May, 2009

Tomorrow begins my crazy travel schedule. Tomorrow, it’s off to Gettysburg for the annual muster of the Civil War Discussion Group Online, and a retreat tour on Saturday. We come home Sunday (Susan’s going with me on this one), and then it’s back to Gettysburg again next Friday for the annual conference of the CWPT, where I have a full day tour to lead. Then, we’re off to Middleburg, VA on Sunday night for a memorial for our friend Deborah Fitts, and then home to Columbus on Monday morning. I leave again that Friday, this time for Brandy Station and Trevilian Station, to fulfill a commitment I made last year, when I auctioned off a personal tour to raise money for the CWPT at one of Ted Alexander’s Chambersburg Civil War Seminars.

The good news is that these events will provide lots of opportunities to see friends I haven’t seen in quite a while, including Clark B. “Bud” Hall, whom I haven’t seen since he lost Deb last July. Seeing old friends will make all of the driving worthwhile.

So, it’s going to be a busy next couple of weeks with way too much driving. I will post when I can, but don’t be surprised if postings are a bit sparse until I get through this craziness.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

On this Memorial Day, please take a moment and say thank you to the veterans who gave so much to permit us to enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy and who have worked so hard to keep us safe. Thank you to all who have made those sacrifices. I want to give a special thanks to my friend Col. Wade Sokolosky, who is just finishing up a year in Afghanistan. Wade’s son is also on active duty in the U.S. Army. Thank you, Wade.

And a special thanks to Sgt. Morton L. Wittenberg, USAAF, World War II, and Gunnery Sgt. Joseph L. Pacitto, USMC, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, and Somalia.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Dan Hoisington, the owner of Edinborough Publishing, told me tonight that my biography of Ulric Dahlgren goes to the printer tomorrow. That marks the culmination of six long years of work on that project, and it’s the culmination of a labor of love. I can’t wait to see the book in print.

It’s due out by the end of June. I will keep everyone posted as to progress, and it will shortly be available for pre-order on my other web site.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Yesterday, someone asked a question on one of the forum boards I frequent about the morale and condition of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry in 1864, particularly considering that it lost its commander, Jeb Stuart, in May. I spent some time cobbling together a responsive essay that I thought I would share with you here.

Here’s what I wrote:

The Confederate cavalry was in surprisingly good shape in 1864 for lots of reasons. First, and foremost, the command of the Union cavalry was in shambles as the year began. With Pleasonton relieved, Buford dead and Kilpatrick sent west, three of the four highest ranking officers in the AoP Cavalry Corps were out of the picture. Instead, you have Torbert, who’s an infantry officer, in command of the largest division, and Wilson, who’s never commanded anything bigger than a squad, in command of another. And you have Sheridan, with all of 60 days’ experience commanding cavalry and no real gift for it, in command.

Thus, the ANV Cavalry Corps opened the 1864 campaigning season at a real advantage in terms of leadership. Where it lacked was in horse flesh and technology. The Confederate system relied on cavalrymen supplying their own mounts until late 1864, so if a trooper lost his horse, he had to find a replacement. Many times, this meant having to take a furlough to return home to find another mount, which was a real drain on manpower. The Union, on the other hand, had instituted an effective and fairly efficient remount system in the form of the Cavalry Bureau, meaning that there was a real advantage for the AoP here.

Likewise, by the spring of 1864, nearly the entire AoP Cavalry Corps had been armed with Spencer repeating carbines, whereas the ANV Cavalry Corps still had either single-shot breechloaders or two-band muzzleloaders. This meant that the AoP had a major advantage in firepower and technology. This imbalance was never really corrected, and the imbalance really showed in the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 1864, when the Valley cavalry was hopelessly outmatched by the powerful Cavalry Corps; Lunsford Lomax’s men had to use two-band muzzle loaders against an enemy armed with Spencers.

The morale of the ANV Cavalry Corps was high, and even with the loss of Stuart, its morale never really ebbed. Due to its success in the field–set forth in some detail below–its morale remained high until late fall, when it became obvious that the walls were beginning to close in at Petersburg.

As the spring campaigning season began, the inexperience of the Union commanders became obvious. Due to his inexperience, Wilson’s bungled in leading the way for the army (why the least experienced division commander was given the task of leading the way for the army’s advance is just one example of Sheridan’s poor performance as Cavalry Corps commander during the Overland Campaign), and his entire division got thrashed by Rosser’s Laurel Brigade at the outset of the Battle of the Wilderness. Wilson’s defeat meant that Meade entered the Wilderness with no cover for his flank and no cavalry leading the way to find the enemy. It’s no wonder that the 5th Corps stumbled into Ewell’s Confederates.

After the Wilderness, when Grant decided to move toward Spotsylvania Court House, the critical road junction along the way was where the Brock and Catharpin Roads meet. This was the site of a ramshackle tavern called Todd’s Tavern. On May 6, Sheridan had abandoned this position, allowing Fitz Lee’s division to occupy it, and the Virginians dug in. In one of the few good days Fitz had in the war, he held off most of the AoP for an entire day, before finally being driven off by Sheridan’s men in a fierce fight.

The next day, after telling George G. Meade to stuff it, Sheridan left on the Richmond Raid, leaving Grant without any cavalry to speak of for the better part of three weeks. The lack of a cavalry screen left him pretty much blind and nearly got his army caught in a massive trap at Ox Ford on the North Anna River.

Stuart died on May 12. Robert E. Lee had a dilemma on his hands: his nephew Fitz was Stuart’s hand-picked choice, but RE Lee was aware of his nephew’s limitations. He also knew that Wade Hampton technically outranked Fitz. So, he decided to avoid the problem and issued an order that indicated that now the three separate divisions would act as independent commands, with the division commanders reporting to him directly. This was a real recipe for disaster.

Hampton made his debut at the May 28, 1864 Battle of Haw’s Shop. While Hampton was ultimately driven from the battlefield, his tenacious stand prevented Sheridan from accomplishing his mission, which was to locate the main body of the ANV. Sheridan never got close. There was more hard fighting on May 30 and 31 and Old Church and Totopotomoy Creek, and finally Cold Harbor began on June 1.

After being stymied at Cold Harbor, Grant realized that he was out of room to maneuver around Richmond, and instead decided to cross the James River and instead advance on the important railroad town of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. He who controlled Petersburg controlled Richmond; Lee would either have to come out and fight Grant on ground of Grant’s choosing, or Richmond would fall. Grant’s plan relied on stealth. He would send two of his four cavalry divisions (which counts August V. Kautz’s small division from the Army of the James) off on a raid on the Virginia Central Railroad in the hope that it would detract the attention of the Confederate cavalry and draw it off in pursuit, allowing Grant to cross the James undetected. It was a brilliant plan, and it worked like a charm.

The Trevilian Raid began on June 7 and culminated with the two-day battle of Trevilian Station on June 11-12. Two of the three ANV cavalry divisions (Hampton’s and Fitz Lee’s) pursued Sheridan, who had two divisions. Fought on heavily wooded ground that closely resembled the Wilderness, Hampton thrashed Sheridan after a very hard fight and where Sheridan outnumbered Hampton 9000 to 6300. Hampton prevented Sheridan from destroying the critical railroad junction at Gordonsville, and from linking up with David Hunter’s army.

Hampton pursued Sheridan across Virginia and again thrashed elements of his command at Samaria (St. Mary’s) Church, east of Richmond, on June 24. Sheridan then crossed the James River made his way back to the AoP, which was, by then, in the process of investing Petersburg.

On June 27, the Wilson-Kautz Raid began. Freed from having to chase Sheridan, Hampton,now joined by Rooney Lee’s division and the independent brigades of Martin W. Gary and James Dearing, turned on Wilson and Kautz. On June 30 and July 1, at Sappony Church and Reams Station, respectively, Hampton pounced on Wilson and Kautz, nearly destroying their commands. They lost 1500 of their 4500 men between the two battles, all of their wagons, and all of their horse artillery. And 1500 of Hampton’s men ended up with perfectly serviceable Spencer carbines in the process. Wilson and Kautz were lucky to escape with their commands intact. In recognition of Hampton’s superb performance and in a tacit acknowledgment that Fitz was not up to the job, Hampton was made permanent commander of the ANV Cavalry Corps on August 12, 1864.

On August 8, Sheridan was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley with most of the Cavalry Corps. Only David Gregg’s Second Division remained with the AoP, too small a force for the job at hand. This permitted Hampton to lead the famous Beefsteak Raid in September, where elements of his command rustled the entire cattle herd of the AoP, providing Lee’s army with much-needed food. They also captured much of the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry, meaning that elements of Hampton’s command–including Hampton himself–ended up with Henry rifles.

Not much happened for the rest of the year, and Hampton (and his old division, now commanded by Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler) was sent to South Carolina at his own request in an effort to resist the advance of Sherman’s armies. He was promoted to lieutenant general in February 1865. Fitzhugh Lee then assumed command of what was left of the ANV Cavalry Corps and remained in command of those troopers until the surrender at Appomattox.

So, the answer to the question is that in many ways, the loss of Stuart was not the crippling blow to the ANV Cavalry Corps that you might have expected. In many ways, the ANV Cavalry Corps got BETTER. It never lost a significant engagement (I consider Haw’s Shop a Confederate victory even though Sheridan held the field at the end of the fight because Hampton prevented Sheridan from accomplishing his mission) battle with Hampton in command, and, in some ways, the death of Stuart made it possible for the ANV Cavalry Corps to get serious about the work in front of it. Without Stuart’s silliness out of the way, these men went about their work with deadly earnestness, and it showed. I argue–and I believe I’m right–that Stuart needed to be removed from the equation for the ANV Cavalry Corps to take the next step, and the proof is in the pudding. Just look at what it accomplished with Wade Hampton in command.

I fully recognize that some of what I say is controversial–some of it intentionally so–but I do believe that the proof is in the pudding. The simple truth is that each and every time that Wade Hampton and Phil Sheridan met on the field of battle, Hampton outgeneralled him, often by a long shot. What does that tell you about the state of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry Corps after the loss of Stuart?

Scridb filter

Continue reading

The following editorial appeared in this week’s edition of U.S. News and World Report:

Opinion: Wal-Mart’s Attack on Civil War Battlefield in Northern Virginia
By John Aloysius Farrell

US News & World Report (NAT)

The Wilderness battlefield cannot be moved.

It is a one-of-a-kind place, where tens of thousands of Union and Confederate boys died in the Civil War. You can’t just shift the signs down the road a mile and call another tract of ground the battlefield.

But a Wal-Mart shopping center? How special is that?

Assuming that what America needs is another Wal-Mart, how hard can it be for corporate planners to choose a location that isn’t within the boundaries of a national battle park?

These are the questions being asked by historians, legislators, and preservationists as Wal-Mart plans to build a 138,000-square-foot supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield in Northern Virginia. It would be the fifth Wal-Mart store within a 20-mile radius and a major new commercial threat to a necklace of Civil War fields—Wilderness, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania—in the area that have already been ravaged by development.

In December, a group of 253 historians—including David McCullough, Ken Burns, James McPherson, and Edwin Bearss, the chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service—asked Wal-Mart to reconsider.

The Vermont Legislature (the state lost its heaviest casualties of the war at the Wilderness, repulsing a Confederate attack) adopted a joint resolution in February asking Wal-Mart to move its store.

U.S. Reps. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, and Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, have led a contingent in Congress urging Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke to think this through.

And the Civil War Preservation Trust put the Wilderness battlefield on its list of “most threatened” battlefields in March.

The land that Wal-Mart covets is commercially zoned, but the company needs a special use permit from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, and preservationists are hoping to block the development there. A coalition of local and national preservation groups have offered to pay for a comprehensive, long-range planning study to help local officials.

All they need is a little flexibility from Wal-Mart. How about it, Mr. Duke?

It’s great to see a credible national media source like U.S. News and World Report weigh in on the issue, and even better to see the editorial take the side of preservation. Hopefully, someone from Wal-Mart will read this article, and hopefully, it will have some impact.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Craig Swain and Don Caughey have invited me to join their Battle of Kelly’s Ford micro-blogging data compilation project. I’m pleased and honored to be a part of it.

As some of you may know, my 2003 book The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863 contains the most detailed account of the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly’s Ford ever published. Consequently, I have accumulated quite a bit of primary source material that will be a perfect addition to the project.

I’m looking forward to participating and I’m looking forward to seeing just how much information we can compile. Please check the site regularly.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

In: Blogging | Tags:

From yesterday’s edition of The Gettysburg Times:

Electric Map may have found a home

Times Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 7:40 AM EDT

A nonprofit group is working with the National Park Service to keep the historic Electric Map in Gettysburg.

Historic Gettysburg-Adams County is talking to the park about obtaining the map and featuring it in a new museum, possibly along Steinwehr Avenue.

“It’s quite possible that it could be coming out of storage,” HGAC President Curt Musselman said Monday morning.

Musselman was the guest of broadcaster Fred Snyder during the Breakfast Nook program on 1320 WGET.

Musselman’s group has been working to obtain the map for “about a year,” and the group has set up a task force to acquire it.

“We’re going to build a museum — a map museum — making the Electric Map a centerpiece for that,” said Judi McGee, chairwoman of the HGAC task force.

“The map itself will be restored,” McGee said. “We’ll also be able to preserve and restore some other period maps along the way and some artifacts.”

She promised that the map will be staying in the Borough of Gettysburg, although she did not name specific sites.

“We’re looking at an adaptive re-use of an old building,” McGee told Snyder. “We’re also looking at building something new. We’re looking at a number of sites.”

Steinwehr Avenue businessman Eric Uberman said Monday that he has land beside his American Civil War Museum to accommodate the group. He called the property an “optimum site” for the Electric Map.

“We’re cooperating with them — we’re not buying the map,” said Uberman.

“We have the space,” continued Uberman. “It’s the spot that has the most visibility, it’s in Gettysburg, and it’s literally right where the map was before.”

Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon confirmed Monday afternoon that the park is talking to the group, but stressed that “it’s very early in the process.” The park has entertained offers for the map in the past, but nothing panned out.

“Their goals would certainly be in sync with the Park Service’s goals, which would be to display the Electric Map once again to the visiting public,” said Lawhon. “The goal is to work cooperatively and re-open it to the public.”

Uberman’s property is located across the street from the entrance to the old visitor center. He thinks that the map would “do wonders” in revitalizing Steinwehr Avenue, which has seen a dramatic drop-off in commerce since the old visitor center closed.

“It would be a tremendous boost to Steinwehr,” said Uberman. “I really hope that the town fathers support this group. It would be a tremendous tax benefit to the area, and maybe pull back some of the revenue that has been lost since the new visitor center opened.”

The map was cut into four pieces in March and moved out of the old park visitor center. It is now being stored in a park facility along the Hanover Road, just east of Gettysburg. The map was not incorporated into the plans for the new $103 million Battlefield Visitor Center, which opened in April 2008 along the Baltimore Pike.

“I just think in their new design, the Electric Map didn’t fit in,” Musselman said. “Some day again, people will be able to see it.”

McGee noted that “there are some issues there with asbestos and construction that we need to address,” and that talks are ongoing between the federal government and HGAC.

HGAC has worked with the Park Service on other projects, said Musselman. The group is aiming to have the map on display again in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which occurs in 2013.

“That would sort of be the time-line on the project, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen,” Musselman said. “Everything would take time. It’s not just a little project.”

The map entertained millions of tourists over the years, when it was the park’s primary attraction. It used 625 flashing Christmas bulbs to illustrate the movement of troops during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Opponents argue that the map’s technology is obsolete, while proponents believe that it’s an iconic American treasure.

The current map dates back to 1962-63, although the original map dates back to the 1930s.

See the complete transcript of the Breakfast Nook interview by visiting

There’s absolutely no doubt that the technology of the Electric Map has been obsolete for years. At the same time, it’s been the first introduction to the Battle of Gettysburg for hundreds of thousands of tourists for decades, and that many have very happy memories of it. There’s also no doubt that it’s been missed by tens of thousands of tourists, including me. I also think that it would help to bring tourists back to Steinwehr Avenue, which would definitely benefit the local businesses. I view this as a real win-win scenario.

I certainly hope that this pans out and that the Map finds a home. Even if it is obsolete, it should be on display and it should be available for the world to see. I support it wholeheartedly.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Below is the president’s report of North & South, Inc. I recognize that by publishing this report here, I am airing dirty laundry. However, a lot of people are losing a lot of money due to the rank incompetence of the president of the company and his supporting cast of yes-men, far more than I am losing. I simply could not stand by and allow it to happen without the world knowing and understanding that the investors are being stripped of the company’s only asset for nothing but the assumption of the debt by a not-for-profit company that will probably be used as the personal piggy bank of the president.


It will come as no surprise to anyone if I remark that U.S. economy is in bad shape. Thus far North & South’s subscription base has held up and I am working day and night to find new sources of subscribers. We should also have our website back up soon. Retail sales are as far as we know also holding steady (overall magazine sales in the U.S. are down 25%) though there is always so much time lag with the numbers that our data is several months old.

We have been adversely affected in two ways, both serious. (1) Names and Addresses, who marketed our mailing list, went bankrupt owing us $12,000. (2) advertising budgets have been widely cut and among those making the deepest cuts are book publishers—our principal sources of advertising revenue. Although advertising revenue has not (yet?) fallen it is clearly now impossible to reach the goals we had set ourselves and without which the magazine will continue to lose money. The loss of revenue from the Names and Addresses bankruptcy meant we could not pay our print bill. I have taken action as follows:
(1) Reduced the number of pages in the magazine from 100 to 84. I have done this in such a way that each issue will still have 5-6 articles, each being slightly shorter than of yore. I am hopeful this will avert any negative reaction from readers.
(2) There will be less color (2 signatures rather than 4).
(3) We have eliminated foreign retail sales and domestic outlets with lower rates of sell-through. This pretty much means North & South will retail exclusively through book stores.
(4) I negotiated with three print companies and finally persuaded our existing printer to meet the lowest bid and work with us in such a way that we can off the unpaid bill for issue 11.2 by September 30th. This means that our bill for 11.3 (which mailed three weeks ago) is reduced to c. $10,000 and from 11.4 on will be c. $9400. This is a reduction from $18,000 per issue.
(5) I have also been able to effect certain other savings. For example, the layout bill is reduced by 16% as a result of reducing the number of pages (though this partially offset by the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar in relation to the Chinese yuen—remember the magazine is laid out in China).

The overall effect is that, if no other major problems occur, the magazine will just be able to pay its way. This is just as well, as I can no longer subsidize the magazine or work for a pittance. The company has a credit card debt of c. $100,000 for which I am personally ultimately responsible. Like around 50% of Americans my home is now worth less than my mortgage. Although I am attempting to refinance it, there is a 90% probability that I will lose the house in the next four months.

The board of directors has voted to transfer ownership of the magazine to the Civil War Society, which is a not-for-profit corporation. This has a number of advantages (e.g. paying less for illustrations, possibly getting a grant) and stands the best chance of safeguarding the interests of subscribers (as well as relieving N&S Inc. from the subscription obligation of c. $130,000). The Civil War Society will also assume certain other obligations. You should vote for or against this move either at the AGM or by mailed-in ballot.

This of course leaves the shareholders–myself included–with a corporation that is effectively an empty shell, albeit one with less debt than before. Our shares at this point are worthless (irrespective of whether the magazine stays with N&S Inc. or goes to the Civil War Society). Intellectually and educationally the magazine has been, and is, a great success; financially it is not.

I am painfully aware that friends and acquaintances have invested in the company, though I hope no-one is in as dire a position as I am. I hope eventually to be able personally to repay investors the money they put into the company itself cannot. Obviously this is not a legal obligation, but it is a strongly felt moral one. By the end of the year, if I can stave off personal financial disaster, I may be able to offer you some hope in this direction.

Please do not hesitate to call me with any questions or suggestions.


Keith Poulter

So, there you have it. The whole ugly truth. If the proposal is approved by the shareholders–since Poulter and his ex-wife control enough shares, it inevitably will be–we will be left with a corporation that has no assets and nothing but debt. Poulter’s rank incompetence, with the rubber stamping of his board of yes-men, has caused a LOT of good people to lose a LOT of money. In my case, it’s about $20,000, gone forever due to his horrific mismanagement. All lost for the retirement of some debt. It bears noting that this is now the SECOND publishing venture of Poulter’s that his incompetent management ran into the ground; had I known that another venture of his had failed before hitching my wagon to North & South, I never, ever would have done so.

One other observation is pertinent here, as to the bankruptcy of Names and Addresses. Poulter very disingenuously would lead us to believe that the alleged $12,000 lost here would tip the balance. He seems to be saying that this tiny straw broke the company’s back, and worse, he’s using it as one of two key reasons for this bogus transfer to the Civil War Society. This fails to pass the old reliable smell test and comes across like an empty—and transparent—excuse.

I have voted against the proposal and against the current slate of directors, and I urge EVERY shareholder of this company to join me in doing so. We may not control enough votes to prevent it, but perhaps it will send a message.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Greetings from my home town of Reading, PA. Susan and I are here visiting my parents for Mother’s Day.

I spent much of last night and a big chunk of today going through the Dahlgren page galleys, which is the last step before the book is sent to the printer. To my surprise, it turned out to be a 300 page book before the index, which hasn’t been prepared yet. When I started on the project, I never dreamed that I would be able to get a 300 page book out of the life of someone who was killed three weeks before his 22nd birthday, but Ully Dahlgren packed so much living into his 21 years and 11 months that it actually wasn’t all that difficult to do.

The galleys look really good; Dan Hoisington has done a good job with it. My only complaint–not a large one–is that I provided him with more than 40 illustrations, and he’s only used about 20 of them. I’d like to see them all in there, but I do understand page constraints and I do understand budgetary constraints.

Anyway, Dan tells me that the book will be out by the end of June, so those of you who’ve been waiting patiently for it, you have only a few more weeks to wait before being rewarded. I will finish with them tomorrow and they will then be on their way back to Dan for final revisions and indexing. After 18 months of waiting, we’re almost to the finish line…..

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Since yesterday’s post has been so well received, and because reader Don Hallstrom asked for it, here’s a list of biographies that are needed. Again, these are in no particular order, and I hope that you will all pitch in as you did yesterday.

1. David M. Gregg
2. A fair and balanced bio of Judson Kilpatrick (the existing one certainly is not either fair or balanced)
3. Thomas T. Munford
4. David F. Day
5. George G. Meade
6. Thomas L. Rosser
7. Richard Taylor
8. D. H. Hill (in fairness, my friend Chris Hartley told me last week that he’s researching one)
9. Abner Doubleday (a thoroughly dislikable guy, but scoundrels can be fun)
10. William Mahone
11. Richard H. Anderson
12. John Bell Hood (again, a fair and balanced treatment is needed)
13. Jubal A. Early (Whatever happened to Gary Gallagher’s Early bio project?)
14. Fitz-John Porter
15. John Gibbon
16. Alfred Pleasonton

Those are the ones that come to my mind. Have at it. Perhaps we will inspire someone to take on one of these projects.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress