July, 2007

John Maass, Ph.D. candidate in history at Ohio State, has maintained a fascinating blog that ties up John’s interests in Irish history, Revolutionary War history, and Civil War history (he is from the Shenandoah Valley). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading John’s blog. Last week, John stated, “Due to my efforts to complete my history PhD, my upcoming move, and the start of a new full-time job, I will not be posting new items to this site for the forseeable future.”

John will be working with my friend Mark Bradley, acting as a staff historian for the United States Army (which would be my dream job).

Good luck with defending your dissertation and with the new job, John, and we hope to see you around the blogosphere sooner than later.

For now, I’m removing the link to John’s blog. If he resumes posting, I will be very pleased to restore it.

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18 Jul 2007, by


I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the 10,000th loss in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies, which occurred on Sunday afternoon while we were driving back to Columbus. Number 10,001 then occurred on Monday night.

As some of you may know, I was born in Philadelphia and raised in the area. My father is a lifelong Philadelphia sports nut (although he was primarily an A’s fan while they were there), and some of my very earliest memories are of watching Richie Allen hit long home runs at Connie Mack Stadium with my dad. I’m a diehard Phillies fan and have been for my entire life. Perhaps it explains why I am such a glutton for punishment.

The team has been around since May 1, 1883, when it lost its first game. That means that it has taken 124 years to reach the magic 10,000 number. It has won only about 8800 games over those years. The next closest team, the Braves, has lost 9600 or so games, meaning that it’s a large gap. In those years, the Phillies have only been to the World Series five times: 1915, 1950 (the Whiz Kids), 1980, 1983 (the Wheeze Kids), and 1993. They’ve won only once, 1980. That’s one world championship in 124 years.

And then there were the Fizz Kids. In a season that featured Jim Bunning’s Father’s Day perfect game and Richie Allen’s incredible rookie of the year accomplishments, the 1964 Phillies had a six game lead with twelve to go. They proceeded to lose ten in a row and finished second. Go figure. To this day, the pain from that episode still lingers in the City of Brotherly Love.

It’s well documented that Phillies fans would boo Santa Claus. If they booed the greatest third baseman to ever pick up a glove–Mike Schmidt–they will boo anyone. At the same time, once they love a player, they love him forever. We’re very loyal. Where else would a team lose 10,000 games and have its fans celebrate such a dubious accomplishment?

Every day, I read the coverage of the Phightin’s in the Philadelphia newspapers, and I watch them whenever I can. I remain as loyal to them as ever, and always will. Thus, I would be remiss if I didn’t join in the celebration of our team’s 10,000 losses. At least we’ve got that distinction to savor: the Phillies are the only professional sports franchise to EVER lose 10,000 games.

Take that, Michael Aubrecht. You and your damned Yankees can’t claim this magical accomplishment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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17 Jul 2007, by


No, Michael Aubrecht, the number 500 in this post has nothing to do with Alex Rodriguez and his pursuit of 500 home runs. ๐Ÿ™‚

Actually, this is blog post number 500 for me. I started this blog on a whim in September 2005, and it’s very much taken on a life of its own over the course of those nearly two years. I’m genuinely surprised that it’s lasted this long and that I continue to find things to rant about without becoming too redundant. Along the way, I’ve made some wonderful new friends, re-connected with some old ones, and have had some excellent company as we’ve traveled this road we call life.

I can only say that I am humbled and blessed all at the same time to have such wonderful friends. I am likewise humbled and blessed that so many of you think enough of my rantings to give a few minutes of your busy schedules each day to stop by and see what I’m babbling about today. I intend to keep going, and I hope that you all will continue along for the rest of the adventure.

I don’t know where it will lead, but I know that it will be interesting and challenging and all the better for having you all along.

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It’s no secret that I’ve long been fascinated by the Gettysburg Campaign. It’s my first love in the Civil War, but I have a love/hate relationship with it. Sometimes, I grow frustrated with the fixation on it, including my own, and sometimes, I just can’t get enough. It’s like any relationship, I suppose.

A subset of that first love has always been a love of the more obscure aspects of the campaign. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the most obscure events of the campaign, and I tend to gravitate toward them and away from things grand events like Pickett’s Charge. From my perspective, often times, the more obscure the event, the better.

Until Kent Brown’s excellent Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign was published in 2005, the retreat had long received short shrift. Naturally, my interests gravitated toward that subject. My old friend Ted Alexander, who grew up on the Confederate retreat route in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, has long been the guru of what he refers to as the “retreatistas”, and I enthusiastically joined that esteemed band years ago. Consequently, I spent years studying the retreat, learning the battlefields associated with the retreat, and in examining the decision-making on the Union side.

Several years ago, my friends J.D. Petruzzi and Mike Nugent and I decided to tackle the retreat. The book was originally intended to be part of Ironclad Publishing’s Discovering Civil War America Series. It has a very detailed tactical treatment of the many engagements that occurred during the retreat, and it also includes two different detailed driving tours. One traces the route of the Confederate Wagon Train of Wounded, and the other follows the fighting that took place during the retreat.

We got to thinking about things and decided that the volume is better suited as a companion volume to Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. If it can be suggested that Stuart somehow failed Robert E. Lee on the way to Gettysburg, it can also be stated plainly that Stuart more than redeemed himself during the retreat, when his performance was nothing short of magnificent. The two books are really almost bookends, and they should go together. Consequently, we have made a deal with Ted Savas for Savas-Beatie, LLC to publish this book as well. We’re confident that it will have the same high quality production values as the Stuart’s Ride book and that it will make the sort of companion volume we anticipate.

Why another book on the retreat from Gettysburg, you ask? It’s a valid question.

Kent Brown’s book is a tour-de-force. Of that, there can be no doubt. However, Kent’s book has a definite focus, which is on the logistical side of the retreat. His primary focus is the logistics of Lee’s retreat, and there is little focus on the Union side. Likewise, the combat that occurred along the way is not given a detailed tactical focus. Finally, the book does not focus on the decision-making process that plagued George Meade’s attempts to bring Robert E. Lee’s army to bay.

Our work is actually intended to complement Kent’s book, and I hope that it does so. We focus mainly on the tactics and leave the vast majority of the logistics to Kent’s masterful study, with the notable exception of our treatment of the Wagon Train of Wounded. Also, since Kent’s book has such a strong Southern focus and emphasis, we intentionally took a more Union approach so as to balance the presentation. Like the conclusion to the Stuart’s Ride book, we have an extended conclusion chapter that focuses on the decision-making processes and also focuses on some of the controversy that sprung up in the wake of Lee’s escape across the Potomac River at Williamsport and Falling Waters. We also have the two detailed driving tours (those who have read Plenty of Blame will find these quite familiar in format and presentation) that include GPS coordinates and lots of modern-day photographs of the sites.

We believe that if our work is combined with Kent’s book, the reader will truly have the complete picture of the retreat from Gettysburg. Thus, we believe that there is a place for our study, and that it will be favorably compared to Kent’s as a companion volume to it.

If all goes according to plan, the book will be released by the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg next year. We have some new material that has surfaced since we originally wrote the thing to add to the narrative, and I intend to start doing that this evening. Stay tuned. Details will follow as they become available.

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15 Jul 2007, by

Back in Columbus

We just got home to Columbus. Susan spent 11 days with my parents, and I was there for nearly 8. I am mentally and physically exhausted.

My father is in the rehab unit. For eleven days post-stroke, he’s doing remarkably well. He’s completely out of danger. For the first several days after the stroke, he was pretty much completely paralyzed on the right side. He’s gotten back movement in both his right arm and right leg. He can raise his arm, and he can point his index finger. He can bend his knee, flex his foot, and wiggle his toes. He still has a great deal of trouble finding words and communicating, but his speech is more clear than it was. The progress is really pretty remarkable.

At the same time, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Progress is measured in tiny steps, not giant leaps, and my mother is having a great deal of trouble dealing with that. We still have no idea whether he will ever be able to come home, or whether he will spend the rest of his days in a nursing home, which is what I suspect. He is extremely frustrated by his inability to communicate as he wants and he’s also frustrated by his inability to get his body to respond. He got very upset today when we left–he didn’t want us to go. Had doctors understood the concept of ADHD when my father was a child in the 1930’s, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind he would have been diagnosed as such. Even at 86, he still shows a lot of the major symptons of ADHD, and has never been able to sit still. He’s got to be going bonkers over not being able to come and go. Poor guy.

My mother is also having a tremendous amount of difficulty dealing with the concept of being alone after 48 years, which I can certainly appreciate. I’ve arranged for her to have someone help her, and we’re doing the best we can. Personally, I am exhausted, and I am dealing with a great deal of guilt at the moment about leaving.

We will be here until my father’s birthday, which is August 10. We will head back to Pennsylvania for his birthday, when he will be 87. For now, it’s back to our normal routine. Both of us have to earn some money, pure and simple.

Tomorrow, however, we’re going to enjoy a treat. Some of you might recall that Susan and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on June 27. We decided to do something fun and special for ourselves to celebrate our anniversary. Before our anniversary, I purchased two tickets for us to see The Police in Cleveland tomorrow night. I saw them in 1981, 1982, and 1983, and I’ve been waiting for nearly 25 years for another opportunity to see them. I wasn’t going to miss that chance when it presented itself, so we’re heading up there tomorrow night for the concert. That’s something just for us. I know I need it.

Tuesday night, I promise to get back to posting about things pertinent once again. I have a significant announcement to make and will do so on Tuesday.

And, I wanted to thank everyone who has posted kind words or kind wishes here, as well as for the numerous private e-mails I’ve received from you. You have no idea how much they’ve meant to me and to my family, especially as we struggled through these extremely difficult days. I also wanted to say a special thank you to old friend Brooks Simpson for the terrific hockey post he dedicated to me yesterday. Thanks, Brooks. I needed that.

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I fly back to Philadelphia tomorrow morning. There are some business things that I need to handle for my father–I have his power of attorney–that have to be done during normal business hours, so I’m out of here tomorrow at 9:15, which means that the dogs have to be boarded again. With my friend Chris’ help, we will take them to the boarding place in the morning, and then he will drop me at the airport. Susan and I will then drive back on Sunday.

My father continues to improve. At this point, he’s out of danger. Even the neurologist, who’s used to seeing this sort of thing all the time, has been terribly impressed by his progress. He sat up in a chair for a couple of hours yesterday, and was able to feed himself all three meals, albeit with his left hand. He’s now able to raise his right arm over his head and to move his fingers. He’s also got some more range of motion in his leg. He still has trouble speaking, but he’s now able to string a few words together. He’s doing well enough that they will be moving him from the stroke unit to the rehab unit later today. The jury is still out on whether he will ever be able to come home, or whether he will have to be in a nursing home for the rest of his days, but considering that the stroke was just a week ago today, he really is doing extremely well, better than any of us could have hoped for.

Jennie, of the American Presidents blog, tagged me yesterday. Normally, I would be happy to oblige and play this silly game, but I just don’t have the time or inclination right at the moment due to circumstances, so I deleted her comments–callously placed in two places, right where I made the first two posts about my father’s illness–and left her a comment letting her know that I was declining the tag and declining to participate. I’m all for having fun, but there’s a right time and a right place, and putting these two comments in the least appropriate places possible really didn’t sit well with me. Jennie, maybe next time, you might read the posts where you’ve placed your tags and consider whether they’re appropriate. Please allow me to suggest that a post where I’ve just gotten done discussing my father’s near fatal stroke is neither the right time nor the right place for frivolous silliness.

Again, thanks to everyone for all of the many statements of support and good wishes. They mean the world to me.

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8 Jul 2007, by


I am back home in Columbus. I had pressing client business, and without having had the luxury of being able to plan to be away, there were things I couldn’t reschedule too well. So, we made the decision that I would fly back today, spend three days in the office taking care of what needs to be done, and then fly back to Philadelphia on Thursday, so that I can take care of some business matters for my dad. Susan and I will then drive home a week from today. She’s going to stay with my mother all week just to make sure that somebody’s keeping an eye on her and helping her out as much as possible.

My father had a serious dominant side cerebral hemorrhage on Wednesday morning. Fortunately, my mother recognized that the trouble he was having finding words was a significant problem and called 911. The paramedics got there quickly, and my parents are lucky enough to live just five minutes from a level-one trauma center, meaning that the hospital has a well-established protocol for elderly stroke victims. Within thirty minutes of the first symptoms, he was in a CT scan, determining the size and extent of the bleed.

The bleed was far enough to the outside that it did not affect his central nervous system. He never lost consciousness. The neurosurgeon told me that normally when he sees a bleed this large, the patient comes in in a coma and often never wakes up. Luckily, my father never lost consciousness, so he never had to go on a respirator or anything like that. He was always breathing on his own. He’s doing well enough that he was transferred out of the ICU and to the stroke unit 48 hours after the stroke. He’s alert, he’s communicative, he still has his sense of humor, and he’s eating. He’s definitely still in there. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that he has some very significant deficits on his right side. He’s having a LOT of trouble speaking. Some things he says are crystal clear, but others are completely unintelligible. He struggles very hard to find words and sometimes can, but most times can’t. He spent two whole days trying to ask me to do something for him until I finally figured out what he was asking me to do. It’s incredibly frustrating for him, and that’s tough to watch.

He also has some significant paralysis on the right side. His right arm was completely paralyzed until yesterday, when he suddenly got some movement back. He overdid it, though, and tired himself out and can’t do as much today. His right leg also has a major deficit, but he was able to bend the knee to 45 degrees repeatedly yesterday, and could also flex his toes and even press forward a little bit. These things ebb and flow. He will have good days like yesterday and setbacks like today, and we just have to learn to roll with the punches.

Only time will tell. The blood has begun re-absorbing, but it’s going to be some time–probably several months–until we know what the permanent result is. I seriously doubt he will be able to go home; since the docs expect he will be wheelchair bound, he will probably have to spend the rest of his days in a nursing home. But, at least he’s still with us. My mother is not in great health, either–in fact, she has lots of physical problems of her own. She’s very dependent on my father, and I really don’t know how she’s going to manage on her own. I suspect we’re going to have to look for a care facility where they can be together.

I’m an only child, and I live 400 miles away. I also have a business to run with clients who very much rely upon me, so I need to be here most of the time. Likewise, Susan’s in the process of starting up a business, so she can’t afford to be away for extended periods, either. The distance means that there’s only so much I can do. This is going to be an ordeal the likes of which I have never experienced and don’t know what to expect.

I want to thank everyone for the good wishes and expressions of support posted here. They’ve meant more to me than I can hope to describe, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate them. While I think my father is out of danger, please continue to keep us in your prayers.

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Unfortunately, I will be away from the blog for a few days. My father, who is five weeks from turning 87, had a serious stroke this morning. We’re going to head to my parents’ house tomorrow to do what we can to help. I will report back when I can. In the meantime, please keep my father in your prayers.

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Phil Trostle of Gettysburg, my favorite certified public beancounter, posed a really fascinating question to me earlier today. Frankly, it’s a comparison that I’d never thought to make, but it makes for an intriguing juxtaposition that’s worthy of further thought and study.

Phil asked whether he was “accurate in drawing some similarities between Stoneman at Chancellorsville and Stuart at Gettysburg.” I’d never even thought to make this comparison. I’d always focused on the ill-advised decisions of Hooker and Grant to send their cavalry away on raids toward Richmond, but not a comparison to Stuart in the Gettysburg Campaign.

Here’s what I wrote in response to Phil’s question:


Interesting. Frankly, I’d never considered the parallel. There are clearly some similiarities, but there are also some major differences.

First, and foremost, Hooker insisted that the raid go on even after the element of surprise was lost. Lee apparently decided it wasn’t much of a threat, because only Rooney Lee’s brigade was sent to pursue. They blocked Averell at Beverly’s Ford and then, after Averell packed it in, pursued Buford for a while. The blame for the debacle definitely has to begin and end with Hooker.

Second, the result is very much the same–insufficient cavalry to screen the advance, but the reasons and implications are different. As just one example, Devin’s brigade–the only one with the army–conducted a superb delaying action on the first day at Chancellorsville, and also was very effective on May 2. Lee, on the other hand, made atrocious use of the cavalry forces available to him.

There is no doubt that both raids were ill-advised and that neither accomplished what their author imagined. There’s also no doubt that these two reaids both left their armies without their eyes and ears.

However, Stuart’s ride at least accomplished what it was ordered to do: he fulfilled each aspect of Lee’s orders, including gathering supplies for the use of the army. Stoneman’s raid, on the other hand, accomplished absolutely nothing of use other than to largely wreck the Cavalry Corps by leaving many of its mounts unusable in the field.

Finally, there’s the issue of additional contributions to the army by the cavalry commander. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that Stuart was late to arrive at Gettysburg, he nevertheless performed magnificent service–perhaps his finest hour–during the retreat from Gettysburg. Stoneman, on the other hand, took medical leave on May 15 and never commanded horse soldiers in the AoP again, bringing Alf Pleasonton to command the Cavalry Corps. Thus, it seems to me that the failure of the Stoneman Raid had more far-reaching implications than did Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign.

Very, very interesting thought, Phil. I had not considered previously, and I think it’s worthy of further thought.


I do believe that this question is worthy of further and additional consideration, and I will report back once I work my way through it. It is a fascinating comparison, though, and I thank Phil for bringing it to my attention.

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I just finished A. J. Langguth’s Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence. This is the sequel to Langguth’s excellent 1991 Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, and is written in the same style. Instead of being a solid historical narrative, it instead focuses on individuals and their contributions to the subject. In this instance, it addresses the American politicians and soldiers who brought about and fought the War of 1812. While this is an interesting and novel approach, it means that there are large gaps in the coverage of the conflict, and the narrative jumps around quite a bit. As just one example, there is no coverage of some of the important land battles such as Lundy’s Lane. Langguth focuses on the great Indian leader Tecumseh, who played a critical role in the War of 1812, and was killed in battle while fighting alongside the British. Tecumseh was a born and charismatic leader who earned the respect of friend and foe, including his arch enemy, William Henry Harrison. While I’ve read a few books on the War of 1812 over the years, I’ve never seen one that addresses it from the perspective of the political and military leaders of the United States. The focus on Tecumseh, who was definitely an American legend, is particularly interesting because it focuses on the role that the Indians played, and the fact that they entered into a marriage of convenience with the British in the hope of regaining the lands that they lost to the white settlers.

Langguth is a journalist by training, and he’s a terrific writer. The book is very well written, with an easy, flowing style. At the same time, it does jump around quite a bit, which can be frustrating and a bit disconcerting. In addition, the book suffers from a paucity of maps, and, as pointed out above, there are some significant gaps in the coverage of the war itself. Having said that, it’s a novel and unique approach to a forgotten conflict, and Langguth does a good job of building his case that the War of 1812 was really just an extension of the American Revolution.

Langguth has a really interesting theory. He lays out the theory that not only was the War of 1812 a continuation of the American Revolution, but that it also was one of the direct causes of the Civil War. He argues–persuasively, I think–that the War of 1812 directly triggered the Civil War. Specifically, he claims that the tensions that arose over the War of 1812 between the War Hawks and those who did not support the war, and those who supported slavery and states’ rights and those who adhered to the Federalist ideal, really had their roots in the War of 1812. To me, that’s a novel theory, and not one I’ve ever seen before.

Certainly, the argument that the Civil War became inevitable due to the conflict between states’ rights and Federalism is nothing new, and has been around for decades. However, most place it in the context of the Revolution and the founding of the Republic. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it played out as a consequence of the War of 1812. I know that some of the New England states, which violently opposed the war, and that they briefly considered secession, meaning that there was some precedent for the secession crisis of 1861.

I wonder what folks think about this theory….

Irrespective of the merits of Langguth’s theory, this was an enjoyable and worthwhile read, and one I recommend undertaking. It’s a worthy addition to any War of 1812 library.

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