.m. March to Falling Waters Start Cushwa Basin
NPS Ranger: Curt Gaul
Meet and hear from Confederate and Union Reenactors along the 5mile hike ending at Falling Waters.
Reservations for 120 participants (301) 582-0813
Bus provided by C&O Canal Association for return trip to Cushwa Basin
1p.m. til 4p.m. Town Museum will be open at Springfield Barn
The Springfield Farm is located on Springfield Lane in Williamsport. You can find driving directions here.
I hope to see some of you there!Scridb filter
The other day, I got an e-mail from Mark Gaffney, who is the owner and webmaster of a very useful web site called Impediments of War. The site was designed to be, and acts as, the archive for all of the episodes of Civil War Talk Radio, a weekly program hosted by Prof. Gerry Prokopowicz, the chairman of the history department at East Carolina University.
This is the e-mail that Mark sent me:
My website is titled Impediments of War and is intended to be a Companion Website to Civil War Talk Radio. My inspiration was Dyer’s Compendium, I originally had the website subtitled “A Compendium of Civil War Talk Radio,” but decided it was a big mouthful….Companion is easier for most people to say and understand. I started the website in November 2010.
Additional background information can be found on the website HomePage and on the About Our Site page.
As you may, or may not know, World Talk Radio owns the Civil War Talk Radio shows. Gerry is merely a volunteer who is willing to provide his services each week as a labor of love. World Talk Radio does not offer Gerry much in the way of support and their website is atrocious. I started the website out of frustration with World Talk’s site. I believe in the show so much that I was willing to put up money to spread the word (Sounds like that old Remington Shaver commercial from the 70’s!). I taught myself HTML, PHP and MySQL while creating the site. To my good fortune, Gerry liked the website so much that he adopted it as the “official” website. He mentions it at the beginning of each show.
My website provides the information on each show and links to the original MP3 files on the World Talk Servers. There are currently 200+ hours of interviews online. The show listings are organized by season, the 100 series being the first year and the 700 series being the 7th year, etc. I also have a listing of guests, alphabetical by last name and recently added a “search” tool that is still being tweaked.
I am not in the Military History business nor am I a web designer, I am a structural engineer who practices in New Jersey, consulting to architects to make sure their buildings stand up. I maintain the website as a hobby. Through Gerry’s show, I have widened my appreciation of the Civil War and discover so much valuable information. I think that is worth sharing with others.
I was interviewed on Gerry’s show during the program’s episode 129, in case anyone is interested. Like the others, this episode is archived on Mark’s website.
Thanks, Mark–both for writing and for your obvious labor of love that does a service for all of us. Mark’s doing a great job with this project, and I commend his site to anyone with an interest in listening to any of the terrific interviews that Gerry Prokopowicz has done over the years.Scridb filter
Old friend and fellow cav guy Pat Brennan sent along the press release for his cool new project:
net – The 24/7 3D Network From Sony, Discovery and IMAX – Announces the Start of Principal Photography on the World’s First Native 3D War Documentary Series
– Groundbreaking Four-Part Civil War Series To Utilize Scripted Reenactments And Digitized Stereoscopic Stills To Bring Historic Conflict To Life –
CULVER CITY, Calif., April 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — 3net, the joint venture 24/7 3D network from Sony, Discovery and IMAX have begun principal photography on the world’s first native 3D War Documentary, it was announced today by Tom Cosgrove, President & CEO of 3net. THE CIVIL WAR 3D*, the most ambitious 3D series ever produced for television, will transport viewers back in time, retelling the war’s most pivotal moments both on and off the battlefields from the unique perspective of both sides in the historic conflict. The four-hour miniseries is scheduled to debut on the network in Fall 2011.
“Shooting in native 3D gives us the unique ability to bring an entirely new level of depth and emotion to this epic time in history with groundbreaking storytelling that simply hasn’t been possible until now,” said Cosgrove. “As well, THE CIVIL WAR 3D series further reflects our ongoing mission to provide the kind of immersive in-home 3D experience available nowhere else on television.”
David W. Padrusch, Director of THE CIVIL WAR 3D for Towers Productions, LLC, who is also serving as Executive Producer along with the company’s founder and chief creative officer, Jonathan Towers, added, “Our editorial and technical approach to telling the story of the Civil War is unlike anything previously undertaken. Jonathan and I will bring the prism of 3D technology to first-person accounts of battlefield experiences as a way of exploring the humanity and the complexity of motivations of soldiers on both sides of the war.”
“The lifeblood of any historical recreation is the research,” said Patrick Brennan, who serves as historical consultant and co-writer of THE CIVIL WAR 3D and is also the author of Secessionville: Assault on Charleston. “The 1st Virginia and 20th Massachusetts regiments participated in nearly every major battle in the Easter Theater, and the men in these units gave us authentic and haunting first-hand insights into America’s darkest days.”
THE CIVIL WAR 3D will magnify the epic fight for liberty, patriotism and democracy by resurrecting the intimate accounts of the brave men on the front lines. This landmark native 3D series will give viewers unique insight into both the Northern and Southern experience. By paralleling personal stories from soldiers in counter regiments, the Union’s Massachusetts 20th and the Confederate’s Virginia 1st, THE CIVIL WAR 3D will show the agony and determination endured through camp life, training, and all-out war.
Detailed letters from Union soldier Henry Livermore Abbott, who would die in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, will be juxtaposed with Confederate cadet Charles Loehr, whose eloquent memoirs reveal similar sentiments from the South. Viewers will witness how their differences in beliefs, strategy, artillery and support influenced the conflict’s final outcome.
Utilizing specially digitized stereoscopic archival imagery from the period, scripted reenactments and character narrative, THE CIVIL WAR 3D promises to bring audiences a “closest to real” experience that only native 3D can deliver. Towers Productions, LLC will produce the series with Executive Producers Jonathan Towers and David W. Padrusch. Padrusch will also direct the series. Tim Pastore will serve as Executive Producer on behalf of 3net.
* Denotes working title
3net, the joint venture of Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation brings together three of the world’s leading media, technology and entertainment companies to provide the nation’s first and only fully programmed, 24/7 3D network. The three partners deliver an extraordinary collection of award-winning 3D content, technology and production expertise, television distribution and operational strength to the project, with a mission to bring viewers the highest quality and most immersive in-home 3D viewing experience possible. The channel will feature the most extensive library of 3D content in the world by the end of 2011, featuring genres that are most appealing in 3D, including natural history, documentary, action/adventure, travel, history, hyper-reality, lifestyle and cuisine, concerts, movies, scripted series and more. 3net is currently available on DIRECTV channel 107. For more information, please visit www.3net.com.
Sounds interesting, and I look forward to checking it out. Good luck with it, Pat.Scridb filter
Part of the fun of doing the Forgotten Cavalrymen series is bringing forgotten heroes back into the spotlight. I take great pleasure in doing that. However, it’s also great fun to commemorate a scoundrel every now and again. I’ve done that a few times in the past, such as when I profiled Col. Sir Percy Wyndham and Col. Napoleon Bonaparte Knight. Today, we’re going to profile another.
Having spent so much time working on the Michigan Cavalry Brigade over the years, I was of course familiar with the first colonel of the 7th Michigan Cavalry, William d’Alton Mann. When I was finishing up the revision to my 2002 book Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3, 1863, I decided to see if I couldn’t add just a little bit of personal information on Mann to the manuscript, so I did a little digging. And wow, was I surprised at what I found. Colonel Mann was a world-class scoundrel with a fascinating story that just begged to be told here. So, here goes….
William d’Alton Mann was born in Sandusky, Ohio on September 27, 1839, of what he described as “Puritan stock.” His father’s name was William R. Mann, a staunch Jeffersonian Democrat who was a veteran of the War of 1812. Young William was one of 13 children, including a brother named Eugene who was born as late as 1855. That year, the family relocated to Adrian, Michigan. After studying civil engineering, Mann settled in New York City in 1858, where he met and made the acquaintance of a burly, wealthy South Carolina planter named Wade Hampton.
In 1858, Mann celebrated both his 19th birthday as well as the birth of his daughter, Emma, having married somewhere along the way. The next year, a relative died and Mann inherited about 100 acres of farmland near Grafton, Ohio. The property featured a run-down inn that Mann re-opened upon his return from New York. He abandoned the project in 1861, leaving behind lots of debt and the first of many failed business ventures.
After the surrender of Fort Sumter, Mann sought and obtained a commission as a captain in the 1st Michigan Cavalry, which became a fine, reliable unit. He enlisted in Detroit on August 22, 1861. Led by Col. Thornton Brodhead, the 1st Michigan fought against Stonewall Jackson’s army during the 1862 Valley Campaign, and then participated in the Second Bull Run Campaign, where the first brigade-sized cavalry battle occurred (Brodhead was mortally wounded in this fight, at the Lewis Ford on Bull Run, which was the closing engagement of the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862). Not long after the end of the Second Bull Run Campaign, the cavalry brigade that included the 1st Michigan Cavalry was assigned to serve in the defenses of Washington, D.C. It spent most the winter and spring of 1863 chasing after Maj. John Singleton Mosby’s Rangers.
Mann later claimed that he was a leading advocate of the theory that the Union cavalry should include mounted infantrymen, and he was detailed to Detroit to help raise a new regiment that became the 5th Michigan Cavalry, and was appointed its lieutenant colonel on August 14, 1862. He also claimed that he provided the suggestion that the men of the 5th Michigan be armed with seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles, a weapon that the 5th Michigan used to great effect during the summer of 1863. He was then assigned to raise another new unit, which became the 7th Michigan Cavalry. “During all of that time I served without pay and paid my own expenses,” he claimed years later. “By the way, the Government has never paid me yet for that service, and I presume never will. I forgave it, because I got reward enough in the splendid record” achieved by the 7th Michigan. Mann was commissioned colonel of the 7th Michigan on November 1, 1862.
Three new regiments–the 5th, 6th, and 7th Michigan Cavalry Regiments–were brigaded with the 1st Michigan to form the Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the winter of 1863. Brig. Gen. Joseph T. Copeland, the original colonel of the 5th Michigan, commanded the brigade, which was part of a division commanded by Maj. Gen. Julius D. Stahel. On May 28, 1863, Mann took on Mosby and his Rangers near Catlett’s Station on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Mann led an aggressive saber charge against Mosby’s command that was repulsed by the fire of Mosby’s mountain howitzer. Mann rallied his troopers and led them in two more charges before Mosby’s command ran out of ammunition and withdrew. “It was the main Mosby engagement in Virginia, the only time he stood and made a determined fight against a Union force,” boasted Mann years later, after Mosby’s death.
Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, the temporary commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, craved Stahel’s division to augment his Corps, but Stahel outranked him, and if the division joined the Cavalry Corps, Stahel would get Corps command by virtue of seniority, something that Pleasonton was bound and determined to prevent from happening. After some political conniving, Pleasonton succeeded in getting Stahel relieved of command, the division assigned to the Cavalry Corps, and assigned Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick to command it. Pleasonton also arranged for two of his staff officers, Capts. Elon J. Farnsworth and George A. Custer, to be promoted to brigadier general in order to assume command of the two brigades. Custer was assigned to command the Michigan Brigade.
The 7th Michigan, under its new brigade commander, fought in the June 30, 1863 Battle of Hanover, and had some slight involvement in the July 2 encounter at Hunterstown. However, the 7th Michigan had its great moment the next day, July 3, during the fighting for East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg. Along with the 1st Michigan Cavalry, the 7th Michigan had been held in reserve during the brutal dismounted fighting for the Rummel farm buildings that occupied most of the day on July 3. During the afternoon phase of the battle, Col. John R. Chambliss, Jr.’s brigade of Confederate cavalry (actually Brig. Gen. W. H. F. Lee’s brigade, but Lee was wounded and had been captured) made a mounted charge. Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg called for Mann and ordered him to charge with the 7th Michigan. With Custer leading the way, bellowing, “Come on, you Wolverines!”, Mann and his men drew sabers and charged, crashing into the Confederates and getting tangled up in a stout fence line that separated the troopers of both sides. Mann’s Wolverines broke up and blunted Chambliss’ charge, prompting Custer to write, “Colonel Mann is entitled to much credit” when he penned his report of the campaign.
Gettysburg marked the zenith of Mann’s military career–the charge on East Cavalry Field was clearly his finest hour. Mann led his regiment through the retreat from Gettysburg, and then back into Virginia. Like the rest of Kilpatrick’s division, the Wolverines broke and ran during the rout of the Union cavalry by Jeb Stuart’s cavaliers at Buckland Mills on October 19, 1863, a debacle that became known as the Buckland Races. Mann led his Wolverines into the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac near Brandy Station in Culpeper County, Virginia. On March 1, 1864, Mann resigned his commission and received his discharge from the army. He did, however, ride with the 7th Michigan Cavalry during the Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac in May 1865.
Mann resigned his commission because he had invented and patented a gizmo that was intended to help balance out the weapons carried by cavalrymen in the field, and had some success. He sold 20,000 of them to the army and started the Mann Patent Accoutrement Company. This venture soon failed, but not for lack of effort on Mann’s behalf. He spent most of the summer and fall of 1864 visiting Union camps, trying to peddle his wares and visiting with his old comrades from the Cavalry Corps. When the company failed, he turned his attention to a new industry–oil, which had recently been discovered near Titusville, Pennsylvania.
He solicited investors (including five former brigadier generals and Col. Russell Alger, the former commander of the 5th Michigan Cavalry) to start an oil company and raised a large sum of money to do so. He purchased some useless land near Titusville, but the company never launched, and he was eventually charged with theft by deception and tried for the felony. Mann was acquitted of the felony charges after a trial of nearly two months’ duration. He was called a swindler for years after this, even though he was never convicted of a crime.
Mann then settled in Mobile, Alabama, where he purchased and published the Mobile Register newspaper. He ran for Congress as a Democrat and received a majority of votes,but was denied the victory by carpetbaggers in the state government, and was considered to be a carpetbagger himself. He was not a gracious loser, which did not endear him to the local citizenry. Mann eventually sold the newspaper to focus his energies on a new invention, this time a luxury sleeping car for railroads. Although not well-built, the Mann sleepers were important innovations that included hallways to pass from car to car. Mann obtained a patent for his invention and went head-to-head with the Pullman company. Like his other business ventures, the railroad car venture also failed, and the Mann Boudoir Car Company went out of business after its assets were sold.
Mann then moved to London for a decade, where he came upon the idea of founding and publishing a gossip-based periodical based on some of the British tabloids. He returned to New York and established Town Topics, which was “dedicated to art, music, literature, and society.” It soon became a scandal sheet, faithfully reporting high-society peccadilloes and often identifying perpetrators by name. Mann himself wrote the real gossip column, called “Saunterings,” using the pseudonym “The Saunterer.” The Saunterer’s identity was not very well hidden.
Mann declared war on the monied class. “I believe that the possession of great wealth, the presence of continual luxury and an existence of a sybaritic case are sufficient to lead voluptuous natures into a system of sensual gratification more intensely and ingeniously base than is found in the humbler walks of life,” he proclaimed in 1891. “The Four Hundred [the wealthiest and most influential members of New York society] is an element so shallow and unhealthy that it deserves to be derided almost incessantly.” And Mann did just that with his weekly publication.
Mann’s wealthy targets could buy their way out of his crosshairs–an ample donation could get a story spiked and put the donor on Mann’s “immune” list. The main method used by the Saunterer was to print an innocuous article with the name of the individual on which it had a piece of hot gossip. The other side of the page included a blind piece going into the scandal without the name of the person involved. By separating the identification and the scandal separately, Mann managed to avoid liability for extortion and libel.
In 1904, Mann took aim at Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was just beginning her career as a socialite. “From wearing costly lingerie to indulging in fancy dances for the edification of men was only a step. And then came—second step—indulging freely in stimulants. Flying all around Newport without a chaperon was another thing that greatly concerned Mother Grundy. There may have been no reason for the old lady making such a fuss about it, but if the young woman knew some of the tales that are told at the clubs at Newport she would be more careful in the future about what she does and how she does it,” wrote Mann. “They are given to saying almost anything at the Reading Room, but I was really surprised to hear her name mentioned openly there in connection with that of a certain multi-millionaire of the colony and with certain doings that gentle people are not supposed to discuss. They also said that she should not have listened to the risqué jokes told her by the son of one of her Newport hostesses.” Mann’s bullying of Alice Roosevelt infuriated a lot of wealthy and powerful people, who vowed revenge.
The Alice Roosevelt episode was just one of many instances where Mann’s Saunterings wreaked havoc on the lives of the rich and famous of the Gilded Age. This was a time when the wealthiest members of society did all they could to remain out of the unblinking view of the public eye. Mann was hated by most and feared by all, and they held their noses and paid his extortions to keep their names out of Saunterings.
In 1905, Mann badly miscalculated by blackmailing Emily Post’s husband, Edwin. Post was a struggling Wall Street stockbroker mired in an unhappy marriage. Mann learned that Edwin Post was supporting a Broadway dancer in a Connecticut love nest. Mann demanded that Post pay $500 to kill the story, but Post did not have the funds to do so. Instead, he confessed to Emily. Instead of paying the requested hush money, Emily Post instead advised her husband to contact the district attorney and set up a sting operation. Mann’s agent, Charles P. Ahle, was arrested in Post’s Wall Street office on July 11, 1905, and he was prosecuted and convicted of extortion.
Reacting to the prosecution of Ahle, Collier’s magazine published a series of harshly worded articles disclosing that Mann had been paying a city juvenile court judge, Joseph Deuel, to vet Town Topics. Norman Hapgood, the editor of Collier’s, tried to bait Mann into suing the magazine, but the Colonel would not take the bait. Instead, Deuel filed a libel suit against Hapgood that went to trial, providing entertaining headlines for weeks. The testimony adduced demonstrated that Deuel was, indeed, on Mann’s payroll, and the jury took just seven minutes to find Deuel not liable. Mann testified at the trial, and was crucified. His extortion schemes were exposed, as was his employment of a sitting judge to vet the content of his publication. During his testimony, Mann also denied signing a document that placed someone on his exempt list, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. After the trial, the district attorney then preferred perjury charges against Mann. He was tried and acquitted of the felony charges, once more dodging a prison sentence, but the trial pretty much wrecked Town Topics as a profitable business. However, Town Topics continued on, with the Colonel still penning Saunterings, and did not cease publication until more than a decade after Mann’s death.
Mann also founded a literary magazine called The Smart Set in 1900. The Smart Set was founded to publish fiction by The Four Hundred as a means of entree into society by Mann, and he ran the publication profitably for 11 years. He sold it in 1911, and the publication continued in print until it finally failed in July 1930. Authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, O. Henry, and many other literary lights all graced its pages. Mann was rightly proud of The Smart Set.
To his credit, Mann offered to publish Asa B. Isham’s history of the 7th Michigan Cavalry at his own expense for free distribution to the alumni of the regiment. The book was published by the Town Topics Publishing Company in 1893. The book included a register of the regiment’s officers and an identification of the members of the unit who did not survive the war. He was also an active member of the Loyal Legion of Military Order of the United States and the Army and Navy Club, and was justifiably proud of his service in the Civil War.
William d’Alton Mann died of complications of pneumonia at the age of 81 at his home in Morristown, New Jersey, in May 1920. His funeral was held at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. An American flag draped his coffin, which was adorned with the Colonel’s Gettysburg saber. Three colonels and a major general attended the service, and a bugler from the 7th Michigan Cavalry played Taps. Mann was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. He was described as “a rousing, bouncing, noisy, vigorous, open-hearted, choleric, old man.” Possessed of a keen intellect and a swindler’s soul, William d’Alton Mann is remembered as the man who robbed the robber barons.
Here’s to the scoundrel, Col. William d’Alton Mann, forgotten cavalryman and extortionist.Scridb filter
Developer Matt Raymond dropped me a line a few weeks back to let me know that he was completing development of a nifty Civil War app for the iPad, and I told him that when it’s ready, he should let me know, and I would pass along the information about it here on the blog. Matt let me know that the app is not only ready, but that it has actually launched. Here’s the press release:
“HISTORY 3D” iPad App Offers Historic 3D Photos in Honor of Civil War Anniversary
“HISTORY 3D” iPad app offers historic 3D photos in honor of Civil War anniversary; images to be donated to Library of Congress, public domain.
Washington, DC (PRWEB) April 11, 2011
A new iPad app available today in the App Store offers an exciting and immersive experience for enthusiasts of history and 3D images, but it also provides a gift to the nation.
Launched to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War on April 12, “HISTORY 3D: Civil War” is the first in a series of iPad apps that will offer scores of photos in 3D anaglyph format (red/cyan) for viewers to explore. It is expected that hundreds of anaglyphs will be created during the development of successive apps.
The photographs come exclusively from the collections of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, which holds tens of thousands of stereographic images. Most of the images are derived from the original glass-plate negatives of photography legends such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan and George N. Barnard.
While the newly created anaglyphs, which combine the original left and right halves of stereographs, could conceivably be copyrighted, they instead will be donated to the Library of Congress, free of charge, for release into the public domain and eventual display online. The Library is planning to display selected images on its website and its popular Flickr page.
HISTORY 3D was conceived by Matt Raymond, who until recently was communications director at the Library of Congress and is credited with helping spearhead the Library’s leading role in social media among government agencies and cultural institutions. It was developed along with Mike Silvers of iggyco.com, an iPhone and iPad development company in Salisbury, Md.
“Many of the iconic Civil War images in the Library of Congress have been familiar to me and millions of other people in 2D, but the added dimension of HISTORY 3D makes it feel like you’re seeing them for the first time,” Raymond said. “Your iPad is now your time machine.”
“HISTORY 3D: Civil War” is available in the App Store for 99 cents through April 16 (the week of the aforementioned anniversary of the start of the Civil War), after which time the price will be $1.99.
Two dozen iconic images are presented in a page-turner format, along with pop-up context and commentary, are included. Additional sets of images focusing on key Civil War battles and topics, and other major historical events, will also be released.
HISTORY 3D will also take part in the App Store’s Volume Purchase Program, which offers discounts to educational institutions.
“During my time at the Library of Congress, I saw the power of primary-source materials in getting young people more excited about and engaged with history in ways that text books couldn’t match,” Raymond said.
“I hope HISTORY 3D’s innovative presentation of these remarkable photographs will spark curiosity about our nation’s past, and help us see that ‘history’ and ‘fun’ don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
HISTORY 3D is not an official app of the Library of Congress.
PROMO TRAILER at http://www.history3d.us
CONTACT: MIMA Studios
1 (888) 377-7754
Then last night, Matt let me know that the new app is already the second highest ranked app in the education store. Congratulations, Matt!
Check this nifty little application out, iPad users!Scridb filter