August, 2011

There’s only one word to describe the scope of this reenacting fail…epic….

To see a larger version of the photo, double click on it.


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29 Aug 2011, by

Project updates

The last several weeks have been insanely busy, trying to tackle the wrap-up of two projects at once.

The one closest to fruition is the new edition of my first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, which has a slightly different title. I have completed my review of the page galleys, and it’s being indexed. As soon as the index is done, it’s off to the printer. The new edition features about 14,000 words worth of new material in the main text, lots of additional photos, a replaced map, and a new appendix that addresses the question of where Farnsworth’s Charge actually happened (co-authored with my writing partner, J.D. Petruzzi) of about 5500 or so words, and walking/driving tours complete with GPS coordinates. The original edition was approximately 140 pages. The new edition will be 225-230 pages in length, so there’s obviously quite a bit of new stuff. That one will be out late September/early October.

The other is that I have submitted my White Sulphur Springs manuscript to The History Press. The tentative title is The Battle of White Sulphur Springs: Averell Fails to Secure West Virginia, and it addresses the August 26-27, 1863 Battle of White Sulphur Springs. Although the battle involved only 4000 men of both sides, it had great strategic significance for both sides, and mine is the first detailed tactical treatment it has ever received. The maps are being done by master cartographer Steve Stanley. The book is being copy-edited as I write this, and if all goes according to schedule, it should be out on or about November 1. That will be my first new title in about 18 months.

I’m excited about both. Stay tuned for more as we get closer, and I will update on both.

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Readers of this blog will remember that I had very little good to say about History’s Gettysburg film when it aired back in May. I wasn’t alone in this assessment. I was concerned that old friend Garry Adelman, who was one of the talking heads in the program, might have his reputation sullied by being involved in such a God-awful project.

Garry has been silent about it to date. However, Garry has penned a guest post on Kevin Levin’s excellent Civil War Memory blog today that addresses his role in the project. Garry points out that the film, even with its almost countless inaccuracies, has spurred new interest in the battle, and for that reason it was worthwhile. I can’t really disagree with that, although I still hate the almost innumerable inaccuracies in it.

Here’s what Garry says about those inaccuracies:

Just before the scripts got under way, the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Supervisory Historian, Scott Hartwig, came on board. Scott and I served as the primary historical consultants thereafter. We reviewed three versions of the script and watched rough cuts of the production as it emerged. Together, we made no fewer than 400 specific comments and requests for changes, and, to History’s great credit, almost every single one of these comments was addressed in the final show. Scott and I have both worked with other production companies before and we agree that none were so dedicated to trying to get it right as was History and Herzog & Co. In the first scripts, there were scores of significant errors and I mean significant.

He points out that there was nothing that could have been done about many of the wrong sets, uniforms, etc., as all of those were filmed before he and Scott Hartwig got involved, so they focused on what they could fix. That makes good sense to me, and I certainly can appreciate it.

The film will air again on Wednesday night. I will do all in my power to avoid it, as I still think it’s just atrocious. However, I do appreciate Garry’s insight, and I also understand completely where he’s coming from on this. And if it does manage to spur new interest in the Civil War, then I suppose I can live with it. Thanks for setting the record straight, Garry.

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I’ve learned of the existence of a very interesting new blog. It’s a compendium of a number of young, emerging Civil War historians, and can be found here. If the first substantive post is any indication of what we can expect of the next generation, then I feel comfortable that we will be leaving things in very good hands indeed.

I’ve added it to the blogroll.

Keep up the good work, folks.

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22 Aug 2011, by

A contest

In the course of finishing the library project yesterday, I found something that I didn’t know that I had. My first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, was published in 1998. It won the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award as the best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg of 1998. The book has been out of print for four or five years now, and copies of the original edition have become quite rare. New copies of it sell for over $100, which amazes me. It’s a softcover book of about 140 pages, and it retailed for $12.95.

I have a new edition of the book coming out in just a few weeks. The new edition is being indexed as I write this. It’s fully revised, with a lot of new material being added. I’m excited about the new edition, but the original occupies a special place in my heart as my first book.

When I finished up the library project last night, I found a brand new copy of the 1998 edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions that I didn’t know that I had. It’s been years since I had one to sell, simply because it’s long out of print. It’s too close to the release date of the new edition, so I’m not going to try to sell it.

Instead, I’ve decided that I will give it away to one of you. We’re going to have a little contest. If you want it, leave me a comment that explains the reasons why you should be the one to get it. I will select the winner two weeks from today, and will announce the winner here on this blog. Have at it, and have fun!

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to get a handle on my library. It needed to be completely rearranged, and I needed a good place to put oversized books. Susan came up with a brilliant idea for how to accommodate that need. We got rid of the huge particle board computer desk, and replaced it with the Elfa shelving system from The Container Store. There are now three shelves of oversized books above the new desk, and I have a new desk and place for our old iMac computer.

So, here’s some library porn for you. Every book that you see in these photos is a book on the American Civil War.

This first image
is the corner, where two walls of built-in floor to ceiling bookcases come together. I guess you could call that ground zero of the library.

In this photo, you can see new desk with the three shelves of oversized books above it.

And, finally, this is the right wall. It’s longer than the other wall and has more available space.

Fortunately, after the reorganization, I have about a bookcase and a half left of empty space, so that there is still room left to grow.

I didn’t photograph them, but there are also three bookcases of other history books in the room, ranging from basic military history to presidential biographies, and pretty much everything in between. I also have a bookcase of nothing but books about the Revolutionary War in our bedroom next to my nightstand. And then there are Susan’s books…..

We like books.

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19 Aug 2011, by


Like every author who has had more than one work published, I have favorites among my various books. There are just certain projects for which I have a certain fondness, for whatever reason. In the case of Trevilian Station, it was my first campaign study, and the book was the first detailed tactical treatment of an important campaign. It was groundbreaking work, and that book was long been one of my favorites as a result.

Another of my favorites is also the source of a great deal of frustration for me. In 2003, my book The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863 was published by Brassey’s. To my displeasure, Brassey’s allowed it to go out of print, and when they refused to print a new edition of it, the rights to the book reverted to me. This is one of my very favorites of my work, as it covers a range of material never covered in real depth before, since, or anywhere else. There are several cavalry actions detailed in this volume that had never received a detailed treatment previously, and I’ve long been proud of it.

The problem is that I cannot find a publisher that would be willing to take a shot with it and bring it back into print. Hence, I face a variety of options:

1. Self-publish it as a print-on-demand book as originally published.

2. Self-publish it as a print-on-demand book as a completely revised edition with new maps.

3. Self-publish in Kindle/Nook format only (thanks to old friend John Geracimos for that suggestion).

4. Continue to look for a new publisher for it.

There are pluses and minuses to each. POD is fine, but I’ve always had questions about the quality of the books so published. I don’t have the cash or warehouse space at the moment to print a large quantity of them in order to have inventory on hand, so that’s not really an option for me. Publishers are hesitant to bring out a new edition of something that has already been published, and Ted Savas, of Savas-Beatie, who is already working on new editions of two of my prior books, has already passed on this one because he doesn’t think there’s a good market for a new edition.

It pains me to see this book out of print. I would really like to see it back in print, but I have limited options. What do you–my readers–think I should do? Please give me your opinions, as I value them. Thank you.

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It seems that there are now three Republican presidential candidates with public records of supporting neo-Confederate ideology. I’ve long known that Ron Paul has long espoused neo-Confederate theories and sympathies, as he plainly demonstrated earlier this year. I’ve addressed Rick Perry’s calls for secession here previously. It’s bad enough that these two Texas loons are in the race.

Apparently, Rep. Michele Bachmann–who has amply demonstrated that she has no command of American history whatsoever again and again in the past–warmly embraces neo-Confederate views of slavery and of the Civil War also. In this blog post, it becomes clear that she takes her view of these events from the writings of a clergyman named Rev. J. Steven Wilkins. Reverend Wilkins is a prior board member of the leading neo-Confederate advocacy organization, The League of the South. Certainly, the view of slavery and the view of the South that Bachmann endorses is the mainstay of neo-Confederate ideology.

I personally find this trend both extremely disturbing and quite scary. What is it about these right-wing Republican candidates and their embracing of neo-Confederate ideology? Two them–Perry and Bachmann–represent the religious right, and if this is what the religious right advocates, then I’m surely worried about one of them actually being elected president. I would surely like to know.

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Brooks Simpson has an excellent post on his blog today titled “Another Version of Southern Heritage” that relates a recent speech by the current president of the neo-Confederate League of the South. The speech features flagrant racism and flagrant calls for violence against the United States government. While I give the speaker credit for being candid, if he is an indication of the prevailing doctrine driving the League of the South and other similar neo-Confederate organizations, then organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center are absolutely correct about the threat they pose. That this ideology is promoted by politicians like Ron Paul makes it even more alarming. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Brooks.

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11 Aug 2011, by

Threads, Part 2

Several weeks ago, I did a post titled “Threads”, which dealt with the family linkages between Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer, Revolutionary War hero, his grandson, Col. George S. Patton of the 22nd Virginia Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864, and Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., the great World War II hero, who was the grandson of the Civil War officer. In that post, I promised I would pull a few more threads regarding General Patton, who is one of my favorites.

Adna Romanza Chaffee was born in Orwell, Ohio on April 14, 1842. In July 1861, Chaffee, only 19 years old, enlisted in the newly-formed 6th U. S. Cavalry as a private. In early 1862, he was promoted to sergeant, and to first sergeant in September 1862. As a reward for his good service, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton arranged for him to be appointed second lieutenant in April 1863. Although only 21 years old, he was in command of a company of the 6th U. S. by the time of the Battle of Gettysburg that summer.

On July 3, 1863, the 6th U. S. Cavalry was sent on an expedition to Fairfield, Pennsylvania. There, the 6th U. S. took an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry, and was thrashed. Chaffee was wounded and captured that afternoon. The Confederates tried to parole Chaffee, but he refused a parole in the field, obeying a recent War Department directive that the men of the 6th U. S. not give their paroles if captured. The frustrated Confederates, concerned that they could not manage their large haul of prisoners, simply left Chaffee behind with the other wounded. Chaffee was found laying on the ground in the orchard, being tended to by one of his men, a “neatly cut crimson edged hole in his blue pantaloons over the front part of his thigh. He was quite cheerful.” As a reward for his gallantry in the fighting and for his steadfast refusal to give his parole, Chaffee was brevetted to first lieutenant, effective July 3, 1863. He recovered from his wound and returned to duty with the 6th U. S. in early September 1863. He suffered a second combat wound, and was promoted to first lieutenant in February 1865.

He remained in the Regular Army after the war, and was promoted to captain. He spent 30 years fighting Indians in the west and southwest. In July 1888, he was promoted to major and was transferred to the one of the so-called “Buffalo Soldier” units, the 9th U. S. Cavalry. In 1897, he was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the 3rd U. S. Cavalry. He was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War, and then to major general of volunteers after the American victory at El Caney, Cuba, in July 1898. From 1898-1900, he served as chief of staff to the military governor of Cuba, Gen. Leonard Wood.

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China in 1900, Chaffee was sent to Peking as commander of the U. S. Army’s China Relief Expedition. He played a major role in putting down the rebellion and then was promoted to major general in the Regular Army in 1901 in recognition of those accomplishments. He served as military governor of the Philippines for a few months, and then assumed command of the Department of the East, a position he held until 1903. In 1904, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became chief of staff of the United States Army, a position he held for a bit over two years. He was one of two old horse cavalrymen to rise from the rank of private to serve as chief of staff of the Army (a profile of the other officer to go from private of cavalry to chief of staff of the army can be found here). Chaffee retired in February 1906 and died on November 1, 1914. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

His son, Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr., was born in Junction City, Kansas on September 23, 1884. He graduated from West Point in 1906, and was appointed a lieutenant of cavalry, following in his famous father’s footsteps. Chaffee soon became known as the best horseman in the army. In World War I, he was an infantry major, serving in the IV Corps during the St. Mihiel offensive and then as a colonel in the III Corps during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After the war ended, he reverted to his Regular Army rank of captain of cavalry and became an instructor at the General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

During the 1920’s, with the help of a young horse cavalryman who had commanded armor during World War I–Capt. George S. Patton, Jr.–helped to develop tank doctrine and tactics. In 1927, he predicted that mechanized armies would dominate the next war and helped to develop the U. S. Army’s first true armored force. He was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1931, and continued to work on the development of the U. S. Army’s armored forces and capabilities. He soon became the leading advocate for American armored forces.

In 1938, he assumed command of the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized), the U. S. Army’s only armored force. He worked tirelessly for the further development and advancement of armored forces, and his predictions proved true when France surrendered after the German blitzkrieg in 1940.

After the collapse of France, Chaffee finally convinced Congress that the United States needed to develop an effective armored force very quickly. Congress authorized the creation of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in 1940, and Chaffee was promoted to major general and was given command of this force. Unfortunately, Chaffee was quite ill. He died of cancer at the young age of 56 on August 22, 1941, just before the United States was forced to enter World War II, and is remembered as the father of the U. S. Army’s armored force. The M24 Chaffee light tank was named in his honor.

In the 1920’s, George S. Patton, Jr., an old horse cavalryman who designed the U. S. Army’s last cavalry saber, also tirelessly worked to advance the cause of armor. He had successfully commander light tanks during World War I, and saw the potential of tanks as a decisive battlefield weapon. He unsuccessfully petitioned Congress to fund an armored force and wrote articles on tactics that were published in the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association, a professional journal for Regular Army cavalrymen.

In July 1940, Patton–now a colonel–was given command of the 2nd Armored Brigade, 2nd Armored Division. He became assistant division commander the following October, and was promoted to brigadier general on October 2, 1940. He served as acting division command from November 1940 to April 1941, and was promoted to major general and given command of the 2nd Armored Division a few days later. Were Chaffee still alive in 1941, he undoubtedly would have been given command of the I Armored Corps when it was formed. However, his premature death opened that slot for George S. Patton, Jr. and he was promoted to major general and appointed to command the I Armored Corps. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, armor serves most of the traditional roles of horse cavalry: scouting, screening, and reconnaissance, and many armored units are actually designated as cavalry units. It has a great legacy for doing so, with direct links to some of the greatest horse cavalrymen of the post-Civil War era of the United States Army. As you will see from the image at the beginning of this paragraph, the traditional crossed sabers logo of the cavalry has been amended to reflect the direct link between horse cavalry and armored service in the modern army.

If you pull the various threads, you find a direct connection between the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps and the legendary commander of the Third Army, George S. Patton, Jr. That direct connection flows through two great horse soldiers, Adna Romanza Chaffee and his son, Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr.

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