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
I wanted to announce a number of upcoming events, in case anyone is interested.
First, this Saturday, April 9, 2011, I am one of the presenters at a conference being held at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. The topic is “Railroads, Raids, and Ruins–Laying the tracks of destruction in Virginia’s Civil War”, and it focuses on precisely what it sounds like. The speakers are Professor Peter Coogan (Hollins), Chris Calkins, Gordon Hamilton, a special appearance by Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson, and me. My friend Clark “Bud” Hall was also supposed to present, but some pressing personal business has forced Bud to cancel, which means that I’m going to cover his slot. My first talk–the one I was scheduled to do–is a study of Union cavalry raids on Virginia railroads, 1862-1865. The second one is titled “A Tale of Two Railroads: The Baltimore and Ohio and Virginia Central Railroads During the Civil War.” Click here for registration information.
Then, on Sunday, April 10, I will be signing books in Greencastle, PA at the kick-off of the Greencastle-Antrim Historical Society’s Sesquicentennial of the Civil War celebration. It’s a full weekend event, but I obviously can’t there before Sunday due to the conference at Hollins. For information about this event, click here. Other authors who will be signing include my fellow blogger Scott Mingus, Sr. and Dennis Frye.
On April 12, I am speaking to the Civil War Roundtable of Atlanta, Georgia. My topic will be Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. Click here for sign-up information.
On June 11, I am leading a tour of about half of the sites associated with our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around for the First Defenders Civil War Roundtable from my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania. Click here for registration information.
I will be in Williamsport, Maryland all day on Friday, July 8, 2011 and for just over half a day on Saturday for Retreat Through Williamsport, sponsored by the Town of Williamsport and the National Park Service Chesapeake and Ohio Canal unit. On Saturday at 1:00, I will be speaking on the retreat from Gettysburg, and I will be signing books all day Friday and on Saturday morning. Click here for information regarding the event. We have to head out after my talk, as we have a beach house reserved in Wilmington, NC for the next week.
On September 14, I am speaking to our own Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on how Revolutionary War tactics affected Civil War tactics. That’s going to be a completely new talk for me that ties up two of my favorite topics. Click here for information about the meeting.
From September 23-25, I will be leading a tour of Central Virginia cavalry battlefields for Woodbury Historical Tours. Battlefields visited will be Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, and Trevilian Station. Registration is limited to 15 or so, and the first dozen get free copies of my book on the Battle of Brandy Station. The schedule and registration information can be obtained by clicking here.
And, although this is way in advance, it’s never too soon to promote one of my favorite events. I’ve been invited to be a presenter at the annual Middleburg Conference on Leadership in the Civil War this year again, for the fourth time. This event always features an impressive array of talent and benefits a great organization, the Mosby Area Heritage Association. This year’s conference is September 30-October 2, and the title is “The Conference on the Art of Command in the Civil War: Cavalry of the North and South”, and it features some first rate talent. Scroll down the page for the schedule and for information on registration. Here’s the schedule:
Friday, September 30
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Registration, Reception & Book Browsing
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. – Horace Mewborn, Behind Enemy Lines with Rangers and Comanche’s! John Mosby and Elijah White
6:15 p.m. -7:15 p.m. – Clark B. Hall, From Bull Run to Brandy Station: JEB Stuart and the Emergence of the Confederate Cavalry
Saturday, October 1
8:00 a.m. – Registration, Coffee & Snacks
8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.- Robert O’Neill, Colonel Percy Wyndham, A Question of Loyalty
9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Marshall Krolick, Riding for the Union – Recollections from the 8th Illinois Cavalry
11:00 a.m. – 12 noon – Robert Trout, In Pelham’s Shadow: the Commanders of the Stuart Horse Artillery after John Pelham
12 noon – 12:45 p.m. – Lunch
12:45p.m. – 1:45 p.m. – Bruce Venter, General Insubordination: Custer vs. Kilpatrick in the Third Cavalry Division
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Clark B. Hall, Redemption is at Hand! Emergence of the Federal Cavalry after the Battle of Brandy Station
3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. – Eric Wittenberg, Plenty of Blame to Go Around: JEB Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion and Book Signing
6:15 p.m. – Cash Bar Opens at American Legion Hall
7:00 p.m. – Banquet Dinner
8:00 p.m. – JEB Stuart, IV, Jeb Stuart at West Point and in Federal Service Out West
Sunday, October 2
8:00 a.m. – Buses depart Middleburg for a tour of Brandy Station Battlefield (box lunches included)
5:00 p.m. – Buses return to Middleburg
This is going to be a good one, folks. Check it out.
That’s it for now. As always, I will continue to update my schedule of events as things go.Scridb filter
I am a proud member of the Dickinson College Class of 1983. My friend and mentor Brian Pohanka was also an alum of Dickinson (Class of 1977), and his family endowed a chair in his honor when it became obvious that his cancer was terminal. Prof. Matthew Pinsker, who is the chairman of the College’s history department, holds the Brian C. Pohanka Faculty Chair in American Civil War History, and for five years, he and Prof. John Osborn (who was actively teaching when I was a student at the College many moons ago) have been working out the details of a large project called the House Divided Project.
Having ironed out the bugs, the project–which seeks to provide a new approach to teaching school children about Eighteenth Century history by using the College as a window on events–is now being formally launched just in time for the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I received the following press release from Matt earlier today, and I am proud to announce the launch of the project on his behalf here on the blog:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELASE
717-333-1515 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dickinson College Launches House Divided Project to Honor Civil War Anniversary
Dickinson College will host a series of events at the outset of the Civil War 150th anniversary (April 15 and 16) to formally launch the House Divided Project, an innovative effort to provide 21st century tools for teaching 19th-century topics in America’s K-12 classrooms. The free events begin with a documentary film festival at the Carlisle Theatre on Friday, April 15. On Saturday, April 16, there will be a teacher development workshop, the nation’s first “augmented reality” tour of Underground Railroad and Civil War sites from the newly opened Old Courthouse in Carlisle, and a keynote address on Civil War memory by noted historian David Blight in the evening. All events are free and most are open to the public; some require online registration.
Faculty, staff and undergraduate students at Dickinson have been building and testing the House Divided Project for the last five years, creating nearly two dozen Web sites offering public domain historical content and free digital tools on a variety of subjects from the period 1840 to 1880. House Divided uses Dickinson College as a window and a starting point for a unique focus on the Civil War Era. The college was one of the few institutions of higher education in the country with a student body that was half-northern and half-southern. Two of its graduates also were two of the most powerful men in the country – President James Buchanan, class of 1809 (1857-1861) and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, class of 1795 (1835-1864).
At the center of the House Divided Project is a powerful database dubbed the “research engine,” which includes more than 10,000 historic images and hundreds of thousands of individual records connected together in an easy-to-use interface designed to help teach the difference between “search” and “research” (http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites for more details). America’s Civil War magazine dubbed the House Divided research engine, “one of the most compelling sesquicentennial online projects.”
· Friday, April 15, 7 p.m. Free. Documentary Film Festival features dramatic stories about Civil War Carlisle, including the tale of an entire regiment of local soldiers captured and imprisoned at the infamous Andersonville prison camp. The films will be shown in the Carlisle Theater at 44 W. High St. and will also feature a live musical performance of period songs by Dickinson students and faculty.
· Saturday, April 16, 9 a.m. Project Director Matthew Pinsker will lead a teacher workshop focusing on how to use the latest technology for K-12 lessons on the Civil War. Open to K-12 educators and home schooling parents. Advance registration required at: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/launch . Email email@example.com or call 717-245-1525 with questions.
· Saturday, April 16, 1 p.m – 3 p.m. Faculty and students from House Divided will unveil the nation’s first “augmented reality” tour of Underground Railroad and Civil War sites using the latest tools in smart phone/computer tablet technology. The tours will begin from the newly opened Old Courthouse in downtown Carlisle, recently recognized by the National Park Service as one of the nation’s premier Underground Railroad sites in the National Network to Freedom. Online reservations encouraged at http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/launch.
· Saturday, April 16, 7 p.m., Anita Tuvin Schlecter (ATS) Auditorium, Yale University historian and author of “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” (2001), David Blight will explore the meaning of the conflict at the beginning of its 150th anniversary in a keynote address entitled: “American Oracle: The Memory of the Civil War.” Book signing to follow. This event is co-sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the history department. For more information on the House Divided Project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-245-1525.
John Osborne and Matthew Pinsker are co-directors of the House Divided Project. Osborne is an emeritus professor of history from Dickinson College. Pinsker is an associate professor of history and holder of The Brian C. Pohanka ’77 Faculty Chair in American Civil War History at Dickinson and author of Lincoln’s Sanctuary (Oxford, 2003).
For more information on the House Divided Project and the launch weekend events, please call Matthew Pinsker at 717-333-1515 or email email@example.com.
This is a great thing for my alma mater, and will also hopefully provide good tools for teaching the Civil War to school children. Kudos to Matt and Professor Osborn for their work. Please check out The House Divided Project.Scridb filter
My friend and co-author Michael Aubrecht is one of the producers of a well-regarded documentary film called The Angel of Marye’s Heights, about Sgt. Richard Kirkland of South Carolina. Michael asked me if I would mind passing along that the film is now available for home use on DVD, and can be purchased here. Please help support independent documentary film making.Scridb filter
This is one of those cases that ties up both my interest in Civil War history as well as my day job. Hat tip to Charlie Knight for bringing this to my attention.
This article appeared in the February 11, 2011 edition of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper:
Williamsburg collector will fight for Civil War sword
Posted to: Military News Williamsburg – James City
By Tim McGlone
© February 11, 2011
Civil War artifacts collector Donald Tharpe paid $35,000 for a one-of-a-kind, Tiffany-made sword, and he’s not about to give it up easily.
Brown University in Providence, R.I., is suing Tharpe in federal court, seeking the return of the Col. Rush C. Hawkins sword. The university considers the 1863 silver-and-steel saber priceless.
At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar set a Sept. 7 trial date to settle the matter but ordered both sides to try to work it out before then. He noted that “possession is 90 percent of good title.”
“I think we’re going to be able to resolve it,” said Brown attorney Robert McFarland.
Doumar previously issued an injunction preventing any transfer of the sword. Tharpe, who lives in Williamsburg, had loaned the sword to a Newport News museum but retrieved it in December and had it placed in a secure art storage facility in Manhattan.
Tharpe’s attorney, Alan Silber of New Jersey, told the judge that Tharpe is the rightful owner because officials at Brown previously relinquished its rights and the statute of limitations has since expired. Brown, he said, found the sword with a Midwest dealer around 1991 but failed to sue for ownership then.
Tharpe bought the sword from an Illinois antiques dealer in 1992 for $35,000, Silber said.
Tracing the sword back to Brown would be difficult, Silber said. The Illinois dealer bought it from a dealer in Pennsylvania, who bought it from another dealer in Massachusetts, who has since died.
Plus, there may not be enough evidence to prove that the sword is the actual 1863 Hawkins sword, he said. There may be multiple Hawkins swords.
Silber and a Brown representative took the sword’s case to the storage center in New York on Feb. 8 to see whether it would fit. The two sides dispute whether it did.
“They believe it did, we believe it did not,” Silber said.
Tharpe and his wife were in court Thursday morning but declined to comment.
Brown has said the sword was stolen from its collection in the mid-1970s and that it maintains ownership despite several transfers since then.
The sword was a gift to Union Col. Rush C. Hawkins for his battlefield successes during the Civil War.
Hawkins, who became a general, later donated the sword and most of his art, mementos and books to Brown and housed them in the Annmary Brown Memorial at the university, which he had built in honor of his wife, the daughter of one of Brown’s founders.
Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rush Hawkins commanded the 9th New York Infantry, also known as Hawkins’ Zouaves. The 9th New York was part of the Ninth Corps, and fought during Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition and then in the 1862 Maryland Campaign. The 9th New York made the farthest advance into the town of Sharpsburg during the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, and their monument is one of my favorite monuments to grace the Antietam battlefield. He was badly wounded in North Carolina in 1862, and mustered out of service in 1863 when the regiment’s two-year term of enlistment expired. He was brevetted to brigadier general of volunteers, and was a prominent attorney in New York City. The irony of this situation would not be lost on him.
The Civil War historian and preservationist in me screams that the sword is the property of Brown University and that it needs to be returned immediately. However, the lawyer in me realizes that it’s not that simple. The sword was stolen, and then changed hands several times before Mr. Tharpe ended up with it.
Longstanding Virginia law provides that one who does not have title to goods cannot transfer title to a buyer, even a bona fide purchaser for value without notice. Thus, a thief cannot pass title to stolen goods even to an innocent purchaser who pays for the stolen goods. However, Virginia law has also recognized that a person who purchases goods from one possessing only voidable title can nevertheless receive good title to the goods purchased.
These principles have been implicitly recognized in Virginia Code § 8.2-403(1), which states, in pertinent part:
A purchaser of goods acquires all title which his transferor had or had the power to transfer…. A person with voidable title has power to transfer a good title to a good faith purchaser for value. When goods have been delivered under a transaction of purchase the purchaser has such power even though
(d) the delivery was procured through fraud punishable as larcenous under the criminal law.
So, there are a couple of critical questions that must be answered in this lawsuit: Was Tharpe a bona fide purchaser for value without notice? Should he have known that the sword was stolen? And was the seller’s title to the sword voidable? Or was it void from the beginning?
Under the voidable-title doctrine, an individual who procures goods by larcenous conduct acquires a voidable title to the goods and therefore may pass valid title to those goods in a “transaction of purchase” to a bona fide purchaser for value without notice. Title in the thief is voidable “because the true owner is entitled to rescind the transaction and recover the goods from that individual. The right of rescission is cut off, however, by a transaction to a good faith purchaser.” Thus, once title to the goods has passed to the good-faith purchaser by a transaction of purchase, the original owner has no recourse to recover said goods.
Therefore, under the “voidable title” doctrine, it appears that Mr. Tharpe may have acquired good title to the sword, even though it was stolen–assuming he had no notice that it was stolen and acted in good faith in purchasing it. The question of what he knew and when he knew it will be absolutely critical to the outcome of this case, which may well conflict with my instincts as a preservationist and will undoubtedly cause a loud and unhappy reaction from a lot of people.
This will be an interesting case to monitor, and I will post updates as they become available.Scridb filter
Today saw the occurrence of an event that I’ve been waiting for since 1974. Today, I signed the publishing contract for You Stink! Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players, which I’ve written with my friend Michael Aubrecht. I first came up with this idea as a thirteen year old in 1974, and I can’t really describe how excited I am to finally see that dream come to fruition.
The book will be published by The Kent State University Press, and will be out in time for the 2012 baseball season.
More as things move toward publication.Scridb filter
Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s faithful and famous war horse, Old Baldy came home yesterday. It’s about time.
From today’s issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Old Baldy returns to Grand Army of the Republic Museum
By Michael Vitez
Inquirer Staff Writer
Old Baldy came home Sunday.
And it was a fine new home, and homecoming, for the preserved head of one of the most famous horses in the land, at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum in the city’s Frankford section.
Old Baldy was no thoroughbred, just a handsome, brown horse with four white feet and a white blaze on his face. But he survived a Triple Crown of his own – shrapnel to the nose and flank at the First Battle of Bull Run, a shot through the neck at Antietam, and a musket ball to the belly at Gettysburg that finally ended his combat service.
“He was always able to come forward, despite wounds, despite illness, despite exhaustion. He was always ready to go,” said Anthony Waskie, a Civil War historian, author, and Temple University professor who serves on the museum board.
“The men saw something in the horse, something we admire in people that face adversity and prevail. He became an icon.”
Old Baldy was ridden by Gen. David Hunter at the first Bull Run, and sent to the Cavalry Depot in Washington to recuperate. There, Gen. George C. Meade bought him for $150, and Meade rode him faithfully through battle after battle.
“At Antietam,” Waskie said, “he was shot, and seemed to be dead on the ground, flat . . . and the next day Meade sent his valet to go and get his saddle. And when the valet went into the field, the horse was up and grazing.”
On July 2, 1863, the second day at Gettysburg, Meade, by then commander of all Union troops, was rallying his men on Cemetery Ridge when Old Baldy was shot out from under him.
On July 5, two days after the famous battle had ended, leaving 50,000 casualties, Meade included in a letter home, “Baldy was shot again, and I fear will not get over it.”
Three days later he wrote: “I did not think he could live, but the old fellow has such a wonderful tenacity of life that I am in hopes he will.”
Baldy survived the war, but saw no more combat.
After the war, Meade returned home to Philadelphia, where, among other duties, he became commissioner of Fairmount Park, and he often rode Old Baldy on the newly constructed trails that the general, trained as an engineer, helped design.
When Meade died on Nov. 11, 1872, Old Baldy marched in his funeral procession to Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Meade was not flashy, Waskie said, but he had earned the respect and affection of his men. “He wouldn’t waste their lives unnecessarily, paid them on time, and fed them well,” he said. “The horse became associated with the man, and it took on even more importance after Meade died.”
Old Baldy lived another decade, to age 30, cared for by a friend of Meade’s near Jenkintown.
When the horse could no longer stand, a veterinarian put him down with poison, as Meade had wished. The Public Spirit of Jenkintown reported on Dec. 23, 1882:
“Baldy in life was as trustful as brave, and he swallowed with all confidence the two ounces of cyanide of potash that was poured down his throat . . .. A few more struggles and the old warhorse stentorously breathed his gallant life away.”
Two men who served with Meade read the news report and went on Christmas Eve to Jenkintown, where they received permission to take the horse’s head and have it stuffed and mounted on an ebony shield, inscribed with a record of his service. The men presented it to Post No. 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization of its time.
That post evolved into the museum in Frankford, but it fell into such disrepair in the 1970s that it closed temporarily, and Old Baldy was transferred to the Civil War Museum on Pine Street in Center City.
When that museum closed in 2008, a legal struggle ensued, and Sunday, to the great joy of members of the Frankford museum, Old Baldy returned to what they consider his rightful home. The museum, at 4278 Griscom St. (www.garmuslib.org), is open Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. and the first Sunday of every month from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
The museum prepared a special room just for Old Baldy. After a ribbon cutting, about 50 people walked through, admiringly.
“Wow, what a history!” said Jim Souder of South Jersey. “What a horse!”
Eric Schmincke, museum president, invited everyone up to the second floor for a champagne toast. Meade’s favorite drink was champagne, and the general was known to drink it in the saddle.
“To Old Baldy,” Schmincke said, “and all who protected the Union.”
For years, Old Baldy resided in the old Civil War Museum and Library in Philadelphia, but when the organization ran into serious financial woes after the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania welshed on a commitment to fund a new building, the collection of artifacts, including Old Baldy, was the subject of a drawn-out legal battle. I’m glad that it finally got resolved and that Old Baldy has an appropriate home. Kudos to the G.A.R. Museum and its dedicated cadre of volunteers for making this happen.Scridb filter
In 1882, General William T. Sherman donated a twelve-pound Parrott gun to his home town of Lancaster, Ohio. That gun is still there to this day, situated in a small city park next to a monument to Cump Sherman. Unfortunately, the ravages of time and weather haven’t been kind to the gun’s carriage, which is rapidly deteriorating. The local SCV camp has taken on a campaign to Save the Cannon, by raising funds to replace the carriage. On October 23, the campaign is hosting an evening with General Sherman to raise funds for the purchase of a new carriage, and I’ve donated some books for the fundraising auction and also just purchased a brick in honor of all the brave men who followed the guidon. If you have a couple of spare dollars and want to help a worthy cause, I hope you will consider this one.Scridb filter
I’ve got a couple of events coming up in the next few weeks, and I thought I would post some details in case anyone is interested in checking them out.
Next Wednesday, August 18, I will be speaking to the Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York, which meets at the Roger Smith Hotel, located at Lexington Avenue and 47th Street. The cost is $35.00 for members and $45.00 for guests. An RSVP is required. Details may be found on the Forum’s web site. I will speaking on Jeb Stuart’s controversial ride to Gettysburg.
On Tuesday, September 14, I will be giving the same talk to the First Defenders Civil War Roundtable, which is located in my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania. The meeting will be held at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. The meeting begins at 6:30, and reservations are required.
I hope to see some of you there.Scridb filter