Time for some shameless self-promotion. Over the weekend, I signed off on the page galleys for my newest book, The Devil’s to Pay: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour. The file has been sent to the printer, and in about five weeks, my publisher, Savas Beatie, LLC, will have books.
This is, in many ways, the culmination of my life’s work. I began researching what started out as a bio of John Buford not long after Susan and I got married din 1992. This study of John Buford at Gettysburg has been percolating all that time. The book will feature 17 of Phil Laino’s excellent maps (including two that have never before been mapped) and more than 80 illustrations (including three images that have never before been published). I’m really excited to finally see this in print after all of these years.
The book will sell for $32.95 plus $3.95 for shipping. I will also be offering a special collector’s edition that contains a special signed and numbered bookplate that will make for a perfect gift for $75.00. Shipping is free for the special edition. I am taking pre-orders for signed copies beginning tonight. Those interested can pay one of three ways: by PayPal, by credit card, or by check. If you wish to pay using PayPal, please use the email address eric_at_civilwarcavalry.com (I have stated the address that way so that bots don’t pick it up as easily). If you wish to pay by credit card, please send me an email to that address, and include your name, address, credit card number, expiration date, CVV on the back (the three-digit or four-digit code), and the billing address. If you want to pay by check, please send me an email at that address, and I will provide you with a mailing address.
Thank you for your interest in my work, and I hope everyone enjoys the book, which has been a LONG time coming.Scridb filter
I received the following challenge:
List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t over think it. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have impacted you in some way.
So, here goes, in no particular order:
1. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. This was the one that started it all for me. Bruce Catton’s wonderful prose and THE coolest maps ever made.
2. William Manchester’s marvelous The Arms of Krupp, 1587-1968. My master’s thesis was a direct result of having read this book.
3. Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War. Simply put, THE finest military biography that I have ever read.
4. Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. An epic study that not only taught me a lot about the Confederate side of the Civil War, it also introduced me to the Lost Cause.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Yep, I’m a nerd. This proves it.
6. Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge too Far. This epic study of the wretched, miserable failure that was Operation Market Garden is one of the finest campaign studies ever written.
7. Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History. This groundbreaking book directly led to the publication of one of my books.
8. Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. Full of factual errors but one of the finest pieces of historical fiction ever written, this book was the introduction to the Civil War for many a person.
9. John Hennessy, Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. This is THE best Civil War campaign study I have ever read, and I aspire to doing as well some day.
10. Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Moses was the most powerful man in New York, but his ego and downfall brought about the bankruptcy of New York in the 1970′s. This epic biography taught me the art of biography.
There are, of course, many, many other worthy candidates for inclusion on such a list–in fact, limiting the list to ten entries really unreasonably limits things. But these are the ten that come to mind without overthinking it, and I think that this list is a worthy one.
Feel free to leave your own lists here in the comments. It should make for some interesting discussion.Scridb filter
Shown in the photo with me is my friend David Raymond, who wrote the foreword to You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players. Unless you’re either a long-time, die-hard Phillies fan, or a die-hard fan of the University of Delaware’s football program, the likelihood is that you don’t know who Dave is. Click on the photo to see a larger image.
The other photo is Dave’s alter ego, the Phillie Phanatic. Dave was the original Phillie Phanatic. He wore the green suit from the time that the character was introduced in 1978 through the 1993 World Series season, and then he passed the suit on to the current Phanatic’s Phriend, Tom Burgoyne. Dave then founded Raymond Entertainment Group, where his self-bestowed (but very accurate) title is Emperor of Fun and Games.
One of the products delivered by the Raymond Entertainment Group is fun. And by fun, I mean The Fun Department. Since 2006 The Fun Department has been delivering Fun to corporations throughout the tri-state area. “We are out to make corporate America smile one face at a time”, says Dave. The Power of Fun is a message that Dave delivers everyday with Raymond Entertainment and The Fun Department. Dave regularly gives his Power of Fun speech to groups in the hope of teaching them that bringing joy, laughter and fun to every day life is not only therapeutic, it is good business. After years of delivering this message in person, Dave decided that it was time to deliver the message of Fun to the masses by writing a book.
And then Dave asked me to be his co-author for the project, which will be called The Power of Fun. We’re still mapping out the contents of the book and precisely what it will cover, but Dave and I both think that this collaboration will be great fun, and that it is important for us to preach the gospel of Fun.
And so, I will be tackling a project very much unlike anything else that I have ever done. Life is all about challenging oneself and stretching one’s limitations. There is much to learn by this project, and there is much for us to teach. I’m greatly looking forward to working with Dave to spread the word about the Power of Fun. Please stay tuned for periodic updates.
In case any of you are interested in booking Dave for a presentation on the Power of Fun, you can reach him by clicking here.Scridb filter
The photo at the left is of Brig. Gen. John Buford, whom I freely acknowledge is my single favorite figure of the Civil War. I’ve long harbored a fascination with Old Steadfast, as his men called him, and have had four articles on his role in the Gettysburg Campaign published in Gettysburg Magazine. Three of my books also touch on Buford’s career heavily. But I’ve never done a monograph on Buford at Gettysburg, which is the topic that got me started on him in the first place.
About three weeks ago, I realized that I have published something book-length on every major cavalry action that took place north of the Mason-Dixon Line during the Gettysburg Campaign but one: John Buford’s actions at Gettysburg. I am now in the process of correcting that oversight. I am doing a monograph on Buford’s role at Gettysburg, June 30-July 2, 1863. It will include 16 of Phil Laino’s excellent maps, a lot of photographs (including some rare, seldom-seen images), and a walking/driving tour with GPS coordinates. There will be three appendices: one addressing the myth of the Spencers, another discussing whether Buford’s defense was a defense in depth or something else, and one addressing the question of whether Lane’s Brigade formed square to defend against a feinted mounted charge by Buford’s two brigades at the end of the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. J.D. Petruzzi will do an introduction for the project for me. I don’t expect it to be a terribly long book, but it will be jam-packed with useful information.
I have been researching this for more than 20 years, and I am confident that this is going to be a quality project. In many ways, it’s like visiting with an old friend, and I’m enjoying coming back to what has always been my first love with respect to the Battle of Gettysburg. Sit tight–I will update as to progress.
And, in a few days, I will have an announcement about another fun project that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Civil War. Stay tuned…..Scridb filter
This article appeared in the August 13, 1865 edition of the New York Times and is the earliest account of the fascinating story of how Ulric Dahlgren’s remains were secretly recovered and taken to a safe spot near Atlee’s Station, Virginia.
COL. ULRIC DAHLGREN.; Curious Story Regarding the Disposition of his Remains.
Published: August 13, 1865
From the Richmond Bulletin, Aug. 5.
The month of March, 1864, is memorable in Richmond for one of the grandest Union raids that up to that time had menaced the Confederate capital — a raid which was the immediate precursor of Gen. GRANT’s famous campaign from the Wilderness to James River. The history of this raid is too familiar to the minds of all of our readers to make necessary any recapitulation of it, even if it comported with our space. It is known that COL. DAHLGREN, after the attack on Richmond on Tuesday, the 1st of March, did not succeed in forming a junction with Gen. KILPATRICK, and while passing through King and Queen Counties, toward Gloucester Point, was killed, on the night of Wednesday, March 2, near Walkerton. It is also known that his body was brought to Richmond, but what disposition was made of it by the Confederate authorities was kept a mystery at the time, and the facts, even to this day, have never been published. We purpose to give them to the public for the first time, vouching for their entire authenticity.
When intelligence was received in Richmond of the death of Col. DAHLGREN, messengers were sent to bring it to the city for identification. It reached the city on Monday, March 7, by the York River Railroad, and laid during that day at the depot, where it was examined by large numbers of persons. His death had been caused by a gun-shot wound in the head. The little finger of one hand had been cut off on the field where he fell by some one anxious to secure, with the least trouble, a valuable diamond ring. That night the body was carried to Gen. ELZLY’s office, in Belvin’s block, and the next day. having been placed in a common pine coffin, of the kind then used for the burial of soldiers, which in turn was placed in a box, was transferred to the Oakwood Cemetery, a mile east of the city. The hearse used on this occasion was a four-mule street wagon, and the attendants consisted of a Confederate officer of inferior rank and two soldiers. Arriving at Oakwood, which was the burial place or all soldiers who died at Chimborazo, Howard’s Grove, and other hospitals in the eastern portion of the city and suburbs, the negro grave-diggers and other attendants about the cemetery were driven off and ordered to absent themselves until notified that they might return. One of the negroes, now living in the city, having his curiosity excited, secreted himself in the woods near by determined to see what was to be done. The two soldiers dug a grave, placed the box in it and covered it up. They then shouted to recall the attendants of the cemetery, and getting into the wagon, returned to the city. The only circumstance in the proceedings that struck the negro as unusual was the mystery observed and the circumstance of the box, no corpse ever having been brought there before except in a pine coffin; but there having been a great deal of talk as to what was to be done with the body of Col. DAHLGREN, he at once decided that this could be no other than the corpse of that officer. He, however, kept his opinion to himself at the time.
The question, what had been done with the body of DAHLGREN? was the subject of inquiry and conversation for many days in Richmond, to be revived from time to time up to the day of the evacuation. And there were many stories on the subject — that it had been burnt, sunk in the river, &c. A city paper of that day announced, with a solemn and knowing air, that it would never be found until the trump of doom should sound. A number of Union men of the city, believing it possible that it might be recovered, were anxious to secure and preserve it for the family of the deceased. Prominent among them was Mr. F.W.E. LOHMAN, a grocer, doing business near the New Market. Mr. LOHMAN at once began his inquiries and investigations — which, in the then state of popular feeling, it was necessary to conduct with great caution — determined, at whatever cost and risk, to ascertain its fate. After nearly a month’s patient and untiring inquiry, he, with the assistance of Mr. MARTIN MEREDITH LIPSCOMB, whose business it was to attend the interment of all Union prisoners who died at this post, made the acquaintance of the negro grave-digger, whom we have mentioned as being the sole spectator of the burial of Col. DAHLGREN. They found him at Oakwood, pursuing his regular business. When first approached on the subject, the negro was very much alarmed, and protested he would have nothing to do with the matter. But after repeated assurances by Mr. LIPSCOMB, whom he knew well, that he might rely upon LOHMAN, and that no harm should befall him, he consented, on Mr. LOHMAN’s giving him a hundred-dollar note, to point out the grave. This he did by walking near and casting a stone upon it, while LOHMAN and LIPSCOMB stood at a distance. He was afraid to employ any other method lest he might excite the suspicion of the superintendent of the cemetery or some of the attendants. The grave lay among thousands of those of Confederate soldiers. Subsequently, after a great deal of persuasion and the promise of a liberal reward, the negro agreed to meet Mr. LOHMAN at the cemetery on the night of the 6th of April, at 10 o’clock, and exhume the body.
The appointed night having arrived, Mr. LOHMAN, his brother, JOHN A. LOHMAN, and Mr. LIPSCOMB, started for the cemetery in a cart drawn by a mule. The night was dark and stormy, and well suited to conceal their movements. The party left the city at 9 o’clock, and reached their destination about 10, and there found waiting for them the grave-digger and two assistants. The negroes being assured that all was right, began their work of exhumation, the three white men remaining with the cart outside the inclosure of the cemetery. The heavens were hung with their deepest black; no object ten feet distant could be distinguished, and no sounds broke upon the loneliness of the place save the howling of the winds and the resurrectionist’s spade. Once the mule, snuffing the tainted air of the city of the dead, attempted to break away, but was quickly quieted by a firm hand.
In twenty minutes from the time the negroes began their work they approached the cart, bearing between them the coffin, which, being badly made, fell to pieces as they rested it on the ground. It was then discovered that the body bad not decomposed in any perceptible degree. Mr. LOHMAN satisfied himself of the identity of the corpse by passing his band over it. The little finger, torn off to secure the jewel it bore, and the leg, lost in battle, were missing. He paid the negro with whom he had contracted fifteen hundred dollars, and placing the body in the cart, the party started on their return. The mule, alarmed as animals frequently are when drawing a dead body for the first time, become difficult of management, and with the darkness of the night, made the first part of the expedition one of no little peril. More than one hour was spent in reaching the gaslights of the city on Church Hill. It was part of the plan to convey the body to the house of WILLIAM S. ROWLETT, a Union man, living on Chelsea Hill, a half mile northeast of the city, there to remain until a metallic case could be procured for it. From Church Hill, Mr. LOHMAN drove down Broad-street to Seventeenth-street, thence up Seventeenth-street to its northern terminus, and thence up the hill to Mr. ROWLETT’s, reaching the last place at 2 o’clock on the morning of the 7th of April. Here the body was wrapped in a blanket, and Mr. LOHMAN came to the city in search of a coffin, which he obtained by the aid of Mr. LIPSCOMB. On his way into the city from ROWLETT’s, LOHMAN notified a number of persons of Union sentiments, among whom were several ladies, where the body had been placed, and they hurried out to see it. Several of these persons had seen Col. DAHLGREN while he was exposed at the York River Railroad depot, and immediately recognized the body as his. The metallic coffin having been procured, and the body placed in it, the two LOHMANS, at noon on the 7th, set out with it, concealed, in a wagon loaded with young fruit trees, for the farm of ROBERT ORRICKS, a Union man, living in Henrico, two miles from Hungary Station.
At 4 o’clock that evening they reached ORRICKS’, and buried the body under an apple-tree in a field, avoiding the graveyard for tear of exciting inquiry, which might lead to discovery.
The rest of this story may be told in a few words. ORRICKS, some months after the second burial of Col. DAHLGREN, succeeded in getting through the Confederate lines, and seeking an interview with Com. DAHLGREN, informed him of what had been done to secure the body of his son. The corpse of the soldier laid in this, its second grave, until the evacuation of Richmond, when an order having been sent for it by the War Department, it was again disinterred by the two LOHMANS and sent to Washington.
It has been our object to left the veil of mystery from an obscure and interesting event. In doing so, we have confined ourselves to facts strictly relative to the secret fate of Col. DAHLGREN’s body from the time of its arrival in Richmond, which, until after the capture of the city, remained, to all except the few individuals named by us in the course of our narrative, one of the most impenetrable mysteries of the war. Many Confederate officials knew that the body had been deposited at Oakwood, but they were ignorant to the last that it had ever been removed. It has at length found its last resting place.
This is a largely accurate description of a fascinating event with all of the hallmarks of a great thriller.Scridb filter
The new edition of Protecting the Flank is at the printer! That means that in about a month, we will have books.
I’m really excited about the new edition. The original edition was always one of my favorites, but it was a bit muddled in places, and the spacing of the book always bugged me. Further, new material surfaced after it was published in 2002.
And then we have a cretin who posted a negative review of the first edition of the book because the first edition failed to address Carhart’s festering pile of turds. Given that the book was published two years before Carhart’s, that would have been a really neat trick to have addressed a theory that had not yet been articulated, but this moron, not to be deterred, nevertheless found fault with my book even though he had never read it. Nifty, eh?
Well, the good news is that the new edition not only deals with the festering pile of turds, it blows his nonsensical theory right out of the water. The new edition includes a lengthy discussion of it, as well as a second new appendix that answers the question of which Confederate battery fired the four shots that were fired at the outset of the battle. There is an additional map. There are a number of new illustrations, and there is a fair amount of new material in the book, including new primary source material that nobody else has ever used in an account of the fighting on East Cavalry Field.
For those interested in purchasing a signed copy, please contact me, and we will get it done.
And thank you to all for your patience while this new edition made its way through the labyrinthine publishing process.Scridb filter
It never ceases to surprise me how many stones remain unturned with respect to the Civil War. There is still plenty of untapped primary source material out there.
I’m working on the role played by Ohio troops in the 1862 Maryland Campaign, so I availed myself of the collections at the Ohio Historical Society today. In the course of doing so, I found something really remarkable in one of the boxes that I reviewed. There’s a collection of materials pertaining to the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry of the 12th and 20th Corps, and found a complete unpublished manuscript of a regimental history of the 66th Ohio by a fellow named Eugene Powell. There are 11 complete chapters that cover nearly the entire career of the 66th Ohio. I ordered a copy of the Antietam chapter today for my project.
Here is the description of this manuscript from the finding aid for the regiment:
The Powell manuscript consists of eleven chapters describing the actions of the 66th O.V.I. in various battles. The chapters were numbered during processing and are arranged in their apparent order. It is uncertain if the entire manuscript is included in this collection. Chapters 1-3 are entitled Preparing for the Conflict, Campaign in Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, respectively. Chapters 4-6 are labeled New Market, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria [Port Republic]; Pope’s Campaign, August 1862; and Antietam and McClellan’s Campaign in Maryland. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 are entitled Burnsides and Hooker, Dumfries and Chancellorsville; Gettysburg; and Campaign on the Rappahannock, New York City, and Governor’s Island, respectively. Chapters 10 and 11 are called Campaign in Tennessee and On to Atlanta!
The only thing missing is a description of the 66th Ohio’s role in Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign of 1865 and a description of its participation in the grand review of Sherman’s army that took place in May 1865, and the disbanding of the regiment at the end of the war; a subsequent author could easily fill that gap. Given that there is no contemporary published regimental history of the 66th Ohio save concise ones in compilations such as Whitelaw Reid’s Ohio in the War (although there is a recent one by a modern historian), the publication of this manuscript would be a welcome addition to the existing body of knowledge about the 66th Ohio.
I also reviewed the John T. Booth Papers today. Booth was a member of the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and he was bound and determined to document the service of his unit. He kept an incredibly detailed diary, and also engaged in extensive correspondence after the war regarding the history and service of the 36th Ohio. The 36th is another unit with no published regimental history, and there is plenty of fodder here for one to cobble one together, should one be so inclined.
As another example, I have long known of the existence of the Thomas Church Haskell Smith Papers at the Ohio Historical Society. Smith was one of John Pope’s staff officers, and spent much of his post-war life gathering material to write a book defending Pope’s conduct of the Battle of Second Bull Run, and, in particular, Pope’s bringing court-martial charges against Maj. Gen. Fitz-John Porter. The collection contains Smith’s correspondence with participants in the battle, which is invaluable, but it also contains Smith’s unpublished manuscript, which is complete. I’ve reviewed the collection, including parts of the manuscript, and its publication would be a substantial addition to the body of knowledge regarding the Second Bull Run Campaign, even if it does attempt to defend the indefensible.
My point in all of this is that these are only three of the many collections at the Ohio Historical Society. How many more of these treasures are there out there in other historical societies that are waiting for someone to come along and utilize them? These are important sources, and it’s a shame that they continue to languish underutilized by modern historians. If someone is looking for a good project, I commend them to you. The regimental history of the 66th Ohio and the T.C.H. Smith manuscript would both be excellent projects for a Ph.D. dissertation or other similar ambitious undertaking.Scridb filter
Sam Hood is a graduate of Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (bachelor of arts, 1976), and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. A collateral descendent of General John Bell Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society of Chatham, Virginia, and is a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans. Sam resides in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with his wife of thirty-five years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Barboursville, West Virginia.
Question: I understand that you are related to General Hood. How are you related to him?
I am a second cousin. I descend directly from his grandfather Lucas Hood, who was my great x 5 grandfather.
Question: When was this set of papers of General Hood’s discovered?
Well actually, they weren’t so much “discovered” as “realized.” I was invited to the home of a direct descendent in June to look through what was thought to be just boxes of routine family papers and memorabilia that had been passed down and accumulated through the decades. The descendent knew I was finishing my book and thought that maybe…just maybe…there might be something in the boxes that I could use in my manuscript.
Question: What did you do when you discovered the collection?
I was utterly stunned. The family had set me up in a vacant bedroom of their home to use as an office, and brought out 3 or 4 bankers boxes, and invited me to call for them if I needed any assistance.
Question: What was your reaction when you learned of the existence of this collection of papers?
After a few minutes with the collection, my priorities immediately changed. When I saw the incredible historical importance of many of the documents my top priority changed from seeking interesting information to helping them identify and secure the documents, which was done. The task actually took two trips of 3 days each, with my wife Martha accompanying me and assisting me on the second trip. The valuable papers were identified, placed in acid-proof folders, and physically removed to the owners’ bank safety deposit box. I made photocopies of everything to take home, where I began the process of transcribing the letters. It wasn’t until then that I started finding the historically important content of the letters.
Question: Without being too specific, as I know that you want to maintain some semblance of confidentiality regarding the specific contents, can you give our readers an idea of what’s in the collection?
Approximately 80 letters to Hood by high and lower ranked Civil War characters, Union and Confederate, wartime and postwar. Correspondents include Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, SD Lee, Braxton Bragg, James Seddon, AP Stewart, WH Jackson, SG French, William Bate, Henry Clayton, FA Shoup, Mrs Leonidas Polk, William M Polk, WS Featherston, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, David S Terry, Matthew C Butler, GW Smith, PGT Beauregard, Louis T Wigfall, George Thomas, WT Sherman, and numerous lower ranked officers, mostly members of commanders’ staffs. There are 61 postwar letters from Hood to his wife Anna, and 35 from Anna to him as he traveled in his insurance business. Also included are Dr John T Darby’s two highly detailed medical reports of Hood’s Gettysburg and Chickamauga wounds, and the daily log of Hood’s treatment and recovery from the day of his leg amputation until November 24 in Richmond. The collection also includes Hood’s Orders and Dispatches log and 4 volumes of Telegram logs for his entire tenure as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Additionally, Hood’s first and second lieutenant’s commission certificates from the US Army are in the collection, along with 4 remarkable documents: his original commission certificates for his ranks of brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and full general in the Confederate Army. There are also numerous photographs and other ephemera of Hood, his children, and his grandchildren.
Question: In your opinion, what is the significance of this collection?
You should probably ask credentialed scholars this question, but I can’t imagine a discovery of Civil War documents being more profound than these.
Question: In your opinion, how does the unearthing of this collection change or impact the impression that the public has of John Bell Hood and his legacy to the American Civil War?
There are a few specific items that are quite profound. Letters from three separate officers identify Hood’s subordinate who was responsible for the Confederate failure at Spring Hill. A senior commander explains Patrick Cleburne’s behavior before and during the Battle of Franklin–characterized in modern Civil War scholarship as being peculiar–and it had absolutely nothing to do with General Hood. In one letter SD Lee makes some very serious charges against William Bate at the Battle of Franklin.
A letter sheds new light on the nature and intent of Hood’s correspondence with Richmond authorities in the spring of 1864, characterized by Hood’s critics as “poison pen” letters intended to undermine Joseph Johnston. Several letters back up claims that Hood made in his memoirs concerning controversies with Johnston, including the Cassville Affair, and Johnston’s heavy losses during the Atlanta Campaign, mostly due to desertions.
Dr Darby’s medical reports are fascinating, and include detailed daily records of the medications prescribed to Hood.
There is much more important historical information, although not so controversial.
Question: What are your intentions for the collection?
I have none. The owners, who insist on complete anonymity at this time, intend to retain all the original documents as treasured family artifacts. However, copies of all the documents will be released to a yet-to-be-determined public repository at some time in the future. I have begun work on an annotated book of the papers, which I hope to complete by next spring for publication next fall (2013.) Since the papers will be cited, copies will have to be made public at that time if not sooner.
Question: Have you used these newly-discovered documents in your forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General?
Yes. I was able to transcribe many, but not all of the letters, and none of the orders and dispatches or telegram logs. I was able to include much of the important information in my forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (Savas Beatie Publishing, Spring 2013.) (It was originally to be titled History versus John Bell Hood but the publisher felt the new information justified the new title.)
Question: What would you like for the readers to know about your book?
Thanks for asking this question, Eric. Even without the newfound information I have always felt that available historical records disprove many of the outlandish charges that have been made against JB Hood in modern Civil War literature. Authors like Wiley Sword have cherry picked the records, filtering out of their books all evidence and testimony that doesn’t paint Hood as an incompetent scoundrel. My book reveals to readers, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” Also, the paraphrasing used by critical authors is often remarkably misleading, and in many cases the exaggeration and hyperbole completely distorts the accurate context. My book is 100,000 words of examples of concealment of historical evidence and distortions, but it could have been 200,000 words long.
The newfound information just reinforces what the available historical records reveal about JB Hood had authors not had an agenda.
Eric: Thanks to Sam Hood for granting me this interview, and thanks to Sam for sharing this vital information with me.
My opinion is that this is, perhaps, THE most important find in my lifetime. This treasure trove of letters has the potential to dramatically change how history perceives John Bell Hood, and it certainly will help to change how history remembers Hood. This is certainly an exciting find, and I’m pleased that Sam chose to share these insights with me.Scridb filter
Old friend John Hennessy has written a very interesting post on the Mysteries and Conundrums blog, wherein he addresses the positives and negatives of doing in-depth historical Internet research. I’ve been the beneficiary of John’s largesse–he has shared many of the cavalry-related newspaper articles that he has found with me, including as recently as last week when sent me an entire run of 22 articles by a trooper of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry that appeared in a long-defunct newspaper from Vevay, Indiana called the Vevay Reveille. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of transcribing them all and posting them here.
John is, of course, absolutely correct. Internet access to newspapers–some of my favorite sources, by the way–makes it possible to search for this material almost endlessly. But, as John also correctly points out, you definitely hit a point of diminishing returns, usually sooner than later. Quotable quotes are great, of course, but spending hours pouring through stuff for a single quotable sentence becomes a real question of diminishing returns. At some point, you have to decide, “I’ve fought the good fight on the research. It’s now time to put pen to paper and see what I can do with this story.” That means quitting the research process–and accepting the inevitable truth that you will never find EVERYTHING on a Civil War subject–and taking your best shot at writing whatever it is that you’re going to write about. That’s a very difficult thing to do, because you WANT to find everything, but the truth is that you won’t.
When we were writing One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863, the amount of material available on sites like Google Books and the Internet Archive meant that we spent hours and hours and hours searching for material. It meant that we used over 1100 sources in writing the book, but it also meant countless hours of searching, reams of paper and several toner cartridges printing, and then incorporating the material. Don’t get me wrong–I am EXTREMELY proud of what we accomplished with that book, and with the extent and amount of research we invested in it–but I never imagined that we would end up looking at and citing to more than 1100 sources when we started the project, and had that mountain of material not been so readily available, we never would have used as much as we did. We finally had to say “enough” and pull the plug on the researching because we realized that we had hit the point of diminishing returns.
As John correctly points out, the availability of these materials only makes it tougher to know when to call it quits on the research. It’s a fight I constantly fight.Scridb filter
The following report of the activities of the 1st Vermont Cavalry during the Gettysburg Campaign, written by its temporary commander, Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston, does not appear anywhere in either the Official Records or the Supplement to the Official Records. Preston wrote this report during the retreat from Gettysburg on the same day that the nasty fight at Funkstown occurred. It was published in the Rutland, VT newspaper on August 8, 1863, and differs from the report that appears in the Official Records. It was one of the new sources that I employed in preparing the second edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions. Since it is not available to the public, I thought I would share it here. Enjoy.
Boonsboro, Md., July 10
P. T. Washburn.
Adj. and Insp. Gen. of Vt.,
I beg leave to make the following report of engagements of the 1st Vermont Cavalry with the enemy in Maryland and Pennsylvania, from June 30 to July 8, 1863. At Hanover, Penn., June 30, aided in repelling an attack by General Stewart’s forces. Cos. M and D, under Capts. Woodward and Cummings, charged through the town, repulsing the enemy and capturing many prisoners. The rest of the regiment supported a battery until the enemy were driven from the field.
At Huntersville, Penn., July 2, in an attack upon the left of Gen. Lee’s army, this regiment was deployed as skirmishers, and subjected to a severe fire from the enemy’s batteries.
July 3, in the attack made by Gen. Kilpatrick on the right flank of the enemy at Gettysburg, this cavalry had the advance. Cos. A, D, E and I, dismounted, were deployed as skirmishers and soon drove the enemy’s skirmishers back of their main lines. The contest was continued by the opposing batteries and dismounted carbineers until 5 o’clock P.M., when Gen. Farnsworth, commanding the brigade was ordered to charge the enemy strongly posted behind stone walls and in the woods, which proved to be Maj. Gen. Hood’s division of infantry. With the 1st Va. Cavalry on the left and the 2d battalion of the 1st Vt. under Maj. Wells on the right, Gen. Farnsworth dashed forward closely followed by his men, leaping one stone wall under a severe fire. Our force drove the enemy in all directions. They then passed over another stone wall and through the enemy’s skirmish line and toward the Rebel batteries and succeeded in piercing the enemy’s 2d line, where many of our dead were found. I moved to the support of the 2d Battalion, with the 1st under Capt. Parsons, and a part under Capt. Grover. On the hill between the two walls we encountered a fresh regiment of the enemy, sent in from the right to intercept the retreat of our first column and to re-establish their lines. The struggle for this hill became most desperate but was at length carried by our boys with severe loss, the greater part of the enemy being captured. Our loss this day in killed, wounded and missing, was 75 men.
July 4th, we marched 50 miles to the rear of the enemy, and on the morning of the 5th at Lightersville, Md., captured one hundred prisoners, a drove of cattle and several wagons, and marched to Hagerstown the same night, twelve hours in advance of Lee’s army.
July 6th, our division attacked the retreating enemy at Hagerstown. Cos. D and L dismounted here, drove the enemy from a strong position and occupied it; Cos. A and D held a portion of the town against a superior force until ordered to retire in the afternoon, when a portion being cut off, were secreted by the Union citizens until our forces reoccupied it on the 12th.
In the retiring of this division at night on the Williamsport Road in the face of Lee’s army, this regiment formed a part of the rear guard, and suffered severely from assaults made upon it by superior numbers. Twice we were nearly surrounded. Capt. Beaman, with the 3d squadron, whom I ordered to hold a strong position, being cut off was ordered to surrender. He coolly replied, “I don’t see it,” and leaped a fence and by a flank movement escaped with his nearly entire force. Capt. Woodward, of Co. M, a brave officer, was killed at the head of his men, strongly resisting the advancing foe. The charge was now made by Co. K, under Capt. Grover, upon the main column of the enemy, which aided materially in checking their progress. A battery was now opened upon us by the enemy in the direction of Williamsport, and being thus attacked in front and rear we drew off under cover of night to the Sharpsburg Road on the left.
July 8, Gen. Stewart with a large force attacked our cavalry at Boonsboro early in the morning. The 1st Vt. was held in reserve until the afternoon, then it was sent by detachments to various parts of the field to strengthen our lines. At sundown a spirited charge was made by the 2d battalion under Major Wells upon the retreating enemy, and the sabres were freely used on both sides. Were I to give you a list of the meritorious it would comprise the names of every officer and enlisted man engaged.
I remain your very ob’t serv’t,
A. W. Preston,
Lt. Col. Com’g 1st Vt. Cavalry
Here are a few notes on this report:
1. A small part of the microfilmed copy of the newspaper article addressing Farnsworth’s Charge–part of one sentence–is obscured and is difficult to read. I made my best guess at what it says and I think it’s correct, but I’m not entirely certain.
2. The Huntersville that Colonel Preston refers to is actually the town of Hunterstown, PA, which is approximately 8 miles from the main battlefield at Gettysburg. There was a meeting engagement there between Kilpatrick’s division and Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton’s Confederate cavalry brigade there on the afternoon of July 2, 1863.
3. The Lightersville referred to by Colonel Preston is actually the town of Leitersburg, MD, which is located a short distance from Hagerstown. Kilpatrick sent the 1st Vermont in the direction of Leitersburg on the morning of July 5 to pursue a Confederate wagon train while the rest of the Third Cavalry Division went to Smithsburg, where it spent most of the day skirmishing with Confederate cavalry and horse artillery before retreating to Boonsboro, where Kilpatrick’s division joined Brig. Gen. John Biford’s First Cavalry Division.
4. The regular commander of the 1st Vermont Cavalry during the Gettysburg Campaign was Col. Edward B. Sawyer, and Preston was normally second in command. Col. Sawyer was on medical leave, putting Preston in command of the regiment in his absence. Sawyer reported back to the regiment on July 10, 1863, the day that Preston penned this report. Sawyer’s return to duty may explain the otherwise odd timing of this report, considering that the campaign was still under way and that the armies were still north of the Potomac River on that date. Preston was killed in action on June 3, 1864 at Hawes Shop, Virginia. Preston was a good and brave soldier. He will soon be the subject of a forgotten cavalryman profile that I’m working on.
This photo is of the monument to the 1st Vermont Cavalry and sits near the spot where Elon J. Farnsworth was killed while leading the eponymous but unsuccessful charge on the afternoon of July 3, 1863.
This account of the activities of the 1st Vermont Cavalry adds to our understanding of Farnsworth’s Charge by providing a different report, and it also adds to our understanding of the critical role played by the 1st Vermont during the retreat from Hagerstown to Williamsport after Kilpatrick was driven out of Hagerstown on July 6, 1863.Scridb filter