August, 2007

26 Aug 2007, by

The Trip

I am just back from a trip to Gettysburg. I went there to meet J. D. and our other co-author for the retreat project, Mike Nugent. We were there to shoot photos for the two driving tours and to check all of the GPS coordinates and see if there was any additional material to add to the driving tours. It was a whirlwind trip.

I left on Thursday afternoon and got there about 9:00. We met at the Reliance Mine Saloon, had a couple of cold ones, and called it a night, as it was going to be an early morning. I stayed at my friend Stan O’Donnell’s weekend mansion, which is located adjacent to East Cavalry Field. Stan and I met J. D., Mike, and old pal Duane Siskey for breakfast at The Avenue. We then saddled up and headed off to do the tour of the Wagon Train of Wounded. First we stopped at a spot where Col. B. F. Carter of the 4th Texas died, and when we got out to shoot photos, the homeowners were very gracious. They shared some family lore with us, and confirmed what we believed about Colonel Carter’s being buried on the property when he died.

From there, we moved on. War arrived at the gorgeous Michael Hege farm, in Marion, PA, near Chambersburg. Again, we got out to shoot photos, and the son of the current owner–a descendant of Michael Hege’s–approached us. He was very friendly and started telling us stories about the property. A few minutes later, his father arrived. The father, Mr. Horst, showed us the outdoor baking oven that is still used from time to time, and few other things. They also gave us the translation of a poem written by Michael Hege about the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania before the Battle of Gettysburg (it was originally written in German). It was very, very cool.

We owe Duane a huge debt. He’s already described this incident on his blog, and I commend his version to you. Duane caught the seatbelt in the door to JD’s van, and the door got seriously jammed. We stopped in front of the next house to try to free the seatbelt. JD blocked the driveway, and was working on freeing the door when Mr. Horst’s son pulled up on his four-wheeled ATV. It turns out that the home is owned by his aunt, who is active with the Franklin County Historical Society and is the family historian. Next thing I know, the door is unjammed and JD is talking to her. She told JD that she had a letter written by one of Michael Hege’s nephews describing the visit of the Confederates to the property both on the way to and from Gettysburg, and it’s never been published. It is a tremendous letter and a tremendous addition to our book. She also gave us a document that indicated what was taken from Michael Hege during the war, and a copy of a pass written by a Confederate staff officer indicating that the Heges should be left alone, as they had been robbed of everything on the way north. More tremendous stuff. What a bonanza, and all because Duane screwed up. Funny how these things work….

We ended up in Williamsport, had lunch, and then went exploring. We were done for the day, so we went to see some other spots that were pertinent, such as Middletown, Maryland, which was George Meade’s headquarters for a time during the retreat. We also went to see the new North Carolina monument on South Mountain, which I hadn’t seen. It’s beautiful, but it’s another Gary Casteel monument that has weird proportions, like the Longstreet monument at Gettysburg. I then turned the boys on to the joys of Wonder Book and Video in Frederick. After we all bought a few books, we crossed over Catoctin Mountain and headed to Dave and Jane’s Crab House for dinner. After a couple of beers, I headed back to Stan’s mansion, where more fellow travelers awaited us in the form of my friend Karl Fauser and his girlfriend Ilona.

Saturday, we did breakfast, and Dean Shultz and my friend Dr. Dave Moore joined us. NOBODY knows more about Adams County than Dean, and he’s a national treasure. We started pursuing the fighting during the retreat, and Dean showed us a recent discovery, which is where the actual clash between the Union cavalry and the Confederate wagon train occurred. After that, it was on to Smithsburg, MD, where Dean helped us pin down Confederate artillery positions based on information he garnered from locals. We went on to Hagerstown, saw the sites there, and then stopped for lunch, which took nearly two hours due to lousy service. When we went on to Funkstown to shoot Buford’s headquarters, the owners of the house invited us in to see the place. We spent a delightful 45 minutes with them–they had no idea of the significance of their property–and then moved on.

The weather was ghastly yesterday. It was 93 and 90+% humidity. It was horrific. We walked down to the crossing site at Falling Waters, which is almost a mile walk. It’s downhill on the way there, but ALL steep uphill on the way back. A thunderstorm brewed up, and there was lightning and thunder, and we had to hustle back up. By the time I got back up, I was so drenched with sweat that I could have wrung out my clothing. Yuck. Stan had never been there, so he was all atwitter about it.

When we finished, we went to Bunker Hill, 22 miles away, to see the spot where James J. Pettigrew died, and then back to Falling Waters on the West Virginia side. Then, it was on to Greencastle for dinner at the Antrim House Restaurant. After dinner, it was back to Stan’s mansion, where we all zonked out.

The two tours are nothing short of spectacular. We have great photos for them. They have multiple GPS points, and the GPS points are dead on. If someone programs them in, it’s impossible to get lost. The tours contain some terrific information, and we believe that folks will really enjoy them. We should be finishing the book up in the next three weeks, and it’s going to be really good. I can’t wait to see it in print.

This morning, JD, Mike, Dr. Dave, Karl, Ilona, and I had breakfast. We all split up then. Mike had a nine-plus hour drive back home to Maine, Karl and Ilona had to get back to Delaware, and Dave had something else to do today.

As I have said here previously, the Monocacy battlefield is a particular favorite of mine, and I just love the place. Thus, I was excited about getting to see it today. JD and I then drove to Frederick to spend some time at the Monocacy National Battlefield. We saw the new visitor center (which is really quite nice), and then spent some time stomping on the battlefield. JD hadn’t seen a lot of it, so we had a fair amount of ground to cover and very little time to cover it. By 12:30, I was on the road home. I got home about 6:15, and I’m just wiped out.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind of lawyering, and then working to get the retreat manuscript wrapped up by our September 15 submission deadline.

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Yesterday, Susan and I traveled up to Lake Erie. There’s a place called Lakeside, which is near the Marblehead lighthouse. It’s near the Cedar Point amusement park, and also near the Johnson’s Island Confederate prison camp/cemetery site.

Lakeside is part of the Chautauqua movement. It was founded in the 1870’s, and it’s like a little oasis. It is very much like taking a step back into the past. It’s a very quaint little religious community. The place is definitely oriented toward Christianity and toward spiritual and religious growth. This was one of those times when having a good Lutheran-sounding name has its advantages. At one point last night, I jokingly told a friend in an e-mail that I hoped that we wouldn’t be struck by a lighting bolt and that we were undoubtedly the only Jews within several miles of the place. ๐Ÿ™‚

To get there, we had to pass through the town of Bucyrus, Ohio. On Monday, Bucyrus had eight inches of rain in one day. The Sandusky River, normally not much of a stream, was horribly flooded. Nearly half of the downtown area was under water. There was floodwater everywhere. We had to find a way around it, which took the better part of half an hour. It was, without doubt, some of the worst flooding I have ever seen.

Anyway, this is Civil War week at Lakeside. They have three seminars per day for five days. The folks there had contacted me months ago, and I figured that it might be an interesting experience. They also indicated that they were willing to pay me, which is always music to my ears. ๐Ÿ™‚

I ended up giving two different 90 minutes talks today. The first one was on the Battle of Trevilian Station and the second one was on Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign. I had almost 130 people for the first talk and about 85 for the second. It was quite a day. Normally, I don’t like working with microphones, but they had a lavalier mic for me, and it worked perfectly. It’s a good thing, too. If I hadn’t had that, I would not have a voice left at all now. As it is, I have very little left at the moment.

It was an attentive but not especially knowledgeable crowd. I had a few good questions and few uninformed looks. However, it got me out of the office for a day, I got paid to talk about the Civil War, and Susan and I got a tiny get-away. Since we haven’t gotten to take a vacation this year, and our only out-of-town trips have been to deal with my father, any little get-away is a good thing. It looks like we will be going back again next year; my usual trick of speaking without notes had the usual effect. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for the day, and then it’s off to Gettysburg. JD and I are meeting our third co-author, Mike Nugent, there to shoot the photos for the driving tours for our retreat book.

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19 Aug 2007, by

Time for a Rant

It’s been a long time since my last good rant. However, after scooping something close to ten pounds of dog poop in the back yard, I’ve got a good one coming.

The Battle of Monocacy, fought July 9, 1864, has long fascinated me. I first visited the battlefield in April 1992, not long after the National Park Service acquired the land. At that time, other than the monuments that were placed on the battlefield by the veterans, there was no interpretation whatsoever, and no visitor’s center. We were left to try to figure it out on our own. It was very difficult to do, and knowing almost nothing about the battle, I failed pretty miserably. All I could do was to try to get a feel for the terrain and then try to figure out the details later.

In those years, the park has come a long way. It has a brand new visitor center ably documented by Mannie Gentile. Nearly the entire main battlefield is preserved, save those portions destroyed by the construction of I-270, which cuts through a corner of the field. There is now good interpretation, and there are several terrific walking trails on the Worthington and Thomas farm properties. The park is an oasis in the middle of Frederick, Maryland’s terrible suburban sprawl. Within a few hundred yards of the new visitor center is a huge shopping mall. That’s how close we came to losing this gem of a battlefield.

The northern portion of the field, where Ohio militia stood and fought like veterans against Jubal Early’s veterans, is long gone to development. It’s tragic, but it happened.

As a consequence of the lack of interpretation on the field, I set about educating myself about the battle. I ended up writing an article on it that was published in America’s Civil War, my second ever published historical work. I’ve retained an interest in the battle and visit the field whenever I get an opportunity. A couple of years ago, J. D. and I decided to try to tackle our own interpretation of it.

Consequently, earlier this year, I became very concerned when I learned that a fellow named Marc Leepson was about to come out wiht a new book on the Battle of Monocacy. Leepson describes himself as “a journalist, historian and the author of six books”. While he teaches history at a local community college in Northern Virginia, the vast majority of his career has been spent as a journalist. The book on Monocacy is his first publication on the Civil War.

I bought the book today. The book states that the idea to write it came from Leepson’s agent. In other words, it’s a commercial venture. It wasn’t written because of a long-standing interest in the battle. It wasn’t written because of a fascination with Early’s invasion of Maryland. It was’t the product of a Civil War historian of long-standing credentials. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making money. Few truer statements have ever been made than what Dr. Ben Johnson said when he declared, “no man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money.” I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I don’t begrudge Mr. Leepson success with his book; I hope he makes a nice buck on it.

However, the fact that he is not a Civil War historian is abundantly clear from a glance at the bibliography to his book. He did no newspaper research at all. That means some wonderful sources such as The National Tribune, one of my very favorite sources, were completely overlooked. Published soldier letters, written at the time of the events and then published in the soldier’s hometown newspapers, are also some of my very favorite sources. Finally, conventional newspaper coverage can provide excellent material. Leepson did not touch the newspapers.

He also did almost no archival research. He looked at a few collections at the Virginia State Library and a few at the University of North Carolina, but that’s it. He did apparently ignored crucial repositories such as the United States Army Military History Institute, Duke University, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and others. As just one example, there were two Medals of Honor awarded for valor at Monocacy, and the author failed to examine the Medal of Honor files at the National Archives, which are a treasure trove of good primary source information. Instead, he relied upon a secondary source, which is just plain lazy.

The scope of the author’s survey of the published primary sources also did not impress me. As just one small example, an officer of the 10th Vermont Infantry named Lemuel A. Abbott published his diary and memoirs. The 10th Vermont suffered the highest casualties of any Union unit at Monocacy, but yet the author missed this book. Abbott’s book, by the way, is available in a relatively inexpensive reprint edition, which makes missing it even tougher to swallow. Again, you’re never going to get EVERY source–it’s impossible. However, there are some that shouldn’t be missed, and this is one of them.

The one I REALLY don’t get it how the author–who lives perhaps an hour away–did not even visit the Historical Society of Frederick County, which is located in downtown Frederick. Given that the battle was fought just outside the town limits of the city of Frederick, I can’t begin to imagine how the author missed the collections there, if for no other reason to see whether there were useful civilian accounts in the collection. But he did.

I also didn’t see a reference to Ed Bearss’s study of the battlefield that was published a couple of years ago. It’s available, and it’s less than $20. How could someone claim to be an authority on this battle and not have taken advantage of such an important source?

In short, the book seems relatively well-written, as I would expect of a journalist, with only three maps and a few illustrations. How a battle book can only include three maps is a mystery to me. I find the scope and depth of the research profoundly disappointing. Consequently, the door remains wide open for J. D. and me to pursue our project on Monocacy, which will include the sort of tactical detail and detailed tour guide that we’re known for.

Again, I’m all for writing as a commercial venture. However, it REALLY galls me when someone writes a book like this as a money making venture, lands it with a big commercial publisher (and probably with a nice advance), and turns out something eminently forgettable, as this book is. It bothers me a great deal to see books that don’t deserve it getting promoted and play with the big book chains when they simply don’t deserve it. What’s wrong with this picture?

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The other day, I posted about how the New York draft riots drew thousands of troops away from the Army of the Potomac, thereby depleting the strength of the army. Over the course of a few weeks, the Fifth Corps division of U. S. Army Regulars, an entire brigade of Vermonters, and nine other regiments were sent to New York to keep the peace. The Vermonters and the Regulars were some of the best and most battle-tried troops in the army, and they would be difficult to replace.

The army of the Potomac suffered about 25% casualties during the battle of Gettysburg, or about 23,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. There were another 1,000 or so casualties in the fighting during the retreat from Gettysburg. Obviously, these immense losses limited Meade’s options and his choices.

As I continued to work on the epilogue to the retreat manuscript, I had another realization. In addition to the battle casualties and the detachments to deal with the New York draft riots, nine veteran regiments–two year and nine months regiments–reached the expirations of their terms of service and left the army to muster out and go home. Between the detachments to New York and the men leaving to go home, Meade lost about 15,000 veteran troops at a time when he needed every available musket in order to bring Lee’s wounded army to bay.

Thus, by the end of July, there were 40,000 less veteran soldiers in the Army of the Potomac than there were when the Gettysburg Campaign began. It is, therefore, no great surprise that Meade was particularly cautious in making his decisions about when and how to attack Lee’s army.

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I had one of those Eureka moments that occasionally hit me this evening. As I may have mentioned previously, we decided to add a brief epilogue to the retreat book that covers the period between Lee’s crossing of the Potomac (July 13-14) and the return of the armies to the banks of the Rappahannock River at the end of July. I wrote about four pages on this time frame. It has very little in the way of detail, but it fills the gap in the story and brings the story of the Gettysburg Campaign full circle.

While writing this piece, I remembered that, among the many hurdles that George Gordon Meade had to face during the retreat from Gettysburg, he also had to deal with the fallout of the New York City Draft Riots. The first draft lottery in the history of the United States occurred on July 11, and two days later, five days of bloody mayhem broke out in the streets of New York. As the rioting broke out on July 13, Meade was preparing to launch an all-out attack on Lee’s lines that was scheduled to occur at dawn the next morning. Lee’s crossing of the Potomac on the night of July 13-14 was the only thing the prevented that all-out attack.

Meade’s army was depleted by several thousand of its best combat troops when those troops were sent to New York to help quell the riots. By July 16, martial law had been declared in New York City, and thousands of Federal troops filled the city streets, hoping to restore order.

So, among the many hurdles faced by George Gordon Meade as he tried to bring Lee’s army to bay, he also had to deal with the loss of several thousand veteran combat troops who were sent to New York to deal with the crisis there. I don’t know that any other treatment of the retreat from Gettysburg has addressed this issue, and I don’t know what the precise consequences of these events were for the pursuit of Lee. However, given the many obstacles facing Meade, it’s no real surprise that he chose not to attack Lee’s army at Williamsport until he believed he was truly ready to do so.

I think it bears some additional thought, and I expect to tinker with the epilogue further in order to flesh those thoughts out some more.

This is why I love the Civil War.

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Don Caughey did an interesting post on his blog about his favorite Gettysburg cavalry regimental monuments. His favorite seems to be that of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. I can’t help but wonder whether he missed my favorite.

A Tipton photo of the monument to the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry appears with this post, courtesy of the Virtual Gettysburg web site. The monument features 6 full-scale, exact replicas of the lances carried by the men of the regiment for the first year and a half of the Civil War. The monument itself is made of granite, and has six sides, representing the numeric designation of the regiment. It also features the regiment’s logo, and is quite simple but elegant.

It also has architectural significance.

Born on November 11, 1839, Frank Furness was the son of a prominent Philadelphia clergyman and abolitionist, William Henry Furness. Frank elected to take up the study of architecture, apprenticing in New York under the famed architect Richard Morris Hunt. Instead of doing what most of his peers did, twenty-two year old Frank Furness did not flee to Europe to avoid military service. Instead, he enlisted in Company I of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry and was quickly commissioned lieutenant. After a successful stint as a staff officer, on January 11, 1864, he was promoted to captain and assigned to command Company F.

Furness still commanded Company F in June 1864, when two divisions of the Cavalry Corps, now commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, went on an extended raid in the direction of Gordonsville, marching along the route of the Virginia Central Railroad. Departing from the main body of the Army of the Potomac on June 7, Sheridan’s force marched slowly west, arriving at Trevilian Station, in Louisa County, on the night of June 10. A heavy engagement on June 11 was indecisive, and the foes resumed the fighting on the afternoon of June 12.

The Confederate cavalry, positioned behind strong breastworks marked by a “Bloody Angle”, had a strong defensive position. The Federal cavalry launched seven desperate assaults on the Bloody Angle before a severe counterattack crashed into the Union flank, driving it from the field in confusion. The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry held the end of the Union line. Positioned among the various outbuildings of the Gentry farm, perched atop a ridge, Furness’s Company F was the endmost company on the Union line. What follows is Furness’s narrative of his deeds that day:

On the afternoon of June 12th, 1864, the Reserve Brigade was engaged dismounted shortly after midday near Trevilian Station, Virginia. The Brigade had been actively been engaged in the battle of Trevilian Station, on the day previous, June 11th, 1864.

The Brigade was commanded by Colonel Alfred Gibbs, the Division by General Wesley Merritt.

Captain J. Hinckley Clark who commanded the 6th Penna. Cavalry, one of the regiments composing the Reserve Brigade, being taken seriously ill, the command of the 6th Penna. Cavalry devolved upon Captain Frank Furness.

The orders received by Officers commanding Regiments were to hold the ground at all hazards; it has since been learned that the ammunition which General Sheridan had with him on his raid was almost exhausted and it was necessary that a demonstration should be made in order to keep the enemy fully occupied until after dark when General Sheridan had concluded to continue his raid.

In front of the portion of the line occupied by the 6th Penna. Cavalry, about 50 yards in advance of the established line, was a farm house and out buildings; Captain Furness’s command occupied some of the out buildings. The Confederates occupied the house and the out buildings not occupied by the 6th Penna. Cavalry. It was a matter of the greatest importance that this position should be held for if it had been occupied by the Confederates our entire Federal line would have suffered. Therefore an outpost, so to speak, was established by the Commanding Officers of the 6th Penna. Cavalry occupying the outbuildings which particularly commanded the Federal line. At this particular spot the fighting was desperate although the entire line was fiercely engaged. The space between the house and outbuildings above alluded to, was entirely clear and open, it being a great field.

This was the position of affairs and some two hours after the time when the line first became hotly and fiercely engaged, that Captain Furness received word from the Outpost, above mentioned, through a non-commissioned officer, who crawled on his hands and knees through the grass from the Outpost to the main line, that the ammunition was almost exhausted and that if more was not immediately supplied the Outpost was in immediate danger of capture by the Confederates.

Captain Furness caused two boxes of ammunition to be taken from his already scanty supply and placing one on his head asked what officer or man would volunteer to carry the other Captain Walsh Mitchell at once seized the other, likewise placing it on his head, said that he would cheerfully follow Captain Furness. The two officers ran across the open space between the Outpost and the main line in clear sight of the Confederates and safely deposited the ammunition at the disposal of the Officer commanding the outpost, rendering it possible by carefully husbanding the ammunition, for the Outpost to hold its position, saving the Main Line from severe loss, which it did until long after dark.

Whether or not it was the Confederates were amazed at the audacity of the two officers carrying the ammunition, for some reason the fire encountered by the two officers on their return trip to the Main Line was very much fiercer than on the former one. The air seemed filled with lead, Captain Mitchell remarking to Captain Furness, ‘For God’s sake run zigzag so they can’t draw a bead on you.’ The words were no sooner out of Capt. Mitchell’s mouth than he received a bullet through the top of his cap and another through the skirt of his coat.

With no other damages than this Captain Furness and Captain Mitchell regained the Main Line of Battle.

As before stated the regiment remained holding its position, in spite of shot and shell, for they were vigorously subjected to these annoyances, until long after dark, and it was not until long after dark (through some oversight on the part of the Brigade commander no orders for withdrawal were received by the Officer Commanding the 6th Penna. Cavalry) the men crouching down and carefully holding their sabres and carbines to avoid all rattle, so close was the proximity of the enemy, did the 6th Penna. Cavalry rejoin General Sheridan’s command, finding their remounts and taking up the line of march, continuing the same throughout the remainder of the night and until the afternoon of the next day.”

Furness served out his term of enlistment and was discharged from the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry in the fall of 1864. Returning home to Philadelphia, he resumed his architecture career, designing nearly 650 buildings and becoming one of the highest paid architects of the time. Employing an approach based on the theory that architecture was more than just building, Furness employed a heavy Gothic style that was quite unique. Click here to see some of Furness’s works. In a Victorian Age noted for its aggressive architecture, Furness’s buildings were certainly among the most boisterous and challenging.

Working mostly between 1870 and 1895, his designs include some of Philadelphia’s most prominent structures such as the Philadelphia Zoo Gatehouses, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Merion Cricket Club. [links to the two books on Furness’s works] He co-founded the Philadelphia chapter of the AIA, and is known as the founder of the so-called “Philadelphia School” or architecture. One of his most interesting designs is the handsome monument to the Lancers that graces the battlefield at Gettysburg, and which features full-scale replicas of the lances carried by the men of the regiment for the first year and a half of the war.

In 1899, Furness applied for a Medal of Honor. With the ringing endorsement of Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt and Col. Albert P. Morrow, two veteran cavalry officers, and St. Clair Mulholland, the former commander of the Irish Brigade, Furness was awarded the Medal in September 1899 in recognition of his gallant service at Trevilian Station on June 12, 1864. The citation reads:

On this occasion, a detachment occupying an exposed and isolated outpost having expended its ammunition, Captain Furness, carrying a box of ammunition on his head, ran to the outpost across an open space that was swept by a fierce fire from the enemy. This ammunition together with that carried by another officer who had responded to Captain Furness’s call for volunteers, enabled the detachment to hold its position until nightfall, thus saving the main line from severe loss.

Furness is the only American architect of note to win the Medal of Honor. He was also the only member of the Lancers to win the Medal.

Although he is considered the first “All-American” architect, Furness eventually fell from favor. When he died in 1912, his work was largely forgotten. He was buried in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Furness designed the monument to the Lancers that appears with this post. The monument appears in every published catalogue of Furness’ work. It is the only monument on the Gettysburg battlefield that has architectural significance. It is, therefore, my favorite monument. Too bad it didn’t make your list, Don.

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Well, we’re home. It’s been another very long day of driving that included a brief (90 minute) detour to and stop in Gettysburg today so I could see about acquiring a few more primary sources for the retreat manuscript (I bought 8 books that represent primary source material that will help to flesh out the story even more).

Okay, here’s the latest on my dad. We didn’t get to see him on Thursday night, as we got in too late. Traffic was horrific on the trip, and it rained like hell the whole way. What is normally a 7 hour drive was nearly 9 as a result. So, we got there too late to see him.

Friday morning, Susan and I surprised him at breakfast. He’s come a tremendously long way. His speech is clearer (when he’s not exhausted), and he was glad to see us. We went and got him a birthday cake, and came back later for a birthday celebration. We watched him go through his occupational therapy, and I was thrilled to see him walking, both with and without the walker. Considering that I fully expected him to be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life, you can imagine how thrilling it was to see that. In short, he will not have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Susan and I then went and got him dinner at his favorite restaurant and carried it in to him as a special birthday treat. He went through those ribs like Sherman went through Georgia. ๐Ÿ™‚

On Saturday, he was discharged from the hospital and transferred to a long-term rehab unit in a nursing home. Although he was very tired when we got there, he hadn’t been outdoors since the day before the stroke, and the weather was gorgeous–warm and sunny but not much humidity. So, we took him outside in his wheelchair and sat and enjoyed the day for a while. When I got him back into bed after that, he was snoring within three minutes. Poor guy was absolutely wiped out.

Today, we took him a television set from home before heading out of town, and he had gotten a good night’s sleep. Consequently, he was bright and cheerful and attentive when we got there, and his speech was pretty clear. I hated to leave, but we had no choice.

He’s come a tremendously long way in just five and a half weeks. I still don’t know whether he will ever be able to come home, but even if he can’t, he will be able to enjoy a pretty good quality of life, since he’s ambulatory again. I feel much better about things.

My mother is a challenge, but I won’t bore you with that. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot of pressure on me. However, it’s great to see him coming along.

Back to the Civil War tomorrow……

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I realized that it’s been some time since I’ve given an update on my father. The stroke was five weeks ago today. Remember that when it happened, he was nearly completely paralyzed on the right side and really couldn’t speak very well at all.

Five weeks later, he’s gotten most of the movement back on the right side. He walked about fifty yards with a walker the other day and is making good and steady progress. He’s getting some of the dexterity back in his hand, and he got put back on a normal diet today. His speech is still garbled, but it’s better. About half of what he says is clear as a bell, and the other half is pretty much completely unintelligible. But, he’s now able to string several words together coherently. He’s desperate to go home, but we still don’t know whether he will ever be able to do so. On Saturday, he will be transferred from the rehab unit at the hospital, where he’s been for nearly a month, and will go to a rehab facility.

Friday is his 87th birthday. Susan and I are headed there tomorrow to celebrate it with him. We will be back on Sunday evening. If I have time, I will try to post something while we’re in Pennsylvania, but please don’t be surprised if I’m not able to do so until we get back.

The prayers and good wishes of all of you undoubtedly helped. We’re all touched by it. Thank you.

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8 Aug 2007, by

New CWTI Editor

My concerns about the future of Civil War Times magazine have been largely alleviated. Dana Shoaf, who’s been the editor of America’s Civil War for the last several years, has been named as the new editor of CWTI. I know Dana; I’ve done some battlefield stomping with him. I’ve also worked with him in his capacity as editor of ACW and know him to be a real pro. The magazine is in good hands.

That, however, creates an altogether new problem, which is finding a new editor for ACW. Hopefully, someone as talented as Dana will be located and will step up to the plate.

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This morning, I got an e-mail from old pal Drew Wagenhoffer congratulating me on making Civil War Interactive’s list of the top twenty Civil War sites. I thanked Drew, but I had no idea what he was talking about.

I then went to CWI to see what he meant, and boy, was I blown away.

Every year, CWI runs a poll of its readers to determine the top twenty Civil War sites on the Internet. Nearly 500 people voted, and I was absolutely flabbergasted to find that this humble little blog of mine placed number 14 on that list. I started this on a whim, and it’s taken on a life of its own.

Until I saw that list, I never realized that this blog has affected so many people’s lives or that so many people take time out of their busy days to visit this site and indulge my rantings. I’m just blown away and don’t really know what to say. I’m humbled and I’m grateful, and I hope that I continue to entertain and interest you and that you will continue to spend a few minutes of your day visiting this site.

To everyone who reads this blog, and to everyone who voted for this site, I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

Congratulations are in order to all of the others who made the list. I especially want to say congratulations to Dimitri Rotov and Mannie Gentile, who also made the list. A special congratulations goes to old friend Dick “Shotgun” Weeks, whose incredible site richly deserves its number one ranking. Congratulations, Dick.

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