March, 2006

Someone calling themself Jaywalker tried to leave a comment on my latest post about Google. The content of the comment was not objectionable, and had this person followed my rules, I gladly would have permitted it to post.

The problem, however, is that this person refused to use a real name or to leave an e-mail address with the comment. Without one or the other, I have no way of knowing whether I’m being spammed or scammed, and my operating rule is no e-mail address, no comment. Sorry, Jaywalker. Your comment was deleted because you didn’t play by my rules. And since it’s my site, I get to make the rules.

To anyone else who is not a spammer and who wants to leave comments on this site, you MUST do so with a valid e-mail address, or else your comment will never see the light of day. There are no exceptions to this rule, and there is no right of appeal.

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In addition to being St. Patrick’s Day, today also marks the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, fought on March 17, 1863, along the banks of the chilly Rappahannock River.

On February 24, 1863, Confederate Brig. Gen. Fitz Lee, under orders to find the end of the Union line, led a raid of 500 hand-picked troopers of his brigade on the far right flank of the Army of the Potomac at Hartwood Church. Marching forty miles across country in deep snow, Fitz’s men launched a vicious dawn surprise attack that scattered the Federal cavalry pickets. Lee’s men chased them until they came under the guns of the 124th New York Infantry. Having found the Federal infantry, Fitz broke off and withdrew, although not before taunting the Federal cavalry commander responsible for the sector.

Brig. Gen. William Woods Averell and Fitz Lee had been very close friends at West Point, and they remained friends. Fitz left his old friend a bag of tobacco and a taunting note. “Dear Averell, If you won’t go home, why not pay me a visit? I hear your horse is faster than mine. Fitz.” Infuriated, Averell vowed revenge. He got his chance a couple of weeks later.

Averell took his division of Federal cavalry on an expedition designed to break up a concentration of Confederate cavalry in the vicinity of Culpeper, Virginia. He left three hundred of his 2100 men behind to guard his rear and marched.

Arriving at Kelly’s Ford early on the morning of March 17, he found intense preparations by the Confederates awaiting him. They had dug rifle pits and felled trees to block the way, and Averell had to fight his way across the river, a process that took most of the morning. When he finally got across, he engaged in a bitter six hour long fight with the 800 men of Fitz Lee’s Brigade that featured saber charges and counter charges, the Yankee horsemen going boot-to-boot with their Southern rivals. Maj. John Pelham, commander of the Confederate horse artillery, had foolishly decided to lead a saber charge, and paid for it with his life when a fragment of a Union artillery shell lodged itself in his brain. The Gallant Pelham died a few hours later as a weeping Jeb Stuart stood by his deathbed.

At the end of the day, with victory in his grasp, Averell broke off and withdrew. He thought he had heard trains bringing reinforcements to Fitz Lee, and knowing he was alone and far behind the enemy lines, Averell felt he had done enough, even though he had not fulfilled his orders for the mission. Before leaving, he left a bag of coffee and a note for Fitz Lee that said, “Dear Fitz, Here’s your visit. How’d you like it? How’s your horse? Averell”

By any measure, Kelly’s Ford was a Confederate victory. They held the battlefield at the end of the day, and Averell utterly failed to fulfill his strategic objectives for the raid. However, the importance of Kelly’s Ford cannot be overstated. First, and foremost, it proved definitively that the Union cavalry could hold its own against the very best that the Confederacy had to offer. Second, it cost the life of Pelham, the very competent commander of the Stuart Horse Artillery. Pelham had no business leading that charge, and it cost him–and the Army of Northern Virginia–dearly. Finally, it demonstrated that the Confederate cavalry could be beaten on the field of battle under the right commander.

Kelly’s Ford marks a milestone in the maturation process of the Union cavalry. For that reason alone, it is worth studying.

So, hoist a green beer to the memory of the Gallant Pelham today, and also recognize the bravery of the cavaliers who fought long and hard that day.

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17 Mar 2006, by

New Blogs

There are three new blogs that have popped up. Thanks to Mike Koepke for pointing out two of them, and to Andy MacIsaac for pointing out the other.

First is Brian Downey’s new Antietam-based blog. Brian is a renowned authority on the 1862 Maryland Campaign, and he should have some good insights to share.

The other two are joint blogs.

Another is Andy Etman’s Strike The Tent: A Reference & Research Destination With Peer-Reviewed Sources, Published By An Unemployed Historian And A Self-Proclaimed Civil War Nut, which contains the following description: “This is ‘Andy’s Civil War Blog’, to be used as a companion and reference guide to HIST 320-02, ‘Topics in History: The Civil War’ being taught by Professor Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.” It appears to be a collaboration by several members of the class and its instructor. There are some interesting posts to be had there.

Finally, there is the new joint blog of Mark Grimsley, Steven Woodworth, and Brooks Simpson, all well regarded academic historians. It’s called Civil Warriors, and its stated mission–as defined by Mark Grimsley–is “Thinking about the issues involved in publicizing one’s own books — the overwhelming majority of books that appear each year are surprisingly undermarketed, and authors really need to learn to fend for themselves — I (Mark Grimsley) got the idea for creating (yet another) blog. This one would be a collaborative effort among several Civil War historians. The point of the blog — its drawing card — would be to focus on the craft of Civil War history. We’d talk candidly about what we were doing, why we did it, what we hoped would emerge from it.” These well-respected academic historians bring useful insight to the study of the Civil War.

All three of these blogs have been added to the links secction here.

Welcome aboard, everyone.

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Those of you who know me, know that I love obscure battlefield sites most of all. From my perspective, the more obscure, the better. They fascinate me endlessly. In the past two days, I have added two more such sites to my list of places visited.

Last night, I spoke to the Clarksville, TN Civil War Roundtable, which is run and operated by our friends Greg and Karel Lea Biggs. It was a quick trip, down yesterday and back today, as poor Susan needs help with running our business and with managing Rory. It was made clear to me that I had to be gone as short a time as possible. However, I had a chance to do a little bit of battlefield stomping while I was gone.

Yesterday, Greg took me to see Fort Defiance, the earthen fort in Clarksville. The fort itself is completely intact. It overlooks the Cumberland River, and was build to defend the town and the river during the early stages of the war. It faced only the river. Then, after it surrendered to Grant after Donelson and Henry fell, Union troops built another side to it to defend from the land side. The entire fort is there, you can see where the heavy guns were located on the river side, and see where the light guns were placed on the land side, the magazine is there, and it’s one of the most nicely preserved earthworks I’ve seen in a long time. There is interpretation on markers all around the fort to help visitors understand what happened where inside the fort, and it’s got plenty of parking. And it’s a city park. Kudos to the City of Clarksville for preserving the fort and for making it a nice place to visit.

Today, I took a detour to take visit the battlefield at Corydon, Indiana. My route of travel was by way of Louisville, and Corydon is twenty miles west of Louisville along I-64. Since I have no idea when I will be that way again, I decided to take the opportunity and visit the battlefield. By way of background, John Hunt Morgan and his 2400 raiders crossed the Ohio River and entered Indiana on July 8, 1863. By the next day, they were closing in on Corydon, which was the first state capital of Indiana. It’s a lovely little town, bissected by a river, and with towering bluffs overlooking the town from the south. The local militia commander decided to defend the town in the hope that regular Union forces would catch up to Morgan’s force if they delayed him long enough. So, with about 400 men to try to stop Morgan’s division, the local militia prepared a defense.

They constructed some rude breastworks of logs atop a ridge overlooking the town, and they waited. Morgan approached, and a stiff firefight occurred. Basil Duke, Morgan’s brother-in-law and chief lieutenant, praised the defense by the militiamen, noting that they had “zealously defended their log piles.” Eleven of Morgan’s men were killed in the fighting, and several were wounded. Three of the home guardsmen were killed and over 350 of them were captured. They were then paroled, and Morgan entered the town, ransoming it, and then moving on. In the big scheme of things, it was a pretty small engagement, but it was the only Civil War battle fought in the State of Indiana. It being the middle of the day on a Thursday, it’s not much of surprise that I had the place to myself.

The folks at Corydon are, rightfully, quite proud of their battle. The battlefield itself is small, and it’s almost perfectly preserved. Why? Because the town owns it, and it’s a public park. The park consists of about five acres. There’s a walking trail, and there’s a six pound howitzer there. There is some interpretation there, a log house that was apparently on another part of the battlefield and relocated, and a marker to commemorate the dead of both sides. There are no maps, and not much tactical detail, but someone with experience in evaluating terrain will have little problem figuring out what happened there. The position was eventually flanked, as the Union line was too short to hold for long. At the same time, appears that the town holds interpretive talks at the site, as there are a number of wooden benches in front of the log house that are obviously aligned to hear a talk by someone on the front porch of the log house.

It really is a very nice little park, and I was very impressed by it. Hats off to the folks of Corydon for their terrific treatment of their little battlefield.

It stands in stark contrast to Ohio’s only battlefield. I have mentioned the disgraceful treatment received by the Buffington Island battlefield here in a previous post. Although nearly 12,000 cavalrymen fought there over several hundred acres, only four of those acres have been protected. In short, a space smaller than that at Corydon is protected even though it was a full-scale battle that ranged over hundreds of acres. All I can say is, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Obviously, the powers that be here in Ohio have a lot to learn and even more to be ashamed of for letting such a thing happen.

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16 Mar 2006, by


On Tuesday night, Lakesyde’s Have a Good Morning, whose call name is Aurora, came home to join our family. She was born on Martin Luther King’s birthday, meaning she’s eight weeks old. She’s named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, and we chose the name because she represents the dawn of a new day in our family. She weighs just over eight pounds, is adorable, and is cute and surprisingly funny for a very active puppy. Her picture appears here. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s me holding her. We will probably call her Rory.

The other dog in the picture is Nero, who is fourteen months old. Nero and Rory have a common grandfather and both came from the same breeder, so you can get a pretty good idea of what she will look like when she’s fully grown. He’s a good looking guy.

Augie, who’s nearly ten and a half years old, won’t have anything to do with her. It took about two weeks for him to accept Nero last year, so my guess is that will happen again here. Nero, on the other hand, either wants to play with her, or he’s busy being jealous that nobody’s paying attention to him. That’s to be expected, I guess.

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I have ranted here at length against Google’s plan to scan entire books and make them available on line for free. The Writers Guild and the national association of publishers have both sued to try to enjoin this program on the grounds that it constitutes copyright infringement, litigation that I have wholeheartedly endorsed. While Google remains unrepentant and wholly in favor of its program of massive copyright infringement, it seems to be trying to make an attempt to satisfy some of the concerns of the authors and publishers.

Google is now offering to permit publishers to sell e-books that would be fully downloadable from Google’s web site. Google claims that the publishers will be able to set their own prices, and that consumers will not be permitted to save a copy to their computer or to copy pages from the books. Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, the president of the Association of American Publishers, gave this plan faint praise: “I assume in this they would have to be asking the permission of the publisher, and we would say, that’s very good news,” she said. In other words, from her perspective the only saving grace here is that Google is at least asking permission under this program, unlike its other scheme. From my perspective, the fact that they’re asking permission is the ONLY saving grace about this program, and even then, it’s no saving grace at all if the authors don’t get paid royalties from it.

Supposedly, this program is intended to permit publishers to boost their book revenues, but I fail to see the logic of this. If I’m the consumer, and I can’t save a copy of the thing or print it out, what’s the point? Why would I spend my hard-earned money on something that I’m not even permitted to retain a copy of the work that I’ve paid for?

In my mind, there is only one acceptable solution to this problem. Offer links to, where the customer can buy the actual book, or sell them a real e-copy that they can download and keep but which also ensures that authors will be paid royalties to compensate them for the fruits of their labors.

I remain intransigent in my opposition to Google’s programs and remain equally unshaken in my support of the lawsuits filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Anyone who values books should be, too.

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12 Mar 2006, by

Back to Work

Today, I was finally able to get back to work and get back to writing. After losing Cleo last week, and with having to entertain Nero so much, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to write. I also didn’t have it in me, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to do so. Susan and I went to the movies this afternoon, and when we got back, I felt energized.

I sat down tonight and got back to work. I am nearly finished with the tenth chapter of the Dahlgren bio, but it’s been nearly two weeks since the last time that I touched it. I put in a good 90 minutes on it tonight, filling holes and fleshing out some points. I have a few more things to plug in tomorrow night, and then it’s done. When it’s finished, it will be just a few days before Ully Dahlgren left his father’s house in Washington to help lead what became known as the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid. So, I have two more chapters of narrative of his life to go, a conclusion that sums up his life, and then an appendix that deals with the legitimacy of the so-called Dahlgren Papers found upon his body when he was killed, and then it is finished.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The question is: is it the end of the tunnel? Or is it the headlight of an onrushing freight train speeding through the tunnel at me? Time will tell. Stay tuned.

But, at least I’m back in the saddle.

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We took a ride out to our new house site today, and were really surprised to see that it’s largely framed already. They were putting the roof trusses on when we got there today. What makes it all the more remarkable is that it was raining at the time. I am genuinely amazed at the speed with which the early phases of the construction of this house has occurred.

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Yesterday was one of the most difficult and emotionally draining days of my life. After writing what was posted last night, I just kind of sat here on the couch like a zombie. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted and could not focus on anything. I finally decided to go to bed about 10:30, and couldn’t sleep. On one hand I was spent, but on the other hand, I was too keyed up to sleep. Fortunately, the other two dogs wanted lots of love and attention last night–they lost a loved one, too–and Nero spent the whole night in bed with us.

It was just as hard at work today, trying to get back into my normal routine and focusing on the business matters that require my attention during the daytime. I was partially successful, but I kept seeing poor little Cleo laying there, and it was hard to focus. I got done what I needed to do. My partners and our staff were all wonderful–supportive and understanding, which helped me get through the day. Tonight, I’m just too drained to even think about writing. It’s a quiet evening watching TV and surfing the Web.

The problem is that Nero, at 14 months of age, is a fountain of boundless energy. He constantly wants to play, and constantly wants attention, and without Cleo to keep him occupied, it falls on Susan and me. Augie is too old to keep up with him. It’s constant and it’s nonstop.

Several months ago, we had decided that if we lost one of the older dogs, we would get another puppy as quickly as possible so that Nero would have another dog very close to his age for a playmate. Then, when the other older dog passed, we would not get a third dog again, limiting ourselves to two from then on. Seeing Nero trying to get Augie to play and his relentless pursuit of us to play only reinforced our belief. So, I called Nero’s breeder last night to see if she knew any other breeders with a litter coming up, and she indicated that, unlike last year, not all of her puppies were spoken for, that she has a litter that is ready to go home on Monday, and that she had three little girls from that litter that were available for adoption. Their bloodlines are very, very similar to Nero’s, and they will actually be cousins of his. So, we decided to go ahead and take the plunge. Our new puppy will come home on Tuesday. We have to come with a name for her that’s consistent with our Roman emperor theme. That way we will have two dogs within a handful of days of being exactly a year apart in age, and that should give Susan, Augie, and me some relief, as Nero will have a new playmate for life.

At first, I thought it might be a bit unseemly to get another puppy so quickly, but life is all about timing, and when this opportunity presented itself, we just couldn’t allow it to go by. So, even though Cleo will only have been gone a week, we will already have another puppy. The new puppy could never replace her, and I don’t expect her to. She will be her own little angel, and we will take her on her own merits.

Of course, this also means housebreaking and very sharp little puppy teeth for the second time in a year. Our existing house has almost no carpeting. Nearly all of the floors are hardwood, with some tile. Only three rooms in the house (Susan’s office and the two spare bedrooms) are carpeted. None of the rooms where we spend the majority of our time are carpeted. So, if the puppy makes a mess it will be easy enough to clean up, whereas, if we wait until we move into the new house, it will have carpeting throughout. So, that’s another benefit to doing this now instead of waiting even longer.

I will always love and miss my Cleo. But, it’s time to move on. It’s time to live life and enjoy the company of the ones we still have.

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to pass along words of condolences. They meant a lot to both Susan and me, and they helped give me strength to face the world today. Even though I don’t actually know most of you personally–and only know you from the Internet–you are all in our prayers, and we are in all of your debt.

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Cleo came into our lives very unexpectedly in 1997. We had two dogs then—Caesar, who was three, and Augie, who was not quite two. We were content with two dogs. They entertained each other, they were great company for each other, and we could handle two without too much trouble. We were not expecting or planning on having a third.

We were getting ready to leave for a vacation, and made arrangements to board the boys with the woman who trained them. When I called to make the arrangements, she told me that she was glad that I had called, that she was going to call me, and that she had a beautiful year-old female golden retriever who needed a home. Susan and I both agreed that we needed a third dog like we needed large holes in our heads and we said no, thanks.

When we dropped the boys off at her house, she said, “You have to at least meet her.” She went downstairs, got her, and within thirty seconds, the three dogs were attached at the hip, playing and running and chasing. By the end of our vacation, we didn’t have the heart to separate them, and she came home with us. That first night, she was a total spaz—hyper, and into everything. She kept us up most of the night. Then, the next day, she went into heat. That was a real joy. We looked at each other and wondered if we had made a mistake. Fortunately, she settled down quickly.

Her original name—given by her first owner—was Brandy, but it definitely didn’t suit her personality. We changed it to Cleopatra, Queen of the Scioto, or Cleo for short. She was definitely a queen bee, and it really fit. Within a couple of days, she knew her new name. The boys loved her, and after Caesar died and we got Nero just over a year ago, she quickly became his favorite playmate/chew toy.

Cleo thought that she was a ferocious watchdog. She would bark at anything bold enough to stray its way into the yard, be it leaf, squirrel, or stray piece of paper. It was her job to protect the house, and she did so, tail wagging the whole time. The neighbors next door got a tiny, adorable Cavalier King Charles puppy—who weighs maybe four pounds—and Cleo, the ferocious 84 pound golden retriever, would bark at this tiny interloper. We always laughed about it.

At the same time, she was a sweet girl, very loving and very gentle. Almost from the moment we brought her home, she was my baby. She only wanted to be with me, to be loved on by me, and to be near me. She had this silly toy—literally a ball with legs and feet—and it was her baby. She took it everywhere with her. Her favorite thing in the world was to fetch ball with feet, and I had made the mistake of teaching her to bark to tell me to throw the ball. Needless to say, there was a LOT of barking around here.

The poor baby must have come from a puppy mill—we know almost nothing of her pedigree—because she had nothing but one health problem after another. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a stage three mast cell cancer tumor from her side, and we knew then that we were on borrowed time with her. We made sure to enjoy every minute with her, to play with and love her as much as possible, and to cherish this time that we knew we shouldn’t have.

That borrowed time ran out yesterday. During the night on Monday night, she apparently had a stroke. When I tried to get her to go outside yesterday morning, she had a lot of trouble getting down the steps, and she lay down in the back yard. This was a girl who always had a weight problem because she would eat anything not nailed down, and the idea of her not coming in to eat worried me. When I got her back inside, she refused to eat, which was very unlike her. Not realizing anything serious was wrong, I went back upstairs, and she eventually followed me up. When I went back down for my breakfast and to let them out, she was noticeably limping and having trouble, and I had to help her down the steps.

When Susan got home from work yesterday afternoon, she noticed that Cleo was showing the same signs of stroke that her own mother had shown—weakness, sagging facial features, lethargy. She called the vet, and we took her in. We left her over night for observation, and Susan brought her home this afternoon. The vet wanted to see if she might improve in her own surroundings, so she brought her home, but her condition had deteriorated. Susan practically had to carry to get her to move. She wouldn’t eat, and she was exhausted.

Finally, we made the decision that we dreaded. We knew she was on borrowed time, and the poor thing had had so many surgeries that the last thing we wanted for her was for her to have to suffer. We had decided that if it came down to keeping her a little longer or ending her suffering, we were going to end her suffering. So, we made the inevitable but necessary decision and I carried her to the car and she went for her last ride. We held her and petted her as she shuffled off this mortal coil. She left us quietly and peacefully and is now in a better place. Once again, she’s playing with Caesar, young, healthy, happy, and frolicking.

There’s a new angel in heaven tonight. I miss you already, Cleo. And I will see you again some day. Wait for me.

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